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If this mode of reasoning from cluded by the statute of limitations. analogy is adopted in one instance, Shakespeare's Latin, French, Italian, it should be carried out in all, and and Spanish quotations are remarkcæteris paribus we may, upon the able, and as correctly introduced as same grounds, assume that Shake- his technicalities in science, natural speare, amongst his many imputed vo- history, jurisprudence, and mechanics. cations and assumptions, was also a In nineteen cases out of twentyprofessional jester, a clown, a carrier, nay, in ninety-nine out of a hundreda watchman, a pedagogue, a parson, a simple solutions are nearer the mark beadle, a bailiff, a country justice, a than abstruse theories. We have courtier, a dandy, a lord mayor, a lord our own, founded on this basis, and chamberlain, a king ; seeing that his they amount to this, on long considetechnicalities are as accurately in- ration of the voluminous pleadings dividualized in all these characters which have occupied so many enthuas distinct personal identity can siastic heads, and given rise to such a separate them. Or, to go even a step pile of sophistical commentary : we further, why should he not have been opine that Shakespeare received a beta ghost, as what but actual experience ter education than is generally supcould have shadowed forth such a posed ; that this early, though incomveritable reflection of disembodied plete training, left deep traces on an being as he has given us in the impressionable soil ; that he loved buried majesty of Denmark? No, book knowledge, and devoured it rawe equally discard all these suppo- bidly whenever it came in his way; sitions, and have still a blank in that he studied still more extensively Shakespeare's life which we can only from the living fount of nature, and fill up by vague surmises, or by the the stirring world in which he moved; more probable conclusion that he was that his discursive genius supplied struggling in London for the com- him with a hundred ideas where narpetence he finally attained. He was row capacity conceives but half a one; married in his nineteenth year. At that his memory tenacious twenty-three he gave up seeking a beyond parallel, and that it united livelihood in Stratford, and went to the still more rare combination of reLondon. These are the received taining all that it acquired, and of dates-At twenty-eight, in 1589, calling those stores into usé at the we find him enrolled as a member of exact moment when they were most the Blackfriar's Theatre, and from needed. It was by this marvellous that time he followed the path in life subdivision of one commanding fawhich Providence, circumstances, or culty that his mind heaped up an destiny, or fortune, or his own self-will
, exhaustless magazine of images, with or whatever it may please casuistical the power of employing them at will. wranglers to call it, had chalked out In finefor him. Aubrey asserts, that from
* Creation's boundless temple was his the time of his leaving school, most
school, probably in 1579, until his departure Mankind his study! "Tis a royal college, or flight from Warwickshire, he was Endow'd most nobly by the King of a schoolmaster. This, again, is un- kings! supported by the slightest proof, and
There Nature in one hour teaches us more has nothing to do with the hiatus be- Than in an age your Greek and Latin tween 1583 and 1589, which so many
lore!" vague suppositions have sought to That a transcendent genius should fill up. But, if true, it would account acquire almost universal knowledge for the learning he subsequently dis- from thought, observation, study, and played, which, though small in the intercourse with his fellow-beings, is eyes of a university graduate, who surprising, but possible; while it is had gone through the classes, was far physically impossible that he should beyond the narrow modicum allowed find time within a narrow segment of to him by Dr. Farmer and those who four or five years, to learn even half a adopt the conclusions in his so-called dozen trades to excellence by practi“Unanswerable Essay," which have cal experiment. Physical power has been so frequently refuted by Dr. a limited and ascertained standard ; Maginn, &c., that they may fairly but the orbit of such a mind as be considered as out of court, and ex- Shakespeare's cannot be determined
as we gauge the circumference of a in London, preferred the shady side beer-barrel, or by any average esti- of Pall Mall to the most luxuriant mate of man in the ordinary exercise landscape, and never ventured on of man's faculties.
