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of great power and originality of mind, but whose powers were eclipsed, and their originality absorbed, by the transcendent power and absorbing originality of Shakspere; just as the little hills appear small beside a lofty mountain, or as the bright and beautiful stars disappear before the overpowering splendour of the lord of day.

That he was so esteemed by his contemporaries, and by the poets of a succeeding age, we have abundant evidence in historical literature. Edmund Spenser, prince of poets, when sitting beside the cool shades of the green alders by the Mulla's shore, discerned the rising and waxing genius of Shakspere; and in one of his poems, after noticing the peculiar genius of all the living poets, he thus addresses Shakspere :

"And then, though last, not least, is Aëteon;
A gentler shepherd may nowhere be found;
Whose muse, full of high thoughts invention,
Doth, like himself, heroically sound."

But while Spenser thus wrote of the youthful Shakspere, when his muse had only produced the sonnets and perhaps the first historical plays, what would he have said when Hamlet, Macbeth, Lear, Tempest, and Midsummer Night's Dream appeared? He would

never imagine that the sapling which threw out those buds of promise, would in a few short years grow up to such magnificent proportions, be laden with such precious fruit, and be attired in such fresh and fra grant foliage.

Ben Jonson, too, that rough and burly son of genius, although a great lover and praiser of himself, and full of scorn when speaking about the works of others, says of Shakspere-"I loved the man, and do honour to his memory on this side idolatry, as much as any. He was indeed honest, of a free and open nature, had excellent fancy, brave notions, excellent expressions, wherein he flowed with that facility, that it was

necessary he should be stopped. There was more in him to be praised than pardoned:" and, in fine, confessed his writings "to be such, as neither man nor muse could praise too much."

The great Puritan poet, John Milton, fourteen years after the death of Shakspere, accorded his high estimate of his genius; a tribute of great value when we consider not merely the high authority of Milton as a poet, scholar, and literary man, but as an acknowledged leader amongst the Puritans; a party which had ever a great antipathy to the drama, used every effort to remove it, and when they got into power did for a time completely crush it-(for so doing, in its then state, they can in a great measure be justified.) But it may be necessary to remark, that before that good revolution in manners, the plays of Shakspere were found too pure and too good for that thoughtless and disappointed crew who came in with the Restoration. But to return the Puritan poet thus sings, in words of fine appreciation:

"What needs my Shakspere for his honour'd bones,
The labours of an age of piled stones;

Or that his hallowed reliques should be hid

Under a starry-pointed pyramid!

Dear son of Memory! great heir of fame,

What need'st thou this weak witness of thy name?

Thou, in our wonder and astonishment,

Hast built thyself a livelong monument;

For whilst, t' the shame of slow endeavouring art,
Thy easy numbers flow, and that each heart
Hath from the leaves of thy unvalued book,
Those Delphic lines with deep impression took;
Then thou our fancy of itself bereaving,

Doth make us marble with too much conceiving;
And so sepulchred in such pomp doth lie,

That kings for such a tomb would wish to die."

And lastly, when, in the licentious court of Charles the Second, the sweltering sea of sensuality rose to its highest tide-mark, and when, along with all that was bright, and pure, and lovely, the works of Shakspere were submerged beneath its turbid waters, even

then, John Dryden admitted that "Shakspere was the man who, of all modern and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul; that, although not learned, he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inwards, and found her there." And when altering the play of the Tem pest to suit the taste of his audience, Dryden acknowledged that "Shakspere's magic could not copied be, for in that circle none durst walk but he."

But it was left to the present age to do justice to the transcendent powers of Shakspere. Since the days of Hume the Scotchman, and Voltaire the Frenchman, who called Shakspere a barbarian, and characterised Hamlet as the work of a drunken savage, and from the days of poor Goldsmith, who strangely said that the growing demand for the works of our poet was a sure sign of the degeneracy in the public taste for literature;-the fame of Shakspere has been steadily growing in the estimation of his countrymen; and at this hour I know of no name which occupies such an exalted place, or exercises an equal influence. There is hardly a modern book that you take up, which is not starred with the thoughts and images of Shakspere. The boys in the street, the lecturers on the platform, the writers for the press, the advocates at the bar, the senator in parliament, the clergy in the pulpits,-all quote him; and over playground, platform, bar, press, parliament, pulpit, doth his genius shed a lustre, his language, and thoughts, and imagery, are so interwoven in the very web and structure of English literature, that their removal would involve its sad mutilation, if not its utter destruction; would indeed reduce the beautiful and variegated web into a thing of shreds and patches. Shakspere is to be judged not so much by the space his works may occupy in the library of the world, as by the influence they have had on the minds of our greatest writers. They have all drawn largely from the fountains of his inspiration. The initiated,

in reading modern books, can easily detect the fine ore of Shakspere's genius, flashing like veins of granite through all the superincumbent formations. His fame and influence are not confined to England only. The Americans look to him with deepest reverence and love. 'Mid the glories which circle this "throne of kings, this precious stone set in the silver sea," one of the greatest and brightest is, that it is the home of Shakspere. They step over centuries of division, and suffering, and blood, which separate him from them, and proudly claim him as their and our common ancestor, teacher, and friend. They cross the broad Atlantic to visit the scenes he has made their own; to wander on the banks of the Avon, where he often wandered; to hear the lark he has enshrined in song, and to shed a tear on his sacred tomb. And thus in the possession of the same common inheritance, in the participation of the same noble sentiments, amid the warm flow of the same tender feelings, -are the bonds drawn closer which connect the old world and the new. Shakspere spans, like a radiant bow, all the dwelling-places of all English peoples, fusing by the fire of his genius into a glorious unity, all the scattered fragments of the Saxon race, binding them all together with firmer, higher, holier bonds, than ever will be forged by the utilitarian spirit of commerce, with all its numerous forms and varied activities evoked and developed by national exchange and intercourse.





[Delivered at the Village Library, Dukinfield, Cheshire, March 3, 1858.]

IF I ever could have forgotten the way in which I was received when last I stood in this school-room, you would certainly have reminded me of it by the hearty expressions of welcome which have greeted me to-night. On that occasion we examined critically the writings of a great author;* we will now discuss a great social problem. I then addressed you on a question of amusing fiction; now my subject is one of heart-stirring fact: then my remarks and quotations were received with frequent bursts of laughter; tonight they will be rather listened to in solemn silence: and if I on the former occasion earned your thanks, I am certain that in pleading the cause of children steeped in crime, I shall gain your sympathy and rivet your attention.

You, the inhabitants of the manufacturing district, have much cause to thank God devoutly, on your bended knees, that there is no type among you of the class whom I am about to describe. I will not weary you with the history of the reformatory movement and the statistics of juvenile crime, for a


* Charles Dickens.

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