페이지 이미지




Raleigh and Matthew in their remains-especial- met and saw during their careers. They both ly Matthew—who, like Bacon, kept a diary, who live and move in the very town and in the very wrote letters and postscripts, and was as fond days when this rare poetry which Emerson says of playing at Boswell to his favorites as Jonson “the greatest minds value most " was appearing. himself—appear to have stumbled on no trace of But, if William Shakespeare was the author of it such a character as “Shakespeare” in all their all, how is it possible to escape the conviction saunterings about London. Especially on one that not one of them all—not Bacon, a man of occasion does Sir Tobie devote himself to a letters himself, a student of antique not only, but subject-matter wherein, if there had been any of living and contemporary literature, and over“Shakespeare " within his ken, he could very fond of writing down his impressions for the properly—and would, we think, very naturally, benefit of posterity (even if wanting in the drahave mentioned him. In the “ Address to the matic or poetic perception, the scholarship of the Reader," prefixed to one of his works,* he says, plays could not have escaped him; and had these speaking of his own date, “ We have also rare plays been the delight and town talk of all Loncompositions made among us which look so don, as Mr. Grant White says they were, some many fair ways at once that I doubt it will go morsel of them must have reached his ear or near to pose any other nations of Europe to eye)—not Raleigh, courtier, gallant, man-aboutmuster out in any age four men who, in so many town, “curled darling," and everything of that respects, should be able to excel four such as we sort (who probably was not afraid to go to a are able to show-Cardinal Wolsey, Sir Thomas theatre for fear of injuring his morals)—not ToMore, Sir Philip Sidney, and Sir Francis Bacon. bie Matthew, who was all this latter with less For they were all a kind of monsters in their va- of responsibility and mental balance-ever so rious ways," etc.

much as heard his (Shakespeare's) name menBesides, these four-or, dismissing Spenser, tioned ? That not one of these ever heard of a who was a poet exclusively, then three, Bacon, hat was in everybody's mouth-of a living Raleigh, and Tobie Matthew-however else dis- man so famous that, as we shall presently consimilar, were anything but blockheads or ancho- sider, booksellers were using his name to make rites. They were men of the court and of the their wares sell, that his plays were filling the world. They mingled among their fellow men, most fashionable theatre in London from cockpit and (by a coincidence which is very useful to us to dome, whose popularity was so exalted that here) none of them were silent as to what they the great Queen Elizabeth herself stepped down

from the throne and walked across his stage to speculation, since Spenser certainly left no annotation do him honor, to whom in after-days her succesexplanatory of the passage, and it does not identify it- sor King was to write an autograph letter *. self as a reference to Shakespeare. In “The Tears of strikes one as just a trifle or so incredible to a the Muses," line 205, there is an allusion which on a first glance appears so pat, that the Bard of Avon has long

mind not already adjusted to swallow any and been called "our pleasant Willy" on the strength of it. every fable in this connection, rather than accept They run :

the truth of history! To be sure, it is not ab“ And he, the man whom Nature's self had made, solutely impossible that these three men should To mock herself and truth to imitate

have been cognizant of William Shakespeare's With kindly counter under mimick shade, Our pleasant Willy, ah, is dead of late :

existence without mentioning him in their favors With whom all joy and jolly mertiment

to posterity. But, under all the circumstances, Is also deaded, and in dolour drent."

it is vastly improbable. At any rate, we fancy it But, since Spenser died some seventeen years before would not be easy to conceive of three EnglishShakespeare, and if-as must be supposed from their men in London to-day, in 1880–let us say Mr. Alippancy—these lines point to the enforced or voluntary Gladstone, Mr. Browning, and Mr. Swinburneretirement or silence of some writer, rather than to his death-they appear more nearly to refer to Sidney than without collusion, writing down a list of their to Shakespeare. And this now appears to be conceded. most illustrious contemporaries, and not one of (See Morley's “English Men of Letters : Spenser,” by them mentioning Mr. Tennyson! Or, assuming Dean Church, American edition, Harpers, New York, 1879, p. 106.) Besides, “ The Tears of the Muses” was # These must all be considered in the argument, written in 1580, when Shakespeare was a lad of sixteen, though, as a matter of fact, we do not hesitate to say holding horses at the theatre-door. “Will,” or “ Wil- that, in our private opinion, they are all "yarns," cooked ly," appears to have been the ordinary nickname of a for occasion by commentators, or, more probably, fruits poet in those days.-R. G. White's "Shakespeare," vol. of the growth of rumor, in the orthodox procession from i., p. 57, note.)

