« AnteriorContinuar »
Collier's later work upon those subjects, by its fulness and its systematic arrangement, supersedes all others, either for the use of the dramatic student, or as a book of reference for the occasional inquirer. Yet the account of the English drama given in the following pages will be found to be something more, as well as something less, than an abridgment of Mr. Collier's three octavo vol
These remarks apply only to the first and last divisions of this volume. The second, the Essay toward an Expression of Shakespeare's Genius, is the endeavor of one who, having read the poet much and his critics little, has thought his own thoughts and trusted his own judgment upon this subject, until, with a mingling of confidence and diffidence which it would be difficult to explain, he now ventures to offer his conclusions as hints and aids to others; conscious the while that those who can judge them best are those who need them least.
Thus the purpose of this book is to enable its reader to form as nearly as possible a full and just appreciation of Shakespeare as a man, a poet, and a dramatist. No other thought entered
my mind when I laid out my work. But I will own that, as I wrote the following pages, I conceived the hope that those who read them might be led to remember, and not only to remember but to take to heart, the pregnant and all-important truth, that with the intellectual wealth and glory of Shakespeare and Milton and their contemporaries and antecessors, we have inherited, not in any indirect and collateral way, but as coheirs and equals with our blood brethren in Great Britain, however sharp our political severance from them, those principles of liberty, that intelligent respect for law, and that capacity of self-government, which belong to and distinguish the English race, which some call Anglo-Saxon; - that if we have attained a national prosperity and power, a diffusion of mental culture and moral sensibility, and a union of stability and progressive force hitherto unheard of among any people, it is only because we have transplanted here, and developed by a normal and unconstrained growth, the same political principles and the same laws of social development from which spring the real power and the true glory of the British nation; that we in our Englishhood, as they in theirs, are
so subject to the same laws of moral and intellectual development that, however that development may be modified by circumstances, and though we are politically two nations with sometimes clashing interests, we are not, and indeed cannot be, other than one people ;- and that, with all our mutual emulation, inevitable as it is from the community of our origin, our mental constitution, and the similarity of our pursuits, we owe each other, if not mutual regard, at least a mutual consideration, respect, and confidence heartier than that which befits the merely formal intercourse of two nations which are called friendly because they are not at open enmity. Our common inheritance is one which each of us may enjoy to the full without diminishing the other's share, or impugning the other's title, and which we should share without envy, certainly without malice or uncharitableness. These truths are trite; but the day will be a sad one, should it ever come, when they finally lose their vital binding force for those who read in a common mother tongue the words of William Shakespeare.
R. G. W.
NEW YORK, May 23d, 1865.
'HE name and the works of William Shake
speare were widely known and highly thought of by his contemporaries. Unlike Homer's, his figure does not loom vaguely from the obscurity of a pre-historic period; unlike Dante's, it is not revealed by fitful and lurid light amid the convulsions of society upon the verge of the dark ages. From early manhood to maturity he lived, and labored, and throve, in the chief city of a prosperous and peaceful country, at a period of high intellectual and moral development. His life was passed before the public in days when the pen recorded scandal in the diary, and when the press, though the daily newspaper did not yet exist, teemed with personality. Yet of Dante, driven in haughty wretchedness from city to city, and singing his immortal hate of his pursuers as he fled, we know more than we do of Shakespeare ; the paucity of whose personal memorials is so extreme, that he has shared with the almost mythi