William Shakespeare, 1864, Victor Hugo

LONDON 

GEORGE ROUTLEDGE & SONS, LIMITED 
NEW YORK: E. P. DUTTON & CO 

n 

Eranslatrti 

BY MELVILLE B. ANDERSON, 

,291965 

995740 

TO 

ENGLAND 

Brtjiratc tfjig iSook 

THE GLORIFICATION OF HER POET 

I TELL ENGLAND THE TRUTH 

BUT AS A LAND ILLUSTRIOUS AND FREE 1 ADMIRE HER 
AND At AN ASYLUM I LOVE HER 

VICTOR HUGO 

AUTHOR'S PREFACE 

THE true title of this work should be, 4 Concerning 
Shakespeare '. The Author's original incentive was 
the desire to * introduce ', as they say in England, the 
new translation of Shakespeare to the public. The 
tie that binds him so closely to the translator need not 
deprive him of the privilege of commending the trans 
lation l . From another side, however, and still more 
closely, his conscience was engaged by the subject 
itself. In contemplating Shakespeare, all the ques 
tions relating to art have arisen in the Author's mind. 
To deal with these questions is to set forth the mission 
of art ; to deal with these questions is to set forth the 
duty of human thought toward man. Such an oppor 
tunity for speaking some true words imposes an obliga 
tion that is not to be shirked, especially in a time 
like ours. This the Author has understood. He has 
not hesitated to take every avenue of approach to these 
complex questions of art and of civilization, varying 
the horizon as the perspective shifted, and accepting 
every hint supplied by the urgency of the task. From 
such an enlarged conception of the subject this book 
has sprung. 

1 Made by the poet's son, Francois Victor Hugo. TR- 
vii 

TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

THE work herewith presented to the public belongs to 
the literature of power rather than to the literature 
of knowledge. Beguiling his exile, remote from great 
libraries and from books of reference, by this sweeping 
review of all that he regarded as worthiest and noblest 
in the whole range of humane letters, Victor Hugo is 
sometimes pardonably inaccurate in details. The 
Translator has deemed it his duty to reproduce faith 
fully the text, and has taken the liberty to correct in 
footnotes (signed TB.) the errors that seemed to him 
most noticeable, especially those touching the life and 
works of Shakespeare. That he has corrected all which 
may appear important to others, he cannot venture 
to hope. Fortunately, this great work does not depend 
for its value upon the accuracy of its statements of 
fact, nor even, chiefly, upon the light it throws upon 
the life and genius of Shakespeare. It is mainly to be 
prized as a masterly statement of the Author's ideas 
concerning the proper relation of literature to human 
life, a statement illuminated by wonderful flashes 

of poetry and eloquence, and illustrated by strong 
ix 

x TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

characterizations of many famous books and men. 
This is not to say, however, that the present work 
will not serve, better than most others, as an intro 
duction to Shakespeare, to vEschylus, and perhaps to 
some other of the immortals whom it so glowingly 
celebrates. 

The Translator is responsible for the table of contents, 
and for the index, which makes no pretence of being 
exhaustive. 

M. B. A. 

CONTENTS 
PART FIRST 

BOOK I 
SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE 

CHAPTER. I 

PAGE 

Description of Marine Terrace, Isle of Jersey The 

Kxiles 1 

CHAPTER II 
Shakespeare and the Ocean 4 

CHAPTER III 

Shakespeare's Birthplace Orthography of Name 
Youthful Escapades and Marriage London under 
Elizabeth The Actors, the Theatres, the Audience 
Moliere's Theatre and Louis XIV's Patronage 
Shakespeare's Person The Taverns Chronology 
of Shakespeare's Plays Shakespeare Manager 
and Money-lender New Place ; Mrs. Davenant 
The last Years 6 

CHAPTER IV 

Shakespeare's Life embittered Contemporary Notice 
The Puritans close the Play-houses Shake- 
speare's Fame after the Restoration Dryden, 
Shaftesbury, Nahum Tate Shakespeare's 
'eclipse' 21 

CHAPTER V 
Recasts of Plays Voltaire, Garrick, Malone . . 2fi 

BOOK II 
MEN OF GENIUS 

CHAPTER I 

Art, Nature, God Science and the Supernatural 

The Poet's Inspiration 27 

xi 

xii CONTENTS 

CHAPTER II 

PAGE 

The Poet's Ascent to the Ideal Homer characterized 
Job characterized ^Eschylus characterized 
Isaiah characterized-Ezekiel characterized Lucre 
tius characterized Juvenal characterized Taci 
tus characterized : Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, 
Nero Saint John characterized Saint Paul char 
acterized Dante characterized Rabelais charac 
terized Cervantes characterized Shakespeare 
characterized 30 

CHAPTER III 

The Dynasty of Genius The Wreck of ^Eschylus . . 64 

CHAPTER IV 

The Great, Anonymous, Collective Works of Orient and 
Occident The German Genius : Beethoven 
' Good Taste ' an Incubus upon Genius ... 65 

CHAPTER V 
Good Taste Nature of Genius 71 

BOOK III 
ART AND SCIENCE 

CHAPTER I 

Poetry made imperishable by Printing The Book the 

Instrument of Civilization 74 

CHAPTER II 
Number the Basis of Poetry and Science ... 77 

CHAPTER III 
Poetry, being absolute in Nature, incapable of Progress 78 

CHAPTER IV 

The Relative and Progressive Nature of Science The 
Improvement of the Telescope Examples of Out 
grown Scientific Notions The Errors of Pytha 
goras The Errors of Chrysippus Science transi 
tory, Art abiding The Eternal Power of Art illus 
trated by the effect of Lucretius upon Hugo . 81 

CHAPTER V 

The Decline of Poetry impossible . . . . . 91 

CONTENTS xiu 

BOOK IV 
THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 

CHAPTER I 

PAOE 

Formidable character of ^Eschylua Vastness and Com 
prehensiveness of the Drama Tragic Terror of 
^Eschylus 95 

CHAPTER II 

Description of the Greek Theatre Description of the 

Representation of a Greek Play .... 98 

CHAPTER III 
The Renown of ^Eschylus after his Death . . . 102 

CHAPTER IV 

Ptolemy Evergetes and the Alexandrian Library 
/Eschylus stolen from Athens and transferred to 
Alexandria The Alexandrian Library burned by 
Omar 105 

CHAPTER V 

Attempts to justify Omar Shakespeare nearly meets 

the fate of ^Eschylus 109 

CHAPTER VI 

Lost The Number of Works irrevocably 
destroyed Ill 

CHAPTER VII 

The Affinity of ^Eschylus with Asia His Geography 
His Priesthood of Nature His Bold Familiarity 

arity 113 

CHAPTER VIII 

The Relation of Aristophanes to ^Eschylus The Oppo 
sition of Socrates to their Religious Enthusiasm 
The Broad Farce of .-Eschylus The Alarming 
Mirth of Art The Two Ears of Poetry . . . 

CHAPTER IX 

Greece the great Civilizer The Drama in her Colonies 
jEschylus the Poet of the Greek Fatherland . 

xiv CONTENTS 

CHAPTER X 

PAGE 

Explanation of the Loss of Books in Antiquity Guten 
berg has made the Book immortal The Ruins of 
Greek and Roman Books Sources of our Know 
ledge of ^Eschylus Similiarity of ^schylus to 
Shakespeare 128 

BOOK V 
SOULS 

CHAPTER I 

The Genesis of the Soul No Tangible Law The Coin 
cidences of Genius The Sacred Horror of the 
Great Mystery The Reality of the Soul The 
Reality of Great Souls Their Lofty Functions 
The Origin and the Mission of Genius . . . . 133 

CHAPTER II 

God the Exhaustless Source of Genius . . . . 143 

PART SECOND 

BOOK I 
SHAKESPEARE'S GENIUS 

CHAPTER I 

The Censurers of Shakespeare : Forbes, Greene, Rymer, 
Dryden, Ben Jonson, Warburton, Foote, Pope, 
Voltaire, Dr Johnson, Frederick the Great, Cole 
ridge, Knight, Hunter, Delaridine . . . . 147 

CHAPTER II 

Shakespeare's Reality The Inexorable Law of his 
Genius His Sovereign Horror and his Charm 
His Philosophy His Imaginative Arabesque 
His Psychology His History His Universality . 152 

CHAPTER III 
Shakespeare's Antithesis a Double Refraction of Nature 1 58 

CONTENTS xv 

PAUiC 

CHAPTER IV 

The Orthodox and Academical School condemns the 
Luxuriance of Great Poets No Flirtation with 
the Muses Genius bound over to keep the Peace 15J 

CHAPTER V 

Shakespeare a Trial to the ' Sober ' Critics ; his Fer 
tility and Virility Shakespeare intoxicated with 
Nature 164 

BOOK II 

SHAKESPEARE >S WORK : THE CULMI 
NATING POINTS 

CHAPTER I 

The Great Poets Creators of Human Types Their 

Kinship with God The Infamy of their Censors 170 

CHAPTER II 

The Nature of the Living Types produced by the Poets 

How they differ from Historic Persons . . 173 

CHAPTER III 

The Man of ^Eschylus, Prometheus ; the Man of Shake 
speare, Hamlet 176 

CHAPTER IV 
Prometheus on Caucasus Hamlet . * ... 178 

CHAPTER V 

The Feigned Madness of Hamlet The Character of 

Hamlet 181 

CHAPTER VI 

Macbeth Othello Lear : Time of the Action ; Nature 
of the Subject ; Character of Lear : Lear and Cor 
delia ISC. 

xvi CONTENTS 

BOOK III 
ZOILUS AS ETERNAL AS HOMER 

PAGE 

CHAPTER I 
A Chapter of Calumnies 194 

CHAPTER II 
The Pedants and the Police 197 

CHAPTER III 

Calumniation of Voltaire and Rousseau Their Burial in 

the Pantheon Their Bones thrown into a Hole 199 

CHAPTER IV 
Pedantry solicitous about Genius 203 

CHAPTER V 

The Academical View of Genius The Comfortable 

Middle-Class View 204 

CHAPTER VI 

The Sun offensive to Weak Eyes Genius portentous 

Its Humanity, Sympathy, Love, Beauty . . . 208 

BOOK IV 
CRITICISM 

CHAPTER I 

The Double Plots of Shakespeare's Plays a Reflection 

of all the Art of the Renascence . . . . 213 

CHAPTER II 
Genius to be accepted as Nature is accepted . . 216 

CHAPTER III 

Pegasus a Gift-Horse Prometheus the Progenitor of 

Mab and Titania 217 

CHAPTER IV 

The Romantic School has imitated neither Shakespeare 

nor ^Eschylus 219 

CONTENTS xvii 

PAGE 

CHAPTER V 
The Poet original, personal, inimitable .... 221 

CHAPTER VI 

DeHnition of the Official French School of Letters 
How the Poet panders to the Mob The Mob des 
cribed The High Mission of the Poet to make 
himself a Sacrifice for many 223 

BOOK V 
THE MINDS AND THE MASSES 

CHAPTER I 
Destruction and Construction 229 

CHAPTER II 

Literature secretes Civilization The True Socialism 229 

CHAPTER III 
The Nadir of Democracy 232 

CHAPTER IV 
Animalism not the Goal of Man 234 

CHAPTER V 
Literature not for the Lettered only 235 

CHAPTER VI 
The Irony of Macchiavelli and of Voltaire ... 237 

CHAPTER VII 

The Poet a Teacher The Mob at the Theatre The 

Mob open to the Ideal 238 

CHAPTER VIII 

How to restore the Ideal to the Human Mind . 241 

xviii CONTENTS 

BOOK VI 

THE BEAUTIFUL THE SERVANT OF 
THE TRUE 

CHAPTER I 

PAGE 

Utility of the Test of Art Utility of ^Eschylus and of 

the Bible The Poet a Helper 243 

CHAPTER II 

No Loss of Beauty from Goodness ' Art for Art's 
sake ' Utility of Primitive Poetry Greatness 
of Juvenal 249 

CHAPTER III 
The Power of Poetry in Barbarous Times . . . 252 

CHAPTER IV 
The Obligation of the Poet to Political Vigilance . . 254 

CHAPTER V 

Bayle and Goethe The Poet's Passion for the Right- 
Louis XIV and Racine The Official and Academi 
cal Conception of the Poet's Function The Poet a 
Nourisher, a Comforter, a Liberator . . . 257 

PART THIRD 

CONCLUSION 
BOOK I 

AFTER DEATH : SHAKESPEARE : 
ENGLAND 

CHAPTER I 

Six Feet of Earth the End of All for the Soldier, the 

Beginning of All for the Poet 265 

CHAPTER II 

Shakespeare the Chief Glory of England England, 
Sparta, Carthage England's Statues Her Snob 
bishness . 270 

CONTENTS 

PH \PTER IIT 

are and Elizabeth Shakespeare and the Bible 
.^s rif England to Shakespeare Knpli-Oi 
I'rudishnes* Philistine Criticism Shakespeare 
and Mr. Calcraft, the Hangman 275 

CHAPTER IV 

Ingland in Debt to Shakespeare France to Joan of 

Arc Voltaire the Re viler of both .... 281 

CHAPTER V 

Shakespeare's True Monument A Monument indiffer 
ent to Shakespeare, important to England . 283 

CHAPTER VI 

The Centennial Anniversaries of Shakespeare . . 286 

BOOK II 
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 

CHAPTER I 

The Nineteenth Century born of the French Revolu 
tion Romanticism ' Literary '93 ' The 
Eruption of Truth in the Soul The Need of 
Prompt Action on the part of Thinkers Dis 
couragement The Practical Functions of Thinkers 289 

BOOK III 

TRUE HISTORY: EVERY ONE PUT IN 
HIS PLAGE 

CHAPTER I 

The Ape of the Warrior gone Finance hostile to Heroes 

Cost of the Napoleonic Wars 300 

CHAPTER II 

Imbecility the Warrior's Excuse Things Tyrants, 
and Tyrants Things Horrible Examples of Tyran 
nic Cruelty The Wolf the Fruit of the Forest 
The Thinker the Founder of Civilization . . 304 

xx CONTENTS 

CHAPTER III 

History must be rewritten Examples of its Triviality 
and Sycophancy Cantemir arid Karamsin 
Loyal History : More Examples History igno 
rant of the Essential Facts of Civilization : Exam 
ples 308 

CHAPTER IV 

True History described and prophesied Truth coming 

to Light The Dynasty of Genius not oppressive 318 

CHAPTER V 

The New Aspect of Things The Potentates put to 

Flight by the Dreamers 323 

Index 327 

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

PART FIRST 
BOOK I 

SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE 

CHAPTER I 

A DOZEN years ago, on an island near the coast of 
France, a house, at every season of forbidding aspect, 
was growing especially gloomy by reason of the ap 
proach of winter. The west wind, which had full 
sweep there, was piling thick upon this dwelling those 
enveloping fogs November interposes between sun 
and earth. In autumn, night falls early ; the narrow 
windows made the days still briefer within, and deep 
ened the sombre twilight of the house. 

This house was flat-roofed, rectilinear, correct, 
square, and covered with a fresh coat of whitewash ; 
it was Methodism in brick and stone. Nothing is so 
glacial as this English whiteness ; it seems to offer 
you a kind of polar hospitality. One thinks with 
longing of the old peasant huts of France, wooden 
and black, yet cheerful with clustering vines. 

Adjoining the house was a quarter- acre of sloping 
garden-ground, walled in, broken by granite steps and 
breast-walls, a bare, treeless garden, with more stones 
than leaves. This little uncultivated patch abounded 
in tufts of marigolds, which bloom in autumn, and which 
the poor people of the country eat cooked with the 
conger-eel. The neighbouring sea-shore was concealed 
from this garden by a rise of ground, upon which there 
was a field of grass with some nettles and a big hemlock. 

From the house was seen on the horizon at the right, 
in a little wood upon a hill, a tower said to be haunted ; 
at the left was seen the dike. The dike was a row of 

2 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

great piles set upright in the sand against a wall ; these 
dry, gaunt, knotty logs resembled an array of leg-bones 
and knee-caps afflicted with anchylosis. Reverie, 
which likes to accept fancies as material for enigmas, 
might inquire to what race of men these three-fathom 
tibias had belonged. 

The south front of the house faced the garden, the 
north front a deserted road. A corridor as an entry 
on the ground floor, a kitchen, a greenhouse, and a 
court-yard, then a little drawing-room looking out upon 
the lonely road, and a pretty large, dimly lighted study ; 
on the second and third floors, neat, cold, freshly 
painted chambers, barely furnished, with white shrouds 
for window -hangings. Such was this dwelling, where 
the roar of the sea was always heard. 

This house, a heavy, white, rectangular cube, chosen 
by its inmates upon a chance indication (possibly the 
indications of chance are not always without design), 
had the form of a tomb. Its inmates were a group a 
family rather of proscribed persons. The eldest was 
one of those men who at certain moments are found to 
be in the way in their country. He came from an 
assembly ; the others, who were young, came from 
prison. To have written, furnishes a justification for 
bolts : whither should reflection lead, if not to the 
dungeon ? 

The prison had set them at large into banishment. 
The old man, the father, was accompanied by his 
whole family, except his eldest daughter, who could 
not follow him. His son-in-law was with her. Often 
were they leaning round a table, or seated on a bench, 
silent, grave, all of them secretly thinking of those two 
absent ones. 

Why had these people installed themselves in a 
house so unattractive ? By reason of haste, and 
from a desire to be as soon as possible anywhere but 
at the inn. Doubtless, also, because it was the first 
house to let that they had met with, and because 
exiles are not lucky. 

SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE 3 

This house which it is time to rehabilitate a little 
and console ; for who knows whether, in its loneliness, 
it is not sad at what we have just said about it ? A 
house has a soul this house was called Marine Terrace. 
The arrival was mournful ; but, after all, we would 
not deny that the stay in it was agreeable, and Marine 
Terrace has left to those who then dwelt there none 
but affectionate and dear remembrances. And what 
we say of Marine Terrace, we say also of the Island of 
Jersey. Places of suffering and trial come to have 
a kind of bitter sweetness, which later on causes them 
to be regretted ; they have a stern hospitality which 
appeals to the conscience. 

There had been, before them, other exiles in that 
island. This is not the time to speak of them. We 
mention only that the most ancient of whom tradi 
tion, or perhaps a legend, has preserved the memory 
was a Roman, Vipsanius Minator, who employed his 
exile in extending, in the interest of his country's 
supremacy, the Roman wall of which you may still 
see some parts, like bits of hillock, near a bay named, 
I think, St Catherine's bay. This Vipsanius Minator 
was a consular dignitary, an old Roman so infatuated 
with Rome that he stood in the way of the Empire. 
Tiberius exiled him to this Cimmerian island, Ccusa- 
rea l ; according to others, to one of the Orkneys. 
Tiberius did more ; not content with exile, he decreed 
oblivion. It was forbidden to the orators of the 
Senate and the Forum to pronounce the name of 
Vipsanius Minator. The orators of the Forum and 
the Senate, and history, have obeyed, a result regard 
ing which Tiberius, for that matter, entertained no- 
doubt. That arrogance in commanding, which pro 
ceeded so far as to give orders to men's thoughts, 
characterized certain ancient governments newly 
arrived at one of those firm situations where the greatest 
sum of crime produces the greatest sum of security. 

1 The ancient name of the Island of Jersey, the place of 
Hugo's exile. TB. 

4 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Let us return to Marine Terrace. 

One morning, near the end of November, two of 
the inhabitants of the place, the father and the young- 
eet of the sons, were seated in the lower parlour. They 
were silent, like shipwrecked persons who meditate. 

Without, it rained, the wind blew, the house was 
as if deafened by the outer roaring. Both went on 
thinking, absorbed, perhaps, by thoughts of this 
coincidence between the beginning of winter and the 
beginning of exile. 

Suddenly the son raised his voice and asked the 
father, 

' What think you of this exile ? ' 

' That it will be long.' 

' How do you intend to employ it ? ' 

The father answered, ' I shall gaze at the ocean.' 

There was a silence. The father was the first to 

' And you ? ' 

* I ', said the son, ' I shall translate Shakespeare.' 

CHAPTER II 

THERE are, indeed, men whose souls are like the sea. 
Those billows, that ebb and flood, that inexorable 
going and coming, that noiee of all the winds, that 
blackness and that translucency, that vegetation 
peculiar to the deep, that democracy of clouds in full 
hurricane, those eagles flecked with foam, those 
wonderful star-risings reflected in mysterious agitation 
by millions of luminous wave- tops, confused heads 
of the multitudinous sea, the errant lightnings which 
seem to watch, those prodigious sobbings, those half- 
seen monsters, those nights of darkness broken by 
howlings, those furies, those frenzies, those torments, 
those rocks, those shipwrecks, those fleets crushing 
each other, mingling their human thunders with the 
divine thunders and staining the sea with blood ; 
then that charm, that mildness, those festivals, those 
gay white sails, those fishing-boats, those songs amid 

SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE 5 

the uproar, those shining ports, those mists rising 
from the shore, those cities at the horizon's edge, that 
deep blue of sky and water, that useful asperity, that 
bitter savour which keeps the world wholesome, that 
harsh salt without which all would putrefy ; those 
wraths and those appeasements, that all in one, the 
unforeseen amid the changeless, the vast marvel of 
inexhaustibly varied monotony, that smoothness 
after an upheaval, those hells and those heavens of 
the unfathomed, infinite, over-moving deep, all 
this may exist in a mind, and then that mind is called 
genius, and you have ^Eschylus, you have Isaiah, 
you have Juvenal, you have Dante, you have Michael 
Angelo, you have Shakespeare ; and it is all one 
whether you look at these souls or at the sea *. 

CHAPTER III 

1. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was born at Stratford-on- 
Avon, in a house under the tiles of which was concealed 
a confession of the Catholic faith beginning with these 
words, ' I, John Shakespeare'. John was the father 
of William. The house, situated in Henley Street, 
was humble ; the chamber in which Shakespeare came 
into the world, wretched : the walls were whitewashed, 
the black rafters laid crosswise ; at the farther end 
was a tolerably large window with two small panes, 
where you may read to-day, among other names, 
that of Walter Scott. This poor dwelling sheltered 
a decayed family. The father of William Shakespeare 
had been an alderman ; his grandfather had been 
bailiff. Shakespeare signifies ' shake-spear * ; the 
family had for a coat-of-arms an arm holding a spear, 
allusive arms, confirmed, they say, by Queen Elizabeth 
in 1595, and visible, at the time we write, on Shake- 

1 The reader is invited to compare this passage with the 
eloquent interpretation of it at the beginning of Swinburne's* 
Study of Shakespeare. TB. 

<S WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

speare's tomb in the church of Stratford-on-Avon. 1 
There is little agreement about the orthography of 
the word Shake-spear as a family name ; it is written 
variously, Shakspere, Shakespere, Shakespeare, 
Shakspeare : in the eighteenth century it was habitu 
ally written Shakespear. The present translator 2 
has adopted the spelling Shakespeare as the only true 
one, and gives for it unanswerable reasons. The 
only objection 3 that can be made is that Shakspeare 
is more easily pronounced than Shakespeare ; that 
cutting off the e mute is perhaps useful ; and that 
in the interest of the names themselves and to facilitate 
their wider currency, posterity has, as regards proper 
names, a certain euphonic right. It is evident, for 
example, that in French poetry the orthography 
Sliakspeare is necessary ; however, convinced by 
the translator, we write, in prose, Shakespeare. 

2. The Shakespeare family had some original draw 
back, probably its Catholicism, which caused its 
downfall. A little after the birth of William, Alder 
man Shakespeare was no more than ' butcher John'. 

1 An application for a grant of coat-armour to his father 
was made in 1596, and another in 1599 ; but the matter 
seems to have gone no further than the drafting of designs 
by the heralds. The poet's relatives, however, at a later date 
assumed his right to the coat suggested for his father in. 
1596. The obvious pun upon the name was not overlooked 
either by eulogists or by defamers. For example, an 
ancient epigram reads, 

' Thou hast so used thy Pen (or shook thy Speare) 
That Poets startle, nor thy wit come neare.' TB. 

2 That is, the translator of Shakespeare's works. 

3 This ' objection ' is of course such to a Frenchman 
only. Indeed this whole orthographical excursus, unintelli 
gible as it must be to the English reader, is retained only 
upon the general principle of fidelity. The translator 
referred to is Franyois Victor Hugo (fee Preface). It may 
be added that out of the scores of different spellings of the 
name, the New Shakspere Society has adopted the ortho 
graphy Shakspere, upon the ground that it was so spelled 
by a very eminent authority, the bearer of the name 
himself. TR. 

SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE 7 

William Shakespeare made his debut in a slaughter 
house. At the age of fifteen he entered his father's 
shambles, bared his arm. and killed sheep and calves, 
' in a high style ', says Aubrey. At eighteen he 
married. Between the days of the slaughter-house 
and the marriage he composed a quatrain. This 
quatrain, directed against the neighbouring villages, 
is his maiden effort in poetry. He there says that 
Hillborough is illustrious for its ghosts, and Bidford 
for its drunkards. He made this quatrain (being 
tipsy himself) in the open air, under an apple-tree 
still celebrated in the country in consequence of this 
midsummer-night's dream. In this night and in this 
dream, where there were lads and lasses, in this drunken 
fit and under this apple-tree, he discovered that 
Anne Hathaway was a pretty girl 1 . The wedding 
followed. He espoused this Anne Hathaway, older 
than himself by eight years, had a daughter by her, 
then twins, boy and girl, and left her ; and this wife 
disappears from Shakespeare's life, to reappear only 
in his will, where he leaves her his second-best bed > 
'having probably', says a biographer, 'employed 
the best one with others.' Shakespeare, like La 
Fontaine, did but sip at married life. His wife being 
put aside, he was a schoolmaster, then clerk to an 
attorney, then a poacher. This poaching was made 
use of later to justify the statement that Shakespeare 
had been a thief. One day he was caught poaching 
in Sir Thomas Lucy's park. They threw him into 
prison ; they began proceedings. These being spite 
fully followed up, he saved himself by flight to London. 

i For the story, which Victor Hugo haa, after his fashion, 
very much improved upon, see HalUwell-Phillipps's Outlines 
of the Life of Shakespeare 3d ed., pp. 205-0, and the accom 
panying 'illustrative notes', pp. 354-9. The quatrain 
referred to runs as follows : 

' Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston, 
Haunted Hillborough, Hungry Grafton, 
Dadgeing Exhall, Papist Wicksford, 
Beggarly Broom, and Drunken Bidford.' 

