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beings make love, and pass the time in gentle dalliance; the same glorious sun shines; the same quiet landscapes, prodigal of abundance, reveal their richness; and the same large-souled Nature, if we may apply the term, appears in all. And “Twelfth Night” tells of such a clime. In reading it, we are led through gardens, bowers, and streets, where the busy hand of restless occupation does not forbid sweet converse. So unlike our own land, yet so like those climes in which the present hour is looked upon as the sole treasure. There life does not, like the great philosophy of the master mind,
“Look both before and after.” Bulwer Lytton says, in “King Arthur,"
“Life may have holier ends than happiness.” It would be a dangerous thing to preach this to those gay children of the South. Could they receive the doctrine ? Could they be induced to look beyond the present hour ? Perchance they might. Perhaps, under all the levity of outward appearance,—this sunshine of existence,-a latent current flows strong within.
Our own sweet Shakespeare has made the Clown (no mean philosopher) ask the question, “ What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wild fowl ? ” The oppressed answers, and adds,
“I think nobly of the soul, and no way approve his opinion.”
And what is the Clown's reply? Is it not a commentary upon the present condition of the inhabitants of that clime ?—“ Remain thou still in darkness : thou shalt hold the opinion of Pythagoras, ere I will allow of thy wits.”
Gentle Reader, “ for," in the words of Southey, “if thou art fond of such works as these, thou art like to be the Gentleman and the Scholar," _ is it not so now? Does not the spiritual and temporal despot demand
implicit obedience to doctrines almost as pernicious as those of Pythagoras; and does he not keep the people bound in an iron and hopeless tyranny? Do they not remain in darkness still ? Does not something worse than folly reign, and are not all ranks oppressed beneath it? Are not these scenes, then, living pictures, speaking to our inmost souls ?
Thus were the perfect productions of Shakespeare criticised by those who might have been expected to approach the contemplation of them in a reverential spirit. That species of criticism has, however, been replaced by something more worthy of the poet, and more honourable to the critic. We had triumphed over the deer-story, the poverty, the imperfect education, and a thousand minor matters relating to the career of the man and the works of the poet, when up springs Mr. William Henry Smith with his new theory
We have shown by infallible proofs, that it is altogether untenable. Not only is it contrary to all our knowledge and experience; it is decidedly the opposite of what we might expect. The inconsistencies of the whole story, apart from the evidence against it, are monstrous. The imperfect education of Shakespeare has formed the subject for the keenest attacks of the critics, and these dramas of the poor and ignorant player are at length assigned to the most learned man of the age ! Shakespeare has been derided for his assumed ignorance of Latin and Greek; now we are told that these dramas were composed by one of the best classical scholars of the Elizabethan period. Moreover, if Bacon superintended the publication of these works, how are we to account for the slovenly manner in which they issued from the press ? Even had he been unable to attend to the actual correction of the sheets at the time of publication, he lived three years after the first folio appeared, and could, of course, have inserted corrections in the margin, which might have been used for the second
impression. Why did he lay down his pen at Shakespeare's death, whom he survived ten years ? All the dramas which are even attributed to Shakespeare are known to have been in existence previous to 1616. We cannot suppose that, having written thirty-six such plays before that date, Bacon would not have penned another line of blank verse, nor have left a scrap of that kind of composition amongst his papers. The story, from beginning to end, is almost too absurd to be dealt with seriously.
No two minds could be inore dissimilar than those of Bacon and Shakespeare ; they were both monarchs in the realms of literature, but they sat upon different thrones : theirs was not a joint sovereignty ; they ruled over separate empires. Shakespeare possessed great natural genius ; Bacon's mind was a store-house of learning. The one had power to create, the other to mould all human knowledge to his mighty will. Bacon was a dictator amongst philosophers and schoolmen ; Shakespeare, a king amongst poets. The one dived deep beneath the surface, and brought up rich pearls of thought; the other plucked the flowers as he passed along; received his inspiration direct from all-bounteous Nature ; and held mysterious communion with her.
Bacon's fine reasoning powers, his rich and varied acquisitions of learning, his firm grasp of thought, all assisted to render him one of the mightiest beings that ever appeared upon earth. Yet his was not intuitive wisdom ; he accumulated rich stores, and extracted their essence ; he fed upon the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and waxed strong. What a prince he was amongst philosophers! Yet how unlike our
“Sweetest Shakespeare, fancy's child,
In all the treasures Bacon amassed for posterity, we do not find a trace of the magic power that holds us
spell-bound in the antechamber of Macbeth's castle, or draws tears from our eyes, when we read of Ophelia's sad fate in “ the weeping brook.”
Our great dramatist died at a comparatively early age, yet in what a blaze of splendour did his sun go down ! What glorious treasures did he bequeath to mankind ! What a priceless legacy to posterity! What acquisitions for the literature of this country, rich as it was at that period ! “King Lear," " Troilus and Cressida,” “ The Tempest,” and “The Winter's Tale,” were amongst the latest of his productions ; not to mention “Henry the Eighth," with the completion of which he probably laid down his pen. His genius was lofty and commanding, but nature and men, not books, were the works that he studied. He felt that no two human beings are alike, and when he wanted a character, he knew where to find one. He did not need books, for he looked into man. From the busy and unheeding throng, he selected his imperishable types, and he bandled them with the same facility that the showman does his puppets. He had a deep insight into objective and subjective (if the terms may be thus applied) nature. He had anatomized man's heart, and was thoroughly acquainted with its numerous complications. He saw the world around him, under the sunbeam ; and the light of his genius shed its rays upon the inner world of passion and impulse, and penetrated its every mystery.
And thus amongst the kings of literature he fills the highest throne. The glory of his fame did not burst upon the world like a brilliant meteor, dazzling for a moment, and as suddenly disappearing ; it has advanced steadily towards its meridian, and is now the brightest planet in the firmament of English literature. It may, indeed, be termed the centre of the system ; for around it all the lesser lights revolve, illumined by the effulgence of its surpassing splendours.
06 'Tis slander,
OUR labour of love draws near its termination, and we entertain but slight apprehension lest our toil should be lost ; for seldom indeed is any historical fact capable of illustration by such overwhelming evidence. The bard of Stratford-upon-Avon bears his literary honours thick around his venerable brow. If William Shakespeare's title to the authorship of the six-and-thirty plays of the folio of 1623 cannot be considered as fully substantiated, we may at once bid farewell to our elder classics, and open the flood-gates to the most terrible deluge of incredulity and doubt that ever spread desolation over the literature of any country.
In a former chapter we promised to adduce proofsincontestable proofs-sufficient to convince any reasonable inquirer that Shakespeare's claim to be regarded as the author of the dramas that bear his name is unquestionable. It is clear and precise ; a fact, indeed, established as completely as any in our literary annals, and one which does not therefore admit of the slightest doubt. This pledge has, we believe, been redeemed; and if in our vindication we have spoken with warmth and indignation, it is because we feel, and feel strongly, that this charge ought never to have been put in circulation. We