The Anatomizing of William Shakespeare

II.

SHAKESPEAREAN CRITICS AND CRITIKINS.

READERS of these articles and readers of the Riverside Shakespeare have, it is presumable, some interest in the qualifications of the writer of the former and the editor of the latter for the performance of the not very easy tasks which he has ventured to undertake ; and although it might be reasonably assumed that by this time those qualifications, whatever their degree, were tolerably well known, it may be well (for reasons which shall appear) to consider at present some remarks upon that subject, of which the Riverside Shakespeare has been made the occasion. The more does this seem desirable because the consideration will be quite in the line of these articles, and indeed almost a natural continuation of them. Therefore, although the present number must needs be somewhat personal to the writer, and hence may be in a corresponding degree of diminished interest to most of the readers of The Atlantic, it will be found, I hope, none the less pertinent to the great subject of the brief series.

Criticism is of two kinds. The first is historical and oosmical ; and by sifting, testing, and comparing all that has been recorded of man and his dwelling-place it discovers, or seeks to discover, what of this is true, and teaches, or seeks to teach, its meaning. To criticism of this sort, which has been practiced chiefly within the present century, we owe that positive knowledge of man and of the world which shares with physical science the glory of being the distinctive achievement and possession of the present age. The other criticism is of a minor order. It deals principally with literature and fine art, the meaning and purpose of which it seeks to discover; the comparative values of the various examples of which it pretends to determine ; and upon the relative standing of the various professors and practicers of which it presumes to pass judgment. Of this criticism there are endless varieties in infinitely diminishing degrees. It is great and small, good and bad, serviceable and worthless, admirable and contemptible, candid and crafty, honorable and dishonorable ; informed by learning, wisdom, and good taste, and deformed by ignorance, vulgarity, and malice. In its best form it rises, although not to the dignity of the smallest example of original thought and construction, yet to a very honorable place in literature. In its worst form, on the one hand it deals with insignificant questions of detail, or on the other merely expresses the personal preferences of the writer; in either of which cases it is the most ephemeral, trivial, and worthless form of literary endeavor. It is so whether it praises or censures. And yet when criticism is spoken of, it is criticism of this sort which is generally meant, — the opinions expressed by writers more or less competent, or more or less incompetent, upon the literature and art of the day, which occupy so prominent a place in reviews, magazines, and newspapers.

As to tho real value of this criticism I am inclined to believe that there exists among genuine men of letters a very serious doubt. Notwithstanding the learning, the acumen, the breadth of view, and the fine taste which it not unfrequently exhibits, the question whether, on the whole, it would not be better to allow books and works of art to make their impression upon the world without its aid, cannot be regarded as being conclusively decided. But, however this may be, criticism of this sort is one of the great facts in contemporary literature, of which it forms a large and considerable part. It is one of the chief modern factors in public education. Therefore the great desideratum that it should be sufficient, competent, sound, aiid pure; that its motive should be really the instruction, the enlightenment, and the rightful guiding of the public mind, and not that form of the art which was practiced by a certain critic of whom Goldsmith tells us, who “ to gain some private ends went mad and bit the man.” In such a case it does not help the matter, at least so far as the critic is concerned, that it sometimes happens, as we shall see, that the critic it was, and not the victim, that died.

That scholars and critics, who deal with purely literary subjects, and particularly with language and that minor part of linguistic study known as verbal criticism, should be actuated in the treatment of their abstract and bloodless themes by malicious motives ; that hate and spite should grow out of differences of opinion about the forms of words and the restoration of texts, is strange, and has always been to me quite unaccountable, unless upon the assumption of a very degrading view of human nature. Why difference of view, or even the discovery of actual ignorance or of other incompetence, should provoke a desire to give pain to the man who is so unfortunate as to think incorrectly or to overrate his scholastic acquirements, it would be difficult to say ; unless for the reason that malice is such a constant and everactive force in man’s heart that it will manifest itself under the most unfavorable and discouraging conditions. That men who are wholly committed to a great cause, who are fighting for a country or a religion, for personal honor and happiness, should come to hate, if they do not begin by hating, their opponents is what we call natural, — that is, we all feel that in like circumstances we might do likewise; but that a man should hate another, or even desire to offend him, because he errs or is ignorant upon a purely literary question, — this is one of the mysteries. None the less, however, is it a fact of frequent occurrence in the annals of literature. The quarrels and the interchange of brutal abuse among the critics of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, who belabored each other in Latin that reads as if it were gathered from dictionaries and grammars, and is as like Cicero’s Latin, or Cæsar’s, as the French of Stratford at Bowe was like that of Paris, are monstrous and revolting refutations of the maxim that literature emollit mores. Some of the Renaissance critics in Italy came to fisticuffs and dagger-drawing. This fashion has happily almost passed away among men of letters worthy of the name; although some few years ago an eminent American scholar suffered an attack of this kind from a German rival, and an American man of letters, not unknown to the readers of The Atlantic, was subjected to such insolence in the form of criticism from another American, resident in England, that the offender was rebuked by the Edinburgh and the Saturday reviews for his sin against the decencies of literature. Among critics who have access to the columns of the newspapers there are not unfrequently found some who use their position to insult or to injure those towards whom they have feelings of personal pique, or to “ get even ” with them for some real or fancied injury ; and respectable journals and magazines are thus used as the engines of private malice; frequently, and let us hope generally, without the privity of their editors. The Riverside Shakespeare has recently been made the occasion of a manifestation of this kind, which has attracted more than usual attention. It should not be assumed that the fact that a criticism is adverse is sufficient, in my estimation at least, to place it in this category ; and I hasten to exempt from these censures a criticism which appeared in the New York Times, and which I propose to examine as briefly as possible.

The first suggestion made by this critic affords me welcome opportunity for remark. Craving more copious annotation in passages which he regards as obscure, he gives reason that in such passages “ the perplexities are not so much verbal as syntactical. The meaning of obsolete words can be looked up in a dictionary:1 but the extraordinarily condensed and licentious use of words in combination, their strained senses and unusual collocation, is what makes Shakespeare often such hard reading.” This is well put. Its recognition of Shakespeare’s reckless perversion of the language, both as to the sense of words and as to the construction of sentences, is timely and wholesome. But that Shakespeare is “ often ” hard reading 1 cannot admit. He is frequently so in certain plays, — a very few, — but in the others rarely ; so rarely, indeed, as not to disturb an intelligent reader or to mar the enjoyment of such a one, although he may have no literary training and a very limited literary experience. In his sonnets and his poems Shakespeare is not at all hard to understand; or not more so than many modern poets are. The beauty of all true poetry is in a prismatic refraction of direct rays of thought, which gives to cold, dry, intellectual light, without diminishing its volume, the charming obscurity of color.

Opportunely, this critic has furnished me with occasion of emphasizing and illustrating the opinion just expressed as to Shakespeare. He cites the following passage from The Winter’s Tale as “ a good example of the trouble that the general reader has in understanding Shakespeare: ” —

“Affection ! thy invention stabs the centre :

Thou dost make possible things not so held,

Communicat’st with dreams;—how can this be ? —

With what’s unreal thou coactive art,
And fellow’st nothing: then ’t is very credent
Thou mayst co-join with something ; and thou
dost,
And that beyond commission,” etc.

(Act I. Sc. 2, I. 138.)

It is first to be said that these lines are from the play in which obscurity is greatest and most frequent; and in the Riverside introduction to which is a passage, the last two sentences of which, if this critic had read them, might have suggested to him the reason for the absence of the notes which he seems to deplore. It is this : —

“ Only his great tragedies surpass it in weight of thought and depth of human interest; only one or two of the comedies in charm. But most of all his plays it shows his characteristic daring in the use of language, and his willingness to flash upon us mere splendid, dazzling, sometimes blinding hints of what was passing in his mind. Hence the play reveals its riches only to those who, led by Shakespeare, can think with him. To others it would be needless to undertake its interpretation.”

That is my belief, founded upon conviction, observation, and experience. As to the passage cited, my critic must pardon me for expressing my surprise that a writer so competent in literary judgment as he shows himself should bring it forward as an example of syntactical and constructive obscurity. If I know anything of the syntactical construction of the English language, this passage is as simple and clear in its arrangement as the simplest and clearest in the waitings of Oliver Goldsmith or of Arthur Helps. I am sure that if my critic will consider it again he will see that from the first word to the last it might be “ parsed ” by any sweet girl-graduate who had barely escaped being plucked (or do they call it deshabille?) in English grammar. There is in it not even an involution or an inversion; unless the very simple “ thou coactive art,” for thou art coactive, is to be so regarded. The thoughts follow each other in the natural logical order. Nor is there a single strained or perverted word in all the seven lines. Every word is used in its plain, and it might almost be safely said its primary, sense. I say this advisedly, after careful consideration. What, then, is the reason of that sense of incompreliensibleness which led to its selection as an example of Shakespeare’s characteristic overstraining of language in sense and syntax ? Good reader and good critic, it is simply the thought. Master that, and you will see that the expression is as clear as the empyrean atmosphere.2

Again I have to thank this critic, who knows how to deal with his subject adversely and yet considerately, for giving me an opportunity to be somewhat more copious, and I venture to hope somewhat more convincing, than I have been before upon a point of some little interest, although it is merely phonetic, He says, “ We find it difficult to believe that Shakespeare intended a pun in the title of Much Ado About Nothing, and the quotations which are brought to support the theory appear rather farfetched.”

