« AnteriorContinuar »
evaded by simulation of virtue as inverted by consecration of vice, and where debauchery is argued for on principles of reason, and religion itself, the sacred law of love, is urged in behalf of lewdness and lust. The truth is, there are some people whose morality seems to be all in their ears; who cannot bear to have things called by their right names; nay, who are even fond of dirty things, and will compass sea and land to come at them, provided they can have them dressed in clean words; ana who are never contented unless they have something whereby to persuade themselves that they are serving God while indulging their lusts."
We do not feel as if this needed any comment. Indeed, at present, it is not apparent that anything remains to be said upon the subject.
In another instance the social reformers, i very presumptuous and ignorant species )f "some people," are dealt with as folows:—
"Whether from a fault in himself or in the >ublic for whom he wrote, it is a remarkable act, that Shakspeare never attempts to show lis respect for religion and law by reviling linisters and magistrates ; nor was he so scrtiulously just and charitable as to represent all oor men as wise, temperate, honest, and un>rtunate, and all rich men as cheaters, extoroaers, and sensualists: in a word, he was not ) enlightened and sanctified as to identify social ith moral distinctions; he therefore found, or ?rhaps fancied, something besides virtue in Dvels, and something besides vice in palaces; -iests were not all villains, princes were not 1 dunces, criminals were not all heroes, begirs were not all saints, with him. Which ill probably account for certain sneers and nsures which have lately been cast upon him, not being a reformer, but as being content let things remain as he found them ; as giving 'prophecy' of 'a good time coming,' nor iking any efforts to bring it about; in other >rds, that he did not patronize Providence, r try to rectify the moral government of the iverse, so that all men, and especially all brmers, should be immediately rewarded acting to their deserts, themselves being ges."
One other instance shall suffice for a w of Mr. Hudson's manner when speak• directly in his missionary character:—
1 Yet some appear to think that Shakspeare, ;ligious himself, could not delineate or ceive truly religious characters; probably ause his persons do not take sides on the inquaticular controversy;' their faith alps showing itself in works, not in words, 1 their piety consisting in doing right, not in tting religion.'
If "some people," who will read these lectures, do not have their eyes opened by these and similar passages, then, to use our author's phrase, they may be given over as "spoiled eggs." The truth shines out of them so clearly that there is no mistaking it without intentionally shutting the eyes. "Some people" can talk, and twist, and shift,—they always could and will, which is the reason why it is a waste of time to argue with them; their very nature and essence includes a want of revefrence for God or man, and hence it is their religion never to stop talking, never to be put down, never to confess themselves wrong. But this plain showing of them up must do much to dash even their effrontery, (we refer particularly to the transcendental progressives and social reformers.)
Walking down Broadway on one of those evenings when the lamplighters are instructed to presume the existence of a moon in defiance of the senses, an individual might accost one thus: "Sir, wishing to afford you an unusual gratification, I take the liberty of walking by your side. You are now conversing with a person who was for a long time at the head of one of the greatest nations in the world. I am his late majesty, Louis Philippe, ex-King of France, in disguise." This might be a plan to delude one's vanity, while picking his pocket. But if there was an individual on the roof of the Museum, sending every now and then upon the obscured throng of passengers, those strong rays of the Drummond light which seem almost sensible to feeling, the cheat is not one which would be likely to be attempted. The person addressed would turn to the face of the accoster, would see at once that he lacked the massy features of the ex-kin^;, and would then tell him to go about lii^ business, for that he desired none of bis society.
Just so with "some people," these professors of Everything; they meet us in tin: crowd and affect to be so many Platos, Homers and Lycurguses; they afflict exceedingly many honest persons who lack strength of mind to shake them off, and who thus fall into the sin of answering them according to their folly. But now comes Mr. Hudson, and begins turning his Shakspeare lecture Drummond light—precisely as the man does on the Museum. The honest persons turn upon the pseudo-philosophers who bore them, and they perceive only " some people"—some very silly people—frequently fantastically dressed, with long hair, and the natural position of their under garments reversed. The philosophers also become conscious that their character is known to be assumed, and cannot be sustained; if they were not before aware of this, the strong beams of truth make them so now, and those among them who have sincerely erred will encourage the delusion no more.
But many of them will persist in their claims with the same pertinacity in the face of truth and common sense, as though they were on the best of terms with those all-powerful allies. Just like the Democratic party, to which we have already compared them, their object is not so much the asserting and supporting truth, as the gaining and retaining power.
