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vantage of all winds by the quickness of his wit and invention.”
We pointed out to the editor, that Fuller was only eight years old when Shakespeare died, and therefore was not likely to have been an eyewitness of these “Wit Combats.” Moreover, the passage from Fuller is misquoted : he did not write, “I beheld,” but “I behold them”-that is, I picture them to my mind.
It is these picturings and imaginings of circumstances which might have occurred,-and recording them as events which did really happen,—that has encumbered the life and works of Shakespeare with such a mass of error. The keen desire to know something has bred an easy willingness to believe anything; and Bacon's observation upon Poetry is peculiarly applicable to the life of Shakespeare “because the acts and events of (his) true history have not that magnitude which satisfieth the mind of man,” Imagination "feigneth acts and events greater and more heroical.”
Fuller knew so little of, and inquired so little after, Shakespeare, that the entry in his original work stands thus:-"He died anno Domine 16. Nichols notes :-“It is a little remarkable, that Dr. Fuller should not have been able to fill up this
blank, which I should have done silently (as I have in numberless other instances); but that I think it right to notice how little was then known of the personal history of the sweet Swan of Avon-who died April 23, 1616.”
The essay on “Cavilling,” in Blackwood's Edinburgh Review—which we have briefly noticed in our Preface-we have read right through, and find ourselves neither wiser nor better from the performance of this penance. There is nothing to notice, and but little to approve, in that prosy production.
“As I have only taken upon me to ring a bell to call other wits together, which is the meanest office,” to repeat Bacon's words,* “it cannot but be consonant to my desire, to have that bell heard as far as can be.” We therefore heartily thank all those who have in any way assisted our endeavour. It is our theory-not ourselves—we wish to have known and considered-content if our little book
but serves the public mind to wake, As the small pebble stirs the peaceful lake. As a recent writer (the Times, March 25, 1857) observes :-“When questions are once stirred up, the water must be muddy before it is clear again.
* Letter to Dr. Playfere.
This is almost a law of nature. Generally speaking, the first result of what is called thinking over any subject to yourself, is simply to puzzle yourself; you are not only not benefited, you are considerably worse off for your pains. You have left the daylight of simple, natural common sense, and got into a dark intellectual chamber of, your own making, in which you go groping about with the help of small apertures and passage windows. When you emerge out of this gloom, you are sometimes indeed the gainer by your experience, and regain your common sense, with the addition of some clearness and accuracy: but it is not true that second thoughts are best. The proverb has made a mistake in its arithmetic: it is not second thoughts, but third thoughts, that are best. The first and last states are good, the middle is bad. Every important question should pass through the stage of fermenting, after which the irrelevant matter settles and goes to the bottom, and the liquor is clarified.” “ If it be Truth," as Bacon writes,
“Non canimus surdis, respondent omnia sylve, 'the voice of nature will consent, whether the voice of man do so or no.'
We will conclude this portion of our subject by
quoting a communication from a friendly correspondent, which is well worthy of attention :
“If in your Bacon-Shakespeare Inquiry," he writes, “the purport of the following note has not been anticipated, it may perhaps furnish you with some hints for further argument.
"In Shakespeare's Plays there is a dramatic series of historical events from the deposition of Richard II. to the birth of Elizabeth. But in this series there is one curious unaccounted-for hiatus _'The Poet,' as Charles Knight says, 'has not chosen to exhibit the establishment of law and order in the astute government of Henry VII.'*
“In Bacon's works there are sundry fragments of a History of England. They are but mere hints, at once the token that the idea of a history had been present in Lord Bacon's mind, and the evi. dence that it had not been worked out upon paper -at least in this way. But one reign is not a fragment, it is a history—the History of Henry VII. -the missing portion of the dramatic series; and the exhibition of the establishment of law and order,' which a genial editor of Shakespeare sees to be wanting to complete the unity of the dramatic series, is wrought out in Lord Bacon's book,
* Pict. Shak. Histories, vol. ii. p. 92.
“ The History of Henry VII., by Bacon, completes the series of the Shakespeare Histories from Richard II. to Henry VIII. It takes the story up, too, from the very place where, in Shakespeare, it is dropped. Richard the Third ends with Bosworth Field, with the coronation of Richmond, and the order for the decent interment of the dead. Bacon's history begins with an 'After,' as if it was a continuation. And so it is -a continuation of the drama, taking up the history 'Immediately after the victory,' as Bacon writes in his second sentence. Not a word about Henry VII. as Earl of Richmond, nothing about the events which preceded the Battle of Bosworth—a story without a beginning: the beginning of it is found in the drama.”