THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. VIII.–SEPTEMBER, 1861.–NO. XLVII.
THE SHAKESPEARE MYSTERY.
In 1853 there went up a jubilant cry from many voices upon the publication of Mr. Collier’s “Notes and Emendations to the Text of Shakespeare’s Plays from Early Manuscript Corrections,” etc. “Now,” it was said, “doubt and controversy are at an end. The text is settled by the weight of authority, and in accordance with common sense. We shall enjoy our Shakespeare in peace and quiet.” Hopeless ignorance of Shakespeare-loving nature! The shout of rejoicing had hardly been uttered before there arose a counter cry of warning and defiance from a few resolute lips, which, swelling, mouth by mouth, as attention was aroused and conviction strengthened, has overwhelmed the other, now sunk into a feeble apologetic plea. The dispute upon the marginal readings in this notorious volume, as to their intrinsic value and their pretence to authority upon internal evidence, has ended in the rejection of nearly all of the few which are known to be peculiar to it, and the conclusion against any semblance of such authority. The investigation of the external evidence of their genuineness, though it has not been quite so satisfactory upon all points, has brought to light so many suspicious circumstances connected with Mr. Collier’s production of them before the public, that they must be regarded as unsupported by the moral weight of good faith in the only person who is responsible for them.
Since our previous article upon this subject,[A] nothing has appeared upon it in this country; but several important publications have been made in London concerning it; and, in fact, this department of Shakespearian literature threatens to usurp a special shelf in the dramatic library. The British Museum has fairly entered the field, not only in the persons of Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Maskelyne, but in that of Sir Frederic Madden himself, the head of its Manuscript Department, and one of the very first paleographers of the age; Mr. Collier has made a formal reply; the Department of Public Records has spoken through Mr. Duffus Hardy; the “Edinburgh Review” has taken up the controversy on one side and “Fraser’s Magazine” on the other; the London “Critic” has kept up a galling fire on Mr. Collier, his folio, and his friends, to which the “Athenaeum” has replied by an occasional shot, red-hot; the author of “Literary Cookery,” (said to be Mr. Arthur Edmund Brae,) a well-read, ingenious, caustic, and remorseless writer, whose first book was suppressed as libellous, has returned to the charge, and not less effectively because more temperately; and finally an LL.D., Mansfield Ingleby, of Trinity College, Cambridge, comes forward with a “Complete View of the Controversy,” which is manifestly meant for a complete extinction of Mr. Collier. Dr. Ingleby’s book is quite a good one of its kind, and those who seek to know the history and see the grounds of this famous and bitter controversy will find it very serviceable. It gives, what it professes to give, a complete view of the whole subject from the beginning, and treats most of the prominent points of it with care, and generally with candor. Its view, however, is from the stand-point of uncompromising hostility to Mr. Collier, and its spirit not unlike that with which a man might set out to exterminate vermin.[B]
[Footnote A: October, 1859. No. XXIV.]
[Footnote B: We do not attribute the spirit of Dr. Ingleby’s book to any inherent malignity or deliberately malicious purpose of its author, but rather to that relentless partisanship which this folio seems to have excited among the British critics. So we regard his reference to “almighty smash” and “catawampously chawed up” as specimens of the language used in America, and his disparagement of the English in vogue here, less as a manifestation of a desire to misrepresent, or even a willingness to sneer, than as an amusing exhibition of utter ignorance. In what part of America and from what lips did Dr. Ingleby ever hear these phrases? We have never heard them; and in a somewhat varied experience of American life have never been in any society, however humble, in which they would not excite laughter, if not astonishment, –astonishment even greater than that with which Americans of average cultivation would read such phrases as these in a goodly octavo published by a Doctor of the Laws of Cambridge University. “And one ground upon which the hypothesis of Hamlet’s insanity has been built is ‘_swagged_.'” (_Complete View_, p. 82.) “The interests of literature _jeopardized_, but not compromised.” (_Ib_. p. 10.) “The rest of Mr. Collier’s remarks on the H.S. letter _relates_,” etc. (_Ib_. p. 260.) “_In_ the middle of this volume has been foisted.” (_Ib_. p. 261.) We shall not say that this is British English; but we willingly confess that it is not American English. Such writing would not be tolerated in the leading columns of any newspaper of reputation in this country; it might creep in among the work of the second or third rate reporters.]
And here we pause a moment to consider the temper in which this question has been discussed among the British critics and editors. From the very beginning, eight years ago, there have been manifestations of personal animosity, indications of an eagerness to seize the opportunity of venting long secreted venom. This has appeared as well in books as in more ephemeral publications, and upon both sides, and even between writers on the same side. On every hand there has been a most deplorable impeachment of motive, accompanied by a detraction of character by imputation which is quite shocking. Petty personal slights have been insinuated as the ultimate cause of an expression of opinion upon an important literary question, and testimony has been impeached and judgment disparaged by covert allegations of disgraceful antecedent conduct on the part of witnesses or critics. Indeed, at times there has seemed reason to believe the London “Literary Gazette” (we quote from memory) right in attributing this whole controversy to a quarrel which has long existed in London, and which, having its origin in the alleged abstraction of manuscripts from a Cambridge library by a Shakespearian scholar, has made most of the British students of this department of English letters more or less partisans on one side or the other. Certainly the “Saturday Review” is correct, (in all but its English,) when it says that in this controversy “a mere literary question and a grave question of personal character are being awkwardly mixed together, and neither question is being conducted in a style at all satisfactory or creditable to literary men.”
Mr. Collier is told by Mr. Duffus Hardy that “he has no one to blame but himself” for “the tone which has been adopted by those who differ from him upon this matter,” because he, (Mr. Collier,) by his answer in the “Times” to Mr. Hamilton, made it “a personal, rather than a literary question.” But, we may ask, how is it possible for a man accused of palming off a forgery upon the public to regard the question as impersonal, even although it may not be alleged in specific terms that he is the forger? Mr. Collier is like the frog in the fable. This pelting with imputations of forgery may be very fine fun to the pelters, but it is death to him. To them, indeed, it may be a mere question of evidence and criticism; but to him it must, in any case, be one of vital personal concern. Yet we cannot find any sufficient excuse for the manner in which Mr. Collier has behaved in this affair from the very beginning. His cause is damaged almost as much by his own conduct, and by the tone of his defence, as by the attacks of his accusers. A very strong argument against his complicity in any fraudulent proceeding in relation to his folio might have been founded upon an untarnished reputation, and a frank and manly attitude on his part; but, on the contrary, his course has been such as to cast suspicion upon every transaction with which he has been connected.
First he says[C] that he bought this folio in 1849 to “complete another poor copy of the seconde folio”; and in the next paragraph he adds, “As it turned out, I at first repented my bargain, because when I took it home, it appeared that two leaves which I wanted were unfit for my purpose, not merely by being too short, but damaged and defaced.” And finally he says that it was not until the spring of 1850 that he “observed some marks in the margin of this folio.” Now did Mr. Collier, by some mysterious instinct, light directly, first upon one of the leaves, and then upon the other, which he wished to find, in a folio of nine hundred pages? It is almost incredible that he did so once; that he did so twice is quite beyond belief. It is equally incredible, that if the textual changes were then upon the margins in the profusion in which they now exist, he could have looked for the two leaves which he needed without noticing and examining such a striking peculiarity. Clearly those marginal readings must have been seen by Mr. Collier in his search for the two leaves he needed, or they have been written since. Either case is fatal to his reputation. His various accounts of his interviews with Mr. Parry, who, it was thought, once owned the book, are inconsistent with each other, and at variance with Mr. Parry’s own testimony, and the probabilities, not to say the possibilities, of the case. He says, for instance, that he showed the folio to Mr. Parry; and that Mr. Parry took it into his hand, examined it, and pronounced it the volume he had once owned. But, on the contrary, Mr. Parry says that Mr. Collier showed him no book; that he exhibited only fac-similes; that he (Mr. Parry) was, on the occasion in question, unable to hold a book, as his hands were occupied with two sticks, by the assistance of which he was limping along the road. And on being shown Mr. Collier’s folio at the British Museum, Mr. Parry said that he never saw that volume before, although he distinctly remembered the size and appearance of his own folio; and the accuracy of his memory has been since entirely confirmed by the discovery of a fly-leaf lost from his folio which conforms to his description, and is of a notably different size and shape from the leaves of the Collier folio.[D]–Mr. Collier has declared, in the most positive and explicit manner, that he has “often gone over the thousands of marks of all kinds” on the margins of his folio; and again, that he has “reexamined every fine and letter”; and finally, that, to enable “those interested in such matters” to “see _the entire body _in the shortest form,” he “appended them to the present volume [_Seven Lectures_, etc.] in one column,” etc. This column he calls, too, “A List of _Every Manuscript Note and Emendation_ in Mr. Collier’s Copy of Shakespeare’s Works, folio, 1632.” Now Mr. Hamilton, having gone over the margins of “Hamlet” in the folio, finds that Mr. Collier’s published list “_does not contain one-half_ of the corrections, many of the most significant being among those omitted.” He sustains his allegation by publishing the results of the collation of “Hamlet,” to which we shall hereafter refer more particularly, when we shall see that the reason of Mr. Collier’s suppression of so large a portion of these alterations and additions was, that their publication would have made the condemnation of his folio swift and certain. We have here a distinct statement of the thing that is not, and a manifest and sufficient motive for the deception.
[Footnote C: Notes and Emendations, p. vii.]
[Footnote D: This volume is universally spoken of as the Perkins folio by the British critics. But we preserve the designation under which it is so widely known in America.]
It has also been discovered that Mr. Collier has misrepresented the contents of the postscript of a letter from Mistress Alleyn to her husband, Edward Alleyn, the eminent actor of Shakespeare’s day. This letter was first published by Mr. Collier in his “Memoirs of Edward Alleyn” in 1841, where he represents the following broken passage as part of it:–
“Aboute a weeke a goe there came a youthe who said he was Mr Frauncis Chaloner who would have borrowed X’li. to have bought things for … and _said he was known unto you and Mr Shakespeare of the globe, who came … said he knewe hym not, onely he herde of hym that he was a roge… so he was glade we did not lend him the monney … Richard Johnes [went] to seeke_ and inquire after the fellow,” etc.
The paper on which this postscript is written is very much decayed, and has been broken and torn away by the accidents of time; but enough remains to show that the passage in question stands thus,–the letters in brackets being obliterated:–
“Aboute a weeke agoe ther[e] [cam]e a youthe who said he was || Mr. Frauncis Chalo[ner]s man [& wou]ld have borrow[e]d x’s.–to || have bought things for [hi]s Mri[s]….. [tru]st hym || Cominge wthout… token…. d ||I would have…. || [i]f I bene sue[r] ….. || and inquire after the fellow,” etc.
The parallels || in the above paragraph indicate the divisions of the lines in the original manuscript; and a moment’s examination will convince the reader that the existence of those words of Mr. Collier’s version which we have printed in Italic letter in the place to which he assigns them is a physical impossibility, as Mr. Hamilton has clearly shown.[E] And that the mention of Shakespeare, and what he said, was not on a part of the letter which has been broken away, is made certain by the fortunate preservation of enough of the lower margin to show that no such passage could have been written upon it.
[Footnote E: _An Inquiry_, etc., pp. 86-89. See also Ingleby’s _Complete View_, etc., pp. 279-288. Both Mr. Hamilton and Dr. Ingleby give fac-similes of this important postscript.]