"might have been " to "was." The story of Eliza*"A Collection of Letters made by Sir Tobie Mat- beth's order for “ Falstaff in Love," resulting in the prothew, with a Character of the Most Excellent Lady Lucy, duction of “The Merry Wives of Windsor"(which would Countess of Carlisle. To which are added Many Letters prove that, whatever else she was, Elizabeth was no Anof his Several Persons of Honour, who were contempo- thony Comstock), is, to our mind, another sample of the rary with him." London, 1660.

same procession.

[ocr errors]

that Tennyson is the admitted first of poets of sides, Ben is what the Scotchmen call “ a famous the Victorian age (as Mr. Ben Jonson and all witness ” (if the commentators, who enlarge on the commentators at his heels, down to our own Shakespeare's bounty and loans to him, can be Mr. Grant White, tell us that William Shake- relied upon), as being under heavy pecuniary obli. speare " was the admitted first of poets of his gation to the stage manager, and so his testimony contemporary Elizabethan age), it would not be is to be scrutinized with the greatest care, though the easiest thing in the world to conceive three he certainly did not allow his obligations to overchroniclers—Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Browning, and master him when writing the “Discoveries." Mr. Swinburne—sitting themselves down to an But, in any event, it would be easier to believe enumeration, not of their illustrious contempo- that Ben Jonson once contradicted himself for raries in general, but of their contemporaneous the sake of a rhyme, and to “do the handsome men of letters only, and, by a coincidence, omit- thing" by the memory of an old friend and unting any mention of the great first of poets of paid creditor, than to swallow the incredible retheir day! Either, then, it seems to us, we are sults of a literal version of his prose and poetry, to infer that three such men as Raleigh, Bacon, read by the light of the Bacon, Raleigh, and and his satellite Matthew, had never so much Matthew remains. And the conclusion of the as heard that there was any Shakespeare, in an matter, it seems to us, must be either that the age which we moderns worship as the age of poetry was the result of his obligations to William Shakespeare, or that there was no “ Shakespeare” Shakespeare and to William Shakespeare's memfor them to hear about; that “William Shake- ory, or that, having sworn on both sides, Mr. Ben speare" was the name of an actor and man- Jonson stands simply dehors the case—a witness ager in the Globe and Blackfriars playhouses, for neither. of a man not entitled, any more than any of his It is not, then—it is very far from being-beco-actors and co-managers in those establish- cause we know so little of the man Shakespeare ments, to enumeration among the illustrious orna- that we disbelieve in his authorship of the great ments of an illustrious age, the stars of the golden works ascribed to him. It is because we know age of English!

so much. Of course, it can be well urged that all this is No sooner did men open their histories, turn mere negative evidence; that not only three but to the records and explore the traditions and three million of men might be found who had trace the gossip of the Elizabethan days, than the never mentioned or ever heard of Shakespeare, facts stared them in the face. Long before any without affecting the controversy either way. “ Baconian theory” arose to account for these But, under the circumstances, in view of what anomalies, at the instant these plays began to the Shakespearean plays are, and of what their be valued for anything else than their theatrical author must have been, and of when and where properties, the difficulty of “marrying the man these three men-Bacon, Raleigh, and Matthew* to his verse” began to be troublesome. “To be -lived and flourished, the chronicles left by these told that he played a trick on a brother actor in a three men—Bacon, Raleigh, and Matthew-con- licentious amour, or that he died of a drunken stitute, at the very least, a “negative pregnant frolic, does not exactly inform us of the man who not to be omitted in any review of our contro- wrote ‘Lear,'” cried Mr. Hallam.* “Every acversy that can lay the faintest claim to exhaus- cession of information we obtain respecting the tiveness or sincerity; and, moreover, a negative man Shakespeare renders it more and more difpregnant which, if we admitted all the Ben Jonson ficult to detect in him the poet," cries Mr. Wiltestimony, in prose and poetry, as evidence on liam Henry Smith.t “ I am one of the many,” the one side, could not be excluded as evidence testified Mr. Furness, “who have never been able on the other. In which event it is fairest to the to bring the life of William Shakespeare and the Shakespeareans to rule Ben out altogether. Be- plays of Shakespeare within a planetary space of