natatorial exercise. What becomes of the divine estro, We could have wished that the the inspiration of poetry, if we con- labour devoted by Messrs. Knight, nect its loftiest images, its sublimest Collier, Halliwell, Barry Cornwall, descriptions, with
the household avo- Campbell, Britton, Symmons, Stauncation or manual drudgery of the ton, Fullom, and many other loving poet? Burns was a tisler of the contributors to the biography of ground before he was an exciseman; Shakespeare, had cleared up more but it was not his acquaintance with surmises, and established a greater ploughs and spades, or his night- maximum of facts; but we are sinsearches after an illicit still or a cerely grateful for their efforts, though fraudulent measure, or his incidental not able to accord with all their deduccarousings, which taught him to write tions. They have agreeably exercised
Tam "O'Shanter," and the “Cot- our speculative organs, have furnishter's Saturday Night.” Petrarch did ed matter well suited to the enjoynot find the germ of his sonnets in the ment of those who are fortunate pandects of Justinian, so long his enough to afford the indulgence of daily task, in a lawyer's dismal back- horce subsecive, and, as Dr. Johnson room; nor did Goethe and Walter says, have added considerably to “the Scott conceive “Faust” and “Mar- public stock of harmless pleasure. mion” through any congenial alem- We look back to the hours employed bic associating a high stool and desk in the perusal of their volumes with with the fountain of Hippocrene. a sentiment resembling that with John Bunyan's diurnal manipulation which Cowper records his impression of pots and pans, and the shouldering of Garrick's Stratford Jubilee in of Brown Bess, supplied him with no 1769 :visions of the beautiful allegory which, though shaped in prose, is
" It was a hallow'd time: decorum reign'd,
And mirth without offence. No few conceived in poetry, and will last as long as the language in which it is
Doubtless, much edified, and all rewritten. Homer, Virgil, and Milton
freshed!" are liberal in their use of technicalities, but we have never heard it sur- From Shakespeare's personal hismised that they were guildsmen of tory, a natural concatenation leads us the arts and callings they so vividly to the history of his text, which is describe. No one ever thought of enveloped in equal uncertainty: Sewriting down Homer an operative venty-two years ago, Malone, in the blacksmith or a Benvenuto Cellini, preface to his own edition, said, rabecause he so skilfully details the ther presumptuously, “The text of handicraft of Vulcan when forging the great author seems now to be the armour and embossing the shield finally settled.” He was as far from of Achilles ; or of adding Virgil to the the mark as the finality men were in list of ornamental gardeners because 1832, when they said the Reform he dilates on a quincunx with the Bill would settle every thing. There gusto of “Capability Brown, or of have been at least seventy-two new enlisting Milton as a trooper, because editions since Malone's, each labourhe commemorates the march of the ing to cry down its precursor or conSatanic host, accompanied by their temporary, and all helping to enband, with military precision. If we shroud the real substance in such a set up as a standard of our estimate fog of conjecture that it has become of what men are by habit, practice, or almost as apocryphal as the foundaprofession, inferences derived from tion of Sir John Cutler's silk stockings. what they have written, we shall Capell, Steevens, and Malone devoted risk falling into the error of a female their lives to Shakespeare. Fortuworshipper of Thompson's "Seasons," nately for their enthusiasm, they had who said she felt convinced from his both means and leisure. Capell gave poems that the author spent his days twenty years to his version, and is in the country, and was a great swim- said to have made ten transcripts of mer. Now, the gentle Jemmy lived each play with his own hand. With all our veneration for the divine to adopt any particular profession. Williams," we cannot but call this a He enjoyed his “learned ease,” and sinful waste of time. Steevens pub- possessed amply the means of gratilished four editions, in all of which fying a pervading taste ;-the collahis own name is conjoined with that tion of rare works on classical learning, of Dr. Johnson. The last of 1793, literary antiquity, and the arts conin fifteen volumes, 8vo, received the nected with that pursuit. title of “The Immaculate,” from the George Steevens was a valuable supposed purity of the imprint. member of the world of letters, and Steevens loudly vaunted its supe- a prominent star in the constellation riority, and defies the most searching of Shakespearean editors and critics, investigation to point out a single in the century in which the names error arising from carelessness. He of Rowe, Pope, Theobald, Hanmer, was as confident in his printer as the Warburton, Capell, Johnson, Ederudite Lipsius in his memory, but we wards, Gray, Tyrwhitt, Upton, Monnever heard that he challenged the tague, Farmer, Ritson, Heath, same desperate test. This impression Richardson, Reed, Mason, and Maof 1793 is still considered by many as lone, are conspicuous. Endowed with the editio optima. There were twenty- versatility of talent, he was active five copies on large paper struck off with pen and pencil ; with the one for presents, which are very scarce, there was little he could not compose and great guns, indeed, when fired
or arrange; and with the other, off to astound an open-mouthed, cu- nothing he could not imitate so closely riosity-hunter. There is one at Al- that doubts arose as to which was thorp, the editor's own copy, left by the example and which the copy. his will to Lord Spencer, and adorned Many are the ornamental little pages with illustrations which must have hesupplied, careless of timeor trouble, cost at least £1,000. Another may for rare, old black-letter tomes, from be inspected in the library of Eton which they had been barbarously College, bequeathed thereto, with the torn ; and so accurate were his pen rest of his valuable collection, by and ink fac-similes, that even microAnthony Storer.* Malone has lately scopic comparison could scarcely found an elaborate biographer. As distinguish them from the originals. Steevens has been less fortunate, a Steevens wrote verses in the annual few episodial words here on such an Register, contributed to "Nicholl's eminent Shakespearean may, perhaps, Anecdotes of Hogarth,” and also asnot be considered irrelevant.