Tiu 

8 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

In order to gain a livelihood, he began by holding 
horses at the doors of theatres. Plautus had turned 
a millstone. This business of holding horses at the 
doors still existed at London in the last century, and 
it brought together a kind of small band or corps that 
they called ' Shakespeare's boys '. 

3. You may call London the black Babylon 
gloomy by day, magnificent by night. To see London 
is a sensation ; it is uproar under smoke mysterious 
analogy : uproar is the smoke of noise. Paris is the 
capital of one side of humanity ; London is the capital 
of the opposite side. Splendid and melancholy 
town ! There activity is tumult, and the people 
swarm like ants. One is free there, and yet confined. 
London is an orderly chaos. The London of the 
sixteenth century did not resemble the London of 
our day ; but it was already an immense town. Cheap- 
side was the main street ; St. Paul's, now a dome, 
was then a spire. The plague was nearly as much 
at home in London as in Constantinople. There 
was not, in fact, much difference between Henry VIII 
and a sultan. Fires (as in Constantinople, again) 
were frequent in London, on account of the populous 
parts of the town being built entirely of wood. In 
the streets there was but one carriage, the carriage 
of her Majesty ; not a cross-road where they did not 
cudgel some pickpocket with the flail l , which is still 
retained at Groningen for thrashing wheat. Manners 
were rough, almost savage ; a fine lady rose at six, 
and went to bed at nine. Lady Geraldine Kildare, 
to whom Lord Surrey inscribed verses, breakfasted 
off a pound of bacon and a pot of beer. Queens the 
wives of Henry VIII knitted mittens, and did not 
even object to their being of coarse red wool. In 
this London the Duchess of Suffolk took care of her 
hen-house, and, with her dress tucked up to her knees, 
threw corn to the ducks hi the court below. To dine 

1 A purely conjectural translation, Victor Hugo's word 
being ' drotschbloch.' Ta. 

SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE 

at midday was to dine late. It was the delight of 
the upper classes to go and play at ' hot cockles ' at 
my Lord Leicester's. Anne Boleyn played there ; 
she knelt down, with eyes bandaged, for this game, 
without knowing that she was rehearsing for a play 
of a different kind upon the scaffold. This same 
Anne Boleyn, destined for the throne, whence she 
was to go still farther, was perfectly dazzled when 
her mother brought her three linen chemises, at six 
pence the ell, and promised her, for the Duke of Nor 
folk's ball, a pair of new shues worth five shillings. 

4. Under Elizabeth, in spita of the wrath of the 
Puritians there were in London eight companies of 
actors, those of Newington Butts, Earl Pembroke's 
company, Lord Strange's retainers, the Lord Cham 
berlain's troop, the Lord High Admiral's troop, the 
company of Blackfriars, the children of St. Paul's, 
and, in the first rank, the Bear-baiters. Lord South 
ampton went to the play every evening. Nearly 
all the theatres were situated on the banks of the 
Thames, a fact which increased the number of water 
men. The playrooms were of two kinds : some 
merely open tavern-yards, a platform set up against 
a wall, no ceiling, rows of benches placed on the ground , 
for boxes the windows of the tavern. The perform 
ance took place in the broad daylight and in the 
open air. The principal of these theatres was the 
Globe. The others, which were mostly closed play 
rooms, lighted with lamps, were used at night, the 
most frequented being Blackfriars. The best actor 
of Lord Pembroke's troop was named Henslowe ; 
the best actor at Blackfriars was Burbage. The 
Globe was situated on the bank-side. This is known 
by a document at Stationers' Hall, dated the 26th 
of November, 1607 : ' His Majesty's servants playing 
usually at the Globe, on the Bank Side.' The scenery 
was simple. Two swords laid crosswise sometimes 
two laths signified a battle. A shirt over the coat 
signified a knight ; a broom-handle draped with the 

10 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

petticoat of the peers' hostess signified a palfrey 
caparisoned. A rich theatre, which made its inventory 
in 1598, possessed ' the limbs of Moors, a dragon, a 
big horse with his legs, a cage, a rock, four Turks' 
heads and that of old Mahomet, a wheel for the siege 
of London, and a hell's mouth.' Another had ' a 
sun, a target, the three plumes of the Prince of Wales, 
with the device Ich Dien, besides six devils, and the 
Pope on his mule.' An actor besmeared with plaster 
and motionless 1 , signified a wall ; if he spread his 
fingers, it meant that the wall had crevices. A man 
laden with a faggot, followed by a dog, and carrying 
a lantern, meant the moon ; his lantern represented 
the moonshine. People have laughed at this mise 
en scene of moonlight, made famous by the Mid 
summer Night's Dream, without imagining that there 
is in it a gloomy suggestion from Dante. (See The 
Inferno, canto xx.) The dressing-room of these 
theatres, where the actors robed themselves pell-mell, 
was a corner separated from the stage by a rag of 
some kind stretched on a cord. The dressing-room 
at Blackfriars was shut off by an ancient piece of 
tapestry which had belonged to one of the guilds, and 
represented an ironmonger's shop. Through the holes 
in this curtain, hanging in tatters, the public saw 
the actors rouge their cheeks with brick-dust, or make 
up their moustaches with a cork burned at a candle- 
end. From time to time, through an occasional 
opening of the curtain, you might see a face begrimed 
as a Moor, peeping to see if the time for going on the 
stage had arrived, or the glabrous chin of an actor 
who was to play the part of a woman. * Glabri 
histriones ' said Plautus. These theatres were fre 
quented by noblemen, scholars, soldiers, and sailors. 
There was acted Lord Buckhurst's tragedy, entitled 
Gorboduc, or Ferrex and Porrex ; Lyly's Mother Bombie, 
in which the cheep-cheep of sparrows was heard ; 
The Libertine, an imitation of the Convivado de Piedra, 
which was making the tour of Europe ; Felix and 

SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE 11 

Philomena, a fashionable comedy performed for the 
first time at Greenwich before ' Queen Bess ' ; Promos 
and Cassandra, a comedy dedicated by the author, 
George Whetstone, to William Fleetwood, recorder 
of London ; Tamerlane and the Jew of Malta, by 
Christopher Marlowe ; farces and pieces by Robert 
Greene, George Peele, Thomas Lodge, and Thomas 
Kyd ; and lastly, mediaeval comedies. For just as 
France has her VAvocat Pathelin, so (England has her 
Gammer Gurton's Needle. While the actors gesticu 
lated and ranted, the noblemen and officers with 
their plumes and bands of gold lace, standing or 
squatting on the stage, turning their backs, haughty 
and at their ease in the midst of the constrained actors 
laughed, shouted, played at cards, threw them 
at each other's heads, or played at * post and pair ' ; 
and below, in the darkness, on the pavement, among 
pots of beer and pipes, the ' stinkards ', or groundlings, 
were dimly visible. It was by way of that very theatre 
that Shakespeare entered upon the dramatic career. 
From being a tender of horses, he became a shepherd 
of men. 

5. Such was the theatre in London about the year 
1580, under * the great Queen'. It was not much 
less wretched, a century later, at Paris, under ' the 
great King ' ; and Moliere, at his debut, had, like 
Shakespeare, to make shift with rather miserable 
playhouses. There is in the archives of the ' Comedie 
FranQaise ' an unpublished manuscript of four hundred 
pages, bound in parchment and tied with a band of 
white leather. It is the diary of Lagrange, a comrade 
of Moliere. Lagrange thus describes the theatre 
where Moliere's company played by order of Mr. 
Rataban, superintendent of the King's buildings : 
4 Three rafters, the frames rotten and shored up, and 
half the room roofless and in ruin '. In another place, 
under date of Sunday, the 15th of March, 1671, he 
says : * The company have resolved to make a large 
ceiling over the whole hall, which, up to the said date 

12 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

(15th) has not been covered, save by a large blue cloth 
suspended by cords '. As for the lighting and heating 
of this hall, particularly on the occasion when such 
extraordinary sums were spent upon the performance 
of Psyche, which was by Moliere and Corneille, we 
read : * Candles, thirty francs ; janitor for wood, 
three francs'. This was the style of playhouse which 
' the great King ' placed at the disposal of Moliere. 
These bounties to literature did not impoverish Louis 
XIV so much as to deprive him of the pleasure of 
giving, at one time, two hundred thousand livres to 
Lavardin, and the same to D'Epernon ; two hundred 
thousand livres, besides the regiment of Prance, to 
the Count de Medavid ; four hundred thousand livres 
to the Bishop of Noyon, because this Bishop was a 
Clermont-Tonnerre, a family that had two patents 
of Count and Peer of France, one for Clermont and 
one for Tonnerre ; five hundred thousand livres to 
the Duke of Vivonne, seven hundred thousand livres 
to the Duke of Quintin-Lorges, and eight hundred 
thousand livres to Monseigneur Clement of Bavaria, 
Prince-Bishop of Liege. Let us add that he gave a 
thousand livres pension to Moliere. We find in 
Lagrange's journal, in the month of April, 1663, this 
remark : ' About the same time M. de Moliere received, 
as a great wit, a pension from the King, and has been 
placed on the civil list for the sum of a thousand livres '. 
Later, when Moliere was dead, and interred at St. 
Joseph, * chapel of ease to the parish of St. Eustache ', 
the King pushed his patronage so far as to permit 
his tomb to be ' raised a foot out of the ground'. 

6. Shakespeare, as we see, remained a long time 
on the threshold of theatrical life, outside, rather, 
and in the street At length he entered. He passed 
the door and got behind the scenes. He succeeded 
in becoming call-boy, vulgarly, a ' barker'. About 
1586 Shakespeare was ' barking ' with Greene at 
Blackfriars. In 1587 he gained a step. In the piece 
called The Giant Agrapardo, King of Nubia, worse 

SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE 13 

than his late brother, Angulafer, Shakespeare was 
intrusted with the task of carrying the turban to the 
giant. Then from supernumerary he became actor, 
thanks to Burbage, to whom, long after, by an inter 
lineation in his will, he left thirty-six shillings to buy 
a gold ring. He was the friend of Condell and Hem- 
ynge, his comrades while alive, his publishers after 
his death. He was handsome : he had a high forehead, 
his beard was brown, his manner was gentle, his mouth 
pleasant, his eye profound. He took delight in reading 
Montaigne, translated by Florio. He frequented 
the Apollo Tavern, where he would see and keep com 
pany with two frequenters of his theatre, Decker, 
author of The Gull's Horn book, in which a chapter 
is specially devoted to * the way a man of fashion ought 
to behave at the play ', and Dr Simon Forman, who 
has left a manuscript journal containing reports of 
the first performance of The Merchant of Venice and 
The Winter's Tale 1 . He used to meet Sir Walter 
Raleigh at the Mermaid Club. Somewhere about 
that time Mathurin Regnier met Philippe de R6thune 
at La Pomme de Pin. The great lords and fine gentle 
men of the day were rather prone to lend their names 
in order to start new taverns. At Paris the Vicomte 
de Montauban, who was a Oe'qui, had founded Le 
tripot des onze mille Diables. At Madrid the Duke 
of Medina Sidonia, the unfortunate admiral of the 
Invincible Armada, had founded the Puiio-en-rostro, 
and in London Sir Walter Raleigh had founded the 
Mermaid. There drunkenness and wit kept company. 
7. In 1589, while James VI of Scotland, looking 
to the throne of England, was paying his respects to 
Elizabeth, who, two years before, on the 8th of Feb 
ruary, 1587, had beheaded Mary Stuart, mother of 

1 Inexact ; nothing is known of the first representation 
of The Merchant of Venice. Dr Forman records representa 
tions of but three plays, Macbeth, Cymbeline, and The 
Winter'* Tale ; and it does not appear that these were 
first representations. Ta. 

14 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

this James, Shakespeare composed his first drama, 
Pericles [1608] l . In 1591, while the Catholic King 
was dreaming, after a scheme of the Marquis d'Astorga, 
of a second Armada, more lucky than the first, inas 
much as it was never launched, he composed 
Henry VI. In 1593, when the Jesuits obtained from 
the Pope express permission to paint * the pains and 
torments of hell ' on the walls of * the chamber of 
meditation ' of Clermont College, where they often 
shut up a poor youth who, the year after, became 
famous under the name of Jean Chatel, he composed 
The Taming of the Shrew [1594-97 ? ]. In 1594, when, 
looking daggers at each other, and ready for battle, 
the King of Spain, the Queen of England, and even 
the King of France, all three were saying * my good 
city of Paris ', he continued and completed Henry VI 
[1591-92]. In 1595, while Clement VIII at Rome 
was solemnly striking Henry IV with his crosier over 
the backs of Cardinals du Perron and d'Ossat, he 
wrote Timon of Athens [1607-8). In 1596, the year 
when Elizabeth published an edict against the long 
points of bucklers, and when Philip II drove from his 
presence a woman who had laughed while blowing 
her nose, he composed Macbeth [1606]. In 1597, when 
this same Philip II said to the Duke of Alva ' You 
deserve the axe ', not because the Duke of Alva had 
put the Low Countries to fire and sword, but because 
he had entered the King's presence without being 
announced 2 , he composed Cymbdine [1609] and 

1 As the chronology of the plays here given is very differ 
ent from that accepted at present, the translator has inserted 
in brackets, after the name of each play, the dates found 
in Dowden's Shakspere Primer. To that excellent little 
book the uninitiated reader is referred for a general correc 
tion of Hugo's biography of Shakespeare, which is to some 
extent legendary or fabulous. TR. 

2 The Duke of Alva who put the Netherlands to fire and 
sword died in 1582. His memory may therefore be relieved 
of the stain of having entered the King's presence unan 
nounced in 1597. TB. 

SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE 15 

Richard III [1593]. In 1598, when the Earl of Essex 
ravaged Ireland, wearing on his hat the glove of the 
Virgin Queen Elizabeth, he composed The Two Gen 
tlemen of Verona [1592-93], King John [1595], Love's 
Labour Lost [1590], The Comedy of Errors [1591], 
All's Well that Ends Well [1601-2], A Midsummer 
Sight's Dream [1593-94], and The Merchant of Venice 
[1596]. In 1599, when the Privy Council, at her 
Majesty's request, deliberated on the proposal to put 
Dr Hayward to the rack for having stolen some of 
the ideas of Tacitus, he composed Romeo and Juliet 
[two dates : 1591, 1596-97 ? ]. In 1600, while the 
Emperor Rudolph was waging war against his rebel 
brother, and sentencing his son, murderer of a woman, 
to be bled to death, he composed As You Like It 
[1599], Henry IV [1597-98], Henry V [1599], and 
Much Ado About Nothing [1598]. In 1601, when 
Bacon published the eulogy on the execution of the? 
Earl of Essex *, just as Leibnitz, eighty years after 
wards, was to find out good reasons for the murder 
of Monaldeschi (with this difference, however, that 
Monaldeschi was nothing to Leibnitz, and that Essex 
had been the benefactor of Bacon), he composed 
Twelfth Night ; or, What you Will [1600-1]. In 1602, 
while, in obedience to the Pope, the King of France, 
styled by Cardinal-nephew Aldobrandini 'The Fox 
of Beam ', was counting his beads every day, reciting 
the litanies on Wednesday, and the rosary of the Virgin 
Mary on Saturday ; while fifteen cardinals, assisted 
by the heads of the Orders, were opening the discussion 
on Molinism at Rome ; and while the Holy See, at 
the request of the Crown of Spain, was * saving Chris 
tianity and the world ' by the institution of the congre 
gation de Auxiliis, he composed Othello [1604]. 

1 The author here confuses two works, the Declaration 
of the Practices and Treasons of Essex (1601), in which 
Bacon's part was little more than that of amanuensis to 
the Government, and his Apology in Certain Imputation* 
concerning the Late Earl of Essex (1604). Tn. 

56 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

In 1603, when the death of Elizabeth made Henry 
IV say ' she was a virgin just as I am a Catholic ', 
he composed Hamlet [1602]. In 1604, while Philip III 
was losing his last footing in the Low Countries, he 
wrote Julius Cossar [1601] and Measure for Measure 
[1603]. In 1604, at the time when James I of England, 
the former James VI of Scotland, wrote against Bellar- 
min the Tortura Torti, and, faithless to Carr, began 
to smile upon Villiers, who was afterwards to honour 
him with the title of ' Your Piggishness ', he composed 
Coriolanus [1608]. In 1607, when the University 
of York received the little Prince of Wales as doctor, 
according to the account of Father St. Romuald, 
' with all the ceremonies and the usual fur gowns ', 
he wrote King Lear [1605-6]. In 1609, while the 
magistracy of France, placing the scaffold at the 
disposition of the King, gave upon trust a carte blanche 
for the sentence of the Prince of Conde * to such punish 
ment as it might please his Majesty to order ', Shakes 
peare composed Troilus and Cressida [1603 ? revised 
1607 ?]. In 1610, when Ravaillac assassinated Henry 
IV by the dagger, and the French Parliament assassi 
nated Ravaillac by the process of quartering his body, 
Shakespeare composed Antony and Cleopatra [1607]. 
In 1611, while the Moors, driven out by Philip III, 
were crawling out of Spain in the pangs of death, he 
wrote The Winter's Tale [1610-11], Henry VIII 
[1612-13], and The 'Tempest [1610]. 

8. He used to write on loose scraps of paper, like 
nearly all poets, for that matter. Malherbe and 
Boileau are almost the only ones who have written 
on sheets folded and stitched. Racan said to Mile 
de Gournay, ' I have this morning seen M. de Malherbe 
sewing with coarse grey thread a fascicle of white 
paper, on which will soon appear some sonnets.' 
Each of Shakespeare's dramas, composed according 
to the wants of his company, was in all probability 
learned and rehearsed in haste by the actors from 
the original itself, as they had not time to copy it; 

SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE 17 

hence in his case, as in Moliere's, the dismemberment 
and loss of manuscripts. There were few or no entry 
books in those almost itinerant theatres ; no coinci 
dence in time between representation and publication 
of the plays ; sometimes not even a printed copy, 
the stage remaining the eole medium of publication. 
When the pieces by chance are printed, they bear 
titles which bewilder us. The second part of Henry 
VI is entitled The First Part of the Contention between 
York and Lancaster. The third part is called The 
True Tragedy of Richard, Duke of York*. All this 
enables us to understand why so much obscurity 
rests on the dates when Shakespeaife composed his 
dramas, and why it is difficult to fix them with 
precision. The dates which we have just given 
here brought together for the first time are pretty 
nearly certain ; notwithstanding some doubt still 
exists as to the years when were written, or even 
played, Timon of Athens, Cymbeline, Julius Ccesar, 
Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, and Macbeth. Here 
and there we meet with barren years ; others there 
are of which the fertility seems excessive. It is, for 
instance, on a simple note by Meres, the author of 
The Wit's Treasury, that we are compelled to attribute 
to the year 1598 the creation of six pieces, The Two 
Gentlemen of Verona, The Comedy of Errors, King 
John, Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of 
Venice, and AW 8 Well that Ends Well, which Meres 
calls Love's Labour's Won 2 . The date of Henry VI 
is fixed, for the First Part at least, by an allusion 
which Nash makes to this play in Pierce Penniless. 
The year 1604 is given as that of Measure for Measure, 
inasmuch as this piece was played on St Stephen's 

1 The plays thus entitled are older ones, of which Henry 
VI, Parts II and III, are recasts. TB. 

2 Francis Meres published in 1598 his Palladia Tamitt : 
Wit's Treasury, in which he enumerates not six but twelve 
of Shakespeare's plays. This mention of course merely 
proves the existence of the plays in 1 598 ; he does not 
state that any of them were produced that year. TB. 

o 

18 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Day of that year, a circumstance of which Hemynge 
makes a special note ; and the year 1611 for Henry 
VIII, inasmuch as Henri/ VIII was played at the 
time of the burning of the Globe Theatre l . Various 
circumstances a disagreement with his company, 
a whim of the Lord Chamberlain sometimes com 
pelled Shakespeare to change from one theatre to 
another. The Taming of the Shrew was played for 
the first time in 1593, at Henslowe's theatre 2 ; Twelfth 
Night in 1601, at Middle Temple Hall ; Othello in 1602, 
at Harefield Castle 3 . King Lear was played at 
Whitehall during Christmas (1607) before James I 4 . 
Burbage created the part of Lear. Lord Southampton, 
recently set free from the Tower of London, was 
present at this performance. This Lord Southampton 
was an old frequenter of Blackfriars, and Shakespeare, 
in 1589 5 , had dedicated the poem of Venus and Adonis 
to him. Adonis was the fashion at that time ; twenty- 
five years after Shakespeare, the Chevalier Marini 
wrote a poem on Adonis which he dedicated to Louis 
XIII. 

9. In 1597 Shakespeare lost his son, of whom the 
only trace on earth is one line in the death-register 
of the parish of Stratford-on-Avon : * 1597. August 
17. Hamnet. Filius William Shakespeare. * On the 
<3th of September, 1601, the poet's father, John Shake 
speare, died. He was now the head of his company 
of actors. James I had given him in 1607 the manage 
ment of Blackfriars, and afterward the privilege of 
the Globe. In 1613 the Princess Elizabeth, daughter 
of James, and the Elector Palatine, King of Bohemia, 
whose statue may be seen in the ivy at the angle of 

1 This * most celebrated theatre the world has ever seen* 
was destroyed by fire on Tuesday, June 29, 1613. TB. 

2 This must have been the older play, The Taming of a 
Shrew, published in 1594. TK. 

3 Halli well-Phillips (Outlines, p. 180) says that Othello is 
first heard of in 1604. TB. 

* The true date is Dec. 26, 1606. TB. 

& Venus and Adonis was published in 1593. TB. 

SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE 19 

a great tower at Heidelberg, came to the Globe to 
see The Tempest performed. These royal attendances 
did not save him from the censure of the Lord Cham 
berlain. A certain interdict weighed upon his pieces, 
the representation of which was tolerated, and the 
printing now and then forbidden. In the second 
volume of the register at Stationers' Hall you may 
read to-day, on the margin of the title of three pieces, 
As You Like It, Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, 
the words * 4 Augi. to be staled. ' The motives for 
these interdictions escape us. Shakespeare was able, 
for instance, without arousing protest, to place upon 
the stage his former poaching adventure, and make 
of Sir Thomas Lucy a witling (Justice Shallow) ; 
to show the public Falstaff killing the buck and bela 
bouring Shallow's people ; and to push the likeness 
BO far as to give to Shallow the arms of Sir Thomas 
Lucy, an Aristophanic piece of audacity by a man 
who did not know Aristophanes. Falstaff, in Shake 
speare's manuscripts, was written * Falstaffe. ' In 
the meantime he had amassed some wealth, as did 
Moliere later. Towards the end of the century he 
was rich enough for a certain Richard Quiney to ask, 
on the 8th of October *, 1598, his assistance in a letter 
which bears the superscription, * To my loveing good 
ffrend and countreyman Mr. Wm. Shackespere delr 
thees.' He refused the assistance, as it appears, and 
returned the letter, which was found afterwards among 
Fletcher's papers, and on the back of which this same 
Richard Quiney had written Histrio ! Mima 2 ! Shake 
speare loved Stratford-on-Avon, where he was born, 
where his father had died, where his son was buried. 

1 Tho author has the date wrong. It should be the 
25th of October. The letter is signed * Rye. Quyne ', 
which Hugo prints thus : ' Ryc-Quiney.' TB. 

2 Halliwell-Phillipps, who gives at p. 144 of the Outlines 
a fac-simile of this, the only letter directly addressed to 
Shakospeare known to exist, is silent about this part of the 
anecdote. The letter was found in the Corporation archives 
at Stratford. Til. 

20 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

He there bought or built a house, which he christened 
* New Place '. We say, ' bought or built a house ' ; 
for he bought it according to Whiterill, and he built 
it according to Forbes, and on this point Forbes dis 
putes with Whiterill *. These cavils of the learned 
about trifles are not worth being searched into, particu 
larly when we see Father Hardouin, for instance, 
completely upset a whole passage of Pliny by replacing 
nos pridem by non pridem. 

10. Shakespeare went from time to time to pass 
some days at New Place. Half-way upon the short 
journey he encountered Oxford, and at Oxford the 
Crown Inn, and at the inn the hostess, a beautiful, 
intelligent creature, wife of the worthy innkeeper, 
Davenant. In 1606 Mrs. Davenant was brought to 
bed of a son, whom they named William ; and in 1644 
Sir William Davenant, created knight by Charles I, 
wrote to Rochester : ' Know this, which does honour 
to my mother, I am the son of Shakespeare ' ; thus 
allying himself to Shakespeare in the same way that 
in our days M. Lucas -Montigny has claimed relation 
ship with Mirabeau. Shakespeare had married his 
two daughters, Susanna to a doctor, Judith to a 
merchant. Susanna was clever, but Judith knew 
not how to read or write, and signed her name with a 
cross. In 1613 it happened that Shakespeare, having 
come to Stratford-cn-Avon, had no further desire to 
return to London. Perhaps he was in difficulties. 
He had just been compelled to mortgage his house. 
The contract deed of this mortgage, dated the llth 
of March, 1613, and indorsed with Shakespeare's 
signature, was in the last century in the hands of an 
attorney, who gave it to Garrick, who lost it. Garrick 
lost likewise (it is Mile Violetti, his wife, who tells the 

1 Shakespeare bought the Great House, or New Place, in 
the spring of 1597. For interesting particulars, see Halli- 
ivell-Phillipps's Outlines, pp. 116 ff., and R. G. White's 
Life and Genius of Shakespeare, p. 121. An exhaustive 
account of it is given in the appendix to the Outlines, pp. 
447-79. TK. 

SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE 21 

story) Forbes'a manuscript, with his letters in Latin. 
From 1613 Shakespeare remained at his house at 
New Place, occupied with his garden, forgetting his 
plays, wholly devoted to his flowers. He planted in 
this garden of New Place the first mulberry-tree that 
was grown at Stratford, just as Queen Elizabeth 
wore, in 1561, the first silk stockings seen in England. 
On the 25th of March, 1616, feeling ill, he made his 
will. His will, dictated by him, is written on three 
pages ; he signed each of them with a trembling hand. 
On the first page he signed only his Christian name, 
' William ' ; on the second, * Willm. Shaspr ' ; on 
the third, 'William Shasp ' 1. On the 23d of April 
he died. He had that day reached the exact age 
of fifty-two years, having been born on the 23d of 
April, 1564. On that same day, 23d April, 1616, 
died Cervantes, a genius of like stature. When 
Shakespeare died, Milton was eight years, and Cor- 
neille ten years of age ; Charles I and Cromwell were 
two youths, the one of sixteen, the other of seventeen 
years. 

CHAPTER IV 

SHAKESPEARE'S life was greatly embittered. He 
lived perpetually slighted. Posterity may read this 
to-day in his familiar verses : 

Thence comes it that my name receives a brand. 

And almost thence my nature is subdu'd 

To what it works in, like the dyer's hand : 

Pity me then. . . . 

Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink 

Potions of eysel. Sonnet 111. 

* This statement of the form of the poet's signatures 
to his will is incorrect. The surname is signed in full in 
each case. All Shakespeare's authentic signatures are 
conveniently exhibited in fac-simile at the end of Charles 
Knight's Biograghy of Shekspere. In at least five of the 
^natures the spelling is apparently Shakapere : in the 
other (the last upon the will) it is obscure. The common 
spelling, Shakespeare, is based upon ' the mode in which 
it was usually printed during the poet's life. ' TR. 

22 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Your love and pity doth th' impression fill 
Which vulgar scandal stamp'd upon my brow. 

Sonnet 112. 

Nor thou with public' kindness honour me, 
. Unless thou take that honour from thy name. 

Sonnet 36. 
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies . 

Sonnet 121. 

Shakespeare had permanently near him one envious 
person, Ben Jonson, an indifferent comic poet, whose 
first steps he had aided 1 . Shakespeare was thirty- 
nine when Elizabeth died. This Queen had not paid 
much attention to him ; she managed to reign forty- 
four years without recognizing Shakespeare. None 
the less is she historically styled ' protectress of arts 
and letters ', etc. The historians of the old school 
gave these certificates to all princes, whether they 
knew how to read or not. 

Shakespeare, persecuted as, at a later date, was 
Moliere, sought, like Moliere, to lean on the master. 
Shakespeare and Moliere would in our days have had 
a loftier spirit. The master was Elizabeth, ' King 
Elizabeth ', as the English say. Shakespeare glorified 
Elizabeth: he called her 'the Virgin Star', 'Star 
of the West ', and ' Diana ', a name divine which 
pleased the Queen ; but in vain. The Queen took 
no notice of it, less sensitive to the praises in which 
Shakespeare called her ' Diana ' than to the insults 
of Scipio Gentilis, who, taking the pretensions of 
Elizabeth on the bad side, called her ' Hecate ', and 
applied to her the ancient triple curse, Mormo ! Bombo / 
Gorgo ! As for James I, whom Henry IV called 
* Master James ', he gave, as we have seen, the privilege 
of the Globe to Shakespeare, but he willingly forbade 

1 Only the last clause of the sentence is accurate. For 
the nature of the important service rendered by Shakespeare 
to Ben Jonson, see Halliwell-Phillipps's Outlines, pp. 148-50. 
That Ben Jonson was envious of Shakespeare is doubtless 
as untrue as that he was an ' indifferent poet.' ' I loved 
the man ' he said after Shakespeare's death ' and do honour 
his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as any.' TB. 

SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE 23 

the publication of his pieces. Some contemporaries, 
Dr Simon Forman among others, so far took notice 
of Shakespeare as to make a note of the occupation 
of an evening passed at the performance of The Mer 
chant of Venice l 1 That was all he knew of glory 2 . 
Shakespeare, once dead, entered into oblivion. 

From 1640 to 1660 the Puritans abolished art and 
shut up the play-houses. The whole theatre was 
shrouded as in a winding-sheet. With Charles II the 
drama revived, without Shakespeare. The false 
taste of Louis XIV had invaded England. Charles II 
belonged rather to Versailles than London. He had 
as mistress a French girl, the Duchess of Portsmouth, 
and as an intimate friend the privy purse of the King 
of France. Clifford, his favourite, who never entered 
the Parliament-house without spitting, said : ' It 
is better for my master to be viceroy under a great 
monarch like Louis XIV than to be the slave of five 
hundred insolent English subjects.' These were 
no longer the days of the Commonwealth, the time 
when Cromwell took the title of ' Protector of England 
and France ', and forced this same Louis XIV to 
accept the title of * King of the French '. 

Under this restoration of the Stuarts, Shakespeare's 
eclipse became complete. He was so thoroughly dead 
that Davenant, his putative son, recomposed his 
pieces. There was no longer any Macbeth but the 
Macbeth of Davenant. Dryden speaks of Shakespeare 
on one occasion in order to say that he is 'out of 

See note p. 13. 

2 Apart from the commendatory verses prefixed to the 
folio of 1623, Halliwell-Phillipps (Outlines, pp. 569-82) citea 
no less than eighteen contemporary references by name 
to the great dramatist, substantially all of them eulogistic. 
It would be strange indeed if that pre-eminently dramatic 
age should have left the discovery of Shakespeare's genius 
as a playwright to be made in an age of dramatic decay. 
Considering that no one took pains to preserve testimony 
of any kind with reference to Shakespeare, the evidence of 
his great popularity not to say pre-eminence in his own 
ti me is in truth remarkably abundant. TH. 

24 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

date '. Lord Shaftesbury calls him ' a wit out of 
fashion ' l . Dryden and Shaftesbury were two oracles. 
Dryden, a converted Catholic, had .two sons, ushers 
in the chamber of Clement XI ; he made tragedies 
worthy of being put into Latin verse, as Atterbury's 
hexameters prove, and he was the servant of that 
James II who, before he became king on his own 
account, had asked of his brother, Charles II ' Why 
don't you hang Milton ? ' The Earl of Shaftesbury, 
a friend of Locke, was the man who wrote an Essay 
on Sprightliness in Important Conversations, and who, 
by the manner in which Chancellor Hyde helped his 
daughter to the wing of a chicken, divined that she 
was secretly married to the Duke of York. 

These two men having condemned Shakespeare, 
the oracle had spoken. England, a country more 
obedient to conventional opinion than is generally 
believed, forgot Shakespeare. Some purchaser pulled 
down his house, New Place. A Rev. Dr Cartrell cut 
down and burned his mulberry-tree. At the beginning 
of the eighteenth century the eclipse 2 was total. 
In 1707, a certain Nahum Tate published a King 
Lear, informing his readers ' that he had borrowed 

1 Dryden spoke of Shakespeare often, sometimes critically, 
but always with the highest respect. It was he who wrote 
in the prologue to The Tempest : 

But Shakespeare's magic could not copied be ; 

Within that circle none durst walk but he. 
And in the dedication to The Eival Ladies, he refers to Shake 
speare as one ' who, with some errors not to be avoided in 
that age, had undoubtedly a larger soul of poesy than ever 
any of our nation.' TR. 

2 Victor Hugo's smoked glass very much darkens the 
* eclipse ' of Shakespeare at the beginning of the eighteenth 
century. Gerard Langbaine, in his Account of the English 
Dramatick Poets (Oxford, 1691), says : ' I esteem his plays 
beyond any that have ever been published in our language. 
Again : ' I should think I were guilty of an injury beyond 
pardon to his memory, should I so far disparage it as to bring 
his wit in competition with any in our age.' That Langbaine 
was not alone in thinking thus, there is plenty of evidence. 
See foot-note, p. 23. TB. 

SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE 25 

the idea of it from a play which he had read by chance, 
the work of some nameless author '. This ' nameless 
author ' was Shakespeare *. 

CHAPTER V 

IN 1728 Voltaire imported from England to France 
the name of Will Shakespeare ; only, instead of Will, 
he pronounced it Oittes. 

Jeering began in France, and oblivion continued 
in England. What the Irishman Nahum Tate had 
done for King Lear, others did for other pieces. AWs 
Well that Ends Well had successively two ' arrangers ', 
Pilon for the Haymarket, and Kemble for Drury 
Lane. Shakespeare existed no longer, and counted 
no longer. Much Ado About Nothing served likewise 
as a rough draft twice, for Davenant in 1673 ; for 
James Miller in 1737. Cymbeline was recast four 
times, under James II at the Theatre Royal, by 
Thomas Dursey ; in 1695 by Charles Marsh ; in 1759 
by W. Hawkins ; in 1761 by Garrick. Coriolanus 
was recast four times, in 1682, for the Theatre Royal, 
by Tate ; in 1720, for Drury Lane, by John Dennis ; 

i The statement that Tate styled the original Lear the 
work of ' some nameless author ' is piquant, but untrue. 
His Dedication names Shakespeare repeatedly, and ' in a 
tone of reverence.' He speaks of his own work as a ' revival ' 
of Shakespeare's, and his Epilogue concludes with, 

This Play's Reviver humbly do's admit 

Your abs'lute Pow'r to damn his part of it : 

But still so many Master-Touches shine 

Of that vast Hand that first laid this Design 

That in great Shakeapear'a right, He's bold to say, 

If you like nothing you have seen this Day, 

The Play your Judgment damns, not you the Play. 

It may be added that Victor Hugo advances by about 
a quarter of a century the date of Tate's ' revival ' of Lear, 
which had been before the public seven or eight years when 
Langbaine wrote the remarks quoted in the preceding note. 
The reader may be willing to be reminded that this ' certain' 
Nahum Tate succeeded Shad well (Dry den's successor) as 
poet laureate of England. TK. 

23 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

in 1755, for Covent Garden, by Thomas Sheridan ; 
in 1801, for Drury Lane, by Kemble. Timon of 
Athens was recast four times, at the Duke's Theatre, 
in 1678, by Shadwell ; in 1768, at the theatre of Rich 
mond Green, by James Love ; in 1771, at Drury Lane, 
by Cumberland ; in 1786, at Covent Garden, by Hull. 
In the eighteenth century the persistent raillery 
of Voltaire finally produced in England a certain 
revival of interest. Garrick, while correcting Shake 
speare, played him, and acknowledged that it was 
Shakespeare that he played. They reprinted him 
at Glasgow. An imbecile, Malone, made commenta 
ries on his plays, and, as a logical sequence, white 
washed his tomb. There was on this tomb a little 
bust, of a doubtful resemblance, and indifferent as 
a work of art, but venerable from the fact that it 
was contemporaneous with Shakespeare. It is after 
this bust that all the portraits of Shakespeare have 
been made that we now see. The bust was white 
washed. Malone, critic and whitewasher of Shake 
speare, spread a coat of plaster over his face, and of 
etupid nonsense over his work. 

BOOK II 
MEN OF GENIUS 

CHAPTER I 

HIGH Art, using this word in its absolute sense, is 
the region of Equals. 

Before going farther, let us fix the value of this 
expression, ' Art ', which often occurs in this book. 

We speak of Art as we speak of Nature. Here 
are two terms of almost indeterminate meaning ; 
to pronounce the one or the other of these words 
Nature, Art is to make a conjuration, to call 
forth the ideal from the deeps, to draw aside one 
of the two great curtains of the divine creation. God 
manifests himself to us in the first degree through 
the life of the universe, and in the second through the 
thought of man. The second manifestation is not less 
holy than the first. The first is named Nature, the 
second is named Art. Hence this reality : the poet 
is a priest. 

There is here below a pontiff, it is genius. Sacerdos 
Magnus. 

Art is the second branch of Nature. 

Art is as natural as Nature. 

Ry the word GOD let us fix the sense of this word 
also we mean the Living Infinite. 

The latent Ego of the visible Infinite, that is God. 

God is the invisible made evident. 

The world concentrated, is God. God expanded, 
is the world. 

We, who are speaking, believe in nothing out of 
God. 

That being said, let us proceed. God creates Art 
by man, having for a tool the human intellect. The 

27 

28 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

great Workman has made this tool for himself ; he 
has no other. 

Forbes, in the curious little work perused by War- 
burton and lost by Garrick, affirms that Shakespeare 
devoted himself to the practice of magic, that magic 
was in his family, and that what little good there 
was in his pieces was dictated to him by a familir 
spirit. 

Let us say concerning this for we must not draw 
back from any question that may arise that it has 
been a strange error of all ages to desire to give the 
human intellect assistance from without. Antrum 
adjuvat vatem. The work appearing superhuman, 
people wish to exhibit the intervention of the extra- 
human : in antiquity, the tripod ; in our days, the 
table. The table is nothing but the tripod come 
again. To accept in a literal sense the demon that 
Socrates talks of, the bush of Moses, the nymph of 
Numa, the spirit of Plotinus, and Mahomet's dove, 
is to be the victim of a metaphor. 

On the other hand, the table, turning or talking, 
has been very much laughed at. To speak plainly, 
this raillery is out of place. To replace inquiry by 
mockery is convenient, but not very scientific. For 
our part, we think that the strict duty of Science 
is to test all phenomena. Science is ignorant, and 
has no right to laugh : a savant who laughs at the 
possible, is very near being an idiot. The unexpected 
ought always to be expected by Science. Her duty 
is to stop it in its course and search it, rejecting the 
chimerical, establishing the real. Science has but 
the right to put a visa on facts ; she should verify 
and distinguish. All human knowledge is but picking 
and culling. The circumstance that the false is mingled 
with the true, furnishes no excuse for rejecting the 
whole mass. When was the tare an excuse for re 
fusing the corn ? Hoe out the weed error, but reap the 
fact, and place it beside others. Science is the sheaf 
of facts. 

MEN OF GENIUS 29 

The mission of Science is to study and sound every 
thing. All of us, according to our degree, are the 
creditors of investigation ; we are its debtors also. 
It is due to us, and we owe it to others. To evade a 
phenomenon, to refuse to pay it that attention to 
which it has a right, to bow it out, to show it the 
door, to turn our back on it laughing, is to make truth 
a bankrupt, and to leave the signature of Science 
to be protested. The phenomenon of the tripod of 
old, and of the table of to-day, is entitled, like any 
thing else, to investigation. Psychic science will 
gain by it, without doubt. Let us add, that to abandon 
phenomena to credulity, is to commit treason against 
human reason. 

Homer affirms that the tripods of Delphi walked 
of their own accord ; and he explains the fact (book 
xviii of the Iliad) by saying that Vulcan forged invisible 
wheels for them. The explanation does not much 
simplify the phenomenon. Plato relates that the 
statues of Dapdalus gesticulated in the darkness, had 
wills of their own, and resisted their master, and that 
he was obliged to tie them up, so that they might 
not walk off. Strange dogs at the end of a chain ! 
Flechier mentions, at page 52 of his History of Theo- 
dosius, referring to the great conspiracy of the 
magicians of the fourth century against the Emperor, 
a tipping table, of which we shall perhaps speak else 
where, in order to say what Flechier did not say, and 
seemed not to know. This table was covered with a 
round plating of several metals, ex diversis metallicis 
materiis fabrefacta, like the copper and zinc plates 
employed at present in biological investigation. So 
it appears that this phenomenon, always rejected and 
always reappearing, is not an affair of yesterday. 

Besides, whatever credulity has said or thought 
about it, this phenomenon of the tripods and tables 
is without any connection with the inspiration of 
the poets, an inspiration entirely direct. This is 
the point at which we have been aiming. The sibyl 

30 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

has a tripod, the poet none ; the poet is himself a 
tripod, the tripod of divinity itself. God has not 
made this marvellous distillery of thought, the brain 
of man, in order to make no use of it. The man of 
genius has need of no apparatus but his brain ; through 
it his every thought must pass. Thought ascends, 
and buds from the brain, as the fruit from the root. 
Thought is the resultant of man ; the root plunges 
into the earth, the brain into God, that is to say, 
into the Infinite. 

Those who imagine (there are such, witness Forbes) 
that a poem like Le, Medecin de son Honneur or King 
Lear can be dictated by a tripod or a table, err in a 
strange fashion ; these works are the works of man. 
God has no need to make a piece of wood aid Shake 
speare or Calderon. 

Then let us set aside the tripod. Poetry is the 
poet's own. Let us be respectful before the pos 
sible, of which no one knows the limit. Let us be 
attentive and serious before the extra-human, out 
of which we come, and which awaits us ; but let us 
not degrade the great workers of the world by hypo 
theses of a mysterious assistance which is not necessary ; 
let us leave to the brain that which belongs to it, and 
agree that the productions of genius are a superhuman 
offspring of man. 

CHAPTER II 

SUPREME Art is the region of Equals. There is no 
primacy among masterpieces. 

Like water, which heated to a hundred degrees 
will bear no increase of temperature, human thought 
attains in certain men its maximum intensity, ^schy- 
lus, Job, Phidias, Isaiah, Saint Paul, Juvenal, Dante, 
Michael Angelo, Rabelais, Cervantes, Shakespeare, 
Rembrandt, Beethoven, with some others, rise to the 
hundredth degree of genius. 

MEX OF GENIUS 31 

The human mind has a summit, the ideal ; to 
this summit God descends, man rises. 

In each age three or four men of genius undertake 
the ascent. From below the world's eyes follow them. 
These men go up the mountain, enter into the clouds, 
disappear, reappear. People watch them, mark them. 
They skirt precipices ; a false step would not displease 
certain of the lookers-on. They daringly pursue 
their road. See them aloft, already afar ; they are 
no longer anything but black specks. ' How small 
they are ' ! says the crowd. They are giants. On 
they go. The road is rugged, the scarped cliff resists 
them. At each step a wall, at each step a pitfall. 
As they rise, the cold increases. They must make 
their ladder, cut the ice, and walk on it, converting 
obstacles into a stairway. Every storm is raging. 
Nevertheless, these madmen make their way. The 
air becomes difficult to breathe, the abyss widens 
around them. Some fall : they have done well. 
Others stop, and retrace their steps ; there is sad 
weariness. Some intrepid ones continue ; the elect 
persevere. The dreadful declivity crumbles beneath 
them and seeks to sweep them away ; glory is 
treacherous. Eagles eye them ; lightnings blunt 
their bolts upon them ; the hurricane is furious. No 
matter, they persist, they press upward. He who 
reaches the summit is thy equal, Homer ! 

Repeat the names we have mentioned, and those 
which we might have added. To choose between 
these men is impossible. There is no method for 
striking the balance between Rembrandt and Michael 
Angelo. 

Confining ourselves solely to the authors and poets, 
let us examine them one after the other. Which is the 
greatest ? Every one. 

1. One, Homer, is the huge poet-child. The world 
is born, Homer sings : he is the bird of this da\vn. 
Homer has the holy candour of morning. The shadow 
is almost unknown to him. Chaos, heaven, earth, 

32 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Geo and Ceto, Jove god of gods, Agamemnon king of 
kings, peoples, flocks from the beginning, temples, 
towns, battles, harvests, the ocean ; Diomedes fight 
ing, Ulysses wandering ; the meanderings of a ship 
seeking its home ; the Cyclops, the Pygmies ; a map 
of the world with a crown of gods upon Olympus, and 
here and there a glimpse of Erebus through furnace- 
mouths ; priests, virgins, mothers, little children 
frightened by the plumes, the unforgetting dog, great 
words which fall from grey-beards, loving friendships, 
the passions and the hydras, Vulcan for the laugh of 
the gods, Thersites for the laugh of men ; the two 
aspects of married life summed up for the benefit of 
the centuries in Helen and in Penelope ; the Styx, 
Destiny, the heel of Achilles, without which Destiny 
would be vanquished by the Styx ; monsters, heroes, 
men, a thousand perspectives glimpsing in the haze of 
the antique world, this is Homer. Troy coveted, 
Ithaca longed for. Homer is war and travel, the two 
first methods for the meeting of mankind. The camp 
attacks the fortress, the ship attacks the unknown 
by penetrating it ; around war every passion ; around 
travel every kind of adventure ; two gigantic groups : 
the first, bloody, is called the Iliad, the second, lumin 
ous, is called the Odyssey. Homer makes men preter- 
naturally big ; they hurl at each other masses of rock 
which twelve yoke of oxen could not move ; the gods 
hardly care to have to deal with them. Minerva 
takes Achilles by the hair ; he turns around in anger : 
* What wouldst thou with me, goddess ? ' There 
is, however, no monotony in these puissant figures. 
These giants are graduated. After each hero, Homer 
breaks the mould. Ajax son of Oi'leus is less high in 
stature than Ajax son of Telamon. Homer is one of 
the men of genius who solve that fine problem of art, 
the finest of all, perhaps, truly to depict humanity 
by the enlargement of man : that is, to generate the 
real in the ideal. Fable and history, hypothesis and 
tradition, the chimera and knowledge, make up Homer. 

MEN OF GENIUS 33 

He is fathomless, and he is cheerful. All the depth 
of ancient days moves, radiant and luminous, in the 
vast azure of his mind. Lycurgus, that peevish sage, 
half a Solon and half a Draco, was conquered by 
Homer. He turned out of the way, while travelling, to 
go and read, at the house of Cleophilus, Homer's poems, 
placed there in remembrance of the hospitality that 
Homer, it is said, had formerly received in that house. 
Homer, to the Greeks, was a god ; he had priests, the 
Homerides. Alcibiades gave a rhetorician a cuff 
for boasting that he had never read Homer. The 
divinity of Homer has survived Paganism. Michael 
Angelo said, ' When I read Homer, I look at myself 
to see if I am not twenty feet in height.' Tradition 
will have ft that the first verse of the Iliad is a verse 
of Orpheus ; and this tradition, doubling Homer by 
Orpheus, increased in Greece the religion of Homer. 
The shield of Achilles, book xviii of the Iliad, was 
explained in the temples by Danco, daughter of 
Pythagoras. Homer, like the sun, has planets. Virgil 
who writes the jEncid, Lucan who writes the Pharsa- 
lia, Tasso who writes the Jerusalem, Ariosto with his 
Roland, Milton with Paradise Lost, Camoens with 
the Lusiad, Klopstock with the Messiah, Voltaire 
with the Henriade, all gravitate about Homer, and, 
sending back to their own moons his light reflected 
at different angles, move at unequal distances within 
his boundless orbit. Such is Homer ; such is the 
beginning of the epic. 

2. Another, Job, begins the drama. This embryo 
is a colossus. Job begins the drama, now fcr'y 
centuries ago, by placing Jehovah and Satan in 
presence of each other ; the evil defies the good, and 
behold ! the action is begun. The scene is laid upon 
the earth, and man is the field of battle ; the plagues 
are the actors. One of the wildest grandeurs of this 
poem is, that in it the sun is baleful. The sun is in 
Job as in Homer ; but it is no longer th3 dawn, it is 
high noon. The mournful oppression of the brazen 

34 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

ray, falling perpendicularly on the desert, pervades 
the poem, which is heated to a white heat. Job 
sweats on his dunghill. The shadow of Job is small 
and black, and hidden under him, as the snake under 
the rock. Tropical flies buzz on his sores. Job has 
above his head the frightful Arabian sun a breeder 
of monsters, an intensifier of plagues, which changes 
the cat into the tiger, the lizard into the crocodile, 
the pig into the rhinoceros, the snake into the boa, 
the nettle into the cactus, the wind into the simoom, 
the miasma into the pestilence. Job is anterior to 
Moses. Afar in the ages, by the side of Abraham 
the Hebrew patriarch, there is Job the Arabian patri 
arch. Before being tried, he had been happy : * this 
man was the greatest of all men of the East ', says his 
poem. This was the labourer-king : he exercised the 
immense priesthood of solitude : he sacrificed and 
sanctified. Toward evening he gave the earth the 
blessing, the berachah. He was learned ; he was 
acquainted with rhythm ; his poem, of which the 
Arabian text is lost, was written in verse : this, at 
least, is certain from verse 3 of chapter iii to the end. 
He was good ; he did not meet a poor child without 
throwing him the small coin kesitha ; he was the foot 
of the lame, and the eye of the blind '. It is from this 
that he has fallen, he becomes gigantic. The whole 
poem of Job is the development of this idea, the 
greatness that may be found at the bottom of the 
pit. Job is more majestic when unfortunate than 
when prosperous ; his leprosy is a robe of purple. 
His misery terrifies those who are there ; they speak 
not to him until after a silence of seven days and 
seven nights. His lamentation is marked by a certain 
tranquil and gloomy magianism. While crushing 
the vermin on his ulcers, he apostrophizes the stars. 
He addresses Orion, the Hyades, which he names 
the Pleiades, and ' the chambers of the south '. He 
gays, ' God setteth an end to darkness '. He calls 
the diamonds which are hidden, ' the stones of dark- 

MEN OF GENIUS 35 

ness '. He mingles with his own distress the misfor 
tune of others, and has tragic words that freeze, 
' the widow is empty '. * He smiles also and is then 
still more terrible. He has around him Eliphaz, 
Bilclad, Zophar, three implacable types of the friendly 
busybody, of whom he says, * You play on me as on a 
tambourine '. His language, submissive toward God, 
is bitter toward kings : * kings and counsellors of the 
earth, which built desolate places for themselves ', 
leaving our wit to find out whether he speaks of their 
tomb or of their kingdom. Tacitus says, sotitudinem 
faciunt. As to Jehovah, Job adores him ; and under 
the furious scourging of the plagues, all his resistance 
is confined to asking of God : ' How long wilt thou 
not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow 
down my spittle ? * That dates from four thousand 
years ago. At the same hour, perhaps, when the 
enigmatical astronomer of Denderah carves in the 
granite his mysterious zodiac, Job engraves his on 
human thought ; and his zodiac is not made of stars, 
but of miseries. This zodiac turns yet above our heads. 
We have of Job only the Hebrew version, attributed to 
Moses. The thought of such a poet, followed by such 
a translator, is impressive : the man of the dunghill 
translated by the man of Sinai ! Job is in reality a 
priest and a seer. Job extracts from his drama a 
dogma ; he suffers, and draws an inference. Now, 
to suffer and draw an inference is to teach ; sorrow 
leads logically to God. Job teaches ; having touched 
the summit of the drama, he stirs the depths cf philo 
sophy. He first shows that sublime madness of wisdom 
which, two thousand years later, in resignation making 
itself a sacrifice, will be the foolishness of the cross 
stiUtidam crucis. The dunghill of Job, transfigured, 
will become the Calvary of Jesus. 

