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occurred in John Shakespeare's circumstances, is correct, and that the extreme degree of importance which he seems to attach to the fact that he could not write his name, is also equally worthy of reception, what does he gain by the concessions John Shakespeare's poverty and want of education are rotten foundations upon which to build arguments respecting the condition of the son. Neither the indigence of the former, nor his want of gentle accomplishments, will prove that the latter was not the first poet in the universe. The Omnipotent Ruler of the world hath thought fit, in his wisdom, to scatter his benefits freely amongst all classes and conditions, and often crowns the poor man's progeny with the diadem of intellectual superiority. The lengthy and honourable list of those who have emerged from the lower walks of life, into well-merited distin on, need not be inserted here ; every student of history knows that all ranks and conditions can boast of their great men ; and that while the offspring of mighty and potent monarchs have died in obscurity, the descendants of hewers of wood and drawers of water have climbed the dazzling heights of power. Mental endowments cannot be, like worldly possessions, transmitted from father to
the intellectual order of merit does not recognize social distinctions.
Starting from these false premises, Mr. Henry William Smith proceeds to draw the erroneous conclusions that “ William Shakespeare was a man of limited education, careless of fame, and intent upon money-getting;" neither of which assertions he attempts to prove, probably as fully aware as most reasonable people, that were they all substantiated, his theory would not be thereby advanced. In fact, the whole gist of the pamphlet may be summed up in this manner :-John Shakespeare was poor and ignorant, and could not have given his son a good education; and in addition to this, William Shakespeare cared little for fame, and only thought of money-making; there
fore he did not write the plays that have so long been received as his productions.
Having settled matters with the poet and his father in this arbitrary manner, Mr. William Henry Smith proceeds to search for a man after his own heart. Lord Bacon suits his idea of a great dramatic author, and is at once advanced to the throne from which poor William, or what M. Ponsard would call “ poor Williams,"* has been ruthlessly ejected. Lord Bacon was of noble extraction, and had received a good education ; he possessed considerable ability for dramatic composition, and wanted money ; in fact, to borrow Mr. William Henry Smith's own words, “His daily walk, letters, and conversation, constitute the beau-ideal of such a man as we might suppose
the author of these plays to have been ; and the very absence, in those letters, of all allusion to Shakespeare's plays, is some, though slight, corroboration of his connection with them." +
Was ever theory raised upon such stubble ? By adopting this line of argument, the literary reputations of half the great names in our list of authors might be demolished in a few seconds. A single specimen from this medley of inconsistencies will serve to show how obstinately and absurdly their author contradicts himself.
One reason which he advances with much gravity as affording satisfactory proof that William Shakespeare did not write these plays, is that he was “ careless of fame.”.
Now let the reader consider for a moinent what this
* We have a strong notion that Mr. Henry William Smith and M. Ponsard are one and the same individual, and that this acute critic merely assumed the latter name while lecturing foreign audiences, in order to create for himself a twofold reputation. At any rate, they are kindred spirits, and a night with Ponsard and Mr. William Henry Smith, especially if the conversation happened to turn upon Shakespeare, would be a literary banquet, of which even Athenæus himself could not have formed a conc ion, + Pamphlet, p. 10.
# Pamphlet, p. 6.
insensibility to the allurements of fame induced William Shakespeare to do? It was not to bury himself in obscurity, or to take the profit arising from certain plays, leaving the glory to another, but actually to appropriate to himself the credit of having penned the masterpieces of our dramatic literature, which credit belonged by right to Francis Bacon. It must not be forgotten that the merit of these dramas was recognized in the days of Bacon and Shakespeare. Everybody possessed of a particle of common sense or discernment understood that they were immeasurably superior to anything in our language, in fact, to all compositions of the kind in universal literature.
is careless of fame, intent upon moneygetting,"* filches the former and relinquishes the gains without compunction.
