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then we are to blame, if we accept it not for modern. “ The stream of time," says
When we consider under what circum- possessed no common skill, and more than stances Shakspeare wrote, and how de- he could judiciously employ in the ingraded was the state of the drama in his efficient and ill appointed theatres for day, it is astonishing how he surmounted which he wrote; these were at least two the impediments which stood in the way centuries behind the rapid march of his of his success, and the extent of that genius which had made so boundless a success may be measured by the fact, stride towards the remote and unattainable that his dramas at this moment not only goal of perfection. As the rich effusions of hold the highest rank upon the stage as his prolific fancy, had he soared to the works of genius, but are witnessed with extreme height of his creative capacity, greater delight than any thing subsequently would have been in a measure inaccessible produced by men of more learning and to the rude tastes of the audience before skill, but of infinitely less judgment, and whom they were represented, he no doubt who have shown themselves to be very far levelled the soaring of his aspiring mind to behind him in that depth of insight into the the perceptions of those who could not have almost unexplored recesses of human na- traced him in the utmost elevation of his ture, open alone to Shakspeare, or at least genius. However this may be, with all his investigated alone by him. The imperfec- blots, with all his indecencies, with all his tion of his plays, when sted with the
per- barbarisms, and each are numerous, it is not formances of those more modern writers too much to say of him that he raised the who are supposed to have produced per- drama of this country from the degraded fect dramas, in the comparative sense of the state to which bad taste, ignorance, and term, and perfect according to the dramatic false enthusiasm had reduced it; and while canons said to have been laid down by he produced plays which have been the Aristotle, though attributed falsely to him, admiration of the learned world, they were and observed by all the Greek writers of such as could be abundantly relished, though tragedy,—is to be ascribed rather to the not fully appreciated, by the lowest uncircumstances which governed his genius derstandings of his day. This alone is than to any natural want of skill. He was high and very rare praise. compelled, and no doubt frequently against Shakspeare has been accused of wanting his own judgment, to adapt his productions originality because the plots of his plays in a measure to the vitiated and debasing were taken from some obscure novels prejudices of the times, and the indecencies known in his time, though as this latter so frequently found in his plays were rather fact has never been clearly proved in all the compelled violations of good taste than instances, those in which the proof fails the morbid effervescences of a naturally must still rest upon conjecture or unsubprurient imagination or of impure feeling. stantiated report.
But if he has taken However low some of the scenes in his other men's dross—for had it been sterling dramas, however gross his infractions of it would have reached our times, since fine dramatic propriety, and however remote ore is indestructible-he has transmuted it many of his scenes may be from critical to gold by his own sublime alchemy. He accuracy with reference to the classical is the only man who has ever yet been able canons, he has nevertheless upon the whole to carry on and effectuate so difficult a displayed a dexterity of combination, a process upon materials so scanty and infulness and variety of incident, a sterling tractable. As a proof of what we have here richness of material, a depth and harmony predicated, the works of those authors to of colouring, a freshness and gorgeousness whom our bard is said to have been indebted of tint, never overcharged even in its for the subjects of his dramas are now lost in mightiest exuberance of splendour, exhi-' the gulf of time, and many of the former are bited by no other writer either ancient or now matter of speculation, while the plays to
which their rude productions are supposed has been written upon a subject so infinitely to have given rise, and no doubt in many interesting to every admirer of our great instances truly, remain imperishable me
dramatic bard, no
more light has been morials of a genius that shall survive the thrown upon it than is exhibited in the wreck of empires, when the works of plays themselves—the chief and imperishinferior men, having passed through the brief able monuments of his genius; for of his cycle of their reputation, shall have lapsed sonnets and other poems so little is cominto oblivion.
