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largely developed, the love of approbation rather high, and rather deficient in self-esteem. I think I could establish, without putting my presumptuous finger on Shakspere's head, from facts in his life and passages in his works, that these were predominant sentiments of his mind, and afford a sufficient reason for this universal admiration. I will not trouble you with many instances. Will you just remember that fact which is recorded in his life, of his leaving £10 to the poor of Stratford; and place it alongside of that singularly beautiful and tender passage in As you like it, beginning—
DUKE. "Come, shall we go and kill us venison?
Being native burghers of this desert city,
Should, in their own confines, with forked heads
Secondly. That he was keenly sensitive to the praise or contempt of others,-an element inseparable from the poetic constitution,—that fact which I mentioned about the pamphlet of Green, plainly proves but carry that fact with you as you read many passages in his sonnets, and you will feel that it is established beyond a doubt. Yea, he had (apparently) this sentiment so morbidly developed, that he said it was better to be without goodness, if so be you were esteemed by your fellows, than to be despised, even though you were sustained by the consciousness of innocence.
""Tis better to be vile, than vile esteemed;
Or on my frailties, why are frailer spies,
Which in their wills count bad what I think good?
At my abuses, reckon up their own;
I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel;
Unless this general evil they maintain,
All men are bad, and in their badness reign."
These lines were penned in early life. When he arrived at mature age, increased knowledge of the world and of his own heart, taught him a higher wisdom; and in many of his later dramas he has inculcated purer principles of action. In Polonius' advice to his son Laertes, we have, amongst a number of wise maxims, the following, which is the conclusion of the whole ::
"This, above all, to thine ownself be true,
Thirdly. That he was deficient in self-esteem, is evident from the indifference he shewed in regard to the ultimate fate of his works-his unconsciousness of his transcendent powers. Those dramas, which are a marvel to every reflective mind, seem not to have astonished him. I believe he did not look upon. them as very extraordinary, except when he at times compared them with the works of others. They would rise so naturally out of his mind, like a tree out of the bosom of earth,-every bud, and leaf, and branch, opening and spreading in such regular and just proportion, that he would never think how the thing could otherwise be, or that much praise was due to him for bringing forth such natural productions. Be that as it may, it is very noticeable that he had no constant consciousness of his towering genius. His deficiency in this sentiment of self-esteem, was, I believe, partly the reason why he was at times so desponding in spirit, and envied the art, and lot, and scope of others. You never find any of your small dogmatic men, in whom self-esteem is the regnant sentiment, giving utterance to such feelings. Better, perhaps, for Shakspere's own peace of mind if he had possessed more of the dogmatic spirit; but he would
not have been so loved by his contemporaries and
That I have some reason for advancing these few suggestions, to shew why Shakspere was and is so loved, I think I am justified not merely from facts in his life, and passages in his works, but also from our experience of human nature. Who are the men most esteemed and loved? Are they not those whose benevolence sheds a genial glow over all within their sphere? whose love of approbation impels them to do worthy deeds-though they may be sneered at and slandered, as was Shakspere, before their true character is known? and lastly, those who doing great things are not elated with their success, but are unconscious of their acknowledged superiority-great in the simplicity of their greatness? Such, we may well believe, are some of the elements in Shakspere's character, plainly recorded in his life, and shining like points of light throughout his various writings; over which we bend with hearts not untouched with tenderness, and with eyes not undimmed with tears.
Shakspere's half-century was a very remarkable one in English-in European history. The universal mind had been stirred to its depths. The fountains of that great deep had been broken up by the great Reformation. An immense amount of life had been imparted to the human soul, and its long-repressed energies sprang forth with giant strides. When we go back to that age of the world, we get to the very source of all those religious, philosophical, scientific, literary, political, and commercial influences, which are now in such full and vigorous operation all over our land. That age witnessed the translation of the Bible; the issue of the first Newspaper; the overthrow of the Scholastic Philosophy by Lord Bacon and Descartes; the destruction of the Spanish Armada; the invention of the Telescope and Microscope; the first colonization of North America; the War of Liberation in Holland; the Reformation in
Scotland, under our countryman, John Knox; and last, not least, the infusion of fresh life and vigour into English Literature and Poetry, by Edmund Spenser and William Shakspere.
It would be unphilosophic to suppose that all those great deeds were the sole work of a few great men. Those men were rather the exponent and highest development of those great ideas stirring in the heart and soul of the civilised world, and which were struggling to get vent and utterance in and through fit and able men. The right men came, as they always come when needed to lead the human race in the path of progress, to hold aloft the torch of truth, and extend on all sides the domain of human knowledge. In the midst, then, of all those great movements, did Shakspere live and move, doing for English literature and poetry, what our translators did for the Bible, what newspapers did for politics, what Bacon and Descartes did for mental and physical science, what Russell and Drake did for the naval supremacy of England, what the inventors of the telescope and microscope did for astronomy and physiology, what the war of liberation did for civil and religious liberty, what the colonisation of North America did for British commerce, and what John Knox did for our own glorious Reformation. Shakspere stands out there in that 17th. century, one of the great centres and sources of influence visibly felt to this our day, one of the few men amongst the vast crowd of this world's inhabitants, of whom it can be said, that if he had not existed, the intellectual condition of the civilised world would have been somewhat different from what it is. He may not have been the greatest Englishman, or the greatest amid the world's poets; but he was one of earth's greatest sons, and the greatest poet that ever lived in England. He did not, like Chaucer, or Spenser, or Dryden, or Wordsworth, found a new school of poetry; but he peopled the old glorious lands as they had never been peopled before;
he extended on all sides the domain of thought; he ascended to heights before unscaled, and descended to depths before unsounded. He not only widened the horizon of our mental vision, but he hung up great lights in the heavens of thought, which are not merely in themselves objects of beauty and splendour, but shed abroad light on every object on which their rays do fall, quicken all minds within their range, and guide onwards to the discovery of continents of thought which shall yet enrich all the lands of literature.
William Shakspere-how great is thy renown! Standing on the height of the 19th century, we can hear on all sides the reverberations of thy fame, the acclaims come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south; and the notes are caught up and prolonged by the hills and valleys of thy native land. Strong and unmistakeable proofs of Shakspere's true and enduring greatness! There are many who are popular in the age in which they live; and there are others, a rarer class, not appreciated by their contemporaries, who have to bequeath their works and their memory to succeeding generations: there are some who are esteemed by the many, and despised by the few; others whose works are as necessary food for the few, but are caviare to the general. Shakspere is at once popular and profound; he has a word to the peasant, and a word to the philosopher; to the learned and to the unlearned; the young and the old: following in poetry the advice given by an inspired Apostle for a far higher mission -he is all things to all men. There are others, too, who appear great when contrasted with the small men by whom they are surrounded. But Shakspere, as we have seen, lived in an age of intellectual giants; he stood beside Spenser, and Sydney, and Bacon, and Raleigh; and even in the peculiar walk of literature in which he wandered, there shone Beaumont, and Fletcher, and Massinger, and "rare old Ben,"-men