3. Another, ^Eschylus, enlightened by the uncon- 

i Is this an error ? Job xxii 9 reads, ' Thou hast sent 
widows away empty '. And where is the next quotation 
found ? TB. 

36 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

scions divination of genius, without suspecting that 
he has behind him, in the East, the resignation of Job, 
completes it, unwittingly, by the revolt of Prometheus ; 
so that the lesson may be complete, and that the human 
race, to whom Job has taught but duty, shall feel in 
Prometheus the dawn of right. There is something 
ghastly in ^Eschylus from one end to the other ; there 
is a vague outline of an extraordinary Medusa behind 
the figures in the foreground. ^Eschylus is splendid 
and formidable ; as though you saw a frowning brow 
above the sun. He has two Cains, Eteocles and 
Polynices ; Genesis has but one. His troop of Oceani- 
des comes and goes under a dark sky, like a flock of 
driven birds. ^Eschylus has none of the recognized 
proportions. He is shaggy, abrupt, excessive, unsus 
ceptible of softened contour, almost savage, with 
a grace all his own like that of the flowers of wild 
nooks, less haunted by the nymphs than by the furies, 
siding with the Titans, among the goddesses choosing 
the austere and greeting the Gorgons with a sinister 
smile, like Othryx and Briareus a son of the soil, and 
ready to scale the skies anew against the upstart 
Jupiter. ^Eschylus is ancient mystery made man ; 
something like a Pagan prophet. His work, if we 
had it all, would be a kind of Greek Bible. Poet hun 
dred-handed, having an Orestes more fatal than Ulysses 
and a Thebes grander than Troy, hard as rock, tumul 
tuous like the foam, full of steeps, torrents, and preci 
pices, and such a giant that at times one might take 
him for a mountain. Coming later than the Iliad, 
he has the air of an elder brother of Homer. 

4. Another, Isaiah, seems placed above humanity, 
and resembles a rumbling of continual thunder. He 
is the great reproacher. His style, a kind of nocturnal 
cloud, is lighted up with images which suddenly em 
purple all the depths of his obscure thought, and make 
us exclaim, ' It lightens ! ' Isaiah engages in battle, 
hand to hand, with the evil which, in civilization, 
makes its appearance before the good. He cries 

MEN OF GENIUS 37 

* Silence ! ' at the noise of chariots, of festivals, of 
triumphs. The foam of his prophecy fails even on 
Nature ; he gives Babylon over to the moles and bats, 
Nineveh to the briers, Tyre to ashes, Jerusalem to 
night ; he fixes a date for oppressors, warns the powers 
of their approaching end, assigns a day against idols, 
against high citadels, against the fleets of Tarsus, 
against all the cedars of Lebanon, and against all the 
oaks of Bashan. He stands upon the threshold of 
civilization, and he refuses to enter. He is a kind 
of mouthpiece of the desert speaking to the multitudes, 
and demanding, in the name of the sands, the brambles, 
and the winds, the sites of the cities. And this upon 
the score of justice : because the tyrant and the slave, 
that is to say, pride and shame, exist wherever there 
are walled enclosures ; because evil is there incarnate 
in man ; because in solitude there is but the beast, 
while in the city there is the monster. Those things 
with which Isaiah reproached his time, idolatry, 
debauchery, war, prostitution, ignorance, still exist. 
Isaiah is the undying contemporary of the vices that 
make themselves servants, and of the crimes that 
make themselves kings. 

o. Another, Ezekiel, is the wild soothsayer: a 
genius of the cavern, whose thought is best expressed 
by a beast-like growling. But listen. This savage 
makes a prophecy to the world, the prophecy of 
progress. Nothing more astonishing. Ah ! Isaiah 
overthrows ? Very well ! Ezekiel will reconstruct. 
Isaiah refuses civilization ; Ezekiel accepts, but 
transforms it. Nature and humanity blend together 
in that softened howl which Ezekiel utters. The 
conception of duty is in Job ; in ^Eschylus, the con 
ception of right. Ezekiel introduces the resultant 
third conception, the human race ameliorated, the 
future more and more emancipated. It is man's 
consolation that the future is to be a sunrise instead 
of a sunset. Time present works for time to come ; 
work, then, and hope ! Such is Ezekiel's cry. Ezekiel 

38 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

is in Chaldaea, and from Chaldaea he sees distinctly 
Judsea, just as from oppression one may see liberty. 
He declares peace as others declare war. He prophesies 
harmony, goodness, gentleness, union, the blending 
of races, love. Notwithstanding, he is terrible. He 
is the fierce benefactor, the universal, beneficent 
grumbler at the human race. He scolds, he almost 
gnashes his teeth, and people fear and hate him. The 
men about are thorns to him. 'I live among the 
briers ', he says. He condemns himself to be a symbol, 
and makes of his person, become hideous, a sign of 
human misery and popular degradation. He is a 
kind of voluntary Job. In his town, in his house, he 
causes himself to be bound with cords, and remains 
mute : behold the slave ! In the public place he 
eats filth : behold the courtier ! This causes Voltaire's 
laughter to burst forth, and our sobs. Ah, Ezekiel, 
so far does thy devotion go ! Thou renderest shame 
visible by horror ; thou compellest ignominy to avert 
the head when recognizing herself in ordure ; thou 
showest that to accept a man as master is to eat filth ; 
thou causest a shudder to the sycophants who follow 
the prince, by putting into thy stomach what they 
put into their souls ; thou preachest deliverance by 
vomiting. Accept our veneration ! This man, this 
being, this figure, this swine-prophet, is sublime. And 
the transfiguration that he announces, he proves. 
How ? By transfiguring himself. From this horrible 
and defiled mouth there issues splendid poetry. Never 
has grander language been spoken, never more extra 
ordinary. * I saw visions of God. A whirlwind came 
out of the North, and a great cloud, and a fire infolding 
itself. I saw a chariot, and a likeness of four living 
creatures. Above the living creatures and the chariot 
was a space like a terrible crystal. The wheels of the 
chariot were made of eyes, and so high that they were 
dreadful. The noise of the wings of the four angels 
was as the voice of the Almighty, and when they stood 
they let down their wings. And I saw a likeness which 

MEN OF GENIUS 39 

was as fire, and which put forth a hand. And a voice 
said, " The kings and the judges have in their souls 
gods of dung. I will take the stony heart out of their 
flesh, and I will give them an heart of flesh "... I 
came to them that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I 
remained there astonished among them seven days'. 
And again : * There was a plain and dry bones, and I 
said, " Bones, rise up " ; and when I beheld, lo ! the 
sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin 
covered them above ; but there was no breath in 
them. And I cried, " Come from the four winds, 
breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may 
live ! " The spirit came. The breath came into them, 
and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an ex 
ceeding great army. Then the voice said, " Ye shall 
be one nation, ye shall have no king or judge but me ; 
and I will be the God who has one people, and ye shall 
be the people who have one God ".' Is not every 
thing there ? Search for a higher formula, you will 
not find it : a free man under a sovereign God. This 
visionary eater of filth is a resuscitator. Ezekiel has 
offal on his lips, and the sun in his eyes. Among the 
Jews the reading of Ezekiel was dreaded, and was 
not permitted before the age of thirty years. The 
rabbis, disturbed, put a seal upon this poet. People 
could not call him an impostor : his prophetic fury 
was incontestable ; he had evidently seen what he 
related : thence his authority. His very enigmas 
made him an oracle. They could not tell who were 
meant by those women sitting toward the North 
weeping for Tammuz * ; impossible to divine what 
was the hashmal, this metal which he pictured as in 

1 Ezekiel viii 14. This ' enigma ' was not such to Milton, 
who sings of Zion's daughters, 

Whose wanton passions in the sacred porch 
Ezekiel saw, when, by the vision led, 
His eye surveyed the dark idolatries 
Of alienated Judah. 

Paradise Lost, i 446 seq. 

40 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

fusion in the furnace of the dream *. But nothing 
was more clear than his vision of Progress. Ezekiel 
saw the quadruple man, man, ox, lion, and eagle ; 
that is to say, the master of thought, the master of 
the field, the master of the desert, the master of the 
air. Nothing is forgotten ; it is the entire future, 
from Aristotle to Christopher Columbus, from Trip- 
tolemus to Montgolfier. Later on, the Gospel also 
will become quadruple in the four evangelists, making 
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John subservient to man, 
the ox, the lion, and the eagle, and, remarkable fact, 
to symbolize progress it will take the four faces of 
Ezekiel. Furthermore, Ezekiel, like Christ, calls 
himself the * Son of Man'. Jesus often in his parables 
invokes and cites Ezekiel ; and this kind of first 
Messiah makes precedents for the second. There 
are in Ezekiel three constructions, man, in whom 
he places progress ; the temple, where he puts a light 
that he calls ' glory ' ; the city, where he places God. 
He cries to the temple, ' No priests here, neither they, 
nor their kings, nor the carcases of their kings ' (xliii 
7) 2 . One cannot help thinking that this Ezekiel, a 
species of Biblical demagogue, would help '93 in the 
terrible sweeping of St Denis. As for the city built 
by him, he mutters above it this mysterious name, 
Jehovah Schammah, which signifies ' the Eternal is 
there.' Then, standing silent in the darkness, he 
shows men, on the far horizon, an ever-widening space 
of azure sky. 

6. Another, Lucretius, is that vast, obscure thing, 
All. Jupiter is in Homer ; Jehovah is in Job ; in 
Lucretius, Pan appears. Such is Pan's greatness, 
that he has under him Destiny, which is above Jupiter. 
Lucretius has travelled and he has mused, and musing 

1 The mysterious word hashmal is rendered by ' amber ' 
in our common version (Ezekiel i 4). Tn. 

2 The curious reader will discover that the citations 
from Ezekiel are either paraphrased or garbled, or both. 
Pedantic exactitude is not one of Hugo's faults. TB. 

MEN OF GENIUS 41 

is another form of travel. He has been at Athens ; 
he has been in the haunts of philosophers ; he has 
studied Greece and divined India. Democritus has 
set him to thinking about the molecule, and Anaxi- 
mander about space. His dreams have become 
doctrine. Nothing is known of the incidents of his 
life. Like Pythagoras, he has frequented the two 
mysterious schools of the Euphrates, Neharda and 
Pombeditha, and he may have met there the Jewish 
doctors. He has deciphered the papyri of Sepphoris, 
which in his time was not yet transformed into Dio- 
csesarea ; he has lived with the pearl-fishers of the 
Isle of Tylos. We find in the Apocrypha traces of a 
strange ancient itinerary, recommended, according 
to some, to philosophers by Empedocles, the magician 
of Agrigentum, and, according to others, to the rabbis 
by the high-priest Eleazer, who corresponded with 
Ptolemy Philadelphus. This itinerary would have 
served at a later time as a model for the journeyings 
of the Apostles. The traveller who followed this 
itinerary traversed the five satrapies of the country 
of the Philistines ; visited the people who charm 
serpents and suck poisonous sores, the Psylli ; 
drank of the torrent Bosor, which marks the frontier 
of Arabia Deserta ; then touched and handled the 
bronze collar of Andromeda, still sealed to the rock 
of Joppa ; Baalbec in Coele-Syria ; Apamea on the 
Orontes, where Nicanor fed his elephants ; the harbour 
of Ezion-geber, where rode the vessels of Ophir, laden 
with gold ; Segher, which produced white incense, 
preferred to that of Hadramauth ; the two Syrtes ; 
Smaragdus, the mountain of emerald ; the Nasamones, 
who pillaged the shipwrecked ; the black nation, 
Agyzimba ; Adribe, the city of crocodiles ; Cynopolis, 
the city of dogs ; the wonderful cities of Comagena, 
Claudia, and Barsalium ; perhaps even Tadmor, the 
city of Solomon ; such were the stages of this almost 
fabulous pilgrimage of the thinkers. Did Lucretius 
make this pilgrimage ? One cannot tell. His nu- 

42 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

mcrous travels are beyond doubt. He has seen so 
many men that at the last to his eye they all seem 
indistinguishably blended, and have become to him 
a spectral multitude. He is arrived at that excess 
of simplification of the universe which almost causes 
it to disappear. He has sounded until he feels the 
plummet float. He has questioned the vague spectres 
of Byblos ; he has conversed with the tree-trunk cut 
from Cithseron, which represents Juno Thespia. Per 
haps he has spoken in the reeds to Cannes, the man- 
fish of Chaldaea, who had two heads, at the top, the 
head of a man, below, the head of a hydra, and who, 
drinking up chaos by his lower gulkt, revomited it 
on the earth through his upper mouth in the form 
of dreadful knowledge. Isaiah stands next to the 
archangels, Lucretius to the spectres. Lucretius 
twists the ancient veil of Isis, steeped in the waters, 
of darkness, and wrings from it sometimes in torrents 
sometimes drop by drop, a sombre poesy. The bound 
less is in Lucretius. At times there passes a powerful 
spondaic verse, almost monstrous, and full of shadow : 

Circum se froliis ac frondibus involventes. 

Here and there a vast image of pairing is dimly out 
lined in the forest : 

Tune Venus in sylvis jungebat corpora amantum 

and the forest is Nature. These verses are impos 
sible with Virgil. Lucretius turns his back on hu 
manity, and fixes his gaze upon the enigma. His 
searching spirit is placed between that reality, the 
atom, and that impossibility, the vacuum : by turns 
attracted by these two precipices, he is religious when 
he contemplates the atom, sceptical when he per 
ceives the void ; thence his two aspects, equally pro 
found, of denial and of affirmation. One day this 
traveller commits suicide. This is his last departure. 
He puts himself en route for Death. He wishes to 
see for himself. He has embarked successively upon 

MEN OF GENIUS 43 

every sort of vessel, on the galley of Trevirium 
for Sanastrea in Macedonia ; on the trireme of Carystos 
for Metapontum J in Greece ; on the Cyllcnian ekiff 
for the Island of Samothrace ; on the sandale of 
Samothrace for Naxos, the home of Bacchus ; on 
the ceroscaph of Naxos for Spia ; on the Syrian pin 
nace for Egypt ; and on the ship of the Red Sea for 
India. It remains for him to make one voyage : he 
is curious about the dark country ; he takes passage 
on the coffin, and slipping the hawser himself, he 
pushes off into the shadow the obscure barque that 
is tossed by an unknown sea. 

7. Another, Juvenal, has everything in which 
Lucretius fails, passion, emotion, fever, tragic flame, 
passion for honesty, the avenging sneer, personality, 
humanity. He dwells at a certain given point in 
creation, and he contents himself with it, finding 
there what may nourish and swell his heart with justice 
and anger. Lucretius is the universe, Juvenal the 
locality. And what a locality ! Rome. Between 
the two they are the double voice which speaks to 
world and town urbi et orbi. As Juvenal hovers 
above the Roman Empire, one hears the terrific 
flappings of the lammergeyer's wings above a nest 
of reptiles. He pounces upon this swarm and takes 
them, one after the other, in his terrible beak, from 
the adder who is emperor and calls himself Nero, to 
the earthworm who is a bad poet and calls himself 
Codrus. Isaiah and Juvenal has each his harlot ; 
but there is one thing more ominous than the shadow 
of Babel, it is the creaking of the bed of the Caesars ; 
and Babylon is less formidable than Messalina. Juvenal 
is the ancient free spirit of the dead republics ; in 
him there is a Rome of that metal in which Athens 
and Sparta were cast. Thence in his poetry something 
of Aristophanes and something of Lycurgus. Beware 
of him ; he is severe ! Not a cord is wanting to his 

1 Metapontum was a Greek colony in Lucania. Sanastrea 
the translator is unable to find. TR. 

44 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

lyre, nor to the lash he uses. He is lofty, rigid, austere, 
glowing, violent, grave, inexhaustible in imagery, 
harshly gracious, too, when he chooses. His cynicism 
is the indignation of modesty. His grace, thoroughly 
independent and a true figure of liberty, has claws ; 
it appears all at once, enlivening by certain supple 
and spirited undulations the angular majesty of his 
hexameter. It is as if you saw the Cat of Corinth 
prowling upon the pediment of the Parthenon. There 
is something of the epic on this satire ; Juvenal holds 
in his hand the golden sceptre with which Ulysses 
beats Thersites. * Bombast, declamation, exaggera 
tion, hyperbole ', cry the slaughtered deformities ; 
and these cries, stupidly repeated by rhetoricians, 
are a sound of glory. ' To commit these things or 
to relate them, the crime is equal ', say Tillemont, 
Marc Muret, Garasse, etc. fools, who, like Muret, 
are sometimes knaves. Juvenal's invective has been 
blazing for two thousand years, a fearful flame of 
poetry, which burns Rome in the presence of the 
centuries. The fire still flashes upon that radiant 
hearth, and, far from diminishing with time, increases 
under its mournful cloud of smoke. From it proceed 
rays in behalf of liberty, probity, heroism ; and it 
may be said that Juvenal sends even into our civiliza 
tion spirits born of his light. What is Regnier ? what 
D'Aubigne ? what Corneille ? Scintillations from 
Juvenal. 

8. Another, Tacitus, is the historian. Liberty 
is incarnate in him, as in Juvenal, and ascends, dead, 
to the seat of judgment, having for a toga her wind 
ing-sheet, and summons tyrants to her bar. Juvenal, 
we have just said, is the soul of a nation embodied in 
a man ; the same is also true of Tacitus. By the 
side of the poet who condemns, stands the historian 
who punishes. Tacitus, seated on the curule chair 
of genius, summons and seizes in flagrante ddicto 
those criminals, the Caesars. The Roman Empire 
is a long crime. This crime is begun by four demons, 

MEN OF GENIUS 45 

Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero. Tiberius, the 
imperial spy ; the eye which watches the world ; 
the first dictator who dared to pervert to his personal 
service the law of majesty made for the Roman people ; 
knowing Greek, intellectual, sagacious, sarcastic, 
eloquent, terrible ; loved by informers ; the murderer 
of citizens, of knights, of the senate, of his wife, of 
his family ; having rather the air of stabbing nations 
than of massacring them ; humble before the Bar 
barians ; a traitor with Archelaus, a coward with 
Artabanus; having two thrones, Rome for his ferocity, 
Capreae for his baseness ; an inventor of vices and of 
names for these vices ; an old man with a seraglio of 
young girls ; gaunt, bald, crooked, bandy-leg ed, 
fetid, eaten up with leprosy, covered with suppura 
tions, masked with plasters, crowned with laurels ; 
having ulcers like Job, and the sceptre besides ; sur 
rounded by an oppressive silence ; seeking a successor, 
scenting out Caligula, and finding him good : a viper 
choosing a tiger. Caligula, the man who has known 
fear, the slave become master, trembling under Tiberius, 
terrible after Tiberius, vomiting his fright of yesterday 
in atrocity. This mad fool has not his equal. An 
executioner makes a mistake, and kills, instead of 
the condemned one, an innocent man ; Caligula 
smiles and eays, ' The condemned had not more 
deserved it.' He has a woman eaten alive by dogs, 
to enjoy the sight. He lies publicly upon his three 
sisters, all stark naked. One of them dies, Drusilla ; 
he says, ' Behead those who do not bewail her, for 
she is my sister ; and crucify those who bewail her, 
for she is a goddess.' He makes his horse a pontiff, 
as, later on, Nero will make his monkey a god. He 
offers to the universe the wretched spectacle of the 
annihilation of intellect by supreme power. A prosti 
tute, a sharper, a robber, breaking the busts of Homer 
and Virgil, his head dressed as Apollo with rays, and 
his feet shod with wings like Mercury, frenetically 
master of the world, desiring incest with his mother, 

40 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

wishing a plague to his empire, famine to his people, 
rout to his army, his own resemblance to the gods, 
and one sole head to the human race, that he might 
cut it off, such is Caius Caligula. He forces the 
son to assist at the torment of the father, and the 
husband at the violation of the wife, and to laugh. 
Claudius is a mere sketch of a ruler, a piece of a man 
made a tyrant, a crowned noodle. He hides him 
self ; they discover him, they drag him from his 
hole, and they throw him, terrified, upon the throne. 
Emperor, he still trembles, having the crown, but not 
sure that he has his head. He feels for his head at 
times, as if he searched for it. Then he gets moro 
confident, and decrees three new letters to be added 
to the alphabet. He is a learned man, this idiot. 
They strangle a senator ; he says, ' I did not order 
it ; but since it is done, it is well '. His wife prosti 
tutes herself before him. He looks at her, and says, 
' Who is this woman ? ' He scarcely exists ; he is 
a shadow : but this shadow crushes the world. At 
length the hour for his departure arrives : his wife 
poisons him ; his doctor finishes him. He says, ' I 
am saved ', and dies. After his death they come to 
see his corpse ; during his life they had seen his ghost. 
Nero is the most formidable figure of ennui that has 
ever appeared among men. The yawning monster 
that the ancients called Livor and the moderns call 
Spleen, gives us this riddle to guess, Nero. Nero 
seeks simply a distraction. Poet, comedian, singer, 
coachman, exhausting ferocity to find voluptuousness, 
trying a change of sex, the husband of the eunuch 
Sporus and bride of the slave Pythagoras, and promen 
ading the streets of Rome between his husband and 
his wife. He has two pleasures, one, to see the 
people clutching, gold-pieces, diamonds, and pearls ; 
and the other, to see the lions clutch the people. An 
incendiary for curiosity's sake, and a matricide for 
want of employment. It is to these four that Tacitus 
dedicates his first gibbets. Their reigns he hangs 

MEN OF GENIUS 47 

about their necks like a collar. His book of ' Caligula ' 
is lost. Nothing is easier to comprehend than the 
loss and obliteration of bocks of this sort. To read 
tlu- in was a crime. A man having been caught reading 
the history of Caligula by Suetonius, Commodus had 
him thrown to the wild beasts. ' Feris objici jus- 
sit ', says Lampridius. The horror of those days 
is awful. Manners, below and above stairs, are 
ferocious. You may judge of the cruelty of the 
Romans by the atrocity of the Gauls. An insurrec 
tion breaks out in Gaul. The peasants place the 
Roman ladies, naked and still alive, on harrows, whose 
points enter here and there into the body ; then they 
cut off their breasts and sew them in their mouths, 
that they may have the appearance of eating them. 
Vix vindicta est, ' this is scarcely retaliation ', says 
the Roman general Turpilianus. These Roman 
ladies had the practice, while chatting with their 
lovers, of sticking gold pins in the breasts of the 
Persian or Gallic slaves who dressed their hair. Such 
is the human spectacle at which Tacitus is present ; 
the sight of it renders him terrible. He states the 
facts, and leaves you to draw your own conclusions. 
It is only in Rome that a Potiphar mother of Joseph 
is to be met '. When Agrippina, reduced to her 
last resource, seeing her grave in the eyes of her son, 
offers him her bed, when her lips seek those of Nero, 
Tacitus is there, following her with his eyes : * Lasciva 
oscula et praenuntias ttagitii blanditias ' ; and he 
denounces to the world this effort of a monstrous 
and trembling mother to make matricide miscarry by 
means of incest. Whatever Justus Lipsius, who 
bequeathed his pen to the Holy Virgin, may have 
said about it, Domitian exiled Tacitus, and he did 
well. Men like Tacitus are unwholesome for authority. 
Tacitus applies his style to the shoulder of an emperor, 
and the brand remains. Tacitus always makes his 

1 The original reads : ' La Putiphar mOire du Joseph 
c'est ce qu'ou no recontre quo dans Rome.' Ta. 

48 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

thrust at the required spot, and leaves a deep scar. 
Juvenal, all-powerful poet, deals about him, scatters, 
makes a show, falls and rebounds, strikes right and 
left a hundred blows at a time, on laws, manners, 
corrupt magistrates, on bad verses, on libertines and 
the idle, on Ccesar, on the people, everywhere ; he 
is lavish, like hail ; his stroke* scatter, like those of 
the scourge. Tacitus has the incisiveness of red-hot 
iron. 

