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If Achilles should issue from his feet of that magnificent statue to tent and race madly about the field, Shakespeare which was to be ungoing through his martial exercises veiled to the public on this auspiin some wild maniacal fashion, yet cious day. “I dedicate," he says, now and then throwing his heavy “ to England this 'glorification of spear with truest aim and marvel
her poet.' He, too, has been scanlous power, we should look on with dalised that Shakspeare should have more of gravity than mirth. And no monument in our streets some such impression is produced squares. The fact is undeniable. by this Titan amongst writers. Throughout
Throughout all the length of CheapThere is no proposition so rash or side, before the Exchange, or the monstrous that he fears to assert it; Lord Mayor's, in Piccadilly, in Rotthere is no word so harsh, rude, or ten Row, no statue of the poet ! grotesque that he will not use it. no monument against which some Sometimes this terrible rhetorician fellow-poet might lean in reverence! heaps word on word, adds name to -no statue to teach aspiring youth name, till he leaves us stunned and whose dramas they should read, senseless at the end of his lengthy whose plays they should run to see paragraph. Sometimes he plays acted! Woeful deficiency! Mark with the facts of history with all how he mourns it! and how generthe petty dexterity of a conjuror, ously he congratulates us on having bringing them together from remote at length wiped this stigma from epochs for the sake of a little flash,
our brow. a conceit, a contrast; as if the cloudcompelling Jove were to bring up
“When one arrives in England, the his clouds from the north to the Shakespeare. He finds the statue of
first thing he looks for is the statue of south merely to produce a faint
Wellington. electric spark. This man, as coarse Wellington is a general who gained as Swift, is as tricksy as Dumas. It a battle, with Chance for his partner. would weary the most indefatigable “If you insist on seeing Shakespeare's critic to follow him through all his statue, you are taken to a place called rhetorical offences. But then he
Westminster, where there are kingsis a Titan. You see that oak-he
a crowd of kings. There is also a corner
called “Poets' Corner.' There, in the split it at one blow. After all the
shade of four or five magnificent monuclang and discord and endless fugue ments, where some royal nobodies shine of some distracted orchestra, there in marble and bronze, is shown to you, comes out a burst of music which on a small pedestal, a little figure, and reminds you of a chorus of Han
under this little figure this name, ‘WIL
LIAM SHAKESPEARE. del's.
“ In addition to this, statues everyIt is to that foolish festival of
Everywhere, in every the Tercentenary, of which we hope street, in every square, at every step, we shall hear nothing more, that gigantic notes of admiration in the shape we owe this book, or at least that of columns : a column to the Duke of we owe its dedication to England, York, which should, this one, take the and the precise form it has taken.
form of a note of interrogation, It seems that the son of the author,
At Guernsey, by the seaside, on a proM. François Victor Hugo, has trans- montory, there is a high column, similar
to a lighthouse--almost a tower. Æschylated, or is translating, into French lus would have contented himself with the Dramas of Shakespeare; and the it. For whom is this ? For General father prepared a preface, in which Doyle. Who is General Doyle ? A he discoursed of poetic genius in general. What has this general done ?
He has constructed roads.
At his own general, and that of Shakespeare in particular. Our “ Grand National expense? No; at the expense of the in
habitants. A column !” Festival” suggested the idea of publishing this preface—with some If such is the fungus-growth of modifications, we presume—as a se
statues — if any one who, dying, parate work, and laying it at the leaves a regret behind him, and two
And do you
or three busy, ostentatious friends able for England, indifferent to who, by their importunities, are Shakespeare.' able to scrape together the neces
“ A monument,” he proceeds to say, sary funds,—can have a statue, why “is an example. The lofty head of a should we be very anxious to claim
great man is a light. Crowds, like the the corners of our streets, or the
waves, require beacons above them. It dust of our park, for an effigy of is good that the passer-by should know Shakespeare? Why must Shake- there are great men. People may not speare compete with General Doyle? have time to read ; they are forced to By all means let_General Doyle stumble against the pedestal , they are
People pass by that way, and have his tower. He was, in some
almost obliged to raise the head and fashion, the beneficent genius of
to glance a little at the inscription. Guernsey He did not, indeed, Men escape a book, they cannot escape make its roads with his own money, the statue. One day, on the bridge of nor with his own hands; but he Rouen, before the beautiful statue due made them, nevertheless, by his
to David d'Angers, a peasant, mounted energy, perseverance, public spirit. Pierre Corneille ?'
on an ass, said to me, ‘Do you know
“Yes,' I replied. A statue might be an honour to
*So do I,' he rejoined. him ; what could it be to Shake- know the Cid ?' I resumed. "No,' said he. speare?
