« 上一頁繼續 »
himself, let us allow him (Shakspere) great and inferring all the rest.” The “Remarks merit as a comic writer, greater still as a on some of the Characters of Shakespeare,' poet, but little, very little, as a tragedian. by Thomas Whately, published in 1785, is
And is, then, poor Shakespeare something different from the performance of to be excluded from the number of great the Scotch professor. What could induce tragedians ? He is; but let him be banished, his eminent relation, who republished it in like Homer from the republic of Plato, with 1839, to write thus ?—“Mr. Whately, it marks of distinction and veneration ; and should be observed, is merely pointing out may his forehead, like the Grecian bard's, be that such and such speches do indicate chabound with an honourable wreath of ever racter; not that they were, in each case, blooming flowers." There can be no doubt written with that design. If, then, they of the paternity of this production. The really are characteristic, the criticism is fully same Professor of Humanity in the Uni-borne out, whatever may have been the versity of Glasgow produced, in the same design of Shakespeare. I doubt whether year, 'A Philosophical Analysis and Illus- Shakespeare ever had any thought at all of tration of some of Shakespeare's Characters;' making his personages speak characterand this book has gone, with the appendage istically. In most instances, I conceive of new characters, through many editions ; probably in all-he drew characters correctly, and is allied, moreover, to Essays on this and becouse he could not avoid it, and would that Shaksperean thing, and a "perilous never have attained, in that department, shot” indeed in 'An Essay on the Faults of such excellence as he has, if he had made Shakespeare.' We shall give no more than any studied efforts for it. And the same, a sentence : -“ I am inclined to believe, and probably, may be said of Homer, and of those shall now endeavour to illustrate that the other writers who have excelled the most in greatest blemishes in Shakespeare have pro- delineating characters." Was the 'Paul ceeded from his want of consummate taste. preaching at Athens,' with the Apostle chaHaving no perfect discernment, proceeding racterised in his majesty, the sceptic in his from rational investigation, of the true cause doubt, and the enthusiast in his veneration, of beauty in poetical composition, he had (characters marked as deeply as the Richard never established in his mind any system of and Macbeth upon which the relation of the regular process, or any standard of dramatic Archbishop of Dublin writes,)—was this proexcellence.” Yet this solemn person, who duced by Raffaelle because he could not thinks that Shakspere had never established avoid it? We would willingly give an in his mind any system of regular process, extract or two from this clever book, but had no perfect discernment of the true cause its republication renders such unnecessary. of beauty, bas the temerity to write a book There is one more work, and one only, to of four hundred pages on his dramatic which we may point as being superior to the characters. Something of a very different ordinary criticism of that age—“ the butterdescription was produced three years after: woman's rank to market.” It is Mr. Whiter's * An Essay on the Dramatic Character of 'Specimen of a Commentary on Shakspeare,' Sir John Falstaff.' The author was MAURICE published in 1794. Morgann, once Under Secretary of State. Amidst the crowd of writers, from the The book is far above the age. The author middle to the end of the eighteenth century, is a thinker, and one who has been taught who were adding to the mass of comment to think by Shakspere. Take an example: upon Shakspere, whether in the shape of _“In the groups of other poets, the parts essay, letter, poem, philosophical analysis, which are not seen do not, in fact, exist. illustration, there was one who, not especially
Those characters in Shakespeare, devoting himself to Shaksperean criticism, which are seen only in part, are yet capable had a considerable influence in the gradual of being unfolded and understood in the formation of a sound national taste. The whole; every part being, in fact, relative, Reliques of Ancient English Poetry,' by
in Upon the whole, we have had abundant
Thomas Percy, originally published in 1765, kept possession of the English stage; which showed to the world that there was something gives a strong support to the tradition menin the early writers beyond the use to which tioned by Gildon, that, in a conversation they had been applied by Shakspere's com with Ben Jonson, our bard vindicated his mentators. In these fragm it would be historical plays, by urging that, as he had seen that England, from the earliest times, found the nation in general very ignorant had possessed an inheritance of real poetry; of history, he wrote them in order to instruct and that he who had breathed a new life into the people in this particular.' This is asthe forms of the past, and had known how to signing not only a good motive, but a very call up the heroes of chivalry,—to
probable reason, for his preference of this “ Enlive their pale trunks, that the present age
species of composition, since we
doubt but his illiterate countrymen would Joys in their joy, and trembles at their rage,”