9. Another, John, is the virginal old man. All 
the ardent juices of man seem subtilized within him, 
filling his brain with visionary wraiths. One does 
not escape love. Love, *unappeased and discon 
tented, changes itself at the end of life into an outflow 
of gloomy fancies. The woman wants man ; other 
wise man, instead of human poetry, will have a phantom 
poetry. Some beings, however, resist the universal 
generative tendency, and then they are in that peculiar 
state in which men are subject to monstrous inspira 
tions. The Apocalypse is the almost insane master 
piece of this dreadful chastity. John, while young, 
was gentle and shy. Having loved Jesus, he could 
love nothing else. There is a profound resemblance 
between the Song of Songs and the Apocalypse ; 
they are both explosions of pent-up virginity. The 
heart, mighty volcano, bursts into eruption ; there 
proceeds from it this dove, the Song of Songs, or 
this dragon, the Apocalypse. These two poems are 
the two poles of ecstasy, voluptuousness and horror ; 
the two extreme limits of the soul are attained. In 
the first poem ecstasy exhausts love, in the second, 
terror ; and this ecstasy inspires in mankind, hence 
forth for ever disquieted, the dread of the eternal 
precipice. Another resemblance, not less worthy of 
attention, there is between John and Daniel. The 
nearly invisible thread of affinity is carefully followed 
by the eye of those who see in the prophetic spirit a 
human and normal phenomenon, and who, far from 
disdaining the question of miracles, generalize it, 

MEN OF GENIUS 49 

and calmly connect it with permanent laws. Religions 
lose, and science gains by the process. It has not 
been sufficiently remarked that the seventh chapter 
of Daniel contains the germ of the Apocalypse. Em 
pires are there represented as beasts. Legend has 
therefore associated the two poets, making the one 
pass through the lions' den, and the other through 
the caldron of boiling oil. Independently of the 
legend, the life of John is noble, an exemplary life, 
subject to marvellous expansions, passing from Gol 
gotha to Patmos, and from the execution of the Messiah 
to the exile of the prophet. John, after having been 
present at the sufferings of Christ, ends by suffering 
on his own account. The suffering seen makes him 
an apostle, the suffering endured makes him a 
sage ; from the growth of the trial results the growth 
of the spirit. Bishop, he writes the Gospel ; pro 
scribed, he composes the Apocalypse, a tragic work, 
written under the dictation of an eagle, the poet 
having above his head we know not what mournful 
flapping of wings. The whole Bible is between two 
dreamers, Moses and John. This poem of poems 
emerges from chaos in Genesis, and pnsses out of 
view amid the thunders of the Apocalypse. John 
was one of the great wanderers of the tongue of fire. 
During the Last Supper his head was on the breast 
of Jesus, and he could say, * Mine ear has heard the 
beating of God's heart '. He went about to relate 
it to men. He spoke a barbarous Greek, mingled 
with Hebrew expressions and Syrian words, a lan 
guage of a wild, harsh charm. He went to Ephesus, 
he went to Media, he went among the Parthians. He 
dared to enter Ctesiphon, a town of the Parthians, 
built as a counterpoise to Babylon. He faced the 
living idol, Cobaris, king, god, and man, for ever 
immovable on his pierced block of nephritic jade, 
which serves him as throne and latrine. He evan 
gelized Persia, which the Scriptures call Paras. When 
he appeared at the Council of Jerusalem, he was 

50 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

regarded as a pillar of the Church. He looked with 
stupefaction at Cerinthus and Ebion, who said that 
Jesus was but a man. When they questioned him 
upon the mystery, he answered, ' Love one another '. 
He died at the age of ninety-four years, under Trajan. 
According to tradition, he is not dead ; he is spared, 
and John is ever living at Patmos, as Barbarossa at 
Kaiserslautern *. Caverns there are in which these 
mysterious mortals are waiting. John as an historian 
has his equals, Matthew, Luke, Mark ; as a visionary 
he is alone. There is no dream that approaches his, 
such a reach it has into the infinite. His metaphors 
issue from eternity, perturbed ; his poetry has a 
profound smile of madness. A light reflected from 
the Most High is in the eye of this man ; it is the 
sublime in full aberration. Men do not understand 
it scorn it, and laugh. * My dear Thiriot ', says 
Voltaire ' the Apocalypse is a piece of ordure '. Re 
ligions, being in want of this book, have taken to 
worshipping it ; but it had to be placed upon the 
altar in order to save it from the ditch. What does 
it matter ? John is a spirit. It is in John of Patmos, 
1 above all others, that the communication between 
certain men of genius and the abyss is apparent. In 
all other poets we guess this communication ; in 
John we see it, at moments we touch it, and seem 
to lay a shuddering hand upon that sombre portal. 
It is the door that leads toward God. In reading the 
poem of Patmos, some one seems to push you from 
behind ; the dread entrance, vaguely outlined, arouses 
mingled terror and longing. Were this all of John, he 
would still be colossal. 

10. Another, Paul, a saint for the Church, a great 
man for humanity, represents that miracle, at once 
divine and human, conversion. It is he to whom the 
future has appeared. It leaves him haggard ; and 
nothing can be more superb than this face, for ever 

i On Kyffhauser, the German legends say. Ta. 

MEX OF GENIUS 51 

wondering, of the man conquered by the light. Paul, 
born a Pharisee, had been a weaver of camel's-hair 
for tents, and servant of one of the judges of Jesus 
Christ, Gamaliel ; then the Scribes, perceiving his 
fierce spirit, had educated him. He was a man of 
the past, he had guarded the clothes of the stone- 
throwers ; he aspired, having studied with the priests, 
to become an executioner ; he was on the road for 
this. All at once a wave of light emanates from the 
darkness and throws him down from his horse ; and 
henceforth there will be in the history of the human 
race that wonderful thing, the road to Damascus. 
That day of the metamorphosis of Saint Paul is a 
great day, keep the date ; it corresponds to the 
25th of January in our Gregorian calendar. The 
road to Damascus is essential to the march of Pro 
gress. To fall into the truth and to rise a just man, 
a transfiguring fall, that is sublime. It is the history 
of Saint Paul ; from his day it will be the history of 
humanity. The flash of light is something beyond 
the flash of lightning. Progress will be carried forward 
by a series of dazzling visions. As for Saint Paul, 
who has been thrown down by the force of new con 
viction, this harsh stroke from on high reveals to him 
his genius. Once more upon his feet, he goes forward ; 
he will not pause again. * Forward ! ' is his cry. 
He is a cosmopolite. He loves the outsiders, whom 
Paganism calls Barbarians, and Christianity calls 
Gentiles ; he devotes himself to them. He is the 
apostle of the outer world. He writes to the nations 
epistles in behalf of God. Listen to him speaking 
to the Galatians : * O foolish Galatians ! how can ye 
go back to the yokes to which ye were tied ? There 
are no longer either Jews, or Greeks, or slaves. Do 
not perform your grand ceremonies ordained by your 
laws. I declare unto you that all that is nothing. 
Love one another. It is all-important that man 
become a new creature. Ye are called to liberty '. 
On Mars Hill at Athens there were steps hewn in rock, 

62 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

which may be seen to this day. Upon these steps 
sat the great judges before whom Orestes had appeared. 
There Socrates had been judged. Paul went there ; 
and there, at night (the Areopagus sat only at night), 
he said to those austere men, ' I come to declare unto 
you the unknown God '. The epistles of Paul to the 
Gentiles are simple and profound, with the subtlety 
so marked in its influence over savages. There are 
in these messages gleams of hallucination ; Paul 
speaks of the celestial beings as if he distinctly saw 
them. Divided, like John, between life and eternity, 
it seems as though he had a part of his thought on 
the earth, and a part in the Unknown ; and it would 
seem, at moments, that one of his verses answers to 
another from beyond the dark wall of the tomb. This 
half-possession of death gives him a personal certainty 
often wholly apart from dogma, and stamps his indi 
vidual convictions with an emphasis which makes 
him almost heretical. His humility, resting upon 
the mystery, is lofty. Peter says : ' The words of 
Paul may be taken in a bad sense '. Hilarius Dia- 
conus and the Luciferians ascribe their schism to the 
epistles of Paul. Paul is at heart so anti-monarchical 
that King James I, very much encouraged by the 
orthodox University of Oxford, caused the Epistle 
to the Romans to be burned by the hand of the com 
mon hangman. It is true it was accompanied with 
a commentary by David Pareus. Many of Paul's 
works are rejected by the Church : they are the finest ; 
and among them his Epistle to the Laodiceans, arid 
above all his Apocalypse, cancelled by the Council 
of Rome under Gelasius. It would be curious to 
compare it with the Apocalypse of John. Over the 
opening that Paul had made to heaven the Church 
wrote, ' No thoroughfare ! ' He is a saint none the 
less ; that is his official consolation. Paul has the 
restlessness of the thinker ; text and formulary are 
little for him ; the letter does not suffice : the letter 
is mere body. Like all men of progress, he speaks 

MEN OF GENIUS 53 

with reserve of the written law ; he prefers grace to 
the law, just as we prefer to it justice. What is grace ? 
It is the inspiration from on high ; it is the breath, 
flat ubi vult ; it is liberty. Grace is the spirit of the 
law. This discovery of the spirit of the law belongs 
to Saint Paul ; and what he calls * grace ' from a 
heavenly point of view, we, from an earthly point of 
view, call ' right '. Such is Paul. The enlargement 
of a mind by the in-breaking of light, the beauty of 
the seizure of a soul by the truth, shine forth in his 
person. Herein, we insist, lies the virtue of the 
journey to Damascus. Whoever, henceforward, shall 
desire such growth as this, must follow the pointing 
finger of Saint Paul. All those to whom justice shall 
reveal itself, every blindness desirous of the day, all 
the cataracts looking to be healed, all searchers after 
conviction, all the great adventurers after virtue, all 
servants of the good in quest of the true, must follow 
this road. The light that they find there shall change 
nature, for the light is always relative to darkness ; 
it shall increase in intensity ; after having been reve 
lation, it shall be rationalism : but it shall ever be 
the light. Voltaire, like Saint Paul, is on the road to 
Damascus. The road to Damascus shall be forever 
the route of great minds. It shall also be the route 
of nations. For nations, those vast individualisms, 
have, like each of us, their crisis and their hour ; 
Paul, after his august fall, arose again, armed against 
ancient errors with the flashing blade of Christianity ; 
and two thousand years after, France also, struck to 
earth by the light, arouses herself, holding in hand 
the flaming sword of Revolution. 

11. Another, Dante, has constructed within his 
own mind the bottomless pit. He has made the epic 
of the spectres. He rends the earth ; in the terrible 
hole he has made, he puts Satan. Then ho pushes 
the world through Purgatory up to Heaven. Where 
all else ends, Dante begins. Dante is beyond man ; 
beyond, not without, a singular proposition, which, 

54 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

however, has nothing contradictory in it, the soul 
being a prolongation of man into the indefinite. Dante 
twists all light and all shadow into a monstrous spiral ; 
it descends, then it ascends. Unexampled architec 
ture ! At the threshold is the sacred mist ; across 
the entrance is stretched the corpse of Hope ; all that 
you perceive beyond is night. Somewhere in the 
darkness is heard the sobbing of the infinite anguish. 
You lean over this gulf-poem is it a crater ? You 
hear detonations ; the verse shoots out, narrow and 
livid, as from the sulphurous fissures of a volcanic 
region ; what seems vapour takes on a spectral form, 
the ghastly shape speaks ; and then you know that 
the volcano you have glimpsed, is Hell. This is no 
longer the human environment ; you are in the un 
known abyss. In this poem the imponderable submits 
to the laws of the ponderable with which it is mingled, 
as, in the sudden crash of a building on fire, the smoke, 
carried down by the ruins, falls and rolls with them, 
and seems caught under the timber and the stones. 
Hence strange effects ; ideas seem to suffer and to be 
punished in men. The idea, sufficiently human to 
suffer expiation, is the phantom, a form of the shadow, 
impalpable, but not invisible, an appearance in which 
there remains sufficient reality in order that chastise 
ment may have a hold upon it ; sin in the abstract 
state, but preserving the human countenance. It 
is not only the wicked who grieves in this apocalypse, 
it is evil itself ; there all possible bad actions are in 
despair. This spiritualization of penalty gives to 
the poem a powerful moral bearing. The depth of 
Hell once sounded, Dante pierces it, and reascends 
upon the other side of the infinite. In rising, he 
becomes idealized, and thought drops the body as a 
robe. From Virgil he passes to Beatrice : his guide 
to Hell is the poet ; his guide to Heaven is poetry. 
The epic swells into grander proportions as it con 
tinues ; but man no longer comprehends it. Purga 
tory and Paradise are not less extraordinary than 

MEN OF GENIUS 55 

Gehenna ; but as we ascend we lose our interest. We 
were somewhat at home in Hell, but are no longer 
BO in Heaven. We cannot recognize our fellows in 
the angels : perhaps the human eye is not made for 
such excess of light ; and when the poem becomes 
happy, it becomes tedious. Such is ever the story 
of the happy. It is well to marry the lovers or to impa- 
radise the souls ; but seek the drama elsewhere than 
there. After all, what matters it to Dante if you no 
longer follow him ? He goes on without you. He 
stalks alone, this lion. His work is a miracle. What 
a philosopher is this visionary ! what a sage is this 
madman ! Dante lays down the law for Mon 
tesquieu ; the penal divisions of L' Esprit des Lois are 
copied from the classifications in the Hell of the Divina 
Commedia. What Juvenal does for the Rome of the 
Caesars, Dante does for the Rome of the Popes ; but 
Dante is a more terrible judge than Juvenal. Juvenal 
whips with cutting thongs ; Dante scourges with flames. 
Juvenal condemns ; Dante damns. Woe to the living 
man on whom this traveller fixes the inscrutable 
glare of his eyes ! 

12. Another, Rabelais, is the son of Gaul. And 
who says Gaul, says also Greece, for the Attic salt 
and the Gallic jest have at bottom the same flavour ; 
and if anything, buildings apart, resembles the Piraeus, 
it is La Rapee J . Here is a greater than Aristophanes, 
for Aristophanes is bad. Rabelais is good, Rabelais 
would have defended Socrates. In the order of lofty 
genius, Rabelais chronologically follows Dante ; after 
the stern face, the sneering visage. Rabelais is the 
formidable mask of ancient comedy detached from 
the Greek proscenium, from bronze made flesh, hence 
forth a human living face, remaining enormous, and 
coming among us to laugh at us and with us. Dante 
and Rabelais spring from the school of the Franciscan 
friars, as, later, Voltaire springs from the Jesuits ; 

1 La Rapee Bercy is an eastern suburb of Paris, on the 
Seine. It gives its name to a station on the belt railroad. TB. 

56 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Dante the incarnate sorrow, Rabelais parody, Voltaire 
irony, these issue from the Church against the 
Church. Every genius has his invention or his dis 
covery ; Rabelais has made his, the belly. The 
serpent is in man, it is the intestine. It tempts, 
betrays, and punishes. Man, single being as a spirit, 
and complex as man, has within himself for his earthly 
mission three centres, the brain, the heart, the 
belly ; each of these centres is august by one great 
function which is peculiar to it : the brain has thought, 
the heart has love, the belly has paternity and maternity. 
The belly may be tragic. ' Feri ventrem ', says 
Agrippina. Catherine Sforza, threatened with the 
death of her children, who were hostages, exhibits 
herself naked to the navel on the battlements of the 
citadel of Rimini, and says to the enemy, * With this 
I can bring forth others '. In one of the epic convul 
sions of Paris, a woman of the people, standing on a 
barricade, raised her petticoat, showed the soldiery 
her naked belly, and cried, * Kill your mothers ! ' 
The soldiers riddled that belly with bullets. The 
belly has its heroism ; but it is from it that flow, in 
life, corruption, in art, comedy. The breast, where 
the heart rests, has for its summit the head ; the belly 
has the phallus. The belly, being the centre of matter, 
is our gratification and our danger ; it contains appetite 
satiety, and putrefaction. The devotion, the tender 
ness, which seize us there, are liable to death ; egoism 
replaces them. Easily do the affections become 
lusts. That the hymn can be used in the service of 
Bacchus, the strophe deformed into a tippler's catch, 
is sad. This is the work of the beast which is in man. 
The belly is essentially this beast ; degradation seems 
to be its law. The ladder of sensual poetry has for 
its topmost round the Song of Songs, and for its lowest 
the jingling ballad. The belly god is Silenus ; the 
belly emperor is Vitellius ; the belly animal is the 
pig. One of those horrid Ptolemies was called the 
Belly (Physcon). The belly is to humanity a formid- 

MEN OF GENIUS 57 

able weight ; it breaks at every moment the equili 
brium between the soul and the body. It fills history ; 
it is responsible for nearly all crimes ; it is the matrix 
of all vices. It is the belly that by voluptuousness 
makes the sultan, and by drunkenness the czar ; 
this it is that shows Tarquin to the bed of Lucrece ; 
this it is that makes the Senate which had awaited 
Brennus and dazzled Jugurtha, end by deliberating 
on the sauce of a turbot. It is the belly which counsels 
the ruined libertine, Caesar, the passage of the Rubicon. 
To pass the Rubicon, how well that pays your debts ! 
To pass the Rubicon, how readily that throws women 
into your arms ! What good dinners afterward ! 
And the Roman soldiers enter Rome with the cry, 
* Urbani, claudite uxores ; moechum calvum addu- 
cimus '. The appetite debauches the intellect. Vo 
luptuousness replaces will. At starting, as is always 
the case, there is some nobleness : this is the stage 
of the revel. There is a distinction between being 
fuddled and being dead drunk. Then the revel 
degenerates into guzzling. Where there was a Solo 
mon there is Ramponneau. Man becomes a barrel ; 
thought is drowned in an inner deluge of cloudy notions ; 
conscience, submerged, cannot warn the drunken 
soul. Brutalization is consummated ; it is not even 
any longer cynical, it is empty and sottish. Diogenes 
disappears ; there remains but the tub. Beginning 
with Alcibiades, we end with Trimalchio, and the 
thing is complete ; nothing is left, neither dignity, 
nor shame, nor honour, nor virtue, nor wit, crude 
animal gratification, thorough impurity. Thought 
is dissolved in satiety ; carnal gorging absorbs every 
thing ; nothing survives of the grand sovereign crea 
ture inhabited by the soul ; the belly (pass the expres 
sion) eats the man. Such is the final state of all 
societies where the ideal is eclipsed. This passes 
for prosperity, and gets the name of growth. Some 
times even philosophers heedlessly further this degra 
dation by inserting in their doctrines the materialism 

58 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

which is in men's consciences. This sinking of man 
to the level of the human beast is a great calamity. 
Its first-fruit is the turpitude visible at the summit 
of all professions : the venal judge, the simoniacal 
priest, the hireling soldier ; laws, manners, and beliefs 
are a dung-heap, totus homo fit excrementum. 

In the sixteenth century, all the institutions of 
the past are in that state. Eabelais gets hold of 
the situation ; he verifies it ; he authenticates that 
belly which is the world. Civilization is, then, but 
a mass, science is matter, religion is blessed with hams, 
feudality digests, royalty is obese. What is Henry 
VIII ? A paunch. Rome is a squab-pampered old 
dame : is it health ? is it sickness ? It is perhaps 
obesity, perhaps dropsy. Rabelais, doctor and priest, 
feels the pulse of the Papacy ; he shakes his head, 
and bursts out laughing. Is it because he has found 
life ? No, it is because he has felt death ; the Papacy 
is, in reality, breathing its last. While Luther reforms, 
Rabelais jests. Which best attains his end ? Rabelais 
ridicules the monk, the bishop, the Pope ; laughter 
and death-rattle together ; fool's bell sounding the 
tocsin ! But Ipok ! I thought it was a feast it is 
a death-agony ; one may be deceived in the nature 
of the hiccough. Let us laugh all the same : death 
is at the table ; the last drop toasts the last sigh. 
A death-agony in the merry mood, it is superb ! 
The large intestine is king ; all that old world feasts 
and bursts ; and Rabelais enthrones a dynasty of 
bellies, Grangousier, Pantagruel, and Gargantua. 
Rabelais is the ^Eschylus of victuals ; and this is grand 
when we think that eating is devouring. There is 
something of the gulf in the glutton. Eat, then, my 
masters, and drink, and come to the finale. To live, 
is a song, of which death is the refrain. Beneath 
the depraved human race others may dig dreadful 
dungeons ; but in the direction of the subterranean, 
Rabelais takes you no farther than the wine-cellar. 
This universe, which Dante put into Hell, Rabelais 

MEN OF GENIUS 69 

confines in a wine-cask ; his book is nothing else. 
The seven circles of Alighieri bound and encompass 
this extraordinary tun. Look within the monstrous 
cask, and there you see them again. In Rabelais they 
are entitled Idleness, Pride, Envy, Avarice, Wrath, 
Lechery, Gluttony ; and it is thus that you suddenly 
meet again the formidable jester. Where ? In 
church. The seven deadly sins form the text of this 
parson's sermon. Rabelais is a priest. Castigation, 
properly understood, begins at home, it is therefore 
at the clergy that he strikes first. That is what it is 
to be at home ! The Papacy dies of indigestion. 
Rabelais plays the Papacy a trick, the trick of a 
Titan. The Pantagruelian merriment is not less 
grandiose than the mirth of a Jupiter. Cheek by jowl : 
the monarchical and priestly jowl eats ; the Rabelaisian 
cheek laughs. Whoever has read Rabelais has for ever 
before his eyes this stern confrontment : the mask 
of comedy fixing its stare upon the mask of theocracy. 
13. Another, Cervantes, is also a form of epic 
mockery ; for as the writer of these lines said in 1827 J , 
there are between the Middle Ages and modern times, 
after the feudal barbarism, and placed there as it were 
to make an end of it, two comic Homers, Rabelais 
and Cervantes. To epitomize the horrible in a jest 
is not the least terrible manner of doing it. This is 
what Rabelais did ; it is what Cervantes did : but 
the raillery of Cervantes has nothing of the broad 
Rabelaisian grin. It is the fine humour of the noble 
after the joviality of the parson. Gentlemen, I am 
the Seignior Don Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra, 
poet-soldier, and, as a proof, one-armed. No coarse 
jesting in Cervantes ; scarcely a flavour of elegant 
cynicism. The satirist is fine, acute, polished, delicate, 
almost gallant, and would even run the risk sometimes 
of diminishing his power, with all his affected ways, 
if he had not the deep poetic spirit of the Renascence. 
That saves his charming grace from becoming prettiness. 
1 Preface to Cromwell. 

60 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Like Jean Gotijon, like Jean Cousin, like Germain 
Pilon, like Primatice, Cervantes is not devoid of 
illusion. Thence come all the unexpected marvels 
of his imagination. Add to that a wonderful intuition 
of the inmost processes of the mind and a multiform 
philosophy which seems to possess a new and complete 
chart of the human heart. Cervantes sees the inner 
man. His philosophy blends with the comic and 
romantic instinct. Hence the unexpected, breaking 
out at every moment in his characters, in his action, 
in his style ; the unforeseen, magnificent adventure. 
Personages remaining true to themselves, but facts 
and ideas whirling around them, with a perpetual 
renewing of the original idea and a steady current 
of that wind which brings the lightning-flash : such 
is the law of great works. Cervantes is militant ; 
he has a thesis, he makes a social book. Such poets 
are the champions of the intelligence. Where have 
they learned fighting ? On the battle-field itself. 
Juvenal was a military tribune ; Cervantes comes 
home from Lepanto, as Dante from Campalbino, as 
yEschylus from Salamis. Afterward, they pass to 
a new trial : JSschylus goes into exile, Juvenal into 
exile, Dante into exile, Cervantes into prison. This 
is just, since they have done you a service. Cervantes, 
as poet, has the three sovereign gifts, creation, which 
produces types and clothes ideas with flesh and bone ; 
invention, which hurls passions against events, kindles 
in man a flame that outshines the star of destiny, and 
brings forth the drama ; imagination, sun of the brain, 
which throws light everywhere, giving to its figures 
the high-relief of life. Observation, which comes by 
acquisition, and is, therefore, not so much a gift as 
an accomplishment, is included in creation ; were 
the miser not observed, Harpagon would not be 
created. In Cervantes, a new-comer, glimpsed in 
Rabelais, puts in a decided appearance. You have 
caught sight of him in Panurge, you see him plainly 
in Sancho Panza. He comes like the Silenus of 

MEN OF GENIUS 61 

Plautus, and he may also say, ' I am the god mounted 
on an ass.' Wisdom in the beginning, reason by and 
by : such is the strange history of the human mind. 
What more replete with wisdom than all the religions ? 
What less reasonable ? Morals true, dogmas false. 
Wisdom exists in Homer and in Job ; reason, such 
as it must needs be to overcome prejudices, that is 
to say, complete and armed cap-a-pie, will come in 
only with Voltaire. Common-sense is not wisdom, 
neither is it reason ; it is a little of one and a little 
of the other, with a dash of egoism. Cervantes makes 
it bestride ignorance, and, at the same time, com 
pleting his profound satire, he mounts heroism upon 
fatigue. Thus he shows one after the other, one 
with the other, the two profiles of man, and parodies 
them, without more pity for the sublime than for the 
grotesque ; the hippogriff becomes Rosinante. Behind 
the equestrian personage, Cervantes creates and sets 
in motion the asinine personage. Enthusiasm takes 
the field, Irony locks step with it. The wonderful 
feats of Don Quixote, his riding and spurring, his big 
lance steady in the rest, are judged by the ass, a 
connoisseur in windmills. The invention of Cervantes 
is so masterly that there is, between the human type 
and the quadruped complement, statuary adhesion ; 
the babbler, like the adventurer, is part of the beast 
that is proper to him, and you can no more dismount 
Sancho Panza than Don Quixote. The Ideal is in 
Cervantes as in Dante ; but it is called the Impossible, 
and is scoffed at. Beatrice is become Dulcinea. To 
rail at the ideal would be the failing of Cervantes ; 
but this failing is only apparent. Look well, the smile 
has a tear ; in reality, Cervantes sides with Don 
Quixote, as Moliere sides with Alceste. One must 
learn how to read, especially in the books of the six 
teenth century ; there is in almost all, on account of 
the threats hanging over freedom of thought, a secret 
that must be unlocked, and whose key is often lost. 
Rabelais has his reserves, Cervantes has an aside. 