paratively known, that, had not the magic The assumed fact of Shakspeare's igno- of his name obtained for them a convenrance of the learned languages has been tional reputation, they would have long said to be deducible from his writings. since passed into oblivion, as is evident from He is stated to have used the best translations the low estimation in which they are now which his age afforded, whenever he made held, save by those worshippers of their choice of subjects belonging to classical pe- distinguished author who value them only riods, on which no information was to be because they are his. The merits of those directly obtained, except through the lan- effusions are unquestionably far below what guages of Greece and Rome, and indirectly might have been expected from the genius through translations. But the fact of Shak- which produced them. Many of them are speare having availed himself of the readier contemptible as poetical productions, even access of a translation was no proof that he apart from the great name of their author ; was unable to read the original, though it they, with a few exceptions, would have may fairly lead to the inference that his done no honour to the most inferior hand. scholarship was not of the highest order. There are, however, some of those poems in Nevertheless, as he only wanted a subject every respect worthy of the diadem with for the exercise of his own constructive which the united voice of posterity has enpowers, he obtained as readily all he wished circled the brows of Shakspeare; generally, to acquire through the medium of a trans- however, they cannot add to his fame. Most lation as he could have done had he been of them have been surpassed by very inferior ever so familiar with the original. I have men. It is in the plays that we are to look no doubt that the trammels of learning for the bright emanations of Shakspeare's would have encumbered the free and ex- mind; these present us with a vigorous cursive flights of his towering imagination; application and infinitely varied powers of he was therefore the better for those priva- intellect, never exhibited by any other drative qualities, which neither cramped his matic bard, either ancient or modern, and understanding nor biassed his judgment. excite an enthusiasm, a thrill of admiration It was not his object to appropriate the in the soul of the reader, which no writer thoughts and sentiments of other men, but can create in the same degree. Opinions having found sufficient material for the never vary upon the transcendency of framework of a play he cast the crude mass Shakspeare's genius. No one disputes this into the mould of his own capacious mind, universally acknowledged fact.
It is as and thus produced dramas which have since incontrovertible as an axiom in mathemabeen the admiration of all civilised Europe. tics, which no dexterity of logic or astuteHe is allowed to have no competitor. While ness of argument can prove to be false. the plays of Marlowe, Ford, Shirley, and He is an object almost of national adoraeven of Ben Jonson and Fletcher, are all but tion. forgotten, except by the few who admire If it be asked why the plays of Shakthe racy poetry which those of the two speare have excited such extraordinary latter contain, his are still fresh upon the admiration above those of all other English stem of their growth; they will outlive the dramatic authors, we answer by the mastery country in which they have bloomed and of mind developed in those marvellous flourished to such transcendant maturity, compositions, which, notwithstanding their and reach the last scene of time, when every numerous and frequently striking faults,thing shall be involved in
though for many of these their author should not be held responsible,—are unrival
led for the consummate knowledge of nature The literary character of Shakspeare has which they display in all its infinite variety been speculated upon by some of the most of phases and of modifications; gifted men since his time, and after all that found insight which they show the writer
“ The wreck of matter and the crush of worlds."
for the pro
to have possessed into the secret sources of the world. He appears to have left them human passion, showing that he had the in the hands of the performers, who inclue to every avenue that traversed the terpolated them according to their own vast maze of human feeling and of human notions of improvement, without any check sympathies; for the philosophical discrimina- or limitation from the author, who, so long tion of social attributes they exhibit, a dis- as the audiences were satisfied, seems not to crimination which so projects the character have cared for the further fate of his pro into view that all its minutest details, no ductions. less than its principal features, are brought So loose and imperfect were the first as it were before the eye with a develop- printed copies, that the directions for the ment almost magical.