not only want such instruction when he first was not without models of earnest passion began to write, notwithstanding the obscure and noble simplicity in the ancient ballads. dramatic chroniclers who preceded him, but The publication of these “Reliques' led the also that they would highly profit by his way, though slowly, to the study of our admirable Lectures on English History so elder poets; and every advance in this di- long as he continued to deliver them to his rection was a step towards the more extended audience. And, as it implies no claim to knowledge, and the better understanding, of his being the first who introduced our chroShakspere himself. Percy, in one part of nicles on the stage, I see not why the tradihis first volume, collected “such ballads as tion should be rejected. are quoted by Shakespeare, or contribute in any degree to illustrate his writings.” He proof that both Shakespeare and his condid this with his usual good taste; and temporaries considered his Histories, or Hisevery one knows with what skill he con torical Plays, as of a legitimate distinct spenected in the tale of The Friar of Orders cies, sufficiently separate from Tragedy and Grey' those “innumerable little fragments Comedy; a distinction which deserves the of ancient ballads ” which we find dispersed particular attention of his critics and comthrough the plays of Shakspere. In his mentators, who, by not adverting to it, introduction to this division of his work he deprive him of his proper defence and best gives some very sensible observations upon vindication for his neglect of the unities the origin of the English stage. In the and departure from the classical dramatic following remarks on the Histories of our forms. For, if it be the first canon of sound poet he takes a different, and we think a criticism to examine any work by whatever juster, view of their origin and purpose than rule the author prescribed for his own obMalone and the other commentators. Al- servance, then we ought not to try Shakethough Percy puts his own opinions cau- speare's Histories by the general laws of tiously, if not timidly, it is clear that he tragedy or comedy. Whether the rule itself had higher notions of Shakspere as an artist be vicious or not, is another inquiry: but, than those who were arrogating to them- certainly, we ought to examine a work only selves the merit of having made him “po- by those principles according to which it pular.” He who holds that it is the first was composed. This would save a deal of canon of sound criticism to examine any impertinent criticism." work by whatever rule the author prescribed * The History of English Poetry,' by for his own observance" is not far from a Thomas Warton, published in 1774, was right appreciation of Shakspere :-"But, another of those works which advanced the while Shakespeare was the favourite dra- study of our early literature in the spirit of matic poet, his Histories had such superior elegant scholarship as opposed to bibliomerit, that he might well claim to be the graphical pedantry. Warton was an ardent chief, if not the only, historic dramatist that lover of Shakspere, as we may collect from
several little poems; but he was scarcely | cal “Essayists' are many papers on Shakout of the trammels of the classical school. spere, worth consulting by the student, which, His education had taught him that Shak- if not very valuable in themselves, indicate spere worked without art, and indeed he at least the progress of opinion. Joseph held that most of the Elizabethan poets so Warton, in "The Adventurer,' where he worked :-“ It may here be added that only reviews The Tempest' and 'Lear,' is a great a few critical treatises, and but one ' Art of stickler for the unities. Mackenzie, in “The Poetry,' were now written. Sentiments and Mirror,' has a higher reverence for Shakimages were not absolutely determined by spere, and a more philosophical contempt for the canons of composition ; nor was genius the application of the ancient rules to works awed by the consciousness of a future and having their own forms of vitality. Cumfinal arraignment at the tribunal of taste. berland, in “The Observer,' contrasts 'MacA certain dignity of inattention to niceties beth' and 'Richard III.;' and he compares is now visible in our writers. Without too Shakspere with Æschylus in a way which closely consulting a criterion of correctness, exhibits the resources of his scholarship and every man indulged his own capriciousness the elegance of his taste. All the fragmenof invention. The poet's appeal was chiefly tary critical opinions upon Shakspere, from to his own voluntary feelings, his own im- the time of Johnson's Preface to the end of mediate and peculiar mode of conception. the century, exhibit some progress towards And this freedom of thought was often ex the real faith ; some attempt to cast off not pressed in an undisguised frankness of dic-only the authority of the ancient rules of tion; a circumstance, by the way, that art, but the smaller authority of that lower greatly contributed to give the flowing mo school of individual judgment, which the dulation which now marked the measures of Shaksperean commentators had been propour poets, and which soon degenerated into ping up, as well as they could, upon their the opposite extreme of dissonance and own weak shoulders. Coleridge has well asperity. Selection and discrimination were described their pretensions to authority :often overlooked. Shakespeare wandered in “ Every critic, who has or has not made a pursuit of universal nature. The glancings collection of black-letter books,—in itself a of his eye are from heaven to earth, from useful and respectable amusement,-puts on earth to heaven. We behold him breaking the seven-league boots of self-opinion, and the barriers of imaginary method. In the strides at once from an illustrator into a same scene he descends from his meridian of supreme judge, and, blind and deaf, fills his the noblest tragic sublimity to puns and three-ounce phial at the waters of Niagara ; quibbles, to the meanest merriment of a and determines positively the greatness of plebeian farce. In the midst of his dignity the cataract to be neither more nor less than he resembles his own Richard II., the skip- his three-ounce phial has been able to reping king, who sometimes, discarding the ceive.” Such a critic was Mr. Francis Douce; state of a monarch,