Mr. Collier has also been convicted by Mr. Dyce of positive and malicious misrepresentation in various passages of the Prolegomena and Notes to his last edition of Shakespeare. (London, 1858, 6 vols.) The misrepresentations refer so purely to matters of textual criticism, and the exhibition of even one of them would involve the quotation of passages so uninteresting to the general reader, that we shall ask him to be content with our assurance that these disgraceful attempts to injure a literary opponent and former friend assume severally the form of direct misstatement, suppression of the truth, prevarication, and cunning perversion; the manner and motive throughout being very shabby.[F] The purpose of all these attacks upon Mr. Dyce is not only to wound and disparage him, but to secure for the writer a reputation for superior sagacity and antiquarian learning; and we regret that we are obliged to close this part of our paper by saying that we find that the same motive has led Mr. Collier into similar courses during a great part of his literary career. It has been necessary for us to examine all that he has written upon Shakespeare, and we have again and again found ourselves misled into giving him temporary credit for a point established or a fact discovered, when in truth this credit was due to Malone or Chalmers or some other Shakespearian scholar of the past century, and was sought to be appropriated by Mr. Collier, not through direct misstatement, but by such an ingenious wording and construction of sentences as would accomplish the purpose without absolute falsehood. An instance of this kind of manoeuvring is brought to light in connection with the investigations into the discovery and character of a paper known as “The Players’ Petition,” which was first made public by Mr. Collier in his “Annals of the Stage,” (Vol. i. p. 298,) and which has been pronounced a forgery. Of this he says, in his “Reply to Mr. Hamilton,” (p. 59,) “Mr. Lemon, Senior, _undoubtedly did_ bring the ‘Players’ Petition’ under my notice, and very much obliged I was,” etc. Now Mr. Collier, in the “Annals of the Stage,” after extended remarks upon the importance of the document, merely says, “This remarkable paper has, perhaps, never seen the light from the moment it was presented, until it was recently discovered.” No direct assertion here that Mr. Collier discovered it, but a leading of the reader to infer that he did; and not a word about Mr. Lemon’s agency, until, upon the suggestion of that gentleman’s son, it is serviceable to Mr. Collier to remember it. By reference to Mr. Grant White’s “Shakespeare,” Vol. ii. p. lx., an instance may be seen of a positive misstatement by Mr. Collier, of which, whatever the motive or the manner, the result is to deprive Chalmers of a microscopic particle of antiquarian credit and to bestow it upon himself. In fact, our confidence in Mr. Collier’s trustworthiness, which, diminished by discoveries like these, as our knowledge of his labors increased, has been quite extinguished under the accumulated evidence of either his moral obliquity or his intellectual incapacity for truth. We can now accept from him, merely upon his word, no statement as true by which he has anything to gain.
[Footnote F: See Dyce’s _Strictures_, etc., pp. 2, 22, 28, 35, 51, 54, 56, 57, 58, 70, 123, 127, 146, 168, 192, 203, 204.]
The bad effect of what he does is increased by the manner in which he seeks to shield himself from the consequences of his acts. He should have said at once, “Let this matter be investigated, and here am I to aid in the investigation,” Soon after this folio was brought into public notice, Mr. Charles Knight proposed that it should be submitted to a palaeographic examination by gentlemen of acknowledged competence; but so far was Mr. Collier from yielding to this suggestion, that we have good reason for saying that it was not until after the volume passed, in 1859, into the hands of Sir Frederic Madden of the British Museum, that the more eminent Shakespearian scholars in London had even an opportunity to look at it closely.[G] The attacks upon the genuineness of the writing on its margins Mr. Collier was at once too ready to regard as impeachments of his personal integrity, and to shirk by making counter-insinuations against the integrity of his opponents and the correctness of their motives. He attributes to the pettiest personal spite or jealousy the steps which they have taken in discharge of a duty to the interests of literature and the literary guild, and at the risk of their professional reputations, and then slinks back from his charges with,–“I have been told this, but I don’t believe it: this may be so, but yet it cannot be: I did something that Mr. So-and-so’s father did not like, yet I wouldn’t for a moment insinuate,” etc., etc.[H] Then, Mr. Collier, why do you insinuate? And what in any case do you gain? Suppose the men who deny the good faith of your marginalia are the small-souled creatures you would have us believe they are, they do not make this denial upon their personal responsibility merely; they produce facts. Meet those; and do not go about to make one right out of two wrongs. Cease, too, this crawling upon your belly before the images of dukes and carls and lord chief-justices; digest speedily the wine and biscuits which a gentleman has brought to you in his library, and let them pass away out of your memory. Let us have no more such sneaking sentences as, “I have always striven to make myself as unobjectionable as I could”; but stand up like a man and speak like a man, if you have aught to say that is worth saying; and your noble patrons, no less than the world at large, will have more faith in you, and more respect for you.
[Footnote G: Such hasty examinations as those which it must have received at the Society of Antiquaries and the Shakespeare Society, where Mr. Collier took it, are of little importance.]
[Footnote H: See, for instance, “I have been told, but I do not believe it, that Sir F. Madden and his colleagues were irritated by this piece of supposed neglect; and that they also took it ill that I presented the Perkins folio to the kindest, most condescending, and most liberal of noblemen, instead of giving it to their institution.” (_Reply_, p. 11.) And see the same pamphlet and Mr. Collier’s letters, _passim_.]
But what has been established by the examination of Mr. Collier’s folio and the manuscripts which he has brought to light? These very important points:–
The folio contains more than twice, nearly three times, as many marginal readings, including stage-directions and changes of orthography, as are enumerated in Mr. Collier’s “List of Every,” etc.
The margins retain in numerous places the traces of pencil-memorandums.[I]
[Footnote I: This is finally admitted even by Mr. Collier’s supporters. The Edinburgh Reviewer says,–“But then the mysterious pencil-marks! They are there, most undoubtedly, and in very great numbers too. The natural surprise that they were not earlier detected is somewhat diminished on inspection. Some say they have ‘come out’ more in the course of years; whether this is possible we know not. But even now they are hard to discover, until the eye has become used to the search. But when it has,–especially with the use of a glass at first,–they become perceptible enough, words, ticks, points, and all.”]
These pencil-memorandums are in some instances written in a modern cursive hand, to which marginal readings in ink, written in an antique hand, correspond.
There are some pencil-memorandums to which no corresponding change in ink has been made; and one of these is in short-hand of a system which did not come into use until 1774.[J]
[Footnote J: In _Coriolanus_, Act v. sc. 2, (p. 55, col. 2, of the C. folio,) “struggles or instead noise,”–plainly a memorandum for a stage-direction in regard to the impending fracas between Menenius and the Guard.]
These pencil-memorandums in some instances underlie the words in ink which correspond to them.
Similar modern pencil-writing, underlying in like manner antique-seeming words in ink, has been discovered in the Bridgewater folio, (Lord Ellesmere’s,) the manuscript readings in which Mr. Collier was the first to bring into notice.
Some of the pencilled memorandums in the folio of 1632 seem to be unmistakably in the handwriting of Mr. Collier.[K]
[Footnote K: Having at hand some of Mr. Collier’s own writing in pencil, we are dependent as to this point, in regard to the pencillings in the folio, only upon the accuracy of the fac-similes published by Mr. Hamilton and Dr. Ingleby, which correspond in character, though made by different fac-similists.]
Several manuscripts, professing to be contemporary with Shakespeare, and containing passages of interest in regard to him, or to the dramatic affairs of his time, have been pronounced spurious by the highest palaeographic authorities in England, and in one of them (a letter addressed to Henslow, and bearing Marston’s signature) a pencilled guide for the ink, like those above mentioned, has been discovered. These manuscripts were made public by Mr. Collier, who professed to have discovered them chiefly in the Bridgewater and Dulwich collections.
In his professed reprint of one manuscript (Mrs. Alleyn’s letter) Mr. Collier has inserted several lines relating to Shakespeare which could not possibly have formed a part of the passage which he professes to reprint.
In the above enumeration we have not included the many complete and partial erasures upon the margins of Mr. Collier’s folio; because these, although they are inconsistent with the authoritative introduction of the manuscript readings, do not affect the question of the good faith of the person who introduced those readings, or serve as any indication of the period at which he did his work. But it must be confessed that the points enumerated present a very strong, and, when regarded by themselves, an apparently incontrovertible case against Mr. Collier and the genuineness of the folios and the manuscripts which he has brought to light. Combined with the evidence of his untrustworthiness, they compel, even from us who examine the question without prejudice, the unwilling admission that there can be no longer any doubt that he has been concerned in bringing to public notice, under the prestige of his name, a mass of manuscript matter of seeming antiquity and authority much of which at least is spurious. We say, without prejudice; for it cannot be too constantly kept in mind that the question of the genuineness of the manuscript readings in Mr. Collier’s folio–that is, of the good faith in which they were written–has absolutely nothing whatever to do with that of their value or authority, at least in our judgment. Six years before the appearance of Mr. Hamilton’s first letter impeaching their genuineness, we had expressed the decided opinion that they were “entitled to no other consideration than is due to their intrinsic excellence”;[L] and this opinion is now shared even by the authority which gave them at first the fullest and most uncompromising support.[M]
[Footnote L: See _Putnam’s Magazine_, October, 1853, and _Shakespeare’s Scholar_, 1854, p. 74.]
[Footnote M: See the London _Athenaeum_ of January 8th, 1853:–“We cannot hesitate to infer that there must have been _something more than mere conjecture_,–some authority from which they were derived…. The consideration of the nine omitted lines stirs up Mr. Collier to a little greater boldness on the question of authority; but, after all, we do not think he goes the full length which the facts would warrant.”
Compare this with the following extracts from the same journal of July 9th, 1859;–“The folio never had any ascertained external authority. All the warrant it has ever brought to reasonable critics is internal.” “If anybody, in the heat of argument, ever claimed for them [the MS. readings] a right of acceptance beyond the emendations of Theobald, Malone, Dyce, and Singer, (that is, a right not justified by their obvious utility or beauty,) such a claim must have been untenable, by whomsoever urged.”]
Other points sought to be established against Mr. Collier and the genuineness of his manuscript authorities must be noticed in an article which aims at the presentation of a comprehensive view of this subject. These are based on certain variations between Mr. Collier’s statements as to the readings of his manuscript authorities and a certain supposed “philological” proof of the modern origin of one of those authorities, the folio of 1632. Upon all these points the case of Mr. Collier’s accusers breaks down. It is found, for instance, that in the folio an interpolated line in “Coriolanus,” Act iii. sc. 2, reads,–
“To brook _controul_ without the use of anger,”
and that so Mr. Collier gave it in both editions of his “Notes and Emendations,” in his fac-similes made for private distribution, in his vile one-volume Shakespeare, and in the “List,” etc., appended to the “Seven Lectures.” But in his new edition of Shakespeare’s Works (6 vols. 1858) he gives it,–
“To brook _reproof_ without the use of anger,”
and hereupon Dr. Ingleby asks,–“Is it not possible that here Mr. Collier’s remarkable memory is too retentive, and that, though second thoughts may be best, first thoughts are sometimes inconveniently remembered to the prejudice of the second?”[N] Here we see a palpable slip of memory or of the pen, by which an old man substituted one word for another of similar import, as many a younger man has done before him, tortured into evidence of forgery. Such an objection is worthy of notice only as an example of the carping, unjudicial spirit in which this subject is treated by some of the British critics.
[Footnote N: _The Shakespeare Fabrications_, p. 45.]
