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154 Notes on Hamlet 
lb. Gentleman's speech : — 
And as the world were now but to begin 
Antiquity forgot, custom not known, 
The ratifiers and props of every word — 
They cry, &c. 
Fearful and self-suspicious as I always feel, when 1 
seem to see an error of judgment in Shakspeare, yet I can- 
not reconcile the cool, and, as Warburton calls it, 'rational 
and consequential,' reflection in these lines with the anony- 
mousness, or the alarm, of this Gentleman or Messenger, 
as he is called in other editions. 
lb. King's speech : — 
There's such divinity doth hedge a king, 
That treason can but peep to what it would, 
Acts little of his will. 
Proof, as indeed aU else is, that Shakspeare never in- 
tended us to see the King with Hamlet's eyes ; though, 
I suspect, the managers have long done so. 
lb. Speech of Laertes : — 
To hell, allegiance ! vows, to the blackest devil 1 
Laertes is a good character, but, &c. Warburton. 
Mercy on Warburton's notion of goodness ! Please to 
refer to the seventh scene of this act ; — 
I will do it ; 
And for that purpose I'll anoint my sword, &c. 
uttered by Laertes after the King's description of 
Hamlet ; — 
He being remiss. 
Most generous, and free from all contriving, 
Will not peruse the foOs. 
Yet I acknowledge that Shakspeare evidently wishes, as 
much as possible, to spare the character of Laertes, — to 
break the extreme turpitude of his consent to become an 
agent and accomplice of the King's treachery ; — and to 
this end he re-introduces Ophelia at the close of this scene 
to afford a probable stimulus of passion in her brother. 
lb. sc. 6. Hamlet's capture by the pirates. This is 
almost the only play of Shakspeare, in which mere accidents, 
independent of all will, form an essential part of the plot ; 
— but here how judiciously in keeping with the character 
Notes on Hamlet 155 
of the over-meditative Hamlet, ever at last determined by 
accident or by a fit of passion ! 
lb. sc. 7. Note how the King first awakens Laertes's 
vanity by praising the reporter, and then gratifies it by the 
report itself, and finally points it by — 
Sir, this report of his 
Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy I — 
lb. King's speech : 
For goodness, growing to a pleurisy, 
Dies in his own too much. 
Theobald's note from Warburton, who conjectures 
I rather think that Shakspeare meant 'pleurisy,' but 
involved in it the thought of plethora, as supposing pleurisy 
to arise from too much blood ; otherwise I cannot explain 
the following line — 
And then this should is like a spendthrift sigh, 
That hurts by easing. 
In a stitch in the side every one must have heaved a sigh 
that 'hurt by easing.' 
Since writing the above I feel confirmed that 'pleurisy' 
is the right word ; for I find that in the old medical 
dictionaries the pleurisy is often called the 'plethory.' 
Queen. Your sister's drown'd, Laertes. 
Laer. Drown'd ! O, where ? 
That Laertes might be excused in some degree for not 
cooling, the Act concludes with the affecting death of 
Ophelia, — who in the beginning lay like a little projection 
of land into a lake or stream, covered with spray-flowers, 
quietly reflected in the quiet waters, but at length is under- 
mined or loosened, and becomes a faery isle, and after a 
brief vagrancy sinks almost without an eddy ! 
Act V. sc. I. O, the rich contrast between the Clowns 
and Hamlet, as two extremes ! You see in the former the 
mockery of logic, and a traditional wit valued, Hke truth, 
for its antiquity, and treasured up, like a tune, for use. 
lb. sc. I and 2. Shakspeare seems to mean aU Hamlet's 
character to be brought together before his final dis- 
appearance from the scene ; — his meditative excess in the 
Notes on Macbeth 
grave-digging, his yielding to passion with Laertes, his 
love for Ophelia blazing out, his tendency to generalize 
on all occasions in the dialogue with Horatio, his fine 
gentlemanly manners with Osrick, and his and Shak- 
speare's own fondness for presentiment : 
But thou would'st not think, how ill all's here about my heart : 
but it is no matter. 
Macbeth stands in contrast throughout with Hamlet ; 
in the manner of opening more especially. In the latter, 
there is a gradual ascent from the simplest forms of con- 
versation to the language of impassioned intellect, — yet 
the intellect still remaining the seat of passion : in the 
former, the invocation is at once made to the imagination 
and the emotions connected therewith. Hence the move- 
ment throughout is the most rapid of all Shakspeare's 
plays ; and hence also, with the exception of the disgusting 
passage of the Porter (Act ii. sc. 3), which I dare pledge 
myself to demonstrate to be an interpolation of the actors, 
there is not, to the best of my remembrance, a single pun 
or play on words in the whole drama. I have previously 
given an answer to the thousand times repeated charge 
against Shakspeare upon the subject of his punning, and 
I here merely mention the fact of the absence of any puns 
in Macbeth, as justifying a candid doubt at least, whether 
even in these figures of speech and fanciful modifications 
of language, Shakspeare may not have followed rules and 
principles that merit and would stand the test of philo- 
sophic examination. And hence, also, there is an entire 
absence of comedy, nay, even of irony and philosophic 
contemplation in Macbeth, — the play being wholly and 
purely tragic. For the same cause, there are no reasonings 
of equivocal morality, which would have required a more 
leisurely state and a consequently greater activity of 
mind ; — no sophistry of self-delusion, — except only that 
previously to the dreadful act, Macbeth mistranslates the 
recoilings and ominous whispers of conscience into pru- 
dential and selfish reasonings, and, after the deed done, 
the terrors of remorse into fear from external dangers, — 
Notes on Macbeth 157 
like delirious men who run away from the phantoms of 
their own brains, or, raised by terror to rage, stab the real 
object that is within their reach : — whilst Lady Macbeth 
merely endeavours to reconcile his and her own sinkings 
of heart by anticipations of the worst, and an affected 
bravado in confronting them. In all the rest, Macbeth's 
language is the grave utterance of the very heart, con- 
science-sick, even to the last faintings of moral death. 
It is the same in all the other characters. The variety 
arises from rage, caused ever and anon by disruption of 
anxious thought, and the quick transition of fear into it. 
In Hamlet and Macbeth the scene opens with super- 
stition ; but, in each it is not merely different, but opposite. 
In the first it is connected with the best and holiest feel- 
ings ; in the second with the shadowy, turbulent, and 
ansanctified cravings of the individual will. Nor is the 
purpose the same ; in the one the object is to excite, 
whilst in the other it is to mark a mind already excited. 
Superstition, of one sort or another, is natural to 
victorious generals ; the instances are too notorious to 
need mentioning. There is so much of chance in warfare, 
and such vast events are connected with the acts of a single 
individual, — the representative, in truth, of the efforts of 
myriads, and yet to the public and, doubtless, to his own 
feelings, the aggregate of all, — that the proper tempera- 
ment for generating or receiving superstitious impres- 
sions is naturally produced. Hope, the master element of 
a commanding genius, meeting with an active and combin- 
ing intellect, and an imagination of just that degree of vivid- 
ness which disquiets and impels the soul to try to realize 
its images, greatly increases the creative power of the 
mind ; and hence the images become a satisfying world of 
themselves, as is the case in every poet and original 
philosopher : — but hope fully gratified, and yet, the ele- 
mentary basis of the passion remaining, becomes fear ; 
and, indeed, the general, who must often feel, even though 
he may hide it from his own consciousness, how large a 
share chance had in his successes, may very naturally be 
irresolute in a new scene, where he knows that all will 
depend on his own act and election. 
The Weird Sisters are as true a creation of Shakspeare's, 
as his Ariel and Caliban, — fates, furies, and materializing 
witches being the elements. They are wholly different 
158 Notes on Macbeth 
from any representation of witches in the contemporary 
writers, and yet presented a sufficient external resemblance 
to the creatures of vulgar prejudice to act immediately on 
the audience. Their character consists in the imagina- 
tive disconnected from the good ; they are the shadowy 
obscure and fearfully anomalous of physical nature, the 
lawless of human nature, — elemental avengers without 
sex or kin : 
Fair is foul, and foul is fair ; 
Hover thro' the fog and filtliy air. 
How much it were to be wished in playing Macbeth, that 
an attempt should be made to introduce the flexile char- 
acter-mask of the ancient pantomime ; — that Flaxman 
would contribute his genius to the embodying and making 
sensuously perceptible that of Shakspeare ! 
The style and rhythm of the Captain's speeches in the 
second scene should be illustrated by reference to the 
interlude in Hamlet, in which the epic is substituted for 
the tragic, in order to make the latter be felt as the real-hfe 
diction. In Macbeth, the poet's object was to raise the 
mind at once to the high tragic tone, that the audience 
might be ready for the precipitate consummation of guilt 
in the early part of the play. The true reason for the first 
appearance of the Witches is to strike the key-note of the 
character of the whole drama, as is proved by their re- 
appearance in the third scene, after such an order of the 
king's as establishes their supernatural power of informa- 
tion. I say information, — for so it only is as to Glamis 
and Cawdor ; the 'king hereafter' was still contingent, — 
still in Macbeth' s moral will ; although, if he should yield 
to the temptation, and thus forfeit his free agency, the 
link of cause and effect more physico would then com- 
mence. I need not say, that the general idea is all that 
can be required from the poet, — not a scholastic logical 
consistency in all the parts so as to meet metaphysical 
objectors. But O ! how truly Shakspearian is the opening 
of Macbeth's character given in the unpossessedness of 
Banquo's mind, whoU}^ present to the present object, — 
an unsullied, unscarified mirror ! — And how strictly true 
to nature it is, that Banquo, and not Macbeth himself, 
directs our notice to the effect produced on Macbeth's 
mind, rendered temptible by previous dalliance of the 
fancy with ambitious thoughts : 
Notes on Macbeth 159 
Good Sir, why do you start ; and seem to fear 
Things that do sound so fair ? 
And then, again, still unintroitive, addresses the Witches : — 
I' the name of truth. 
Are ye fantastical, or that indeed 
Which outwardly ye sho^ ? 
Banquo's questions are those of natural curiosity, — such 
as a girl would put after hearing a gipsy tell her school- 
fellow's fortune ; — all perfectly general, or rather planless. 
But Macbeth, lost in thought, raises himself to speech 
only by the Witches being about to depart : — 
Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more : — 
and all that follows is reasoning on a problem already 
discussed in his mind, — on a hope which he welcomes, and 
the doubts concerning the attainment of which he wishes 
to have cleared up. Compare his eagerness, — the keen 
eye with which he has pursued the Witches' evanishing — 
Speak, I charge you ! 
with the easily satisfied mind of the self -uninterested 
Banquo : — 
The earth hath bubbles, as the water has, 
And these are of them : — Whither are they vanished ? 
and then Macbeth's earnest reply, — 
Into the air ; and what seem'd corporal, melted 
As breath into the wind. — ' Would they had staid I 
Is it too minute to notice the appropriateness of the simile 
'as breath,' &c., in a cold climate ? 
Still again Banquo goes on wondering like any common 
spectator : 
Were such things here as we do speak about ? 
whilst Macbeth persists in recurring to the self-concern- 
ing :— 
Your children shall be kings. 
Ban. You shall be king. 
Macb. And thane of Cawdor too : went it not so ? 
So surely is the guilt in its germ anterior to the supposed 
cause, and immediate temptation ! Before he can cool. 
i6o Notes on Macbeth 
the confirmation of the tempting half of the prophecy 
arrives, and the concatenating tendency of the imagination 
is fostered by the sudden coincidence : — 
Glamis, and thane of Cawdor : 
The greatest is behind. 
Oppose this to Banquo's simple surprise : — > 
What, can the devil speak true ? 
lb. Banquo's speech : — 
That, trusted home. 
Might yet enkindle you unto the crown. 
Besides the thane of Cawdor. 
I doubt whether 'enkindle' has not another sense than 
that of 'stimulating ;' I mean of 'kind' and 'kin,' as when 
rabbits are said to 'kindle.' However Macbeth no longer 
hears any thing ah extra : — 
Two truths are told, 
As happy prologues to the swelling act 
Of the imperial theme. 
Then in the necessity of recollecting himself — 
1 thank you, gentlemen. 
Then he relapses into himself again, and every word of his 
soliloquy shows the early birth-date of his guilt. He is 
all-powerful without strength ; he wishes the end, but is 
irresolute as to the means ; conscience distinctly warns 
him, and he lulls it imperfectly : — 
If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me 
Without my stir. 
Lost in the prospective of his guilt, he turns round alarmed 
lest others may suspect what is passing in his own mind, 
and instantly vents the lie of ambition : 
My dull brain was wrought 
With things forgotten ; — 
And immediately after pours forth the promising courtesies 
of a usurper in intention : — 
Kind gentlemen, your pains 
Are register'd where every day I turn 
The leaf to read them. 
Notes on Macbeth i6i 
lb. Macbeth's speech : 
Present fears 
Are less than horrible imaginings. 
Warburton's note, and substitution of 'feats' for 'fears.* 
Mercy on this most wilful ingenuity of blundering, 
which, nevertheless, was the very Warburton of Warburton 
— his inmost being ! 'Fears,' here, are present fear- 
striking objects, terrihilia adstantia. 
lb. sc. 4. O ! the affecting beauty of the death of 
Cawdor, and the presentimental speech of the king : 
There's no art 
To find the mind's construction in the face : 
He was a gentleman on whom I built 
An absolute trust — 
Interrupted by — 
O worthiest cousin ! 
Dn the entrance of the deeper traitor for whom Cawdor 
tiad made way ! And here in contrast with Duncan's 
'plenteous joys,' Macbeth has nothing but the common- 
places of loyalty, in which he hides himself with 'our 
duties.' Note the exceeding effort of Macbeth's addresses 
to the king, his reasoning on his allegiance, and then 
especially when a new difficulty, the designation of a 
successor, suggests a new crime. This, however, seems 
the first distinct notion, as to the plan of realizing his 
wishes ; and here, therefore, with great propriety, 
Macbeth's cowardice of his own conscience discloses 
itself. I always think there is something especially Shak- 
spearian in Duncan's speeches throughout this scene, such 
pourings forth, such abandonments, compared with the 
language of vulgar dramatists, whose characters seem to 
have made their speeches as the actors learn them. 
lb. Duncan's speech : — 
Sons, kinsmen, thanes, 
And you whose places are the nearest, know, 
We will establish our estate upon 
Our eldest Malcolm, whom we name hereafter 
The Prince of Cumberland : which honour must 
Not unaccompanied, invest him only ; 
But signs of nobleness, like stars, shall shine 
On all deservers. 
It is a fancy ; — but I can never read this and the follow- 
1 62 Notes on Macbeth 
ing speeches of Macbeth, without involuntarily thinking 
of the Miltonic Messiah and Satan. 
lb. sc. 5. Macbeth is described by Lady Macbeth so 
as at the same time to reveal her own character. Could 
he have every thing he v/anted, he would rather have it 
innocently ; — ignorant, as alas ! how many of us are, that 
he who wishes a temporal end for itself, does in truth will 
the means ; and hence the danger of indulging fancies. 
Lady Macbeth, hke all in Shakspeare, is a class individua- 
lized : — of high rank, left much alone, and feeding herself 
with day-dreams of ambition, she mistakes the courage 
of fantasy for the power of bearing the consequences of the 
realities of guilt. Hers is the mock fortitude of a mind 
deluded by ambition ; she shames her husband with a 
superhuman audacity of fancy which she cannot support, 
but sinks in the season of remorse, and dies in suicidal 
agony. Her speech : 
Come, all you spirits 
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, &c. 
is that of one who had habitually familiarized her imagina- 
tion to dreadful conceptions, and was trying to do so still 
more. Her invocations and requisitions are all the false 
efforts of a mind accustomed only hitherto to the shadows 
of the imagination, vivid enough to throw the every-day 
substances of life into shadow, but never as yet brought 
into direct contact with their own correspondent realities. 
She evinces no womanly life, no wifely joy, at the return 
of her husband, no pleased terror at the thought of his 
past dangers, whilst Macbeth bursts forth naturally — 
My dearest love — 
and shrinks from the boldness with which she presents his 
own thoughts to him. With consummate art she at first 
uses as incentives the very circumstances, Duncan's 
coming to their house, &c. which Macbeth's conscience 
would most probably have adduced to her as motives of 
abhorrence or repulsion. Yet Macbeth is not prepared : 
We will speak further. 
lb. SC. 6. The lyrical movement with which this scene 
opens, and the free and unengaged mind of Banquo, loving 
nature, and rewarded in the love itself, form a highly 
Notes on Macbeth 163 
dramatic contrast with the laboured rhythm and hypo- 
critical over-much of Lady Macbeth's welcome, in which 
you cannot detect a ray of personal feeling, but all is 
thrown upon the 'dignities,' the general duty, 
lb. sc. 7. Macbeth's speech : 
We will proceed no further in this business : 
He hath honor'd me of late ; and I have bought 
Golden opinions from all sorts of people. 
Which would be worn now in their newest gloss. 
Not cast aside so soon. 
Note the inward pangs and warnings of conscience 
interpreted into prudential reasonings. 
Act ii. sc. I. Banquo's speech : 
A heavy summons lies like lead upon me, 
And yet I would not sleep. Merciful powers ! 
Restrain in me the cursed thoughts, that nature 
Gives way to in repose. 
The disturbance of an innocent soul by painful suspicions 
of another's guilty intentions and wishes, and fear of the 
cursed thoughts of sensual nature. 
lb. sc. 2. Now that the deed is done or doing — now 
that the first reahty commences. Lady Macbeth shrinks. 
The most simple sound strikes terror, the most natural 
consequences are horrible, whilst previously every thing, 
however awful, appeared a mere trifle ; conscience, which 
before had been hidden to Macbeth in selfish and prudential 
fears, now rushes in upon him in her own veritable person : 
Methought I heard a voice cry — Sleep no more I 
I could not say Amen, 
When they did say, God bless us ! 
And see the novelty given to the most familiar images by 
a new state of feeling. 
lb. sc. 3. This low soliloquy of the Porter and his few 
speeches afterwards, I believe to have been written for the 
mob by some other hand, perhaps with Shakspeare's 
consent ; and that finding it take, he with the remaining 
ink of a pen otherwise employed, just interpolated the 
words — 
I'll devil-porter it no further : I had thought to have let in some 
of all professions, that go the primrose way to th' everlasting 
164 Notes on Macbeth 
Of the rest not one syllable has the ever-present being of 
Act iii. sc. I. Compare Macbeth' s mode of working on 
the murderers in this place with Schiller's mistaken scene 
between Butler, Devereux, and Macdonald in Wallenstein. 
(Part II. act iv. sc. 2.) The comic was whoUy out of 
season. Shakspeare never introduces it, but when it may 
react on the tragedy by harmonious contrast. 
lb. sc. 2. Macbeth's speech : 
But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer, 
Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep 
In the affliction of these terrible dreams 
That shake us nightly. 
Ever and ever mistaking the anguish of conscience for 
fears of selfishness, and thus as a punishment of that 
selfishness, plunging still deeper in guilt and ruin. 
lb. Macbeth's speech : 
Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, 
Till thou applaud the deed. 
This is Macbeth's sympathy with his own feelings, and 
liis mistaking his wife's opposite state. 
lb. sc. 4. 
Mach. It will have blood, they say ; blood will have blood : 
Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak ; 
Augurs, and understood relations, have 
By magot-pies, and choughs, and rooks, brought forth 
The secret' st man of blood. 
The deed is done ; but Macbeth receives no comfort, no 
additional security. He has by guilt torn himself live- 
asunder from nature, and is, therefore, himself in a preter- 
natural state : no wonder, then, that he is inclined to 
superstition, and faith in the unknown of signs and tokens, 
and super-human agencies. 
Act iv. sc. I. 
Len. 'Tis two or three, my lord, that bring you word, 
Macduff is fled to England. 
Mach. Fled to England 1 
The acme of the avenging conscience. 
lb. sc. 2. This scene, dreadful as it is, is still a relief, 
because a variety, because domestic, and therefore sooth- 
ing, as associated with the only real pleasures of life. The 
Notes on Macbeth 165 
conversation between Lady Macduff and her child heightens 
the pathos, and is preparatory for the deep tragedy of their 
assassination. Shakspeare's fondness for children is every 
where shown ; — in Prince Arthur, in King John ; in the 
sweet scene in the Winter's Tale between Hermione and 
her son ; nay, even in honest Evans's examination of 
Mrs. Page's schoolboy. To the objection that Shakspeare 
wounds the moral sense by the unsubdued, undisguised 
description of the most hateful atrocity — that he tears the 
feelings without mercy, and even outrages the eye itself 
with scenes of insupportable horror — I, omitting Titus 
Andronicus, as not genuine, and excepting the scene of 
Gloster's blinding in Lear, answer boldly in the name of 
Shakspeare, not guilty. 
lb. sc. 3. Malcolm's speech : 
Better Macbeth, 
Than such a one to reign. 
The moral is — the dreadful effects even on the best 
minds of the soul-sickening sense of insecurity. 
lb. How admirably Macduff's grief is in harmony with 
the whole play ! It rends, not dissolves, the heart. 'The 
tune of it goes manly. ' Thus is Shakspeare always master 
of himself and of his subject, — a genuine Proteus : — we 
see all things in him, as images in a calm lake, most distinct, 
most accurate, — only more splendid, more glorified. This 
is correctness in the only philosophical sense. But he 
requires your sympathy and your submission ; you must 
have that recipiency of moral impression without which the 
purposes and ends of the drama would be frustrated, and 
the absence of which demonstrates an utter want of all 
imagination, a deadness to that necessary pleasure of being 
innocently — shall I say, deluded ? — or rather, drawn away 
from ourselves to the music of noblest thought in har- 
monious sounds. Happy he, who not only in the public 
theatre, but in the labours of a profession, and round the 
light of his own hearth, still carries a heart so pleasure- 
fraught ! 
Alas for Macbeth ! now all is inward with him ; he has 
no more prudential prospective reasonings. His wife, the 
only being who could have had any seat in his affections, 
dies ; he puts on despondency, the final heart-armour of 
the wretched, and would fain think every thing shadowy 
i66 Notes on The Winters Tale 
and unsubstantial, as indeed all things are to those who 
cannot regard them as symbols of goodness : — 
Out out, brief candle ! 
Life's but a walking shadow ; a poor player, 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage. 
And then is heard no more ; it is a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. 
Signifying nothing. 
Although, on the whole, this play is exquisitely respondent 
to its title, and even in the fault I am about to mention, 
still a winter's tale ; yet it seems a mere indolence of the 
great bard not to have provided in the oracular response 
(Act ii. sc. 2) some ground for Hermione's seeming death 
and fifteen years voluntary concealment. This might 
have been easily effected by some obscure sentence of 
the oracle, as for example : — 
' Nor shall he ever recover an heir, if he have a wife before thit 
recovery. ' 
The idea of this delightful drama is a genuine jealousy 
of disposition, and it should be immediately followed by 
the perusal of Othello, which is the direct contrast of it 
in every particular. For jealousy is a vice of the mind, 
a culpable tendency of the temper, having certain well 
known and well defined effects and concomitants, all of 
which are visible in Leontes, and, I boldly say, not one of 
which marks its presence in Othello ; — such as, first, an 
excitability by the most inadequate causes, and an eager- 
ness to snatch at proofs ; secondly, a grossness of concep- 
tion, and a disposition to degrade the object of the passion 
by sensual fancies and images ; thirdly, a sense of shame 
of his own feelings exhibited in a solitary moodiness of 
humour, and yet from the violence of the passion forced 
to utter itself, and therefore catching occasions to ease 
the mind by ambiguities, equivoques, by talking to those 
who cannot, and who are known not to be able to, under- 
stand what is said to them, — in short, by soliloquy in the 
form of dialogue, and hence a confused, broken, and 
fragmentary, manner ; fourthly, a dread of vulgar ridicule, 
Notes on The Winter's Tale 167 
as distinct from a high sense of honour, or a mistaken sense 
of duty ; and lastly, and immediately, consequent on this, 
a spirit of selfish vindictiveness. 
Act i. sc. I — 2. 
Observe the easy style of chitchat between Camillo and 
iVrchidamus as contrasted with the elevated diction on 
the introduction of the kings and Hermione in the second 
scene : and how admirably Polixenes' obstinate refusal 
to Leontes to stay — 
There is no tongue that moves ; none, none i' the world 
So soon as yours, could win me ; — 
prepares for the effect produced by his afterwards yielding 
to Hermione ; — which is, nevertheless, perfectly natural 
from mere courtesy of sex, and the exhaustion of the will 
by former efforts of denial, and well calculated to set in 
nascent action the jealousy of Leontes. This, when once 
excited, is unconsciously increased by Hermione : — 
Yet, good deed, Leontes, 
I love thee not a jar o' the clock behind 
What lady she her lord ; — 
accompanied, as a good actress ought to represent it, by 
an expression and recoil of apprehension that she had gone 
too far. 
At my request, he would not : — 
The first working of the jealous fit ; — 
Too hot, too hot : — 
The morbid tendency of Leontes to lay hold of the 
merest trifles, and his grossness immediately afterwards — 
Paddling palms and pinching fingers ; — 
followed by his strange loss of self-control in his dialogue 
Vvdth the little boy. 
Act iii. sc. 2. Paulina's speech : 
That thou betray'dst Polixenes, 'twas nothing ; 
That did but show thee, of a fool, inconstant, 
And damnable ingrateful. — 
Theobald reads 'soul.' 
I think the original word is Shakspeare's. i. My ear 
feels it to be Shakspearian ; 2. The involved grammar is 
1 68 Notes on The Winter's Tale 
Shakspearian ; — 'show thee, being a fool naturally, to 
have improved thy folly by inconstancy ; ' 3. The altera- 
tion is most flat, and un-Shakspearian. As to the grossness 
of the abuse — she calls him 'gross and foolish' a few lines 
Act iv. sc. 2. Speech of Autolycus : — 
For the life to come, I sleep out the thought of it. 