who has been at the pains of making a Mingled his royalty with carping fools.' formal essay 'On the Anachronisms and He seems not to have seen any impropriety
some other Incongruities of Shakspeare.' in the most abrupt transitions, from dukes The words by which Mr. Douce describes
these are, of course, “ absurdities," “ blunto buffoons, from senators to sailors, from counsellors to constables, and from kings to ders,” “ distortions of reality,” “ negligence,"
“ absurd violations of historical accuracy." clowns. Like Virgil's majestic oak
Some concessions are, however, made by the Quantum vertice ad auras
critic :-“ His bestowing the epithet of gipsy Æthereas, tantum radice in Tartara tendit.'”
on Cleopatra is whimsical ; but may, perAll this is prettily said; but it would not haps, admit of defence.” It is perfectly have been said if Warton had lived half a clear that a man who talks thus has not the century later. Scattered about the periodi- / slightest philosophical comprehension of the
objects of Art, and the mode in which Art Art changes the very nature of those eleworks. The domain of the literal and the ments by which the imagination is affected. ideal is held to be one and the same. It is She touches them, and the things are protruly said of the formative arts, by a living | pertied for her use.
What is mean, sepapainter who knows the philosophy of his rately considered, is harmonised by her into own art as much as he excels in its practice, greatness; what is rude, into beauty; what that “a servile attention to the letter of is low, into sublimity. We fear that it was description, as opposed to its translateable a want of comprehending the high powers spirit, accuracy of historic details, exactness and privileges of Art, whether in poetry or of costume, &c, are not essential in them- painting, that made the ‘Shakspere Gallery,' selves, but are valuable only in proportion which, towards the end of the last century, as they assist the demands of the art, or was to raise up an historic school of painting produce an effect on the imagination. This amongst us, a lamentable failure. The art may sufficiently explain why an inattention of painting in England was to do homage to these points, on the part of great painters to Shakspere. The commercial boldness of (and poets, as compared with mere his a tradesman built a gallery in which the torians), has interfered so little with their Reynoldses, and Wests, and Romneys, and reputation."*
Fuselis, and Northcotes, and Opies, might One of the critics upon Shakspere has consecrate, by the highest efforts of painting, sought to apologize for his anachronisms or the inspiration which was to be borrowed “ absurdities” by showing the example of from Shakspere. The gallery was opened ; the greatest of painters, that of Raffaelle, the works were munificently paid for; they in the Transfiguration :'--" The two Do were engraved; the text of Sbakspere was minicans on their knees are as shocking a printed in larger type than the world had ever violation of good sense, and of the unities seen, to be a fit vehicle for the engravings. of place, of time, and of action, as it is pos- | People exclaimed that Italy was outdone. sible to imagine.” It is clear that Martin With half a dozen exceptions, who can now Sherlock, who writes thus, did not under- look upon those works and not feel that stand the art of Raffaelle. This was the the inspiration of Shakspere was altogether spirit of all criticism upon painting and wanting? It is not that they violate the pro upon poetry. The critic never laboured to prieties of costume, which are now better unconceive the great prevailing idea of “the derstood; it is not that we are often shocked maker" in either art. He had no central by the translation of a poetical image into point from which to regard his work. The a palpable thing-like the grinning fiend in great painters, especially in their treatment Reynolds's 'Death of Beaufort;' but it is of religious compositions, had their whole that the Shaksperean inspiration is not there. soul permeated with the glory and beauty Lord Thurlow is reported to have said, in of the subjects upon which they treated. his coarse way, to one not wanting in talent, Their art was in itself a worship of the “Romney, before you paint Shakspere, do, Great Infinite Idea of beauty and truth. for God's sake, read him.” But the proper The individual forms of humanity, the tem- reading of Shakspere was not the fragmentary porary fashions of human things, were lifted reading which Thurlow probably had in his into the region of the universal and the per- mind. The picturesque passages are to be manent. The Dominicans on their knees in easily discovered by a painter's eye; but the “Transfiguration’ were thus the repre- these are the things which most painters sentatives of adoring mortality during the will literally translate. Shakspere is always unfolding to the bodily sense of heavenly injured by such a literal translation. Deeply glory. Who can see the anachronism, as it meditated upon, his scenes and characters is called, till a small critic points it out ? float before the mind's eye in forms which
no artifices of theatrical illusion, no embodi* Preface to Kugler's History of Painting' by C. L.