And we might add to these Sir John Davies, Selden, the answer might be that, at the date of Matthew's death, Sir John Beaumont, Henry Vaughn, Lord Clarendon, 1655, the Shakespearean plays were not held in much reand others.

pute, or that Matthew might have reserved his unbosom+ It is fair to note that another “negative pregnant” ing of the secret too long; but it is only one fact among arises here, to which the Shakespeareans are as fairly en- a thousand. titled as the other side to theirs. Sir Tobie Matthew died *“I laud,” says Hallam, "the labors of Mr. Collier, in 1655. He survived Shakespeare thirty-nine years, Ba- Mr. Hunter, and other collectors of such crumbs, though con twenty-nine years, and Raleigh thirty-seven years! I am not sure that we should not venerate Shakespeare Left in possession of so weighty a secret (as we should as much if they had left him undisturbed in his obscurity, consider it), how could such a one as Matthew let the . . If there was a Shakespeare of earth, as I suspect, secret die with him? Although we do not meet with it there was also one of heaven, and it is of him we desire among the arguments of the Shakespeareans, this strikes to know something." us as about the strongest they could present, except that + “Bacon and Shakespeare," p. 886.

each other; are there any other two things in and James in which to search for an author of the world more incongruous ?"* It was neces- those words, would anything we found in either sary, therefore, in order to preserve a belief in lead us to pronounce William Shakespeare the the Shakespearean authorship, either that Wil- man? And has anything happened since to inliam Shakespeare should be historically known duce us to set aside the record and substitute an as a man of great mental power, a close stu- act of pure faith, of faith blind and obedient, and dent, of deep insight into nature and morals—a make it almost a religion to blindly and obedipoet, philosopher, and all the rest-or else that, ently believe that William Shakespeare was not by a failure of the records, history should be the man he was, lest we should be “disrespectful silent altogether as to his individuality, and the to our birthright"? lapse of time have made it impossible to recover Nothing whatever has happened since, except any details whatever as to his tastes, manners, the labors of the commentators. By the most and habits of life. In such a case, of course, painfully elaborate explorations on the wrong there would remain no evidence on the subject track, by ingenious postulation upon fictitious other than that of the plays themselves, which premises, and by divers illicit processes of majors would, of course, prove him precisely the myri- and minors, while steering carefully clear of the ad-minded genius required. In other words, it records, they have evolved a butcher, a lawyer, a was only necessary to so cloud over the facts as physician, a divinity student, a schoolmaster, a to make the “Shakespearean miracle” to be, not candlestick-maker—but, after all, a Shakespeare. that William Shakespeare had written the works, It will not detain us long, as an example of these, but that history should be so silent concerning to briefly glance at the labors of one of the most a “Shakespeare"! So long as the Shakespeare- intrepid of the ilk, to identify the traditional poet ans could cry, “Behold a mysterious dispensa- with the traditional man. tion of Providence—that, of the two mightiest In 1839 Thomas De Quincey contributed to the poets the world has ever held—Homer and Wil- “Encyclopædia Britannica” its article “Shakeliam Shakespeare—we know absolutely nothing"! speare.” That, about the story of the prankish -so long as they could assign this silence to the Stratford lad, who loved, and wooed and won a havoc of a great deluge or a great fire, just so farmer's daughter, and between the low, smokylong the name “ William Shakespeare " was as raftered cottage in Stratford town and the snug good and satisfactory a name as any other, and little thatch at Shottery trudged every sunset to nobody could propose a better. But they can do his courting, there lingers the glamour of youth cry so no longer. It is not because we know so and love and poetry, no patron of the “Encylittle, but because we know so much about the clopædia" would probably have doubted. But Stratford boy, that we decline to accept him as that a staid and solemn work, designed for exact the master we not only admire and love, but in reference, should have printed so whimsical a whose pages we find our wisdom vain and our fancy sketch as Mr. De Quincey supplied to it, discovery anticipated. As a matter of fact, and that it should have been allowed to remain through the accident of his having been a part there, must certainly command surprise. There proprietor in one of the earliest English play- can surely be no complaint as to the variety of houses, we know pretty accurately what manner the performance. Mr. De Quincey very ably and of man he was. We know almost everything gravely speculates as to the size of the dowry old about him, in short, except—what we do know Hathaway gave his daughter; as to whether old about Homer—that the words now attributed to John Shakespeare mortgaged his homestead to him were his. Homer, at least, we can trace to keep up appearances; as to whether that gentlehis “ Iliad” and his “Odyssey," as he sang them man received the patronage of Stratford corpoin fragments from town to town. But neither to ration when (as there is no direct authority for his own pen nor his own lips, and only proble- saying they did not) they had occasion to present matically, as we shall see further on, to his own a pair of gloves to some favored nobleman (and stage, can we trace the plays so long assigned to this portion of the composition winds up with a William Shakespeare. Let the works be placed history of gloves and glove-making which can in our hands for the first time anonymously; not fail to interest and instruct the reader). And given, then, the chronicles of the age of Elizabeth the speculations as to whether the messengers