Fine as this is, and delicately characteristic of one who 
had lived and been reared in the best society, and had been 
precipitated from it by dice and drabbing ; yet still it 
strikes against my feelings as a note out of tune, and as 
not coalescing with that pastoral tint which gives such a 
charm to this act. It is too Macbeth-like in the 'snapper 
up of unconsidered trifles.' 
lb. sc. 3. Perdita's speech : — 
From Dis's waggon ! daffodils. 
An epithet is wanted here, not merely or chiefly for the 
metre, but for the balance, for the aesthetic logic. 
Perhaps, 'golden' was the word which would set off the 
'violets dim.' 
Pale primroses 
That die unmarried. — 
Milton's — 
And the rathe primrose that forsaken dies. 
lb. Perdita's speech : — 
Even here undone : 
I was not much afear'd ; for once or twice 
I was about to speak, and tell him plainly, 
The self-same sun, that shines upon his court, 
Hides not his visage from our cottage, but 
Looks on alike. Wilt please you, Sir, be gone ! 
{To Florizel.) 
I told you, what would come of this. Beseech you, 
Of your own state take care : this dream of mine, 
Being now awake, I'll queen it no inch farther. 
But milk my ewes, and weep. 
O how more than exquisite is this whole speech ! — And 
that profound nature of noble pride and grief venting 
themselves in a momentary peevishness of resentment 
towards Florizel : — 
Wilt please you. Sir, be gone I 
Notes on Othello 169 
lb. Speech of Autolyciis : — 
Let me have no lying ; it becomes none but tradesmen, and they 
often give us soldiers the lie ; but we pay them for it in stamped 
coin, not stabbing steel ; — therefore they do not give us the lie. 
As we pay them, they, therefore, do not give it us. 
Act i. sc. I. 
Admirable is the preparation, so truly and peculiarly 
Shakspearian, in the introduction of Roderigo, as the dupe 
on whom lago shall first exercise his art, and in so doing 
display his own character. Roderigo, without any fixed 
principle, but not without the moral notions and sym- 
pathies with honour, which his rank and connections had 
hung upon him, is already well fitted and predisposed for 
the purpose ; for very want of character and strength of 
passion, like wind loudest in an empty house, constitute 
his character. The first three lines happily state the nature 
and foundation of the friendship between him and lago, — 
the purse, — as also the contrast of Roderigo's intemperance 
of mind with lago's coolness, — the coolness of a precon- 
ceiving experimenter. The mere language of protestation — 
If ever I did dream of such a matter, abhor me, — 
which falling in with the associative link, determines 
Roderigo's continuation of complaint — 
Thou told'st me, thou didst hold him in thy hate — 
elicits at length a true feeling of lago's mind, the dread 
of contempt habitual to those, who encourage in themselves, 
and have their keenest pleasure in, the expression of con- 
tempt for others. Observe lago's high self-opinion, and 
the moral, that a wicked man will employ real feelings, as 
well as assume those most alien from his own, as instru- 
ments of his purposes : — 
And, by the faith of man, 
I know my price, I am worth no worse a place. 
I think Tyrwhitt's reading of 'life' for Svife' — 
A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife — 
lyo Notes on Othello 
the true one, as fitting to lago's contempt for whatever did 
not display power, and that intellectual power. In what 
follows, let the reader feel how by and through the glass 
of two passions, disappointed vanity and envy, the very 
vices of which he is complaining, are made to act upon 
him as if they were so many excellences, and the more 
appropriately, because cunning is always admired and 
wished for by minds conscious of inward weakness ; — but 
they act only by half, like music on an inattentive auditor, 
swelling the thoughts which prevent him from listening 
to it. 
Rod. "SVliat a full fortune does the thick-lips owe, 
If he can carry 't thus. 
Roderigo turns off to Othello ; and here comes one, 
if not the only, seeming justification of our blackamoor 
or negro Othello. Even if we supposed this an uninter- 
rupted tradition of the theatre, and that Shakspeare him- 
self, from want of scenes, and the experience that nothing 
could be made too marked for the senses of his audience, 
had practically sanctioned it, — would this prove aught 
concerning his own intention as a poet for all ages ? Can 
we imagine him so utterly ignorant as to make a barbarous 
negro plead royal birth, — at a time, too, when negroes 
were not known except as slaves ? — As for lago's language 
to Brabantio, it implies merely that Othello was a Moor, 
that is, black. Though I think the rivalry of Roderigo 
sufficient to account for his wilful confusion of Moor and 
Negro, — yet, even if compelled to give this up, I should 
think it only adapted for the acting of the day, and should 
complain of an enormity built on a single word, in direct 
contradiction to lago's 'Barbary horse.' Besides, if we 
could in good earnest believe Shakspeare ignorant of the 
distinction, still why should we adopt one disagreeable 
possibility instead of a ten times greater and more pleasing 
probability ? It is a common error to mistake the epithets 
apphed by the dramatis personcB to each other, as truly 
descriptive of what the audience ought to see or know. 
No doubt Desdemona saw Othello's visage in his mind ; 
yet, as we are constituted, and most surely as an Enghsh 
audience was disposed in the beginning of the seventeenth 
century, it would be something monstrous to conceive this 
beautiful Venetian girl falling in love with a veritable negro. 
Notes on Othello 171 
It would argue a disproportionateness, a want of balance, 
in Desdemona, which Shakspeare does not appear to have 
in the least contemplated, 
lb. Brabantio's speech : — 
This accident is not unlike my dream : — 
The old careful senator, being caught careless, transfers 
his caution to his dreaming power at least, 
lb. lago's speech : — 
— For their souls, 
Another of his fathom they have not. 
To lead their business : — 
The forced praise of Othello followed by the bitter hatred 
of him in this speech ! And observe how Brabantio's 
dream prepares for his recurrence to the notion of philtres, 
and how both prepare for carrying on the plot of the 
arraignment of Othello on this ground. 
lb. sc. 2. 
0th, 'Tis better as it is. 
How well these few words impress at the outset the 
truth of Othello's own character of himself at the end — 
'that he was not easily wrought !' His self-government 
contradistinguishes him throughout from Leontes. 
lb. Othello's speech : — 
— And my demerits 
May speak, unbonnetted — 
The argument in Theobald's note, where 'and bonnetted* 
is suggested, goes on the assumption that Shakspeare could 
not use the same word differently in different places ; 
whereas I should conclude, that as in the passage in Lear 
the word is employed in its direct meaning, so here it is 
used metaphorically ; and this is confirmed by what has 
escaped the editors, that it is not 'I,' but 'my demerits' 
that may speak unbonnetted, — without the symbol of a 
petitioning inferior. 
lb. Othello's speech : — 
So please your grace, my ancient ; 
A man he is of honesty and trust : 
To his conveyance I assign my wife. 
Compare this with the behaviour of Leontes to his true 
friend Camillo. 
172 Notes on Othello 
lb. sc. 3. 
Bra. Look to her, Moor ; have a quick eye to see ; 
She has deceiv'd her father, and may thee. 
0th. My life upon her faith. 
In real life, how do we look back to little speeches as 
presentimental of, or contrasted with, an affecting event ! 
Even so, Shakspeare, as secure of being read over and over, 
of becoming a family friend, provides this passage for his 
readers, and leaves it to them. 
lb. lago's speech : — 
Virtue ? a fig 1 'tis in ourselves, that we are thus, or thus, &c. 
This speech comprises the passionless character of lago. 
It is all will in intellect ; and therefore he is here a bold 
partizan of a truth, but yet of a truth converted into a 
falsehood by the absence of all the necessary modifications 
caused by the frail nature of man. And then comes the 
last sentiment, — 
Our raging motions, our carnal stings, our unbitted lusts, whereof 
I take this, that you call — love, to be a sect or scion ! 
Here is the true lagoism of, alas ! how many 1 Note 
lago's pride of mastery in the repetition of 'Go, make 
money ! ' to his anticipated dupe, even stronger than his 
love of lucre : and when Roderigo is completely won — 
I am chang'd. I'll go sell all my land — 
when the effect has been fully produced, the repetition of 
triumph — 
Go to ; farewell ; put money enough in your purse ! 
The remainder — lago's soliloquy — the motive-hunting of 
a motiveless malignity — how awful it is ! Yea, whilst he 
is still allowed to bear the divine image, it is too fiendish 
for his own steady view, — for the lonely gaze of a being 
next to devil, and only not quite devil, — and yet a char- 
acter which Shakspeare has attempted and executed, 
without disgust and without scandal ! 
Dr. Johnson has remarked that little or nothing is want- 
ing to render the Othello a regular tragedy, but to have 
opened the play with the arrival of OtheUo in Cyprus, and 
to have thrown the preceding act into the form of narration. 
Here then is the place to determine, whether such a change 
Notes on Othello 173 
would or would not be an improvement ; — nay, (to throw 
down the glove with a full challenge) whether the tragedy 
would or not by such an arrangement become more regular, 
— that is, more consonant with the rules dictated by 
universal reason, on the true common-sense of mankind, 
in its application to the particular case. For in all acts 
of judgment, it can never be too often recollected, and 
scarcely too often repeated, that rules are means to ends, 
and, consequently, that the end must be determined and 
understood before it can be known what the rules are or 
ought to be. Now, from a certain species of drama, pro- 
posing to itself the accomplishment of certain ends, — 
these partly arising from the idea of the species itself, but 
in part, likewise, forced upon the dramatist by accidental 
circumstances beyond his power to remove or control, — 
three rules have been abstracted ; — in other words, the 
means most conducive to the attainment of the proposed 
ends have been generalized, and prescribed under the 
names of the three unities, — the unity of time, the unity 
of place, and the unity of action, — which last would, 
perhaps, have been as appropriately, as well as more 
intelligibly, entitled the unity of interest. With this last 
the present question has no immediate concern : in fact, 
its conjunction with the former two is a mere delusion of 
words. It is not properly a rule, but in itself the great 
end not only of the drama, but of the epic poem, the lyric 
ode, of all poetry, down to the candle-flame cone of an 
epigram, — nay of poesy in general, as the proper generic 
term inclusive of all the fine arts as its species. But of 
the unities of time and place, which alone are entitled to 
the name of rules, the history of their origin will be their 
best criterion. You might lake the Greek chorus to a 
place, but you could not bring a place to them without as 
palpable an equivoque as bringing Birnam wood to 
Macbeth at Dunsinane. It was the same, though in a 
less degree, with regard to the unity of time : — the positive 
fact, not for a moment removed from the senses, the 
presence, I mean, of the same identical chorus, was a con- 
tinued measure of time ; — and although the imagination 
may supersede perception, yet it must be granted to be an 
imperfection — however easily tolerated — to place the two 
in broad contradiction to each other. In truth, it is a 
mere accident of terms ; for the Trilogy of the Greek 
174 Notes on Othello 
theatre was a drama in three acts, and notwithstanding 
this, what strange contrivances as to place there are in the 
Aristophanic Frogs. Besides, if the law of mere actual 
perception is once violated — as it repeatedly is even in the 
Greek tragedies — why is it more difficult to imagine three 
hours to be three years than to be a whole day and night ? 
Act ii. sc. I. 
Observe in how many ways Othello is made, first, our 
acquaintance, then our friend, then the object of our 
anxiety, before the deeper interest is to be approached ! 
Mont. But, good lieutenant, is your general wiv'd ? 
Cas. Most fortunately : he hath achiev'd a maid 
That paragons description, and wild fame ; 
One that excels the quirks of blazoning pens. 
And, in the essential vesture of creation, 
Does bear all excellency. 
Here is Cassio's warm-hearted, yet perfectly disengaged, 
praise of Desdemona, and sympathy with the 'most 
fortunately' wived Othello ; — and yet Cassio is an enthusi- 
astic admirer, almost a worshipper, of Desdemona. O, 
that detestable code that excellence cannot be loved in 
any form that is female, but it must needs be selfish ! 
Observe Othello's 'honest,' and Cassio's 'bold' lago, and 
Cassio's full guileless-hearted wishes for the safety and 
love raptures of Othello and 'the divine Desdemona.' 
And also note the exquisite circumstance of Cassio's 
kissing lago's wife, as if it ought to be impossible that the 
dullest auditor should not feel Cassio's religious love of 
Desdemona's purity. lago's answers are the sneers 
which a proud bad intellect feels towards women, and 
expresses to a wife. Surely it ought to be considered a 
very exalted compliment to women, that all the sarcasms 
on them in Shakspeare are put in the mouths of villains, 
Des. I am not merry ; but I do beguile, &c. 
The struggle of courtesy in Desdemona to abstract her 
{lago aside). He takes her by the palm : Ay, well said, whisper ; 
with as little a web as this, will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio. 
Ay, smile upon her, do, &c. 
Notes on Othello 175 
The importance given to trifles, and made fertile by the 
villany of the observer. 
lb. lago's dialogue with Roderigo : 
This is the rehearsal on the dupe of the traitor's inten- 
tions on Othello. 
lb. lago's soliloquy : 
But partly led to diet my revenge, 
For that I do suspect the lusty Moor 
Hath leap'd into my seat. 
This thought, originally by lago's own confession a mere 
suspicion, is now ripening, and gnaws his base nature as his 
own 'poisonous mineral' is about to gnaw the noble heart 
of his general. 
lb. sc. 3. Othello's speech : 
I know, lago, 
Thy honesty and love doth mince this matter. 
Making it light to Cassio. 
Honesty and love ! Ay, and who but the reader of the 
play could think otherwise ? 
lb. lago's soliloquy : 
And what's he then that says — I play the villain ? 
When this advice is free I give, and honest, 
Probal to thinking, and, indeed, the course 
To win the Moor again. 
He is not, you see, an absolute fiend ; or, at least, he 
wishes to think himself not so. 
Act iii. sc. 3. 
Des. Before ^Emilia here, 
i give the warrant of thy place. 
The over-zeal of innocence in Desdemona. 
Enter Desdemona and Emilia. 
0th. If she be false, O, then, heaven mocks itself ! 
I'll not believe it. 
Divine ! The effect of mnocence and the better genius ! 
Act iv. sc. 3. 
Mmil. Why, the wrong is but a wrong i' the world ; and having 
the world for your labour, 'tis a wrong in your own world, and you 
might quickly make it right. 
Warburton's note. 
What any other man, who had learning enough, might 
Notes on Othello 
have quoted as a playful and witty illustration of his 
remarks against the Calvinistic thesis, Warburton gravely 
attributes to Shakspeare as intentional ; and this, too, in 
the mouth of a lady's woman ! 
Act V. last scene. Othello's speech : — 
Of one, whose hand, 
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away 
Richer than all his tiube, &c. 
Theobald's note from Warburton. 
Thus it is for no-poets to comment on the greatest of 
poets ! To make Othello say that he, who had killed his 
wife, was like Herod who killed Mariamne ! — O, how many 
beauties, in this one line, were impenetrable to the ever 
thought-swarming, but idealess, Warburton ! Othello 
wishes to excuse himself on the score of ignorance, and yet 
not to excuse himself, — to excuse himself by accusing. 
This struggle of feeling is finely conveyed in the word 
'base,' which is applied to the rude Indian, not in his own 
character, but as the momentary representative of Othello's 
'Indian' — for I retain the old reading — means American, 
a savage in genere. 
Finally, let me repeat that OtheUo does not kill Desde- 
mona in jealousy, but in a conviction forced upon him by 
the almost superhuman art of lago, such a conviction as 
any man would and must have entertained who had be- 
lieved lago's honesty as OtheUo did. We, the audience, 
know that lago is a villain from the beginning ; but in 
considering the essence of the Shakspearian OtheUo, we 
must perseveringly place ourselves in his situation, and 
under his circumstances. Then we shaU immediately feel 
the fundamental difference between the solemn agony of 
the noble Moor, and the wretched fishing jealousies of 
Leontes, and the morbid suspiciousness of Leonatus, who is, 
in other respects, a fine character. OtheUo had no life but 
in Desdemona : — the belief that she, his angel, had faUen 
from the heaven of her native innocence, wrought a civil 
war in his heart. She is his counterpart ; and, like him, 
is almost sanctified in our eyes by her absolute unsus- 
piciousness, and holy entireness of love. As the curtain 
drops, which do we pity the most ? 
Extremum hunc . There are three powers : — 
Notes on Ben Jonson 177 
Wit, which discovers partial Hkeness hidden in general 
diversity; subtlety, which discovers the diversity con- 
cealed in general apparent sameness ; — and profundity, 
which discovers an essential unity under all the sem- 
blances of difference. 
Give to a subtle man fancy, and he is a wit ; to a deep 
man imagination, and he is a philosopher. Add, again, 
pleasurable sensibility in the threefold form of sympathy 
with the interesting in morals, the impressive in form, and 
the harmonious in sound, — and you have the poet. 
But combine all, — wit, subtlety, and fancy, with pro- 
fundity, imagination, and moral and physical suscepti- 
bility of the pleasurable, — and let the object of action be 
man universal ; and we shall have — O, rash prophecy I 
say, rather, we have — a Shakspeare ! 
It would be amusing to collect out of our dramatists from 
Ehzabeth to Charles I. proofs of the manners of the times. 
One striking symptom of general coarseness of manners, 
which may co-exist with great refinement of morals, as, 
alas ! vice versa, is to be seen in the very frequent allusions 
to the olfactories with their most disgusting stimulants, 
and these, too, in the conversation of virtuous ladies. 
This would not appear so strange to one who had been 
on terms of familiarity with Sicilian and Italian woimn 
of rank : and bad as they may, too many of them, actually 
be, yet I doubt not that the extreme grossness of their 
language has impressed many an Englishman of the present 
era with far darker notions than the same language would 
have produced in the mind of one of Elizabeth's or James's 
courtiers. Those who have read Shakspeare only, com- 
plain of occasional grossness in his plays ; but compare 
him with his contemporaries, and the inevitable conviction, 
is that of the exquisite purity of his imagination. 
The observation I have prefixed to the Volpone is the 
key to the faint interest which these noble efforts of intel- 
lectual power excite, with the exception of the fragment 
of the Sad Shepherd ; because in that piece only is there 
any character with whom you can morally sympathize. 
On the other hand, Measure for Measure is the only play 
lyS Notes on Ben Jonson 
of Shakspeare's in which there are not some one or more 
characters, generally many, whom you follow with affec- 
tionate feeling. For I confess that Isabella, of all Shak- 
speare's female characters, pleases me the least ; and 
Measure for Measure is, indeed, the only one of his genuine 
works, which is painful to me. 
Let me not conclude this remark, however, without a 
thankful acknowledgment to the manes of Ben Jonson, 
that the more I study his writings, I the more admire 
them ; and the more my study of him resembles that of 
an ancient classic, in the minniicB of his rhythm, metre, 
choice of words, forms of connection, and so forth, the 
more numerous have the points of my admiration become. 
I may add, too, that both the study and the admiration 
cannot but be disinterested, for to expect therefrom any 
advantage to the present drama would be ignorance. 
The latter is utterly heterogeneous from the drama of the 
Shakspearian age, with a diverse object and contrary 
principle. The on€ was to present a model by imitation 
of real life, taking from real life all that in it which it ought 
to be, and supplying the rest ; — the other is to copy what 
is, and as it is, — at best a tolerable, but most frequently 
a blundering, copy. In the former the difference was an 
essential element ; in the latter an involuntary defect. 
We should think it strange, if a tale in dance were an- 
nounced, and the actors did not dance at all ; — and yet 
such is modern comedy. 
But Jonson was soon sensible, how inconsistent this medley of 
names and manners was in reason and nature ; and with how little 
propriety it could ever have a place in a legitimate and just picture 
of real life. 
But did Jonson reflect that the very essence of a play, 
the very language in which it is written, is a fiction to 
which all the parts must conform ? Surely, Greek manners 
in English should be a still grosser improbability than a 
Greek name transferred to English manners. Ben's per- 
soncB are too often not characters, but derangements ; — 
the hopeless patients of a mad-doctor rather, — exhibitions 
-of folly betraying itself in spite of existing reason and 
Notes on Ben Jonson 179 
prudence. He not poetically, but painfully exaggerates 
every trait ; that is, not by the drollery of the circum- 
stance, but by the excess of the originating feeling. 
But to this we might reply, that far from being thought to build 
his characters upon abstract ideas, he was really accused of re- 
presenting particular persons then existing ; and that even those 
characters which appear to be the most exaggerated, are said to 
have had their respective archetypes in nature and life. 
This degrades Jonson into a libeller, instead of justifying 
him as a dramatic poet. Non quod verum est, sed quod 
verisimile, is the dramatist's rule. At aU events, the poet 
who chooses transitory manners, ought to content himself 
with transitory praise. If his object be reputation, he 
ought not to expect fame. The utmost he can look 
forwards to, is to be quoted by, and to enliven the writings 
of, an antiquarian. Pistol, Nym and id genus omne, do 
not please us as characters, but are endured as fantastic 
creations, foils to the native wit of Falstaff. — I say wit 
emphatically ; for this character so often extolled as the 
masterpiece of humour, neither contains, nor was meant 
to contain, any humour at all. 
It is to the honour of Jonson's judgment, that the greatest poet of 
our nation had the same opinion of Donne's genius and wit ; and 
hath preserved part of him from perishing, by putting his thoughts 
and satire into modern verse. 
Videlicet Pope ! 
He said further to Drummond, Shakspeare wanted art, and some- 
times sense ; for in one of his plays he brought in a number of men, 
saying they had suffered shipwreck in Bohemia, where is no sea 
near by a hundred miles. 
I HAVE often thought Shakspeare justified in this seeming 
anachronism. In Pagan times a single name of a German 
kingdom might weU be supposed to comprise a hundred 
miles more than at present. The truth is, these notes of 
Drummond' s are more disgraceful to himself than to 
Jonson. It would be easy to conjecture how grossly 
Jonson must have been misunderstood, and what he had 
said in jest, as of Hippocrates, interpreted in earnest. 
i8o Notes on Ben Jonson 
But this is characteristic of a Scotchman ; he has no 
notion of a jest, unless you tell him — 'This is a joke !' — 
and still less of that finer shade of feeling, the half-and- 
half, in which Englishmen naturally delight. 
The throat of war be stopt within her land, 
And turtle-footed peace dance fairie rings 
About her court. 
Turtle-footed is a pretty word, a very pretty word : 
pray, what does it mean ? Doves, I presume, are not 
dancers ; and the other sort of turtle, land or sea, green-fat 
or hawksbill, would, I should suppose, succeed better in 
slow minuets than in the brisk rondillo. In one sense, to 
be sure, pigeons and ring-doves could not dance but with 
€clat — a claw ? 
Light ! I salute thee, biit with wounded nen'es, 
Wishing thy golden splendour pitchy darkness. 
There is no reason to suppose Satan's address to the sun 
in the Paradise Lost, more than a mere coincidence with 
these lines ; but were it otherwise, it would be a fine 
instance, what usurious interest a great genius pays in 
borrowing. It would not be difficult to give a detailed 
psychological proof from these constant outbursts of 
anxious self-assertion, that Jonson was not a genius, a 
creative power. Subtract that one thing, and you may 
safely accumulate on his name all other excellences of a 
capacious, vigorous, agile, and richly-stored intellect. 
Act i. sc. I. 
Ovid. While slaves be false, fathers hard, and bawds be whorish — 
The roughness noticed by Theobald and Whalley, may be 
cured by a simple transposition : — 
While fathers hard, slaves false, and bawds be whorish. 
Notes on Ben Jonson i8i 
Act iv. sc. 3. 
Crisp. O — oblatrant — furibund — fatuate — strenuous. 
O — conscious. 
It would form an interesting essay, or rather series of 
essays, in a periodical work, were all the attempts to 
ridicule new phrases brought together, the proportion 
observed of words ridiculed which have been adopted, and 
are now common, such as strenuous, conscious, &c., and a 
trial made how far any grounds can be detected, so that 
one might determine beforehand whether a word was 
invented under the conditions of assimilability to our 
language or not. Thus much is certain, that the ridiculers 
were as often wrong as right ; and Shakspeare himself 
could not prevent the naturalization of accommodation, 
remuneration, &c. ; or Swift the gross abuse even of the 
word idea. 
Act i. 
Arruntiiis. The name Tiberius, 
I hope, will keep, howe'er he hath foregone 
The dignity and power. 
Silius. Sure, while he lives. 
Art. And dead, it comes to Drusus. Should he fail. 
To the brave issue of Germanicus ; 
And they are three : too many (ha ?) for him 
To have a plot upon ? 
Sil. I do not know 
The heart of his designs ; but, sure, their face 
Looks farther than the present. 
Arr. By the gods, 
If I could guess he had but such a thought, 
My sword should cleave him down, &c. 
The anachronic mixture in this Arruntius of the Roman 
republican, to whom Tiberius must have appeared as much 
a tyrant as Sejanus with his James-and-Charles-the-First 
zeal for legitimacy of descent, in this passage, is amusing. 
Of our great names Milton was, I think, the first who 
could properly be called a repubHcan. My recollections 
of Buchanan's works are too faint to enable me to judge 
whether the historian is not a fair exception. 
i82 Notes on Ben Jonson 
Act ii. Speech of Sejanus : — 
Adultery ! it is the lightest ill 
I will commit. A race of wicked acts 
Shall flow out of my anger, and o'erspread 
The world's wide face, which no posterity 
Shall e'er approve, nor yet keep silent, &c. 
The more we reflect and examine, examine and reflect, 
the more astonished shall we be at the immense superiority 
of Shakspeare over his contemporaries : — and yet what 
contemporaries ! — giant minds indeed ! Think of 
Jonson's erudition, and the force of learned authority in 
that age ; and yet in no genuine part of Shakspeare' s 
works is there to be found such an absurd rant and ven- 
triloquism as this, and too, too many other passages 
ferruminated by Jonson from Seneca's tragedies and the 
writings of the later Romans. I call it ventriloquism, 
because Sejanus is a puppet, out of which the poet makes 
his own voice appear to come. 