Now the truth is that, whatever Shakespeare may have intended in the title of this play (and of his punning intention there can be no reasonable doubt which does not spring from insufficient knowledge), the title when spoken was a pun, that is of ambiguous meaning, whether he intended it or not.

That th was pronounced in Shakespeare’s day as t, as d, and as dth, and that, for example, nothing and noting, moth and mote, were identical, or nearly identical, in sound, is as certain as any phonetic fact in the past can be. This is not yet acknowledged by the phonetic specialists; but that it will be I am as sure as I am that erelong it will be seen by reasonable men that the teaching of what is known as “ English grammar ” to children, as a means of giving them a command of their mother-tongue and a knowledge of its construction, is worse than useless, — a doctrine which, when it was set forth some years ago in Words and Their Uses, was received with derisive outcries by grammarians, pedants, and pedagogues, but which already has exercised a happy restraining influence not only upon the methods of teaching, but upon the plans and forms of grammar books.

1 first had occasion to remark upon this pronunciation of th on the publication, by a British writer (whose name I forget), of a monograph upon The Old Hundredth Psalm Tune. In this the writer expressed surprise — of course with a touch of scorn — that “ the Americans ” called the tune Old Hundred. The reason is simply this: The psalm which gave the tune its name was called in English speech of two centuries and a half ago, not the hundredth, but the hundret or the hundred, psalm; the written termination dth being then, if not quite unknown, little used. Hundred (so pronounced, or hundret) was written hundreth ; and so fifth, sixth, etc., were pronounced fifit, sixt, etc., and in the phonetic spelling of the day were commonly so written. Those strange and unaccountable people “ the Americans merely retained for this tune the name which they brought with them from England.3

It will be observed that in the Riverside Shakespeare murder has both its modern spelling and the form murther. The variation is that of the old copies, which was purposely retained. The pronunciation was not murther, with the theta sound, which is poorly indicated by th, nor exactly with that of d; but just that, I am sure, which has survived in the north of Ireland (carried there by English invaders, and chiefly by Cromwell’s troopers), and which we have all heard, murdther.

For instances which exemplify the use of th for t and d, I refer my critic and my readers to my Memorandums of English Pronunciation in the Elizabethan Era, which may be found in vol. xii. of my first edition of Shakespeare, and also quoted, nearly in full, in Alexander Ellis’s great work on English Pronunciation. These instances are very numerous; but here are a few, only one taken here and another there from the mass. They show, for example, nosetrills for nosthrills, apotecary for apothecary, tone for th’ one, tother for th’ other, swarty for swarthy, stalworth for stalwart, etc. ; or rather they show the use of those spellings interchangeably, and thus the t sound of th, for in some cases the th is etymologically the right form. The following spellings are also exhibited there: “What’s tys [this]?” bis, Wyt and Science, p. 21; “apytheous [piteous] crye,” Robert the Devyll, p. 6; “ dept [depth] of art,” Brown’s Pastorals, vol. ii. p. 52 ; “ be as a cautherizing [cauterizing].” Tim. of Athens, 1623, Act V. Sc. 1 ; “ the Thuscan [Tuscan] poet,” Drayton’s Nymphidia, 1627, p. 120; “ with amatists [amethysts],” Sidney’s Arcadia, 1605 ; “call you this gamouth [gamut],” thus four times in Tam. of Shrew, 1623, Act III. Sc. 1. And in a book by Balthasar Gerbier, published in 1648, and carefully printed, we find in the phonetic spelling of the time “ With Sundayes ” for Wit - Sundays, “ seth forth ” for set forth, “ theach ” for teach, “ strencht ” for strength, ”yought ” for youth, “ four thy ” for forty, “ seventhy ” for seventy, “ seventheen ” for seventeen, “ by the sigth of the most cleere sighthed. among men,” “ a good braught [broth] ” (translation of un bon potage). For the pages on which to find these words I must refer to the Memorandums, and also for a crowd of other examples. To those I will add a few which seem to be of interest:—

The Virgin Mary says of going to visit Elizabeth, “ If ought we myth [might] comfort her.” (Coventry Mysteries, The Visitation.)

Opovos always = trone in Wycliffe.

In Grammatical Rules of the Fifteenth Century, M S. Sloane, Brit. Mus.: —

“And thy participvls forgete thou nowltt [not],
And thy comparysons be yn thi thowth [thought] . . .
Wyt [with] tanto and quanto in a Latyn,” etc.
Rel. Ant., II 14.)

“ There is a people named Atlantes of the mownt Athlas, by which they dwell.” (Fardel of Facions, 1555, F. i. b.)

The Wycliflite Apology for the Lollards is copious in examples in point, of which some of the more remarkable are “ theching ” for teaching, p. 33 ; “ bithwex ” for betwixt, p. 38 ; “ thwo ” for two, Id. ; and “ throwip ” for troweth, p. 40.

These lines are in an old book : —

“ And I yt los, and you yt find,
I pray vow hartely to be so kynd,
That you wyl take a letel payne
To see my boke brouthe home ngayne.”
(Rel Ant., II. 163.)

“ He bleates and bleathes as he a baightyng were.” (The Brainless Blessing of the Bull, Anc. Ballads and Broadsides, p. 224.)

“Item there was [a] pyge bruthe [brought] to London in May with ii half bodys.” (Machyn’s Diary, 1562, p. 281.)

“ We are but of yesterday, and consider not that our dayes upon the earth are bath a very shadow.” (Tyndale, Job, chap, vili. )

“An isle that, is doped pathmos [παтμος].” (Wyeliffe, Key. i. 9, and sic in Tyndale, Cranmer, and Geneva.)

“ Agen the bow of an oke the tbanners [tanner’s] head he barst,

With a stombellyng as he rode the thanner down he cast.”

(Ballad of The King and the Barker [Tanner]. Percy, ed. Ritson.)

“And he opened his mought [mouth] and taught them saying,” etc. (Tyndale, Matt. v. 2.)

“ I N. lake thee N. to my weddyd husbonde fro thys day for bether for wurs,” etc. (Manual of Fourteenth Century.)

But I forbear to weary the general reader with this dry yet necessary part of my task, and add in a note below references to other passages which may serve as guides to those who wish to examine the subject further. If these examples do not convince my critic and my readers, I can only be sorry; for they have convinced me.4 The name of the page in Love’s Labour’s Lost, which, until the appearance of my first edition, was taken by all to be Moth, is now admitted to he Mote (see Ellis, vol. iii. p. 971) ;5 but it can be so only because th had the sound of t. There could be no special provision for the pronouncing of this name. As to the word nothing, which is the occasion of this discussion, the sound that it had in Shakespeare’s ears seems unmistakably shown by the following passage in The Winter’s Tale, Act IV. Sc. 4 : “ I could have fil’d keys off that hung in chains : no hearing, no feeling, but my sir’s song, and the noting of it,” where in the original, 1623, “noting ” is “ nothing.” I must say that if my critic is stiff-necked enough to resist this accumulated evidence I fear he would not believe Shakespeare if lie rose from the dead.

This critic (in the New York Times) lauds the editor of the Riverside Shakespeare for having “ silently dropped the much-criticised note in his former edition in which he maintained that in the line ‘ To play with mammets and to tilt with lips,’ Henry IV., the word ’ mammets ’ is a diminutive of the Latin mamma.” I did not know that the note in question had been much criticised, or criticised at all, and did not repeat it simply because, in an edition like the Riverside, I thought it was not required. But this writer is quite in error in giving me the credit of that interpretation of the passage, as he would have seen laid he taken the trouble to refer to the note upon which he cast a slur. The conjecture is originally that of a critic no less distinguished than Gifford, to whom, in my note, it is specifically assigned. Nor did I “ maintain ” it, but merely said that I had always so understood the word ; having previously mentioned its other and commoner sense, a doll, a puppet. This is an inaccurate assertion as to essential fact, which I am sure my critic (although I have no knowledge of him) will regret. And as to the interpretation and derivation upon which he remarks, if he will consult Florio’s World of Words, 1598, and see that mammetta (from which the word in question drops only the final vowel) means not only mamma, but “ a pretie little mam or mother,” and reflect that Hotspur was speaking to one whom his fond words show us that he regarded as a pretty little ma’am or mother; and if he will also consider the latter part of the line which is the occasion of his criticism, I am sure that he will think that Gifford’s conjecture will bear a good deal of criticism.