who sped to Worcester for the “marriage-lines” * In view of Mr. Furness's elegant contribution to did or did not ride in such hot haste, in view of Shakespearean study (his Variorum edition), this is worth

an expected but premature Susannah, that they noticing; the words quoted occur in a letter to Judge Holmes, printed at p. 628, third edition, of the latter's gave vicious orthographies of the names “Shak“Authorship of Shakespeare." In " Appletor.s' Journal” speare ” and “ Hathaway" to the aged clerk who for February, 1879, will be found numerous other testi- drew the document, are, especially, pretty reading. monies to the same effect as the foregoing.

But, with facilities in 1839 for writing a history of


[ocr errors]

the Stratford lad, which the Stratford lad's own a famous encyclopædia should admit this sort of contemporaries and near neighbors, two hundred work among its articles on sugar, snakes, Saryears and more before Mr. De Quincey, seem dinia, soap, Savonarola, and its other references never to have possessed, Mr. De Quincey quite in S! Like his fellow Shakespeareans, Mr. De surpasses himself in setting us exactly right as to Quincey makes no use of Jennings, or Aubrey, or William Shakespeare. And, first, as to the birth- the old clerk, or the Rev. Richard Davies, or day. There has always been a sort of feeling any one else who lived at dates inconveniently among Englishmen that their greatest poet ought contiguous to the real William Shakespeare, and to have had no less a birthday than the day dedi- therefore awkward customers about whom it was cated to their patron saint. The Stratford par- best to say nothing. He can not claim never to ish records certifying to the christening of Wil- have heard of Aubrey, because he quotes him as liam Shakespeare on the 26th day of April, 1564 saying that William Shakespeare was “a hand(which Mr. De Quincey forgets was "old style," some, well-shaped man.”* But this is the only aland so, in any event, twelve days before the cor- lusion he makes to Aubrey or to anybody else who responding date in the present or "new style "), lived within eyesight or ear-shot of the William and the anniversary of St. George's day having Shakespeare who, we admit, if a well-conducted fallen in that year, as usual, on the 23d of April, it has come to be unanimously resolved by the

* The writer of these papers has been called to accommentators that, in Warwickshire, it was the

count for omitting, in his review of the attempts to procustom to christen infants on the third day after duce an actually genuine portrait of Shakespeare, any birth, and that, therefore, William Shakespeare account of the so-called German " death-mask.” It was was born on the anniversary of St. George, April perhaps, not necessary. A plaster mask of an anonymous 23, 1564. But Mr. De Quincey will not deceive dead face is found in a rubbish-shop in Mayence, in 1849. us. He would rather perish than mislead. “Af- Regarded as a mask of William Shakespeare, it bears a

certain resemblance to the Stratford bust; and, regarded ter all,” he says, “William might have been born

