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GIVEN the probability of a literary influence exercised upon a given writer by one or more previous writers, or by any course of culture, by what kind of evidence shall it be proved to have taken place?
This problem, necessarily present to the writer's mind when the following treatise was separately published, has since been pressed upon him with a new clearness by the essays of the late Professor Churton Collins, collected under the title of STUDIES IN SHAKESPEARE. Discussing, among other things, "Shakespeare as a Classical Scholar," Shakespeare and Montaigne," and, under the heading of "Shakespearean Paradoxes," the point of the authorship of TITUS ANDRONICUS, they raise from three sides the question under notice. The first cited essay claims to prove Shakespeare's familiarity with Latin literature, and with Plato and the Greek tragedians in Latin translations; the second challenges much of the evidence offered in
the following pages to show that Shakespeare was much influenced by Montaigne; and the third claims to prove, as against the main line of English criticism, that Shakespeare really wrote the disputed play named.
With the last thesis I have dealt fully in my book DID SHAKESPEARE WRITE "TITUS ANDRONICUS"? published during Mr. Collins's lifetime; and the conclusions therein reached bear directly upon the first issue as to Shakespeare's classical scholarship. Much of Mr. Collins's case on that head turns upon classical quotations and allusions found in TITUS and in plays long held, like that, to contain much that is not Shakespeare's work, albeit more affected than TITUS by his touch. Thus, before we can come to a conclusion as to all the literary influences undergone by Shakespeare, we must form an opinion as to what is and what is not genuine in the mass of matter which goes under his name. Upon this head there will be found some comment in the paper on "The Originality of Shakespeare" in the present volume. So far as this discussion is concerned, however, it is still left in large part an open question. While it is claimed that the non-Shakespearean authorship of TITUS is proved, it is admitted that the old question as to the HENRY VI group and RICHARD
III; the survival of alien matter in TROILUS, TIMON, ROMEO AND JULIET, the TAMING OF THE SHREW, and the COMEDY OF ERRORS; and the probability of pre-Shakespearean forms of RICHARD II, the Two GENTLEMEN, ALL'S WELL, and MEASURE FOR MEASURE have still to be systematically dealt with. I should add that for many years I have been convinced that some of the matter in Love's LABOUR'S LOST to which Mr. Collins and others point for proof of Shakespeare's classical knowledge was the work of one or more collaborators, probably not professional playwrights.
Such an avowal, of course, suggests the retort that I have reasoned in a circle, settling in advance that matter which showed classical knowledge was not Shakespeare's. In point of fact, however, it is only in regard to LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST that I have ever so reasoned. The whole of TITUS, much of the HENRY VI plays, and most of the SHREW, was for me non-Shakespearean from the first study, in respect of everything that made Shakespeare distinguishable from other men. Instead, therefore, of begging the question, I have been led to my conclusions as to the learning of Shakespeare by a general induction from the matter which, upon the main and primary grounds of genuineness, was certificated to me as his. The
fact that the distinct traces of classical knowledge in his imputed works are to be found mainly in those which, for many readers through many generations, have always been under veto or suspicion on grounds of style, is in itself a fact of obvious critical importance.
This said, I leave for another time, or to other hands, the systematic discussion as to what is and is not genuine in the Shakespeare plays. That these problems must and will be grappled with, I am assured. The recent confident deliverance of Mr. C. F. Tucker Brooke, that "all attempts to deprive the poet of a large interest in any of the thirty-six plays . have failed," is only a suggestion to the effect that, despite such admirable critical work as Professor Bradley's, little contribution to the undertaking from English academic sources is now to be looked for beyond the useful item of careful collation of texts. Our problems, however, must be handled in detail; and it is possible to isolate for the time being the general question of critical method, and that of a particular literary influence.
A perusal of Mr. Collins's essays will show that on the one hand, while admitting an influence exercised by Montaigne on Shakespeare, he denies
1 Introduction to The Shakespeare Apocrypha, 1908, p. xii.
the validity of much of the evidence hereinafter given to prove that influence; and that on the other hand he affirms a general influencing of Shakespeare by the Greek and Latin classics-this upon grounds not distinguishable in kind, though, as I think, very different in strength, from those put forward in my treatise. The final difficulty is, to know what weight Mr. Collins ascribed to either his general thesis or his particular propositions. In the preface to his volume of STUDIES he writes as to his "parallel illustrations" :
"It must not be supposed that I have any wish to attach undue weight to them. As a rule such illustrations belong rather to the trifles and curiosities of criticism, to its tolerabiles nugae, rather than to anything approaching importance. But... cumulatively they are remarkable."
I should add that they are very interesting in themselves to students of literary causation and evolution. No one, I think, has ever put together so many parallelisms of expression between Shakespeare and the Greek tragedies as Mr. Collins has done. The trouble is that he has not attempted to frame, and has failed to recognise the difficulties in the way of framing, any code as to legitimate and illegitimate inferences from literary parallels. Often he shows himself alive to the risks of false induction. Observing that