62 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Machiavolli wears a mask, more than one, perhaps. 
At all events, the advent of common-sense is the great 
fact in Cervantes. Common-sense is not a virtue ; 
it is the eye of self-interest. It would have encouraged 
Themistocles and dissuaded Aristides ; Leonidas has 
no common-sense, Regulus has no common-sense : but 
in face of selfish and ferocious monarchies dragging 
their unhappy peoples into their own private wars, 
decimating families, making mothers desolate, and 
driving men to kill each other with all those fine 
words, military honour warlike glory, obedience 
to orders, etc., etc this Common-Sense is an admir 
able personage, arising suddenly, and crying out to 
the human race, ' Take care of your skin ! * 

14. Another, Shakespeare : what is he ? You 
might almost answer, He is the earth. Lucretius 
is the sphere, Shakespeare is the globe. There is 
more and less in the globe than in the sphere. In 
the sphere there is the All ; on the globe there is man. 
Here the outer, there the inner mystery. Lucretius 
is being, Shakespeare is existence. Hence the shadow 
that is in Lucretius ; hence the teeming life in Shake 
speare. Space * the blue ', as the Germans say 
is certainly not denied to Shakespeare. The earth 
sees and traverses the heavens ; the earth knows them 
under their two aspects, darkness and azure, doubt 
and hope. Life comes and goes in death. All life 
is a secret, a sort of enigmatical parenthesis between 
birth and the death-throe, between the opening and 
the closing eye. The possession of this secret renders 
Shakespeare restless. Lucretius is ; Shakespeare 
lives. In Shakespeare the birds sing, the bushes are 
clothed with green, hearts love, souls suffer, the cloud 
wanders, it is hot, it is cold, night falls, time passes, 
forests and multitudes speak, the vast eternal dream 
hovers over all. Sap and blood, all forms of the mul 
tiple reality, actions and ideas, man and humanity, 
the living and the life, solitudes, cities, religions, 
diamonds and pearls, dung-hills and charnel-houses, 

MEN OF GENIUS 03 

tli" obb and flow of beings, the steps of comers and 
goers, all, all are on Shakespeare and in Shakespeare ; 
and, this genius being the earth, the dead emerge from 
it. Certain sinister sides of Shakespeare are haunted 
by spectres. Shakespeare is a brother of Dante : 
the one completes the other. Dante incarnates all 
supernaturalism, Shakespeare all Nature ; and as 
these two regions, Nature and the supernatural, 
which appear to us so different, are really the same 
unity, Dante and Shakespeare, however dissimilar, have 
conterminous boundaries and domains in common : 
there is something of the human in Alighieri, something 
of the spectre in Shakespeare. The skull passes from 
the hands of Dante into the hands of Shakespeare. 
Ugolino gnaws it, Hamlet questions it ; and it exhibit* 
perhaps even a deeper meaning and a loftier teaching 
in the second than in the first. Shakespeare shakes it 
and makes stars fall from it. The isle of Prospero, 
the forest of Ardennes, the heath of Harmuir, the 
platform of Elsinore, are illuminated, no less than the 
seven circles of Dante's spiral, by the sombre, reflected 
light of hypothesis. Doubt, half chimera and half 
truth, is outlined there as well as here. Shakespeare, 
as well as Dante, gives us glimpses of the dim horizon 
of conjecture. In the one as in the other there is the 
possible, that window of the dream opening upon 
reality. As for the real, we insist, Shakespeare over 
flows with it ; everywhere the quick flesh. Shake 
speare has emotion, instinct, the true voice, the right 
tone, the whole human multitude with its clamour: Hia 
poetry is himself, and at the same time it is you. Lake 
Homer, Shakespeare is elemental. Men of genius, 
renewers, that is the name for them, arise at all the 
decisive crises of humanity ; they epitomize epochs, 
and complete revolutions. In civilization, Homer 
indicates the end of Asia and the beginning of Europe ; 
Shakespeare the end of the Middle Ages. Rabelais 
and Cervantes also mark the close of the Middle Ages ; 
but, being essentially satirists, they give but a partial 

64 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

view. Shakespeare's mind is a total ; like Homer, 
Shakespeare is a cyclic man. These two intelligences, 
Homer and Shakespeare, close the two gates of Bar 
barism, the ancient gate, and the Gothic. That 
was their mission they have fulfilled it ; that was 
their task they have accomplished it. The third 
great human crisis is the French Revolution ; the 
third huge gate of barbarism, the monarchical gate, 
is closing at this moment. The nineteenth century 
hears it rolling on its hinges. Thence for poetry, 
for the drama, and for art, arises the present era, equally 
independent of Shakespeare and of Homer. 

CHAPTER III 

HOMER, Job, JSschylus, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Lucretius, 
Juvenal, Saint John, Saint Paul, Tacitus, Dante, 
Rabelais, Cervantes, Shakespeare, that is the avenue 
cf the immovable giants of the human mind. 

Men of genius form a dynasty : indeed, there is 
no other. They wear all the crowns, even that of 
thorns. Each of them represents the sum-total of 
absolute truth realizable to man. 

We repeat it : to choose between these men, to 
prefer one to the other, to point with the finger to 
the first among these first, is impossible. All are the 
Mind. Perhaps, by the strictest measurements, 
and yet every objection would be legitimate, one 
might mark out as the highest among these summits, 
Homer, ^Eschylus, Job, Isaiah, Dante, and Shakespeare. 

It is understood that we speak here only from the 
artistic standpoint ; to be still more specific, from the 
standpoint of literary art. 

Two men in this group, ^Eschylus and Shakespeare, 
represent especially the drama. 

/Eschylus, a kind of genius out of his time, worthy 
to mark either a beginning or an end in humanity, 
appears not to be placed in his right turn in the series, 
and, as we have said, seems an elder brother of Homer. 

MEN OF GENIUS 05 

If we remember that ^Eschylus is nearly submerged 
by the darkness rising over human memory ; if we 
remember that ninety of his plays have disappeared, 
that of that sublime hundred there remain no more than 
seven dramas, which are also seven odes, we are 
astounded by what we see of this genius, and almost 
terrified by what we do not see. 

What, then, was ^Eschylus ? What proportions 
and what forms had he in all this shadow ? ^Eschylus 
is up to his shoulders in the ashes of ages ; his head 
alone rises above that burial, and, like the colossus 
of the desert, with his head alone he is as tall as all 
the neighbouring gods, upright upon their pedestals. 

Man passes before the insubmergible wreck. Enough 
remains for an immense glory. What oblivion has 
swallowed, adds an unknown element to his grandeur. 
Buried and eternal, his brow projecting from the 
sepulchre, ^Eschylus looks forth upon the generations 
of men. 

CHAPTER IV 

To the eyes of the thinker, these men of genius occupy 
thrones in the ideal kingdom. To the individual 
works that these men have left us must be added 
various vast collective works, the Vedas, the Rama- 
yana, the Mahabharata, the Edda, the Nibelungen, 
the Heldenbuch, the Romancero. 

Some of these works are revealed and sacred. They 
bear the marks of unknown collaboration. The 
poems of India, in particular, have the ominous fulness 
of the possible, as imagined by insanity or related 
in the vision. These works seem to have been com 
posed in common with beings to whom our world is no 
longer accustomed. Legendary horror covers these 
epics. * These books were not composed by man 
alone ', says the inscription of Ash-Nagar. Djinns 
have alighted upon them, polypteral magi have mused 
over them ; the texts have been interlined by invisible 

F 

66 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

hands, the demi-gods have been aided by demi-demons 
the elephant, which India calls the Sage, has been 
consulted. Thence comes a majesty almost horrible. 
The great enigmas are in these poems : they are full 
of mysterious Asia. Their prominent parts have the 
supernatural and hideous outline of chaos. They 
form a mass above the horizon, like the Himalayas. 
The distance of the manners, beliefs, ideas, actions, 
persons, is extraordinary. One reads these poems 
with that wondering droop of the head induced by 
the profound distance between the book and the reader. 
This Holy Writ of Asia has evidently been still more 
difficult to reduce and to co-ordinate than our own. 
It is in every part refractory to unity. In vain have 
the Brahmins, like our priests, erased and interpolated : 
Zoroaster is there ; Ized Serosch is there. The Eschem 
of the Mazdsean traditions is discernible under the 
name of Siva ; Manicheism is apparent between 
Brahma and Booddha. All kinds of traces blend, cross 
and re-cross each other in these poems. One per 
ceives in them the mysterious footprints of a race of 
intelligences who have worked at them in the darkness 
of the centuries. Here is the enormous toe of the giant ; 
there, the claw of the chimera. These poems are the 
pyramid of a vanished colony of ants. 

The Nibelungen, another pyramid of another 
multitudinous race, has the same greatness. What 
the divinities did in Asia, the elves have done here. 
These powerful epic legends, the testaments of ages, 
tattooings stamped by races on history, have no other 
unity than the unity of the people itself. The collective 
and the successive, combining together, are one. 
Turba fit mens. These recitals are clouds, laced by 
wonderful flashes of light. As to the Romancero, 
which creates the Cid after Achilles, and the chivalric 
after the heroic, it is the Iliad of several lost Homers. 
Count Julian, King Roderigo, Cava, Bernardo del 
Carpio, the bastard Mudarra, Nuno Salido, the Seven 
Infantes of Lara, the Constable Alvar de Luna, no 

MEN OF GENIUS 67 

Oriental or Hellenic type surpasses these figures. 
The horse of Campeador is equal to the dog of Ulysses, 
Between Priam and Lear you must place Don Arias, 
the old man of Zamora's tower, sacrificing his seven 
sons to his duty, and tearing them from his heart 
one by one. There is grandeur in that. In pres 
ence of these sublimities the reader suffers a sort of 
sun-stroke. 

These works are anonymous ; and, owing to the 
great reason of the Jiomo sum, while admiring them, 
while assigning them a place at the summit of art, 
we prefer the acknowledged works. With equal beauty, 
the Ramayana touches us less than Shakespeare. 
The ego of a man is more vast and profound even than 
the ego of a people. 

However, these composite myriologues, the great 
testaments of India particularly, expanses of poetry 
rather than poems, an expression, at once sidereal 
and bestial, of vanished races, derive from their very 
deformity an indescribable supernatural air. The 
multiple ego expressed by those myriologues makes 
them the polypi of poetry, vague and wonderful 
monstrosities. The strange seams of the antediluvian 
rough outline are visible there, as in the ichthyosaurus 
or the pterodactyl. One of these black, many-headed 
masterpieces throws upon the horizon of art the sil 
houette of a hydra. 

The Greek genius is not deceived by them, and 
abhors them ; Apollo would attack them. Beyond 
and above all these collective and anonymous pro 
ductions (the Romancero excepted), there are men 
to represent the peoples. These men we have just 
named. They give to nations and periods the human 
countenance. They are, in art, the incarnations of 
Greece, of Arabia, of Judaea, of Pagan Rome, of Chris 
tian Italy, of Spain, of France, of England. As for 
Germany, the matrix, like Asia, of races, hordes, and 
nations, she is represented in art by a sublime man, 
equal, although in a different category, to all those 

68 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

that we have characterized above. That man is 
Beethoven. Beethoven is the German soul. 

What a shadow is this Germany ! She is the India 
of the West. She contains everything ; there is no 
formation more colossal. In the sacred mist where 
the German spirit moves, Isidore of Seville places 
theology ; Albertus the Great, scholasticism ; Hra- 
banus Maurus, linguistics ; Trithemius, astrology ; 
Ottni, chivalry ; Reuchlin, vast curiosity ; Tutilo, 
universality ; Stadianus, method ; Luther, inquiry ; 
Albrecht Diirer, art ; Leibnitz, science ; Puffendorf, 
law ; Kant, philosophy ; Fichte, metaphysics ; Wink- 
elmann, archaeology ; Herder, aesthetics ; the Vossii, 
of whom one, Gerard John, was of the Palatinate, 
erudition ; Euler, the spirit of integration ; Humboldt, 
the spirit of discovery ; Niebuhr, history ; Gottfried 
of Strasburg, fable ; Hoffmann, dreams ; Hegel, 
doubt ; Ancillon, obedience ; Werner, fatalism ; 
Schiller, enthusiasm; Goethe, indifference; Arminius, 
liberty. 

Kepler lights this shadow with the stars. 

Gerard Groot, the founder of the Fratres Com- 
munis Vitas, makes in Germany a first attempt at 
fraternity, in the fourteenth century. Whatever 
may have been her infatuation for the indifference of 
Goethe, do not deem her impersonal ; she is a nation, 
and one of the most generous : for her, Riickert, 
the military poet, forges the Geharnischte Sonnelte 
(' Sonnets in Coat of Mail '), and she shudders when 
Korner hurls at her the Song of the Sword. She is 
the German fatherland, the great beloved land, Ten- 
tonia mater. Galgacus was to the Germans what 
Caractacus was to the Britons. 

Within herself and at home, Germany has every 
thing. She shares Charlemagne with France, and 
Shakespeare with England ; for the Saxon element 
is mingled with the British element. She has an 
Olympus, the Valhalla. She must needs have her 
own style of writing. Ulfilas, bishop of Mcesia, invents 

MEN OF GENIUS 69 

it for her, and the Gothic caligraphy will henceforth 
form a pendant to the Arabic. The capital letter of 
a missal rivals the fantastical signature of a caliph. 
Like China, Germany has invented printing. Her 
Burgraves (this remark has been already made l ) 
are to us what the Titans are to ^Eschylus. To the 
temple of Tanfana, destroyed by Germanicus, she 
caused the cathedral of Cologne to succeed. She is 
the ancestress of our history, the granddam of our 
legends. From all parts, from the Rhine and from 
the Danube, from the Rauhe Alp, from the ancient 
Sylva Gabresa, from Upper Lorraine and from Lower 
Lorraine, through the Wigalois and through the 
Wigamur, through Henry the Fowler, through Samo 
King of the Vends, through Rothe the chronicler of 
Thuringia, through Zwinger the chronicler of Alsace, 
through Gansbein the chronicler of Limburg, through 
all those ancient popular songsters, Hans Folz, Jean 
Viol, Muscatblut, through those rhapsodists the Minne 
singers, from all sources the tale, that form of dream, 
reaches her and enters into her genius. At the same 
time languages flow from her. From her fissures gush, 
to the North, the Danish and Swedish ; to the West, 
the Dutch and Flemish. The German passes the 
Channel and becomes the English. In the intellectual 
order, the German genius has other frontiers than 
Germany. A given people may resist Germany and 
yield to Germanism. The German spirit assimi 
lates to itself the Greeks by Miiller, the Servians 
by Gerhard, the Russians by Goetre, the Magyars 
by Mailath. When Kepler, in the presence of 
Rudolph II, was preparing the Rudolphine Tables, 
it was with the aid of Tycho Brahe 2 . German affi 
nities extend far. Without any alteration in the 
local and national autonomies, it is with the great 

i Preface to the Burgraves 1843. 

a The Rudolphine Tables, published in 1627, appear to 
have been prepared long after the death of Tycho, which 
occurred in 1(501. TK. 

70 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Germanic centre that the Scandinavian spirit in Oehlen- 
schlager and the Batavian spirit in Vondel are con 
nected. Poland unites herself to it, with all her 
glory, from Copernicus to Kosciusko, from Sobieski to 
Mickiewicz. Germany is the wellspring of nations. 
They pass out of her like rivers ; she receives them 
as a sea. 

The vast murmur of the Hercynian forest seems to 
be heard throughout Europe. The German nature, 
profound and subtle, distinct from the European nature 
but in harmony with it, volatilizes and floats above 
the nations. The German mind is misty, luminous, 
dispersed ; it is a kind of immense beclouded soul, 
with stars. Perhaps the highest expression of Ger 
many can be given only by music. Music, by its very 
want of precision, which in this case is a quality, goes 
wherever the German soul goes. 

If the German spirit had as much density as expan 
sion, that is to say, as much will as power, she 
could, at a given moment, lift up and save the human 
race. Such as she is, she is sublime. 

In poetry she has not said her last word. At this 
hour the indications are excellent. Since the jubilee 
of the noble Schiller, particularly, there has been an 
awakening, and a generous awakening. The great 
definitive poet of Germany will be necessarily a poet 
of humanity, of enthusiasm, of liberty. Perchance 
and some signs give token of it we may soon see him 
arise from the young group of contemporary German 
writers. 

Music (we beg indulgence for the figure) is the 
vapour of art. It is to poetry what reverie is to 
thought, what fluid is to liquid, what the ocean of 
clouds is to the ocean of waves. If another analogy 
is desired, it is the indefinite of this infinite. The 
same insufflation impels, sweeps away, transports, 
and overwhelms it, fills it with agitation and gleams 
and unutterable sounds, saturates it with electricity, 
and causes it to give forth sudden discharges of thunder. 

MEN OF GENIUS 71 

Music is the Word of Germany. The German 
people, so much curbed as a nation, so emancipated 
as thinkers, sing with a sombre delight. To sing, 
seems a deliverance from bondage. Music expresses 
that which cannot be said, and which cannot be sup 
pressed. Therefore is Germany all music, in antici 
pation of the time when she shall be all freedom. 
Luther's choral is a kind of Marseillaise. Everywhere 
are singing-clubs and choral circles. In the fields of 
Swabian Esslingen, on the banks of the Neckar, comes 
every year the Festival of Song. The ' Liedermusik ', 
of which Schubert's Elf-King is the masterpiece, 
makes a part of German life. Song is for Germany 
a breathing : it is by singing that she respires and 
conspires. The music -note being the syllable of a 
kind of undefined universal language, Germany's 
grand communication with the human race is made 
through harmony, an admirable prelude to unity. 
It is by the clouds that the rains which fertilize the 
earth ascend from the sea ; it is by music that ideas 
emanate from Germany to take possession of the 
minds of men. Therefore we may say that Ger 
many's greatest poets are her musicians, of which 
wonderful family Beethoven is the head. 

Homer is the great Pelasgian ; ^Eschylus, the great 
Hellene ; Isaiah, the great Hebrew ; Juvenal, the great 
Roman ; Dante, the great Italian ; Shakespeare, 
the great Englishman ; Beethoven, the great German. 

CHAPTER V 

THE dethroned 'Good Taste ', that other 'right 
divine ' which for so long a time weighed upon Art, 
and which had succeeded hi suppressing the beautiful 
for the benefit of the pretty, the ancient criticism, 
not altogether dead, like the ancient monarchy, find 
from their point of view the same fault, exaggeration, 
in those sovereign men of genius whom we have 

72 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

enumerated 1 . These men of genius are extravagant. 
This arises from the infinite element within them; 
they are, in fact, not circumscribed. They contain 
something unknown. Every reproach that is addressed 
to them might be addressed to the Sphinx. People 
reproach Homer for the carnage which fills his den, 
the Iliad ; ^Eschylus, for his monstrousness ; Job, 
Isaiah, Ezekiel, Saint Paul, for double meanings ; 
Rabelais, for obscene nudity and venomous ambiguity ; 
Cervantes, for insidious laughter ; Shakespeare, for 
his subtlety ; Lucretius, Juvenal, Tacitus, for obscur 
ity ; John of Patmos and Dante Alighieri, for dark- 

There are other minds, very great, but less great, 
who can be reproached with none of these faults. 
Hesiod, vEsop, Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, Thu- 
cydides, Anacreon, Theocritus, Titus Livius, Sallust, 
Cicero, Terence, Virgil, Horace, Petrarch, Tasso, 
Ariosto, La Fontaine, Beaumarchais, Voltaire, have 
neither exaggeration nor darkness, nor obscurity nor 
monstrousness. What, then, do they lack ? Some 
thing the others have ; that something is the Un 
known, the Infinite. 

If Corneille had that ' something ', he would be 
the equal of ^Eschylus. If Milton had that ' some 
thing ', he would be the equal of Homer. If Moliere 
had that ' something ', he would be the equal of 
Shakespeare. 

It is the misfortune of Corneille that he mutilated 
and contracted the old native tragedy in obedience 
to fixed rules. It is the misfortune of Milton that, 
through Puritan melancholy, he excluded from his 

1 To those unacquainted with the history of French 
literature during the thirties and forties of this century, 
this sentence may require explanation. Good taste (le bon 
gout) and the ancient criticism were the legitimate literary 
monarchs, against whose regime Victor Hugo's career was 
a continuous insurrection. If ' Bon Gout ' is an ex-king, 
Victor Hugo is his Cromwell or his Brutus. TB. 

MEN OF GENIUS 73 

work Nature, the great Pan. It is Moliere's failing 
that, in dread of Boileau, he quickly extinguishes the 
luminous style of the JZtourdi, that, for fear of the 
priests, she writes too few scenes like that of the poor 
man in Don Juan 1 . 

To give no occasion for attack, is a negative per- 
fection. It is fine to be open to attack. 

Indeed, penetrate the meaning of those words, 
placed as masks upon the mysterious qualities of 
genius, and under obscurity, subtlety, and darkness, 
you find depth ; under exaggeration, imagination ; 
under monstrousness, grandeur. 

Therefore in the upper region of poetry and thought 
there are Homer, Job, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Lucretius, 
Juvenal, Tacitus, John of Patmos, Paul of Damascus, 
Dante, Rabelais, Cervantes, Shakespeare. 

These supreme men of genius do not form a closed 
series. The author of ALL adds to it a name when 
the needs of progress require it. 

* The scene referred to is the second of the third act. TR. 

BOOK ill 

ART AND SCIENCE 

CHAPTER I 

MANY people in our day, especially stockbrokers, 
and often attorneys, say and repeat, ' Poetry is passing 
away '. It is almost as if they said : ' There are 
no more roses ; spring has breathed its last ; the sun 
has lost the habit of rising; you may roam all the 
fields of earth, and not find a butterfly ; there is no 
more moonlight, and the nightingale sings no more ; 
the lion's roar is no longer heard ; the eagle no longer 
soars ; the Alps and the Pyrenees have passed away ; 
there are no more lovely girls and handsome young 
men ; no one ever muses now over a grave ; the 
mother no longer loves her child ; heaven is quenched ; 
the human heart is dead '. 

Were it permitted us to mingle the fortuitous with 
the eternal, it would be rather the contrary which 
would prove true. Never have the faculties of the 
human mind, deepened and enriched by the mysteri 
ous ploughing of revolution, been profounder and 
loftier. 

And wait a little ; give time for the realization 
of that element of social well-being now impending, 
gratuitous and compulsory education. How long 
will it take ? A quarter of a century. Imagine the 
incalculable sum of intellectual development implied 
in this single expression : 4 Every one can read '. 
The multiplication of readers is the multiplication of 
loaves. On the day when Christ created that symbol, 
he caught a glimpse of printing. His miracle is this 
marvel. Here is a book : with it I will feed five 

74 

ART AND SCIENCE 75 

thousand souls, a hundred thousand souls, a million 
souls all humanity. In the action of Christ bringing 
forth the loaves, there is Gutenberg bringing forth 
books. One sower heralds the other. 

What has the human race been since the beginning 
of time ? A reader. For a long time he has spelled ; 
he spells yet : soon he will read. 

This child, six thousand years old, has been at 
school from the first. Where ? In Nature. At 
the beginning, having no other book, he spelled the 
universe. He has had his primary instruction from 
the clouds, from the firmament, from meteors, flowers, 
animals, forests, seasons, phenomena. The Ionian 
fisherman studies the wave ; the Chaldaean shepherd 
spells the star. Then came the first books, a sublime 
advance. The book is vaster yet than that grand 
scene, the world ; for to the fact it adds the idea. 
If anything is greater than God seen in the sun, it is 
God seen in Homer. 

The universe without the book, is science becoming 
rudely outlined ; the universe with the book, is the 
ideal making its appearance. Thence an immediate 
modification in human affairs ; where there had been 
only force, power is revealed. The application of the 
ideal to actual facts produces civilization. Poetry 
written and sung begins its work, a gloriously effec 
tive deduction from the poetry only seen. It is 
startling to perceive that where science was dreaming, 
poetry acts. With a touch of the lyre, the thinker 
dispels ferocity. 

We shall return, later on, to this power of the book ; 
we do not insist on it at present : it is clear as light. 
Many writers then, few readers : such has the world 
been up to this day. But a change is at hand. Com 
pulsory education is a recruitment of souls for the 
light. Henceforth all human advancement will be 
accomplished by swelling the legions of those who read. 
The diameter of the moral and ideal good corresponds 
always to the calibre of men's minds. In proportion 

70 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

to the worth of the brain is the worth of the heart. 
The book is the tool of this transformation. What 
humanity requires, is to be fed with light ; such 
nourishment is found in reading. Thence the import 
ance of the school, everywhere adequate to civilization. 
The human race is at last on the point of spreading 
the book wide open. The immense human Bible, 
composed of all the prophets, of all the poets, of all 
the philosophers, is about to shine and blaze under 
the focus of that enormous luminous lens, compulsory 
education. 

Humanity reading is humanity knowing. 
What nonsense, then, it is to cry, ' Poetry is passing 
away ' ! We might say, on the contrary, poetry 
is coming. For who says poetry, says philosophy 
and light. Now, the reign of the book is beginning ; 
the school is its purveyor. Exalt the reader, you 
exalt the book. Not, certainly, in intrinsic value, 
this remains what it was ; but in efficient power : 
it influences where it had no influence ; men's souls 
become its subjects to good ends. It was only beauti 
ful ; it becomes useful. 