Act V. Scene of the sacrifice to Fortune. This scene 
is unspeakably irrational. To believe, and yet to scoff at, 
a present miracle is little less than impossible. Sejanus 
should have been made to suspect priestcraft and a secret 
conspiracy against him. 
This admirable, indeed, but yet more wonderful than 
admirable, play is from the fertility and vigour of inven- 
tion, character, language, and sentiment the strongest 
proof, how impossible it is to keep up any pleasurable 
interest in a tale, in which there is no goodness of heart 
in any of the prominent characters. After the third act, 
this play becomes not a dead, but a painful, weight on the 
feelings. Zeluco is an instance of the same truth. Bonario 
and Celia should have been made in some way or other 
principals in the plot ; which they might have been, and 
the objects of interest, without having been made char- 
acters. In novels, the person, in whose fate you are most 
interested, is often the least marked character of the whole. 
If it were possible to lessen the paramountcy of Volpone 
himself, a most delightful comedy might be produced, by 
Notes on Ben Jonson 183 
making Celia the ward or niece of Corvino, instead of his 
wife, and Bonario her lover. 
This is to my feehngs the most entertaining of old Ben's 
comedies, and, more than any other, would admit of being 
brought out anew, if under the management of a judicious 
and stage-understanding play-wright ; and an actor, who 
had studied Morose, might make his fortune. 
Act i. sc. I. Clerimont's speech : — 
He would have hanged a pewterer's 'prentice once on a Shrove 
Tuesday's riot, for being o' that trade, when the rest were quiet. 
The old copies read quit, i.e. discharged from working, and gone 
to divert themselves. Whalley's note. 
It should be quit, no doubt ; but not meaning 'dis- 
charged from working,' &c. — but quit, that is, acquitted. 
The pewterer was at his holiday diversion as well as the 
other apprentices, and they as forward in the riot as he. 
But he alone was punished under pretext of the riot, but 
in fact for his trade. 
Act ii. sc. I. 
Morose. Cannot I, yet, find out a more compendious method, 
than by this trunk, to save my servants the labour of speech, and 
mine ears the discord of sounds ? 
What does 'trunk' mean here and in the ist scene oi 
the 1st act ? Is it a large ear-trumpet ? — or rather a 
tube, such as passes from parlour to kitchen, instead of 
a bell ? 
Whalley's note at the end. 
Some critics of the last age imagined the character of Morose 
to be wholly out of nature. But to vindicate our poet, Mr. Dryden 
tells us from tradition, and we may venture to take his word, that 
Jonson was really acquainted with a person of this whimsical turn 
of mind : and as humour is a personal quality, the poet is acquitted 
from the charge of exhibiting a monster, or an extravagant un- 
natural caricatura. 
If Dryden had not made all additional pfoof superfluous 
by his own plays, this very vindication would evince that 
he had formed a false and vulgar conception of the nature 
184 Notes on Ben Jonson 
and conditions of the drama and dramatic personation. 
Ben Jonson would himself have rejected such a plea : — 
For he knew, poet never credit gain'd 
By writing truths, but things, Uke truths, well feign'd. 
By 'truths* he means 'facts.' Caricatures are not less 
so, because they are found existing in real life. Comedy 
demands characters, and leaves caricatures to farce. The 
safest and truest defence of old Ben would be to call the 
Epicaene the best of farces. The defect in Morose, as in 
other of Jonson's dramatis persons, lies in this ; — that the 
accident is not a prominence growing out of, and nourished 
by, the character which still circulates in it, but that the 
character, such as it is, rises out of, or, rather, consists 
in, the accident. Shakspeare's comic personages have 
exquisitely characteristic features ; however awry, dis- 
proportionate, and laughable they may be, still, like 
Bardolph's nose, they are features. But Jonson's are 
either a man with a huge wen, having a circulation of its 
own, and which we might conceive amputated, and the 
patient thereby losing all his character ; or they are 
mere wens themselves instead of men, — wens personified, 
or with eyes, nose, and mouth cut out, mandrake-fashion. 
Nota bene. All the above, and much more, will have 
justly been said, if, and whenever, the drama of Jonson 
is brought into comparisons of rivalry with the Shak- 
spearian. But this should not be. Let its inferiority to 
the Shakspearian be at once fairly owned, — but at the same 
time as the inferiority of an altogether different genus of 
the drama. On this ground, old Ben would still maintain 
his proud height. He, no less than Shakspeare, stands 
on the summit of his hill, and looks round him like a 
master, — though his be Lattrig and Shakspeare's Skiddaw. 
Act i. sc. 2. Face's speech : — 
Will take his oath o' the Greek Xenophon, 
If need be, in his pocket. 
Another reading is 'Testament.' 
Probably, the meaning is — that intending to give false 
evidence, he carried a Greek Xenophon to pass it off for 
Notes on Ben Jonson 185 
ft Greek Testament, and so avoid perjury — as the Irish do, 
by contriving to kiss their thumb-nails instead of the book. 
Act ii. sc. 2. Mammon's speech : — 
I will have all my beds blown up ; not stuft : 
Down is too hard. 
Thus the air-cushions, though perhaps only lately 
brought into use, were invented in idea in the seventeenth 
century ! 
A FONDNESS for judging one work by comparison with 
others, perhaps altogether of a different class, argues a 
vulgar taste. Yet it is chiefly on this principle that the 
Catiline has been rated so low. Take it and Sejanus, as 
compositions of a particular kind, namely, as a mode of 
relating great historical events in the liveliest and most 
interesting manner, and I cannot help wishing that we 
had whole volumes of such plays. We might as rationally 
expect the excitement of the Vicar of Wakefield from 
Goldsmith's History of England, as that of Lear, Othello, 
&c. from the Sejanus or Catiline. 
Act i. sc. 4. 
Cat. Sirrah, what ail you ? 
{He spies one of his boys not answer.) 
Pag. Nothing. 
Best. Somewhat modest. 
Cat. Slave, I will strike your soul out with my foot, &c. 
This is either an unintelligible, or, in every sense, a 
most unnatural, passage, — improbable, if not impossible, 
at the moment of signing and swearing such a conspiracy, 
to the most libidinous satyr. The very presence of the boys 
is an outrage to probability. I suspect that these lines 
down to the words 'throat opens,' should be removed back 
so as to follow the words 'on this part of the house,' in th< 
speech of Catiline soon after the entry of the conspirators. 
A total erasure, however, would be the best, or, ratheu 
the only possible, amendment. 
Act ii. sc. 2. Sempronia's speech : — 
— He is but a new fellow, 
An inmate here in Rome, as Catiline calls him— 
i86 Notes on Ben Jonson 
A 'lodger' would have been a happier imitation of the 
utquilinus of Sallust. 
Act iv. sc. 6. Speech of Cethegus : — 
Can these or such be any aids to us, &c. 
What a strange notion Ben must have formed of a 
determined, remorseless, all-daring, fool-hardiness, to have 
represented it in such a mouthing Tamburlane, and bom- 
bastic tonguebully as this Cethegus of his 1 
Induction. Scrivener's speech : — 
If there be never a servant-monster i' the Fair, who can help it, 
he says, nor a nest of antiques ? 
The best excuse that can be made for Jonson, and in a 
somewhat less degree for Beaumont and Fletcher, in 
respect of these base and silly sneers at Shakspeare, is, 
that his plays were present to men's minds chiefly as acted. 
They had not a neat edition of them, as we have, so as, 
by comparing the one with the other, to form a just notion 
of the mighty mind that produced the whole. At all 
events, and in every point of view, Jonson stands far 
higher in a moral light than Beaumont and Fletcher. He 
was a fair contemporary, and in his way, and as far as 
Shakspeare is concerned, an original. But Beaumont and 
Fletcher were always imitators of, and often borrowers 
from, him, and yet sneer at him with a spite far more 
malignant than Jonson, who, besides, has made noble 
compensation by his praises. 
Act ii. sc. 3. 
Just. I mean a child of the horn-thumb, a babe of booty, boy, a 
cut purse. 
Does not this confirm, what the passage itself cannot 
but suggest, the propriety of substituting 'booty' for 
'beauty' in Falstaff's speech, Henry IV. Pt. I. act i. sc. 2. 
'Let not us, &c. ? ' 
It is not often that old Ben condescends to imitate a 
modem author ; but Master Dan. Knockhum Jordan and 
his vapours are manifest reflexes of Nym and Pistol. 
Notes on Ben Jonson 187 
lb. sc. 5. 
Quart. She'll make excellent geer for the coachmakers here in 
Smithfield, to anoint wheels and axletrees with. 
Good ! but yet it falls short of the speech of a Mr. 
Johnes, M.P., in the Common Council, on the invasion 
intended by Buonaparte : 'Houses plundered — then burnt ; 
— sons conscribed — wives and daughters ravished/ &c., &c. 
— " But as for you, you luxurious Aldermen ! with your 
fat will he grease the wheels of his triumphant chariot ! " 
lb. sc. 6. 
Cok. Avoid i' your satin doublet, Numps. 
This reminds me of Shakspeare's 'Aroint thee, witch !' 
I find in several books of that age the words aloigne and 
doigne — that is, 'keep your distance !' or 'off with you !' 
Perhaps 'aroint' was a corruption of 'aloigne' by the 
vulgar. The common etymology from ronger to gnaw 
seems unsatisfactory. 
Act iii. sc. 4. 
Quurl. How now, Numps ! almost tired i' your protectorship ? 
overparted, overparted ? 
An odd sort of propheticality in this Numps and old 
lb. sc. 6. Knockhum's speech : — 
He eats with his eyes, as well as his teeth. 
A good motto for the Parson in Hogarth's Election 
Dinner, — who shows how easily he might be reconciled 
to the Church of Rome, for he worships what he eats. 
Act V. sc. 5. 
Pup. Di. It is not prophane. 
Lan. It is not prophane, he says. 
Boy. It is prophane. 
Pup. It is not prophane. 
Boy. It is prophane. 
Pup. It is not prophane. 
Lan. Well said, confute him with Not, still. 
An imitation of the quarrel between Bacchus and the 
Frogs in Aristophanes : — 
dXXa fiTfjv KeKpa^6/j.i:cr9d 7', 
ovhaov T) c^pvy^ 3.v i)fiCov 
i88 Notes on Ben Jonson 
XavSayT], St,' i}/j.ipas, 
^p€KeK€K^^, Koa^, Koa^. 
Tovri^ yap ou vLKfjcreTe. 
ovSk fi^v -^ftds ail iravTios. 
oid^ /j.r]v v/xeTs ye d-q fi' ovdiirore. 
Act i. sc. I. 
Pug. Why any : Fraud, 
Or Covetousness, or lady Vanity, 
Or old Iniquity, I'll call him hither. 
The words in italics should probably be given to the master- 
devil, Satan. Whalley's note. 
That is, against all probability, and with a (for Jonson) 
impossible violation of character. The words plainly 
belong to Pug, and mark at once his simpleness and his 
lb. sc. 4. Fitz-dottrel's soliloquy : — 
Compare this exquisite piece of sense, satire, and sound 
philosophy in 1616 with Sir M. Hale's speech from the 
bench in a trial of a witch many years afterwards.^ 
Act ii. sc. I. Meercraft's speech : — 
Sir, money's a whore, a bawd, a drudge. — 
I doubt not that 'money' was the first word of the line, 
and has dropped out : — 
Money ! Sir, money's a, &c. 
Act iv. sc. 3. Pecunia's speech : — 
No, he would ha' done. 
That lay not in his power : he had the use 
Of your bodies, Band and Wax, and sometimes Statute's. 
Read (1815), 
— he had the use of 
Your bodies, &c. 
Now, however, I doubt the legitimacy of my transposition 
of the 'of from the beginning of this latter line to the end 
^ In 1664, at Bury St. Edmonds on the trial of Rose Cullender and Amy Duny. Jid. 
Notes on Ben Jonson 189 
of the one preceding ; — for though it facilitates the metre 
and reading of the latter line, and is frequent in Massinger, 
this disjunction of the preposition from its case seems to 
have been disallowed by Jonson. Perhaps the better 
reading is — 
C your bodies, &c. — 
the two syllables being slurred into one, or rather snatched, 
or sucked, up into the emphasized 'your.' In all points 
of view, therefore, Ben's judgment is just ; for in this way, 
the line cannot be read, as metre, without that strong and 
quick emphasis on 'your' which the sense requires ; — and 
had not the sense required an emphasis on ' your,' the 
tmesis of the sign of its cases 'of,' 'to,' &c. would destroy 
almost all boundary between the dramatic verse and 
prose in comedy : — a lesson not to be rash in conjectural 
amendments. 1818. 
lb. sc. 4. 
P. jun. I love all men of virtue, frommy Princess. — 
'Frommy,' fromme, pious, dutiful, &c. 
Act V. sc. 4. Penny-boy sen. and Porter : — 
I dare not, will not, think that honest Ben had Lear in 
his mind in this mock mad scene. 
Act i. sc. I. Host's speech : — 
A heavy purse, and then two turtles, makes. — 
'Makes,' frequent in old books, and even now used in 
some counties for mates, or pairs, 
lb. sc. 3. Host's speech : — 
— And for a leap 
C the vaulting horse, to play the vaulting house. — 
Instead of reading with Whalley 'ply* for 'play,' I 
would suggest 'horse' for 'house.' The meaning would 
then be obvious and pertinent. The punlet, or pun- 
maggot, or pun intentional, 'horse and house,' is below 
Jonson. The jeu-de-mots just below — 
IQO Notes on 
Read a lecture 
Upon AquinsiS at St. Thomas a Waterings — 
had a learned smack in it to season its insipidity, 
lb. sc. 6. Lovel's speech : — 
Then shower'd his bounties on me, like the Hours, 
That open-handed sit upon the clouds, 
And press the liberality of heaven 
Down to the laps of thankful men I 
Like many other similar passages in Jonson, this is 
tldog ;;^aX£'Toi' /deTv — a sight which it is difficult to make 
one's self see, — a picture my fancy cannot copy detached 
from the words. 
Act ii. sc. 5. Though it was hard upon old Ben, yet 
Felton, it must be confessed, was in the right in consider- 
ing the Fly, Tipto, Bat Burst, &c. of this play mere dotages. 
Such a scene as this was enough to damn a new play ; and 
Nick Stuff is worse still, — most abominable stuff indeed ! 
Act iii. sc. 2. Lovel's speech : — 
So knowledge first begets benevolence, 
Benevolence breeds friendship, friendship love. — 
Jonson has elsewhere proceeded thus far ; but the part 
most difficult and delicate, yet, perhaps, not the least 
capable of being both morally and poetically treated, is 
the union itself, and what, even in this life, it can be. 
Seward's Preface. 1750. 
The King And No King, too, is extremely spirited in all its char- 
acters ; Arbaces holds up a mirror to all men of virtuous principles 
but violent passions. Hence he is, as it were, at once magnanimity 
and pride, patience and fury, gentleness and rigour, chastity and 
incest, and is one of the finest mixtures of virtues and vices that any 
poet has drawn, &c. 
These are among the endless instances of the abject state 
to which pyschology had sunk from the reign of Charles 
L to the middle of the present reign of George IIL ; and 
even now it is but just awaking. 
Beaumont and Fletcher igi 
lb. Seward's comparison of Julia's speech in the Two 
Gentlemen of Verona, act iv. last scene — 
Madam, 'twas Ariadne passioning, &c. 
with Aspatia's speech in the Maid's Tragedy — 
I stand upon the sea-beach now, &c. Act ii. 
and preference of the latter. 
It is strange to take an incidental passage of one writer, 
intended only for a subordinate part, and compare it with 
the same thought in another writer, who had chosen it for 
a prominent and principal figure. 
lb. Seward's preference of Alphonso's poisoning in A 
Wife for a Month, act i. sc. i, to the passage in King John, 
act V. sc. 7, — 
Poison'd, ill fare ! dead, forsook, cast off I 
Mr. Seward ! Mr. Seward ! you may be, and I trust you 
are, an angel ; but you were an ass. 
Every reader of taste will see how superior this is to the quotation 
from Shakspeare. 
Of what taste ? 
lb. Seward's classification of the plays : — 
Surely Monsieur Thomas, the Chances, Beggar's Bush, 
and the Pilgrim, should have been placed in the very first 
class ! But the whole attempt ends in a woful failure. 
I'd have a state of wit convok'd, which hath 
A power to take up on common faith : — 
This is an instance of that modifying of quantity by 
emphasis, without which our elder poets cannot be scanned. 
'Power,' here, instead of being one long syllable — pow'r — 
must be sounded, not indeed as a spondee, nor yet as a 
trochee ; but as — " u ; — the first syllable is ij. 
We can, indeed, never expect an authentic edition of 
our elder dramatic poets (for in those times a drama was 
a poem), until some man undertakes the work, who has 
studied the philosophy of metre. This has been found 
192 Notes on 
the main torch of sound restoration in the Greek dramatists 
by Bentley, Porson, and their followers ; — how much more, 
then, in writers in our own language ! It is true that 
quantity, an almost iron law with the Greek, is in English 
rather a subject for a peculiarly fine ear, than any law or 
even rule ; but, then, instead of it, we have, first, accent ; 
secondly, emphasis ; and lastly, retardation, and accelera- 
tion of the times of syllables according to the meaning of 
the words, the passion that accompanies them, and even 
the character of the person that uses them. With due 
attention to these, — above all, to that, which requires the 
most attention and the finest taste, the character, Mas- 
singer, for example, might be reduced to a rich and yet 
regular metre. But then the regulce must be first known ; 
— though I will venture to say, that he who does not find 
a line (not corrupted) of Massinger's flow to the time total 
of a trimeter catalectic iambic verse, has not read it aright. 
But by virtue of the last principle — the retardation or 
acceleration of time — we have the proceleusmatic foot 
K) Kj Kj Kj, and the dispondceus , not to mention 
the choriamhus, the ionics, paeons, and epitrites. Since 
Dryden, the metre of our poets leads to the sense : in our 
elder and more genuine bards, the sense, including the 
passion, leads to the metre. Read even Donne's satires 
as he meant them to be read, and as the sense and passion 
demand, and you will find in the lines a manly harmony. 
EDITION. 1811. 
In general their plots are more regular than Shakspeare's. — 
This is true, if true at aU, only before a court of criticism, 
which judges one scheme by the laws of another and a 
diverse one. Shakspeare's plots have their own laws or 
regulcB, and according to these they are regular. 
Act i. The metrical arrangement is most slovenly 
Strat. As well as masque can be, &c. 
Beaumont and Fletcher 193 
and all that follows to 'who is return'd' — is plainly blank 
verse, and falls easily into it. 
lb. Speech of Melantius : — 
These soft and silken wars are not for me : 
The music must be shrill, and all confus'd. 
That stirs my blood ; and then I dance with arms. 
What strange self-trumpeters and tongue-bulhes all the 
brave soldiers of Beaumont and Fletcher are ! Yet I am 
inclined to think it was the fashion of the age from the 
Soldier's speech in the Counter Scuffle ; and deeper than 
the fashion B. and F. did not fathom. 
lb. Speech of Lysippus : — 
Yes, but this lady- 
Walks discontented, with her wat'ry eyes 
Bent on the earth, &c. 
Opulent as Shakspeare was, and of his opulence prodigal, 
he yet would not have put this exquisite piece of poetry 
in the mouth of a no-character, or as addressed to a 
Melantius. I wish that B. and F. had written poems 
instead of tragedies, 
Mel. I might run fiercely, not more hastily, 
Upon my foe. 
I might run more fiercely, not more hastily. — 
lb. Speech of Calianax : — 
Office ! I would I could put it off ! I am sure I sweat quite 
through my office ! 
The syllable off reminds the testy statesman of his robe, 
and he carries on the image, 
lb. Speech of Melantius : — 
—Would that blood, 
That sea of blood, that I have lost in fight, &c. 
All B. and F.'s generals are pugilists, or cudgel-fighters, 
that boast of their bottom and of the claret they have shed, 
lb. The Masque ; — Cinthia's speech : — 
But I will give a greater state and glory. 
And raise to time a noble mem5ry 
Of what these lovers are, 
I suspect that 'nobler,' pronounced as 'nobiler' — o — , 
194 Notes on 
was the poet's word, and that the accent is to be placed 
on the penultimate of 'memory.' As to the passage — 
Yet, while our reign lasts, let us stretch our power, &c. 
removed from the text of Cinthia's speech by these foolish 
editors cls unworthy of B. and F. — the first eight lines are 
not worse, and the last couplet incomparably better, than 
the stanza retained. 
Act ii. Amintor's speecii : — 
Oh, thou hast nam'd a word, that wipes away- 
All thoughts revengeful ! In that sacred name, 
'The king,' there lies a terror. 
It is worth noticing that of the three greatest tragedians, 
Massinger was a democrat, Beaumont and Fletcher the 
most servile jure divino royalist, and Shakspeare a philo- 
sopher ; — if aught personal, an aristocrat. 
Act iv. Speech of Tigranes : — 
She, that forgat the greatness of her grief 
And miseries, that must follow such mad passions, 
Endless and wild as women ! &c, 
Seward's note and suggestion of *in.' 
It would be amusing to learn from some existing friend 
of Mr. Seward what he meant, or rather dreamed, in this 
note. It is certainly a difficult passage, of which there 
are two solutions ; — one, that the writer was somewhat 
more injudicious than usual ; — the other, that he was very, 
very much more profound and Shakspearian than usual. 
Seward's emendation, at aU events, is right and obvious. 
Were it a passage of Shakspeare, I should not hesitate to 
interpret it as characteristic of Tigranes' state of mind, dis- 
liking the very virtues, and therefore half-consciously 
representing them as mere products of the violence of the 
sex in general in all their whims, and yet forced to admire, 
and to feel and to express gratitude for, the exertion in his 
own instance. The inconsistency of the passage would 
be the consistency of the author. But this is above 
Beaumont and Fletcher. 
Beaumont and Fletcher 195 
Act ii. Sir Roger's speech : — 
Did I for this consume my quarters in meditations, vows, and 
woo'd her in heroical epistles ? Did I expound the Owl, and 
undertake, with labour and expense, the recollection of those 
thousand pieces, consum'd in cellars and tobacco-shops, of that 
our honour'd Englishman, Nic. Broughton ? &c. 
Strange, that neither Mr. Theobald, nor Mr. Seward, 
should have seen that this mock heroic speech is in full- 
mouthed blank verse ! Had they seen this, they would 
have seen that 'quarters' is a substitution of the players 
for 'quires' or 'squares,' (that is) of paper : — 
Consume my quires in meditations, vows. 
And woo'd her in heroical epistles. 
They ought, likewise, to have seen that the abbreviated 
*Ni. Br.' of the text was properly 'Mi. Dr.' — and that 
Michael Drayton, not Nicholas Broughton, is here ridiculed 
for his poem The Owl and his Heroical Epistles. 
lb. Speech of Younger Loveless : — 
Fill him some wine. Thou dost not see me mov'd, &c. 
These Editors ought to have learnt, that scarce an in- 
stance occurs in B. and F. of a long speech not in metre. 
This is plain staring blank verse. 
I CANNOT but think that in a country conquered by a 
nobler race than the natives, and in which the latter 
became villeins and bondsmen, this custom, lex merchetce, 
may have been introduced for wise purposes, — as of im- 
proving the breed, lessening the antipathy of different 
races, and producing a new bond of relationship between 
the lord and the tenant, who, as the eldest bom, would, 
at least, have a chance of being, and a probability of being 
thought, the lord's child. In the West Indies it cannot 
have these effects, because the mulatto is marked by 
nature different from the father, and because there is no 
bond, no law, no custom, but of mere debauchery. 1815. 
Notes on 
Act i. sc. I. Rutilio's speech : — 
Yet if you play not fair play, &c. 
Evidently to be transposed and read thus : — 
Yet if you play not fair, above-board too, 
I'll tell you what — 
I've a foolish engine here : — I say no more — 
But if your Honour's guts are not enchanted — 
Licentious as the comic metre of B. and F. is, — a far more 
lawless, and yet far less happy, imitation of the rhythm 
of animated talk in real life tiian Massinger's — still it is 
made worse than it really is by ignorance of the halves, 
thirds, and two- thirds of a line which B. and F. adopted 
from the Itahan and Spanish dramatists. Thus in Rutilio's 
speech : — 
Though I confess 
Any man would desire to have her, and by any means, &c. 
Correct the whole passage — 
Though I confess 
Any man would 
Desire to have her, and by any means, 
At any rate too, yet this common hangman 
That hath whipt off a thousand maids' heads already — 
That he should glean the harvest, sticks in my stomach ! 
In all comic metres the gulping of short syllables, and the 
abbreviation of syllables ordinarily long by the rapid 
pronunciation of eagerness and vehemence, are not so 
much a license, as a law, — a faithful copy of nature, and 
let them be read characteristically, the times will be found 
nearly equal. Thus the three words marked above make 
a choriamhus — u u — , or perhaps a pceon primus — u u u ; 
a dactyl, by virtue of comic rapidity, being only equal to 
an iambus when distinctly pronounced. I have no doubt 
that all B. and F.'s works might be safely corrected by 
attention to this rule, and that the editor is entitled to 
transpositions of all kinds, and to not a few omissions. 
For the rule of the metre once lost — what was to restrain 
the actors from interpolation > 
Beaumont and Fletcher 197 
Act i. sc. 2. Charles's speech : — 
— For what concerns tillage. 
Who better can deliver it than Virgil 
In his Georgicks ? and to cure your herds, 
His Bucolicks is a master-piece. 
Fletcher was too good a scholar to fall into so gross a 
blunder, as Messrs. Sympson and Colman suppose. I read 
the passage thus : 
— For what concerns tillage, 
Who better can deliver it than Virgil, 
In his Gdorgicks, or to cure your herds ; 
(His Bucolicks are a master-piece.) But when, &c. 