The critic of the New York Times also announces that he is “amused to find that he [the Riverside editor] still insists that ‘Atalanta’s better part, in As You Like It, was her leg ; ’ ” and adds that “ the discussion of this point in his earlier edition was diverting and characteristic, but hardly convincing.” Now I cannot see why it was diverting; but far be it from me to impeach the taste of my critic in finding diversion in the necessary remarks upon what he evidently regards as an interesting topic. Those remarks were, I not unwillingly admit, characteristic, in that they were founded upon fact, — the fact that in Shakespeare’s time part and parts were specifically used for limb and limbs. It was characteristic of me, I confess, that because I had found the word so used in numerous instances in books that Shakespeare probably read, and some of which we know that he did read, I inferred that he used it in the sense in which it was used by his contemporaries and immediate predecessors. I give in a note below a very few of the many instances of which I made memorandums (some of those that I have are not quite quotable here, although they are from the pure-minded and sweetlipped Philip Sidney) ; and if, on reading them, and considering, “ in this connection,” that Atalanta was known to Shakespeare and to most people then, as she is now, only as a beautifully formed woman, whose special excellence was her running, he finds but opportunity for his “ divarsion,” I will say no more than that his view of the question is very different from mine.6 ■ I think, however, that if he does not find justification for his perhaps too generous admission that “Mr. White generally has a reason for his rhyme” he will surely find that in these rhymes there is some reason, — for more than amusement.

With the consideration of a final judicious remark of this critic, with whom it has given me pleasure to cross swords, I shall drop my point and salute a courteous opponent. Referring to the view of Shakespeare’s personal character presented in that dry and colorless setting forth of the little that we know of his life which is given in the Riverside edition, the Times critic says, “ The known facts in Shakespeare’s life are so few that his leaving his wife his second-best bedstead, or his suing Philip Rogers for £1 15s. 6d., stand out with startling distinctness, But perhaps it is well not to infer too much from them.” It is well. It is always well not to infer too much from anything. Hut this writer, in his brevity, very much understates the facts. It is not only that Shakespeare gave his wife by will nothing but his second-best bed, but, as I have remarked before, that even the second-best bed was the fruit of secondbest thoughts. The bequest is an interlineation in the will, in which, as it was originally drawn, Shakespeare’s wife is not mentioned ! It is not only that he sued Philip Rogers for £1 l5s. 6d., but that, having also sued John Addenbroke for £6 and got judgment, not being able to imprison Addeubroke, — who, poor man, had fled from his inexorable rich creditor, — the writer of Portia’s nobly sympathetic exposition of the qualities and origin of mercy proceeded against Addenbroke’s surety, one Horneby. It is not only that there is no record or even probable evidence of Shakespeare’s having given aid to his father in the pecuniary distress that sent him into hiding lest he should be cast into prison, while there is record that the thriving actor and playwright set to work and spent money to get a coat-ofarms for the father who had difficulty in getting a coat to his back, — arms which would have made the actor-playwright a gentleman born;—it is not only this, but that in the height of his prosperity he passes from our sight standing on the side of grasping privilege in its oppression of the class in which he was born, giving support to the squire of Welcombe’s project for inclosing part of the Stratford commons, to the injury of the poor little farmers and farm laborers. How long will it be before the world learns that a man’s intellect and his heart have no connection,— that what he writes is no guide to what he will do, no sign of what he is ?

(Honour’s Academy, III. p. 97.)

(Drayton’s Moon Calfe, 1627, p. 157.) Arthur Wilson, 16emdash;, thus refers to the wellknown fable of The Limbs and the Belly: —

“ The Romaine Menenius Agrippa, alledging upon a tyme a fable of the conflict between the partes of a man’s bodie and his belie,” etc. (Arte of Rhetorike, fol. 101.)

And now I turn to an antagonist of another class : not a critic who seeks to inform his readers by correcting me, but an assailant, who, as shall be shown, deliberately sets out to do me all the personal harm in his power, and who in pursuing his mischievous purpose utters untruth and teaches error to those whom he professes to guide and to instruct, He is of that class of critical writers who are not ashamed to put scholarship and skill to the base use, first of spontaneous malice, and afterward of deliberate revenge. He, too, refutes, with his congeners, the emollit mores maxim. With these men, to criticise is not simply to appreciate, to judge, to reveal ; not even to oppose and to correct on points of more or less moment ; but to make a great adverse show, by heaping up error of trivial inadvertence and frivolous detail; and chiefly by insolence of manner and by wrongful imputation, to injure, to wound, to worry and insult. Verily, they have their reward : they are paid for their work by the pleasure they find in doing it.

Such is the writer to whom I am now most unwillingly compelled to give attention. Had his attack, however venomous and mischievous, been less specious than it was, or had it appeared in an inferior quarter, I should have passed it by in silence. But I must give him such credit as belongs to skill in an evil craft. He has framed his charges so adroitly and has so deceitfully presented his seeming evidence that to the general reader of average intelligence and information, they must look formidable. His assault, too. is made from the vantageground of the columns of the Evening Post, a journal which has long been one of the highest respectability, and which has a past that gives it prestige, — a journal with which are connected the names of Bryant, and Parke Godwin, and John Bigelow, and Charlton Lewis, and Charles Nordhoff. This gives it an importance which, under its new management, it has not lost, and which, for the credit of our journalism, we must all earnestly hope that it may not lose. Nor, indeed, have any serious indications of such a calamity heretofore appeared. It is perhaps true that if its utterances, even of the lighter and more jocose order, were made to read a little less like extracts from the record of the Day of Judgment with the tear-marks of the recording angel obliterated, they might be equally convincing and somewhat more cheerful ; but let us be thankful for what we have, and not expect too much even of the august divinity of semiAmerican journalism. In the present instance I willingly believe that the editor of the Evening Post has been misled by some person or persons of his staff or among his contributors, who have used him for their private ends, and that when the wrong is exposed he will, with that high sense of honor and generosity of which he is a shining example in his profession, hasten to repair it.

He has allowed his contributor to hold me up to the wide and respectable circle of his readers as a vulgar, ignorant charlatan, who has undertaken to teach others what he did not know himself, and who has disgraced critical literature by misrepresenting Shakespeare. It shames me to say this ; but it is the simple truth, and it must be said. I plead at once to the indictment. And more, without shift or special plea of any sort,

I mean that the trial, both for the Post’s critic and myself, shall be strictly upon the merits, and be final. If what the Post’s critic says is true, I am what he says and charges that I am ; if it is not true, what is he ? If I do not now show, to the satisfaction of every intelligent and unprejudiced person among my readers, that every direct or implied assertion made by him is absolutely without foundation, as against me, and that his article is a combination of malice and ignorance craftily concealed, I submit without one other word. To my master the public, whom I have served without honor or reward, and who looks carelessly down upon the coming sword-play, I say, “ Ave, Imperator ! Moriturus, te saluto.” I neither desire nor expect favor from my readers, or quarter from my assailant. Either he or I; and I joy that it must be one.

It is very worthy of remark that the article upon the Riverside Shakespeare published in the Evening Post of March 15th is the third notice with which that work has been honored in that journal. The first appeared among the Brief Notices immediately upon the publication of the book, so long ago as September, 1883 ; the second some weeks afterward, under the usual head of Literature ; and now, after six months’ incubation, appears the third, which, if for no other reason, for the time taken in its hatching and in the order of its appearance is a phenomenon in journalism. The question naturally arises, If the third notice, when it broke the shell, had piped a little laudatory note, would the ample yet crowded columns of the Post have been wide enough to admit it ?

The assault is preceded by an admission, made with a seductive air of candor, that in the Riverside Shakespeare I have done well with the text; which means about as much as the hand-shake given by a prize-fighter to the man whose hones he means to break and whose flesh to pound into jelly; — not so much, for that means, or should mean, fair play. This is immediately followed by a charge of a lack of scholarship, which " no familiarity with other men’s scholarship can take the place of.” To scholarship I have never made any pretension ; only to know the little that I do know at first hand, and to use it to the best of my ability for the profit of my readers. The implied accusation to the contrary I reserve for future reference. Then, after this blow below the belt, comes one which seems to be delivered straight between the eyes : it is that three of my notes “ may be controverted from Shakespeare’s own authority.” The first of this “ one, two, three ” which I shall counter is of the same kind as its predecessor, and is characteristic of the whole attack. With a great flourish it is said, —

“ But far more extraordinary than either of these oversights is Mr. While’s extraordinary remark on the lines in Antony’s speech, in Julius Cæsar, III. 2, l. 91. ‘ You all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown.’ The note to this is, ’ On the Lupercal: a mistake. The Lupercal was not a street or a bridge, or the like, but a grotto ’ !! Has Mr. White never read the line Si the first scene of the play,— ‘ You know it is the feast of Lupercal’ ? ”

The combined baseness and folly of this destructively meant thrust is easily exposed. In the introduction to this play, on the very leaf before this first scene, to which I am referred, the last sentence is, —

“The events which it presents in a dramatic form took place between the feast of Lupercal, B. c. 45, and the battle of Philippi, n. c. 42.”

