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years before full recognition came or was even deserved, and finally died in the inidst of revision and recreation for a complete edition of his work--having, if the metaphor be admissible, dramatized the sixteenth century Englishman.
But how came the myth abort? Who forged the mighty fantasy As concerns the intellectual classes, two great and exceptional critics were the agents of its creation.
Profoundly as Coleridge and Schlegel comprehended the metaphysical aspects of Shakespeare's work, both were sadly iinscientific and incoherent, and are responsible for not a little of the general misapprehension.
Evolution and progress have no part in their estimates. The German critic flounders in marshes of transcendental and deep-sounding absurdity in his theory of Hamlet; the English thinker is so taken with his own epithet, the myrial-minded, translated from a Byzantian critic, as to have no inclination for that really valuable psychological analysis of which he was capable. The former attempted to apply the dualism of Hegel to Shakespearean criticism, and got lost in a fog of his own making; the latter created an awful and colossal, yet dimly anthropomorphic, eidolon, and dubbed it Shakespeare, whereas it was merely his own ideal of the great philosophical poet he was so fond of talking about, under another name. Both complicated dramatic criticism more than they simplified it: being mostly responsible for the pópular conception of Shakespeare as a treinendous and non-human personality--a wierd and potent magician of the drama, web-weaving from within, and calling spirits from the vasty deep at will, not a gifted man, waging a life-battle, and finally, by industry, backed with wonderful insight and invention, winning his position in the van.
But did he originate a new method ? This question must be answered in the affirmative, as his works now stand. Had he died before producing Iamlet, and the later tragedies, most of which he left in manuscript, a negative answer would have been the only possible one—for it is only in his later products that he works from within, distinctively and unswervingly. Saving a certain wealth and Gothic intricacy of humor and invention of the filling-in type, in which he exceeded his contemporaries, his first method in no way differs from theirs. Like Dickens, he takes hold of a humor, a pet and peculiar phrase, a shrug of the shoulder, a bob of the head, and whimsically repeats it. Jonson, Greene, Marlowe, and the rest of them, worked in the same way. What this method is capable of is illustrated alike by Falstaff and Uriah Heep; but it differs materially from the method of his later creations, in which there is an infinite light and shadow—the infinite light and shadow of the universal, limited and unfolded in the individual, of the man, particular and actual, in his proper relation to the awful background of potential humanity. Monads of nature, as Falstaff and the Duke of Gloucester are, and hence powerful and unique, they lack the sympathetic relation to the universal that Othello and Lear have; while Hamlet is entitled to the epithet of transitional, the dramatist having abandoned the old exclusive dealing in fantastic humors and whims, in which he was not original, but not having yet sounded the depths of the new in which he was.
These considerations are very general; but they serve to negative the current myth of a Shakespeare blossoming suddenly on the sixteenth century in full-fledged and intuitive originality. Analysis of his first productions, and comparison with the works of his contemporaries, Ben. Jonson for example, lead to the conclusion that of all Elizabethan poets he was the most instinctive in his artistic processes; and, after criticism has exhausted its microscopy and secured one by one the consisting atoms of a work of fiction, this one induction sums up the verdict: every poet, qui nascitur, non fit, possesses a poetic insight far outrunning conscious intellectualization, and toils on at his work, blindfold in his understanding, but with unerring and intuitive art-sight—so that in every great poem there is always an element that eludes and outruns conscious analysis. It is this element that distinguishes Shakespeare as a really great poet-for, without it, his creations would lack perspective, as those of Ben Jonson did, and as those of mediocre poets always must. It is this that in his songs, in his sonnets, in Hamlet, Lear, the Tempest, the Midsummer Night's Dream, fulfils the highest condition of beauty as propounded by Bacon. 6. There is 110 excellent beanty," says he, perhaps with the “Midsummer Night's Dream” in his mind, "without some strangeness in the proportion.” Indeed, Shakespeare's works, or passages rather in one of his plays, undoubtedly suggest Bacon's brief but profound essay, condensing within the limits of a few paragraphs—every one of them a boulder in boldness and insight -the whole philosophy of the beautiful.