Jealous of Virgil's honour, he is afraid lest, by referring to 
the Georgics alone, he might be understood as under- 
valuing the preceding work. 'Not that I do not admire 
the Bucolics, too, in their way : — But when, &c.' 
Act iii. sc. 3. Charles's speech : — 
— She has a face looks like a story ; 
The story of the heavens looks very like her. 
Seward reads 'glory;' and Theobald quotes from 
Phil aster — 
That reads the story of a woman's face. — 
I can make sense of this passage as little as Mr. Seward ; 
— the passage from Philaster is nothing to the purpose. 
Instead of * a story,' I have sometimes thought of proposing 
lb. Angelina's speech : — 
— You're old and dim. Sir, 
And the shadow of the earth eclips'd your judgment. 
Inappropriate to Angellina, but one of the finest lines 
in our language. 
Act iv. sc. 3. Charles's speech : — 
And lets the serious part of life run by 
As thin neglected sand, whiteness of name. 
You must be mine, &c. 
Seward's note, and reading — 
— Whiteness of name. 
You must be mine I 
198 Notes on 
Nonsense ! 'Whiteness of name' is in apposition to 
'the serious part of Ufe/ and means a deservedly pure 
reputation. The following line — 'You must be mine!' 
means — 'Though I do not enjoy you to-day, I shall here- 
after, and without reproach. ' 
Act iv. sc. 7. Amaranta's speech : — 
And still I push'd him on, as he had been coming. 
Perhaps the true word is 'conning,' that is, learning, or 
reading, and therefore inattentive. 
Act i. Valentine's speech : — 
One without substance, &c. 
The present text, and that proposed by Seward, are equally 
vile. I have endeavoured to make the lines sense, though 
the whole is, I suspect, incurable except by bold con- 
jectural reformation. I would read thus : — 
One without substance of herself, that's woman ; 
Without the pleasure of her life, that's wanton ; 
Tho' she be young, forgetting it ; tho' fair. 
Making her glass the eyes of honest men, 
Not her own admiration, 
'That's wanton,' or, 'that is to say, wantonness.* 
Act ii. Valentine's speech : — 
Of half-a-crown a week for pins and puppets — 
As there is a syllable wanting in the measure here. Seward. 
A syllable wanting ! Had this Seward neither ears nor 
fingers ? The line is a more than usually regular iambic 
With one man satisfied, with one rein guided ; 
With one faith, one content, one bed ; 
Aged, she makes the wife, preserves the fame and issue ; 
A widow is. &c. 
Beaumont and Fletcher 199 
Is 'apaid' — contented — too obsolete for B. and F. ? If 
not, we might read it thus : — 
Content with one faith, with one bed apaid. 
She makes the wife, preserves the fame and issue ; — 
Or it may be — 
— with one breed apaid — 
that is, satisfied with one set of children, in opposition to — 
A widow is a Christmas-box, &c. 
Colman's note on Seward's attempt to put this play into 
The editors, and their contemporaries in general, were 
ignorant of any but the regular iambic verse. A study of 
the Aristophanic and Plautine metres would have enabled 
them to reduce B. and F. throughout into metre, except 
where prose is really intended. 
Act i. sc. I. Second Ambassador's speech : — 
— When your angers, 
Like so many brother billows, rose together, 
And, curling up your foaming crests, defied, &c. 
This worse than superfluous 'like' is very like an inter- 
polation of some matter of fact critic — all pus, prose atque 
venemim. The 'your' in the next hne, instead of 'their,' 
is likewise yours, Mr. Critic ! 
Act ii. sc. I. Timon's speech : — 
Another of a new way will be look'd at. — 
We must suspect the poets wrote, 'of a new day.' So immedi- 
ately after, 
Time may 
For all his wisdom, yet give us a day. 
Seward's Note. 
For this very reason I more than suspect the contrary, 
lb. sc. 3. Speech of Leucippe : — 
I'll put her into action for a wastcoat. — 
What we call a riding-habit, — some mannish dress. 
200 Notes on 
Act iv. Masque of beasts : — 
— This goodly tree, 
An usher that still grew before his lady, 
Wither'd at root : this, for he could not woo, 
A grumbling lawyer : &c. 
Here must have been omitted a line rhyming to 'tree ;* 
and the words of the next Une have been transposed : — 
— This goodly tree. 
Which leafless, and obscur'd with moss you see, 
An usher this, that 'fore his lady grew, 
Wither'd at root : this, for he could not woo, &c. 
It is well worthy of notice, and yet has not been, I believe, 
noticed hitherto, what a marked difference there exists in 
the dramatic writers of the Elizabetho-Jacobasan age — 
(Mercy on me ! what a phrase for 'the writers during the 
reigns of Elizabeth and James L !') — in respect of their 
political opinions. Shakspeare, in this as in all other 
things, himself and alone, gives the permanent politics of 
human nature, and the only predilection, which appears, 
shews itself in his contempt of mobs and the populacy. 
Massinger is a decided Whig ; — Beaumont and Fletcher 
high-flying, passive-obedience Tories. The Spanish dra- 
matists furnished them with this, as with many other 
ingredients. By the by, an accurate and familiar acquaint- 
ance with all the productions of the Spanish stage pre- 
viously to 1620, is an indispensable qualification for an 
editor of B. and F, ; — and with this qualification a most 
interesting and instructive edition might be given. This 
edition of Colman's (Stockdale 181 1,) is below criticism. 
In metre, B. and F. are inferior to Shakspeare, on the 
one hand, as expressing the poetic part of the drama, and 
to Massinger, on the other, in the art of reconciling metre 
with the natural rhythm of conversation, — in which, 
indeed, Massinger is unrivalled. Read him aright, and 
measure by time, not syllables, and no lines can be more 
legitimate, — none in which the substitution of equipollent 
Beaumont and Fletcher 201 
feet, and the modifications by emphasis, are managed with 
such exquisite judgment. B. and F. are fond of the 
twelve syllable (not Alexandrine) line, as — 
Too many fears 'tis thought too : and to nourish those — 
This has, often, a good effect, and is one of the varieties 
most common in Shakspeare. 
Act iii. Old Woman's speech : — 
— I fear he will knock my 
Brains out for lying. 
Mr. Seward discards the words 'for lying,' because 'most 
of the things spoke of Estifania are true, with only a little 
exaggeration, and because they destroy all appearance of 
measure.' Colman's note. 
Mr. Seward had his brains out. The humour lies in 
Estifania's having ordered the Old Woman to tell these 
tales of her ; for though an intriguer, she is not represented 
as other than chaste ; and as to the metre, it is perfectly 
Marg. As you love me, give way. 
Leon, It shall be better, I will give none, madam, &c. 
The meaning is : 'It shall be a better way, first ; — as it 
is, I will not give it, or any that you in your present mood 
would wish.' 
Act i. Speech of Melitus : — 
Whose insolence and never yet match'd pride 
Can by no character be well express' d. 
But in her only name, the proud Erota. 
Colman's note. 
The poet intended no allusion to the word 'Erota* 
itself ; but says that her very name, 'the proud Erota,' 
202 Notes on 
became a character and adage ; as we say, a Quixote or a 
Brutus : so to say an 'Erota,' expressed female pride and 
insolence of beauty. 
lb. Speech of Antinous : — 
Of my peculiar honours, not deriv'd 
From successary, but purchas'd with my blood. — 
The poet doubtless wrote 'successry/ which, though 
not adopted in our language, would be, on many occasions, 
as here, a much more significant phrase than ancestry. 
Act i. sc. I. Dinant's speech : — 
Are you become a patron too ? 'Tis a new one, 
No more on't, &c. 
Seward reads : — 
Are you become a patron too ? How long 
Have you been conning this speech ? 'Tis a new one, &c. 
If conjectural emendation, hke this, be allowed, we might 
venture to read : — 
Are you become a patron to a new tune ? 
Are you become a patron ? 'Tis a new tune. 
Din. Thou wouldst not willingly 
Live a protested coward, or be call'd one ? 
Cler. Words are but words. 
Din. Nor wouldst thou take a blow ? 
Seward's note. 
O miserable ! Dinant sees through Cleremont's gravity, 
and the actor is to explain it. 'Words are but words/ is 
the last struggle of affected morality. 
Act i. sc. 3. 
It is a real trial of charity to read this scene with tolerable 
temper towards Fletcher. So very slavisli — so reptile — 
Beaumont and Fletcher 203 
are the feelings and sentiments represented as duties. And 
yet remember he was a bishop's son, and the duty to God 
was the supposed basis. 
Personals, including body, house, home, and religion ; 
— property, subordination, and inter-community ; — these 
are the fundamentals of society. I mean here, religion 
negatively taken, — so that the person be not compelled to 
do or utter, in relation of the soul to God, what would be, 
in that person, a lie ; — such as to force a man to go to 
church, or to swear that he believes what he does not 
believe. Religion, positively taken, may be a great and 
useful privilege, but cannot be a right, — were it for this 
only that it cannot be pre-defined. The ground of this 
distinction between negative and positive religion, as a 
social right, is plain. No one of my fellow-citizens is 
encroached on by my not declaring to him what I believe 
respecting the super-sensual ; but should every man be 
entitled to preach against the preacher, who could hear 
any preacher ? Now it is different in respect of loyalty. 
There we have positive rights, but not negative rights ; — 
for every pretended negative would be in effect a positive ; 
— as if a soldier had a right to keep to himself, whether 
he would, or would not, fight. Now, no one of these 
fundamentals can be rightfully attacked, except when the 
guardian of it has abused it to subvert one or more of the 
rest. The reason is, that the guardian, as a fluent, is le^s 
than the permanent which he is to guard. He is the 
temporary and mutable mean, and derives his whole value 
from the end. In short, as robbery is not high treason, so 
neither is every unjust act of a king the converse. All 
must be attacked and endangered. Why ? Because the 
king, as a. to A., is a mean to A. or subordination, in a far 
higher sense than a proprietor, as 6. to B. is a mean to B. 
or property. 
Act ii. sc. 2. Claudia's speech : — 
Chimney-pieces 1 &c. 
The whole of this speech seems corrupt ; and if accu- 
rately printed, — that is, if the same in all the prior editions, 
irremediable but by bold conjecture. 'Till my tackle,* 
should be, I think, while, &c. 
Act iii. sc. I. B. and F. always write as if virtue or 
goodness were a sort of talisman, or strange something, 
204 Notes on 
that might be lost without the least fault on the part of the 
owner. In short their chaste ladies value their chastity 
as a material thing, — not as an act or state of being ; and 
this mere thing being imaginary, no wonder that all their 
women are represented with the minds of strumpets, 
except a few irrational humorists, far less capable of ex- 
citing our sympathy than a Hindoo, who has had a bason 
of cow-broth thrown over him ; — for this, though a debas- 
ing superstition, is still real, and we might pity the poor 
wretch, though we cannot help despising him. But B. and 
F.'s Lucinas are clumsy fictions. It is too plain that the 
authors had no one idea of chastity as a virtue, but only 
such a conception as a blind man might have of the power 
of seeing, by handHng an ox's eye. In The Queen of 
Corinth, indeed, they talk differently ; but it is all talk, 
and nothing is real in it but the dread of losing a reputation. 
Hence the frightful contrast between their women (even 
those who are meant for virtuous) and Shakspeare's. So, 
for instance. The Maid in the Mill : — a woman must not 
merely have grown old in brothels, but have chuckled over 
every abomination committed in them with a rampant 
sympathy of imagination, to have had her fancy so drunk 
with the minuticB of lechery as this icy chaste virgin evinces 
hers to have been. 
It would be worth while to note how many of these plays 
are founded on rapes, — how many on incestuous passions, 
and how many on mere lunacies. Then their virtuous 
women are either crazy superstitions of a merely bodily 
negation of having been acted on, or strumpets in their 
imaginations and wishes, or, as in this Maid in the Mill, 
both at the same time. In the men, the love is merely 
lust in one direction, — exclusive preference of one object. 
The tyrant's speeches are mostly taken from the mouths 
of indignant denouncers of the t5n-ant's character, with 
the substitution of T for 'he,' and the omission of the 
prefatory 'he acts as if he thought' so and so. The only 
feelings they can possibly excite are disgust at the Aeciuses, 
if regarded as sane loyalists, or compassion, if considered 
as Bedlamites. So much for their tragedies. But even 
their comedies are, most of them, disturbed by the fantas- 
ticalness, or gross caricature, of the persons or incidents. 
There are few characters that you can really like, — (even 
though you should have erased from your mind all the 
Beaumont and Fletcher 205 
filth which bespatters the most Ukeable of them, as Piniero 
in The Island Princess for instance,) — scarcely one whom 
you can love. How different this from Shakspeare, who 
makes one have a sort of sneaking affection even for his 
Barnardines ; — whose very lagos and Richards are awful, 
and, by the counteracting power of profound intellects, 
rendered fearful rather than hateful ; — and even the ex- 
ceptions, as Goneril and Regan, are proofs of superlative 
judgment and the finest moral tact, in being left utter 
monsters, mdla virtiUe redeniptcB, and in being kept out of 
sight as much as possible, — they being, indeed, only means 
for the excitement and deepening of noblest emotions 
towards the Lear, Cordelia, &c. and employed with the 
severest economy ! But even Shakspeare's grossness — 
that which is really so, independently of the increase in 
modern times of vicious associations with things indifferent 
— (for there is a state of manners conceivable so pure, that 
the language of Hamlet at Ophelia's feet might be a harm- 
less rallying, or playful teazing, of a shame that would 
exist in Paradise) — at the worst, how diverse in kind is it 
from Beaumont and Fletcher's ! In Shakspeare it is the 
mere generalities of sex, mere words for the most part, 
seldom or never distinct images, all head-work, and fancy- 
drolleries ; there is no sensation supposed in the speaker. 
I need not proceed to contrast this with B. and F. 
This is, perhaps, the most energetic of Fletcher's tragedies. 
He evidently aimed at a new Richard III. in Rollo ; — but 
as in all his other imitations of Shakspeare, he was not 
philosopher enough to bottom his original. Thus, in 
Rollo, he has produced a mere personification of outrageous 
wickedness, with no fundamental characteristic impulses 
to make either the tyrant's words or actions philosophi- 
cally intelligible. Hence the most pathetic situations 
border on the horrible, and what he meant for the terrible, 
is either hateful, ro fxicrirov^ or ludicrous. The scene of 
Baldwin's sentence in the third act is probably the grandest 
working of passion in all B. and F.'s dramas ; — but the 
very magnificence of filial affection given to Edith, in this 
2o6 Notes on 
noble scene, renders the after scene — (in imitation of one 
of the least Shakspearian of all Shakspeare's works, if it 
be his, the scene between Richard and Lady Anne,) — in 
which Edith is yielding to a few words and tears, not only 
unnatural, but disgusting. In Shakspeare, Lady Anne is 
described as a weak, vain, very woman throughout. 
Act i. sc. I. 
Gis. He is indeed the perfect character 
Of a good man, and so his actions speak him. 
This character of Aubrey, and the whole spirit of this 
and several other plays of the same authors, are interesting 
as traits of the morals which it was fashionable to teach 
in the reigns of James 1. and his successor, who died a 
martyr to them. Stage, pulpit, law, fashion, — all con- 
spired to enslave the realm. Massinger's plays breathe 
the opposite spirit ; Shakspeare's the spirit of wisdom 
which is for all ages. By the by, the Spanish dramatists 
— Calderon, in particular, — had some influence in this 
respect, of romantic loyalty to the greatest monsters, as 
well as in the busy intrigues of B. and F.'s plays. 
Act ii. sc. I. Belleur's speech :— 
— That wench, methinks, 
If I were but well set on, for she is a fable. 
If I were but hounded right, and one to teach me. 
Sympson reads 'affable,' which Colman rejects, and says, 
'the next line seems to enforce' the reading in the text. 
Pity, that the editor did not explain wherein the sense, 
'seemingly enforced by the next line,' consists. May the 
true word be 'a sable,' that is, a black fox, hunted for its 
precious fur ? Or 'at-able,' — as we now say, — 'she is 
come-at-able ?' 
Beaumont and Fletcher 207 
Act iv. sc. I. Alphonso's speech : — 
BetAvixt the cold bear and the raging lion 
Lies my safe way. 
Seward's note and alteration to — 
'Twixt the cold bears, far from the raging lion — 
This Mr. Seward is a blockhead of the provoking species. 
In his itch for correction, he forgot the words — 'Hes my 
safe way !' The Bear is the extreme pole, and thither 
he would travel over the space contained between it and 
'the raging lion.' 
Act iv. sc. 2. 
Alinda's interview with her father is lively, and happily 
hit off ; but this scene with Roderigo is truly excellent. 
Altogether, indeed, this play holds the first place in B. and 
F.'s romantic entertainments, Lusispiele, which collectively 
are their happiest performances, and are only inferior to the 
romance of Shakspeare in the As You Like It, Twelfth 
Night, &c. 
Alin. To-day you shall wed Sorrow, 
And Repentance will come to-morrow. 
Read 'Pentience,' or else — 
Repentance, she will come to-morrow. 
Act ii. sc. I. 
Merione's speech. Had the scene of this tragi-comedy 
been laid in Hindostan instead of Corinth, and the gods 
here addressed been the Veeshnoo and Co. of the Indian 
Pantheon, this rant would not have been much amiss. 
2o8 Notes on 
In respect of style and versification, this play and the 
following of Bonduca may be taken as the best, and yet 
as characteristic, specimens of Beaumont and Fletcher's 
dramas. I particularly instance the first scene of the 
Bonduca. Take Shakspeare's Richard II., and having 
selected some one scene of about the same number of lines, 
and consisting mostly of long speeches, compare it with the 
first scene in Bonduca, — not for the idle purpose of finding 
out which is the better, but in order to see and under- 
stand the difference. The latter, that of B. and F., you 
will find a well arranged bed of flowers, each having its 
separate root, and its position determined aforehand by the 
will of the gardener, — each fresh plant a fresh volition. In 
the former you see an Indian figtree, as described by 
Milton; — all is growth, evolution, yiveffig ; — each line, 
each word almost, begets the following, and the will of 
the writer is an interfusion, a continuous agency, and not 
a series of separate acts. Shakspeare is the height, breadth, 
and depth of Genius : Beaumont and Fletcher the excellent 
mechanism, in juxta-position and succession, of talent. 
Why have the dramatists of the times of Elizabeth, James 
I. and the first Charles become almost obsolete, with the 
exception of Shakspeare ? Why do they no longer belong 
to the English, being once so popular ? And why is Shak- 
speare an exception ? — One thing, among fifty, necessary 
to the full solution is, that they all employed poetry and 
poetic diction on unpoetic subjects, both characters and 
situations, especially in their comedy. Now Shakspeare 
is all, all ideal, — of no time, and therefore for all times. 
Read, for instance. Marine's panegyric in the first scene 
of this play : — 
The eminent court, to them that can be wise, 
And fasten on her blessings, is a sun, &c. 
What can be more unnatural and inappropriate — (not 
only is, but must be felt as such) — than such poetry in 
the mouth of a silly dupe ? In short, the scenes are mock 
dialogues, in which the poet solus plays the ventriloquist, 
but cannot keep down his own way of expressing himself. 
Beaumont and Fletcher 209 
Heavy complaints have been made respecting the trans- 
posing of the old plays by Gibber ; but it never occurred 
to these critics to ask, how it came that no one ever at- 
tempted to transpose a comedy of Shakspeare's. 
Act i. Speech of Seleucus : — 
Altho' he be my enemy, should any 
Of the gay flies that buz about the court, 
Sit to catch trouts i' the summer, tell me so, 
I durst, &c. 
Colman's note. 
Pshaw ! 'Sit' is either a misprint for 'set,' or the old and 
still provincial word for 'set/ as the participle passive of 
'seat' or 'set.' I have heard an old Somersetshire gardener 
say : — " Look, Sir ! I set these plants here ; those yonder 
I sit yesterday." 
Act ii. Speech of Arcadius : — 
Nay, some will swear they love their mistress. 
Would hazard lives and fortunes, &c. 
Read thus : — 
Nay, some will swear they love their mistress so. 
They would hazard lives and fortunes to preserve 
One of her hairs brighter than Berenice's, 
Or young Apollo's ; and yet, after this, &c. 
'They would hazard' — furnishes an anapaest for an iambus. 
'And 5^et,' which must be read, anyei, is an instance of the 
enclitic force in an accented monosyllable. 'And yet,' 
is a complete iambus ; but anyet is, like spirit, a dibrach 
o u, trocheized, however, by the arsis or first accent 
damping, though not extinguishing, the second. 
Act i. Oldcraft's speech : 
I'm arm'd at all points, &c. 
It would be very easy to restore all this passage to metre, 
by supplying a sentence of four syllables, which the reason- 
2IO Notes on 
ing almost demands, and by correcting the grammar. 
JRead thus : — 
Arm'd at all points 'gainst treachery, I hold 
My humour firm. If, living, I can see thee 
Thrive by thy wits, I shall have the more courage, 
Dying, to trust thee with my lands. If not, 
The best wit, I can hear of, carries them. 
For since so many in my time and knowledge. 
Rich children of the city, have concluded 
For lack of wrt in beggary, I'd rather 
Make a wise stranger my executor. 
Than a fool son my heir, and have my lands call'd 
After my wit than name : and that's my nature ! 
lb. Oldcraft's speech : — 
To prevent which I have sought out a match for her. — 
Which to prevent I've sought a match out for her. 
lb. Sir Gregory's speech : — 
Do you think 
I'll have any of the wits hang upon me after I am married once ? 
Read it thus : — 
Do you think 
That I'll have any of the wits to hang 
Upon me after I am married once ? 
and afterwards — 
Is it a fashion in London 
To marry a woman, and to never see her ? 
The superfluous 'to' gives it the Sir Andrew Ague-cheek 
Act ii. Speech of Albertus : — 
But, Sir, 
By my life, I vow to take assurance from you, 
That right hand never more shall strike my son, 
:»: « * * 4: « 
Chop his hand off ! 
In this (as, indeed, in all other respects ; but most in this) 
it is that Shakspeare is so incomparably superior to Fletcher 
Beaumont and Fletcher 211 
and his friend, — in judgment ! What can be conceived 
more unnatural and motiveless than this brutal resolve ? 
How is it possible to feel the least interest in Albertus 
afterwards ? or in Cesario after his conduct ? 
Ox comparing the prison scene of Palamon and Arcite, 
Act ii. sc. 2, with the dialogue between the same speakers, 
Act i. sc. 2, I can scarcely retain a doubt as to the first act's 
having been written by Shakspeare. Assuredly it was not 
written by B. and F. I hold Jonson more probable than 
either of these two. 
The main presumption, however, for Shakspeare's share 
in this play rests on a point, to which the sturdy critics 
of this edition (and indeed all before them) were blind, — 
that is, the construction of the blank verse, which proves 
beyond all doubt an intentional imitation, if not the proper 
hand, of Shakspeare. Now, whatever improbability there 
is in the former, (which supposes Fletcher conscious of the 
inferiority, the too poematic wmz^s-dramatic nature, of 
his versification, and of which there is neither proof, nor 
likelihood), adds so much to the probabihty of the latter. 
On the other hand, the harshness of many of these very 
passages, a harshness unrelieved by any lyrical inter- 
breathings, and still more the want of profundity in the 
thoughts, keep me from an absolute decision. 
Act i. sc. 3. Emilia's speech : — 
Since his depart, his sports, 
Tho' craving seriousness and skill, &c. 
I conjecture 'unports,' that is, duties or offices of import- 
ance. The flow of the versification in this speech seems 
to demand the trochaic ending — o ; while the text blends 
jingle and hisses to the annoyance of less sensitive ears 
than Fletcher's — not to say, Shakspeare's. 
212 Notes on Beaumont and Fletcher 
Act i. sc. 2. 
This scene from the beginning is prose printed as blank 
verse, down to the line — 
E'en all the valiant stomachs in the court — 
where the verse recommences. This transition from the 
prose to the verse enhances, and indeed forms, the comic 
effect. Lazarillo concludes his soliloquy with a hymn to 
the goddess of plenty. 
There are few families, at present, in the higher and 
middle classes of English society, in which literary topics 
and the productions of the Fine Arts, in some one or other 
of their various forms, do not occasionally take their turn 
in contributing to the entertainment of the social board, 
and the amusement of the circle at the fire side. The ac- 
quisitions and attainments of the intellect ought, indeed, 
to hold a very inferior rank in our estimation, opposed to 
moral worth, or even to professional and specific skill, 
prudence, and industry. But why should they be opposed, 
when they may be made subservient merely by being sub- 
ordinated ? It can rarely happen, that a man of social 
disposition, altogether a stranger to subjects of taste, 
(almost the only ones on which persons of both sexes can 
converse with a common interest) should go through the 
world without at times feeling dissatisfied with himself. 
The best proof of this is to be found in the marked anxiety 
which men, who have succeeded in life without the aid 
of these accomplishments, shew in securing them to their 
children. A young man of ingenuous mind will not wilfully 
deprive himself of any species of respect. He will wish 
to feel himself on a level with the average of the society 
in which he lives, though he may be ambitious of dis- 
tinguishing himself only in his own immediate pursuit 
or occupation. 
Under this conviction, the following Course of Lectures 
was planned. The several titles will best explain the 
particular subjects and purposes of each : but the main 
objects proposed, as the result of all, are the two following. 
I. To convey, in a form best fitted to render them im- 
pressive at the time, and remembered afterwards, rules 
and principles of sound judgment, with a kind and degree 
of connected information, such as the hearers cannot 
214 Prospectus of a 
generally be supposed likely to form, collect, and arrange 
for themselves, by their own unassisted studies. It might 
be presumption to say, that any important part of these 
Lectures could not be derived from books ; but none, I 
trust, in supposing, that the same information could not 
be so surely or conveniently acquired from such books as 
are of commonest occurrence, or with that quantity of time 
and attention which can be reasonably expected, or even 
wisely desired, of men engaged in business and the active 
duties of the world. 