Mr. Collier is accused at least of “inaccuracy” and “ignorance” on account of some of these variations. Thus, in Mrs. Alleyn’s Letter, she says that a boy “would have borrowed x’s.” (ten shillings); and this Mr. Collier reads “would have borrowed x’li.” (ten pounds). Whereupon Mr. Duffus Hardy, Assistant Keeper of the Public Records, produces this as one of “the most striking” of Mr. Collier’s inaccuracies in regard to this letter, and says that it “certainly betrays no little ignorance, as 10_l_. in those days would have equalled about 60_l_. of our present money.” “A strange youth,” he adds, “calls on Mrs. Alleyn and asks the loan of 10_l_. as coolly as he would ask for as many pence!” Let us measure the extent of the ignorance shown by this inaccuracy, and estimate its significance by a high standard. In one of the documents which Mr. Collier has brought forward–an account by Sir Arthur Mainwayring, auditor to Sir Thomas Egerton, in James I.’s reign, which is pronounced to be a forgery, and which probably is one–is an entry which mentions the performance of “Othello” in 1602. The second part of this entry is,[O]–
“Rewards; to m’r. Lyllyes man w’ch } brought y’e lotterye boxe to }
x’s. Harefield: p m’r. Andr. Leigh.” }
[Footnote O: See the fac-simile in Dr. Ingleby’s _Complete View_. p. 262.]
Mr. Lyllye’s man got ten shillings, then, for his job,–very princely pay in those days. But Mr. Hardy[P] prints this entry,–“Rewarde to Mr. Lillye’s man, which brought the lotterye box to Harefield x’li.”–ten _pounds_!–the same sum that Mr. Collier made Mr. Chaloner’s boy ask of Mrs. Alleyn. In other words, according to Mr. Hardy, Sir Arthur Mainwayring gave a serving-man, for carrying a box, ten pounds as coolly as he would have given as many pence! Now, Mr. Hardy, “as 10_l_. in those days would have equalled about 60_l_. of our present money,” on your honor and your palaeographical reputation, does it betray “no little ignorance” to mistake, or, if you please, to misprint, 10’s. for ten 10’li.? If no, so much the better for poor Mr. Collier; but if ay, is not the Department of Public Records likely to come to grief?[Q]
[Footnote P: _A Review_, etc., p. 60.]
[Footnote Q: We could point out numerous other similar failures and errors in the publications in which Mr. Collier is attacked; but we cannot spare time or space for these petty side-issues.]
A very strong point has been made upon the alteration of “so eloquent as a _chair_” to “so eloquent as a _cheer_” in Mr. Collier’s folio. It is maintained by Mr. Arthur Edmund Brae, and by Dr. Ingleby, that “cheer” as a shout of “admirative applause” did not come into use until the latter part of the last century. This is the much vaunted philologico-chronological proof that the manuscript readings in that folio are of very recent origin. Dr. Ingleby devotes twenty pages to this single topic. Never was labor more entirely wasted. For the result of it all is the establishment of these facts in regard to “cheer”:–that shouts of encouragement and applause were called “cheers” as early, at least, as 1675, and that in the middle of the century 1500, if not before, “to cheer” meant to utter an audible expression of applause. The first appears from the frequent use of the noun in the Diary of Henry Teonge, a British Navy Chaplain, dated 1675-1679, by which it appears that “three cheers” were given then, just as they are now; the second, from a passage in Phaer’s Translation of the “Aeneid,” published in 1558, in which “_Excipiunt plausu pavidos_” is rendered “The Trojans them did _chere_.” And now will it be believed that an LL.D. of Trinity College, Cambridge, and a professed student of Shakespeare, seeks to avoid the force of these facts by pleading, that, although Teonge speaks of “three cheers,” it does not follow that there was such a thing known in his day as a cheer; that “three cheers” was a recognized phrase for a certain naval salute; and that “to confound _three cheers_ with _a cheer_ would be as ignorant a proceeding as to confound the phrases ‘manning the yards’ and ‘manning a yard'”?–Exactly, Dr. Ingleby,–just as ignorant; but three times one are three; and when one yard is manned the sailors have manned a yard, and while they are a-doing it they are manning a yard. What did the people call one-third of their salute in 1675? And are we to suppose that they were never led to give “one more” cheer, as they do nowadays? And have the LL.D.s of Cambridge–old Cambridge–yet to learn that the compound always implies the preexistence of the simple, and that “a cheer” is, by logical necessity, the antecedent of “three cheers”? Can they fail to see, too, as “cheer” meant originally face, then countenance, then comfort, encouragement, that, before it could be used as a verb to mean the _expression_ of applause, it must have previously been used as a noun to mean applause? And finally, has an intelligent and learned student of Shakespeare read him so imperceptively as not to know, that, if “cheer,” or any other word, had been used in his time only as a verb, he would not have hesitated a moment about using it as a noun, if it suited his purpose to do so? That the original text in the passage in question, “so eloquent as a chair,” is correct, we have no doubt; but the attempt to make the introduction of “cheer” into Mr. Collier’s folio a chronological test of the good faith of its MS. readings has failed entirely.
But Mr. Collier’s accusers fall short of their aim upon other and no less important points. It seems more than doubtful that the spuriousness of all the marginal readings in the notorious folio and all the documents brought forward by Mr. Collier has been established. Under ordinary circumstances, when palaeographers like Sir Frederic Madden, Sir Francis Palgrave, and Mr. Duffus Hardy, tell us that a manuscript, professing to be ancient and original, is a modern fabrication, we submit at once. A judgment pronounced by such experts commands the unquestioning deference of laymen; unless, indeed, the doctors differ; and then the humblest and most ignorant of us all must endeavor to decide between them. And when a court, under extraordinary circumstances,–and those of the present case are very extraordinary,– not only pronounces judgment, but feels compelled to assign the reasons for that judgment, thinking men who are interested in the question under consideration will examine the evidence and weigh the arguments for themselves.
In the present case reasons have been given by Sir Frederic Madden, Mr. Hardy, and Dr. Ingleby, the chief-justice and two puisne judges of our court. The first says, (in his letter of March 24th, 1860, to the London “Critic,”) that, on examining the folio with Mr. Bond, the Assistant Keeper of his Department, they were both “struck with the very suspicious character of the writing,”–certainly the work of one hand, but presenting varieties of forms assignable to different periods,–the evident painting of the letters, and the artificial look of the ink.
Mr. Hardy speaks more explicitly to the same purpose; and we must quote him at some length. He says,–
“The handwriting of the notes and alterations in the Devonshire folio [Mr. Collier’s] is of a mixed character, varying even in the same page, from the stiff, labored Gothic hand of the sixteenth century to the round text-hand of the nineteenth, a fact most perceptible in the capital letters. It bears unequivocal marks also of laborious imitation throughout.
“In their broader characteristics, the features of the handwriting of this country, from the time of the Reformation, may be arranged under four epochs, sufficiently distinct to elucidate our argument:–
“1. The stiff upright Gothic of Henry VIII. and Edward VI.
“2. The same, inclining and less stiff, as a greater amount of correspondence demanded an easier style of writing, under Elizabeth.
“3. The cursive, based on an Italian model, (the Gothic becoming more flexible and now rapidly disappearing,) in the reign of James I., and continuing in use for about a century.
“4. The round hand of the schoolmaster, under the House of Hanover, degenerating into the careless, half-formed hands of the present day.
“Now it is perfectly possible that any two of these hands in succession may have been practised by the same person…. That the first and third or the second and fourth should be coexistent is very improbable. That all, or that the first, second, and fourth, should be found together, as belonging to one and the same era, we hold to be utterly impossible.
“Yet this is a difficulty that Mr. Collier has to explain; as the handwritings of the MS. corrections in the Devonshire folio, including those in pencil, vary as already said, from the stiff, upright, labored, and earlier Gothic, to the round text-hand of the nineteenth century.”[R]
[Footnote R: A _Review_, etc., pp. 6, 7.]
On this point Dr. Ingleby says, succinctly and decidedly, “The primal evidence of the forgery lies in the ink writing, and in that alone”;[S] but he expressly bases this dictum upon the decisions of the professed palaeographers of the British Museum and the Record Office. He goes on, however, to assign important collateral proof of the forgery, both of the readings in the folio and the documents brought forward by Mr. Collier, by connecting them with each other. Thus he says, that whoever will compare the fac-similes of the document known as “The Certificate of the Blackfriars Players” with those which he gives of two passages in the folio “will surely entertain no doubt that one hand wrote both.”[T] He expresses also the same confidence that “there can be but one intelligent opinion” that another important document, known as “The Blackfriars Petition,” was, as Mr. Hamilton believes, “executed by the same hand” as that to which we owe the Certificate, and, consequently, the folio readings.[U] Again, with regard to another of these documents, known as “The Daborne Warrant,” Dr. Ingleby says,–“Mr. Hamilton remarks, what must be plain to every one who compares the fac-simile of the Daborne Warrant with those of the manuscript emendations in the Perkins folio, that the same hand wrote both. In particular the letters E, S, J, and C are formed in the same peculiar pseudo-antique manner.”[V] And finally, Mr. Hamilton decides, and Dr. Ingleby concurs with him, that a certain List of Players appended to a letter from the Council to the Lord Mayor, in which Shakespeare’s name stands third, is “done by the same hand” which produced the professed contemporary copy of a letter signed H.S. about Burbage and Shakespeare, supposed to be from the Earl of Southampton. Giving his reason for this opinion, Dr. Ingleby says,–“Among other similarities in the forms of the letters to those characterizing the H.S. letter, is the very remarkable _g_ in ‘Hemminges’.”[W]
[Footnote S: A _Complete View_, p. 114.]
[Footnote T: _Ib._ p. 250.]
[Footnote U: _Ib._ p. 293.]
[Footnote V: _Ib._ p. 256.]
[Footnote W: _Ib._ p. 271.]
Let us examine the alleged grounds of these decisions,–“the varieties of forms assignable to different periods,” and the extension of those varieties “from the stiff, labored Gothic hand of the sixteenth century to the round-text hand of the nineteenth.” This judgment is passed upon _all_ the writing on the margins of the folio, including the pencil memorandums. For the present we shall set aside the latter,–the pencil memorandums,–as not properly belonging to this branch of the subject. For this pencil writing, although it has a most important bearing upon the question of the good faith of the marginal readings, has no professed character, antique or modern: it is, of course, not set forth directly or indirectly, either by the unknown writer of the marginalia, or by Mr. Collier, as evidence of the date at which they were made. And as, according to Dr. Ingleby, “the primal evidence of the forgery lies in the ink writing, and in that alone,” with that alone we shall at present concern ourselves. As the careless, half-formed hand of the present day, degenerate from “the round hand of the school-master,” appears only in the pencil writing, we have therefore to deal but with the first three styles of writing enumerated by Mr. Hardy; and as he himself admits that “it is perfectly possible that any two of these hands in succession may have been practised by the same person,” if those who maintain the side of forgery fail to show that “the stiff upright Gothic of Henry VIII. and Edward VI.” appears upon the margins of this folio, we shall only have the second and third styles enumerated by Mr. Hardy, i.e., the hands of Elizabeth and James I., to take into consideration; and the so-called “primal evidence of the forgery,” in the “varieties of forms assignable to different periods,” falls to the ground.