“To him Corneille was the statue." Nothing at all, you say ; but it An amusing anecdote, which does will be an honour to ourselves. not, however, very happily illustrate For our own sakes we ought to
the efficacy of teaching by statues. cultivate the feelings of reverence The peasant on his ass looked up at and admiration for the great in- the statue, and made acquaintance tellects that have lived amongst us. with it, and knew Corneille quite This is true; and if raising statues satisfactorily. Corneille was to him is one means of cultivating such feel- that bronze or marble. ings of reverence and admiration,
But England's disgrace is now at raise the statue. We doubt the efficacy of the means ; but, at all events, raise the statue where it
“At the very moment we finished has some chance of inspiring rever
writing the pages you have just read,
was announced in London the formation Build your temple to great of a committee for the solemn celebra.
Collect under its solemn tion of the three hundredth anniversary roof all your great, all that have of the birth of Shakespeare. This comconspicuously helped to rear and mittee will dedicate to Shakespeare, on nourish the mind of the nation. If the 23d April 1864, a monument and a a genuine national movement should festival, which will surpass, we doubt arise, prompting honours to the not, the incomplete programme we have
just sketched out. They will spare nodead for the sake of the living, for thing. The act of admiration will be the sake of the present and future a striking one.
Every conficulture of England, it will not limit dence is due to the Jubilee Committee itself to one name, however great; of Shakespeare-a committee composed it will, of necessity, from the very
of persons highly distinguished in the nature of the object proposed, em
press, the peerage, literature, the stage,
and the Church. Eminent men from brace all that England has pro
all countries, representing intellect in duced of eminence in poetry, France, in Germany, in Belgium, in science, or philosophy.
Spain, in Italy, complete this committee, Victor Hugo, we may be sure, in all points of view excellent and comsees in the monument an honour petent. Another committee formed at which England pays to itself, not
Stratford-on-Avon seconds the London to Shakespeare. After describing
committee. We congratulate England.” an imaginary programme, in which The congratulation was a little the Commons, the Peers, and premature. But pass we
on to Queen Victoria, all take their seve- Victor Hugo's contribution to the ral parts, he says, “It is honour- “glorification" of our poet. It
opens with a brief sketch of the Juvenal, Molière under Rabelais ; life of Shakespeare, which we shall and you ask why, if there are debe readily excused from following grees of merit between Molière and Victor Hugo seizes hold of the few Rabelais, there are none between traditional incidents which make Rabelais and Juvenal, or Juvenal up what is popularly called the life and Æschylus ? What is it that of Shakespeare. Of the man's life constitutes these men of the first we really know nothing. That line a separate class, so that they these materials are not submitted are unapproachable, and not open to much critical investigation, may to comparison even amongst thembe judged from the following in- selves? The answer is, They possess stance :
the Infinite! They have attained “Shakespeare's life was greatly em
the Absolute ! Many distinguished bittered. He lived perpetually slighted; men, Sophocles, Plato, Virgil, and he states it himself
. Shakespeare had others that he names, have excelpermanently near him one envious per
lences of their own,
be free son, Ben Jonson, an indifferent comic
from the apparent blemishes of poet, whose début he assisted.”
these giants of the human
but But the author soon quits Shake- they have not the Infinite. speare to launch into general discus
" What fails them ? That which the sions upon men of genius, art and
others havescience, the aims of poetry, and the " That is the Unknown. like, Shakespeare reappearing from "That is the Infinite. time to time to receive his meed " If Corneille had 'that'he would be of praise.
There is no apparent the equal of Æschylus. If Milton had method in the book. We might that, he would be the equal of Homer. begin at the end, or in the middle
, equal of Shakespeare.
