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Bacon. Such, Mr. Shakspeare, will be the fortune of your own productions.
Shak. Ah, my lord! do not encourage me to hope so. I am but a poor unlettered man, who seizes whatever rude conceits his own natural vein supplies him with, upon the enforcement of haste and necessity; and therefore I fear that such as are of deeper studies than myself, will find many flaws in my handiwork to laugh at, both now and hereafter.
Bac. He that can make the multitude laugh and weep as you do, need not fear scholars.-A head, naturally fertile, is worth many libraries, inasmuch as a tree is more valuable than a basket of fruit, or a good hawk better than a bag full of game, or the little purse, which a fairy gave to Fortunatus, more inexhaustible than all the coffers in the treasury. More scholarship might have sharpened your judgment, but the particulars whereof a character is composed, are better assembled by force of imagination than of judgment, which, although it perceive coherences, cannot summon up materials, nor melt them into a compound, with that felicity which belongs to imagination alone.
Shak. My lord, thus far I know, that the first conception of a character in my mind, is always engendered by chance and accident. We shall suppose, for instance, that I am sitting in a tap-room, or standing in a tennis-court. The behavior of some one fixes my attention. I note his dress, the sound of his voice, the turn of his countenance, the drinks he calls for, his questions and retorts, the fashion of his person, and, in brief, the whole out-goings and in-comings of the man. These grounds of speculation being cherished and revolved in my fancy, it becomes straightway possessed with a swarm of conclusions and beliefs concerning the individual. In walking home, I picture out to myself, what would be fitting for him to say or do upon any given occasion, and these fantasies being recalled at some after period, when I am writing a play, shape themselves into divers mannikins, who are not long of being nursed into life. Thus comes forth Shallow, and Slender, and Mercutio, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Bac. These are characters which may be found alive in the streets. But how frame you such interlocutors as Brutus and Coriolanus ?
Shak. By searching histories, in the first place, my lord, for the germ. The filling up afterwards comes rather from feeling than observation. I turn myself into a Brutus or a
a Co-he'-ren-ces, union of parts.
b Fan-ta-sies, conceits.
c Man'-ni-kins, little men, dwarfs.
d In-ter-loc'-u-ter, one who speaks in dialogue.
Coriolanus for the time; and can, at least in fancy, partake sufficiently of the nobleness of their nature, to put proper words into their mouths. Observation will not supply the poet with every thing. He must have a stock of exalted sentiments in his own mind.
Bac. In truth, Mr. Shakspeare, you have observed the world so well, and so widely, that I can scarcely believe you ever shut your eyes. I, too, although much engrossed with other studies, am, in part, an observer of mankind. Their dispositions, and the causes of their good or bad fortune, cannot well be overlooked, even by the most devoted questioner of physical nature. But note the difference of habitudes. No sooner have I observed and got hold of particulars, than they are taken up by my judgment to be commented upon, and resolved into general laws. Your imagination keeps them to make pictures of. My judgment, if she find them to be comprehended under something already known by her, lets them drop, and forgets them; for which reason, a certain book of essays, which I am writing, will be small in bulk, but I trust not light in substance. Thus do men severally follow their inborn dispositions.
Shak. Every word of your lordship's, will be an adage to after times. For my part, I know my own place, and aspire not after the abstruser studies,-although I can give wisdom a welcome when she comes in my way. But the inborn dispositions, as your lordship has said, must not be warped from their natural bent, otherwise nothing but sterility will remain behind. A leg cannot be changed into an arm. Among stageplayers, our first object is to exercise a new candidate, until we discover where his vein lies.
Bac. I am told that you do not invent the plots of your own plays, but generally borrow them from some common book of stories, such as Bocaccio's Decameron, or Cynthio's Novels. That practice must save a great expenditure of thought and contrivance.
Shak. It does, my lord. I lack patience to invent the whole from the foundation.
Bac. If I guess aright, there is nothing so hard and troublesome, as the invention of coherent incidents; and yet, methinks, after it is accomplished, it does not show so high a strain of wit as that which paints separate characters and objects well. Dexterity would achieve the making of a plot better than genius, which delights not so much in tracing a curious connexion among events, as in adorning a fantasy with bright colors, and eking it out with suitable appendages.
a Ad'-age, an old saying.
Homer's plot hangs but illy together. It is indeed no better than a string of popular fables and superstitions, caught up from among the Greeks; and I believe that those who in the time of Pisistratus collected this poem, did more than himself to digest its particulars. His praise must therefore be found in this, that he reconceived, amplified," and set forth, what was dimly and poorly conceived by common men.
Shak. My knowledge of the tongues is but small; on which account I have read ancient authors mostly at second hand. I remember, when I first came to London, and began to be a hanger-on at the theaters, a great desire grew in me for more learning than had fallen to my share at Stratford; but fickleness and impatience, and the bewilderment caused by new objects, dispersed that wish into empty air. Ah, my lord, you cannot conceive what a strange thing it was for so impressible a rustic, to find himself turned loose in the midst of Babel! My faculties wrought to such a degree, that I was in a dream all day long. My bent was not then toward comedy, for most objects seemed noble and of much consideration. The music at the theater ravished my young heart; and amidst the goodly company of spectators, I beheld, afar off, beauties who seemed to out-paragon Cleopatra of Egypt. Some of these primitive fooleries were afterwards woven into Romeo and Juliet.