Now it is most remarkable, that, among all the numerous fac-similes of the writing in this volume which have been published either by Mr. Collier himself, or by his opponents, with the very purpose of proving the forgery, not a word or a letter has appeared in a hand which was not in common use from the latest years of Elizabeth’s reign, through James I.’s and Charles I.’s, down through the Commonwealth to and well past the time of the Restoration,–a period, be it remembered, of only between fifty and seventy-five years. We are prepared to show, upon the backs of title-pages and upon the margins of various books printed between 1580 and 1660, and in copy-books published and miscellaneous documents dated between 1650 and 1675, writing as ancient in all its characteristics as any that has been fac-similed and published with the purpose of invalidating the genuineness of the marginal readings of Mr. Collier’s folio.
We are also prepared to show that the lack of homogeneousness (aside from the question of period or fashion) and the striking and various appearance of the ink even on a single page, which have been relied upon as strong points against the genuineness of the marginal readings, are matters of little moment, because they are not evidence either of an assumed hand or of simulated antiquity; and even further, that the fact that certain of the pencilled words are in a much more modern-seeming hand than the words in ink which overlie them is of equally small importance in the consideration of this question. Our means of comparison in regard to the folio are limited, indeed, but they are none the less sufficient; for we may be sure that Mr. Collier’s opponents, who have followed his tracks page by page with microscopes and chemical tests, who hang their case upon pot-hooks and trammels, and lash themselves into palaeographic fury with the tails of remarkable _g_-s, have certainly made public the strongest evidence against him that they could discover.
Among many old books, defaced after the fashion of old times with writing upon their blank leaves and spaces, in the possession of the present writer, is a copy of the second edition of Bartholomew Young’s translation of Guazzo’s “Civile Conversation,” London, 4to., 1586. This volume was published without that running marginal abstract of the contents which is so common upon the books of its period. This omission an early possessor undertook to supply; and in doing so he left evidence which forbids us to accept all the conclusions as to the Collier folio and manuscripts which the British palaeographists draw from the premises which they set forth. Upon the very first page of the Preface he writes, in explanation of the phrase “hee which fired the temple of Diana,” the name “_Erostrato_” in a manner which brings to mind one point strongly made by Dr. Ingleby against the genuineness of a Ralegh letter brought forward by Mr. Collier, as well as of the manuscript readings in the two folio Shakespeares, which he also brought to light. Dr. Ingleby says, “I have given a copy of Mr. Collier’s fac-simile in sheet No. II., and alongside of that I have placed the impossible E in the Ralegh signature, and the almost exactly similar E which occurs in the emendation _End, vice_ ‘And,’ in the Bridgewater Folio. By means of this monstrous letter we are enabled to trace the chain of forgery from the Perkins Folio through the Bridgewater Folio, to the perpetration of the abomination at the foot of the Ralegh letter.”[X]
[Footnote X: _Complete View_, p. 309.]
Below we give fac-similes of six E-s. No. I is from the margin of the first page of the Preface to Guazzo, mentioned above; No. 2 from the third, and No. 3 from the fifth page of the same Preface; No. 4 from fol. 27 _b_ of the body of the work; No. 5 is the “monstrous letter” of the Bridgewater folio; and No. 6 the “impossible E” of the Ralegh signature.
Now how monstrous the last two letters are is a matter of taste,–how impossible, a matter of knowledge; but we submit that any man with a passable degree of either taste or knowledge is able to decide, and will decide that No. 6 is not more impossible than No. 1, or No. 4 more monstrous than No. 2; while in Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4, there is exhibited a variation in the form of capital letters, instances of which Dr. Ingleby intimates it is impossible to find in genuine handwriting, and the existence of which in the Collier folio Mr. Hamilton sets forth as one reason for invalidating the good faith of its marginal readings.[Y]
[Footnote Y: Inquiry, p. 23.]
But our copy of Guazzo is of further use to us in the examination of this subject. It exhibits, within less than one hundred folios of marginal annotations, almost all the characteristics (except, be it remembered, those of the pencil writing) which are relied upon as proofs of the forgery of the marginalia of Mr. Collier’s folio. The writing varies from a cursive hand which might almost have been written at the present day to (in Mr. Duffus Hardy’s phrase) “the cursive based on an Italian model,”–that is, the “sweet Roman hand” which the Countess Olivia wrote, as became a young woman of fashion when “Twelfth Night” was produced; and from this again to the modified chancery hand which was in such common use in the first half of the century 1600, and again to a cramped and contracted chirography almost illegible, which went out of general use in the last years of Elizabeth and the first of James I. All these varieties of handwriting, except the last, were in use from 1600 to the Restoration. They will be found in the second edition of Richard Gethinge’s “Calligraphotechnia, or The Arte of Faire Writing, 1652.” This, in spite of its sounding name, is nothing more than a writing-master’s copper-plate copy-book; and its republication in 1652, with these various styles of chirography, is important accessory evidence in the present case.[Z]
[Footnote Z: Lowndes mentions no other edition than that of 1652; and Mr. Bohn in his new edition of the Bibliographer has merely repeated the original in this respect. But if Lowndes had seen only the edition of 1652, he might have found in it evidence of the date of the publication of the book. It is dedicated to “Sir Francis Bacon Knight, his Ma’ties Attorney Generall”; and as Bacon was made Attorney General in 1613 and Lord Keeper in 1617, the book must have been published between those dates; and one of the plates, the 18th, is dated “Anno 1615,” and another, the 24th, “1616.”]
But to return to the margins of our Guazzo, from five pages of which we here give fac-similes.
The writer of the annotations began his work in that clear Italian hand which came into vogue in the reign of James I., (see, for instance, Gethinge, Plates 18 to 28,) of which fac-simile No. 1, “_Experience of father_” is an example. In the course of the first few pages, however, his chirography, on the one hand, shows traces of the old English chancery-hand, and, on the other, degenerates into a careless, cursive, modern-seeming style, of which fac-simile No. 2, “_England_,” is a striking instance. But he soon corrects himself, and writes for twenty folios (to the recto of folio 27) with more or less care in his clear Roman hand. Thence he begins to return rapidly, but by perceptible degrees, to the old hand, until, on the recto of folio 31, and a page or two before it, he writes, illegibly to most modern eyes, as in fac-simile No. 3, “_a proverbe_.” Thereafter, except upon certain rare and isolated occasions, he never returns to his Italian hand, but becomes more and more antique in his style, so that on folio 65, and for ten folios before and after, we have such writing as that of fac-simile No. 4, “_strangers where they come change the speech there used_.” On folios 93 to 95 we find characters like those given in fac-simile No. 5, which it requires more experience than ours in record-reading entirely to decipher. On the reverse of folio 95 the annotator, apparently weary of his task, stayed his hand.
Now in these ninety-nine folios (including the Preface, which is not numbered) are not only all the five varieties of chirography fac-similed above, but others partaking the character of some two of these, and all manifestly written by the same hand; which is shown no less by the phraseology than by the chirographic traits common to all the notes. And besides, not a few of these notes, which fill the margins, are in Latin, and these Latin notes are always written in the Italian hand of fac-simile No. 1; so that we find that hand, in which all the notes, English and Latin, (with a few exceptions, like “_England_,”) are written for the first twenty-seven folios, afterward in juxtaposition with each of the other hands. For instance, on folio 87, recto, we find “_tolerare laborem propter virtutem quis vult si praemia desunt_,” written in the style of “_Experience_” No. 1 above, though not so carefully, and immediately beneath it, manifestly with the same pen, and it would seem with the same pen-full of ink, “the saying of Galen,” in the style of No. 4, “_strangers where they come_,” etc.
The ink, too, in which these notes are written illustrates the shifts to which our ancestors were put when writing-materials were not made and bought by the quantity, as they are now,–a fact which bears against a not yet well-established point made by Mr. Maskelyne of the British Museum against Mr. Collier’s marginalia. This writing exhibits every possible variety of tint and of shade, and also of consistence and composition, that ink called black could show. As far as the recto of folio 12 it has the look of black ink slightly faded. On the reverse of that folio it suddenly assumes a pale gray tint, which it preserves to the recto of folio 20. There it becomes of a very dark rich brown, so smooth in surface as almost to have a lustre, but in the course of a few folios it changes to a pale tawny tint; again back to black, again to gray, again to a fine clear black that might have been written yesterday, and again to the pale tawny, with which it ends. It is also worthy of notice, that, where this ink has the dark rich brown hue, it also seems, in the words of Professor Maskelyne, in his letter to the London “Times,” dated July 13, 1859, to be “on rather than in the paper”; and it also proved in this instance, to use the phraseology of the same letter, to be “removable, with the exception of a slight stain, by mere water.” But who will draw hence the conclusion of the Professor with regard to the fluid used on the Collier folio, that it is “a water-color paint rather than ink,”–unless “ink” is used in a mere technical sense, to mean only a compound of nutgalls and sulphate of iron?[aa]
[Footnote aa: The effect produced upon the brown ink on the margins of the Guazzo by the mere washing it for a few seconds with lint and warm water may be seen in the word “_apollegy_” on folio 25, reverse, of that volume, which, with the others noticed in this article, will be left for inspection at the Astor Library, in the care of Dr. Cogswell, for a fortnight after the publication of this number of the _Atlantic_. This slight ablution, hardly more effective than the rubbing of a child’s wet finger, leaves only a pale yellow stain upon the paper.]
Now it should be observed, that, among all the fac-similes published of the marginal readings in Mr. Collier’s folio, there are none either so modern or so antique in their character as the five fac-similes respectively given above; nor is there in the former a variation of style approaching that exhibited in the latter, which all surely represent the work of one hand. Neither do the fac-similes of the folio corrections exhibit any chirography more ancient, more “Gothic,” than that of the account a specimen of which was published in our previous article upon this subject,[bb] and which could not have been written before 1656, and was quite surely not written until ten years later.
[Footnote bb: See the _Atlantic_ for October, 1859, p. 516.]
* * * * *
We have thus far left out of consideration the faint pencil-memorandums which play so important a part in the history of Mr. Collier’s folio. We now examine one of their bearings upon the question at issue. Is it possible that they, or any considerable proportion of them, may be the traces of pencil-marks made in the century 1600? The very great importance of this question need not be pointed out. It was first indicated in this magazine in October, 1859. Mr. Collier has seen it, and, not speaking with certainty as to the use of plumbago pencils at that period, he says,–“But if it be true that pencils of plumbago were at that time in common use, as I believe they were, the old corrector may himself have now and then adopted this mode of recording on the spot changes which, in his judgment, ought hereafter [thereafter?] permanently to be made in Shakespeare’s text.”[cc]
[Footnote cc: _Reply_, p. 20.]