It is the instinct of a radical, no less in philosophy and letters than in politics, to be noisy. He cannot bear that there should be any finer or nobler being than his own. He cannot understand poetry or art, and his presence takes away from the enjoyment of either. He is fond of argument, because in it he can always talk, and always have the last word. If you pin him to a point he grins and avoids it. He will not permit the existence of any elevated state of feeling in his friends. He is ever manifesting a disposition to laugh at what he cannot enter into or lift himself up to. He will keep to the letter of courtesy while he violates its spirit. He wears upon the nerves, and requires to be held off at arm's length. Obedience, deference, modesty, politeness even, are virtues he does not practice. He is one, in short, to whom, if one wishes to do any good, he must put on dignity and carry it towards him authoritatively—a painful effort for sensitive nerves.
For our own part, we are glad to avoid the immediate contact of this sort of people. They annoy us to the verge of distraction. We prefer to let our light shine upon them from a distance, and to obey the natural impulses of benevolence rather by laboring for their good through intelligent readers. Hence we hear no transcendental or ultra orthodox conversation; the only Fourierite friend we have is—yes, he is ashamed of
the folly, though of course he does not own it. Why should we go down and vex ourselves with thoughts and questions which lie in a region where all sensible thinkers are absolutely omniscient? If, when we are walking up Broadway, (to use our former comparison,) a man comes up who tells us there are three hundred lamp posts between the Astor House and Canal street, and that, therefore, we must believe in the speedy restoration of the Jews, we are not bound, unless by some very recent statute, to refute the proposition. The individual who wishes to entertain us with such speculations puts himself in a state of quasi insanity. He is no prophet, such a man, but an auger, and his conversation is an unprofitable bore.
If he intended to amuse us, or if he had to communicate, or desired to learn aught of us, that would be another affair. If for instance, in passing the newRuss pavement, one should call our attention to it as a fine example of the rus in urbe, (even that might be endured,) or if one stopped us merely to ask the way to such a street, or to inform us that we had dropped a glove— anything, no matter what, save utter rapidness, would be tolerable. But we cannot, with due courtesy to "some people," can not devote our time to nonsense. Their conversation and writing, therefore, have long ceased to appear to us worth answering, or, for its own sake, even noticing.
But Mr. Hudson, and this is another proof of his mission, is still annoyed by "some people," and delights to perplex and confound them. It is of the nature of his mind to see things minutely in detail. His Drummond light illuminates with exceeding clearness whatever point he turns it towards; but he is not, and this may be said without disparagement, since there are so few such in the world, a great fixed beacon like Coleridge, who irradiates at once the broad horizon.
Or, to speak in another figure, he is one who, in writing, does not bear himself away on the wings of emotion, aroused by the great vision of an entire effect, but he moves laboriously, fettered by the desire of being effective in every sentence, and by the intensity with which he sees the immediate points that arise in his treatment of his subject. His sight is keen, but near the ground; he detects weeds among flowers, and wherever he does so they are sure to come out; higher up he could not do this so well, but would see wider landscapes. Little men and little thoughts vex and stop him. A capital marksman, he kills hundreds of squirrels, coons, foxes and other such vermin, when if he would not be distracted by their clamor, but would leave the bush and take to the open prairie, he might have nobler sport with grim white wolves and bellowing buffaloes.
The droll, querulous manner in which he pops away at all sorts of little-mindedness, under the head of " some people," is very diverting, as it is also creditable to his skill. He is the terror and the terrier of knownothings. He will not have them about him. He exclaims against them, slaps at them, and flattens scores of them at every stroke. We look where they had been, and there is nothing to be seen but an antithesis or a comparison.
The spirit in which he attacks nonsense in general is, as he probably meant it to be, highly entertaining in its quality as well as suited to the purpose. He does not go into great passions with it, but in just enough little ones to give his sarcasms heartiness as well as pleasantness, and so to make them sting.
"VVe should naturally presume, indeed, that a man would understand a thing in proportion as he had studied it; but heroin we are liable to err; for critic Bottom plainly understands a thing in proportion as he has not studied it: in which respect he has certainly had more imitators of late years than any other great man whose name and fame have reached us."
"A straw fire in the night may bo a very pretty thing; but it only sets people to running after it, and then dies out by the time they get there, thus leaving them more in the dark than they were before.
The tone of these, and a hundred other excellent things in these lectures, as well is of the passages above quoted, is so analDgous to that of another worthy personage, that one cannot help fancying there must L>e some blood relation between our author ind the Nipper:—
"A person may tell a person to dive off a Liridge head foremost into five and forty feet of ivater, Mrs. Richards, but a person may be very far from diving."