2. Under a strong persuasion that Uttle of read value 
is derived by persons in general from a wide and various 
reading ; but still more deeply convinced as to the actual 
mischief of unconnected and promiscuous reading, and 
that it is sure, in a greater or less degree, to enervate even 
where it does not likewise inflate ; I hope to satisfy many 
an ingenuous mind, seriously interested in its own develop- 
ment and cultivation, how moderate a number of volumes, 
if only they be judiciously chosen, will suffice for the 
attainment of every wise and desirable purpose ; that is, 
in addition to those which he studies for specific and pro- 
fessional purposes. It is saying less than the truth to 
affirm, that an excellent book, (and the remark holds 
almost equally good of a Raphael as of a Milton) is like a 
well chosen and well tended fruit tree. Its fruits are not 
of one season only. With the due and natural intervals, 
we may recur to it year after year, and it wiU supply the 
same nourishment and the same gratification, if only we 
ourselves return to it with the same healthful appetite. 
The subjects of the Lectures are indeed very different, 
but not, (in the strict sense of the term) diverse ; they 
are various, rather than miscellaneous. There is this bond 
of connexion common to them all, — that the mental 
pleasure which they are calculated to excite, is not de- 
pendent on accidents of fashion, place, or age, or the events 
or the customs of the day ; but commensurate with the 
good sense, taste, and feeling, to the cultivation of which 
they themselves so largely contribute, as being all in kind, 
though not all in the same degree, productions of genius. 
What it would be arrogant to promise, I may yet be 
pennitted to hope, — that the execution will prove cor- 
respondent and adequate to the plan. Assuredly, my 
best efiorts have not been wanting so to select and prepare 
Course of Lectures 215 
the materials, that, at the conclusion of the Lectures, an 
attentive auditor, who should consent to aid his future 
recollection by a few notes taken either during each Lecture, 
or soon after, would rarely feel himself, for the time to 
come, excluded, from taking an intelligent interest in any 
general conversation likely to occur in mixed society. 
Syllabus of the Course. 
L January 27, 1818. — On the manners, morals, litera- 
ture, philosophy, religion, and the state of society in 
general, in European Christendom, from the eighth to the 
fifteenth century, (that is from a.d. 700, to a.d. 1400), 
more particularly in reference to England, France, Italy, 
and Germany ; in other words, a portrait of the so-called 
dark ages of Europe. 
IL January 30. — On the tales and metrical romances 
common, for the most part, to England, Germany, and 
the north of France, and on the English songs and ballads, 
continued to the reign of Charles L A few selections will be 
made from the Swedish, Danish, and German languages, 
translated for the purpose by the Lecturer. 
IIL February 3. — Chaucer and Spenser ; of Petrarch ; 
of Ariosto, Pulci, and Boiardo. 
IV. V. VI. February 6, 10, 13. — On the dramatic works 
of Shakspeare. In these Lectures will be comprised the 
substance of Mr. Coleridge's former courses on the same 
subject, enlarged and varied by subsequent study and 
VII. February 17. — On Ben Jonson, Beaumont and 
Fletcher, and Massinger ; with the probable causes of 
the cessation of dramatic poetry in England \^ith Shirley 
and Otway, soon after the restoration of Charles II. 
VIII. February 20. — Of the hfe and all the works of 
Cervantes, but chiefly of his Don Quixote. The ridicule 
of knight errantry shewn to have been but a secondary 
object in the mind of the author, and not the principal 
cause of the delight which the work continues to give to aU 
nations, and under all the revolutions of manners and 
IX. February 24. — On Rabelais, Swift, and Sterne : 
on the nature and constituents of genuine Humour, and 
2i6 Course of Lectures 
on the distinctions of the Humorous from the Witty, the 
Fanciful, the Droll, and the Odd. 
X. February 27. — Of Donne, Dante, and Milton. 
XL March 3. — On the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, 
and on the romantic use of the supernatural in poetry, 
and in works of fiction not poetical. On the conditions 
and regulations under which such books may be employed 
advantageously in the earlier periods of education. 
XII. March 6. — On tales of witches, apparitions, &c. 
as distinguished from the magic and magicians of Asiatic 
origin. The probable sources of the former, and of the 
belief in them in certain ages and classes of men. Criteria 
by which mistaken and exaggerated facts may be dis- 
tinguished from absolute falsehood and imposture. Lastly, 
the causes of the terror and interest which stories of ghosts 
and witches inspire, in early life at least, whether believed 
or not. 
XIII. March 10. — On colour, sound, and form in Nature, 
as connected with poesy : the word " Poesy " used as the 
generic or class term, including poetry, music, painting, 
statuary, and ideal architecture, as its species. The re- 
ciprocal relations of poetry and philosophy to each other ; 
and of both to religion, and the moral sense. 
XIV. March 13. — On the corruptions of the English 
language since the reign of Queen Anne in our style of 
writing prose. A few easy rules for the attainment of a 
manly, unaffected, and pure language, in our genuine 
mother tongue, whether for the purpose of writing, oratory, 
or conversation. 
General Character of the Gothic Mind in 
the Middle Ages. 
Mr. Coleridge began by treating of the races of mankind 
as descended from Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and therein 
of the early condition of man in his antique form. He 
then dwelt on the pre-eminence of the Greeks in Art and 
Philosophy, and noticed the suitableness of polytheism 
to small insulated states, in which patriotism acted as 
1 From Mr. Green's note taken at the delivery. Ed, 
Lecture I. 217 
a substitute for religion, in destroying or suspending self. 
Afterwards, in consequence of the extension of the Roman 
empire, some universal or common spirit became necessary 
for the conservation of the vast body, and this common 
spirit was, in fact, produced in Christianity. The causes 
of the decline of the Roman empire were in operation long 
before the time of the actual overthrow ; that overthrow 
had been foreseen by many eminent Romans, especially 
by Seneca. In fact, there was under the empire an Italian 
and a German party in Rome, and in the end the latter 
He then proceeded to describe the generic character of 
the Northern nations, and defined it as an independence 
of the whole in the freedom of the individual, noticing 
their respect for women, and their consequent chivalrous 
spirit in war ; and how evidently the participation in the 
general council laid the foundation of the representative 
form of government, the only rational mode of preserving 
individual liberty in opposition to the Ucentious democracy 
of the ancient republics. 
He called our attention to the peculiarity of their art, 
and showed how it entirely depended on a symbolical 
expression of the infinite, — which is not vastness, nor 
immensity, nor perfection, but whatever cannot be cir- 
cumscribed within the Hmits of actual, sensuous being. In 
the ancient art, on the contrary, every thing was finite and 
material. Accordingly, sculpture was not attempted by 
the Gothic races till the ancient specimens were discovered, 
whilst painting and architecture were of native growth 
amongst them. In the earliest specimens of the paintings 
of modern ages, as in those of Giotto and his associates in 
the cemetery at Pisa, this complexity, variety, and sym- 
bolical character are evident, and are more fully developed 
in the mightier works of Michel Angelo and Raffael. The 
contemplation of the works of antique art excites a feeling 
of elevated beauty, and exalted notions of the human self ; 
but the Gothic architecture impresses the beholder with 
a sense of self-annihilation ; he becomes, as it were, a part 
of the work contemplated. An endless complexity and 
variety are united into one whole, the plan of which is not 
distinct from the execution. A Gothic cathedral is the 
petrefaction of our religion. The only work of truly 
modem sculpture is the Moses of Michel Angelo. 
2i8 Course of Lectures 
The Northern nations were prepared by their own 
previous rehgion for Christianity ; they, for the most part 
received it gladly, and it took root as in a native soil. The 
deference to woman, characteristic of the Gothic races, 
combined itself with devotion in the idea of the Virgin 
Mother, and gave rise to many beautiful associations. ^ 
Mr. C. remarked how Gothic an instrument in origin 
and character the organ was. 
He also enlarged on the influence of female character 
on our education, the first impressions of our childhood 
being derived from women. Am.ongst oriental nations, 
he said, the only distinction was between lord and slave. 
With the antique Greeks, the will of every one conflicting 
with the will of all, produced licentiousness ; with the 
modem descendants from the northern stocks, both these 
extremes were shut out, to reappear mixed and condensed 
into this principle or temper ; — submission, but with free 
choice, illustrated in chivalrous devotion to women as such, 
in attachment to the sovereign, &c. 
General Character of the Gothic Literature 
and Art. 
In my last lecture I stated that the descendants of Japhet 
and Shem peopled Europe and Asia, fulfilling in their 
distribution the prophecies of Scripture, while the descen- 
dants of Ham passed into Africa, there also actually 
verifying the interdiction pronounced against them. The 
Keltic and Teutonic nations occupied that part of Europe, 
which is now France, Britain, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, 
&c. They were in general a hardy race, possessing great 
fortitude, and capable of great endurance. The Romans 
slowly conquered the more southerly portion of their 
tribes, and succeeded only by their superior arts, their 
policy, and better discipline. After a time, when the 
Goths, — to use the name of the noblest and most historical 
1 The reader may compare the last two paragraphs with the lirst of Schlegel's Pre- 
lections on Dramatic Art and Literature — Vol. i. /»/ 10-16, 2nd edit. — and with 
Schelling Ueber das Verhdltniss der bildcnden Kiinste, p. 377 ; though the resem- 
blance in thought is but general. 
3 From Mr. William Hammond's note taken at th« delivery. Ed. 
Lecture II. 219 
of the Teutonic tribes, — had acquired some knowledge of 
these arts from mixing with their conquerors, they invaded 
the Roman territories. The hardy habits, the steady 
perseverance, the better faith of the enduring Goth rendered 
him too formidable an enemy for the corrupt Roman, who 
was more inclined to purchase the subjection of his enemy, 
than to go through the suffering necessary to secure it. 
The conquest of the Romans gave to the Goths the Christian 
religion as it was then existing in Italy ; and the light and 
graceful building of Grecian, or Roman-Greek order, 
became singularly combined with the massy architecture 
of the Goths, as wild and varied as the forest vegetation 
which it resembled. The Greek art is beautiful. When 
I enter a Greek Church, my eye is charmed, and my mind 
elated ; I feel exalted, and proud that I am a man. But 
the Gothic art is sublime. On entering a cathedral, I 
am filled with devotion and with awe ; I am lost to the 
actualities that surround me, and my whole being expands 
into the infinite ; earth and air, nature and art, all swell 
up into eternity, and the only sensible impression left, is 
'that I am nothing ! ' This religion, while it tended to 
soften the manners of the Northern tribes, was at the same 
time highly congenial to their nature. The Goths are 
free from the stain of hero worship. Gazing on their 
rugged mountains, surrounded by impassable forests, 
accustomed to gloomy seasons, they lived in the bosom 
of nature, and worshipped an invisible and unknown deity. 
Firm in his faith, domestic in his habits, the life of the Goth 
was simple and dignified, yet tender and affectionate. 
The Greeks were remarkable for complacency and com- 
pletion ; they delighted in whatever pleased the eye ; to 
them it was not enough to have merely the idea of a 
divinity, they must have it placed before them, shaped 
in the most perfect symmetry, and presented with the 
nicest judgment : and if we look upon any Greek produc- 
tion of art, the beauty of its parts, and the harmony of their 
union, the complete and complacent effect of the whole, 
are the striking characteristics. It is the same in their 
poetry. In Homer you have a poem perfect in its form, 
whether originally so, or from the labour of after critics, 
I know not ; his descriptions are pictures brought vividly 
before 570U, and as far as the eye and understanding are 
concerned, I am indeed gratified. But if I wish my feelings 
220 Course of Lectures 
to be affected, if I wish my heart to be touched, if I wish 
to melt into sentiment and tenderness, I must turn to the 
heroic songs of the Goths, to the poetry of the middle ages. 
The worship of statues in Greece had, in a civil sense, its 
advantage, and disadvantage; advantage, in promoting 
statuary and the arts ; disadvantage, in bringing their 
gods too much on a level with human beings, and thence 
depriving them of their dignity, and gradually giving 
rise to scepticism and ridicule. But no statue, no artificial 
emblem, could satisfy the Northman's mind ; the dark 
wild imagery of nature which surrounded him, and the 
freedom of his hfe, gave his mind a tendency to the infinite, 
so that he found rest in that which presented no end, and 
derived satisfaction from that which was indistinct. 
We have few and uncertain vestiges of Gothic literature 
till the time of Theodoric, who encouraged his subjects 
to write, and who made a collection of their poems. These 
consisted chiefly of heroic songs, sung at the Court ; for 
at that time this was the custom. Charlemagne, in the 
beginning of the ninth century, greatly encouraged letters, 
and made a further collection of the poems of his time, 
among which were several epic poems of great merit ; or 
rather in strictness there was a vast cycle of heroic poems, 
or minstrelsies, from and out of which separate poems 
were composed. The form of poetry was, however, for 
the most part, the metrical romance and heroic tale. 
Charlemagne's army, or a large division of it, was utterly 
destroyed in the Pyrenees, when returning from a successful 
attack on the Arabs of Navarre and Arragon ; yet the 
name of Roncesvalles became famous in the songs of the 
Gothic poets. The Greeks and Romans would not have 
done this ; they would not have recorded in heroic verse 
the death and defeat of their fellow-countrymen. But 
the Goths, firm in their faith, with a constancy not to be 
shaken, celebrated those brave men who died for their 
religion and their country ! What, though they had been 
defeated, they died without fear, as they had lived without 
reproach ; they left no stain on their names, for they fell 
fighting for their God, their hberty, and their rights ; and 
the song that sang that day's reverse animated them to 
future victory and certain vengeance. 
I must now turn to our great monarch, Alfred, one of 
the most august characters that any age has ever produced ; 
Lecture IL 221 
and when I picture him after the toils of government and 
the dangers of battle, seated by a solitary lamp, translating 
the holy scriptures into the Saxon tongue, — when I reflect 
on his moderation in success, on his fortitude and per- 
severance in difficulty and defeat, and on the wisdom and 
extensive nature of his legislation, I am really at a loss 
which part of this great man's character most to admire. 
Yet above all, I see the grandeur, the freedom, the mildness, 
the domestic unity, the universal character of the middle 
ages condensed into Alfred's glorious institution of the 
trial by jury. I gaze upon it as the immortal symbol of 
that age ; — an age called indeed dark ; — but how could 
that age be considered dark, which solved the difficult 
problem of universal liberty, freed man from the shackles 
of tyranny, and subjected his actions to the decision of 
twelve of his fellow-countrymen ? The liberty of the 
Greeks was a phenomenon, a meteor, which blazed for a 
short time, and then sank into eternal darkness. It was 
a combination of most opposite materials, slavery and 
liberty. Such can neither be happy nor lasting. The 
Goths on the other hand said, You shall be our Emperor ; 
but we must be Princes on our own estates, and over them 
you shall have no power ! The Vassals said to their Prince, 
We will serve you in your wars, and defend your castle ; 
but we must have liberty in our own circle, our cottage, 
our cattle, our proportion of land. The Cities said. We 
acknowledge you for our Emperor ; but we must have 
our walls and our strong holds, and be governed by our 
own laws. Thus all combined, yet all were separate ; all 
served, yet all were free. Such a government could not exist 
in a dark age. Our ancestors may not indeed have been 
deep in the metaphysics of the schools ; they may not have 
^one in the fine arts ; but much knowledge of human 
nature, much practical wisdom must have existed amongst 
them, when this admirable constitution was formed ; and 
I beUeve it is a decided truth, though certainly an awful 
lesson, that nations are not the most happy at the time 
when hterature and the arts flourish the most among them. 
The translations I had promised in my syllabus I shall 
defer to the end of the course, when I shall give a single 
lecture of recitations illustrative of the different ages of 
poetry. There is one Northern tale I will relate, as it is 
one from which Shakspeare derived that strongly marked 
222 Course of Lectures 
and extraordinary scene between Richard III. and the 
Lady Anne. It may not be equal to that in strength and 
genius, but it is, undoubtedly, superior in decorum and 
A Knight had slain a Prince, the lord of a strong castle, 
in combat. He afterAvards contrived to get into the castle, 
where he obtained an interveiw with the Princess's atten- 
dant, whose life he had saved in some encounter ; he told 
her of his love for her mistress, and won her to his interest. 
She then slowly and gradually worked on her mistress's 
mind, spoke of the beauty of his person, the fire of his 
eyes, the sweetness of his voice, his valour in the field, his 
gentleness in the court ; in short, by watching her oppor- 
tunities, she at last fiUed the Princess's soul with this one 
image ; she became restless ; sleep forsook her ; her 
curiosity to see this Knight became strong ; but her maid 
still deferred the interview, tiU at length she confessed she 
was in love with him ; — the Knight is then introduced, 
and the nuptials are quickly celebrated. 
In this age there was a tendency in writers to the droll 
and the grotesque, and in the little dramas which at that 
time existed, there were singular instances of these. It 
was the disease of the age. It is a remarkable fact that 
Luther and Melancthon, the great religious reformers of 
that day, should have strongly recommended, for the 
education of children, dramas, which at present would 
be considered highly indecorous, if not bordering on a 
deeper sin. From one which they particularly recom- 
mended, I wiU give a few extracts ; more I should not 
think it right to do. The play opens with Adam and Eve 
washing and dressing their children to appear before the 
Lord, who is coming from heaven to hear them repeat the 
Lord's Prayer, Belief, &c. In the next scene the Lord ap- 
pears seated like a schoolmaster, with the children stand- 
ing round, when Cain, who is behindhand, and a sad 
pickle, comes running in with a bloody nose and his hat 
on. Adam says, " What, with your hat on ! " Cain then 
goes up to shake hands with the Almighty, when Adam 
says (giving him a cuff), " Ah, would you give your left 
hand to the Lord ? " At length Cain takes his place in 
the class, and it becomes his turn to say the Lord's Prayer. 
At this time the Devil (a constant attendant at that time) 
makes his appearance, and getting behind Cain, whispers 
Lecture III. 223 
in his ear ; instead of the Lord's Prayer, Cain gives it so 
changed by the transposition of the words, that the meaning 
is reversed ; yet this is so artfully done by the author, 
that it is exactly as an obstinate child would answer, who 
knows his lesson, yet does not choose to say it. In the last 
scene, horses in rich trappings and carriages covered with 
gold are introduced, and the good children are to ride in 
them and be Lord Mayors, Lords, &c. ; Cain and the bad 
ones are to be made cobblers and tinkers, and only to 
associate with such. 
This, with numberless others, was written by Hans 
Sachs. Our simple ancestors, firm in their faith, and pure 
in their morals, were only amused by these pleasantries, 
as they seemed to them, and neither they nor the reformers 
feared their having any influence hostile to religion. 
When I was many years back in the north of Germany, 
there were several innocent superstitions in practice. 
Among others at Christmas, presents used to be given to 
the children by the parents, and they were delivered on 
Christmas day by a person who personated, and was 
supposed by the children to be, Christ : early on Christmas 
morning he called, knocking loudly at the door, and (having 
received his instructions) left presents for the good and 
a rod for the bad. Those who have since been in Germany 
have found this custom relinquished ; it was considered 
profane and irrational. Yet they have not found the 
children better, nor the mothers more careful of their 
offspring ; they have not found their devotion more 
fervent, their faith more strong, nor their m.orality more 
The Troiihadours — Boccaccio — Petrarch— 
Pulci — Chaucer — Spenser. 
The last Lecture was allotted to an investigation into the 
origin and character of a species of poetry, the least influenced 
of any by the literature of Greece and Rome, — that in 
which the portion contributed by the Gothic conquerors, 
1 See this custom of Kn«cht Rupert more minutely described in Mr. Coleridge's own 
letter from Germany, published in the 2nd vol. of the Friend, p. 320. £d. 
224 Course of Lectures 
the predilections and general tone or habit of thought 
and feeling, brought by our remote ancestors with them 
from the forests of Germany, or the deep dells and rocky 
mountains of Norway, are the most prominent. In the 
present Lecture I must introduce you to a species of poetry, 
which had its birth-place near the centre of Roman glory, 
and in which, as might be anticipated, the influences of 
the Greek and Roman muse are far more conspicuous, — 
as, great, indeed, as the efforts of intentional imitation on 
the part of the poets themselves could render them. But 
happily for us and for their own fame, the intention of 
the writers as men is often at complete variance with the 
genius of the same men as poets. To the force of their 
intention we owe their mythological ornaments, and the 
greater definiteness of their imagery ; and their passion 
for the beautiful, the voluptuous, and the artificial, we 
must in part attribute to the same intention, but in part 
likewise to their natural dispositions and tastes. For the 
same climate and many of the same circumstances were 
acting on them, which had acted on the great classics, 
whom they were endeavouring to imitate. But the love 
of the marvellous, the deeper sensibility, the higher rever- 
ence for womanhood, the characteristic spirit of sentiment 
and courtesy, — these were the heir-looms of nature, which 
still regained the ascendant, whenever the use of the 
living mother-language enabled the inspired poet to appear 
instead of the toilsome scholar. 
From this same union, in which the soul (if I may dare 
so express myself) was Gothic, while the outward forms 
and a majority of the words themselves, were the reUques 
of the Roman, arose the Romance, or romantic language, 
in which the Troubadours or Love-singers of Provence 
sang and v^Tote, and the different dialects of which have 
been modified into the modem Italian, Spanish, and 
Portuguese ; while the language of the Trouveurs, Trou- 
veres, or Norman-French poets, forms the intermediate 
link between the Romance or modified Roman, and the 
Teutonic, including the Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and the 
upper and lower German, as being the modified Gothic. 
And as the northernmost extreme of the Norman-French, 
or that part of the link in which it formed on the Teutonic, 
we must take the Norman-English minstrels and metrical 
romances, from the greater predominance of the Anglo- 
Lecture III. 225 
Saxon Gothic in the derivation of the words. I mean, 
that the language of the EngUsh metrical romance is less 
romanized, and has fewer words, not originally of a northern 
origin, than the same romances in the Norman-French ; 
which is the more striking, because the former were for 
the most part translated from the latter ; the authors of 
which seem to have eminently merited their name of 
Trouveres, or inventors. Thus then we have a chain with 
two rings or staples : — at the southern end there is the 
Roman, or Latin ; at the northern end the Keltic, Teutonic, 
or Gothic ; and the links beginning with the southern end, 
are the Romance, including the Provencal, the Italian, 
Spanish, and Portuguese, with their different dialects, 
then the Norman-French, and lastly the English. 
My object in adverting to the Italian poets, is not so 
much for their own sakes, in which point of view Dante 
and Ariosto alone would have required separate Lectures, 
but for the elucidation of the merits of our countrymen, 
as to what extent we must consider them as fortunate 
imitators of their Italian predecessors, and in what points 
they have the higher claims of original genius. Of Dante, 
I am to speak elsewhere. Of Boccaccio, who has little 
interest as a metrical poet in any respect, and none for 
my present purpose, except, perhaps, as the reputed in- 
ventor or introducer of the octave stanza in his Teseide, 
it will be sufficient to say, that we owe to him the subjects 
of numerous poems taken from his famous tales, the happy 
art of narration, and the still greater merit of a depth and 
fineness in the workings of the passions, in which last 
excellence, as likewise in the wild and imaginative char- 
acter of the situations, his almost neglected romances 
appear to me greatly to excel his far famed Decameron. 
To him, too, we owe the more doubtful merit of having 
introduced into the Italian prose, and by the authority 
of his name and the influence of his example, more or less 
throughout Europe, the long interwoven periods, and 
architectural structure which arose from the very nature 
of their language in the Greek writers, but which already 
in the Latin orators and historians, had betrayed a species 
of effort, a foreign something, which had been superinduced 
on the language, instead of growing out of it ; and which 
was far too alien from that individualizing and confederat- 
ing, yet not blending, character of the North, to become 
226 Course of Lectures 
permanent, although its magnificence and stateliness were 
objects of admiration and occasional imitation. This style 
diminished the control of the writer over the inner feehngs 
of men, and created too great a chasm between the body 
and the life ; and hence especially it was abandoned by 
But lastly, to Boccaccio's sanction we must trace a large 
portion of the mythological pedantry and incongruous 
paganisms, which for so long a period deformed the poetry, 
even of the truest poets. To such an extravagance did 
Boccaccio himself carry this folly, that in a romance of 
chivalry he has uniformly styled God the Father Jupiter, 
our Saviour Apollo, and the Evil Being Pluto. But for 
this there might be some excuse pleaded. I dare make 
none for the gross and disgusting licentiousness, the daring 
profaneness, which rendered the Decameron of Boccaccio 
the parent of a hundred worse children, fit to be classed 
among the enemies of the human race ; which poisons 
Ariosto — (for that I may not speak oftener than necessary 
of so odious a subject, I mention it here once for all) — 
which interposes a painful mixture in the humour of 
Chaucer, and which has once or twice seduced even our 
pure-minded Spenser into a grossness, as heterogeneous 
from the spirit of his great poem, as it was alien to the 
delicacy of his morals. 
Born at Arezzo, 1304. — Died 1374. 
Petrarch was the final blossom and perfection of the 
Troubadours. See Biog. Lit. vol. ii. p. 27, &c. 
VOL. I. 
Sonnet, i. Voi, ch' ascoltate, &c. 
7. La gola, e '1 sonno, &c. 
11. Se la mia vita, &c. 
12. Quando fra I'altre, <&c. 
1 These notes, by Mr. C, are written in a Petrarch in my possession, and ar« of 
Bome date before 1812. It is hoped that they will not seem ill placed here. Ed. 
Lecture III. 227 
18. Vergognando talor, &c. 
25. Quanto piu m' avvicino, &c. 
28. Solo e pensoso, &c. 
29. S' io credessi, &c. 
Canz. 14. Si e debile il filo, &c. 