sisted in the “Biographia Dramatica.” This celebrated commentator and But those are merely his literary recritic was the only son of Captain G. laxations. The labour of his life Steevens, of Stepney, many years in was centered in Shakespeare, althe East India Company's service, though we do not know that he and afterwards a director, who died emulated the literal drudgery of in 1768. The subject of our brief Capell, alluded to above. But he memoir was born at Stepney, in 1736. produced an edition of the text more He received his early education at valuable than Capell's, accompanied a grammar-school, at Kingston-on- by a readable preface. Thames, from whence, in due course, But with his many requisites as a he graduated to Eton, and so on to commentator, with all his patience King's College, Carnbridge, where he and research, his sagacity and acumen, was admitted a fellow commoner, in his intimate acquaintance with the 1751 or 1752. He also figured as an language and literature, the manners, officer in the Essex Militia on its first customs, and superstitions of the age establishment; but literature was his of Shakespeare, he had some damaging passion and chief employment through defects of temper, of heart, and of life. As he inherited a handsome taste ; a pruriency in his imagination, fortune, was a bachelor, and lived and a malignancy in his wit ; a conwithin his income, he had no occasion stitutional coarseness of thought which
* Anthony Storer, who died 4th July, 1799, was a celebrated wit and fine gentleman of his day, of the George Selwyn school." See many of his letters in the “* Auckland Correspondence," published by Bentley,
dwelt too minutely on any passage emendatory or laudatory criticism, that could be twisted into an indeli- might be thought exempt from such cate allusion, and which led him to degrading propensities. In this coun-, indulge in unsparing ridicule at the try, more especially, has this disexpense of brother candidates for gusting exhibition, even to the present critical fame. He had a disposition day, sullied the labours of the comto hunt after ingenious rather than mentators on our elder dramatic obvious meanings ; a proneness to poesy; and, above all, it is to be raise difficulties where none really deplored, that Shakespeare, whose, existed, and an ear for rhythm so character was remarkable for its painfully modulated that he stumbled suavity and benevolence, who has at every broken or inharmonious line, seldom been mentioned, indeed, by and eked it out according to his own his contemporaries without the epifancy ; persuading himself that he thetsof gentleor beloved accompanying thus perfected the meaning of Shakes- his name, should have his pages polpeare, and faithfully filled up the luted by such a mass of idle contenlacunæ progressively multiplied by tion, and vindictive abuse." These time, careless typography, negligence remarks apply forcibly to the recent or ignorance.
But his ear was squabble on the “ Perkins Folio,” (of mechanically exact rather than poeti- which more anon), which has given cally tuned. He thought more of a birth to as much acrimonious invective perfect iambic than of a rich, imagina- as Ritson or Steevens could have tive idea. He measured verses by vented in their bitterest moods. the number of feet, rather than by When Steevens was employed on, the melody or grace of expression. his magnum opus, he revised the
Mr. Steevens," observes Kemble, * proof-sheets with untiring diligence. "had no ear for the colloquial metre To this work he devoted solely, and of our old dramatists. It is not exclusively of all other attentions, a possible, on any other supposition, to period of eighteen months. During, account for his whimsical desire, and that time he left his house, at Hampthe pains he took to fetter thé en- stead, every morning at one o'clock, chanting freedom of Shakespeare's with the patrol, and proceeding withnumbers, and compel them into the out any thought of weather or season, heroic march and cadence of epic called up the compositor, and woke versification. The 'native wood all his devils :notes wild,' that could delight the cultivated ear of Milton, must not be
" IIim late from Hampstead, journeying to modulated anew, to indulge the
his book, fastidiousness of those who read
Aurora oft for Cephalus mistook;
What time he brush'd the dews with hasty verses by their fingers.” John
pace, Kemble, however, falls into the op
To meet the printer's dev'let face to posite extreme. In the acting versions face."I of his adaptations of Shakespeare, the broken lines are as numerous and At the chambers of his friend, arbitrary as Steevens's gratuitous com- Isaac Reed, where he was allowed to pletions.
admit himself, with a sheet of the Dr. Drake, speaking of critical Shakespeare letter-press ready for emendations generally, has these salu- correction, he found a room prepared tary remarkst :-“It is, indeed, a to receive him, also any book he most melancholy consideration, that might wish to consult; and to Mr. some of the worst passions of the Reed's pillow he could apply on human heart, and some of the any doubt or sudden suggestion, for coarsest language by which literature a knowledge of English literature, has been disgraced, are to be found perhaps equal to his own.