as a mask of Count Bismarck (for example), it would be on the 22d. Only one argument,” he gravely found to bear a very strong resemblance to Count Bisproceeds, “ has sometimes struck us for suppos- marck. (We write from an inspection of photographs ing that the 22d might be the day, and not the only, never having seen the mask.) Having always been 23d, which is, that Shakespeare's sole grand- annoyed that a creature so immortal as they had created daughter, Lady Barnard, was married on the 22d their Shakespeare left no death-mask, the Shakespeareans

at once adopt this anonymous mask as taken from the of April

, ten years exactly from the poet's death, face of the two-days-defunct William Shakespeare, who and the reason for choosing this day might have died in 1616. Credat Judaus! Either William Shakehad a reference to her illustrious grandfather's speare, at his death, was known to be an immortal bard birthday, which, there is good reason for think- or he was not. If he was, why should the sole likeness ing, would be celebrated as a festival in the fami- moulded of departed greatness be smuggled away from

the land that was pious to claim him as its most distinly for generations!" But even Mr. De Quincey guished son ? If he was not, to whose interest was it to concedes that, in writing history, we must draw steal the mask from the family who cared enough about the line somewhere; for he immediately adds, the dead man's memory to go to the expense of it? But, “Still this choice may have been an accident" at any rate, in 1849 it falls into the hands of jealous be (so many things, that is to say, are likely to believers. They search upon it for hairs of auburn hue, considered in fixing a marriage-day, besides one's and for the date of their hero's death, and they find both.

Had they made up their minds to find a scrap of Shakegrandfather's birthday !), “or governed merely spearean cuticle, we may be sure it would have been there. by reason of convenience. And, on the whole, it Professor Owen, of the British Museum, declared that, if is as well, perhaps, to acquiesce in the old belief the fact of the mask having originally come from Engthat Shakespeare was born and died on the 23d land could be established, there was a hardly any sum of of April. We can not do wrong if we drink money which the Museum would not pay for the mask

itself.” But the missing testimony has not been supplied, to his memory both on the 22d and 23d."* Mr. though doubtless it is incubating. For now and then we De Quincey's proposition to drink twice instead see a newspaper paragraph to the effect that old paintings of once ought to for ever secure his popularity; have turned up (in pawn-shops invariably) which are but it nevertheless appears to us remarkable that semble the death-mask," thus accustoming us to the title person, ought reasonably to have been the man he wrote the lampoon or the epitaph,* nor beMr. De Quincey and his ilk turn him out, and not because he was son (or apprentice, as some say) the man his neighbors, or anybody who happened to a butcher or a glover, a tallow-chandler or a to be born within a hundred years of him, knew seedsman, that he is conceived to have been unhim. As to the difficulties Messrs. Coleridge, equal to the Shakespearean authorship. There Goethe, Schlegel, Richter, Carlyle, Palmerston, never yet was cradle too lowly to be the cradle of Emerson, Gervinius, Hallam, Holmes, William genius, or line too ignoble for its genesis. George Henry Smith, Furness, and Delia Bacon find so Stephenson was a colliery-stoker, Turner was the insurmountable-namely, as to where the mate- son of a barber, and Faraday the son of a horserial of the plays came from—Mr. De Quincey shoer. Coleridge was a charity lad, and the numskips over them with his airy two terms at the ber of tanners' and tallow-chandlers' offspring, little grammar-school on Stratford High Street!* without whose names history could not be writ(The identical desk which young William occu- ten, is something amazing. pied during this period of attendance at that in- We may trace the genius of Turner from the stitution of learning was promptly supplied by the first impulse of his pencil to its latest masterpiece, Stratford guides, upon hearing of Mr. De Quin- but we can not find that he discovered the solar cey's discovery.) And for these “two terms spectrum or described the Edison phonograph. (of course), no further authority than himself be- He knew and practiced what he was taught ing necessary, he vouchsafes none, although we (albeit he taught himself), and died quite conmust admit the hiatus is pleasantly compensated tented to leave his own works behind him. Robfor by his favoring the reader in search for Shake- ert Burns was fully as unlettered and as rustic a spearean data with two dissertations upon the plowboy as could be desired to prove the mighty loveliness of female virtue, one of which covers miracle of genius. His history up to a certain fourteen pages octavo.t