All these peculiarities make him just the one to achieve the work appointed for him
of antagonizing and exterminating a peculiar development of sentimentalism.
But besides his missionary labor, he has produced in these volumes the best book on Shakspeare that has ever been given to the American public. He has so much nationality as well as individuality that his calculations are peculiarly fitted to our meridian ; he sees through our mind, (being a Yankee,) and has aimed at it so well that he has done his countrymen a service as well as himself an honor in what he has written. He would not desire of course to be compared with Coleridge or Lamb; but he may justly congratulate himself on having produced what will have much more effect than their criticisms in keeping Shakspeare before our people—and this too not by lowering his subject, but in a way which all true Shakspearians and honest men must approve. He cannot lay claim to a very high degree of poetic emotion; nor has he that sort of power which flashes on the mind's eye new and abiding views of ideal characters. But he talks about them in a way that must interest readers, encourage them to freedom and clearness of thought, and strengthen them against all manner of temptation to hypocrisy and self-deception. Though he has exercised his wit in sarcasm, where it was needed, he has written more in love than to punish. He is evidently self-reliant and fearless, but he has reverence for his author, and designs to spread a true knowledge of him. He is outright and. frank; his faults are therefore pardonable, and his excellencies not accidental, but the result of the sincere labor of an acute scholar.
With regard to the sonnets of Shakspeare, with which he begins his lectures, we think it best to differ with him in supposing, because they were addressed to a Mr. W. H. as "the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets," that therefore the ideal love, or friend, celebrated in them, was likely to have been William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. That he or some actual person is meant in some few of them, is quite probable; in the one wherein Downland and Spenser are mentioned, for example, the poet is apostrophizing some living person. Perhaps in the composition of others he may have had actual persons for sitters—images from which he idealized and created states of emotion and fancy, and embodied them in these works of art. The sonnet commencing, "Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits," should have been from a wife to her absent husband ; such ones as "When in disgrace," * or, "When I do count the clock," are from a lover to his mistress. The whole together appear to be a collection of pieces in that form, written at various times, and in different moods of mind. Some express a proud power, others sad resolution, tenderness, regret, hope, love, sorrow; yet all have that wonderful condensation and peculiar freedom of language which mark them as the production of the same great artist. Perhaps they were written as studies, and Shakspeare persevered in using the sonnet form as the most purely artistic and difficult of any, feeling that if he could attain the ease and habit of symmetry necessary to bring out that harmony of emotion and expression which is the perfection of poetry, while compelling his imagination to work under so great a stress of carefulness, then the requirements of ordinary verse would leave him almost free. Just as great composers of music write in strict fugued counterpoint till they acquire an almost miraculous command of harmony, and painters study the human face and form till they master its changes under the many shades of expression and effect.
For poetry is an art, and its forms require study as much as those of any other art. The poet's emotion, thought, fancy, passion, <fcc, pass out from him under the superintendence of his judgment, and in a strict form, of which he is perfectly conscious. A man cannot well write a sonnet without knowing what he is about. Ho must write in some form, and the mastery of any form is not a natural and inalienable attribute of humanity. We cannot "gush" poetry, as is evident not less from
* Mr. Hudson quotes thus:
Haply I think on thee; and then my state Is like the lark at break of day uprising From earth aud singing hymns at heaven's gate.
Our London Edition of Hazlitt's Poets has it—
Haply I think on thee,—and then my state
the teachings of common sense within. than from the lamentable failures of late years in the many attempts to do so around us. Good poetry requires the reason, the taste, and the intellect, as well as the heart, the fancy, and the imagination. The raptures of song and music are not thoseof wine. It would seem to be the idea with a superficial class of thinkers, that even admitting the necessity of a study of the form of poetry, the poet should, at the time of inspiration, be able to forget that he was using any form, and should flow on in spontaneous jets of musical eloquence; and that poetry so written would be more perfect in form than if the writer should endeavor conscientiously to conform w rule. In other words, they would bare him study his rule till the moment of application, and then throw it aside and go by the pure aslus animi. This, it seems to us, is a very low view of the art Wt are not to stndy celare arlem but the an celare arlem. That is, we should not aiff to throw aside the art and conceal it br not using it, but we should endeavor H command the art, with so much power thai there shall be a sense of ease and streogti imparted to the reader.