stage business were occasionally incorporated Of the peculiar qualities of Shakspeare's with the text, so as to render it completely genius, volumes have been and might still unintelligible. The names too of the be written. Its great charm and paramount actors are frequently printed indiscrimiascendency consisted in his intuitive per- nately with those of the characters repreception of Nature in all her hidden mys- sented by them, as in “ Much Ado About teries and delicate combinations, frequently Nothing," folio edition, 1623, we find in act so exquisitely minute and intangible as to the second, “Enter Prince Leonato, Claudio, escape the scrutiny and elude the grasp of and Jack Wilson.” It has only been by ordinary minds, or indeed of any mind not the industry of subsequent editors, from endued with a power almost transcendent. Rowe especially down to Steevens and Shakspeare's was a deep mine of knowledge, Malone, including a host of commentators from which he drew with unsparing libera- in the intervening interval, that our great lity, giving frequently the native dross with dramatic bard has been restored to somethe ore, but pouring forth the latter from thing like his original beauty; though the boundless storehouse of his intellect even now much remains to be done, for with a gorgeous and lavish profusion. He there is still a vast deal absolutely uninexhibited a broad and intuitive philosophy, telligible, and more that is defaced by which showed its magnificent results, not barbarisms which such a master mind as by ostentatiously displaying the mechanical Shakspeare's could never have admitted and embarrassing process of solving a set into any thing bearing the sole impress of of intricate problems, but by laying at once his capacious and original mind. the mighty result before the eye in all the The frightful inroads made by the first grandeur of its consummation, without transcribers of our author's dramas, upon exposing the dull machinery of investiga- the purity of the original text, is deeply to tion. In his representations of life and be deplored, as not only have they thus manners, not a tint is absent that could give come to us in a state of sad mutilation, but value to the picture. Every touch seems it is this circumstance that has given rise to to have the force of instinct, evolving some such a number of new readings, which every new element of inoral life, and imparting a actor now considers himself privileged to spiritual as well as physical vitality to the employ in order to show his ingenuity, groups, so admirably diversified in all his though too often greatly to the prejudice of plays, and yet always so naturally and so the author whom he affects to venerate. appropriately disposed as to exhibit every- This pitiful ambition has done much more where a life-like reality. Yet this man, towards eclipsing than evolving the beauties with all his genius, his mighty grasp of of our great dramatist, and it really were intellect, his microscopic perception of the to be wished that the Lord Chamberlain subtler elements of emotion and of thought, should be empowered to prohibit these appears to have been unconscious of his empirical licences, unless a man can submarvellous powers; or if conscious, it is stantiate his capability of throwing new certain that he did not appreciate them, for light upon obscurities which it is to be it has been made clear to a demonstration, feared the beams of modern interpretation that he did not produce his plays with any will never penetrate. regard to future fame, but only to present Most of the new readings adopted by our emolument. This fact has indeed been modern artists of repute are of the most questioned; but it is difficult to account, trifling description, and merely put forth for upon any other supposition, for his never the sake of establishing a paltry claim to having given an edition of his own dramas to originality. How for instance does Mr.
Forrest add to the obscurity of the follow- thirteen shillings and four pence sterling. ing intractable passage of Macbeth by The drama, when printed, was sold for sixfollowing John Kemble’s unintelligible pence a copy, and the usual present obreading.
tained for the dedication was forty shillings.
The plays of Shakspeare were represented
under all the disadvantages of inadequate
scenery ; two or three menials armed with Mr. Forrest reads as follows
swords and bucklers forming an army, and If it were done! When 'tis done then 'twere well.
the scenic changes being almost entirely It were done quickly if the assassination, &c.
left to the imagination of the audience. This reading cannot be understood, and “ Thus scanty and meagre,” says Mr. the actor consequently places himself in the Malone, were the apparatus and acawkward predicament of talking nonsense, commodations of our ancient theatres, which Shakspeare certainly was not in the on which those dramas were first exhihabit of doing.
bited, which have engaged the attention It is impossible to read the plays of him of so many men and delighted so many who may be justly called the father of the thousand spectators. Yet even then, we British stage, without lamenting that such are told by a writer of that age *, dramatic a man, the poet of all time, should have poesy was so lively expressed and reprebeen so utterly unmindful of his own future sented on the public stages and theatres of reputation, as to have permitted those this city, as Rome in the auge of her pomp scandalous mutilations of his writings, by and glory never saw it better perfornied, in which they have unquestionably come respect of the action and art, not of the down to posterity so different from what cost and sumptuousness. they were originally produced. These With all the want of appliances and mutilations, it is true, are found for the means to boot,” could any thing but the most part in the subordinate portions of the wonde herent merit of those implays; they, nevertheless, to a certain mortal dramas have secured for them the degree, pervade every portion ; and some of first place, not only upon the stage, but the dramas are so defaced by barbarous in the closet? It is not too much to say interpolations, as to render it still a ques- of them that they are still read with delight tion whether they are really the produc- by millions, and are the subjects of national tions of Shakspeare; though, as Dr. Johnson veneration. Every Englishman is proud has justly asked, if they are not Shak- to be able to say that Shakspeare was of speare's, to whom can we attribute them ? the same country with himself, and of all for they bear the stamp of his hand, how- the great men which this island has proever the impression may have been partially duced, the bard of Avon is the most unieffaced by the presumptuous application of versally venerated. To withhold our ada ruder touch.