which, in time, we shall doubtless come to accept-as

we have come to accept Shakespeare himself-from mere * Mr. De Quincey's own estimate of this performance force of habit. The last of these discoveries is in Auswe take from a preface to the article itself, in the Ameri- tralia, farther off than even Mayence," said to resemble can edition of his collected works (Boston : Shepard & the Becker death-mask" (see the “ Academy," London, Gill, 1873), vol. xv., P. II: “No paper ever cost me so May 31, 1879, p. 475). The Stratford portrait of Shakemuch labor ; parts of it have been recomposed three times speare claims no authority further than a resemblance to over.” And again, “ William Shakespeare's article cost the accepted ideal, and the terra-cotta bust in the posme more intense labor than any I ever wrote in my life, session of the Garrick club was "found to order," and and, I believe, if you will examine it, you will not com- represents a man who, it would seem, bore not even a plain of want of novelty.” We should say not.

resemblance to the accepted Shakespeare for authority,

point is the very duplicate of the history of WilSo long, of course, as this cue was followed, liam Shakespeare, the butcher's boy and prodigy it was easy enough to believe that “ William of Stratford village. Both were obscure, schoolShakespeare” was the name of the marvelous less, and grammarless. But, in the case of Robman who wrote the plays. But, when one left ert Burns, this heaven-born genius did not set the fiction of Mr. De Quincey and his ilk, and was him straightway on so lofty a pinnacle that he forced to confront the William Shakespeare who could circumspect the past, and forecast the fuwrote the Lucy lampoon and the epitaph on ture, or guide his untaught pen to write of Troy Elias James, who stuck calves and stole deer, and Egypt, of Athens and Cyprus, or to reprothe difficulty only recurred with redoubled em- duce the very counterfeit civilizations and manphasis. It was not, of course, because William ners of nations born and buried and passed into stuck the calves and stole the deer, because history a thousand ages before he had been be

gotten, the

very of which were not dreamed * Aubrey confesses that his authority for the state- of anywhere in the neighborhood of his philosoment that William Shakespeare was a schoolmaster was phy; of the most unusual and hidden details of only a rumor, founded on the statement of one “Bees- forgotten polities and commercial customs, such ton”; but who was “ Beeston"? Some of our modern as, for instance, the exceptional usage of a certain commentators have conjectured that possibly William, being a sort of model or head boy, was trusted to hear trade in Mitylene, the anomalous status of a some of the little boys' lessons, which gave rise to the Moorish mercenary in command of a Venetian “schoolmaster" story.

army, of a savage queen of Britain led captive by + 1. e., of Shepard & Gill's reprint (see “Works," pp. Rome, or a thane of Scotland under one of its 41, 69-83). But if Mr. De Quincey could have lived until primitive kings-matters of curious and occult November, 1879, even he might have been taught something. The Rev. John Bayley, in an article on "The research for antiquaries or dilettanti to dig out of Religion of Shakespeare," in the “Sunday Magazine' (New York: Frank Leslie, November, 1879, p. 518), says * The version given in “Appletons' Journal” for of William Shakespeare, “ During the last years of his June, 1879, is suspected of being the composition of John life it is stated that he and his family attended the parish Jordan, “the Stratford poet," a harmless fellow enough, church where the Rev. Richard Byfield, an eminent and a contemporary of Malone and Ireland. There is a Puritan minister, and father of the distinguished com

verse, scrawled under an effigy of, David and Goliath in mentator on the Epistle to the Colossians, commenced the old Shakespeare house at Stratford, which has for his ministry, A. D. 1676." Of course, the reverend con- some hundreds of years been assigned in that vicinity to tributor to the " Sunday Magazine" does not inform us

our William : where this fact " is stated,” but concludes from the fact

"Goliath comes with sword and speare, (he is sure it is a fact) that Shakespeare was “during

And David with a sling ; the last years of his life the constant hearer of this emi

Although Goliath rage and sware, nent and energetic preacher of the gospel," and that “we

Down David doth him bring." may reasonably hope for the best of consequences.” So But, possibly-like the “Good friend, for Jesus' sake, simple a process has Shakespeare-making become !

forbeare," etc.- this is mere goodwife gossip.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« 이전계속 »