Another volume in the possession of the present writer affords satisfactory evidence that these pencil-marks may be memorandums made in the latter half of the century 1600. It is a copy of “The Historie of the Life and Death of Mary Stuart Queene of Scotland,” London, 1636,–a small, narrow duodecimo, in the original binding. Upon the first one hundred and sixty-nine pages of this volume, within the ruled margin so common in old books, are annotations, very brief and sparse, rarely more than two upon a page, and often not more than one, and consisting sometimes of only two or three abbreviated words,–all evidently written in haste, and all entirely without interest. These annotations, or, rather, memorandums, like those in the Guazzo, explain or illustrate the text. At the top of the page, within the margin-rules, the annotator has written the year during which the events there related took place; and he has also paged the Preface. Now of these annotations _about one half are in pencil_, the numbering entirely so, with a single exception. This pencil-writing is manifestly the product of a period within twenty-five or thirty years of the date of the printing of the book, and yet it presents apparent variations in style which are especially noteworthy in connection with our present subject. Some of this pencil-writing is as clear as if it were freshly written; but the greater part is much rubbed, apparently by the mere service that the volume has seen; and some of it is so faint as to be legible only in a high, reflected light, in which, however, to sharp eyes it becomes distinctly visible.[dd] That ordinary black pencil-marks will endure on paper for two centuries may very likely be doubted by many readers, but without reason. Plumbago-marks, if not removed by rubbing, are even more durable than ink; because plumbago is an organic, insoluble substance, not subject to the chemical changes which moisture, the atmosphere, and fluids accidentally spilled, and solvents purposely applied, make in the various kinds of ink which are known to us. The writer discovered this in the course of many amateur print- and book-cleaning experiments, and has since found his experience confirmed by the high authority of M. Bonnardot, in his “Essai sur l’Art de Restaurer les Estampes et les Livres.” Paris, 1858.[ee] Of the annotations in the “History of Queen Mary,” many are in a strange short-hand, in which various combinations of simple angles, triangles, circles, semicircles, and straight lines play a conspicuous part, which we find, upon examination, is not written according to any system promulgated since the middle of the last century. Our present concern is, however, only with the writing which is in the ordinary letter, and in pencil. Of this there follow three specimen fac-similes, including the figures indicating the Anno Domini at the top of the page from which the words are taken. Three of the figures (4, 7, 8) by which the Preface is paged are also added.[ff]
[Footnote dd: Some of our readers may be glad to know that writing so faint as to be indistinguishable even in a bright open light may be often read in the shadow with that very light reflected upon it, as, for instance, from the opposite page of a book.]
[Footnote ee: Mr. Bonnardot says:–“_Taches des crayons._ (_Plombagine, sanguine, crayon noir_, etc.) Les traces _recentes_ que laissent sur le papier ces divers crayons s’effacent au contact du caoutchouc, ou de la mie de pain; mais, _quand elles sont trop anciennes, elles resistent a ces moyens;_ on a recours alors a l’application du savon, etc., etc. On frotte, etc., etc. S’il restait, apres cette operation, des traces opiniatres sur le papier, _il faudrait desesperer les enlever_.” p. 81.]
[Footnote ff: By a common mistake, easily understood, the fac-similes have been put upon the block in reverse order. The lines between the words represent the coarse column-rules of the margins. (Illustration)]
Of these, No. 1 (“_ffer Ph: 2_”) explains that “the Emperour & the King of Spaine” of the text are Ferdinand and Philip II.; No. 2 (“_ffr: 2 death_”) directs attention to the mention of the decease of Francis II. of France; and No. 3 (“_Dudley Q Eliz great favorite_”) is apropos of a supposition by the author of the History that the Virgin Queen “had assigned Dudley for her own husband.” Of the pencil-writing fac-similed above, the “1559” and the “_e_” in No. 1 and the “_Dudley_” in No. 8 are so faint as to be almost indistinguishable; the rest of it, though very much rubbed, is plain enough to those who have good eyes. As to the period when these annotations were written, there can be no doubt that it was between 1636 and the end of the third quarter of that century; yet the difference between Nos. 1 and 2 and the last line of No. 8 is very noticeable. There are many other words in pencil in the same volume quite as modern-looking as “_favorite_” in No. 3. Does not this make it clear that the pencil-writing on the margins of Mr. Collier’s folio, the greater part of which is so indistinct that to most eyes it is illegible without the aid of a magnifying-glass, and of which not a few of the most legible words are incomplete, may be the pencil-memorandums of a man who entered these marginal readings in the century 1600? Who shall undertake to say that pencil-writing so faint as to have its very existence disputed, and which is written over so as to be partially concealed, possesses a decided modern character, when such writing as that of “_favorite_” above exists, both in pencil and in ink, the production of which between 1636 and 1675 it would be the merest folly to question? The possibility of the readings having been first entered in pencil need not be discussed. It is not only probable that they would be so entered, but that would be the method naturally adopted by a corrector of any prudence, who had not an authoritative copy before him; and that this corrector had such aid not one now pretends to believe. We shall also find, farther on, that pencil-memorandums or guides, the good faith of which no one pretends to gainsay, were used upon this volume. A similar use of pencil is common enough nowadays. We know some writers, who, when correcting their own proofs, always go over them with pencil first, and on a second reading make the corrections, often with material changes, in ink over the pencil-marks. Even letters are, or rather were, written in this manner by young people in remote rural districts, where an equal scarcity of money and paper made an economy of the latter necessary,–a fact which would have a bearing upon the pencilled Marston letter, but for one circumstance to be noticed hereafter.
But one point, and that apparently the strongest, made against another of Mr. Collier’s MSS., we are able to set aside entirely. It is that alleged identity of origin between the List of Players appended to the letter from the Council to the Lord Mayor of London and the well-known “Southampton” letter signed H.S., which is based upon an imagined general similarity of hand and a positive identity of form in a certain “very remarkable _g_” which is found in both.[gg] The general similarity seems to us sheerly imaginary; but the _g_ common to the two documents is undoubtedly somewhat unusual in form. That it is not peculiar to the documents in question, however, whether they were written by one hand or two, we happen to be in a position to show. _Ecce signum!_
[Footnote gg: See above, p. 266.]
No. 1 of the above fac-similes is the _g_ of the H.S. letter, No. 2 the _g_ of the List of Players, and in the name below is a _g_ of exactly the same model. This name is written upon the last page of “The Table” of a copy of Guevara’s “Chronicle conteyning the lives of tenne Emperours of Rome,” translated by Edward Hellowes, London, 1577. This book is bound up in ancient binding with copies of the “Familiar Epistles” of the same writer, Englished by the same translator, 1582, and of his “Familiar Epistles,” translated by Geffrey Fenton, 1582. The volume is defaced by little writing besides the names of three possessors whose hands it passed through piecemeal or as a whole; but it is remarkable, that, while one possessor has written on the first title in ink the price which he paid for it, “_pr. 2s. 6d._,” in a handwriting like that of “_proverbe_” in the third fac-simile from Guazzo, on p. 268 above, another has recorded _in pencil_ on the next leaf the amount it cost him, “pr: 5s.,” in a hand of perhaps somewhat later date, more in the style of the fac-similes from the “Life of Queen Mary,” on p. 271. This pencil memorandum is very plain.[hh] It is worthy of special note also, that one of the owners of this volume, a Simon Holdip, writes on the last page of the “Lives of the Ten Emperors,” the last in order of binding, “_per me Simone Holdip in te domine speravi_” in the old so-called chancery-hand, while on the first page of the Dedication of the “Familiar Epistles,” the first in order of binding, he writes “_Simon Holdip est verus possessor hujus libri_,” in as fair an Italian hand as Richard Gethinge or the Countess Olivia herself could show. This evidence of property a subsequent owner has stricken through many times with his pen. In this volume we not only find the “remarkable _g_,” the tail of which is relied upon as a link in the chain of evidence to prove the forgery of two documents, but yet another instance of the use of dissimilar styles of writing by the same individual two hundred or two hundred and fifty years ago, and also a well-preserved pencil memorandum of the same period.[ii] But we have by no means disposed of all of this question as to the pencil-writing, and we shall revert to it.
[Footnote hh: It probably records the price paid by the buyer of the whole volume at second-hand in the first part of the century 1600. The first memorandum is quite surely the price paid for the _Familiar Epistles_ alone; for on the binding of the three books into one volume, which took place at an early date, the tops of the capital letters of this possessor’s name were slightly cut down.]
[Footnote ii: Similar evidence must abound; and perhaps there is more even within the reach of the writer of this article. For he has made no particular search for it; but merely, after reading Dr. Ingleby’s _Complete View_, looked somewhat hastily through those of his old books which, according to his recollection, contained old writing,–which, by the way, has always recommended an antique volume to his attention.]
That the writing of the “Certificate of the Blackfriars Players,” the “Blackfriars Petition,” and the marginal readings in Mr. Collier’s folio shows that they are by the same hand we cannot see. Their chirography is alike, it is true, but it is not the same. Such likeness is often to be seen. The capital letters are formed on different models; and the variation in the _f-s, s-s, d-s_, and _y-s_ is very noticeable.
* * * * *
We now turn to another, and, to say the least, not inferior department of the evidence in this complicated case. Mr. Hamilton has done yeoman’s service by his collation and publication of all the manuscript readings found on the margins of “Hamlet” in Mr. Collier’s folio. It is by far the most important part of his “Inquiry.” It fixes indelibly the stigma of entire untrustworthiness upon Mr. Collier, by showing, that, when he professed, after many examinations, to give a list of all the marginal readings in that folio, he did not, in this play at least, give much more than one-third of them, and that some of those which he omitted were even more striking than those which he published. We must be as brief as possible; and we shall therefore bring forward but one example of these multitudinous sins against truth; and one is as fatal as a dozen. In the last scene of the play, Horatio’s last speech (spoken, it will be remembered, after the death of the principal characters and the entrance of Fortinbras) is correctly as follows, according to the text both of the folios and the quartos:–
“Of that I shall have also cause to speak; And from his mouth, whose voice will draw on more: But let this same be presently perform’d, Even while men’s minds are wild, lest more mischance, On plots and errors, happen.”
But in Mr. Collier’s folio it is “corrected” after this astounding fashion:–
“Of that I shall have also cause to speak, And from his mouth, whose voice shall draw on more. But let this _scene_ be presently perform’d, _While I remaine behind to tell a tale
That shall hereafter turn the hearers pale_.”
Now, while Mr. Collier publishes the specious change of “this same” to “this _scene_” he entirely passes over the substitution of two whole lines immediately below. And who needs to be told why? Mr. Collier could have the face and the folly to bring forward other priceless additions of whole lines, even, in “Henry VI,”–
“My staff! Here, noble Henry, is my staff: _To think I fain would keep it makes me laugh_,”–
but he had judgment enough to see, that, if it were known that his corrector had foisted the two lines in Italic letter above into the most solemn scene in “Hamlet,” the whole round world would ring with scornful laughter. This collation of “Hamlet” has not only extinguished Mr. Collier as a man of veracity, but it has given the _coup de grace_ to any pretence of deference due to these marginal readings on any score. But it has done something else. It has brought facts to light which in themselves are inconsistent with the supposition that Mr. Collier or any other man forged all these marginal readings,–that is, wrote them in a pretended antique character,–and which, taken in connection with the evidence that we have already examined, settles this part of the question forever.
The number of marginal alterations in this play, according to Dr. Ingleby’s count, which we believe is correct, is four hundred and twenty-six. Now for how many of this number does the reader suppose that the sharp eyes and the microscopes of the British Museum and its unofficial aids have discovered the relics of pencil memorandums? Exactly ten,–as any one may see by examining Mr. Hamilton’s collation. Of these ten, three are for punctuation,–the substitution of a period for a semicolon, the introduction of three commas, and the substitution of an interrogation point for a comma; the punctuation being of not the slightest service in either case, as the sense is as clear as noonday in all. Two are for the introduction of stage-directions in Act I., Sc. 3,–“_Chambers_,” and, on the entrance of the Ghost, “_armed as before_”; neither of which, again, added anything to the knowledge of the modern reader. This leaves but five pencil memorandums of changes in the text; and they, with two exceptions, are the mere adding of letters not necessary to the sense.