(Vol. iii. p. 381.)

So much for his baseness; now for his folly. If he will turn to the Clarendon Press edition of Julius Caesar, published by the University of Oxford, and edited by W. Aldis Wright, LL. D., Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, one of the first scholars in England, and the principal editor of the great Cambridge Shakespeare, he will find this note on the same passage : —

On the Lupercal, see 1. 2, 1. 236, etc. Shakespeare speaks of the Lupercal as if it mere a hill. It was in reality a cave or grotto, in which, according to tradition, Romulus and Remus were found.” (Page 168.)

It will he observed that in the Clarendon Press edition Aldis Wright distinctly refers to the portentous passage in Act I., which I am insolently asked if I have ever seen. If my remark is “extraordinary,” what is Dr. Wright’s? But it is sometimes pleasant to go astray in good company. Like Slender, “ if I am drunk, I ’ll he drunk with those that have the fear of God, and not with drunken knaves.” After this exposition of his combined malice and folly,

I ought to be permitted to dismiss this man at once, and to say with Vergil, Guarda e passa ; but I must go on, “ for worse remains behind.”

The remaining two of the three notes which are to be controverted from Shakespeare’s own authority are upon the line, “ Of all men else I have avoided thee,” in Macbeth, and the phrase “ culling of simples,” applied by Romeo to the apothecary’s occupation in his shop. The Riverside edition points out the absurdity of “ Of all men else” in the first, and the loose use of “cull” in the second. To this the amazing rejoinder is that “ Shakespeare sometimes accepted ’ of ’ in the sense of beyond ” (certainly he did) ; and that he also used “cull ” in other passages in a similar sense to that which it has in Romeo and Juliet. What an if he did ? That is the very point that is made. The criticism reminds me of the old lady who, startled out of sleep in sermon time, uttered an exclamation, and then, alarmed, cried, “ Oh, I ’ve spoke in meetin’!” then, in her agitation, “Oh, I’ve done it agin, — and agin ! — Oh, I keep a doin’ it ! ” The critic is not able to draw the simplest critical distinction. One passage in Shakespeare may illustrate his meaning in another ; but the repetition of an error by him, or any other man, does not make it right. This folly gives me occasion to remark here upon a subject which in any case I should have presented.

A careful study of Shakespeare’s plays discovers that he was, on the one hand, indifferent to the meaning of words when necessity pressed him, and was content to do the best he could in this respect, if he could suggest his meaning by the phraseology of a whole passage; and that, on the other hand, he was actually ignorant of the meaning of some of the words he used frequently. The former is so manifest to any competent Shakespeare student that no words need be wasted on it ; the latter may need enforcement and illustration.

What is more in the natural order of things than that Shakespeare should misapprehend the meaning of some words ? His incomparable genius for expression would not furnish him the means of expression any more than Cæsar’s genius for war would furnish him arms and soldiers. Shakespeare was the son of a Warwickshire peasant, or very inferior yeoman, by the daughter of a well-to-do farmer. Both his father and his mother were so ignorant that they signed with a mark instead of writing their names. Few of their friends could write theirs. Shakespeare probably had a very little instruction in Latin in the Stratford grammar school. When, at twenty-two years of age, he fled from Stratford to London, we may be sure that he had never seen half a dozen books other than his horn-book, his Latin accidence, and a Bible. Probably there were not half a dozen other in all Stratford. The notion that he was once an attorney’s clerk is blown to pieces. Mr. Halliwell-Pliillipps, the first living authority upon the facts of Shakespeare’s life, would send “ the loud laugh of scorn out of his beard unshorn ” at the suggestion. Shakespeare had no education ; but when he got into the theatre at London he “picked up" a knowledge of literature and language. His genius for language enabled him to do this in a wonderful, almost in a miraculous way ; but it was inevitable that a man who was not only uninstrueted, but who had lived until he was twenty-five years old only among the most ignorant and socially uncultured people of three hundred years ago, should misapprehend more or less the meaning of some of the words that he heard and read. Men who are educated and who have cultured associations do that to this day. The truly astonishing fact is that Shakespeare, in his circumstances, erred so rarely, and that, his comparatively few errors apart, he obtained his marvelous mastery of language in such a desultory way in the course of a few years. There is no greater witness to the grasp and the subtlety of his genius. Of the words that he misused I do not undertake at present to give a list, but here are a few examples, hastily looked up: missive, precedence, recoil, expiate, modern, dexterity, plurisy, envy, eternal, casually, indurance, compassionate, depose, inherit, thewes, importance, convicted, dieted, exorcist, beteem, publican. It will be seen that, as is commonly the case with uneducated people, these misapprehensions are in regard to words of Romance origin. It confirms the view here presented, with only two exceptions, that Shakespeare used such words frequently in their radical but uncustomary sense, as if fresh from the consultation of a dictionary. There is evidence that this defect in his vocabulary was recognized by his contemporaries. Shakespeare’s use of a word cannot be accepted as evidence of its meaning, nor his use of a construction as its justification.

As every injurious assertion made or implied by the Post is untrue, or a perversion of the truth (excepting those which touch misprints or other not uncommon accidents of the printing-office), and as I intend not to leave one of them unexposed, I cannot do better than to take them up in the order in which they are put forth ; and hence a very sudden change in the nature of my topic. In the Riverside introduction to Hamlet it is said that “ the period of the action in Shakespeare’s imagination seems to have been about the tenth century ; ” and as to its duration, “ into five acts he seems to have compressed, as his manner was, the incidents of not less than from eight to ten years.” This is held up for condemnation as “startling,” and the reader is told that, on the contrary,

“ Shakespeare, as his habit was, pictured the incidents as of his own time, and that the duration of the action cannot extend beyond two or three months.” This passage alone of the Post’s article can be dignified with the name of adverse criticism. It alone is a judgment upon an opinion or a decision, and the presentation of an opposing view. The others, as we have seen thus far, are misrepresentations of fact, due partly to intention, partly to ignorance. This one again presents me the occasion of saying here what I should otherwise have said elsewhere in these articles.

If my critic was startled by the view from which he dissents, it must have been because he was ignorant of what I and others after me have said upon this subject heretofore. All the startling that was to be done in this way I did years ago; and there have been articles in newspapers, in magazines, and even books, in regard to the assertion of my belief that Shakespeare imagined Hamlet in the first scenes of the tragedy as only some twenty-two or twenty-three years old, and in the last act as full thirty. But as to Shakespeare’s notion of the period of the action the Post’s critic, as usual, misrepresents me, and shows his own ignorance. The gravely making a point of Shakespeare’s “ picturing” the incidents as of his own time is in this relation ridiculous, almost childish. Certainly he did so, and always did so. Every observant reader knows that. The costume7 of Shakespeare’s plays is always heterogeneous and confused ; but its prevalent character is that of his own day. There is, however, no reason for the assumption that therefore he imagined the action as passing in his own time. The very statement of the case in this form has,

I am sure, already provoked a smile to the lips of some of my readers. The absurdity of the notion and the crass ignorance of a critic who could entertain it may be shown in few words very clearly. In Julius Cæsar, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, in King John, Richard II., Henry IV., Henry V., and in King Lear, not to mention other plays, the period of the action is historically fixed, and Shakespeare knew it as well as we do. Moreover, we see that in these plays he had it in mind himself. In King Lear he even goes so far as to present a very rude and elemental form of social life. And yet in all these plays he constantly presents us with pictures which are copied from his own time. Shakespeare’s costume, his dramatic picturing, had, could have had, no relation to his imagination of the period of the action of his play. His sending Hamlet to school at Wittenberg and Laertes to Paris to practice music had no more relation to his imagination of the period when the action of Hamlet took place than his making Giulio Romano the artist of Hermione’s statue had with his imagination of the period of the action of The Winter’s Tale, or than his confusion of costume in Cymbeline, King of Britain,!—where in one speech we have the England of Elizabeth, and in the next ancient Rome, —had with his imagination of the period of the action of that play, which he himself clearly sets forth as being in the time of the early Cæsars. An exhibition of thorough ignorance and of thoughtless unacquaintance with a subject was never more unconsciously but completely made than by this critic of the Post.

The truth is that, as I said in the foregoing article of this series, Shakespeare was the most inconsistent of writers. He took no thought of what is known as “ keeping ; ” was utterly careless of it except — and the exception is of the highest moment — in regard to the motive of dramatic action. In this, keeping was to him an absolute law ; one which he followed intuitively, and I believe almost unconsciously. A striking example in point is to be seen in one of the most admirable and best known of his minor characters, who stands among Shakespeare’s sagacious Fools second only to that sad, wanly smiling shadow of hard worldly wisdom, the loving and lovable Fool in King Lear. Touchstone is a courtly fellow in his sort, one who knows all the ways and forms of high society; a gentleman in motley, and learned in euphuism and in fencing, and in all that Armado calls “ the varnish of a complete man :" moreover, he is a social cynic. But Shakespeare, when he began to write As You Like It, imagined Touchstone as a coarse, rude fellow, of some mother wit and a good heart. He makes Celia expressly describe him as “ the clownish Fool,” one who is devoted to her; and directly afterward he is called “ the roynish [scurvy, low, rude] clown.” But Shakespeare suddenly changed his purpose (probably because he saw that the attendant of the two princesses might better he a courtly personage), and made Touchstone the most elegant and exquisite of all his wearers of cap and bells, Yet be did not care, for consistency s sake, to change the description which he had given of him in the early scenes, and he remains in the first act the clownish fool and the roynish clown.