Just at our time, when "some peopk are so given to self-utterance, so ready * take upon themselves the feeling that tier arc great artists, when they are in truth s artists at all, it is well to insist on the prtical part of poetry, and to say very plainir. at the expense of being styled a "c«iv«tionalist," "purist, *' or whatever tb* phrase may be, that poets are not tin* who can intoxicate themselves with i'v nectar of conceit, and then expose tb-r raptures to the world. They are th» who can express raised states of the ass. exportable by all mankind, in forms sniut* to those states; who have the art to entrol themselves and beget a temperaaor; the very tempest and whirlwind of pass* who express not themselves but what tb»7 think, see, and hear, in that -way. becss? they are impelled to it by a natural *pis ual impulse—a feeling not primaril) • desire for fame or any other conseq».vbut of a strong wish to excel in that cr partment, and a notion that they en a* will—by study, by thought, by "a remit* compulsion of themselves to the task, B» earnestly did the inspired ploughman b
:o make himself worthy of the title 'Robert Burns, Poet!" His was no such aspiration as took away his senses. His nost musical, most melancholy songs were lot produced by a mind made maudlin h rough a contemplation of its own charms. le was too delicate-minded a man to unover himself and " think out 'loud " before is countrymen. We gather but a meagre ecount of his personal history from his oems. .
If these be true views of the art of riting poetry, then they afford a reason r supposing that Shakspeare composed s Sonnets chiefly as exercises, artistically eating imaginary conditions within himIf, and producing them in required ■ms. There is no necessity for believing em to have been personally intended; leed, if it could be proved that they :re so, it would tend to show that Shak;are was not only himself, but comprended Milton, and at the same time sang
native wood-notes wild on the blos'my ay of the social earth, and towered ong the stars like a winged messenger heaven; it would make him the artist control as well as of liberty, and force fo admire the power of an imagination ich could at once bear its possessor to
gates of paradise, and gladden the en earth with smiles. In fine, it would ie the musical element in him to pren'nate and sustain the descriptive and reasoning powers in such a way that he J Id seem to address himself to others, reas in his manifestation of himself >ugh the drama he appears rapt in emplation and self-communion, (not Ty,) speaking to himself alone—borne ard in his flight, not on self-created >ns, or by the fire and strength of his >dy, but by the natural loftiness of his
•fore proceeding further in the path of ght suggested by these observations, j is a passage from Coleridge which it cessary to quote, for its own sake, as as in justice to Mr. Hudson. It is of the concluding paragraph of the al analysis of the Venus and Adonis ijucrece, in the second volume of the ■aphia Literaria. There is in the latrm, he says —
y, the same perfect dominion, often domiover the whole world of language.
L. II. NO. I. WKW SEMES. 4
What then shall we say? even this: that Shakspeare, no mere child of nature; no automaton of genius; no passive vehicle of inspiration possessed by the spirit, not possessing it; first studied patiently, meditated deeply, understood minutely, till knowledge, become habitual and intuitive, wedded itself to his habitual feelings, and at length gave birth to that stupendous power by which he stands alone, with no equal or second in his own class; to that power which seated him on one of the two glory-smitten summits of the poetic mountain, with Milton as his compeer, not rival. While the former darts himself forth, and passes into all the forms of human character and passion, the one Proteus of the fire and the flood; the other attracts all forms and things to himself, into the unity of his own Ideal. All things and modes of action shape themselves anew in the being of Milton; while Shakspeare becomes all things, yet forever remaining himself. O what great men hast thou not produced, England I my country! truly indeed—
'Must we be free or die, who speak the tongue Which Shakspeare spake; the faith and morals
hold Which Milton held: in everything we aw
sprung Of earth 8 first blood, have titles manifold !'"
In Mr. Hudson's chapter on Shakspeare's perceptive powers, near the end, we have the following :—
"Herein Shakspeare differs altogether from Milton. Milton concentrates all things into himself, and melts them down into his own individuality ; Shakspeare darts himself forth into all things, and melts down his individuality into theirs. Every page of Milton's writings exhibits a full-length portrait of the author; the perfect absence of Shakspeare from his own pages, makes it difficult for us to conceive of a human being's having written them. The secret of this probably is, Milton had nearly all of Shakspeare's imagination, but perhaps not a tithe of Shakspeare's vision. The former might have created a thousand characters, and all would have been but modifications of himself; the latter did create nearly a thousand, and not an element of himself can be found in one of them. Thus Milton transforms all the objects of his contemplation into himself, while Shakspeare transforms himself into whatever object he contemplates: the one makes us see his own image in all things, the other makes us see everything but his own image."
And the chapter concludes as follows:—
"With most authors language is as hard and stiff" as granite. It comes from them shrpei and colored exactly as they find it. Insteau of governing it, they are governed by it; they shape and submit their minds to its pre-existing