Of these four hundred and twenty-six marginal changes, a very large proportion, quite one-half, and we should think more, are mere insignificant literal changes or additions, such as an editor in supervising manuscript, or an author in reading proof, passes over, and leaves to the proof-readers of the printing-office, by whom they are called “literals,” we believe. Such are the change of “_Whon_ yond same starre” to “_When_ yond,” etc.; “_Looke_ it not like the king” to “_Lookes_ it,” etc.; “He _smot_ the sledded Polax” to “He _smote_,” etc.; “_Heaven_ will direct it” to “_Heavens_ will,” etc.; “list, _Hamle_, list,” to “list, _Hamlet_, list”; “the _Mornings_ Ayre” to “the _Morning_ Ayre”; “My Liege and _Madrm_” to “My Liege and _Madam_”; “_locke_ of Wit” to “_lacke_ of Wit”; “both our _judgement_ joyne” to “both our _judgements_ joyne”; “my _convseration_” to “my _conversation_”; “the _strucken_ Deere” to “the _stricken_ Deere”; “_Requit_ him for your Father” to “_Requite_ him,” etc.; “I’ll _anoiot_ my sword” to “I’ll _anoint_” etc.; “the _gringding_ of the Axe” to “the _grinding_” etc. To corrections like these the alleged forger must have devoted more than half his time; and if the thirty-one pages that “Hamlet” fills in the folio furnish us a fair sample of the whole of the forger’s labors,[jj] we have the enormous sum of six thousand four hundred, and over, of such utterly useless changes upon the nine hundred pages of that volume. Such another laborious scoundrel, who labored for the labor’s sake, the world surely never saw!
[Footnote jj: Dr. Ingleby says,–“The collations of that single play are a perfect picture of the contents of the original, and a just sample of the other plays in that volume.”–_Complete View_, p. 131.]
But among these marginal changes in “Hamlet,” a large number present a very striking and significant peculiarity,–a peculiarity which was noticed in our previous article as characterizing other marginal changes in the same volume, and which it is impossible to reconcile with the purpose of a forger who knew enough to make the body of the corrections on these margins, and who meant to obtain authority for them as being, in the words of Mr. Collier, “Early Manuscript Corrections in the Folio of 1632.” That peculiarity is a _modernization of the text absolutely fatal to the “early” pretensions of the readings;_ and it appears in the regulation of the loose spelling prevalent at the publication of this folio, and for many years after, by the standard of the more regular and approximately analogous fashion of a later period, and also in the establishment of grammatical concords, which, entirely disregarded in the former period, were observed by well-educated people in the latter.
Thus we find “He _smot_” changed to “He _smote_”; “Some _sayes_” to “Some _say_”; “_veyled_ lids” to “_vayled_ lids”; “_Seemes_ to me all the uses” to “_Seem_ to me all the uses”; “It lifted up _it_ head” to “It lifted up _its_ head”; “_dreins_ his draughts” to “_drains_ his draughts”; “fast in _fiers_” to “fast in _fires_”; “a _vild_ phrase, beautified is a _vild_ phrase,” to “a _vile_ phrase, beautified is a _vile_ phrase”; “How in my words _somever_ she be shent” to “How in my words _soever_,” etc.; “_currants_ of this world” to “_currents_,” etc.; “theres _matters_” to “theres _matter_”; “like some _oare_” to “like some _ore_”; “this _vilde_ deed” to “this _vile_ deed”; “a sword _unbaited_” to “a sword _unbated_”; “a _stoape_ liquor” to “a _stoop_ liquor”; and “the _stopes_ of wine” to “the _stoopes_ of wine.” Of corrections like these we have discovered twenty-eight among the collations of “Hamlet” alone, and there are probably more. We may safely assume that in this respect “Hamlet” fairly represents the other plays in Mr. Collier’s folio; for we have not only Dr. Ingleby’s assurance that it is a “just sample” of the volume, but in the four octavo sheets of fac-similes privately printed by Mr. Collier we find these instances of like corrections: “_Betide_ to any creature” to “_Betid_,” etc.; “_Wreaking_ as little” to “_Wrecking_ as little”; “painted _cloathes_” to “painted _clothes_”; “words that _shakes_” to “words that _shake_.” Twenty-eight such corrections for the thirty-one pages of “Hamlet” give us about eight hundred and fifty for the nine hundred pages of the whole volume,–eight hundred and fifty instances in which the alleged forger, who wished to obtain for his supposed fabrication the consideration due to antiquity, modernized the text, though he obtained thereby only a change of form, and not a single new reading, in any sense of the term!
We turn to kindred evidence in the stage-directions. In “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” Act IV., Sc. 3, when Birone conceals himself from the King, the stage-direction in the folio of 1632, as well as in that of 1623, is “_He stands aside_.” But in Mr. Collier’s folio of 1632 this is changed to “_He climbs a tree_,” and he is afterward directed to speak “_in the tree_.” So again in “Much Ado about Nothing,” Act II., Sc. 3, there is a MS. stage-direction to the effect that Benedick, when he hides “in the arbour,” “_Retires behind the trees_.” Now as this use of scenery did not obtain until after the Restoration, these stage-directions manifestly could not have been written until after that period. Upon this point–which was first made in “Putnam’s Magazine” for October, 1853, in the article “The Text of Shakespeare: Mr. Collier’s Corrected Folio of 1632,”–Mr. Halliwell says (fol. Shak. Vol. IV. p. 340) that the writer of that article “fairly adduces these MS. directions as incontestable evidences of the late period of the writing in that volume, ‘practicable’ trees certainly not having been introduced on the English stage until after the Restoration.” See, too, in the following passage from “The Noble Stranger,” by Lewis Sharpe, London, 1640, direct evidence as to the stage customs in London, eight years after the publication of Mr. Collier’s folio, in situations like those of Birone and Benedick:–
“I am resolv’d, I over-
Heard them in the presence appoynt to walke Here in the garden: now in _yon thicket I’ll stay_,” etc.
“_Exit behind the Arras_.”
But no man in the world knows the ancient customs of the English stage better than Mr. Collier,–we may even say, so well, and pay no undue compliment to the historian of that stage;[kk] and though he might easily, in the eagerness of discovery, overlook the bearing of such stage-directions as those in question, will it be believed, by any one not brimful of blinding prejudice, that, in attempting the imposition with which he is charged, and in forging in a copy of the folio of 1632 notes and emendations for which he claimed deference because they were, in his own words, “in a handwriting not much later than the time when it came from the press,” he deliberately wrote in these stage-directions, which in any case added nothing to the reader’s information, and which he, of all men, knew would prove that his volume was not entitled to the credit he was laboring to obtain for it?
[Footnote kk: _The History of English Dramatic Poetry to the Time of Shakespeare: and Annals of the Stage to the Restoration_. By J. Payne Collier, Esq., F.S.A. 3 vols. 8vo. London, 1831.]
Again, Mr. Hamilton’s collations of “Hamlet” show that no less than thirty-six passages have been erased from that play in this folio. These erased passages are from a few insignificant words to fifty lines in extent They include lines like these in Act I., Sc. 2:–
“With one auspicious and one dropping eye, With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage,”–
and these from the same scene:–
“It shows a will most incorrect to heaven; A heart unfortified, or mind impatient; An understanding simple and unschool’d: For what we know must be, and is as common As any the most vulgar thing to sense,
Why should we, in our peevish opposition, Take it to heart? Fie! ‘t is a fault to heaven, A fault against the dead, a fault to nature, To reason most absurd; whose common theme Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried, From the first corse, till he that died to-day, This must be so.”
In the last scene, all after Horatio’s speech; “Now cracks a noble heart,” etc., is struck out. Who will believe that any man in his senses, making corrections for which he meant to claim the deference due to a higher authority than the printed test, would make such and so numerous erasures? In fact, no one does so believe.
But the collations of “Hamlet” furnish in these erasures one other very important piece of evidence. In Act II., Sc. 1, the passage from and including Reynaldo’s speech, “As gaming, my Lord,” to his other speech, “Ay, my Lord, I would know that,” is crossed out. But the lines are not only crossed through in ink, they are “also marked in pencil.” Now it is confessed by the accusers of Mr. Collier that these erasures are the marks of an ancient adaptation of the text to stage purposes, which were made before the marginal corrections of the text; otherwise they must needs have maintained the preposterous position just above set forth. And besides, it is admitted, that, in the numerous passages which are both erased and corrected, the work itself shows that the corrections were made upon the erasures, and not the erasures upon the corrections. We have, therefore, here, upon the very pages of this folio, evidence that alterations in pencil not only might have been, but were, made upon it at an early period, even in regard to so very slight a matter as the crossing out of fourteen lines; and that these pencilled lines served as a guide for the subsequent permanent erasure in ink.
And this collation of “Hamlet” also enables us to decide with approximate certainty upon the period when these manuscript readings were entered upon the margins of the folio. Not more surely did the lacking aspirate betray the Ephraimite at Jordan than the spelling of this manuscript corrector reveals the period at which he performed his labors. Take, for instance, the word “vile.” Any man who could make the body of these corrections knows that the most common spelling of “vile” down to the middle of the century 1600 was _vild_ or _vilde_. This spelling has even been retained in the text by some editors, and with at least a semblance of reason, as being not a mere variation in spelling, but as representing a different form of the word. No man knows all this better than Mr. Collier; and yet we are called upon to believe that he, meaning to obtain authoritative position for the marginal readings in this folio, by making them appear to have been written by a contemporary of Shakespeare’s later years, altered _vild_ to _vile_ in three passages of a single play, though he thereby made not the slightest shade of difference in the meaning of the passage! And the same demand is made upon our credulity in regard to the eight hundred and fifty similar instances! Sir Frederic Madden, Mr. Duffus Hardy, Mr. Hamilton, Dr. Ingleby, accomplished palaeographers, keen-eyed, remorseless investigators, learned doctors though you be, you cannot make men who have common sense believe this. Your tests, your sharp eyes, and your optical aids, even that dreadful “microscope bearing the imposing and scientific name of the Simonides Uranius,” which carried such terror to the heart of Mr. Collier, will fail to convince the world that he spent hour after hour and day after day in labors the only purpose of which was directly at war with that which you attribute to him, and which, if he made these manuscript corrections, must have been the motive of his labors.
But if Mr. Collier, or some other man of this century, did not make these orthographical changes, when were they made? Let us trace the fortunes of _vile_, which is a good test word, as being characteristic, and as it occurs several times in “Hamlet,” and is there thrice modernized by the manuscript corrector. It occurs five times in that play, as the reader may see by referring to Mrs. Clarke’s “Concordance.” In the folio of 1623, in all these cases, except the first, it is spelled _vild_; in the folio of 1632, with the same exception, we also find _vild_; even in the folio of 1664[ll] the spelling in all these instances remains unchanged; but in the folio of 1685, _vild_ gives place to _vile_ in every case. As with “vild,” so with the other words subjected to like changes. To make a long story short, the spelling throughout the marginal readings of this folio, judged by the numerous fac-similes and collations that have been published, indicates the close of the last quarter of the century 1600 as the period about which the volume in which they appear was subjected to correction. The careful removal (though with some oversights) of those irregularities and anomalies of spelling which were common before the Restoration, and the harmonizing of grammatical discords which were disregarded before that period, and, on the other hand, the retention of the superfluous final _e_, (once the _e_ of prolongation,) and of the _l_ in the contractions of “would,” in accordance with a pronunciation which prevailed in England until 1700 and later, all point to this date, which is also indicated by various other internal proofs to which attention has been heretofore sufficiently directed.[mm] The punctuation, too, which, as Mr. Collier announced in “Notes and Emendations,” etc., 1853, is corrected “with nicety and patience,” is that of the books printed after the Restoration, as may be seen by a comparison of Mr. Collier’s private fac-similes and the collations of “Hamlet” in Mr. Hamilton’s book with the original editions of poems and plays printed between 1660 and 1675.