Who would venture to deny this ? The circle of 
readers enlarging, the circle of books read will in 
crease. Now, the desire to read being a train of 
powder, once lighted it will not stop : and this, com 
bined with the simplification of hand-labour by machin 
ery, and with the increased leisure of man, the body 
less fatigued leaving the mind freer, vast appetites 
for thought will spring up hi all brains ; the insatiable 
thirst for knowledge and meditation will become more 
and more the human preoccupation ; low places will 
be deserted for high places, an ascent natural to 
every growing intelligence ; people will quit Faublas 
to read The Oresteia ; there they will taste the noble, 
and, once tasting it, they will never be satiated ; men 
will make the beautiful their food, because the refine 
ment of minds augments in proportion to their force ; 
and a day will come when, the fulness of civilization 

ART AND SCIENCE 77 

making itself manifest, those mountain-tops, Lucretius, 
Dante, Shakespeare, for ages almost deserted, and 
visited only by the select few, will be crowded with 
intelligences seeking their food upon the heights. 

CHAPTER II 

THERE can be but one law ; the unity of law results 
from the unity of essence : Nature and Art are the 
two slopes of the same fact. And in principle, saving 
the restriction which we shall indicate very shortly, 
the law of one is the law of the other. The angle of 
reflection equals the angle of incidence. All being 
equity in the moral order, and equilibrium in the 
material order, all is equation in the intellectual order. 
The binomial, that marvel adjustable to everything, 
is included in poetry no less than in algebra. Nature 
plus humanity, raised to the second power, give Art. 
Such is the intellectual binomial. Now, replace this 
A +B by the number proper to each great artist and 
each great poet, and you will have, in its multiple 
physiognomy and hi its strict total, each of the crea 
tions of the human mind. What more beautiful than 
the variety of masterpieces resulting from the unity 
of law ? Poetry, like Science, has an abstract root. 
Science produces from that root masterpieces of metal; 
wood, fire, or air, machine, ship, locomotive, aerostat ; 
Poetry causes to grow from it the masterpiece of flesh 
and blood, Iliad, Song of Songs, Romancero, Divine 
Comedy, Macbeth. Nothing so starts and prolongs 
the thrill felt by the thinker as those mysterious 
exfoliations of abstraction into reality in the double 
region (the one positive, the other infinite) of human 
thought, a region double, and nevertheless one : 
the infinite is an exactitude. The profound word 
* number ' is at the base of 'man's thought ; it is, to 
our intelligence, elemental ; it signifies harmony as 
well as mathematics. Number reveals itself to Art 

78 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

by rhythm, which is the beating of the heart of the 
Infinite. In rhythm, the law of order, God is felt. 
A verse is numerous, like a crowd ; its feet march 
with the cadenced step of a legion. Without number, 
no science ; without number, no poetry. The strophe, 
the epic, the drama, the riotous palpitation of man, 
the bursting forth of love, the irradiation of the imagin 
ation, the lightning-cloud of passion, all are lorded over 
by this mysterious word ' number ', even as are 
geometry and arithmetic. Ajax, Hector, Hecuba, 
the seven chiefs before Thebes, CEdipus, Ugolino, 
Messalina, Lear and Priam, Romeo, Desdemona, 
Richard III, Pantagruel, the Cid, Alceste, all belong 
to it, as well as conic sections and the differential 
and integral calculus. It starts from ' two and two 
make four ', and ascends to the region where the 
lightning sits. 

Yet between Art and Science let us note a radical 
difference. Science is perfectible ; Art, not. 

Why ? 

CHAPTER III 

AMONG human things, and inasmuch as it is a human 
thing, Art is a strange exception. 

The beauty of everything here below lies in the 
power of reaching perfection. Everything is endowed 
with this property. To increase, to augment, to 
win strength, to make some gain, some advance, to 
be worth more to-day than yesterday : this is at once 
glory and life. The beauty of Art lies in not being 
susceptible of improvement. 

Let us insist on these essential ideas, already touched 
upon in some preceding pages. 

A masterpiece exists once for all. The first poet 
who arrives, arrives at the summit. You shall ascend 
after him, as high, not higher. Ah ! your name is 
Dante ? Very well ; but he who sits yonder is named 
Homer ! 

ART AND SCIENCE 79 

Progress, its goal incessantly changing, its stages 
constantly renewed, has a shifting horizon. Not 
so the ideal. 

Now, progress is the motive-power of Science ; 
the ideal is the generator of Art. 

Thus is explained why perfection is the character 
istic of Science, and not of Art. 

A savant may outshine a savant ; a poet never 
throws a poet into the shade. 

Art progresses after its own fashion, it shifts its 
ground, like Science ; but its successive creations, 
containing the unchangeable, abide ; while the admir 
able guesses of Science, which are and can be nothing 
but combinations of the contingent, obliterate each 
other. 

Science is relative ; Art definitive. The master 
piece of to-day will be the masterpiece of to-morrow. 
Does Shakespeare change anything in Sophocles ? 
Does Moliere take anything from Plautus ? Even 
when he borrows Amphitryon, he does not take it 
from him. Does Figaro blot out Sancho Panza ? 
Does Cordelia suppress Antigone ? No. Poets do 
not climb over each other. The one is not the 
stepping stone of the other. The poet rises alone 
without any other lever than himself. He does not 
tread his equal under foot. The new comers re 
spect their elders. They succeed, they do not re 
place each other. The beautiful does not drive out 
the beautiful. Neither wolves nor masterpieces 
devour each other. 

Saint-Simon says (I quote from memory) : ' There 
was through the whole winter but one cry of admir 
ation for M. de Cambray's book ; when suddenly 
appeared M. de Meaux's book, which devoured it.' 
If Fenelon's book had been Saint-Simon's, the book 
of Bossuet would not have devoured it. 

Shakespeare is not above Dante, Moliere is not 
above Aristophanes, Calderon is not above Euripides ; 
the Divine Comedy is not above Genesis, the Romancero 

80 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

is not above the Odyssey ; Sirius is not above Arc turns. 
Sublimity is equality. 

The human mind is the infinite possible. The 
master-works, immense worlds, are generated within 
it unceasingly, and abide there forever. No crowding 
of one against the other ; no recoil. The occlusions, 
when there are any, are but apparent, and quickly 
cease. The expanse of the boundless admits all 
creations. 

Art, taken as art, and in itself, goes neither forward 
nor backward. The transformations of poetry are 
but the undulations of the beautiful, useful to human 
movement. Human movement is another side of 
the question, a side that we certainly do not overlook, 
and that we shall examine further on. Art is not 
susceptible of intrinsic progress. From Phidias to 
Rembrandt, there is movement, but not progress. 
The frescoes of the Sistine Chapel take absolutely 
nothing from the metopes of the Parthenon. Retrace 
your steps as far as you like, from the palace of 
Versailles to Heidelberg Castle, from Heidelberg 
Castle to Notre Dame of Paris, from Notre Dame 
of Paris to the Alhambra, from the Alhambra to St. 
Sophia, from St. Sophia to the Colosseum, from the 
Colosseum to the Propylaea, from the Propylaea to 
the Pyramids ; you may go backward in centuries, 
you do not go backward in art. The Pyramids and 
the Iliad remain in the foreground. 

Masterpieces have a level, the same for all, the 
absolute. 

The absolute once reached, all is said. That cannot 
be excelled. The eye can bear but a certain quantity 
of dazzling light. 

Thence comes the assurance of poets. They lean 
upon the future with a lofty grace. ' Exegi monu- 
mentum ', says Horace ; and on that occasion he 
derides bronze. ' Plandite cives ', says Plautus. 
Corneille, at sixty-five years, wins the love (a tradition 
in the Escoubleau family) of the very young Marquise 

ART AND SCIENCE 81 

dc Contades, by promising to send her name down 
to posterity : 

Lady, to that future raco 

In whose day I'll have some credit, 

You'll be known as fair of face 

But because my verse has said it l . 

In the poet and in the artist there is something 
of the infinite. It is this ingredient, the infinite, 
which gives to this kind of genius an irreducible 
grandeur. 

This infinite element in art is independent of pro 
gress. It may have, and it certainly has, duties to 
fulfil toward progress ; but it is not dependent upon 
it. It is dependent upon none of the more perfect 
processes of the future, upon no transformation of 
language, upon no death or birth of idioms. It has 
within itself the incommensurable and the innumer 
able ; it can be subdued by no rivalry ; it is as pure, 
as complete, as sidereal, as divine, in the heart of 
barbarism as in the heart of civilization. It is the 
beautiful, having the infinite variety of genius, 
but always equal to itself, always supreme. Such 
is the law, scarcely known, of Art. 

CHAPTER IV 

SCIENCE is different. The relative, which governs 
it, leaves its impression ; and these successive stamps 
of the relative, more and more resembling the real, 
constitute the changing certainty of man.- 

In Science, certain things have been masterpieces 
which are so no more. The hydraulic machine of 
Marly was a masterpiece. 

Science seeks perpetual motion. She has found 
it : it is Science herself. 

1 Chez cette race nouvelle, 
Ou j'aurai quelque credit, 
Vous ne passerez pour belle 
Qu'autant que je 1'aurai dit. 

82 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Science is continually changing in the benefit she 
confers. 

In Science, all tends to stir, to change, to form 
fresh surfaces. All denies, destroys, creates, replaces 
all. What was ground yesterday is put into the 
hopper again to-day. The colossal machine, Science, 
never rests. It is never satisfied ; it is insatiable 
for improvement, of which the absolute knows nothing. 
Vaccination is called in question, the lightning-rod is 
called in question. Jenner may have erred, Franklin 
may have been mistaken ; let us search again. This 
agitation is noble. Science is restless around man ; 
she has her own reasons. Science plays in progress 
the part of utility. Let us reverence this superb 
handmaiden. 

Science makes discoveries ; Art composes works. 
Science is an acquirement of man ; Science is a ladder : 
one savant mounts above his fellow. Poetry is a 
soaring flight. 

Do you want examples ? They abound. Here 
is one, the first which comes to mind. 

Jacob Metzu (scientifically Metius) discovers the 
telescope by chance, as Newton discovered gravita 
tion, and Christopher Columbus, America. Let us 
open a parenthesis : there is no chance in the creation 
of The Oresteia or of Paradise Lost. A masterpiece 
is the offspring of will. After Metzu comes Galileo, 
who improves the discovery of Metzu ; then Kepler, 
who improves on the improvement of Galileo ; then 
Descartes, who, although going somewhat astray in 
taking a concave glass for eyepiece instead of a convex 
one, makes fruitful the improvement of Kepler ; then 
the Capuchin Reita, who rectifies the reversing of 
objects ; then Huyghens, who makes a great step by 
placing the two convex glasses at the focus of the ob 
jective ; and in less than fifty years, from 1610 to 
1659, during the short interval which separates the 
Nuncius Sidereus of Galileo from the Oculus Elice 
et Enoch of Father Reita, behold the original inventor, 

ART AND SCIENCE 83 

Mctzu, obliterated. And it is constantly the same in 
science. 

Vegetius was count of Constantinople ; but that 
did not prevent his tactics being forgotten, for 
gotten like the strategy of Polybius, ^forgotten like 
the strategy of Folard. The pig's-head of the phalanx 
and the pointed order of the legion reappeared for 
a moment, two hundred years ago, in the wedge of 
Gustavus Adolphus ; but in our days, when there are 
no more pikemen, as in the fourth century, nor lans 
quenets, as in the seventeenth, the ponderous triangular 
attack, which was formerly the basis of all tactics, 
is replaced by a swarm of zouaves charging with the 
bayonet. Some day, sooner perhaps than people 
think, the bayonet charge will itself be superseded by 
peace, at first European, by-and-by universal ; 
and then the whole military science will vanish away. 
For that science, improvement lies in disappearance. 

Science goes on unceasingly erasing itself, fruitful 
erasures ! Who knows now what is the * Homceo- 
meria ' of Anaximenes, which perhaps belongs really 
to Anaxagoras ? Cosmography is notably amended 
since the time when this same Anaxagoras told Pericles 
that the sun was almost as large as the Peloponnesus. 
Many planets, and satellites of planets, have been 
discovered since the four stars of Medicis. Entomo 
logy has made some advance since the time when it was 
asserted that the scarabee was something of a god 
and a cousin to the sun first, on account of the thirty 
toes on its feet, which correspond to the thirty days 
of the solar month, secondly, because the scarabee is 
without a female, like the sun and the time when 
Saint Clement of Alexandria, outbidding Plutarch, 
made the remark that the scarabee, like the sun, passes 
six months on the earth, and six months under it. 
Would you verify this ? Refer to the Stromata, 
paragraph iv. Scholasticism itself, chimerical as it 
is, gives up the * Holy Meadow ' of Moschus, laughs 
at the ' Holy Ladder ' of John Climacus, and is ashamed 

84 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

of the century in which Saint Bernard, adding fuel 
to the pyre which the Viscounts of Campania wished 
to put out, called Arnaldo de Brescia * a man with the 
dove's head and the scorpion's tail '. The * Cardinal 
Virtues ' are no longer the law hi anthropology. The 
* Steyardes * of the great Arnauld are decayed. How 
ever uncertain is meteorology, it is far from discussing 
now, as it did in the second century, whether a rain 
which saves an army from dying of thirst is due to 
the Christian prayers of the Melitine legion or to the 
pagan intervention of Jupiter Pluvius. The astrologer 
Marcian Posthumus was for Jupiter ; Tertullian was 
for the Melitine legion : no one was for the cloud and 
the wind. Locomotion, if we go from the antique 
chariot of Laius to the railway, passing by the patache, 
the track-boat, the turgotine, the diligence, and the 
mail-coach, has indeed made some progress. The 
time has gone by for the famous journey from Dijon 
to Paris, lasting a month ; and we could not under 
stand to-day the amazement of Henry IV, asking of 
Joseph Scaliger : ' Is it true, Monsieur 1'Escale, that 
you have been from Paris to Dijon without relieving 
your bowels ? ' Micrography is now far beyond Leuwen- 
hoeck, who was himself far beyond Swammerdam. 
Look at the point at which spermatology and ovology 
have already arrived, and recall Mariana reproaching 
Arnaud de Villeneuve (who discovered alcohol and 
the oil of turpentine) with the strange crime of having 
attempted human generation in a pumpkin. Grand- 
Jean de Fouchy, the not over-credulous life-secre 
tary of the Academy of Sciences a hundred years 
ago, would have shaken his head if any one had told 
him that from the solar spectrum one would pass to 
the igneous spectrum, then to the stellar spectrum, 
and that by aid of the spectrum of flames and of the 
spectrum of stars would be discovered an entirely new 
method of grouping the heavenly bodies and what 
might be called the chemical constellations. Orftyreus, 
who destroyed his machine rather than allow the 

ART AND SCIENCE 85 

Landgrave of Hesse to see inside it, Orffyreus, 
so admired by S'Gravesande, the author of the Alathe- 
seos Universalis Elementa, would be laughed at by our 
mechanicians. A country horse-doctor would not 
inflict on horses the remedy with which Galen treated 
the indigestions of Marcus Aurelius. What is the 
opinion of the eminent specialists of our times, Des- 
marres at the head of them, respecting the learned 
discoveries of the seventeenth century by the Bishop 
of Titiopolis concerning the nasal chambers ? The 
mummies have got on ; M. Gannal makes them 
differently, if not better, than the Taricheutes, the 
Paraschistes, and the Cholchytes made them in the 
days of Herodotus, the first by washing the body, 
the second by opening it, and the third by embalming. 
Five hundred years before Jesus Christ, it was per 
fectly scientific, when a king of Mesopotamia had a 
daughter possessed of the devil, to send to Thebes 
for a god to cure her. It is not exactly our way of 
treating epilepsy. In the same way we have given up 
expecting the kings of France to cure scrofula. 

In 371, under Valens, son of Gratian the rope- 
maker, the judges summoned to the bar a table accused 
of sorcery. This table had an accomplice named 
Hilarius. Hilarius confessed the crime. Ammianus 
Marcellinus has preserved for us his confession, re 
ceived by Zosimus, count and fiscal advocate. * Con- 
struximus, magnifici judices, ad cortinse similitudinem 
Delphicse infaustam hanc mensulam quam videtis ; 
movimus tandem '. Hilarius was beheaded. Who 
was his accuser ? A learned geometrician and magician, 
the same who advised Valens to decapitate all those 
whose names began with Theod. To-day you may 
call yourself Theodore, and even make a table tip, 
without the fear of a geometrician causing your head 
to be cut off. 

One would very much astonish Solon the son of 
Execestidos, Zeno the Stoic, Antipater, Eudoxus, 
Lysis of Tarentuin, Cebes, Menedemus, Plato, Epi- 

86 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

curus, Aristotle, and Epimenides, if one were to say 
to Solon that it is not the moon which regulates the 
year ; to Zeno, that it is not proved that the soul is 
divided into eight parts ; to Antipater, that the heaven 
is not formed of five circles ; to Eudoxus, that it is 
not certain that, between the Egyptians embalming 
the dead, the Romans burning them, and the Pseonians 
throwing them into ponds, the Pasonians are those 
who are right ; to Lysis of Tarentum, that it is not 
correct that the sight is a hot vapour ; to Cebes, that 
it is false that the principle of the elements is the 
oblong triangle and the isosceles triangle ; to Menede- 
mus, that it is not true that, in order to know the 
secret bad intentions of men, it suffices to stick on 
one's head an Arcadian hat decorated with the twelve 
signs of the zodiac ; to Plato, that sea-water does 
not cure all diseases ; to Epicurus, that matter is 
infinitely divisible ; to Aristotle, that the fifth element 
has not an orbicular movement, for the reason that 
there is no fifth element ; to Epimenides, that the 
plague cannot be infallibly got rid of by letting black 
and white sheep go at random, and sacrificing to 
unknown gods in the places where the sheep happen 
to stop. 

If you should try to hint to Pythagoras how impro 
bable it is that he should have been wounded at the 
siege of Troy he, Pythagoras by Menelaus, two 
hundred and seven years before his birth, he would 
reply that the fact is incontestable, and that it is 
proved by the fact that he perfectly recognizes, as 
having already seen it, the shield of Menelaus suspended 
under the statue of Apollo at Branchidse, although 
entirely rotted away, except the ivory face ; that 
at the siege of Troy his own name was Euphorbus, 
and that before being Euphorbus he was ^Ethalidos, 
son of Mercury, and that after having been Euphorbus 
he was Hermotimus, then Pyrrhus, fisherman at 
Delos, then Pythagoras ; that it is all evident and 
clear, as clear as that he was present the same day 

ART AND SCIENCE 87 

and the same minute at Metapontum and at Crotona, 
aa evident as that by writing with blood on a mirror 
eiposed to the moon one may see in the moon what 
or.e wrote on the mirror ; and lastly, that he is Pytha 
goras, living at Metapontum, in the Street of the 
Muses, the inventor of the multiplication-table and 
of the square of the hypothenuse, the greatest of 
mathematicians, the father of exact science ; and 
that as for you, you are an imbecile. 

Chrysippus of Tarsus, who lived about the hundred 
ard thirtieth olympiad, forms an era in science. This 
philosopher (the same who died actually died 
of laughter caused by seeing a donkey eat figs out of a 
alver basin) had studied everything, gone to the 
bottom of everything, and had written seven hundred 
ind five volumes, of which three hundred and eleven 
were of dialectics, without having dedicated a single 
one to a king, a fact which astounds Diogenes 
Laertius. He condensed in his brain all human 
knowledge. His contemporaries named him ' Light '. 
Chrysippus signifying * golden horse ', they said that 
he had got detached from the chariot of the sun. He 
had taken for device * TO ME '. He knew innumerable 
things ; among others, these, the earth is flat ; the 
universe is round and limited ; the best food for man 
is human flesh ; the community of wives is the basis 
of social order ; the father ought to espouse his 
daughter ; there is a word which kills the serpent, a 
word which tames the bear, a word which arrests the 
flight of eagles, and a word which drives the cattle 
from the bean -field ; by pronouncing from hour to 
hour the three names of the Egyptian Trinity, Amon- 
Mouth-Khons, Andron of Argos contrived to cross 
the deserts of Libya without drinking ; coffins ought 
not to be made of cypress wood, the sceptre of Jupiter 
being made of that wood ; Themistoclea, priestess of 
Delphi, had given birth to children, yet remained 
a virgin ; the just alone having authority to swear, 
Jupiter very properly receives the name of ' The 

88 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Swearer ' ; the phoenix of Arabia and the moths 
live in the fire ; the earth is carried by the air as by a 
car ; the sun drinks from the ocean, and the moon 
from the rivers. For these reasons the Athenians 
raised a statue to him on the Ceramicus, with tm's 
inscription : ' To Chrysippus, who knew everything '. 

At very nearly the same time Sophocles wiote 
(Edipus Rex. 

And Aristotle believed in the story about Andron 
of Argos, and Plato in the social principle of the 
community of wives, and Gorgisippus in the earth's 
being flat, and Epicurus admitted as a fact that the 
earth was supported by the air, and Hermodamantes 
that magic words mastered the ox and the eagle and 
the bear and the serpent, and Echecrates believei 
in the immaculate maternity of Themistoclea, and 
Pythagoras in Jupiter's sceptre made of cypress wood, 
and Posidonius in the ocean affording drink to the 
sun and the rivers quenching the thirst of the moon, 
and Pyrrho in the moths living in fire. 

Except in this one particular, Pyrrho was a sceptic. 
He made up for his belief in that by doubting every 
thing else. 

Such is the long groping course of Science. Cuvier 
was mistaken yesterday, Lagrange the day before 
yesterday; Leibnitz before Lagrange, Gassendi 
before Leibnitz, Cardan before Gassendi, Cornelius 
Agrippa before Cardan, Averroes before Agrippa, 
Plotinus before Averroes, Artemidorus Daldian before 
Plotinus, Posidonius before Artemidorus, Democritus 
before Posidonius, Empedocles before Democritus, 
Carneades before Empedocles, Plato before Carneades, 
Pherecydes before Plato, Pittacus before Pherecydes, 
Thales before Pittacus ; and before Thales, Zoroaster, 
and before Zoroaster, Sanchoniathon, and before 
Sanchoniathon, Hermes : Hermes, which signifies 
science, as Orpheus signifies art. O wonderful marvel, 
this mount swarming with dreams which engender 
the real ! O sacred errors, slow, blind, and sainted 
mothers of truth ! 

-ART AND SCIENCE 89 

Some savants, such as Kepler, Euler, Geoffrey 
St Hilaire, Arago, have brought into science nothing 
but light ; they are rare. 

At times Science is an obstacle to Science ; the 
savants give way to scruples, and cavil at study. 
Pliny is scandalized at Hipparchus ; Hipparchus, 
with the aid of an imperfect astrolabe, tries to count 
the stars and to name them, * A deed evil in the 
sight of God ', says Pliny (Ausus rem Deo improbam). 

To count the stars is to commit a sin toward God. 
This accusation, started by Pliny against Hipparchus, 
is continued by the Inquisition against Campanella. 

Science is the asymptote of truth ; it approaches 
unceasingly, and never touches. Nevertheless, it 
has every kind of greatness. It has will, precision, 
enthusiasm, profound attention, penetration, shrewd 
ness, strength, patience in concatenation, permanent 
watchfulness of phenomena, the ardour of progress, 
and even fits of bravery. Witness La Perouse ; 
witness Pilastre des Hosiers ; witness Sir John Frank 
lin ; witness Jacquemont ; witness Livingstone ; 
witness Mazet ; witness, at this very hour, Nadar. 

But Science is series. It proceeds by proofs super 
posed one above the other, whose obscure stratification 
rises slowly to the level of Truth. 

Art has nothing like it. Art is not successive. 
All Art is ensemble. 

Let us sum up these few pages. 

Hippocrates is outrun, Archimedes is outrun, 
Aratus is outrun, Avicennus is outrun, Paracelsus 
is outrun, Nicholas Flamel is outrun, Ambroise Pare 
is outrun, Vesalius is outrun, Copernicus is outrun, 
Galileo is outrun, Newtoti is outrun, Clairaut is outrun, 
Lavoisier is outrun, Montgolfier is outrun, Laplace is 
outrun. Pindar is not, Phidias is not. 

Pascal the savant is outrun ; Pascal the writer is not. 

We no longer teach the astronomy of Ptolemy, 
the geography of Strabo, the climatology of Cleo- 
stratus, the zoology of Pliny, the algebra of Dio- 

90 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

phantus, the medicine of Tribunus, the surgery of 
Ronsil, the dialectics of Sphcerus, the myology of 
Steno, the uranology of Tatius, the stenography of 
Trithemius, the pisciculture of Sebastien de Medicis, 
the arithmetic of Stifels, the geometry of Tartaglia, 
the chronology of Scaliger, the meteorology of Stoffler, 
the anatomy of Gassendi, the pathology of Fernel, 
the jurisprudence of Robert Barmne, the agronomy 
of Quesnay, the hydrography of Bouguer, the naviga 
tion of Bourde de Villehuet, the ballistics of Gribeauval, 
the veterinary practice of Garsault, the architectonics 
of Desgodets, the botany of Tournefort, the scholas 
ticism of Abelard, the politics of Plato, the mechanics 
of Aristotle, the physics of Descartes, the theology of 
Stillingfleet We taught yesterday, we teach to-day, 
we shall teach to-morrow, we shall teach forever, the 
' Sing, goddess, the wrath of Achilles '. 

Poetry lives a potential life. The sciences may 
extend its sphere, not increase its power. Homer 
had but four winds for his tempests ; Virgil who has 
twelve, Dante who has twenty-four, Milton who 
has thirty-two, do not make their storms grander. 

And it is probable that the tempests of Orpheus 
wwre as beautiful as those of Homer, although Orpheus 
had, to raise the waves, but two winds, the ' Phceni- 
cias ' and the ' Aparctias ' ; that is to say, the south 
wind and the north wind, often confounded, by 
the way, with the * Argestes ', the west wind of summer, 
and the * Libs ', the west wind of winter. 