Now whether, in Hamlet, he deliberately meant to make his hero ten years younger in the first act than he is in the fifth I shall not undertake to say. But that he does so represent him is undeniable. His age is worked out at the end of the tragedy with care by a sort of “sum” in arithmetic; his being in the very earliest years of possible manhood in the beginning is impressed upon us with no less care; and we are told, besides, that he who in the earlier scenes was “ the mould of form ” was in the last scene “ fat and scant of breath.” The conclusion here steadily pointed at by Shakespeare’s manner of working is that he imagined him very young in the first scenes and mature in the last, and was absolutely indifferent, quite thoughtless, as to the consistency of these two views of the Prince’s personality. But the character of the man is one; compact, adherent, individual, unique. The Hamlet of the last act is the identical Hamlet of the first, whatever the time that separates them, as the ray of light which glorifies the world is the same ray that left the sun, although it has traveled millions of miles through chaotic worlds and meteors and obscuring vapors in reaching us. Yet Hamlet did grow older in Shakespeare’s mind as the action of the tragedy went on. Under his sad experience of life, he became harder, bitterer, less serious and sentimental, although not less given to subtle maundering and weak procrastination.

That it was Shakespeare’s habit to crowd into five acts the incidents of eight or ten or more years is so undeniably true that time and words need not be wasted upon the point. Any reader may convince himself of this by examining the introductions to the several plays in the Riverside edition. There can, however, be no greater waste of time than the attempt to make Shakespeare consistent with himself upon this point, and to decide (as some critics have undertaken to decide), by watching his words and tracing his incidents, exactly the number of days or weeks, or even months or years, that pass in the action of his dramas. His notions upon this subject were of the vaguest; it was one of the many as to which he was quite indifferent, thoughtless. The only consistency to which he gave a moment’s consideration was that of interest, present dramatic effect. He had a higher purpose than accuracy. In the swiftest moving but most artfully constructed of his tragedies, Othello, in which hot action rushes like outbreaking fire from spark to consuming flame, there is an inconsistency upon a minor but essential point which is fatal to any time-construction of the play. For Othello takes Desdemoua to Cyprus immediately upon her marriage, and there directly, the very next day, it would seem, Emilia, who had not before been her attendant, says that Iago had “ a hundred times ” woo’d her to steal Othello’s handkerchief. And Cassio, who also accompanies Othello, is reproached, on his first meeting with his Cyprian Bianca, with keeping “ a week away.” On all such points of consistency and accuracy Shakespeare was the veriest Gallio. So to the question whether the action of Hamlet occupied three days, or three months, or three years, or thrice three, all evidence shows that he gave not three minutes’ thought. None the less is it true and demonstrable that in this tragedy he did compress the action of eight or ten years within five years, and that such was his habit.

To return from this one question of higher criticism to lower levels. The Post critic, creeping for six months with microscopic eye over the introductions in the Riverside Shakespeare, finds in one an opportunity, but not, as I shall show, an occasion, of accusing me of the grave fault of “ a confusing inaccuracy of expression.” It is in the remark that in the old play of the Famous Victories of Henry V. are found “ the name and the germ ... of Falstaff,” whereas (as this learned person knows, and as he is kind enough to say that I also know) the name Falstaff does not occur in The Famous Victories, in which the Prince’s companion is called Oldcastle. The assertion of the critic is untrue ; not this time intentionally, but because he, although he undertakes to censure the correctness of my phraseology, does not himself quite understand the English language ; — of which fact we shall see other evidence. I do not say that the name Falstaff occurs in the old play ; but that the name of Falstaff occurs there. Now the name of Falstaff in the Famous Victories is Oldcastle. The very next sentence of the introduction will make still clearer the incompetence of the Post critic in the use and understanding of English. It is: “In the Famous Victories one of the loose companions of the Prince is Sir John Oldcastle ; and this personage by name Shakespeare transferred to his Henry IV., in the .text of which, and in the prefixes of the speeches in the old copies, there remains evidence that Falstaff was originally called Oldcastle.” The name of Falstaff is one thing (one of his names was John) ; the name Falstaff, another. The Post in former days was rather noted for its good English : shall we soon find it speaking of “ the young man of the name of Guppy ’’ ?

“ A similarly false impression,” the Post critic tells its readers, “ is conveyed by carelessness of expression in the note to the Taming of the Shrew, I. 1, 232, by saying ‘daughter, like laughter now, was a perfect rhyme to after,’ which certainly suggests that ‘ daughter ’ was pronounced ‘dafter.’” Verily, it is true that the impression is similarly false; and verily, verily, it does suggest, and more than suggest, that daughter was pronounced dafter. If it had not more than suggested that pronunciation, it would have failed of the writer’s intention. And here is a man who presumes to take me to task, and does not know that daughter was pronounced dafter, not only in Shakespeare’s time, but within the memory of living men ! I set this forth twenty-five years ago, as he should have known, and would have known if he had any proper acquaintance with his subject. In my note then I mentioned having heard in my boyhood this pronunciation by old people in New England ; and immediately after the publication of this note I received a letter from a gentleman in Philadelphia, telling me that there were people there who still so pronounced the word. But if this Post critic, who as to pronunciation of English and of French seems a born illustration of the saying Deaf as a post, had such an acquaintance with English literature as becomes a man who undertakes the task upon which lie has ventured, he would not need the evidence of his own ears, although they are doubtless long enough to reach back into the sixteenth century. If he had but turned to his Pilgrim’s Progress he would have found,

“ Despondency, good man, is coming after,
And also Much-afraid, his daughter;

and if he doubted (which he should not have done) the pronunciation of ‘ after ’ here, he had only to turn to his John Lilly, to find rafter spelled raughter. Two men escape drowning by tying themselves to a beam : —

“ Dick. what call’st thou the thing wee were bound to ?

Man. A raughter.

Ruffe. I will rather hang myself to a raughter in the house,” etc. (Gallathea, Act I. Sc. 4.)

Moreover, we find such rhymes as soft and taught (Browne’s Pastorals, I. 68) and oft, misspelled by the ear ought, in the quarto, 1608, of King Lear. And again, this pronunciation of gh has come down in rural England, so that a modern novelist, Mrs. Whitehead, is obliged to express it thus : “ I was kneading the doff [dough] when he comed in.”(The Grahames, Lond. 1865, chap, xi.) Yet we find the word which we pronounce coff written in Old English thus : “ kouwe, tusser.” (Middle English Glosses, temp. Ed. II. Bel. Ant. 284.) The fact with regard to this combination seems to be, as I pointed out twenty-five years ago (Mems, of English Pron., etc.), that it represented at first a guttural sound, like the Greek and that this passed away, diversely, into the sounds of f and aw. I may have a great “ lack of that liberal scholarship which makes opinion valuable,” but would it not be well for the Post to have its critics inform themselves a little upon the history of the English language before they undertake to apply the rod to me in public for failure to get my lessons ?

But I am even called up for discipline — to my astonishment, I must confess— on music, of all subjects! In King Lear, I. 4, 300, where Edmund sings fa, sol, la, mi, I say, in a brief note, that although he “ sings merely to seem at ease” the dramatist has made him sing quite in keeping with the last part of his speech, because his notes “ F, G, A, B ” are inconsequent, distracting, and implying a discord that demands resolution. My assailant’s comment upon this is so amazing in its exhibition of presuming folly, and of ignorance both of music and of Shakespearean literature, that I must give it as fully as possible in his own words : —

“ It does not take much learning to know that the notes are other than Mr. White makes them, — are, in fact, F, G, A, E (his series being simply a portion of the diatonic scale): and with regard to the rest of this assertion, one of the most distinguished American composers assures us that to the trained as to the untrained ear there is no such character in this succession of notes as Mr. White attributes to it. Without passing into any discord they might serve for an opening motive to any composition. like the four notes which begin Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Mr. White’s phrase ‘in the natural key’ is a queer one; and if one talks of keys, the notes themselves would perhaps suggest A minor. ”

True, true! The man who knows that the notes are other than I make them must indeed have very little learning in music: about as much as would enable him to blow a fish-horn, or his own trumpet. Let us see. Edmund’s notes are fa, sol, la, mi. Now of old, solmization in England, and in New England, as this critic might have discovered merely by turning to some old New England psalm-book, was this: —

C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.

fa, sol, la, fa, sol, la, mi, fa. Therefore Edmund’s notes must have been F, G, A, B ; 8 aud moreover, whatever the key he sang in, the same part of the diatonic scale was represented by his syllables, aud the same harmonic necessity implied. For if he sang in the key of E flat, his sol-mi scale would have been

E2, F, G, A2 B2, C, D, Efe.

fa, sol, la, fa, sol, la, mi, fa.

this fa, sol, la, mi, in any key, would have represented the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th notes of the diatonic scale. For this system of solmization rested upon what was known as the movable mi, mi always representing the semitone below the tonic: the note sensible, as the French musicians call it ; the leading note, as it is called in English, because it leads to the tonic and rests upon a harmony (thus in the natural key)

which demands resolution into that of the tonic, thus :

This movable mi made some brief rules necessary “ to find the mi ;” thus: “If B

be flat, mi is in E ; if B and E be flat, mi is in A ; if F be sharp, mi is in F,” etc. I have been accustomed for not a few years to be appealed to rather than to appeal, in musical questions; but as this may not be known to some of my present readers, I cite in confirmation of what I have just said the following passage from a work of the highest authority : 9 — tones In the scale were distinguished by these names for the purpose of sol-faing.