“ Careless of fame,” he wraps himself in the mantle of Bacon's reputation ; “intent upon money-getting," he perpetrates this great wrong, in order to replenish Bacon's exhausted treasury. “ Careless of faine,” he receives the homage, to which he was by no means entitled, of poets, statesmen, and crowned heads; "intent upon money-getting," he hands over the cash to Francis Bacon. Admiring audiences, enraptured students, patrons of learning and literature, pay tribute after tribute to his genius, and William Shakespeare receives them, and allows the
forth edition after edition of particular plays, of which the authorship was assigned to him, without uttering a word of remonstrance, while the noble intellect that produced these masterpieces pined in comparative obscurity.
Reasoning more absurd never appeared in print ; Mr. William Henry Smith actually endeavours to draw from these facts a conclusion diametrically opposed to the one they naturally convey. It is obvious that had Shakespeare done as this sagacious critic insinuates, he would have shown himself greedy of fame, and careless as to the
* Pamphlet, p. 6.
reward. Had he permitted one of his contemporaries to take the credit of having written his dramas, in return for pecuniary satisfaction, he must then have pleaded guilty to the imputation of having been “careless of fame, intent upon money-getting ;" but this is not the charge Mr. William Henry Smith wishes to fix upon him; and this over clever disputant has argued upon false premises and come to an opposite conclusion to the one which he wished to establish. In fact he has lost himself in a maze, and while seeking to show that Shakespeare was “ careless of fame and intent upon money-getting,” has, if his arguments are to be regarded as trustworthy, proved the very contrary.
In order to afford Mr. William Henry Smith every possible advantage, we append the view taken of his pamphlet in the communication of an intelligent though over-credulous correspondent of "Notes and Queries.' This writer says : “ As your correspondent has furnished a somewhat striking coincidence* between 'an expression of Shak
* The following is the “somewhat striking coincidence" alluded to.
“ In the play of Henry V., Act iii. Sc. iii., occurs the following line :
• The gates of mercy shall be all shut up.' And again in Henry VI. :
• Open the gate of mercy, gracious Lord !' « Sir Francis Bacon uses the same idea in a letter written to King James a few days after the death of Shakspeare :- And therefore, in conclusion, he wished him (the Earl of Somerset) not to shut the gate of your majesty's mercy against himself by being obdurate any longer.'”a
This, at the most, can only prove that Bacon took the expression from Shakespeare. Henry V. was printed in 1600, and this letter was written as late as 1616. It is probable that both authors got the idea from the Bible, in which "gate of the Lord,"
gate of righteousness," and similar terms, frequently occur.
• Notes and Queries, Second Series, No 40, p. 267.
speare and a passage of a letter written by Lord Bacon, it may be worth while to preserve in ‘N. and Q.' a summary of Mr. W. H. Smith's argument on the point in question. He contends : 1. That the character of Shakspeare, as sketched by Pope, is the exact biography of Bacon. 2. That Bacon possessed dramatic talent to a high degree, and could, according to his biographers, assume the most different characters, and speak the language proper to each with a facility that was perfectly natural.' 3. That he wrote and assisted at bal-masques, and was the intimate friend of Lord Southampton, the acknowledged patron of Shakspeare. 4. That the first folio of 1623 was not published till Bacon had been driven to private life, and had leisure to revise his literary works; and that as he was obliged to raise money by almost any means, it is at least probable that he did so by writing plays. 5. That Shakspeare was a man of business rather than poetry, and acknowledged his poems and sonnets, but never laid claim to the plays.”
This is, after all, as good a summary as can be given of the wretched arguments upon which Mr. William Henry Smith bases his new, preposterous, and altogether untenable theory. They may be dismissed in a few sentences. 1. Shakespeare's character could not possibly be the biography of another man. 2. Bacon's ability for dramatic composition cannot be accepted as a proof that he wrote plays to the authorship of which he never laid claim, and which were attributed to, and acknowledged by, one of his contemporaries. 3. Lord Southampton, the friend of Shakespeare and Bacon, is, as we shall see more fully in another chapter, a witness against Mr. William Henry Smith and his theory. 4. Bacon's leisure and want of funds will never justify even the suspicion that he wrote the plays of Shakespeare. 5. The assertion that Shakespeare was a man of business rather than poetry is directly
* Notes and Queries, Second Series, No. 45, p. 369.