[Footnote ll: Or 1663, according to the title-pages of some copies that we have seen.]
[Footnote mm: See _Shakespeare’s Scholar_, pp. 56-62. And to the passages noticed there, add this: In _King Henry VI_., Part II., Act IV., Sc. 5, is this couplet:–
“Fight for your King, your country, and your lives. And so farewell; for I must hence again.”
The last line of which in Mr. Collier’s folio is changed to
“And so farewell; _Rebellion never thrives_.”
Plainly this was written when Charlie was no longer over the water.]
From the foregoing examination of the evidence upon this most interesting question, it appears, we venture to assume, that the conclusions drawn by Mr. Collier’s opponents as to the existence of primal evidence of forgery in the ink writing alone in his folio are not sustained by the premises which are brought forward in their support. It seems also clear, that, to say the least, it is not safe to assume that all the pencil memorandums which appear upon the margins of that volume as guides for the corrections in ink are proofs of the spurious character of those corrections; but that, on the contrary, those pencil-marks, with certain exceptions, may be the faint vestiges of the work of a corrector who lived between 1632 and 1675, and who entered his readings in pencil before finally completing them in ink. We have found, too, that this volume, for the manuscript readings in which the alleged forger claimed an authority based upon the early date at which they were written, presents upon its every page changes in phraseology, grammar, orthography, and punctuation, which, utterly useless for a forger’s purpose, could not have been made before a late period in the century 1600. Now when, in view of these facts, we consider that the man who is accused of committing this forgery is a professed literary antiquary, who, at the time when he brought forward this folio, (in 1852,) had been engaged in the minute study of the text of old plays and poems for more than thirty years,[nn] can we hesitate in pronouncing a verdict of not guilty of the offence as charged? It is as manifest as the sun in the heavens that Mr. Collier is not the writer of the mass of the corrections in this folio. It is morally impossible that he should have made them; and, on the other hand, the physical evidence which is relied upon by his accusers breaks down upon examination.
[Footnote nn: _The Poetical Decameron, or Ten Conversations on English Poets and Poetry, particularly of the Reigns of Elizabeth and James I._ London, 1820.]
* * * * *
But the modern cursive pencil-writing!–for you see that it is this cursive writing that damns this folio,–what story does that tell? What is its character? Who wrote it? Mr. Hamilton and Dr. Ingleby have answered these questions by the publication of between twenty and thirty fac-similes of this pencil-writing, consisting in only five instances of more than a single word, letter, or mark. But these are undeniably the work of a modern hand,–a hand of this century, as may be seen by the following reproductions of two of the fac-similes:–
[Illustration: Handwriting sample.]
The upper one represents the stage-direction in ink, with its accompanying pencil-memorandum, for an _aside_ speech in “King John,” Act II., Sc. 1,–doubtless that of Faulconbridge,–“O prudent discipline,” etc. This is reproduced from a fac-simile published by Dr. Ingleby. Mr. Hamilton has given a fac-simile of the same words; but Dr. Ingleby says that his is the more accurate. The lower memorandum is a pencilled word, “_begging_” opposite the line in “Hamlet,” Act III., Sc. 2, “And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee,” to which there is no corresponding word in ink. Both these words are manifestly not examples of an ancient cursive hand, like those of which fac-similes are given above, but of rapid pencil-writing of the present century. They fairly represent the character of all the fac-similes of words in pencil, with two exceptions, which Mr. Hamilton and Dr. Ingleby have published. But the question as to their origin can be brought down to a narrower point. For not only does competent testimony from London assure us that Mr. Collier’s handwriting and that of these pencil-memorandums is identical, but, having some of that gentleman’s writing in pencil by us, we are able to see this identity for ourselves. We can discover not the slightest room for doubt that a certain number of the pencil-guides for the corrections upon the margins of this folio were written either by Mr. Collier himself, or in the British Museum by some malicious person who desired to inculpate him in a forgery. The reader who has accompanied us thus far can have no doubt as to which alternative we feel compelled to choose. The indications of the pencilled words in modern cursive writing are strengthened by the short-hand stage-direction in “Coriolanus,” Act V., Sc. 2, “Struggles or instead noise,” in the characters of Palmer’s system, which was promulgated in 1774. This system is one which a man of Mr. Collier’s years would be likely to use, and the purport of the memorandum is obvious. Would Mr. Collier have us believe that this also was introduced in the British Museum?
We have chosen the word “begging” for fac-simile not merely because of the marked character of its chirography. It has other significance. Mr. Collier asks, “What is gained by it?” and says, that, as there is no corresponding change in the text, “‘begging’ must have been written in the margin … merely as an explanation, and a bad explanation, too, if it refer to ‘pregnant’ in the poet’s text.”[oo] It is, of course, no explanation; but it seems plainly that it is the memorandum for a proposed, but abandoned, substitution. Who that is familiar with the corrections in Mr. Collier’s folio does not recognize this as one of those which have been so felicitously described by an American critic as taking “the fire out of the poetry, the fine tissue out of the thought, and the ancient flavor and aroma out of the language”?[pp] The corrector in this case plainly thought of reading,
“And crook the begging hinges of the knee”;
but, doubtful as to this at first, (for we regard the interrogation-point as a query to himself, and not as indicating the insertion of that point after “Dost thou hear,”) he finally came to the conclusion, that, although he, and many a respectable poet, might have written “begging” in this passage, Shakespeare was just the man to write “pregnant,”–an instance of critical sagacity of which he has left us few examples. Now it is remarkable that the majority of the changes proposed by Mr. Collier in the notes to this edition of Shakespeare (8 vols., 8vo., 1842-3) evince a capacity for the apprehension of figurative language and for conjectural emendation of the very calibre indicated by this proposed change of “pregnant hinges” to “_begging_ hinges.” He has throughout his literary career, which began, we believe, with the publication of the “Poetical Decameron,” in 1820, shown rather the faithfulness, the patience, and the judgment of a literary antiquary, than the insight, the powers of comparison, the sensibility, and the constructive ingenuity of a literary critic. And one of the great improbabilities against his authorship of all the corrections in his folio is, that it is not according to Nature that so late in life he should develop the constructive ability necessary for the production of many of its specious and ingenious, though inadmissible, original readings.
[Footnote oo: _Reply_, p. 22.]
[Footnote pp: Rev. N.L. Frothingham, D.D., in the _Christian Examiner_ for November, 1853.]
We see, then, no way of avoiding the conclusion that this notorious folio was first submitted to erasure for stage purposes; that afterward, at some time between 1650 and 1675, it was carefully corrected for the press with the view to the publication of a new edition; and that finally it fell into the hands of Mr. Collier, who, either alone or by the aid of an accomplice, introduced other readings upon its margins, for the purpose of obtaining for them the same deference which he supposed those already there would receive for their antiquity. Either this is true, or Mr. Collier is the victim of a mysterious and marvellously successful conspiracy; and by his own unwise and unaccountable conduct–to use no harsher terms–has aided the plans of his enemies.
Mr. Collier’s position in this affair is, in any case, a most singular and unenviable one. His discoveries, considering their nature and extent and the quarters in which they were made, are exceedingly suspicious:–the Ellesmere folio, the Bridgewater House documents, including the Southampton letter, the Dulwich College documents, including the Alleyn letter, the Petition of the Blackfriars Company in the State Paper Office, and the various other letters, petitions, accounts, and copies of verses, all of which are justly open to suspicion of tampering, if not of forgery. What a strange and unaccountable fortune to befall one man! How has this happened? What fiend has followed Mr. Collier through the later years of his life, putting manuscripts under his pillow and folios into his pew, and so luring him on to moral suicide? Alas! there is probably but one man now living that can tell us, and he will not. But this protracted controversy, which has left so much unsettled, has greatly served the cause of literature, in showing that by whomsoever and whensoever these marginal readings, which so took the world by storm nine years ago, were written, they have no pretence to any authority whatever, not even the quasi authority of an antiquity which would bring them within the post-Shakespearian period. All must now see, what a few at first saw, that their claim to consideration rests upon their intrinsic merit only. But what that merit is, we fear will be disputed until the arrival of that ever-receding Shakespearian millenium when the editors shall no longer rage or the commentators imagine a vain thing.
* * * * *
Off, fetters of the falser life,–
Weeds that conceal the statue’s form! This silent world with truth is rife,
This wooing air is warm.
Now fall the thin disguises, planned For men too weak to walk unblamed;
Naked beside the sea I stand,–
Naked, and not ashamed.
Where yonder dancing billows dip,
Far-off, to ocean’s misty verge,
Ploughs Morning, like a full-sailed ship, The Orient’s cloudy surge.
With spray of scarlet fire before
The ruffled gold that round her dies, She sails above the sleeping shore,
Across the waking skies.
The dewy beach beneath her glows;
A pencilled beam, the light-house burns: Full-breathed, the fragrant sea-wind blows,– Life to the world returns!
I stand, a spirit newly born,
White-limbed and pure, and strong, and fair,– The first-begotten son of Morn,
The nursling of the air!
There, in a heap, the masks of Earth, The cares, the sins, the griefs, are thrown Complete, as, through diviner birth,
I walk the sands alone.
With downy hands the winds caress,
With frothy lips the amorous sea,
As welcoming the nakedness
Of vanished gods, in me.
Along the ridged and sloping sand,
Where headlands clasp the crescent cove, A shining spirit of the land,
A snowy shape, I move:
Or, plunged in hollow-rolling brine, In emerald cradles rocked and swung,
The sceptre of the sea is mine,
And mine his endless song.
For Earth with primal dew is wet,
Her long-lost child to rebaptize:
Her fresh, immortal Edens yet
Their Adam recognize.
Her ancient freedom is his fee;
Her ancient beauty is his dower:
She bares her ample breasts, that he May suck the milk of power.
Press on, ye hounds of life, that lurk So close, to seize your harried prey!
Ye fiends of Custom, Gold, and Work, I hear your distant bay!
And like the Arab, when he bears
To the insulted camel’s path
His garment, which the camel tears, And straight forgets his wrath;
So, yonder badges of your sway,
Life’s paltry husks, to you I give: Fall on, and in your blindness say,
We hold the fugitive!
But leave to me this brief escape
To simple manhood, pure and free,– A child of God, in God’s own shape,
Between the land and sea!
When I state that my name is A. Bratley Chylde, I presume that I am already sufficiently introduced.
My patronymic establishes my fashionable position. Chylde, the distinguished monosyllable, is a card of admission everywhere,– everywhere that is anywhere.
And my matronymic, Bratley, should have established my financial position for life. It should have–allow me a vulgar term–“indorsed” me with the tradesmen who have the honor to supply me with the glove, the boot, the general habiliment, and all the requisites of an elegant appearance upon the carpet or the _trottoir_.
But, alas! I am not so indorsed–pardon the mercantile aroma of the word–by the name Bratley.
The late Mr. A. Bratley, my grandfather, was indeed one of those rude, laborious, and serviceable persons whose office is to make money–or perhaps I should say to accumulate the means of enjoyment–for the upper classes of society.
But my father, the late Mr. Harold Chylde, had gentlemanly tastes.
How can I blame him? I have the same.
He loved to guide the rapid steed along the avenue.
I also love to guide the rapid steed.
He could not persuade his delicate lungs–pardon my seeming knowledge of anatomy–to tolerate the confined air in offices, counting-houses, banks, or other haunts of persons whose want of refinement of taste impels them to the crude distractions of business-life.