Ball. i. Lassare il velo, &c. 
Canz. i. Nel dolce tempo, &c. 
This poem was imitated by our old Herbert ; ^ it is ridicu- 
lous in the thoughts, but simple and sweet in diction. 
Canz. 3. O aspettata in ciel, &c. 
9. Gentil mia Donna, &c. 
The first half of this ninth canzone is exquisite ; and in 
canzone 8, the nine lines beginning 
O poggi, o valli, &c. 
to cura, are expressed with vigour and chastity. 
Canz. 9. Daquel dl innanzi a me medesmo piacqui, 
Empiendo d'un pensier' alto, e soave 
Quel core, ond" hanno i begli occhi la chiave. 
Note. that the Pope would take these eternal keys, 
which so for ever turn the bolts on the finest passages of 
true passion ! 
Canz. i. Che debb' io far ? &c. 
Very good ; but not equal, I think, to Canzone 2, 
Amor, se vuoi ch' i' torni, &c. 
though less faulty. With the omission of half-a-dozen 
conceits and Petrarchisms of hooks, baits, flames, and 
torches, this second canzone is a bold and impassioned 
lyric, and leaves no doubt in my mind of Petrarch's having 
possessed a true poetic genius. Utinam deleri possint 
sequentia : — 
L. 17 — 19. e la soave fiamma 
Ch' ancor, lasso ! m' infiamraa 
Essendo spenta, or che fea dunque ardendo ? 
1 If George Herbert is meant, I can find nothing like an imitation of this canzone ia 
his poems. £d. 
228 Course of Lectures 
L. 54 — 56. ov' erano a tutt' ore 
Disposti gli ami ov' io fui preso, e 1' esca 
Ch' i' bramo sempre. 
L. 76 — 79. onde 1' accese 
Saette uscivan d' invisibil foco, 
E ragion temean poco ; 
Che contra '1 ciel non val difesa umana. 
And the lines 86, 87. 
Poser' in dubbio, a cui 
Devesse il pregio di piu laude darsi — 
are rather flatly worded. 
Bom at Florence, 1431. — Died about 1487. 
Pulci was of one of the noblest families in Florence, re- 
ported to be one of the Frankish stocks which remained 
in that city after the departure of Charlemagne : — 
Pulcia Gallorum soboles descendit in urbem, 
Clara quid em bello, sacris nee inhospita Musis. 
Verino de illustrat. Cort. Flor. III. v. 118. 
Members of this family were five times elected to the 
Priorate, one of the highest honours of the republic. Pulci 
had two brothers, and one of their wives, Antonia, who 
were all poets : — 
Carminibus patriis notissima Pulcia proles ; 
Quis non hanc urbem Musarum dicat amicam, 
Si tres producat fratres domus una poetas ? 
lb. II. V. 241. 
Luigi married Lucrezia di Uberto, of the Albizzi family, 
and was intimate with the great men of his time, but more 
especially with Angelo Politian, and Lorenzo the Magnifi- 
cent. His Morgante has been attributed, in part at least, ^ 
to the assistance of Marsilius Ficinus, and by others the 
whole has been attributed to Pohtian. The first conjecture 
is utterly improbable ; the last is possible, indeed, on ac- 
count of the licentiousness of the poem ; but there are 
no direct grounds for believing it. The Morgante Maggiore 
is the first proper romance ; although, perhaps, Pulci had 
the Teseide before him. The story is taken from the 
fabulous history of Turpin ; and if the author had any 
1 Meaning the 25th canto. Ed. 
Lecture III. 229 
distinct object, it seems to have been that of making him- 
self merry with the absurdities of the old romancers. The 
Morgante sometimes makes you think of Rabelais. It 
contains the most remarkable guess or allusion upon the 
subject of America that can be found in any book published 
before the discovery. ^ The well known passage in the 
tragic Seneca is not to be compared with it. The copia 
verhorum of the mother Florentine tongue, and the easiness 
of his style, afterwards brought to perfection by Berni, are 
the chief merits of Pulci ; his chief demerit is his heartless 
spirit of jest and buffoonery, by which sovereigns and their 
courtiers were flattered by the degradation of nature, and 
the impossihilifxation of a pretended virtue. 
1 The reference is, of course, to the following stanzas : — 
Disse Astarotte : nn error lungo e fioco 
Per molti secol non ben conosciuto, 
Fa che si dice d' Ercol le colonne, 
E che pill la molti periti sonne. 
Sappi che questa opinione e vana ; 
Perche piu oltre navicar si puote, 
Pero che 1' acqua in ogni parte e plana, 
Benche la terra abbi forma di ruote : 
Era piu grossa allor ia gente humana ; 
Talche potrebbe arrosirne le gote 
Ercule ancor d' aver posti que' segni, 
Perche piu oitre passeranno i legni. 
E puossi andar giii ne 1' altro emisperio, 
Pero che al centro ogni cosa reprime ; 
Si che la terra per divin misterio 
Sospesa sta fra le stelle sublime, 
E Ik giii son citta, castella, e imperio ; 
Ma nol cognobbon quelle genti prime ; 
Vedi che il sol di camminar s' affretta. 
Dove io ti dico che Ik giu s' aspetta. 
E come un segno surge in Oriente, 
Un altro cade con mirabll arte, 
Come si vede qua ne 1' Occidente, 
Peri che il ciel giustamente comparte ; 
Antipodi appellata e quella gente; 
Adora il sole e Jupiterre e Marte, 
E piante e animal come voi hanno, 
E spesso insieme gran battaglie fanno. 
C. XXV. St. 228, &C. 
The Morgante was printed in 1488. Ed. Another very curious anticipation, said to 
have been first noticed by Amerigo Vespucci, occurs in Dante's Furgatorio : 
I mi volsi a man destra e posi mente 
All 'altro polo : e vidi quattro stelle 
Non viste mai, fuor ch' alia prima gente. 
C. L. I. 22-4. 
230 Course of Lectures 
Born in London, 1328. — Died 1400.^ 
Chaucer must be read with an eye to the Norman-French 
Trouveres, of whom he is the best representative in Enghsh. 
He had great powers of invention. As in Shakspeare, his 
cha,racters represent classes, but in a different manner ; 
Sliakspeare's characters are the representatives of the 
interior nature of humanity, in which some element has 
become so predominant as to destroy the health of the 
mind ; whereas Chaucer's are rather representatives of 
classes of manners. He is therefore more led to indivi- 
dualize in a mere personal sense. Obser^^e Chaucer's love 
of nature ; and how happily the subject of his main work 
is chosen. When you reflect that the company in the 
Decameron have retired to a place of safety, from the 
raging of a pestilence, their mirth provokes a sense of their 
unfeelingness ; whereas in Chaucer nothing of this sort 
occurs, and the scheme of a party on a pilgrimage, with 
different ends and occupations, aptly allows of the greatest 
variety of expression in the tales. 
Bom in London, 1553. — Died 1599. 
There is this difference, among many others, between 
Shakspeare and Spenser : — Shakspeare is never coloured 
by the customs of his age ; what appears of contemporary 
character in him is merely negative ; it is just not some- 
thing else. He has none of the fictitious realities of the 
classics, none of the grotesquenesses of chivalry, none of the 
allegory of the middle ages ; there is no sectarianism either 
of politics or religion, no miser, no witch, — no common 
witch, — no astrology — nothing impermanent of however 
long duration ; but he stands like the yew tree in Lorton 
vale, which has known so many ages that it belongs to none 
in particular ; a living image of endless self-reproduction, 
like the immortal tree of Malabar. In Spenser the spirit of 
1 From Mr. Green's note. Ed. 
Lecture III. 231 
chivalry is entirely predominant, although with a much 
greater infusion of the poet's own individual self into it than 
is found in any other writer. He has the wit of the 
southern with the deeper inv/ardness of the northern genius. 
No one can appreciate Spenser without some reflection on 
the nature of allegorical writing. The mere etymological 
meaning of the word, allegory, — to talk of one thing and 
thereby convey another, — is too wide. The true sense is 
this, — the employment of one set of agents and images to 
convey in disguise a moral meaning, with a likeness to the 
imagination, but with a difference to the understanding, — 
those agents and images being so combined as to form a 
homogeneous whole. This distinguishes it from metaphor, 
which is part of an allegory. But allegory is not properly 
distinguishable from fable, otherwise than as the first 
includes the second, as a genus its species ; for in a fable 
there must be nothing but what is universally known and 
acknowledged, but in an allegory there may be that which 
is new and not previously admitted. The pictures of the 
great masters, especially of the Italian schools, are genuine 
allegories. Amongst the classics, the multitude of their 
gods either precluded allegory altogether, or else made 
every thing allegory, as in the Hesiodic Theogonia ; for 
you can scarcely distinguish between pov^^er and the per- 
sonification of power. The Cupid and Psyche of, or found 
in, Apuleius, is a phsenomenon. It is the Platonic mode 
of accounting for the fall of man. The Battle of the Soul ^ 
by Prudentius is an early instance of Christian allegory. 
Narrative allegory is distinguished from mythology as 
reality from symbol ; it is, in short, the proper inter- 
medium between person and personification. Where it is 
too strongly individuafized, it ceases to be allegory ; this 
is often felt in the Pilgrim's Progress, where the characters 
are real persons with nicknames. Perhaps one of the most 
curious warnings against another attempt at narrative 
aUegory on a great scale, may be found in Tasso's account 
of what he himself intended in and by his Jerusalem 
As characteristic of Spenser, I would call your particular 
attention in the first place to the indescribable sweetness 
and fluent projection of his verse, very clearly distinguish- 
able from the deeper and more inwoven harmonies of 
1 Psychomachia. jEJ. 
232 Course of Lectures 
Shakspeare and Milton. This stanza is a good instance of 
what I mean : — 
Yet she, most faithfull ladie, all this while 
Forsaken, wofull, solitarie mayd, 
Far from all peoples preace, as in exile, 
In wildernesse and wsLstfull deserts strayd 
To seeke her knight ; who, subtily betrayd 
Through that late vision which th' enchaunter wrought, 
Had her abandond ; she, of nought affrayd. 
Through woods and wastnes wide him daily sought. 
Yet wished tydinges none of him unto her brought. 
F. Qu. B. I. c. 3. St. 3. 
2. Combined with this sweetness and fluency, the 
scientific construction of the metre of the Faery Queene is 
very noticeable. One of Spenser's arts is that of allitera- 
tion, and he uses it with great effect in doubling the im- 
pression of an image : — 
In wildernesse and tyastful deserts, — 
Through ^^;oods and t»:-'a.stnes z£^ilde, — 
They pcisse the bitter waves of Acheron, 
Where many soules sit wa.\lmg zfoefully, 
And come to^ery ;?ood of Phlegeton, 
Whereas the damned ghosts in torments fry, 
And with sharp shrilling shrieks doth bootlesse cry, — Sec. 
He is particularly given to an alternate alliteration, which 
is, perhaps, when well used, a great secret in melody : — 
A ramping lyon rushed suddenly, — 
And sad to see her sorrowful constraint, — 
And on the grasse her c^aintie /imbes did lay, — &c. 
You cannot read a page of the Faery Queene, if you read 
for that purpose, without perceiving the intentional 
alliterativeness of the words ; and yet so skilfully is this 
managed, that it never strikes any unwarned ear as arti- 
ficial, or other than the result of the necessary movement of 
the verse. 
3. Spenser displays great skill in harmonizing his de- 
scriptions of external nature and actual incidents with the 
allegorical character and epic activity of the poem. Take 
these two beautiful passages as illustrations of what I 
mean : — 
By this the northerne wagoner had set 
His sevenfol teme behind the stedfast starre 
That was in ocean waves yet never wet, 
But firme is fixt, and sendeth light from farre 
Lecture III. 233 
To all that in the wide deepe wandring aire ; 
And chearefull chaunticlere with his note shrill 
Had warned once, that Phoebus' fiery carre 
In hast was climbing up the easterne hill, 
Full envious that Night so long his roome did fill ; 
When those accursed messengers of hell, 
That feigning dreame, and that f aire- forged sprigbt 
Came, &c. B. I. c. 2. st. i. 
1): * « 
At last, the golden oriental! gate 
Of greatest Heaven gan to open fayre ; 
And Phcebus, fresh as brydegrome to his mate, 
Came dauncing forth, shaking his deawie hayre ; 
And hurld his glistring beams through gloomy ayre. 
Which when the wakeful Elfe perceiv'd, streightway 
He started up, and did him selfe prepayre 
In sunbright armes and battailous array ; 
For with that Pagan proud he combat will that day. 
lb. c. 5. st. 2. 
Observe also the exceeding vividness of Spenser's de- 
scriptions. They are not, in the true sense of the word, 
picturesque ; but are composed of a wondrous series of 
images, as in our dreams. Compare the following passage 
with any thing you may remember in pari materia in Milton 
or Shakspeare : — 
His haughtie helmet, horrid all with gold. 
Both glorious brightnesse and great terrour bredd ; 
For all the crest a dragon did enfold 
With greedie pawes, and over all did spredd 
His golden winges ; his dreadfull hideous hedd. 
Close couched on the bever, seemd to throw 
From flaming mouth bright sparkles fiery redd, 
That suddeine horrour to faint hartes did show ; 
And scaly tayle was stretcht adowne his back full low. 
Upon the top of all his loftie crest 
A bounch of haires discolourd diversly. 
With sprinkled pearle and gold full richly drest, 
Did shake, and seemd to daunce for jollitie ; 
Like to an almond tree ymounted hye 
On top of greene Selinis all alone, 
With blossoms brave bedecked daintily. 
Whose tender locks do tremble every one 
At everie little breath that under heaven is blowne. 
lb. c. 7. st. 31-2. 
4. You will take especial noce of the marvellous inde- 
pendence and true imaginative absence of all particular 
space or time in the Faery Queene. It is in the domains 
neither of history or geography ; it is ignorant of all arti- 
ficial boundary, all material obstacles ; it is truly in land of 
234 Course of Lectures 
Faery, that is, of mental space. The poet has placed you 
in a dream, a charmed sleep, and you neither wish, nor have 
the power, to inquire where you are, or how you got there. 
It reminds me of some lines of my own : — 
Oh ! would to Alia ! 
The raven or the sea-mew were appointed 
To bring me food ! — or rather that my soul 
Might draw in life from the universal air ! 
It were a lot divine in some small skiff 
Along some ocean's boundless solitude 
To float for ever with a careless course 
And think myself the only being alive ! 
Remorse, Act iv. sc. 3. 
Indeed Spenser himself, in the conduct of his great poem, 
may be represented under the same image, his symbolizing 
purpose being his mariner's compass : — 
As pilot well expert in perilous wave, 
That to a stedfast starre his course hath bent, 
When foggy mistes or cloudy tempests have 
The faithfull light of that faire lampe yblent. 
And coverd Heaven with hideous dreriment ; 
Upon his card and compas firmes his eye, 
The maysters of his long experiment, 
And to them does the steddy helme apply, 
Bidding his winged vessell fairely forward fi}'-. 
B. II. c. 7. St. I. 
So the poet through the realms of allegory. 
5. You should note the quintessential character of 
Christian chivalry in all his characters, but more especially 
in his women. The Greeks, except, perhaps, in Homer, 
seem to have had no way of making their women interest- 
ing, but by unsexing them, as in the instances of the tragic 
Medea, Electra, &c. Contrast such characters with 
Spenser's Una, who exhibits no prominent feature, has no 
particularization, but produces the same feeling that a 
statue does, when contemplated at a distance : — 
From her fayre head her fillet she undight, 
And layd her stole aside : her angels face, 
As the great eye of Heaven, shyned bright, 
And made a sunshine in the shady place ; 
Did never mortal eye behold such heavenly grace. 
B. 1. c. 3. St. 4. 
6. In Spenser we see the brightest and purest form of 
that nationality which was so common a characteristic of 
Lecture III. 235 
our elder poets. There is nothing unamiable, nothing con- 
temptuous of others, in it. To glorify their country — to 
elevate England into a queen, an empress of the heart — 
this was their passion and object ; and how dear and im- 
portant an object it was or may be, let Spain, in the 
recollection of her Cid, declare ! There is a great magic in 
national names. What a damper to all interest is a list of 
native East Indian merchants ! Unknown names are 
non-conductors ; they stop all sympathy. No one of our 
poets has touched this string more exquisitely than Spenser; 
especially in his chronicle of the British Kings (B. II. c. 
10), and the marriage of the Thames with the Medway 
(B. IV. c. 11), in both which passages the mere names con- 
stitute half the pleasure we receive. To the same feeling 
we must in particular attribute Spenser's sweet reference 
to Ireland : — 
Ne thence the Irishe rivers absent were ; 
Sith no lesse famous than the rest they be, &c. lb. 
* * * ■ * 
And jNIulla mine, whose waves I whilom taught to weep. 
And there is a beautiful passage of the same sort in the 
Colin Clout's Come Home Again : — 
" One day," quoth he, "I sat, as was my trade, 
Under the foot of Mole," &c. 
Lastly, the great and prevailing character of Spenser's 
mind is fancy under the conditions of imagination, as an 
ever present but not always active power. He has an 
imaginative fancy, but he has not imagination, in kind or 
degree, as Shakspeare and Milton have ; the boldest effort 
of his powers in this way is the character of Talus. ^ Add 
to this a feminine tenderness and almost maidenly purity 
of feeling, and above aU, a deep moral earnestness which 
produces a believing sympathy and acquiescence in the 
reader, and you have a tolerably adequate view of Spenser's 
intellectual being. 
1 JB. 5. Legend of Artegall. Ea. 
236 Course of Lectures 
Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and 
A CONTEMPORARY is rather an ambiguous term, when 
applied to authors. It may simply mean that one man 
lived and wrote while another was yet alive, however 
deeply the former may have been indebted to the latter as 
his model. There have been instances in the hterary world 
that might remind a botanist of a singular sort of parasite 
plant, which rises above ground, independent and un- 
supported, an apparent original ; but trace its roots, and 
you wiU find the fibres all terminating in the root of another 
plant at an unsuspected distance, which, perhaps, from 
want of sun and genial soil, and the loss of sap, has scarcely 
been able to peep above the ground. — Or the word may 
mean those whose compositions were contemporaneous in 
such a sense as to preclude all hkelihood of the one having 
borrowed from the other. In the latter sense I should call 
Ben Jonson a contemporary of Shakspeare, though he long 
survived him ; while I should prefer the phrase of im- 
mediate successors for Beaumont and Fletcher, and 
Massinger, though they too were Shakspeare' s contem- 
poraries in the former sense. 
Born, 1574. — Died, 1637. 
Ben Jonson is original ; he is, indeed, the only one of the 
great dramatists of that day who was not either directly 
produced, or very greatly modified, by Shakspeare. In 
truth, he differs from our great master in every thing — in 
form and in substance — and betrays no tokens of his 
proximity. He is not original in the same way as Shak- 
speare is original ; but after a fashion of his own, Ben 
Jonson is most truly original. 
The characters in his plays are, in the strictest sense of 
the term, abstractions. Some very prominent feature is 
1 From Mr. Green's note. Ed. 
Lecture VII. 237 
taken from the whole man, and that single feature or 
humour is made the basis upon which the entire character 
is built up. Ben Jonson's dramatis personcB are almost as 
fixed as the masks of the ancient actors ; you know from 
the first scene — sometimes from the list of names — exactly 
what every one of them is to be. He was a very accurately 
observing man ; but he cared only to observe what was 
external or open to, and likely to impress, the senses. He 
individualizes, not so much, if at all, by the exhibition of 
moral or intellectual differences, as by the varieties and con- 
trasts of manners, modes of speech and tricks of temper ; 
as in such characters as Puntarvolo, Bobadill, &c. 
I believe there is not one whim or affectation in common 
life noted in any memoir of that age which may not be 
found drawn and framed in some corner or other of Ben 
Jonson's dramas ; and they have this merit, in common 
with Hogarth's prints, that not a single circumstance is 
introduced in them which does not play upon, and help to 
bring out, the dominant humour or humours of the piece. 
Indeed I ought very particularly to call your attention to 
the extraordinary skill shown by Ben Jonson in contriving 
situations for the display of his characters. ^ In fact, his 
care and anxiety in this matter led him to do what scarcely 
any of the dramatists of that age did — that is, invent his 
plots. It is not a first perusal that suffices for the full per- 
ception of the elaborate artifice of the plots of the Alchemist 
and the Silent Woman ; — that of the former is absolute 
perfection for a necessary entanglement, and an unexpected, 
yet natural, evolution. 
Ben Jonson exhibits a sterling English diction, and he 
has with great skill contrived varieties of construction ; 
but his style is rarely sweet or harmonious, in consequence 
of his labour at point and strength being so evident. In 
aU his works, in verse or prose, there is an extraordinary 
opulence of thought ; but it is the produce of an amassing 
power in the author, and not of a growth from within. 
Indeed a large proportion of Ben Jonson's thoughts may be 
traced to classic or obscure modern writers, by those who 
are learned and curious enough to follow the steps of this 
robust, surly, and observing dramatist. 
1" In Jonson's comic inventious," says Schlegel, "a spirit of observation is mani- 
fested more than fancy." Vol. 4, p. 93. 
238 Course of Lectures 
BEAUMONT. Born, 1586.1— Died, 1615-16. 
FLETCHER. Bom, 1579.— Died, 1625. 
Mr. Weber, to whose taste, industry, and appropriate 
erudition, we owe, I will not say the best, (for that would 
be saying little,) but a good, edition of Beaumont and 
Fletcher, has complimented the Philaster, which he him- 
self describes as inferior to the Maid's Tragedy by the 
same writers, as but little below the noblest of Shak- 
speare's plays, Lear, Macbeth, Othello, &c. and conse- 
quently implying the equaUty, at least, of the Maid's 
Tragedy ; — and an eminent Living critic, — who in the 
manly wit, strong sterling sense, and robust style of his 
original works, had presented the best possible credentials 
of office, as charge d'affaires of literature in general, — and 
who by his edition of Massinger — a work in which there 
was more for an editor to do, and in which more was 
actually well done, than in any similar work within my 
knowledge — has proved an especial right of authority in 
the appreciation of dramatic poetry, and hath potenti- 
ally a double voice with the public in his own right and in 
that of the critical synod, where, as princeps senatus, he 
possesses it by his prerogative, — has affirmed that Shak- 
speare's superiority to his contemporaries rests on his 
superior wit alone, while in all the other, and, as I should 
deem, higher excellencies of the drama, character, pathos, 
depth of thought, &c. he is equalled by Beaumont and 
Fletcher, Ben Jonson, and Massinger ! ^ 
Of wit I am engaged to treat in another Lecture. It is 
a genus of many species ; and at present I shall only say, 
that the species which is predominant in Shakspeare, is so 
completely Shakspearian, and in its essence so interwoven 
with all his other characteristic excellencies, that I am 
equally incapable of comprehending, both how it can be 
detached from his other powers, and how, being disparate 
in kind from the wit of contemporary dramatists, it can 
be compared with theirs in degree. And again — the 
1 Mr. Dyce thinks that " Beaumont's birth ought to be fixed at a somewhat earlier 
date," because, in the Funeral Certificate on the decease of his father, dated 22nd 
April, 1598, he is said to be 0/ tkz age of thirteen years or more ; and because " at the 
age of twelve. 4th February, 1596-7," according to Woods Ath. Oxon, "he was 
admitted a gentle.-nan-comnionrr of Broadgates Hall." 
2 See Mr.^Gifford's introduction to his edition of Massinger. Ed. 
Lecture VII. 239 
detachment and the practicabiHty of the comparison 
being granted — I should, I confess, be rather incUned to 
concede the contrary ; — and in the most common species 
of wit, and in the ordinary apphcation of the term, to 
yield this particular palm to Beaumont and Fletcher, 
whom here and hereafter I take as one poet with two 
names, — leaving undivided what a rare love and still 
rarer congeniality have united. At least, I have never 
been able to distinguish the presence of Fletcher during 
the life of Beaumont, nor the absence of Beaumont during 
the survival of Fletcher. 
But waiving, or rather deferring this question, I protest 
against the remainder of the position m toto. And indeed, 
whilst I can never, I trust, show myself blind to the various 
merits of Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and Massinger, 
or insensible to the greatness of the merits which they 
possess in common, or to the specific excellencies which 
give to each of the three a worth of his own, — I confess, 
that one main object of this Lecture was to prove that 
Shakspeare's eminence is his own, and not that of his age ; 
— even as the pine-apple, the melon, and the gourd may 
grow on the same bed ; — yea, the same circumstances of 
warmth and soil may be necessary to their full develop- 
ment, yet do not account for the golden hue, the ambrosial 
flavour, the perfect shape of the pine-apple, or the tufted 
crown on its head. Would that those, who seek to twist 
it off, could but promise us in this instance to make it the 
germ of an equal successor ! 
What had a grammatical and logical consistency for 
the ear, — what could be put together and represented to 
the eye — these poets took from the ear and eye, unchecked 
by any intuition of an inward impossibility ; — just as a 
man might put together a quarter of an orange, a quarter 
of an apple, and the like of a lemon and a pomegranate, 
and made it look like one round diverse-coloured fruit. 
But nature, which works from within by evolution and 
assimilation according to a law, cannot do so, nor could 
Shakspeare ; for he too worked in the spirit of nature, by 
evolving the germ from within by the imaginative power 
according to an idea. For as the power of seeing is to 
light, so is an idea in mind to a law in nature. They are 
correlatives, which suppose each other. 