The facts of his biography and the formative forces environing and determining the works of the great and Gothic master, have now been cursorily discussed. The result, holding the balances with a hand as firm and steady as that of justice in the traditional myth, is simply this : 1. The lack of facts establishing the exact order of the composition of his plays and poems, one after another, in the instance of Shakespeare, as in that of Pindar in lyric poetry, or that of Plato in philosophy, renders it impossible to trace inductively the progress of his mind, with the minuteness necessary in criticism thoroughly scientific. 2. Facts enough there are to prove beyond cavil that, in all its aspects, the popular conception of the man is as wholly mythical as legendary King Arthur differs from the real man as radically as the ideal Napoleon of M. Theirs differs from the actual Napoleon of M. Lanfrey, or as the Pindar of Byzantine theory differs from the lyric poet of Thebes as he actually
But these are not facts enough to afford a distinct map either of his outer or of his inner life, the meanderings and doublings, and consecutive progress of either, or even to answer the important question, whether the awful vision of something holding human desting in its hands, which begins with Hamlet, and forms the atmosphere of his later tragedies, was original and conditioned upon the deepened inner life that followed the death of Hamlet, suggested by the intimacy with Bacon, or caught from perusal of the Greek masters.
Art. 111-1. Histoire de la Civilisation en Europe. PAR M. GUIZOT. Paris.
By N. ARNOTT. London.
2. Survey of Human Progress.
Man is just learning the powerful influence possessed by the various conditions of nature over national character. A race of men is a complex phenomenon. Throughout its whole continuance the hereditary strain derived from its founders is manifested. Next to this come the influences of food, soil, climate, and the other phenomena of nature; and, lastly, such occurrences as wars, migrations, and foreign intercourse. These are the circumstances which build nations. National character is never the work of individuals, but is the slow result of ages of hereditary, social, and meteorological influ
Historians have devoted themselves too exclusively to the political relations, governmental changes, rebellions, religions, and court trickeries of kingdoms, as if in these lay the whole secret of history. On the idiosyncrasies of rulers, their virtues, vices, and ambitions, the greatest stress has been laid, as if the king were the true arbiter of the State and could by his bare decree determine the direction of national progress.
It must be remembered that general effects spring not from special causes; that the people is not a shape of clay to which the kingly artist may affix what face and form he will; but a vital, thinking mass, on which the monarch may temporarily impress his authority, but on which kingly force can produce no permanent impression. For the people is a compound of all its individuals, and only he who can most deeply descend into the mind of a nation can most effectually modify its character.
It is the thinkers, not the actors, who produce powerful and persistent effects upon national character. If we search back through time for those vigorous souls whose influence has most strongly affected the culture and development of the human race, we stop not at the leaders of armies, or the rulers of kingdoms, but at the emperors of the realm of thought, the mighty thinkers whose words, like the tones of great bells struck in the night of time, throb in endless reverberation through all succeeding ages, melodious echoes to which the ear of the world is always attuned.
Homer, so far distant on the primeval horizon of history as to be almost lost in the morning mists of time, struck the key-note of that marvellous Grecian civilization which has so powerfully affected all succeeding nations.
Of all the great leaders of men who have lorded it so magnificently on the classic soil of Greece, not one has produced a tithe of the effect upon mankind that has resulted from the fugitive song of this blind old poet. Alexander the Great, to whom half the world bowed its head in subjection, passed, and his influence upon the world was soon lost in the turmoil of conflicting peoples; but the sublime work of Homer rolls through time like a river, gathering strength and volume as it proceeds, and ever producing new growths of thought in the rich soil of humanity. So Shakespeare has had a far more powerful effect in moulding the English race than all its rulers, from William the Norman to Victoria. And from his native isle, in everspreading circles, his influence has extended, till to-day it embraces the whole civilized world.
Historians look microscopically at the deeds of kings, and, beholding evidence of great political changes, fancy the kingly power to be the supreme architect of the national structure. The telescope, not the microscope, should be used, for centuries must be embraced in the view that would measure kingdoms. As the eye runs down successive centuries, we find nature and circumstance stubbornly resisting the mandates of the mightiest monarchs, so that, ere the dirge is hushed over the remains of the Cæsars and Charlemagnes of history, the world has taken a new breathing spell, and commenced quietly to forget the doings and decreeings of its dead lords. National progress obeys certain grand laws of unfoldment, on which government must ride as a ship upon the waves, and often with as little influence over the result as a ship lias over the ocean depths below; for the king is a creature, not a creator,