ments of painting and sculpture, have ever
Eastlake, Esq., R. A.
presented. If such visions are to be fixed | production thus concludes :-“O cheryshe by the pencil, so as to elevate our delight usse like the sweete Chickenne thatte under and add to our reverence of the great ori- the covert offe herre spreadynge Winges Regina), that result must be attained by such ceyves herre lyttle Broode ande hoverynge a profound study of the master, as a whole, overre themme keepes themme harmlesse as may place him in the light of the greatest ande in safetye.” Learned men came to read of suggestive poets, instead of one whose de- the confession of faith, and one affirmed that tails are to be enfeebled by a literal tran- it was finer than anything in the Church script.
Liturgy. Witty conundrums succeeded ; We have little of importance left to notice letters to Anne Hathaway; memorandums before we reach the close of the eighteenth connected with the theatre; a new edition of century, about which period we ought to rest. 'King Lear,' with the author's last alterations; Opinions upon our contemporaries, except and, to crown the whole, an original play, very general ones, would be as imprudent | Vortigern and Rowena.' The boy was evias misplaced. Perhaps we should notice in dently imbued with the taste of his time, and a few words the extraordinary forgeries of really fancied that he could mend Shakspere. WILLIAM HENRY IRELAND. We consider them Hear one of his confessions :—“In King Lear as the result of the all-engrossing character the following lines are spoken by Kent after of Shaksperean opinion in the days of the the King's death:rivalries and controversies of Steevens and
* I have a journey, sir, shortly to go: Malone, of Ritson and Chalmers :
My master calls, and I must not say no.' « Take Markham's Armoury, John Taylor's as I did not conceive such a jingling and
unmeaning couplet very appropriate to the With Upton, Fabell, Dodypoll the nice,
occasion, I composed the following lines :Or Gibbe our cat, White Devils, or Old Vice; . Thanks, sir; but I go to that unknown land Then lead your readers many a precious That chains each pilgrim fast within its soil ; dance,
By living men most shunn'd, most dreaded. Capering with Banks’s ‘Bay Horse in a Still my good master this same journey took: Trance :'
He calls me; I am content, and straight The Housewife's Jewel' read with care ex
obey : act,
Then, farewell, world! the busy scene is Wit from old Books of Cookery extract;
done : Thoughts to stew'd prunes and kissing com
Kent liv'd most true, Kent dies most like a fits suit,
man." Or the potato, vigour-stirring root;
The documents were published in the most And then, returning from that antique waste, Be hail'd by Parr the Guide of Public expensive form. All the critics in the land Taste."*
came to look upon the originals. Some went
upon their knees and kissed them. The A clever boy, who had a foolish father “black-letter dogs" began to tear each other whose admiration of Shakspere took the in pieces about their authenticity. Hard form of longing, with an intensity which
names were given and returned; dunce and Mrs. Pickle could not have equalled, for blockhead were the gentlest vituperations. the smallest scraps of Shakspere's writing, The whole controversy turned upon the cothought he would try his hand at the ma lour of the ink, the water-mark of the paper, nufacture of a few such scraps—a receipt; | the precise mode of superscription to a letter, a mortgage-deed; a Protestant Confession of the contemporary use of a common word, the Faith by William Shakspere, to be placed date of the first use of promissory notes, the in opposition to another forgery of a Roman form of a mortgage. Scarcely one of the Catholic Confession of Faith. This precious learned went boldly to the root of the im
posture, and showed that Shakspere could
* Pursuits of Literature.'