I have the same delicacy of constitution. Indeed, unless the atmosphere I breathe is rendered slightly narcotic by the smoke of Cabanas and slightly stimulating by the savor of heeltaps,–excuse the technical term,–I find myself debilitated to a degree. The open air is extremely offensive to me. I confine myself to clubs and billiard-rooms.
My late father, being a man distinguished for his clear convictions, was accustomed to sustain the statement of those convictions by wagers. The inherent generosity of his nature obliged him often to waive his convictions in behalf of others, and thus to abandon the receipt of considerable sums. He also found the intellectual excitement of games of chance necessary to his mental health.
I cannot blame him for these and similar gentlemanly tastes. My own are the same.
The late Mr. A. Bratley, at that time in his dotage, and recurring to the crude idioms of his homely youth, constantly said to my father,–
“Harold, you are a spendthrift and a rake, and are bringing up your son the same.”
I object, of course, to his terms; but since he foresaw that my habits would be expensive, it is to be regretted that he did not make suitable provision for their indulgence.
He did not, however, do so. Persons of low-breeding never can comprehend their duties to the more refined.
The respective dusts of my father and grandfather were consigned to the tomb the same week, and it was found that my mother’s property had all melted away, as–allow me a poetical figure–ice-cream melts between the lips of beauty heated after the German.
Yes,–all was gone, except a small pittance in the form of an annuity. I will not state the ridiculously trifling amount. I have seen more than our whole annual income lost by a single turn of a card at the establishment of the late Mr. P. Hearn, and also in private circles.
Something must be done. Otherwise, that deprivation of the luxuries of life which to the aristocratic is starvation.
I stated my plans to my mother. They were based in part upon my well-known pecuniary success at billiards–I need not say that I prefer the push game, as requiring no expenditure of muscular force. They were also based in part upon my intimacy with a distinguished operator in Wall Street. Our capital would infallibly have been quadrupled,–what do I say? decupled, centupled, in a short space of time.
My mother is a good, faithful creature. She looks up to me as a Bratley should to a Chylde. She appreciates the honor my father did her by his marriage, and I by my birth. I have frequently remarked a touching fidelity of these persons of the lower classes of society toward those of higher rank.
“I would make any sacrifice in the world,” she said, “to help you, my dear A—“
“Hush!” I cried.
I have suppressed my first name as unmelodious and connecting me too much with a religious persuasion meritorious for its wealth alone. Need I say that I refer to the faith of the Rothschild?
“All that I have is yours, my dear Bratley,” continued my mother.
Quite touching! was it not? I was so charmed, that I mentally promised her a new silk when she went into half-mourning, and asked her to go with me to the opera as soon as she got over that feeble tendency to tears which kept her eyes red and unpresentable.
“I would gladly aid you,” the simple-hearted creature said, “in any attempt to make your fortune in an honorable and manly way.”
“Brava! brava!” I cried, and I patted applause, as she deserved. “And you had better make over your stocks to me at once,” I continued.
“I cannot without your Uncle Bratley’s permission. He is my trustee. Go to him, my dear son.”
I went to him very unwillingly. My father and I had always as much as possible ignored the Bratley connection. They live in a part of New York where self-respect does not allow me to be seen. They are engaged in avocations connected with the feeding of the lower classes. My father had always required that the females of their families should call on my mother on days when she was not at home to our own set, and at hours when they were not likely to be detected. None of them, I am happy to say, were ever seen at our balls or our dinners.
I nerved myself, and penetrated to that Ultima Thule where Mr. Bratley resides. His house already, at that early hour of two, smelt vigorously of dinner. Nothing but the urgency of my business could have induced me to brave these odors of plain roast and boiled.
A mob of red-faced children rushed to see me as I entered, and I heard one of them shouting up the stairs,–
“Oh, pa! there’s a stiffy waiting to see you.”
The phrase was new to me. I looked for a mirror, to see whether any inaccuracy in my toilet might have suggested it.
Positively there was no mirror in the _salon_.
Instead of it, there were nothing but distressingly bright pictures by artists who had had the bad taste to paint raw Nature just as they saw it.
My uncle entered, and quite overwhelmed me with a robust cordiality which seemed to ignore my grief.
“Just in time, my boy,” said he, “to take a cut of rare roast beef and a hot potato and a mug of your Uncle Sam’s beer with us.”
I shuddered, and rebuked him with the intelligence that I had just lunched at the club, and should not dine till six.
Then I stated my business, curtly.
He looked at me with a stare, which I have frequently observed in persons of limited intelligence.
“So you want to gamble away your mother’s last dollar,” said he.
In vain I stated and restated to him my plans. The fellow, evidently jealous of my superior financial ability, constantly interrupted me with ejaculations of “Pish!” “Bosh!” “Pshaw!” “No go!” and finally, with a loud thump on a table, covered with such costly but valueless objects as books and plates, he cried,
“What a d–d fool!”
I was glad to perceive that he began to admit my wisdom and his stolidity. And so I told him.
“A—,” said he, using my abhorred name in full, “I believe you are a greater ass than your father was.”
“Sir,” said I, much displeased, “these intemperate ebullitions will necessarily terminate our conference.”
“Conference be hanged!” he rejoined. “You may as well give it up. You are not going to get the first red cent out of me.”
“Have I referred, Sir,” said I, “to the inelegant coin you name?”
The creature grinned. “I shall pay your mother’s income quarterly, and do the best I can by her,” he continued; “and if you want to make a man of yourself, I’ll give you a chance in the bakery with me; or Sam Bratley will take you into his brewery; or Bob into his pork-packery.”
I checked my indignation. The vulgarian wished to drag me, a Chylde, down to the Bratley level. But I suppressed my wrath, for fear he might find some pretext for suppressing the quarterly income, and alleged my delicate health as a reason for my refusing his insulting offer.
“Well,” said he, “I don’t see as there is anything else for you to do, except to find some woman fool enough to marry you, as Betsey did your father. There’s a hundred dollars!”
I have seldom seen dirtier bills than those he produced and handed to me. Fortunately I was in deep mourning and my gloves were dark lead color.
“That’s right,” says he,–“grab ’em and fob ’em. Now go to Newport and try for an heiress, and don’t let me see your tallow face inside of my door for a year.”
He had bought the right to be despotic and abusive. I withdrew and departed, ruminating on his advice. Singularly, I had not before thought of marrying. I resolved to do so at once.
Newport is the mart where the marriageable meet. I took my departure for Newport next day.
I need hardly say, that, on arriving at Newport, one foggy August morning, I drove at once to the Millard.
The Millard attracted me for three reasons: First, it was new; second, it was fashionable; third, the name would be sure to be in favor with the class I had resolved to seek my spouse among. The term _spouse_ I select as somewhat less familiar than _wife_, somewhat more permanent than _bride_, and somewhat less amatory than _the partner of my bosom_. I wish my style to be elevated, accurate, and decorous. It is my object, as the reader will have already observed, to convey heroic sentiments in the finest possible language.
It was upon some favored individual of the class Southern Heiress that I designed to let fall the embroidered handkerchief of affectionate selection. At the Millard I was sure to find her. That enormously wealthy and highly distinguished gentleman, her father, would naturally avoid the Ocean House. The adjective _free_, so intimately connected with the _substantive_ ocean, would constantly occur to his mind and wound his sensibilities. The Atlantic House was still more out of the question. The name must perpetually remind the tenants of that hotel of a certain quite objectionable periodical devoted to propagandism. In short, not to pursue this process of elimination farther, and perhaps offend some friend of the class Hotel-Keeper, the Millard was not only about the cheese, _per se_,–I punningly allude here to the creaminess of its society,–but inevitably the place to seek my charmer.
The clock of the Millard was striking eleven as I entered the _salle a manger_ for a late breakfast after my night-journey from New York by steamboat.
I flatter myself that I produced, as I intended, a distinct impression. My deep mourning gave me a most interesting look, which I heightened by an air of languor and abstraction as of one lost in grief. My shirt-studs were jet. The plaits of my shirt were edged with black. My Clarendon was, of course, black, and from its breast-pocket appeared a handkerchief dotted with spots, not dissimilar to black peppermint-drops on a white paper. In consequence of the extreme heat of the season, I wore waistcoat and trousers of white duck; but they, too, were qualified with sombre contrasts of binding and stripes.
The waiters evidently remarked me. It may have been the hope of pecuniary reward, it may have been merely admiration for my dress and person; but several rushed forward, diffusing that slightly oleaginous perfume peculiar to the waiter, and drew chairs for me.
I had, however, selected my position at the table at the moment of my entrance. It was _vis-a-vis_ a party of four persons,–two of the sterner, two of the softer sex. A back view interpreted them to me. There is much physiognomy in the backs of human heads, because–and here I flatter myself that I enunciate a profound truth–people wear that well-known mask, the human countenance, on the front of the human head alone, and think it necessary to provide such concealment nowhere else.
“A rich Southern planter and his family!” I said to myself, and took my seat opposite them.
“Nothing, Michel,” I replied to the waiter’s recital of his bill-of-fare. “Nothing but a glass of iced water and bit of dry toast. Only that, thank you, Michel.”
My appetite was good, particularly as, in consequence of the agitation of the water opposite Point Judith, my stomach had ceased to be occupied with relics of previous meals. My object in denying myself, and accepting simply hermit fare, was to convey to observers my grief for my bereavement. I have always deemed it proper for persons of distinguished birth to deplore the loss of friends in public. Hunger, if extreme, can always be reduced by furtive supplies from the pastry-cook.
I could not avoid observing that the party opposite had each gone through the whole breakfast bill-of-fare in a desultory, but exhaustive manner.
As I ordered my more delicate meal, the younger of the two gentlemen cast upon me a look of latent truculence, such as I have often remarked among my compatriots of the South. He seemed to detect an unexpressed sarcasm in the contrast between my gentle refection and his robust _dejeuner_.
I hastened to disarm such a suspicion by a half-articulate sigh. No one, however crass, could have failed to be touched by this token of a grief so bitter as to refuse luxurious nutriment.
As I sighed, I glanced with tender meaning at the young lady. Her feminine heart, I hoped, would interpret and pity me.
I fancied, that, at my look, her cheeks, though swarthy, blushed. She was certainly interested, and somewhat confused, and paused a moment in her mastication. Ham was the viand she was engaged upon, and she (playfully, I have no doubt) ate with her knife. I have remarked the same occasional superiority to what might be called Fourchettism and its prejudices in others of established position in society.
I lavished a little languid and not too condescending civility upon the party by passing them, when Michel was absent, the salt, the butter, the bread, and other commonplace condiments. Presently I withdrew, that my absence might make me desired. Before I did so, however, I took pains, by the exhibition of the “New York Herald” in my hands, to show that my political sentiments were unexceptionable.
I lost no time in consulting the books of the hotel for the names and homes of the strangers.
I read as follows:–
_Sachary Mellasys and Lady, } Bayou La Miss Saccharissa Mellasys, } Farouche, Mellasys Plickaman, } La._
Saccharissa Mellasys! I rolled the name like a sweet morsel under my tongue. I forgot that she was not beautiful in form, feature, or complexion. How slight, indeed, is the charm of beauty, when compared with other charms more permanent! Ah, yes!
The complexion of Miss Mellasys announced a diet of alternate pickles and _pralines_ during her adolescent years,–the pickles taken to excite an appetite for the _pralines_, the _pralines_ absorbed to occupy the interval until pickle-time approached. Neither her form nor her features were statuesque. But the name glorified the person.
Sachary Mellasys was, as I was well aware, the great sugar-planter of Louisiana, and Saccharissa his only child.