miration from his works would be deemed The low estimation in which the drama nothing short of literary heresy. was held in the sixteenth century may be presumed from the price given for a play,
* Sir George Buc, who wrote a treatise on the which was thirty nobles, or six pounds English stage.
LINES WRITTEN BY SIR KENELM DIGBY IN THE TOWER.
When on my little babes I think, as I do oft,
I cannot choose, but then let fall some tears.
Ask where is father that did promise pears,
GENEALOGICAL MEMOIR OF LADY AUGUSTA WENTWORTH.
LADY AUGUSTA WENTWORTH is the hold. His Lordship married Diana, second daughter of the present Marquis daughter of Henry Grey, first Earl of of Aylesbury, and the wife of Thomas Ver- Stamford, and dying 20th October, 1685, non Wentworth, Esq., of Wentworth was succeeded by his eldest son, Castle, in the county of York.
THOMAS, second Earl of Aylesbury. The house of Bruce, that of her lady- This nobleman was among the first to ship, is of royal descent; it springs pater- invite the Prince of Orange into England, nally from the ducal house of Montagu, as a mediator between the Crown and the and by the mother's side from Robert people, but peremptorily refused to sanction Bruce, king of Scotland.
his advancement to the throne, or to swear Thomas Bruce, first Earl of Elgin, in allegiance to the government of the Revoluthe peerage of Scotland, was created a tion. His Lordship married, first, 13th peer of England, by Charles I., on 1st of August, 1676, Elizabeth, only surviving August, 1641, as Baron Bruce of Whorlton, daughter of Henry, Lord Beauchamp, son in the county of York. His Lordship of William, second Duke of Somerset, married, first, Anne, daughter of Sir Robert who at the death of her brother, William, Chicester, of Raleigh, in the county of third Duke of Somerset, became sole heiress Devon, Knight, by whom he had an only of Tottenham Park, and divers other estates son, Robert, his successor. He espoused,
in the county of Wilts. By her his Lordsecondly, Anne, daughter and co-heir of ship had issue, William Lord Burghley, and widow of CHARLES, his successor. Henry de Vere, Earl of Oxford, but had Elizabeth, married to George, third no other issue : he died in 1663, and was
Earl of Cardigan, by whom she succeeded by his son,
had, with other issue, THOMAS ROBERT, second Earl of Elgin, Baron BRUDENELL, who succeeded his Bruce, of Kinloss, and Baron Bruce, of uncle, the Earl of Aylesbury, in Whorlton. This loyal nobleman did the Barony of Tottenham. good service to the cause of monarchy, in In 1691, during the absence of King Wilthe civil war. He was a stanch adherent liam in Ireland, Queen Mary issued a of Charles I., and an active promoter of proclamation for the apprehension of the the Restoration. On the 18th March, Earl of Aylesbury, with other suspected 1663-4, he was created Baron Bruce, of persons, but he was not then imprisoned ; Skelton, in the county of York, Viscount in a few years afterwards, however, being Bruce, of Ampthill, in the county of Bed- accused of attending meetings, at the old ford, and Earl of Aylesbury, in the county King's Head Tavern, in Leadenhall-street, of Bucks. At the coronation of James II., for the restoration of King James, he 23d April, 1685, the Earl of Aylesbury was committed to the Tower, which so was one of the Lords who bore St. Ed- affected his Countess, that she died in ward's staff, and the July ensuing he was childbed, 12th Jan., 1697. The Earl was appointed Lord Chamberlain of the house- admitted to bail on the 12th of February