Bac. Your Julius Cæsar, and your Richard the Third please me better. From my youth upward I have had a brain politic and discriminative, and less prone to marveling and dreaming, than to scrutiny. Some part of my juvenile time was spent at the court of France, with our embassador, Sir Amias Paulet; and, to speak the truth, although I was surrounded by many dames of high birth and rare beauty, I carried oftener Machiavellic in my pocket than a book of madrigals; and heeded not although these wantons made sport of my grave and scholar-like demeanor. When they woul draw me forth to an encounter of their wit, I paid them off with flatteries, till they forgot their aim in thinking of themselves. Michael Angelo said of Painting, that she was jealous, and required the whole man, undivided. I was aware how much more truly the same thing might be said of Philosophy, and therefore cared not how much the ruddy complexion of my youth was sullied over the midnight lamp, or my outward comeliness sacrificed to my inward advancement.
a Pi-sis'-tra-tus, tyrant of Athens.
b Am'-pli-fi-ed, enlarged.
c Pron. Mac-e-a-vell'-ye, a learned author of Florence.
d Mad'-ri-gals, pastoral poems.
The Nature of Eloquence.
1. WHEN public bodies are to be addressed on momentous occasions, when great interests are at stake, and strong pas sions excited, nothing is valuable in speech, farther than it is connected with high intellectual and moral endowments. Clearness, force, and earnestness, are the qualities which produce conviction. True eloquence, indeed, does not consist in speech. It cannot be brought from far. Labor and learning may toil for it, but they will toil in vain.
2. Words and phrases may be marshaled in every way, but they cannot compass it. It must exist in the man, in the subject, and in the occasion. Affected passion, intense expression, the pomp of declamation, all may aspire after it; they cannot reach it. It comes, if it come at all, like the outbreaking of a fountain from the earth, or the bursting forth of volcanic fires, with spontaneous, original, native force.
3. The graces taught in the schools, the costly ornaments and studied contrivances of speech, shock and disgust men, when their own lives, and the fate of their wives, their children, and their country, hang on the decision of the hour. Then, words have lost their power, rhetoric is vain, and all elaborate oratory contemptible. Even genius itself then feels rebuked, and subdued, as in the presence of higher qualities.
4. Then, patriotism is eloquent; then, self-devotion is eloquent. The clear conception, out-running the deductions of logic, the high purpose, the firm resolve, the dauntless spirit speaking on the tongue, beaming from the eye, informing every feature, and urging the whole man onward, right onward to his object, this is eloquence. D. Webster.
a En-dow'-ments, funds, gifts.
The Perfect Orator.
1. IMAGINE to yourselves a Demosthenes, addressing the most illustrious assembly in the world, upon a point whereon the fate of the most illustrious of nations depended.
c E-lab'-o-rate, finished with exactness.
How awful such a meeting!—how vast the subject !—By the power of his eloquence the augustness of the assembly is lost in the dignity of the orator; and the importance of the subject, for a while, superseded by the admiration of his
2. With what strength of argument, with what powers of the fancy, with what emotions of the heart, does he assault and subjugate the whole man; and, at once, captivate his reason, his imagination, and his passions! To effect this, must be the utmost effort of the most improved state of human nature. Not a faculty that he possesses, but is here exerted to its highest pitch. All his internal powers are at work; all his external, testify their energies.
3. Within, the memory, the fancy, the judgment, the passions, are all busy; without, every muscle, every nerve is exerted ;--not a feature, not a limb, but speaks. The organs of the body, attuned to the exertions of the mind, through the kindred organs of the hearers, instantaneously vibrate those energies from soul to soul. Notwithstanding the diversity of minds in such a multitude, by the lightning of eloquence they are melted into one mass;-the whole assembly, actuated in one and the same way, become, as it were, but one man, and have but one voice-The universal cry is -Let us march against Philip, let us fight for our libertieslet us conquer or die. Sheridan.
Panegyric on the eloquence of Mr. Sheridan.
1. MR. SHERIDAN has this day surprised the thousands who hung with rapture on his accents, by such an array of talents, such an exhibition of capacity, such a display of powers, as are unparalleled in the annals of oratory;-a display that reflected the highest honor on himself-luster upon letters-renown upon parliament-glory upon the country.
2. Of all species of rhetoric, of every kind of eloquence, that has been witnessed or recorded, either in ancient or modern times; whatever the acuteness of the bar, the dignity of the senate, the solidity of the judgment-seat, and the sacred morality of the pulpits have hitherto furnished; nothing has equaled what we have this day heard in Westminster hall.
3. No holy seer of religion, no statesman, no orator, no
c Seer, a prophet.
a August'-ness, majesty, grandeur. b Su-per-se'-ded, displaced.