The plays of Beaumont and Fletcher are mere aggrega- 
240 Course of Lectures 
tions without unity ; in the Shakspearian drama there is a 
vitality which grows and evolves itself from within, — a 
key-note which guides and controls the harmonies through- 
out. What is Lear ? — It is storm and tempest — the 
thunder at first grumbling in the far horizon, then gather- 
ing around us, and at length bursting in fury over our 
heads, — succeeded by a breaking of the clouds for a while, 
a last flash of lightning, the closing in of night, and the 
single hope of darkness ! And Romeo and Juliet ? — It is 
a spring day, gusty and beautiful in the morn, and closing 
like an April evening with the song of the nightingale ; ^ 
— whilst Macbeth is deep and earthy, — composed to the 
subterranean music of a troubled conscience, which con- 
verts ever}^ thing into the wild and fearful ! 
Doubtless from mere observation, or from the occasional 
similarity of the writer's own character, more or less in 
Beaumont and Fletcher, and other such writers, will happen 
to be in correspondence with nature, and still more in 
apparent compatibility with it. But yet the false source 
is always discoverable, first by the gross contradictions to 
nature in so many other parts, and secondly, by the want 
of the impression which Shakspeare makes, that the thing 
said not only might have been said, but that nothing else 
could be substituted, so as to excite the same sense of its 
exquisite propriety. I have always thought the conduct 
and expressions of Othello and I ago in the last scene, when 
lago is brought in prisoner, a wonderful instance of Shak- 
speare's consummate judgment : — 
0th. I look down towards his feet ; — but that's a fable. 
If that thou be'st a devil, I cannot kill thee. 
lago. I bleed, Sir ; but not kill'd. 
0th. I am not sorry neither. 
Think what a volley of execrations and defiances Beaumont 
and Fletcher would have poured forth here ! 
Indeed Massinger and Ben Jonson are both more perfect 
in their kind than Beaumont and Fletcher ; the former 
in the story and affecting incidents ; the latter in the 
exhibition of manners and peculiarities, whims in language, 
and vanities of appearance. 
There is, however, a diversity of the most dangerous 
1 Was der Duft eines siidlichen Friihlings berauschendes, der Gesang der Nachtigall 
sehasuchtiges, das erste Auf bluhung der Rose wollustiges hat, das athraet aus diesem 
Gedicht. Schlegel's Dram. Vorlcsun^en, Vol. iii. p 107. 
Lecture VII. 241 
kind here. Shakspeare shaped his characters out ol the 
nature within ; but we cannot so safely say, out of his own 
nature as an individual person. No ! this latter is itself 
but a natura naturata, — an effect, a product, not a power. 
It was Shakspeare's prerogative to have the universal, 
which is potentially in each particular, opened out to him, 
the homo generalis, not as an abstraction from observation 
of a variety of men, but as the substance capable of endless 
modifications, of which his own personal existence was but 
one, and to use this one as the eye that beheld the other, 
and as the tongue that could convey the discovery. There 
is no greater or more common vice in dramatic writers 
than to draw out of themselves. How I — alone and in the 
self sufficiency of my study, as all men are apt to be proud 
in their dreams — should like to be talking king ! Shak- 
speare, in composing, had no /, but the / representative. 
In Beaumont and Fletcher you have descriptions of char- 
acters by the poet rather than the characters themselves : 
we are told, and impressively told, of their being ; but we 
rarely or never feel that they actually are. 
Beaumont and Fletcher are the most lyrical of our 
dramatists, I think their comedies the best part of their 
works, although there are scenes of very deep tragic 
interest in some of their plays. I particularly recommend 
Monsieur Thomas for good pure comic humour. 
There is, occasionally, considerable license in their 
dramas ; and this opens a subject much needing vindica- 
tion and sound exposition, but which is beset with such 
difficulties for a Lecturer, that I must pass it by. Only as 
far as Shakspeare is concerned, I own, I can with less pain 
admit a fault in him than beg an excuse for it. I will not, 
therefore, attempt to palliate the grossness that actually 
exists in his plays by the customs of his age, or by the far 
greater coarseness of aU his contemporaries, excepting 
Spenser, who is himself not wholly blameless, though 
nearly so ; — for I place Shakspeare's merit on being of no 
age. But I would clear away what is, in my judgment, 
not his, as that scene of the Porter ^ in Macbeth, and many 
other such passages, and abstract what is coarse in manners 
only, and all that which from the frequency of our own 
vices, we associate with his words. If this were truly done, 
little that could be justly reprehensible would remain. 
1 Act ii. sc. 3. 
242 Course of Lectures 
Compare the vile comments, offensive and defensive, on 
Lust thro' some gentle strainers, &c. 
With the worst thing in Shakspeare, or even in Beaumont 
and Fletcher ; and then consider how unfair the attack is 
on our old dramatists ; especially because it is an attack 
that cannot be properly answered in that presence in which 
an answer would be most desirable, from the painful nature 
of one part of the position ; but this very pain is almost a 
demonstration of its falsehood ! 
Born at Salisbury, 1584. — Died, 1640. 
With regard to Massinger, observe, 
1. The vein of satire on the times ; but this is not as in 
Shakspeare, where the natures evolve themselves accord- 
ing to their incidental disproportions, from excess, de- 
ficiency, or mislocation, of one or more of the component 
elements ; but is merely satire on what is attributed to 
them by others. 
2. His excellent metre— a better model for dramatists in 
general to imitate than Shakspeare's, — even if a dramatic 
taste existed in the frequenters of the stage, and could be 
gratified in the present size and management, or rather 
mismanagement, of the two patent theatres. I do not 
mean that Massinger's verse is superior to Shakspeare's or 
equal to it. Far from it ; but it is much more easily con- 
structed, and may be more successfully adopted by writers 
in the present day. It is the nearest approach to the 
language of real life at all compatible with a fixed metre. 
In Massinger, as in all our poets before Dryden, in order to 
make harmonious verse in the reading, it is absolutely 
necessary that the meaning should be understood ; — when 
the meaning is once seen, then the harmony is perfect. 
Whereas in Pope, and in most of the writers who followed in 
his school, it is the mechanical metre which determines the 
3. The impropriety, and indecorum of demeanour in his 
favourite characters, as in Bertoldo in the Maid of Honour, 
Lecture VII. 243 
who is a swaggerer, talking to his sovereign what no 
sovereign could endure, and to gentlemen what no gentle- 
men would answer without pulling his nose. 
4. Shakspeare's Ague-cheek, Osric, &c. are displayed 
through others, in the course of social intercourse, by the 
mode of their performing some office in which they are 
employed ; but Massinger's Sylli come forward to declare 
themselves fools ab arbitrium auctoris, and so the diction 
always needs the subintelUgitur {'the man looks as if he 
thought so and so,') expressed in the language of the 
satirist, and not in that of the man himself : — 
Sylli. You may, madam, 
Perhaps, believe that I in this use art 
To make you dote upon me, by exposing 
My more than most rare features to your view ; 
But I, as I have ever done, deal simply, 
A mark of sweet simplicity, ever noted 
In the family of the Syllis. Therefore, lady, 
Look not with too much contemplation on me ; 
If you do, you are in the suds. 
Maid of Honour, Act i. sc. 2. 
The author mixes his own feelings and judgments concern- 
ing the presumed fool ; but the man himself, till mad, fights 
up against them, and betrays, by his attempts to modify 
them, that he is no fool at all, but one gifted with activity 
and copiousness of thought, image and expression, which 
belong not to a fool, but to a man of wit making himself 
merry with his own character. 
5. There is an utter want of preparation in the decisive 
acts of Massinger's characters, as in Camiola and Aurelia 
in the Maid of Honour. Why ? Because the dramatis 
personcB were all planned each by itself. Whereas in 
Shakspeare, the play is syngenesia ; each character has, 
indeed, a life of its own, and is an individuum of itself, but 
yet an organ of the whole, as the heart in the human body. 
Shakspeare was a great comparative anatomist. 
Hence Massinger and all, indeed, but Shakspeare, take 
a dislike to their own characters, and spite themselves upon 
them by making them talk like fools or monsters ; as 
Fulgentio in his visit to Camiola, (Act ii. sc. 2.). Hence too, 
in Massinger, the continued flings at kings, courtiers, and 
all the favourites of fortune, like one who had enough of 
intellect to see injustice in his own inferiority in the share 
of the good things of life, but not genius enough to rise 
244 Course of Lectures 
above it, and forget himself. Beaumont and Fletcher have 
the same vice in the opposite pole, a servility of sentiment 
and a spirit of partizanship with the monarchical faction. 
6. From the want of a guiding point in Massinger's 
characters, you never know what they are about. In fact 
they have no character. 
7. Note the faultiness of his soliloquies, with connectives 
and arrangements that have no other motive but the fear 
lest the audience should not understand him. 
8. A play of Massinger's produces no one single effect, 
whether arising from the spirit of the whole, as in the As 
You Like It ; or from any one indisputably prominent 
character, as Hamlet. It is just " which you like best, 
gentlemen ! " 
9. The unnaturally irrational passions and strange whims 
of feeling which Massinger delights to draw, deprive the 
reader of all sound interest in the characters ; — as in 
Mathias in the Picture, and in other instances. 
10. The comic scenes in Massinger not only do not 
harmonize with the tragic, not only interrupt the feeling, 
but degrade the characters that are to form any part in the 
action of the piece, so as to render them unfit for any tragic 
interest. At least, they do not concern, or act upon, or 
modify, the principal characters. As when a gentleman 
is insulted by a mere blackguard, — it is the same as if any 
other accident of nature had occurred, a pig run under his 
legs, or his horse thrown him. There is no dramatic interest 
in it. 
I like Massinger's comedies better than his tragedies, 
although where the situation requires it, he often rises into 
the truly tragic and pathetic. He excels in narration, and 
for the most part displays his mere story with skill. But 
he is not a poet of high imagination ; he is like a Flemish 
painter, in whose delineations objects appear as they do in 
nature, have the same force and truth, and produce the 
same effect upon the spectator. But Shakspeare is beyond 
this ; he always by metaphors and figures involves in the 
thing considered a universe of past and possible experiences ; 
he mingles earth, sea and air, gives a soul to every thing, 
and at the same time that he inspires human feelings, adds 
a dignity in his images to human nature itself : — 
Full raany a glorious morning have I seen 
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye ; 
Lecture VII. 245 
Kissing with golden face the meadows green, 
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchymy, &c. 
33rd Sonnet. 
Notes on Massinger. 
Have I not over-rated Gifford's edition of Massinger ? — • 
Not, — if I have, as but just is, main reference to the re- 
stitution of the text ; but yes, perhaps, if I were talking of 
the notes. These are more often wrong than right. In 
the Maid of Honour, Act i. sc. 5. Astutio describes Fulgentio 
as " A gentleman, yet no lord." Gifford supposes a trans- 
position of the press for " No gentleman, yet a lord." But 
this would have no connection with what follows ; and we 
have only to recollect that " lord " means a lord of lands, 
to see that the after hues are explanatory. He is a man of 
high birth, but no landed property ; — as to the former, he 
is a distant branch of the blood royal ; — as to the latter, his 
whole rent lies in a narrow compass, the king's ear ! In the 
same scene the text stands : 
Bert. No ! they are useful 
For your imitation ; — I remember 
you, &c. 
and Gifford condemns Mason's conjecture of * initiation* as 
void of meaning and harmony. Now my ear deceives me 
if 'initiation' be not the right word. In fact, 'imitation' is 
utterly impertinent to aU that follows. Bertoldo tells 
Antonio that he had been initiated in the manners suited to 
the court by two or three sacred beauties, and that a 
similar experience would be equally useful for his initiation 
into the camp. Not a word of his imitation. Besides, I 
say the rhythm requires 'initiation,' and is lame as the 
verse now stands. 
1 Two or three tales, each in itself independent of the 
others, and united only by making the persons that are 
the agents in the story the relations of those in the other, 
as when a bind-weed or thread is twined round a bunch of 
flowers, each having its own root — and this novel narrative 
in dialogue — such is the character of Massinger' s plays — 
That the juxta-position and the tying together by a 
common thread, which goes round this and round that, 
1 The notes on Massinger which follow were transcribed from a copy of that 
dramatist's works, belonging to Mr. Gillman. I do not know whence the first was 
taken by the original editor. 
246 Course of Lectures 
and then round them all, twine and intertwine, are con- 
trived ingeniously — that the component tales are well 
chosen, and the whole well and conspicuously told ; so as 
to excite and sustain the mind by kindling and keeping 
alive the curiosity of the reader — that the language is 
most pure, equally free from bookishness and from vulgar- 
ism, from the pecuharities of the School, and the tran- 
siencies of fashion, whether fine or coarse ; that the 
rhythm and metre are incomparably good, and form the 
very model of dramatic versification, flexible and seeming 
to rise out of the passions, so that whenever a line sounds 
immetrical, the speaker may be certain he has recited it 
amiss, either that he has misplaced or misproportioned 
the emphasis, or neglected the acceleration or retardation 
of the voice in the pauses (all which the mood or passion 
would have produced in the real Agent, and therefore 
demand from the Actor or {^muii^'toT}) and that read aright 
the blank verse is not less smooth than varied, a rich 
harmony, puzzling the fingers, but satisfying the ear — 
these are Massinger's characteristic merits. 
Among the varieties of blank verse Massinger is fond 
of the anapaest in the first and third foot, as : 
" To yoiir more | than ma | sciihne rea | son 
that I commands 'em || -" ^ 
The Guardian, Act i. sc. 2. 
Likewise of the second Paeon (u - uu) in the first foot 
followed by four trochees (- u) as : 
" So greedily | long for, | know their | 
titill I ations." lb. ib. 
The emphasis too has a decided influence on the metre, 
and, contrary to the metres of the Greek and Roman 
classics, at lestst to all their more common sorts of verse, 
as the hexameter and hex and pentameter, Alchaic, 
Sapphic, &c. hcLS an essential agency on the character of 
the feet and power of the verse. One instance only of this 
I recollect in Theocritus : 
TO firi KoXa /fdXd xiipavrdi, 
I Giflford divides the lines in question thus : 
" Command my sensual appetites. 
C.alip. As vassals to 
Your more than masculine reason, that commands them." 
But it is obviously better to make the first line end with " vassals," so as to give it only 
the one over-running syllable, which is so common in the last foot. 
Lecture VIII. 247 
unless Homer's ' A-p^g, "Apeg, may (as I believe) be deemed 
another — For I cannot bring my ear to believe that 
Homer would have perpetrated such a cacophony as 
"flpsg, 'Apsg. 
" In fear | my chaasteetee | may be | sus- 
pected." I lb. ib. 
In short, musical notes are required to explain Massinger 
— metres in addition to prosody. When a speech is 
interrupted, or one of the characters speaks aside, the last 
syllable of the former speech and first of the succeeding 
Massinger counts but for one, because both are supposed 
to be spoken at the same moment. 
** And felt the sweetness oft." 
" How her mouth runs over." 
Ib. ib. 
Emphasis itself is twofold, the rap and the drawl, or the 
emphasis by quality of sound, and that by quantitj^ — the 
hammer, and the spatula — the latter over 2, 3, 4 syllables 
or even a whole line. It is in this that the actors and 
speakers are generally speaking defective, they cannot 
equilibrate an emphasis, or spread it over a number of 
syllables, aU emphasized, sometimes equally, sometimes 
Don Quixote. 
Born at Madrid, 1547 ; — Shakspeare, 1564 ; both put off 
mortality on the same day, the 23rd of April, 1616, — the 
one in the sixty-ninth, the other in the fifty-second, year 
of his life. The resemblance in their physiognomies is 
striking, but with a predominance of acuteness in Cervantes, 
and of reflection in Shakspeare, which is the specific 
difference between the Spanish and English characters of 
I. The nature and eminence of Symbolical writing ; — 
II. Madness, and its different sorts, (considered with- 
out pretension to medical science) ; — 
248 Course of Lectures 
To each of these, or at least to my own notions respecting 
them, I must devote a few words of explanation, in order 
to render the after critique on Don Quixote, the master 
work of Cervantes' and his country's genius, easily and 
throughout intelligible. This is not the least valuable, 
though it may most often be felt by us both as the heaviest 
and least entertaining portion of these critical disquisi- 
tions : for without it, I must have foregone one at least 
of the two appropriate objects of a Lecture, that of interest- 
ing you during its delivery, and of leaving behind in your 
minds the germs of after-thought, and the materials for 
future enjoyment. To have been assured by several of 
my intelligent auditors that they have reperused Hamlet 
or Othello with increased satisfaction in consequence of 
the new points of view in which I had placed those char- 
acters — is the highest compliment I could receive or 
desire ; and should the address of this evening open out 
a new source of pleasure, or enlarge the former in j^our 
perusal of Don Quixote, it will compensate for the failure 
of any personal or temporary object. 
L The Symbolical cannot, perhaps, be better defined 
in distinction from the Allegorical, than that it is always 
itself a part of that, of the whole of which it is the repre- 
sentative. — " Here comes a sail," — (that is, a ship) is a 
symbolical expression. " Behold our lion ! " when we 
speak of some gallant soldier, is allegorical. Of most ^ 
importance to our present subject is this point, that the 
latter (the allegory) cannot be other than spoken con- 
sciously ; — whereas in the former (the symbol) it is very 
possible that the general truth represented may be working 
unconsciously in the writer's mind during the construction 
of the symbol ; — and it proves itself by being produced 
out of his own mind, — as the Don Quixote out of the 
perfectly sane mind of Cervantes ; and not by outward 
observation, or historically. The advantage of symbohcal 
writing over allegory is, that it presumes no disjunction 
of faculties, but simple predominance. 
II. Madness may be divided as — 
1. hypochondriasis ; or, the man is out of his senses. 
2. derangement of the understanding ; or, the man 
is out of his wits. 
3. loss of reason. 
4. frenzy, or derangement of the sensations. 
Lecture VIII. 249 
Cervantes's own preface to Don Quixote is a perfect 
model of the gentle, every where intelligible, irony in the 
best essays of the Tatler and the Spectator. Equally 
natural and easy, Cervantes is more spirited than Addison ; 
whilst he blends with the terseness of Swift, an exquisite 
flow and music of style, and above all, contrasts with the 
latter by the sweet temper of a superior mind, which saw 
the follies of mankind, and was even at the moment 
suffering severely under hard mistreatment ; ^ and yet 
seems every where to have but one thought as the under- 
song — " Brethren ! with all your faults I love you still ! " 
— or as a mother that chides the child she loves, with one 
hand holds up the rod, and with the other wipes off each 
tear as it drops ! 
Don Quixote was neither fettered to the earth by want, 
nor holden in its embraces by wealth ; — of which, with 
the temperance natural to his country, as a Spaniard, he 
had both far too little, and somewhat too much, to be 
under any necessity of thinking about it. His age too, 
fifty, may be well supposed to prevent his mind from being 
tempted out of itself by any of the lower passions ; — while 
his habits, as a very early riser and a keen sportsman, 
were such as kept his spare body in serviceable subjection 
to his will, and yet by the play of hope that accompanies 
pursuit, not only permitted, but assisted, his fancy in 
shaping what it would. Nor must we omit his meagre- 
ness and entire featureliness, face and frame, which 
Cervantes gives us at once : " It is said that his surname 
was Quixada or Quesada," &c. — even in this trifle showing 
an exquisite judgment ; — just once insinuating the associa- 
tion of lantern-jaws into the reader's mind, yet not retaining 
it obtrusively like the names in old farces and in the 
Pilgrim's Progress, — but taking for the regular appellative 
one which had the no meaning of a proper name in real life, 
and which yet was capable of recalling a number of very 
different, but all pertinent, recollections, cLS old armour, 
the precious metals hidden in the ore, &c. Don Quixote's 
leanness and featureliness are happy exponents of the 
excess of the formative or imaginative in him, contrasted 
1 Bien coitw quicn se eng-cndrd en una carcel, cionde toda incomodidcul tiene su 
assicnto, y todo triste ntido hace su hahitacion. Like one you may suppose born in a 
prison, where every inconvenience keeps its residence, and every dismal sound its 
habitation. Pref. Jarvis's Tr. Ed. 
250 Course of Lectures 
with Sancho's plump rotundity, and recipiency of external 
He has no knowledge of the sciences or scientific arts 
which give to the meanest portions of matter an intel- 
lectual interest, and which enable the mind to decypher in 
the world of the senses the invisible agency — that alone, of 
which the world's phenomena are the effects and mani- 
festations, — and thus, as in a mirror, to contemplate its 
own reflex, its Hfe in the powers, its imagination in the 
symbolic forms, its moral instincts in the final causes, and 
its reason in the laws of material nature : but — estranged 
from all the motives to observation from self-interest — the 
persons that surround him too few and too familiar to enter 
into any connection with his thoughts, or to require any 
adaptation of his conduct to their particular characters or 
relations to himself — his judgment lies fallow, with nothing 
to excite, nothing to employ it. Yet, — and here is the 
point, where genius even of the most perfect kind, allotted 
but to few in the course of many ages, does not preclude the 
necessity in part, and in part counterbalance the craving by 
sanity of judgment, without which genius either cannot be, 
or cannot at least manifest itself, — the dependency of our 
nature asks for some confirmation from without, though it 
be only from the shadows of other men's fictions. 
Too uninformed, and with too narrow a sphere of pov/er 
and opportunity to rise into the scientific artist, or to be 
himself a patron of art, and with too deep a principle and 
too much innocence to become a mere projector, Don 
Quixote has recourse to romances : — 
His curiosity and extravagant fondness herein arrived at that 
pitch, that he sold many acres of arable land to purchase books of 
knis:ht-errantry, and carried home all he could lay hands on of that 
kind ! C. I. 
The more remote these romances were from the language 
of common life, the more akin on that very account were 
they to the shapeless dreams and strivings of his own mind ; 
— a mind, which possessed not the highest order of genius 
which lives in an atmosphere of power over mankind, but 
that minor kind which, in its restlessness, seeks for a vivid 
representative of its own wishes, and substitutes the move- 
ments of that objective puppet for an exercise of actual 
power in and by itself. The more wild and improbable 
Lecture VIII. 251 
these romances were, the more were they akin to his will, 
which had been in the habit of acting as an unlimited 
monarch over the creations of his fancy ! Hence observe 
how the startling of the remaining common sense, like a 
glimmering before its death, in the notice of the impossible- 
improbable of Don Belianis, is dismissed by Don Quixote 
as impertinent — 
He had some doubt ^ as to the dreadful wounds which Don Belianis 
gave and received : for he imagined, that notwithstanding the 
most expert surgeons had cured him, his face and whole body must 
still be full of seams and scars. Nevertheless ^ he commended in 
his author the concluding his book with a promise of that un- 
finishable adventure ! C. i. 
Hence also his first intention to turn author ; but who, 
with such a restless struggle \vithin him, would content 
himself with writing in a remote village among apathists 
and ignorants ? During his colloquies with the village 
priest and the barber surgeon, in which the fervour of 
critical controversy feeds the passion and gives reality to 
its object — what more natural than that the mental striving 
should become an eddy ? — madness may perhaps be defined 
as the circling in a stream which should be progressive and 
adaptive ; Don Quixote grows at length to be a man out 
of his wits ; his understanding is deranged ; and hence 
without the least deviation from the truth of nature, with- 
out losing the least trait of personal individuality, he 
becomes a substantial hving allegory, or personification of 
the reason and the moral sense, divested of the judgment 
and the understanding. Sancho is the converse. He is 
the common sense without reason or imagination ; and 
Cervantes not only shows the excellence and power of 
reason in Don Quixote, but in both him and Sancho the 
mischiefs resulting from a severance of the two main con- 
stituents of sound intellectual and moral action. Put him 
and his master together, and they form a perfect intellect ; 
but they are separated and without cement ; and hence 
each having a need of the other for its own completeness, 
each has at times a mastery over the other. For the 
common sense, although it may see the practical in- 
applicability of the dictates of the imagination or abstract 
reason, yet cannot help submitting to them. These two 
characters possess the world, alternately and interchange- 
1 No estaha muy bien con. Ed. 2 Pero con todo. Ed. 
252 Course of Lectures 
ably the cheater and the cheated. To impersonate them, 
and to combine the permanent with the individual, is one 
of the highest creations of genius, and has been achieved 
by Cervantes and Shakspeare, almost alone. 
Observations on particular passages: 
B. I. c. I. But not altogether approving of his having broken it 
to pieces with so much ease, to secure himself from the like danger 
for the future, he made it over again, fencing it with small bars of 
iron within, in such a manner, that he rested satisfied of its strength ; 
and without caring to make a fresh experiment on it, he approved and 
looked upon it as a most excellent helmet. 
His not trying his improved scull-cap is an exquisite trait 
of human character, founded on the oppugnancy of the 
soul in such a state to any disturbance by doubt of its own 
broodings. Even the long deliberation about his horse's 
name is full of meaning ; — for in these day-dreams the 
greater part of the history passes and is carried on in words, 
which look forward to other words as what will be said of 
lb. Near the place where he lived, there dwelt a very comely 
country lass, with whom he had formerly been in love ; though, as 
it is supposed, she never knew it, nor troubled herself about it. 
The nascent love for the country lass, but without any 
attempt at utterance, or an opportunity of knowing her, 
except as the hint — the on Un — of the inward imagination, 
is happily conceived in both parts ; — first, as confirmative 
of the shrinking back of the mind on itself, and its dread of 
having a cherished image destroyed by its own judgment ; 
and secondly, as showing how necessarily love is the passion 
of novels. Novels are to love as fairy tales to dreams. I 
never knew but two men of taste and feeling who could not 
understand why I was delighted with the Arabian Nights' 
Tales, and they were likewise the only persons in my know- 
ledge who scarcely remembered having ever dreamed. 
Magic and war — itself a magic — are the day-dreams of 
childhood ; love is the day-dream of youth, and early 
C. 2. " Scarcely had ruddy Phoebus spread the golden tresses 
of his beauteous hair over the face of the wide and spacious eai-th ; 
and scarcely had the little painted birds, with the sweet and melli- 
Lecture VIII. 253 
fluous harmony of their forked tongues, saluted the approach of 
rosy Aurora, who, quitting the soft couch of her jealous husband, 
disclosed herself to mortals through the gates of the Mauchegan 
horizon ; when the renowned Don Quixote," &c. 