Mi was always used for the leading or master note.”

The critic’s American composer, whether distinguished or not, was, I am sure, misled by an imperfect statement of the question. For as to the illustration from the four notes which begin the Fifth Symphony, any composer, any amateur who is really a musician, will see at once that they confirm rather than impair my position. They are:

and the last phrase implies, as every musician knows, the chord of the dominant (including the mi, the leading note, the note sensible, on which Edmund ends) ; and that chord requires the resolution which it receives in the very next phrase.

No composer could have made such a blunder if the question had been properly put before him. As to the Post’s critic, if he will go to some infant school, and learn to sing “ I want to be an angel,” or if he will toot with comb and paper in a kinder simphonie, he may, after a painful course of such profound study, be advanced somewhat beyond his present state of musical knowledge. “A minor ”! A flat.

If, however, he is ignorant of music, what must be his ignorance of Shakespearean criticism, when he pronounces my note “ singular ” ! Here is a man not only criticising me, but daring to hold me up to ridicule upon a point in Shakespearean literature, when he is so uninformed that he does not know that the suggestion in my note is not only not “singular,” but is not mine; that it is quite a hundred years old ; that it may be found in every modern annotated edition of Shakespeare; and that in his blind rush at me he has dashed his empty head, not against R. G. W., but against Charles Burney, Doctor in Music of the University of Oxford, and author of the great General History of Music ! Burney’s note, which may be found in Malone’s edition (1790), in the variorums of 1803, 1813, and 1821, in the Chiswick, Harness, Knight, Singer, Verplanck, Hudson, Furness’s Variorum, etc., is : —

Sol-faing. A system of singing ; a composition in which the names of the notes are employed instead of the words to which it may be set. Formerly, only four of the seven names of the notes . . . were used, namely, mi, fa, sol, la. These were applied to every note in the scale. . . . All

“ Oh, these eclipses do portend these divisions, fa, sol, la, mi. The commentators, not, being musicians, have regarded this passage perhaps as unintelligible nonsense, and therefore left it ns they found it, without bestowing a single conjecture on its meaning and import. Shakespeare, however, shows by the context that he was well acquainted with the property of these syllables in solmization, which imply a series of sounds so unnatural that ancient musicians prohibited their use. . . . The interval fami, including a tritonus or sharp 4th, expressed in the modern scale by the letters F, G, A, B, would form a musical phrase extremely disagreeable to the ear. Edmund, speaking of eclipses as portents and prodigies, compares the dislocation of events, the times being out of joint, to the unnatural and offensive sounds fa, sol, la, mi. Dr. Burney.”

As for me, I do not go quite to the length of Dr. Burney’s opinion ; but it is undeniable that Shakespeare, whatever his purpose (if he had any), did make Edward sing in accordance with what he speaks.

“From music,” the Post critic jauntily says, “ we will turn to French,” and with his usual insolence he continues, “ Mr. White seems very sure that Shakespeare knew but little of the language ; but how much does he know himself ? — a query of no benefit to his reader, but intended merely to injure the subject of it. But being asked, I will answer it. Although I learned French when I was six years old (my teacher being a Genevan gentlewoman) and have read it constantly ever since ; although twenty years afterwards I read Moliere with a sociétaire of the Théâtre Français, and in the little French I have occasion to speak think in French, I pretend to know very little about it. I am sure that if St. René Taillander had examined me in French literature, or Bracket in etymology, each would have found me sadly deficient. But compared with the critic whom the Post permits thus publicly to affront me I am a sage, a pundit. A Riverside note points out that esperance (1 Henry IV. V. I, 97) is “a quadrisyllable, pronounced by Shakespeare, I fear, espyransy.”10 With scornful superiority the critic says, “ There is not the slightest occasion for the fear in this suggestion, as in Shakespeare’s day, or not long before, all Frenchmen pronounced it as a quadrisyllable.”

In Shakespeare’s day, or not long before ! Why, every man who speaks good French nowadays pronounces esperance as a quadrisyllable. At the end of all such words there is in the pronunciation of such speakers what the phonetists call the “ subaudition ” of that obscure sound of u which is heard in the English word come. And in music, when such words are sung, there is a full, although unaccented, note given to the final e. Illustration of a fact so well known would be more than superfluous. My critic seems to have learned his French from dictionaries, and not from intercourse with good speakers. He is like the ladies who, in the pronunciation of Sévres, cannot make a distinction between Save and Saver; or other speakers who pronounce the name of the great Geheimrath of Weimar Gatty or Goeeth. No shame to them, if they do not pretend to sit in judgment upon others. Equal ignorance he shows (in another way) when he says (with severe censure afterward) that, although “ modern editions ” give “ qui a les narines de feu” (Henry V. III. 7, 14), “Mr. White retains” the reading of the folio, “ chez les narines de feu.” Modern editions ! The critic does not know, then, that “ chez les narines,” etc., is the reading of the Cambridge edition, of the Globe, of Rolfe in his admirable English Classic edition, and of all the better late editions; it being retained on the sound principle, now adopted by all the most judicious editors, that the old text, when it expresses a sense, although incorrectly, is not to be disturbed except in case of actual necessity, and in favor of an unquestionable emendation. “ Chez les narines ” is retained by a general consensus of the best “modern” critics; from whom “ Mr. White” merely does not dissent.

It was my intention, as I said, to meet this critic upon every point of attack, and to prove clearly that he is — just what he has been shown to be. This I shall do, but I find that it cannot be done here. The pages of The Atlantic are not elastic; and I must hasten as rapidly as possible to the end of this article. I cannot, however, pass over a trivial but very significant evidence of this Post writer’s fitness to enter the field of English criticism. He says, “We alluded just now to the learned German Dr. Schmidt.” He did no such thing. He mentioned him plainly, by name. I allude to him when, without mentioning his name, I give on p. xxvi of the preface to the Riverside edition my opinion of the superfluity of his painstaking work. Of Dr. Schmidt’s learning, I should not presume to suggest a doubt; although I am ready to point out not a few errors in his Shakespeare Lexicon, notwithstanding I have yet cut but few of its leaves. As a scholar I do not pretend to be Dr. Schmidt’s humblest rival ; but his Lexicon I regard as a salient and characteristic example of the most superfluous sort of Shakespearean anatomizing. As to my critic, if he will turn to Words and Their Uses, in v.“ allude,” he may obtain some muchneeded information, which may possibly enable him to use it hereafter correctly.

One peculiarity of the Riverside Shakespeare — and it is a distinctive trait, which I hope may be of some service, not only to the intelligent and observant general reader, but to independent thinkers among my fellow-editors and critics hereafter — is the pointing out from time to time (although with comparative infrequency) the recklessness of Shakespeare in the use of language ; his readiness to pervert words from their proper meaning, and to set at naught not only logical connection, but the usage of his time in construction of sentences. That such critics as he with whom I am now most unwillingly compelled to deal should approve this I did not expect. His disapproval of it may go unanswered for what it is worth. But when he says that “ these comments are superfluous both for the uninstructed and the instructed reader,” he touches a question of fact, and as usual misrepresents the truth. Shakespearean comment and criticism is filled (as he knows, or should know) with strained endeavors to show that in the case in question, Shakespeare was conforming to a “grammar” of his time. There has even been a book published upon the subject. Now I say, at my proper peril, that for this there is no justification ; that it is misleading, and that it is high time there were an end of it. The prose Style of Shakespeare’s time differed from that of more modern days, which came in with Dryden ; but the grammar, the syntactical construction of the language, was then (with some unimportant exceptions) just what it is now. Of this Shakespeare himself gives undisputable evidence. Whatever he wrote as literature, his poems and his sonnets, was entirely, or almost entirely, free from what has been called Elizabethan grammar, and Shakespearean grammar, — the poems notably so. Moreover, In the argument of Lucrece we have our only extended example of Shakespeare’s literary prose. It is long (for an argument), but quoad hoc, so far as the use of words and syntactical construction go, it might have been written yesterday. The whole literature of the time shows the same fact. And not only the literature. For example, in the Life and Letters of Sir Christopher Hilton, Queen Elizabeth’s dancing Lord Chancellor, there is a great collection of letters, public and private, written by many men of the time, of various positions in life; and in these mere epistles, some of them hastily written, there is (I say it after careful examination) nothing of the Elizabethan grammar and the Shakespearean grammar that we hear so much about from Shakespearean specialists and anatomizers. The truth of the matter is simply that all the Elizabethan playwrights were somewhat heedless upon this point, and that the greatest of them was the most heedless, the most absolutely reckless man in this respect that ever put pen to paper. In his plays Shakespeare wrote hit or miss ; but because his hits are as the stars in the firmament for multitude and splendor, we should not hesitate to speak plainly when he misses; none the less, but all the more, because, as I have before remarked in these articles, we owe much of his splendor to his very recklessness. I hoped to illustrate this point by many passages, but lack of space forbids. As to the result in many cases, I do not say now for the first time that a very appreciable part of Shakespeare’s dramatic writing is imposing bombast and splendid tinsel.11