This nocamongst the race of commentators, turnal toil greatly accelerated the a class of men who, from the very printing of the work, as while the nature of their pursuit, that of printers slept the editor was awake;
* “Macbeth and Richard III.," an Essay by J. P. Kemble, 1817, p. 201.
“Memorials of Shakespeare," 1828, p. 20.
and thus in less than twenty months trate his own Shakespeare with 1,500 he completed his last splendid edi- portraits of all the persons named in tion. That he contented himself the text or notes, of which he could with being a commentator, arose, make drawings or procure engravprobably, from the habits of his life, ings. His set of Hogarths, bequeathand his devotion to the name with ed to Mr. Windham, was supposed to which it was his ambition to connect be the most complete that ever was his own inseparably. On his last collected. His corrected and enedition of Shakespeare, subsequently larged copy of his own Shakespeare of enlarged by materials he left behind 1793, prepared for a new edition, he him to twenty-one volumes of the consigned to Isaac Reed, with a same size, and printed under the care bequest of two hundred guineas. The of Mr. Reed in 1803, after his own bulk of his fortune, including his lideath, the literary reputation of brary, he left to his niece and residuGeorge Steevens must entirely rest. ary legatee, Miss Steevens, with whom
He was a man of untiring perse- he held little intercourse while he verance in every thing he undertook ; lived. There were only two or three sometimes constant, but not always small legacies in money. The library consistent; crotchety and eccentric, contained many rare and curious impulsive and variable, vindictive and tomes, the collection of which formed placable, prudent and liberal. He was one of the owner's chief delights. seldom seen to give eleemosynary six- It was sold by auction very soon pences to sturdy beggars or sweep after his death. The catalogue of ers of crossings; but few persons dis- 1,943 articles produced £2,740 158. tributed bank-notes with
Steevens's learning was not congenerosity. Many acts of pecuniary fined to English literature. He was kindness might be recorded as offsets equally well acquainted with the to his reputed failings. Without any belles lettres of Europe ; also a clasostensible reason or assigned cause, sical scholar and historian of the first he would sometimes suddenly aban- order. He possessed a strong oridon his most confirmed habits. He ginal genius, and an overflowing wit. discontinued his daily visits to With these qualities, his colloquial White's, the bookseller, after many powers were brilliant beyond those of years of clock-work attendance, and ordinary men. In argument, he was unwould never say why; and he left commonly eloquent, and his eloquence Stockdale, whom he took up on was at once logical and diversified. quitting White's, in the same unac- His descriptions were so true to nature, countable manner. He never took a his figures so distinctly sketched, so pinch of snuff' after he lost his box in curiously selected, and so harmoniSt. Paul's Church-yard, though he ously grouped, that he was sometimes was much addicted to the indulgence, called a speaking Hogarth. In his and in the habit of making his sportive humour he descended to memoranda by bits of paper in his ribaldry, and was too prone to catch box. He bestowed much time and the ridiculous in persons and things. cash on his collection of books and He was one of those men who would prints. He bought largely at Baker's rather wound a friend than lose a auction .of Sir Clement Dormer's joke ; a disposition which made him library, collected by General Dormer, many enemies, and gave him a repuwhere he got the rare French trans- tation for ill-nature beyond what he lation of Xenophon's works, by Py- really deserved. Ritson, when they ramus de Candale, Cologne, 1613, quarrelled, called him Sycorax; and bound in morocco, and worth forty he retorted by calling Ritson Calipounds, for twelve guineas. He had ban. the second folio of Shakespeare which There are those who would rather had belonged to Charles I., with notes sustain a positive injury than writhe in the king's own hand, the royal under a sarcastic criticism ; or, at arms, and the motto, “ Dum spiro least, of such criticisms as were utterspero. He never would sit for his ed by Steevens, which were remempicture, but had no objection to illus- bered by all who heard, and repeated
King George the III. bought it at Steevens's sale for eighteen guineas,