How happily already is the abstraction from the senses, 
from observation, and the consequent confusion of the 
judgment, marked in this description ! The knight is 
describing objects immediate to his senses and sensations 
without borrowing a single trait from either. Would it be 
difficult to find parallel descriptions in Dry den's plays and 
in those of his successors ? 
C. 3. The host is here happily conceived as one who from 
his past life as a sharper, was capable of entering into and 
humouring the knight, and so perfectly in character, that 
he precludes a considerable source of improbabihty in the 
future narrative, by enforcing upon Don Quixote the 
necessity of taking money with him. 
C. 3. " Ho, there, whoever thou art, rash knight, that ap- 
proachest to touch the arms of the most valorous adventurer that 
ever girded sword," &c. 
Don Quixote's high eulogiums on himself — " the most 
valorous adventurer ! " — but it is not himself that he has 
before him, but the idol of his imagination, the imaginary 
being whom he is acting. And this, that it is entirely a 
third person, excuses his heart from the otherwise inevit- 
able charge of selfish vanity ; and so by madness itself he 
preserves our esteem, and renders those actions natural by 
which he, the first person, deserves it. 
C. 4. Andres and his master. 
The manner in which Don Quixote redressed this wrong, 
is a picture of the true revolutionary passion in its first 
honest state, while it is yet only a bewilderment of the 
understanding. You have a benevolence limitless in its 
prayers, which are in fact aspirations towards omnipotence ; 
but between it and beneficence, the bridge of judgment — 
that is, of measurement of personal power — intervenes, 
and must be passed. Otherwise you will be bruised by the 
leap into the chasm, or be drowned in the revolutionary 
river, and drag others with you to the same fate. 
C. 4. Merchants of Toledo. 
When they were come so near as to be seen and heard, Don 
Quixote raised his voice, and with arrogant air cried out : " Let 
254 Course of Lectures 
the whole world stand ; if the whole world does not confess that 
there is not in the whole world a damsel more beautiful than," &c. 
Now mark the presumption which follows the self-com- 
placency of the last act ! That was an honest attempt to 
redress a real wrong ; this is an arbitrary determination to 
enforce a Brissotine or Rousseau's idesd on all his fellow 
Let the whole world stand ! 
*If there had been any experience in proof of the excellence 
of our code, where would be our superiority in this en- 
lightened age ?' 
" No ? the business is that without seeing her, you believe, 
confess, affirm, swear, and maintain it ; and if not, I challenge you 
all to battle." ^ 
Next see the persecution and fury excited by opposition 
however moderate ! The only words hstened to are those, 
that without their context and their conditionals, and trans- 
formed into positive assertions, might give some shadow of 
excuse for the violence showm ! This rich story ends, to 
the compassion of the men in their senses, in a sound rib- 
roasting of the idealist by the muleteer, the mob. And 
happy for thee, poor knight ! that the mob were against 
thee ! For had they been with thee, by the change of the 
moon and of them, thy head would have been off. 
C. 5, first part. The idealist recollects the causes that 
had been necessary to the reverse and attempts to remove 
them — too late. He is beaten and disgraced. 
C. 6. This chapter on Don Quixote's library proves that 
the author did not wish to destroy the romances, but to 
cause them to be read as romances — that is, for their merits 
as poetry. 
C. 7. Among other things, Don Quixote told him, he should 
dispose himself to go with him "wnllingly ; — for some time or other 
such an adventure might present, that an island might be won, in 
the turn of a hand, and he be left governor thereof. 
At length the promises of the imaginative reason begin to 
act on the plump, sensual, honest common sense accomplice, 
— but unhappily not in the same person, and without the 
copula of the judgment, — in hopes of the substantial good 
1 Donde no, Mnmigo sois en battalia., gente descomunal! Ed. 
Lecture VIII. 255 
things, of which the former contemplated only the glory and 
the colours. 
C. 7. Sancho Panza went riding upon his ass, like any patriarch, 
with his wallet and leathern bottle, and with a vehement desire to 
find himself governor of the island which his master had promised 
The first relief from regular labour is so pleasant to poor 
Sancho ! 
C. 8. " I no gentleman ! I swear by the great God. thou liest, 
as I am a Christian. Biscainer by land, gentleman by sea, gentle- 
man for the devil, and thou liest : look then if thou hast any thing 
else to say." 
This Biscainer is an excellent image of the prejudices and 
bigotry provoked by the idealism of a speculator. This 
story happily detects the trick which our imagination plays 
in the description of single combats : only change the pre- 
conception of the magnificence of the combatants, and all 
is gone. 
B. II. c. 2. " Be pleased, my lord Don Quixote, to bestow upon 
me the government of that island," &c. 
Sancho' s eagerness for his government, the nascent lust 
of actual democracy, or isocracy ! 
C. 2. " But tell me, on your life, have you ever seen a more 
valorous knight than I, upon the whole face of the known earth ? 
Have you read in story of any other, who has, or ever had, more 
bravery in assailing, more breath in holding out, more dexterity in 
wounding, or more address in giving a fall ? " — " The truth is," 
answered Sancho, " that I never read any history at all ; for I can 
neither read nor write ; but what I dare affirm is, that I never 
served a bolder master," &c. 
This appeal to Sancho, and Sancho's answer are ex- 
quisitely humorous. It is impossible not to think of the 
French bulletins and proclamations. Remark the necessity 
under which we are of being sympathized with, fly as high 
into abstraction as we may, and how constantly the 
imagination is recalled to the ground of our common 
humanity ! And note a little further on, the knight's easy 
vaunting of his balsam, and his quietly deferring the mak- 
ing and application of it. 
C. 3. The speech before the goatherds : 
" Happy times and happy ages," &c.* 
I Dichosa cdad y siglos dichoses aquellos, &'c. Ed. 
Course of Lectures 
Note the rhythm of this, and the admirable beauty and 
wisdom of the thoughts in themselves, but the total want 
of judgment in Don Quixote's addressing them to such an 
B. III. c. 3. Don Quixote's balsam, and the vomiting and 
consequent relief ; an excellent hit at panacea nostrums, 
which cure the patient by his being himself cured of the 
medicine by revolting nature. 
C. 4. " Peace ! and have patience ; the day will come," &c. 
The perpetual promises of the imagination ! 
lb. " Your Worship," said Sancho, " would make a better 
preacher than knight errant ! " 
Exactly so. This is the true moral. 
C. 6. The uncommon beauty of the description in the 
commencement of this chapter. In truth, the whole of it 
seems to put all nature in its heights, and its humiliations, 
before us. 
lb. Sancho's story of the goats : 
" Make account, he carried them all over," said Don Quixote, 
** and do not be going and coming in this manner ; for at this rate, 
you will not have done carrying them over in a twelvemonth." 
*' How many are passed already ? " said Sancho, &c. 
Observe the happy contrast between the all-generalizing 
mind of the mad knight, and Sancho's all-particularizing 
memory. How admirable a symbol of the dependence of 
all copula on the higher powers of the mind, with the single 
exception of the succession in time and the accidental 
relations of space. Men of mere common sense have no 
theory or means of making one fact more important or 
prominent than the rest ; if they lose one link, all is 
lost. Compare Mrs. Quickly and the Tapster.^ And 
note also Sancho's good heart, when his master is about 
to leave him. Don Quixote's conduct upon discovering 
the fulling-hammers, proves he was meant to be in his 
senses. Nothing can be better conceived than his fit of 
passion at Sancho's laughing, and his sophism of self- 
justification by the courage he had shown. 
Sancho is by this time cured, through experience, as far 
as his own errors are concerned ; yet still is he lured on by 
1 See the Friend, vol. iii. p. 138. £<i. 
Lecture VIII. 257 
the unconquerable awe of his master's superiority, even 
when he is cheating him. 
C. 8. The adventure of the Galley-slaves. I think this 
is the only passage of moment in which Cervantes slips the 
mask of his hero, and speaks for himself. 
C. 9. Don Quixote desired to have it, and bade him take the 
money, and keep it for himself. Sancho kissed his hands for the 
favour, &c. 
Observe Sancho' s eagerness to avail himself of the per- 
mission of his master, who, in the war sports of knight- 
errantry, had, without any selfish dishonesty, overlooked 
the meiim and tumn. Sancho's selfishness is modified by 
his involuntary goodness of heart, and Don Quixote's 
flighty goodness is debased by the involuntary or un- 
conscious selfishness of his vanity and self-applause. 
C. 10. Cardenio is the madman of passion, who meets 
and easily overthrows for the moment the madman of 
imagination. And note the contagion of madness of any 
kind, upon Don Quixote's interruption of Cardenio's story. 
C. II. Perhaps the best specimen of Sancho's pro- 
verbializing is this : 
" And I (Don Q.) sa}'' again, they He, and will lie two hundred 
times more, all who say, or think her so." " I neither say, nor 
think so," answered Sancho ; " let those who say it, eat the lie, 
and swallow it with their bread : whether they were guilty or no, 
they have given an account to God before now : I come from my 
vineyard, I know nothing ; I am no friend to inquiring into other 
men's lives ; for he that buys and lies shall find the lie left in his 
purse behind ; besides, naked was I born, and naked I remain ; I 
neither win nor lose ; if they were guilty, what is that to me ? 
Many think to find bacon, where there is not so much as a pin to 
hang it on : bul who can hedge in the cuckoo ? Especially, do 
they spare God himself ? " 
lb. " And it is no great matter, if it be in another hand ; for 
by what I remember, Dulcinea can neither write nor read," &c. 
The wonderful twilight of the mind ! and mark Cer- 
vantes's courage in daring to present it, and trust to a 
distant posterity for an appreciation of its truth to nature. 
P. II. B. III. c. 9. Sancho's account of what he had seen 
on Clavileno is a counterpart in his style to Don Quixote's 
adventures in the cave of Montesinos. This last is the only 
impeachment of the knight's moral character ; Cervantes 
just gives one instance of the veracity failing before the 
strong cravings of the imagination for something real and 
258 Course of Lectures 
external ; the picture would not have been complete with- 
out this ; and yet it is so well managed, that the reader has 
no unpleasant sense of Don Quixote having told a lie. It 
is evident that he hardly knows whether it was a dream or 
not ; and goes to the enchanter to inquire the real nature of 
the adventure. 
Summary of Cervantes. 
A Castilian of refined manners ; a gentleman, true to 
religion, and true to honour. 
A scholar and a soldier, and fought under the banners of 
Don John of Austria, at Lepanto, lost his arm and was 
Endured slavery not only with fortitude, but with mirth ; 
and by the superiority of nature, mastered and overawed 
his barbarian owner. 
Finally ransomed, he resumed his native destiny, the 
awful task of achieving fame ; and for that reason died 
poor and a prisoner, while nobles and kings over their 
goblets of gold gave relish to their pleasures by the charms 
of his divine genius. He was the inventor of novels for 
the Spaniards, and in his Persilis and Sigismunda, the 
English may find the germ of their Robinson Crusoe. 
The world was a drama to him. His own thoughts, in 
spite of poverty and sickness, perpetuated for him the 
feelings of youth. He painted only what he knew and had 
looked into, but he knew and had looked into much indeed ; 
and his imagination was ever at hand to adapt and modify 
the world of his experience. Of delicious love he fabled, 
yet with stainless virtue. 
On the Distinctions of the Witty, the Droll, the Odd, and the 
Humourous ; the Nature and Constituents of Humour : 
— Rabelais — Swift — Sterne. 
Perhaps the most important of our intellectual operations 
are those of detecting the difference in similar, and the 
identity in dissimilar, things. Out of the latter operation 
Lecture IX. 259 
it is that wit arises ; and it, generically regarded, consists 
in presenting thoughts or images in an unusual connection 
with each other, for the purpose of exciting pleasure by 
the surprise. This connection may be real ; and there is 
in fact a scientific wit ; though where the object, con- 
sciously entertained, is truth, and not amusement, we 
commonly give it some higher name. But in wit popularly 
understood, the connection may be, and for the most part 
is, apparent only, and transitory ; and this connection 
may be by thoughts, or by words, or by images. The first 
is our Butler's especial eminence ; the second, Voltaire's ; 
the third, which we oftener call fancy, constitutes the 
larger and more peculiar part of the wit of Shakspeare. 
You can scarcely turn to a single speech of Falstaff's 
without finding instances of it. Nor does wit always 
cease to deserve the name by being transient, or incapable 
of analysis. I may add that the wit of thoughts belongs 
eminently to the Italians, that of words to the French, 
and that of images to the English. 
II. Where the laughable is its own end, and neither 
inference, nor moral is intended, or where at least the 
writer would wish it so to appear, there arises what we 
call droUery. The pure, unmixed, ludicrous or laughable 
belongs exclusively to the understanding, and must be 
presented under the form of the senses ; it lies within the 
spheres of the eye and the ear, and hence is allied to the 
fancy. It does not appertain to the reason or the moral 
sense, and accordingly is alien to the imagination. I think 
Aristotle has already excellently defined ^ the laughable, 
ro yiXom, as consisting of, or depending on, what is out 
of its proper time and place, yet without danger or pain. 
Here the impropriety — rh aroirov — is the positive qualifi- 
cation ; the danger lessness — rh dx/vduvov — the negative. 
Neither the understanding without an object of the 
senses, as for example, a mere notional error, or idiocy ; 
— nor any external object, unless attributed to the under- 
1 He elsewhere commends this Def. : "To resolve laughter into an expression of 
contempt is contrary to fact, and laughable enough. Laughter is a convulsion of the 
nerves, and it seems as if nature cut short the rapid thrill of pleasure on the nerves by 
a sudden convulsion of them to prevent the sensation becoming painful — ArnstotU's 
Def. is as good as can be. Surprise at perceiving anything out of its usual place when 
the unusualness is not accompanied by a sense of serious danger. Such surprise is 
always pleasurable, and it is observable that surprise accompanied with circumstances 
of danger becomes Tragic. Hence Farce may often borcUr on Tragedy; indeed 
Farce is nearer Tragedy in its Essence than Comedy is. " 
Table Talk. 
26o Course of Lectures 
standing, can produce the poetically laughable. Nay, 
even in ridiculous positions of the body laughed at by the 
vulgar, there is a subtle personification always going on, 
which acts on the, perhaps, unconscious mind of the 
spectator as a symbol of intellectual character. And hence 
arises the imperfect and awkward effect of comic stories of 
animals ; because although the understanding is satisfied 
in them, the senses are not. Hence too, it is, that the true 
ludicrous is its own end. When serious satire commences, 
or satire that is felt as serious, however comically drest, 
free and genuine laughter ceases ; it becomes sardonic. 
This you experience in reading Young, and also not un- 
frequently in Butler. The true comic is the blossom of 
the nettle. 
III. When words or images are placed in unusual juxta- 
position rather than connection, and are so placed merely 
because the juxta-position is unusual — we have the odd or 
the grotesque ; the occasional use of which in the minor 
ornaments of architecture, is an interesting problem for a 
student in the psychology of the Fine Arts. 
IV. In the simply laughable there is a mere dispropor- 
tion between a definite act and a definite purpose or end, 
or a disproportion of the end itself to the rank or circum- 
stances of the definite person ; but humour is of more 
difficult description. I must try to define it in the first 
place by its points of diversity from the former species. 
Humour does not, like the different kinds of wit, which is 
impersonal, consist wholly in the understanding and the 
senses. No combination of thoughts, words, or images 
wiU of itself constitute humour, unless some peculiarity of 
individual temperament and character be indicated there- 
by, as the cause of the same. Compare the comedies of 
Congreve with the Falstaff in Henry IV. or with Sterne's 
Corporal Trim, Uncle Toby, and Mr. Shandy, or with 
some of Steele's charming papers in the Tatler, and you 
will feel the difference better than I can express it. Thus 
again (to take an instance from the different works of the 
same writer), in SmoUett's Strap, his Lieutenant Bowling, 
his Morgan the honest Welshman, and his Matthew 
Bramble, we have exquisite humour, — while in his Pere- 
grine Pickle we find an abundance of drollery, which too 
often degenerates into mere oddity ; in short, we feel that 
a number of things are put together to counterfeit humour. 
Lecture IX. 261 
but that there is no growth from within. And this indeed 
is the origin of the word, derived from the humoral patho- 
logy, and excellently described by Ben Jonson : 
So in every human body, 
The choler, melancholy, phlegm, and blood, 
By reason that they flow continually 
In some one part, and are not continent, 
Receive the name of humours. Now thus far 
It may, by metaphor, apply itself 
Unto the general disposition : 
As when some one peculiar quality 
Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw 
All his effects, his spirits, and his powers. 
In their confluctions, all to run one way. 
This may be truly said to be a humour.^ 
Hence we may explain the congeniality of humour with 
pathos, so exquisite in Sterne and Smollett, and hence also 
the tender feeling which we always have for, and associate 
with, the humours or hobby-horses of a man. First, we 
respect a humourist, because absence of interested motive is 
the groundwork of the character, although the imagination 
of an interest may exist in the individual himself, as if a 
remarkably simple-hearted man should pride himself on his 
knowledge of the world, and how well he can manage it : 
— and secondly, there always is in a genuine humour an 
acknowledgment of the hoUowness and farce of the world, 
and its disproportion to the godlike within us. And it 
follows immediately from this, that whenever particular 
acts have reference to particular selfish motives, the 
humourous bursts into the indignant and abhorring ; 
whilst all follies not selfish are pardoned or palliated. 
The danger of this habit, in respect of pure morality, is 
strongly exemplified in Sterne. 
This would be enough, and indeed less than this has 
passed, for a sufficient account of humour, if we did not 
recollect that not every predominance of character, even 
where not precluded by the moral sense, as in criminal 
dispositions, constitutes what we mean by a humourist, 
or the presentation of its produce, humour. What then 
is it ? Is it manifold ? Or is there some one humorific 
point common to all that can be called humorous ? — I 
am not prepared to answer this fully, even if my time 
permitted ; but I think there is ; — and that it consists in 
1 Every Man Out Of His Humour. Prologue. 
262 Course of Lectures 
a certain reference to the general and the universal, by 
which the finite great is brought into identity with the 
little, or the little with the finite great, so as to make both 
nothing in comparison with the infinite. The little is 
made great, and the great little, in order to destroy both ; 
because all is equal in contrast with the infinite. " It is 
not without reason, brother Toby, that learned men write 
dialogues on long noses." ^ I would suggest, therefore, 
that whenever a finite is contemplated in reference to the 
infinite, whether consciously or unconsciously, humour 
essentially arises. In the highest humour, at least, there 
is always a reference to, and a connection with, some 
general power not finite, in the form of some finite ridicu- 
lously disproportionate in our feelings to that of which it 
is, nevertheless, the representative, or by which it is to be 
displayed. Humorous writers, therefore, as Sterne in 
particular, dehght, after much preparation, to end in 
nothing, or in a direct contradiction. 
That there is some truth in this definition, or origina- 
tion of humour, is evident ; for you cannot conceive a 
humorous man who does not give some disproportionate 
generahty, or even a universality to his hobby-horse, as is 
the case with Mr. Shandy ; or at least there is an absence 
of any interest but what arises from the humour itself, as 
in my Uncle Toby, and it is the idea of the soul, of its un- 
defined capacity and dignity, that gives the sting to any 
absorption of it by any one pursuit, and this not in respect 
of the humourist as a mere member of society for a par- 
ticular, however mistaken, interest, but as a man. 
The English humour is the most thoughtful, the Spanish 
the most etherial — the most ideal — of modern literature. 
Amongst the classic ancients there was Httle or no humour 
in the foregoing sense of the term. Socrates, or Plato under 
his name, gives some notion of humour in the Banquet, 
when he argues that tragedy and comedy rest upon the 
same ground. But humour properly took its rise in the 
middle ages ; and the Devil, the Vice of the mysteries, 
incorporates the modem humour in its elements. It is 
a spirit measured by disproportionate finites. The Devil 
is not, indeed, perfectly humorous ; but that is only be- 
cause he is the extreme of all humour, 
1 Trist. Sh. Vol. iii. c. w. 
Lecture IX. 263 
Bom at Chinon, 1483-4. — Died 1553. 
One cannot help regretting that no friend of Rabelais, 
(and surely friends he must have had), has left an authentic 
account of him. His buffoonery was not merely Brutus' 
rough stick, which contained a rod of gold ; it was 
necessary as an amulet against the monks and bigots. 
Beyond a doubt, he was among the deepest as well as 
boldest thinkers of his age. Never was a more plausible, 
and seldom, I am persuaded, a less appropriate line than 
the thousand times quoted, 
Rabelais laughing in his easy chair — 
of Mr. Pope. The caricature of his filth and zanyism 
proves how fully he both knew and felt the danger in which 
he stood. I could write a treatise in proof and praise of the 
morality and moral elevation of Rabelais* work which 
would make the church stare, and the conventicle groan, 
and yet should be the truth and nothing but the truth. I 
class Rabelais with the creative minds of the world, Shak- 
speare, Dante, Cervantes, &c. 
All Rabelais' personages are phantasmagoric allegories, 
but Panurge above all. He is throughout the -ravou^/Za, — 
the wisdom, that is, the cunning of the human animal, — 
the understanding, cls the faculty of means to purposes 
without ultimate ends, in a most comprehensive sense, and 
including art, sensuous fancy, and all the passions of the 
understanding. It is impossible to read Rabelais without 
an admiration mixed with wonder at the depth and extent 
of his learning, his multifarious knowledge, and original 
observation beyond what books could in that age have 
supplied him with. 
B. III. c. 9. How Panurge asketh counsel of Pantagruel, 
whether he should marry, yea or no. 
Note this incomparable chapter. Pantagruel stands for 
the reason as contradistinguished from the understanding 
1 No note remains of that part of this Lecture which treated of Rabelais. This 
seems, therefore, a convenient place for the reception of some remarks written by Mr. 
C. in Mr. Gillman's copy of Rabelais, about the year 1825. See Table Talk, vol. i. p. 
177. Ed. 
264 Course of Lectures 
and choice, that is, from Panurge ; and the humour con- 
sists in the latter asking advice of the former on a subject 
in which the reason can only give the inevitable conclusion, 
the syllogistic ergo, from the premisses pro\'ided by the 
understanding itself, which puts each case so as of necessity 
to predetermine the verdict thereon. This chapter, in- 
dependently of the allegory, is an exquisite satire on the 
spirit in which people commonly ask advice. 
Bom in Dublin, 1667. — Died 1745. 
In Swift's writings there is a false misanthropy grounded 
upon an exclusive contemplation of the vices and follies of 
mankind, and this misanthropic tone is also disfigured or 
brutalized by his obtrusion of physical dirt and coarseness. 
I think Gulliver's Travels the great work of Swift. In the 
voyages to Lilliput and Brobdingnag he displays the little- 
ness and moral contemptibility of human nature ; in that 
to the Houyhnhnms he represents the disgusting spectacle 
of man with the understanding only, without the reason or 
the moral feeling, and in his horse he gives the misanthropic 
ideal of man — that is, a being virtuous from rule and duty, 
but untouched by the principle of love. 
Born at Clonmel, 1713. — Died 1768. 
With regard to Sterne, and the charge of licentiousness 
which presses so seriously upon his character as a writer, 
I would remark that there is a sort of knowingness, the wit 
of which depends — ist, on the modesty it gives pain to ; 
or, 2dly, on the innocence and innocent ignorance over 
which it triumphs ; or, 3dly, on a certain oscillation in the 
individual's own mind between the remaining good and the 
encroaching evil of his nature — a sort of dallying with the 
devil — afiuxionaryact of combining courage and cowardice, 
as when a man snuffs a candle with his fingers for the first 
1 From Mr. Green's note. Ed. 
Lecture IX. 265 
time, or better still, perhaps, like that trembling daring 
with which a child touches a hot tea urn, because it has 
been forbidden ; so that the mind has in its own white and 
black angel the same or similar amusement, as may be 
supposed to take place between an old debauchee and a 
prude, — she feeling resentment, on the one hand, from 
a prudential anxiety to preserve appearances and have a 
character, and, on the other, an inward sympathy with the 
enemy. We have only to suppose society innocent, and 
then nine-tenths of this sort of wit would be like a stone 
that falls in snow, making no sound because exciting no 
resistance ; the remainder rests on its being an offence 
against the good manners of human nature itself. 
This source, unworthy as it is, may doubtless be com- 
bined with wit, drollery, fancy, and even humour, and we 
have only to regret the misalliance ; but that the latter are 
quite distinct from the former, may be made evident by 
abstracting in our imagination the morality of the char- 
acters of Mr. Shandy, my Uncle Toby, and Trim, which 
are all antagonists to this spurious sort of wit, from the 
rest of Tristram Shandy. And by supposing, instead of 
them, the presence of two or three callous debauchees. 
The result will be pure disgust. Sterne cannot be too 
severely censured for thus using the best dispositions of 
our nature as the panders and condiments for the basest. 
The excellencies of Sterne consist — 
I. In bringing forward into distinct consciousness those 
minutiae of thought and feeling which appear trifles, yet 
have an importance for the moment, and which almost 
every man feels in one way or other. Thus is produced the 
novelty of an individual peculiarity, together with the 
interest of a something that belongs to our common nature. 
In short, Sterne seizes happily on those points, in which 
every man is more or less a humourist. And, indeed, to 
be a little more subtle, the propensity to notice these things 
does itself constitute the humourist, and the superadded 
power of so presenting them to men in general gives us the 
man of humour. Hence the difference of the man of 
humour, the effect of whose portraits does not depend on 
the felt presence of himself, as a humourist, as in the in- 
stances of Cervantes and Shakspeare — nay, of Rabelais too ; 
and of the humourist, the effect of whose works does very 
much depend on the sense of his own oddity, as in Sterne's

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