' read the chapters in what order we pleased, we should not find the To reason against such infinite confusion increased, nor the effect nonsense would be almost as absurd diminished of those admirable pas- as to assert it. Some of our own sages we should occasionally stum- writers are extremely fond of apble on.
plying the word infinite to works Here is a novel theory of criti- of art. What they mean by it they cism
have never taken the trouble to “Supreme art is the region of equals. tell us. Perhaps they may gather “The chef-d'æuvre is adequate to the
a useful hint from the reductio chef-d'oeuvre.
ad absurdum which is here pre. As water when heated to 100° C. sented to them of their favourite is incapable of calorific increase, and mode of criticism. A sense of the can rise no higher, so human thought infinite we can understand ; but attains in certain men its maximum intensity. Æschylus, Job, Phidias,
this belongs to the nature of the Isaiah, St Paul, Juvenal, Dante, Michel subject, and cannot be a test of the Angelo, Rabelais, Cervantes, Shake. merit of the artist. speare, Rembrandt, Beethoven, with If a list were to be drawn up of some others, mark the 100° of genius. the equal chiefs of literature, no " The human mind has a summit.
two men would perhaps insert the “ This summit is the Ideal. “God descends, man rises to it.”
same names in it; and certainly
there is not another man living who You are a little surprised at the would draw up the same list of list presented to you of men of these Infinites as Victor Hugo has genius who have reached the sum- done. Who but he would have mit, and sit each one on his own picked out Juvenal from all the throne. You are told that there Romans, or Rabelais from all the are men of genius of a secondary Frenchmen? Who but he would order ranging under these, Milton have put these two on a line with under Shakespeare, Horace under Homer and Shakespeare? A curi
ous equity seems to have prevailed no longer loves her child, and the in the manifestations of these In- human heart is dead.” Not only finites, since each modern nation poetry lives, but the poet is immorhas one, and only one. Germany, tal; while the man of science who indeed, stands in a category apart. was an oracle in his own age, is The Homer of Germany is Beeth- thrown aside by that very advance
The author of 'Faust,' it of knowledge to which he himself seems, is not thought so full or so perhaps contributed. exalted a representative of German
“We no longer teach" (we quote the literature as Rabelais is of French following passage as an instance-and literature. We should have antici- one such instance will suflice-of that pated that ‘Faust’ would have outrageous prolixity and pedantry which won the sympathies and admiration our author can sometimes be guilty of) of the author of "Les Légendes.' of Ptolemy, the geography of Strabo, the
we no longer teach the astronomy Is it possible that a certain criticism climatology of Cleostratus, the zoology which long ago issued from Wei- of Pliny, the algebra of Diophantus, the mar, and which was heard all over medicine of Tribunus, the surgery of Europe, could have influenced him Ronsil, the dialectics of Sphærus, the in this high office of filling the myology of Steno, the uranology of Tathrones of the Immortals ? Further tius, the stenography of Trimethius, the on there are some severe strictures pisciculture of Sebastien de Medici, the on the impassive Goethe, as he is Tartaglia, the chronology of Scaliger, the
arithmetic of Stifels, the geometry of sometimes called, which might jus- meteorology of Stoffler, the anatomy of tify a passing suspicion of this kind. Gassendi, the pathology of Fernel, the However that may be, he pro- jurisprudence of Robert Barmne, the nounces that “music is the verb of agriculture of Quesnay, the hydrography Germany;" an oracular sentence, of Bouguer, the nautics of Bourde de which has at least all the mystery
Villehuet, the ballistics of Gribeauval,
the veterinary practice of Garsault, the proper to an oracle.