Much more briefly than I expected, I must remark upon one thoroughly base and slanderous insinuation by this critic, conveyed in the phrase that there are some notes in the Riverside Shakespeare

1 Life and Genius of Shakespeare, 1865,p236. “ not quite quotable.” The implication here is totally, absolutely, false. The very phrase used, “ not quite quotable,” is stolen from me, or at least used after me. The Post critic knew well that it is impossible to glossarize and annotate an unexpurgated edition of Shakespeare without some notes which are necessarily, from their very subjects, open to squeamish objection that they are not quite readable aloud in mixed company. In some instances all that can be done is to present the subject as dryly and as tersely as possible, and to hint at a meaning which modern decorum forbids to be expressed clearly in words. In the Riverside Shakespeare this has been done with scrupulous care ; and in not a few cases with a frank statement that the subject is one that cannot be explained. That edition is prepared virginibus puerisque, as the critic well knew, in so far as that is possible in an annotated and glossarized Shakespeare.

For the truth upon this point is that Shakespeare, whose perception and expression of all that is lovely and sweet and pure in man and in nature surpassed that of any writer known to literature, was yet of all writers who have attained high reputation the most grossly and copiously indecent and foul-mouthed. In this respect he rivals Rabelais and far outdoes Montaigne. His only equal is Aristophanes; for in the old Italian comedies the revolting element is in the characters and motives of the personages as revealed by their action, rather than in grossness of phrase. Shakespeare’s indecency is often of the very grossest kind, and has the added sin of grossness for grossness’ sake. It is not that he often speaks plainly of the workings of a passion which, natural and vital, is yet so intensely personal that proper individuality teaches reserve. It is not always the too warmly human-blooded tone of Anacreon and of Moore that darkens his fair page. To speak plainly, Shakespeare never hesitated to deal with what Dr. Johnson, in regard to Swift, called “ ideas physically impure.” He knew better than to write thus; but he did not care how he wrote so long as he pleased all of his audience, including the rakes and the groundlings. He could make Hamlet gibe at dramatists for putting “ sallets ” in their lines “ to make them savoury,” and scoff at those who “will themselves laugh to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too, though in the mean time some necessary question of the play be then to be considered,” and then contaminate every play he wrote with grossest sins in violation of his own wholesome laws. In this respect, as in all others, he is preëminent. In quantity, as well as in quality, he is unsurpassed. If the passages of this nature in his writings were taken out and collected, they would make in this type a respectable volume — for its size. Nor is this done with any shame or shyness on his part, with any light touch or passing suggestion, He elaborates his sin and works it into the substance and fibre of a speech or of a whole scene, which may yet be of the most exquisite beauty and the most absorbing interest; but also he will introduce a scene for the express purpose of indecent imagery and gross jesting. The first scene of Act II. of Romeo and Juliet is without any dramatic value or interest, and has nothing to do with any necessary question of the play. It is apparently introduced for the purpose of making Mercutio not only witty with indecorum, but an adroit suggester of images so gross that their meaning can be but vaguely hinted at, and in some cases so repulsive that their meaning is resented. Mercutio’s last two speeches in this scene, not short ones, are mere ingenious elaboration of indecency from which even Swift and Sterne would shrink. There are two of the sonnets which in this way are monsters of ingenuity. Now, although all this is really harmless,— will harm no one (to be Irish) who is not already past harming, — and is in this respect wholesome compared to one foul chapter of Zola’s Nana or one daintily wrought scene of Théophile Gautier’s pictures of corrupted nature, it is impossible to edit Shakespeare with any semblance of completeness without making the margins blush. And this the Post critic knew well ; but it suited his purpose to seem not to know it.

Yet, I may judge the poor creature too harshly; for he complains that the Riverside edition has no note of explanation on (among other passages),

“ The discandying of this pelleted storm.”

Why, such a man would ask for a note on Falstaff’s counterpart, “ hail kissiugcomfits,” or, as one of his sort did, beg me to explain “ man but a rush against Othello’s breast.” Good reader, I confess at once that the Riverside Shakespeare is not edited for idiots, however learned, but on the assumption that the intelligent reader of to-day is (when the obsolete is explained) quite equal in power of apprehension to the general play-goer of the London of 1600.

Finally (for I must jump —but here only — some, yet few, of the pettiest traps and pitfalls which the Post’s critic has laid for its readers), my assailant has unwittingly left evidence both of his bad faith and his evil motive.12 He points out (King John V. 4, 46) these lines, as “ Mr. White’s reading,” which in any case shows (as the detection of the easy misprint receiv’d for reviv’d does, and as other most minute observations show), how like a ferret he has peered and pried for little prey during the six months which preceded this third Post notice of the Riverside Shakespeare. Now, it so happens that I have in my possession both the copy of the edition and the last proofs which I read of its pages; and on both, the second of the lines quoted above, instead of following 1. 46, follows 1. 37. But p. 60, on which it occurs, ends, in this proof, with 1. 46, the first of those quoted above, —

“ Where I may think the remnant of my thoughts,
Even with a treacherous fine of all your lives,”
“ Where I may think the remnant of my thoughts.”

After I read the proof, however, it seems that there was a change found necessary in the arrangement of the pages, and eight lines were transferred from p. 60 to p. 61. In the doing of this, by an accident common in the printingoffice, the line (47) which would have been the first on p. 61 was transposed, and appears out of place, making, not a “ reading,’ as this critic well knew, but sheer nonsense.

The matter would not be worth consideration were it not that, unhappily for him, the Post critic has on this occasion exposed himself. There is a brief note here which shows where the line belongs, This note is: “a treacherous fine = a treacherous end; a quibble on ‘fine’ in Shakespeare’s manner.” Now, this “ quibble ” is on the “ fine ” of the line which precedes that in which “a treacherous tine” occurs, according to the correct reading, which is universal and never questioned, as the critic knows, and as he points out. Thus: —

“ Paying the fine of rated treachery,
Even with the treacherous fine of all your lives.”

If the lines are separated, there is no quibble, and the note is meaningless.

“ Missus, exclaimed an unaccused negro maid-servant, detected before the toilet glass with a comb in one hand and a pomatum pot in the other, and her wool as unctuous as Aaron’s beard, — “ missus, ’ swear to de Lor’ I never touched it! ”

The Post’s article appropriately carries its sting where venomous insects carry theirs, and it ends by saying, “ We are sorry to touch on Mr. White’s French again, and then calls attention to the fact that, in a scene of the Merry Wives, “ il fait fort chaud ” is translated, it is very cold. That is very grievous, I know; and so is, or may be made to appear, “does not know thee” as a free translation of the Italian “non ti pretia; ” and I see, as my critic saw, what an unfavorable impression his exposure is fitted to produce against me, — how it works in with the other evidence which he thought he had raked and scraped together, to show “a lack of that liberal scholarship which makes opinion valuable.” And unfortunately, indeed, such deplorable ignorance is too common, and ought to be remorselessly exposed. In a well-known publication, of high respectability and unbounded pretensions to immaculate correctness, a publication which once held up a man to condemnation as untrustworthy because he spelled a name Haled which is generally spelled Halhed, but sometimes Halhead, but always pronounced Hall-’ed, — I found accidentally, within a few days after the attack upon the Riverside Shakespeare the following passage in a very painstaking criticism of Gli Amici, by Edmondo de Amicis : —

“ In France the rigid rule of the Academy would condemn as vulgar a great many of the happiest expressions used by our author. What can be happier, to express great grief, than to say that a person ‘weeps all the tears of his soul’ (piange tutte le lagrime dell’ anima) ? Yet what French author would use in serious prose the equivalent French expression, pleurer toutes les larmes de son corps ? ” (Evening Post, March 27, 1884.)