architectonics of Desgodets, the botany We must leave untouched the
of Tournefort, the scholasticism of Abeseveral panegyrics written on these lard, the politics of Plato, the mechanics fourteen sublimities which Victor of Aristotle, the physics of Descartes, Hugo has selected out of all litera- the theology of Stillingfleet: we taught ture, ancient and modern. We pro- yesterday, we teach to-day, we shall ceed to the chapters entitled Art
teach to-morrow, we shall teach for ever, and Science. Here the leading idea
the Sing, goddess, the anger of Achilles.” is indisputably true. A cry of All these learned names and anguish or of joy shall go down learned words to tell us that the through all the generations of man- knowledge of one age is not the kind; the poet of the earliest age knowledge of another! Gigantic will be intelligible to the poet of the prolixity! Does the reader wish an latest. But the science of one age instance of that profound obscurity may be unintelligible or nonsensical into which, we have said, our author to succeeding ages. Our author also occasionally falls ? we will take scorns the notion that poetry is one from the same portion of the extinct. It is as if one said, “There book. Here is something about the are no more roses ; spring has breath- common origin of art and science. ed its last; the sun has lost the Profound obscurities are generally habit of rising; roam about all the translatable, if translatable at all, fields of the earth, you will not find into some bold commonplace. That a butterfly; there is no more light may be the case in the present inin the moon, and the nightingale stance. But we will leave the passings no more; the Alps and the sage to the ingenuity of our readers : Pyrenees are gone ; there are no more lovely girls and handsome of law results from the unity of essence";
“ There can be but one law; the unity youths ; and no one thinks any nature and art are the two sides of the more of the graves, and the mother same fact.” (The starting-point seems clear and good ; we prick up our ears to What is that incomprehensible meeting listen.) "And in principle, saving the of material sublimation and moral subrestriction which we shall indicate very limation in the atom, indivisible if looked shortly, the law of one is the law of the at from life, incorruptible if looked at other. The angle of reflection equals the from death? The atom, what a marvel ! angle of incidence” (we begin to grow No dimension, no extent, nor height, giddy). * All being equity in the moral nor width, nor thickness, independent order and equilibrium in the material of every possible measure; and yet everyorder, all is equation in the intellectual thing in this nothing! For algebra, the order” (we lose consciousness, and the geometrical point. For philosophy, a reader must peruse by himself what fol- soul. As a geometrical point, the basis lows). “ The binomial theorem, that of science; as a soul, the basis of faith. marvel fitting everything, is included in Such is the atonı.” poetry not less than in algebra. Nature plus humanity, raised to the second As bearing probably on the origin power, gives art. That is the intellec- of great souls, he points to such tual binomial theorem. Now explain coincidences as these—that Newton this, A + B, by the number special to
was born in the same year in which each great artist and each great poet, Galileo died, that Cervantes and and you will have, in its multiple, phy. siognomy, and in its strict total, each of Shakespeare died in the same year; the creations of the human mind. What he points to these as coincidences more beautiful than the variety of chefs- to be studied, in the hope of attaind'ouvre resulting from the unity of law! ing from them some scientific law. Poetry, like science, has an abstract He speaks of “ men of genius comroot ; science springs out of that, the municating by their effluvia like chefs-d'oeuvre of metal, wood, fire, or air,
the stars." He is fond of this efflumachine, ship, locomotive, aeroscaph ; poetry springs out of that, the chefs- via, but whether it is a scientific
or d'æuvre of flesh and blood, 'Iliad,' 'Can. poetic expression we will not unticle of Canticles,' “Romance,' • Divine dertake to say. The method of Comedy,' 'Macbeth.'
induction is no great favourite of No great writer, we may remark his ; he has more faith in meditaen passant, whom we know any- tion or reverie.
Yes," he says, thing of, seems to be so utterly de- “ let us meditate on these vast obstitute of the scientific spirit as scurities. The characteristic of revVictor Hugo. From the relation- erie is, to gaze at darkness so inship or contrast of art and science tently that it brings light out of it.” he proceeds to discourse of the After this investigation, or ingeneration of those great souls we quiry, about souls, Shakespeare distinguish as men of genius. Of again emerges on us, and we have course, in such a subject there is a criticism on the poet. This critinothing to be done but to ask ques- cism constitutes but a small portion tions which no one can answer. of the work, and is not, we think, But even in asking unanswerable the most striking portion. The questions there may be some me- chapters where he discourses genthod displayed. A man may, we erally upon genius, and where the know, discourse of souls and atoms author gives scope to his eloquence very wildly, and yet pass for sane. on the general subject of the proDid any one, however, ever take gress of mankind, are those to which such liberties with these obscure we should look for specimens of his entities as Victor Hugo in the fol- happier vein. But there is an arlowing passage ?
dent and generous admiration in “The production of souls is the secret this part of the book which pleases, of the unfathomable depth. The innate, even though it may be excessive what a shadow ! (quelle ombre!) What and indiscriminating. Accept all! is that concentration of the unknown accept this great mind of Shakewhich takes place in the darkness, and
an ocean !” it is “ where abruptly bursts forth that light, a
world !” Good. But if one knows genius ? What is the law of these events? O Love ! The human heart does its work that a world must have all sorts of on earth, and that moves the great deep. disagreeable as well as agreeable
speare !—it is