Is there to be no end of charlatanism and ignorant pretense! Here we have a man daring to come before the public as a critic of Italian and of French, and giving “ de son corps ” as a translation of “dell’ anima ” ! What shall be said of the “ vulgarity ” and the “ inadequacy ” of such criticism ! “ How much does ”

this Post critic “ know of French ? ” The error could not have been one of the ear, corps for cæmr ; for cæur is no translation of anima, which requires âme, the French word being indeed a lineal representative, by phonetic decay of the Italian.

Alas, alas ! — The criticism was a good criticism, sound and discriminating, — one of those which justly bring credit to the journal in which they appear ; and its writer is doubtless at least as good a French and Italian scholar as the editor of the Riverside Shakespeare is. I cite it merely to show the Post for what petty, contemptible business it has allowed malice and bad faith to make a journal hitherto so highly esteemed responsible. Errors of this kind form a distinct class of psychological phenomena. By some perverted, unconscious action of the brain a man writes or speaks other than he means, and sometimes, as in this case, directly the reverse of what he means ; and what is strange in the case of writers, he does not detect it in proof. His mind’s eye sees what is in his mind, and not what is before his bodily eye. It was so with Shakespeare, so with Macaulay, so with Thackeray. Accuracy in detail is desirable; for it is better to be right than wrong, even in trifles. But men of good common sense will not vex their souls about it, nor the souls of others. And unless detail happens to rise to the essential, only a mole-eyed or a malicious critic will make it a test of competence.

And now, casting a glance backward, we see, unless I am in error, that in a third notice of the Riverside Shakespeare, published six months after the first, the respected Evening Post has been made use of, by a designing critic, who accused the editor of ignorance of that of which there was printed evidence of his knowledge; who held him up to contempt as the originator of an interpretation which is that of one of the first scholars, and the most eminent Shakespearean editor in England ; who could not see that the repetition of a fault is no defense of it; who could not discern the difference between the imagined period of an action and the anachronisms of costume committed by a careless writer ; who is so ignorant of English idiom that he does not know the difference between “the name of Falstaff” and “ the name Falstaff;” who undertook to censure a musician and hold him up to ridicule upon a point of music, when he himself did not know as much about it. as an old Yankee “ psalm-smiter,” and who was so ignorant of Shakespearean literature that he attributed to an American critic of to-day as singular an opinion on music originated by a distinguished British musical critic a hundred years ago, and which has been repeated by every editor since; who undertook to flout a man of letters publicly upon the subject of French pronunciation only to show his own ignorance of it, and who attributed, as a peculiar fault, to the Riverside editor a French reading which is that of all preceding editions of the day which are of high repute ; who, knowing necessarily the frequent grossness of Shakespeare’s language, and the sometimes foulness of his thought in passages which need explanation, could yet make dry, glossarial explanations and cautiously reserved hints as to such passages occasions of a charge of vulgarity ; who is so down at heel in English as not to know the difference between “allude” and ‘‘mention ; ” who declared that to be superfluous which is directed to the refutation of a theory as to Shakespeare’s writing which has been long and frequently advocated ; who is in such a deplorable state of poetical incapacity that he cannot understand such a combination of homely metaphors as “ the discandying of this pelleted storm ” without having it chewed up and put into his mouth like pap; who for the sake of inflicting injury descended to the meanness of seizing upon and parading trivial slips of inadvertency ; and who, with the evidence before his eyes of a typographical accident, suppressed that evidence, and held up the consequence of the accident as the result of deliberate intention. This we have found ; and so

“ The man recovered of the bite,
The dog it was that died.”

Richard Grant White.

“Had we pursued that life,
And our weak spirits ne’er been higher rear’d
With stronger blood, we should have answer’d Heaven
Boldly, not guilty; the imposition clear’d Hereditary ours,’’ (I. 2, 1. 70.)
  1. Yes, if the reader has all the necessary dictionaries, and wishes to stop reading Othello or As lou Like it while he “looks up” words. The Riverside Shakespeare is intended to do away with the necessity of even turning to a glossary.
  2. My critic might much more happily have chosen, out of many like passages in this play, the following: —
  3. Where the last clause, according to any actual or possible construction of the English language, past or present, is sheer nonsense. It stands for, “our hereditary imposition cleared,” which represents or suggests the thought, “the nature imposed upon us by inheritance being allowed for.”
  4. Of this examples like the following arc literally countless: “ahundreth lies,” Guazzo, Civile Conversation, 168 b; “rulers over hundreths,” Genevan Bible, 1576, Exod. xviii. 21; “a hundred eyes,” Golding’s Ovid, 1587, fol 13, b, but the same passage in the ed. of 1612 reads “a hundreth eyes;” “ a hundredth fold,” Id., ed. 1612, fol 29, but “ a hundred fold,” ed. 1587. This interchange is frequent: “manic hundreth shepe,” Sidney’s Arcadia, 1605, p. 76. See the folio Shakespeare, 1623, in the Histories passim for Henry the Fift, Henry the Sixt, and Henry the Eight. This spelling is so common that to cite examples seems to me almost an affront to any reader at all acquainted with our older literature in the rough.
  5. These mere memorandums are given quite promiscuously, because in that way the interchangeable spelling for the same sound (t or d) is more impressively shown: —
  6. Teddered [tethered] cattle,” Tusser, Hi—, p. 34; “scaled the walls with lathers [ladders],”Webber’s Travailes, 1590, p.23; “and afther great extremity,” Rom. and Jul. 1562, p. 44; “hath shed wnther and blond.” lloylus King of the Sunne, p. 38; “ fiterless” [yet often father], Kynge Johan, p. 6; “ tether ” [together], as a pun on Tudor, Drayton’s Epis. of P. Kat. to Owen Tudor, and again in his reply, in all editions ; “ Norways and Swethens [Swedens], Id.;Gotish [Gothish] island,” Drayton’s His. Epis., ed. 1619,. p. 176, and all eds.; toyether rhyming with Tudor, Albion’s England, 1608, p. 145; togyther rhyming with consider, Rom. and Jul. p. 83; “lith [light], a Kandel,” Havelok ed. Early Eng. Soc., p. 46; neth for neat, wit for with, nouth for not, and rith for right, Id., p.50; “conlyte of water . . . water runneth from the condeth,” Palsgrave in. v. ; Darith for David, Wyeliffe, Matt. xxii.; Іσκαριοτης = Iscarioth in Wieliffe, Tyndale, Cramner, Geneva, Rhems; singet and syngeth interchangedly, Rel. Ant., I. 40;’nyth and day, Id., 1. 61. But I may as well stop here as go on. I could gather heaps upon heaps of such examples from my memorandums in various books and. various quarters; but it seems to me as if any student of English literature might almost resent more illustration for its superfluity.
  7. “ There is no doubt that Mr. Grant White has proved Moth, in Love’s Labor ’s Lost, means mote or atomy, and in all modernized editions the name should be so spelled, as well as in the other passages where moth means mote.” (Alex. Ellis, ubi supra.)
  8. “ And last of all (though covered) stretch’d out her round cleane foote,
    Supporter of that building brave, of beautious forme the roote.
    The rest, and better part, lay hid. Yet what was to be seene,
    To make one lose his liberty enough and more had beene.”
  9. “ What if your dedly foes, my kynsmen saw you here!
    Like lyons wild your tender parts asonder would they teave.”
  10. (Romeus and Juliet.)
  11. “Upon her stately bed her painfull parts she threw.”
  12. (Idem.)
  13. “ That these my tender partes, which needful strength do lacke
    To bear so great unweldy lode.”
  14. (Idem.)
  15. “ Her dainty tender partes gan shiver all for dread.”
  16. (Idem.)
  17. “ The Man is like the Woman ; likewise she
    Is partly Man; and yet in face they be
    Full as prodigious as in partes,”
  18. Some of my readers may like to be reminded that “costume” includes manners and customs, habits of thought and expression, as well as apparel.
  19. Extremely improbable that they were C, D, E, B ; and if they were, that would only make the matter worse, as any musician knows.
  20. A Dictionary of Musical, Terms by J. Stainier, M. A., Mus. Doc. Oxford, and W. A, Barret, Mus. Bac. Oxford, assisted by R. H. M. Bosanquet. Fellow of St. John’s, Oxford, A. J. Ellis, E. R. S., etc., W. Chappell, F. S. A., John Hullah, and others.
  21. That is, és-pé-rán-sy. I cannot stop here to set forth the several examples in proof that Shakespeare pronounced French words as if they were English.
  22. This evidence is preceded by the assertion that the Riverside editor “has not thought best to give any reasons for the readings he adopts, and this silence makes it impossible to distinguish between purposely chosen words and possible misprints,” — an assertion absolutely untrue in fact and in spirit. Looking hastily through the first volume, I remark in that alone forty-two notes giving reasons for readings. It is not pleasant thus to convict a writer for the Evening Post of bearing, with malice prepense, false witness against his neighbor ; but under the circumstances it cannot be avoided.