Religions die away, and in dying bequeath a great 
artist to other religions coming after them. Serpio 
makes for the Venus Aversative of Athens a vase 
which the Holy Virgin accepts* from Venus, and which 
serves to-day as a baptismal urn at Notre Dame of 
Gaeta. 

O eternity of Art ! 

A man, a corpse, a shade from the depth of the 
past, stretching a hand across the centuries, lays 
hold of you. 

ART AND SCIENCE 91 

I remember one day of my youth, at Romorantin, 
in a hut we had there, with its vine-trellis through 
which the air and light sifted in, that I espied a book 
upon a shelf, the only book there was in the house, 
Lucretius, De Rerum Natura. My professors of 
rhetoric had spoken very ill of it, a circumstance 
which recommended it to me. I opened the book. 
It must have been at that moment about noonday. 
I happened on these powerful and serene verses l : 
* Religion does not consist in turning unceasingly 
toward the veiled stone, nor in approaching all the 
altars, nor in throwing one's self prostrate on the 
ground, nor in raising the hands before the habitations 
of gods, nor in deluging the temples with the blood of 
beasts, nor in heaping vows upon vows ; but in behold 
ing all with a peaceful soul.' I stopped in thought ; 
then I began to read again. Some moments after 
ward I could see nothing, hear nothing ; I was im 
mersed in the poet. At the dinner-hour, I made a 
sign that I was not hungry ; and at sunset, when 
the flocks were returning to their folds, I was still in 
the same place, reading the wonderful book ; and by 
my side, my white-haired father, indulgent to my 
prolonged reading, was seated on the door-sill of the 
low room where his sword hung on a nail, and was 
gently calling the sheep, which came one after another 
to eat a little salt in the hollow of his hand. 

CHAPTER V 

POETRY cannot grow less. Why ? Because it can 
not grow greater. 
Those words, so often used, even by the lettered, 

1 Nee pietas ulla est, velatum sjppe videri 
Vertier ad lapidem, atque omnes accodere ad aras, 
Nee procumbere humi prostratum, et pandere palmas 
Ante deum delubra, neque aras sanguine multo 
Spargere quadrupedum, nee votis nectere vota ; 
Sed mage placata posse omnia mente tueri. 

92 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

' decadence % ' renascence ', show to what an extent 
the essence of Art is unknown. Superficial intellects, 
easily becoming pedantic, take for renascence or deca 
dence some effects of juxtaposition, some optical 
mirage, some event in the history of a language, some 
ebb and flow of ideas, all the vast movement of crea 
tion and thought, the result of which is universal 
Art. This movement is the very work of the Infinite 
passing through the human brain. 

Phenomena are seen only from the culminating 
point, and poetry thus viewed is immanent. There 
is neither rise nor decline in Art, Human genius 
is always at its full ; all the rain of heaven adds not 
a drop of water to the ocean. A tide is an illusion ; 
water ebbs on one shore, only to rise on another. 
Oscillations are taken for diminutions. To say ' there 
will be no more poets ', is to say ' there will never be 
flood- tide again '. 

Poetry is elemental. It is irreducible, incorrup 
tible, and refractory to manipulation. Like the sea, 
it says on each occasion all it has to say ; then it 
begins anew with a tranquil majesty, and with the 
inexhaustible variety which belongs only to unity. 
This diversity in what seems monotonous is the marvel 
of immensity. 

Wave upon wave, billow after billow, foam behind 
foam, movement, and again movement. The Iliad 
is moving away, the Romancero comes ; the Bible 
sinks, the Koran surges up ; after the aquilon Pindar 
comes the hurricane Dante. Does everlasting poetry 
repeat itself ? No. It is the same, and it is 
different ; the same breath, a different sound. 

Do you take the Cid for a plagiarist of Ajax ? Do 
you take Charlemagne for a copyer of Agamemnon ? 
' There is nothing new under the sun '. ' Your novelty 
is the repetition of the old ', etc. Oh, the strange 
process of criticism ! Then Art is but a series of 
counterfeits ! Thersites has a thief, Falstaff. Orestes 
has an ape, Hamlet. The Hippogriff is the jay of 

ART AND SCIENCE 93 

Pegasus. All those poets ! A crew of cheats ! They 
pillage each other, and there's an end. Inspiration 
is involved with swindling. Cervantes plunders 
Apuleius, Alceste cheats Timon of Athens. The 
Smynthian Wood is the Forest of Bondy. Out of 
whose pocket was Shakespeare seen to draw his hand ? 
Out of the pocket of ^Eschylus. 

No ! neither decadence, nor renascence, nor plagi 
arism, nor repetition, nor imitation. Identity of 
heart, difference of spirit ; that is all. Each great 
artist, as we have already said, stamps Art anew in 
his own image. Hamlet is Orestes in the image of 
Shakespeare ; Figaro is Scapin in the image of Beau- 
marchais ; Grangousier is Silenus in the image of 
Rabelais. 

With the new poet everything begins anew, and 
at the same time nothing is interrupted. Each new 
genius is an abyss. Nevertheless, tradition exists. 
Tradition from abyss to abyss, such is in Art, as in 
the firmament the mystery ; and men of genius 
communicate by their effluence, like the stars. What 
have they in common ? Nothing. Everything. 

From the pit that is called Ezekiel to the preci 
pice that is called Juvenal, there is no interruption 
of continuity for the thinker. Lean over this ana 
thema, or over that satire, and the same vertigo is 
whirling around both. The Apocalypse is reflected 
from the Polar Sea of Ice, and you have that aurora 
borealis, the Nibelungen. The Edda replies to the 
Vedas. 

Hence this, our starting -point, to which we return, 
Art is not perfectible. 

No possible decline for poetry, nor any possible 
improvement. We lose our time when we say : 
Nescio quid majus nascitur Iliade. Art is subject 
neither to diminution nor to enlargement. Art has 
its seasons, its clouds, its eclipses, even its stains, 
which are perhaps splendours ; its interpositions 
of sudden opacity, for which it is not responsible : 

94 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

but in the end it brings light into the human soul 
always with the same intensity. It remains the same 
furnace, emitting the same auroral glow. Homer 
does not grow cold. 

Let us insist, moreover, upon this, inasmuch as 
the rivalry of intelligences is the life of the beautiful : 
O poets ! the first rank is ever free. Let us remove 
everything which may disconcert daring minds and 
break their wings. Art is a species of valour. To 
deny that men of genius yet to come may be the peers 
of men of genius of the past, would be to deny the 
ever- working power of God. 

Yes, and often do we return, and shall return again, 
to this needed encouragement. Stimulation is almost 
creation. Yes, those men of genius who cannot be 
surpassed may be equalled. 

How ? 

By being different. 

BOOK IV 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 

CHAPTER I 

THE ancient Shakespeare is ^Eschylus. Let us return 
to ^Eschylus. He is the grandsire of the stage. This 
book would be incomplete if ^Eschylus had not his 
separate place in it. 

A man whom we do not know how to class in his 
own century, so little does he belong to it, being at the 
same time so much behind it and so much in advance 
of it, the Marquis de Mirabeau, that ugly customer 
as a philanthropist, but a very rare thinker after all, 
had a book-case, at the two corners of which he had 
caused a dog and a she-goat to be carved, in remem 
brance of Socrates, who swore by the dog, and of 
Zeno, who swore by the goat. His library presented 
this peculiarity : on one side there were Hesiod, 
Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, Herodotus, Thucydides, 
Pindar, Theocritus, Anacreon, Theophrastus, Demos 
thenes, Plutarch, Cicero, Titus Livius, Seneca, Persius, 
Lucan, Terence, Horace, Ovid, Propertius, Tibullus, 
Virgil ; and underneath could be read, engraved 
in letters of gold : * AMO '. On the other side stood 
^Eschylus alone, and underneath this word : ' TIMBO *. 

^Eschylus in reality is formidable. He cannot be 
approached without trembling. He has magnitude 
and mystery. Barbarous, extravagant, emphatic, 
antithetical, bombastic, absurd, such is the judg 
ment passed on him by the official rhetoric of the 
present day. This rhetoric will be changed. /Esehylus 
is one of those men whom superficial criticism scoffs 

90 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

at or disdains, but whom the true critic approaches 
with a sort of sacred fear. The fear of genius is the 
beginning of taste. 

In the true critic there is always a poet, be it but 
in the latent state. 

Whoever does not understand ^Eschylus is irre 
mediably commonplace. ^Eschylus is the touch 
stone of the intelligence. 

The drama is a strange form of art. Its diameter 
measures from The Seven against Thebes to The Philo 
sopher Without Knowing it, and from Brid'oison to 
QEdipus. Thyestes forms part of it ; Turcaret also. 
If you wish to define it, put into your definition Electra 
and Marton. 

The drama is disconcerting ; it baffles the weak. 
This comes from its ubiquity. The drama has every 
horizon ; you may then imagine its capacity. The 
drama has been capable of absorbing the epic ; and 
the result is that marvellous literary novelty, which 
is at the same time a social power, the romance. 

The romance is bronze, an amalgamation of the 
epic, lyric, and dramatic. Don Quixote is iliad, ode, 
and comedy. 

Such is the expansion of which the drama is capable. 

The drama is the vastest reservoir of art, spacious 
enough for both God and Satan : witness Job. 

From the standard of absolute art, the characteristic 
of the epic poem is grandeur ; the characteristic of 
the drama, vastness. The vast differs from the great 
in this : that it excludes, if it chooses, dimension ; 
that ' it is beyond measure ', as the common saying is ; 
and that it can, without losing beauty, lose proportion. 
It is harmonious like the Milky Way. It is by vastness 
that the drama begins, four thousand years ago, in 
Job, whom we have just recalled, and, two thousand 
five hundred years ago, in ^Eschylus ; it is by vastness 
that it continues in Shakespeare. What person 
ages does ^Eschylus take ? Volcanoes : one of his 
lost tragedies is called Mtna ; then the mountains : 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 97 

Caucasus with Prometheus ; then the sea : the Ocean 
on its dragon, and the waves, the Oceanides ; then 
the vast Orient : The Persians ; then the bottomless 
darkness : The Eumenides. ^Eschylus proves the 
man by the giant. In Shakespeare the drama ap 
proaches nearer to humanity, but remains colossal. 
Macbeth seems a polar Atrides. You see that the 
drama reveals Nature, then reveals the soul ; and 
there is no limit to this horizon. The drama is life, 
and life is everything. The epic poem can be only 
great ; the drama is constrained to be vast. 

This vastness pervades ^Eschylus and Shakespeare 
throughout. 

The vast, in ^Eschylus, is a will. It is also a tem 
perament. ^Eschylus invents the buskin, which 
makes the man taller, and the mask, which increases 
the voice. His metaphors are enormous. He calls 
Xerxes * the man with the dragon eyes '. The sea, 
which is a plain for so many poets, is for ^Eschylus 

* a forest ' (dXros). These magnifying figures, peculiar 
to the highest poets, and to them only, have the basal 
truth which springs from imaginative musing. ^Eschy- 
lus excites you to the very brink of convulsion. His 
tragical effects are like blows struck at the spectators. 
When the furies of ^Eschylus make their appearance, 
pregnant women miscarry. Pollux, the lexicographer, 
affirms that at the sight of those serpent faces and 
of those nickering torches, children were seized with 
fits of epilepsy, of which they died. That is evidently 

* going beyond the mark.' Even in the grace of 
^sch3'lus, that strange and sovereign grace of which 
we have spoken, there is something Cyclopean. It 
is Polyphemus smiling. At times the smile is formid 
able, and seems to hide an obscure rage. Put, by 
way of example, these two poets, Homer and ^Eschylus, 
in the presence of Helen. Homer is at once conquered, 
and admires ; his admiration is forgiveness. ^Eschylus 
is moved, but remains grave. He calls Helen * fatal 
flower ' ; then he adds, ' soul as calm as the tranquil 

98 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

sea '. One day Shakespeare will say, * false as the 

wave 

i 

CHAPTER II 

THE theatre is a crucible of civilization. It is a place 
of human communion. All its phases need to be 
studied. It is in the theatre that the public soul is 
formed. 

We have just seen what the theatre was in the time 
of Shakespeare and Moliere ; shall we see what it was 
in the time of ^Eschylus ? 

Let us go to see this play. 

It is no longer the cart of Thespis ; it is no longer 
the scaffold of Susarion ; it is no longer the wooden 
circus of Chcerilus. Athens, forecasting the coming 
of jEschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, has built 
theatres of stone. No roof, the sky for a ceiling, 
the day for lighting, a long platform of stone pierced 
with doors and staircases and secured to a wall, the 
actors and the chorus going and coming upon this 
platform, which is the logeum, and performing the 
play ; in the centre, where in our day is the prompter's 
box, a small altar to Bacchus, the thymele ; in front 
of the platform a vast hemicycle of stone steps, on 
which five or six thousand men are sitting pell-mell : 
such is the laboratory. There it is that the swarming 
crowd of the Piraeus come to turn Athenians ; there 
it is that the multitude becomes the public, in antici 
pation of the day when the public shall become the 
people. The multitude is in fact there, the whole 
multitude, including the women, the children, and 
the slaves, and Plato, who knits his brows. 

If it is a fete-day, if we are at the Panathensea, 
at the Lencea, or at the great Dionysia, the magistrates 
form part of the audience ; the proedri, the epistati, 
and the prytanes sit in their place of honour. If the 
trilogy is to be a tetralogy ; if the representation is 

i Othello, V ii 1. 134 : ' She was false as water '. TB. 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 99 

to conclude by a piece with satyrs ; if the fauns, the 
segipans, the maenades, the goat-footed, and the 
evantes are to come at the end to perform their pranks; 
if among the comedians (who are almost priests, and 
are called ' Bacchus's men ') is to appear the favourite 
actor who excels in the two modes of declamation, in 
paralogy as well as paracatology ; if the poet is suffi 
ciently liked by his rivals so that the public may expect 
to see some celebrated men, Eupolis, Cratinus, or even 
Aristophanes, figure in the chorus (' Eupolis atque 
Cratinus Aristophanesque poetse ', as Horace will one 
day say) ; if a play with women is performed, even 
the old Alcestis of Thespis, the whole place is full, 
there is a crowd. The crowd is already to ^Eschylus 
what, later on, as the prologue of The Bacchidea re 
marks, it will be to Plautus, * a swarm of men on 
seats, coughing, spitting, sneezing, making grimaces 
and noises with the mouth (ore concrepario), touching 
foreheads, and talking of their affairs ' : what a crowd 
is to-day. 

Students scrawl with charcoal on the wall now 
in token of admiration, now in irony some well- 
known verses ; for instance, the singular iambic of 
Phrynichus in a single word 

Archaiomelesidonophrunicherata * 

of which the famous Alexandrine, in two words, of 
one of our tragic poets of the sixteenth century, was 
but a poor imitation 

M^tamorphoserait Nabuchodonosor 2 

There are not only the students to make a row, 
there are the old men. Trust to the old men of the 
Wasps of Aristophanes for a noise. Two schools 
are represented, on one side Thespis, Susarion, 
Pratinas of Phlius, Epigenes of Sicyon, Theomis, 
Auleas, Chcerilus, Phrynichus, Minos himself ; on 

a ' He would transmogrify Nebuchadnezzar.' TR. 

100 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

the other, young ^Eschylus. ^Eschylus is twenty- 
eight years old. He gives his trilogy of the ' Prome- 
thei ', Prometheus the Fire-bearer, Prometheus Bound, 
Prometheus Delivered ; followed by some piece with 
satyrs, The Argians, perhaps, of which Macrobius 
has preserved a fragment for us. The ancient quarrel 
between youth and old age breaks out, gray beards 
against black hair. They discuss, they dispute : the 
old men are for the old school ; the young are for 
jEschylus. The young defend ^Eschylus against 
Thespis, as they will defend Corneille agakist Gamier. 
The old men are indignant. Listen to the Nestors 
grumbling. What is tragedy ? It is the song of the 
he -goat. Where is the he -goat in this Prometheus 
Bound ? Art is in its decline. And they repeat the 
celebrated objection : Quid pro Baccho ? (What is 
there for Bacchus ?) Those of severest taste, the 
purists, do not even accept Thespis, and remind each 
other that Solon had raised his stick against Thespis, 
calling him * liar ', for the sole reason that he had 
detached and isolated in a play an episode in the life 
of Bacchus, the story of Pentheus. They hate this 
innovator, ^Eschylus. They blame all these inven 
tions,, the end of which is to bring about a closer con 
nection between the drama and Nature, the use of 
the anapaest for the chorus, of the iambus for the dia 
logue, and of the trochee for passion, in the same 
way that, later on, Shakespeare was blamed for passing 
from poetry to prose, and the theatre of the nineteenth 
century for what was termed ' broken verse.' These 
are indeed unendurable novelties. And then, the 
flute plays too high, and the tetrachord plays too 
low ; and where is now the ancient sacred division 
of tragedies into monodies, stasimes, and exodes ? 
Thespis put on the stage but one speaking actor ; 
here is ^Eschylus putting two. Soon we shall have 
three. (Sophocles, indeed, was to come.) Where 
will they stop ? These are impieties. And how 
does this ^Eschylus dare to call Jupiter * the prytanis 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 101 

of the Immortals ' ? Jupiter was a god, and he is 
no longer anything but a magistrate. What are we 
coming to ? The thymele, the ancient altar of sacri 
fice, is now a seat for the corypheus ! The chorus 
ought to limit itself to executing the strophe, that 
is to say, the turn to the right ; then the antistrophe, 
that is to say, the turn to the left ; then the epode, 
that is to say, repose. But what means the entrance 
of the chorus in a winged chariot ? What is the gad 
fly that pursues lo ? Why does the Ocean come 
mounted on a dragon ? This is show, not poetry. 
Where is the antique simplicity ? This spectacle 
is puerile. Your ^Eschylus is but a painter, a deco 
rator, a maker of brawls, a charlatan, a machinist. 
All for the eyes, nothing for the mind. To the fire 
with all these pieces, and let us content ourselves with 
a recitation of the ancient pseans of Tynnichus ! 
Moreover, it is Chcerilus who, by his tetralogy of the 
Curetes, started the evil. What are the Curetes, if 
you please ? Gods forging metal. Well, then, he 
had simply to show their five families at work upon 
the stage, the Dactyli finding the metal, the Cabiri 
inventing the forge, the Corybantes forging the sword 
and the ploughshare, the Curetes making the shield, 
and the Telchines chasing the jewelry. It was suffici 
ently interesting in that form ; but by allowing poets 
to blend in it the adventure of Plexippus and Toxeus, 
all is ruined. How can you expect society to resist 
such excess ? It is abominable. ^Eschylus ought 
to be summoned before the court, and sentenced to 
drink hemlock, like that old wretch Socrates. You 
will see that after all he will only be exiled. Every 
thing is degenerating. 

And the young men burst into laughter. They 
criticize as well, but in another fashion. What an 
old brute is that Solon ! It is he who has instituted 
the eponymous archonship. What do they want 
with an archon giving his name to the year ? Hoot 
the eponymous archon who has lately caused a poet 

102 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

to be elected and crowned by ten generals, instead 
of by ten men of the people. It is true that one of 
the generals was Cimon, an extenuating circumstance 
in the eyes of some, for Cimon has beaten the Phoeni 
cians ; aggravating in the eyes of others, for it is this 
very Cimon who, in order to get out of prison for debt, 
sold his sister Elphinia, and his wife into the bargain, , 
to Callias. If vEschylus is a reckless person and 
deserves to be cited before the Areopagus, has not 
Phrynichus also been judged and condemned for having 
shown on the stage, in The Taking of Miletus, the 
Greeks beaten by the Persians ? When will poets 
be allowed to suit their own fancy ? Hurrah for the. 
liberty of Pericles, and down with the censure of Solon ! 
And then what is this law that has just been promul 
gated, by which the chorus is reduced from fifty to 
fifteen ? And how are they to play The Danaldes ? ' 
and won't there be chuckling at the line of ^Eschylus, 
' Egyptus, the father of fifty sons ' ? The fifty will 
be fifteen. These magistrates are idiots. Quarrel, 
uproar all around. One prefers Phrynichus, another 
prefers ^Eschylus, another prefers wine with honey 
and benzoin. The speaking-trumpets of the actors 
compete as well as they can with this deafening noise, 
through which is heard from time to time the shrill 
cry of the public vendors of phallus and of the water- 
bearers. Such is the Athenian uproar. During all 
this time the play is going on. It is the work of a 
living man. There is good cause for the commotion. 
Later on, after the death of jEschylus, or after he has 
been exiled, there will be silence. It is right to be silent 
before a god. * ^Equum est ' it is Plautua who 
speaks * vos deo facere silentum.' 

CHAPTER III 

A GENIUS is an accused man. As long as ^schylus 
lived, his life was a strife. His genius was contested, 
then he was persecuted : a natural progression. 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 103 

According to Athenian practice, his private life was 
unveiled ; he was traduced, slandered. A woman 
whom he had loved, Planesia, sister of Chrysilla, 
mistress of Pericles, has dishonoured herself in the 
eyes of posterity by the outrages that she publicly 
inflicted on ^Eschylus. Unnatural amours were 
imputed to him ; for him, as for Shakespeare, a Lord 
Southampton was found. His popularity was broken 
down. Then everything was charged to him as a 
crime, even his kindness to young poets who respect 
fully offered to him their first laurels. It is curious 
to see this reproach constantly reappearing. Pezay 
and St. Lambert repeat it in the eighteenth century : 
* Why, Voltaire, in all thy notes to the authors who 
address thee with complimentary verses, dost thou 
reply with excessive praises ? ' l 

^Eschylus, while alive, was a kind of public target 
for all haters. Young, the ancient poets, Thespis 
and Phrynichus, were preferred to him ; old, the new 
ones, Sophocles and Euripides, were placed above 
him. At last he was brought before the Areopagus, 
and according to Suidas, because the theatre had 
fallen in during the performance of one of his pieces ; 
according to ^Elian, because he had blasphemed, or, 
what is the same thing, had revealed the mysteries 
of Eleusis he was exiled. He died in exile. 

Then Lycurgus the orator cried : * We must raise 
to ^Eschylus a statue of bronze.' 

Athens, which had expelled the man, raised the 
statue. 

Thus Shakespeare, through death, entered into 
oblivion ; ^Eschylus into glory. 

This glory, which was to have in the course of ages 
its phases, its eclipses, its vanishings, and its returns, 
was then dazzling. Greece remembered Salamis, 

1 Pourquoi, Voltaire, a ces auteurs 
Qui t adressent des vers fialteurs, 
Rpondre, en toutes tos missives, 
Par des louangos exceasives ? 

104 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

where ^Eschylus had fought. The Areopagus itself 
was ashamed. It felt that it had been ungrateful 
toward the man who, in The Oresteia, had paid to 
that tribunal the supreme honour of summoning before 
it Minerva and Apollo. ^Eschylus became sacred. 
All the phratries had his bust, wreathed at first with 
fillets, afterward crowned with laurels. Aristophanes 
made him say, in The Frogs, ' I am dead, but my 
poetry liveth.' In the great Eleusinian days, the 
herald of the Areopagus blew the Tyrrhenian trumpet 
in honour of ^Eschylus. An official copy of his ninety- 
seven dramas was made at the expense of the Republic, 
and placed under the special care of the recorder of 
Athens. The actors who played his pieces were obliged 
to go and collate their parts with this perfect and 
unique copy. ^Eschylus was made a second Homer. 
^Eschylus had, like Homer, his rhapsodists, who sang 
his verses at the festivals, holding in their hands a 
branch of myrtle. 

He had been right, the great and insulted man, 
to write on his poems this proud and mournful dedi 
cation : 

To TIME. 

There was no more said about his blasphemy : it 
was enough that this blasphemy had caused him to 
die in exile ; it was as though it had never been. 
Besides, one does not know where to find the blasphemy. 
Palingenius seeks it in an Aster ope, which, in our 
opinion, existed only in imagination. Musgrave 
seeks it in The Eumenides. Musgrave probably was 
right ; for The Eumenides being a very religious piece, 
the priests must have chosen it for the purpose of 
accusing him of impiety. 

Let us note an odd coincidence. The two sons of 
^Eschylus, Euphorion and Bion, are said to have recast 
The Oresteia, exactly as, two thousand three hundred 
years later, Davenant, Shakespeare's illegitimate son, 
recast Macbeth. But in the face of the universal 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 105 

respect for ^Eschylus after his death, such impudent 
tamperings were impossible ; and what is true of 
Davenant is evidently untrue of Bion and Euphorion. 

The renown of ^schylus filled the world of those 
days. Egypt, feeling with reason that he was a giant 
and somewhat Egyptian, bestowed on him the name 
of * Pimander ', signifying ' Superior Intelligence '. 
In Sicily, whither he had been banished, and where 
they sacrificed he-goats before his tomb at Gela, he 
was almost an Olympian. Afterward he was almost 
a prophet for the Christians, owing to the prediction 
of Prometheus, which they thought to apply to Jesus. 

Strangely enough, it is this very glory which has 
wrecked his work. 

We speak here of the material wreck ; for, as we 
have said, the mighty name of ^Eschylus survives. 

The disappearance of these poems is indeed a drama, 
and an extraordinary drama. A king has stupidly 
plundered the human mind. 

Let us tell the story of this larceny. 

CHAPTER IV 

HERE are the facts, the legend, at least ; for at such 
a distance, and in such a twilight, history is legendary. 

There was a king of Egypt named Ptolemy Ever- 
getes, brother-in-law to Antiochus the god. 

Let us mention, by the way, that all these people 
were gods, gods Soters, gods Evergetes, gods Epi- 
phanes, gods Philometors, gods Philadelphi, gods 
Philopators. Translation : Gods saviours, gods bene 
ficent, gods illustrious, gods loving their mother, gods 
loving their brothers, gods loving their father. Cleo 
patra was goddess Soter. The priests and priestesses 
of Ptolemy Soter were at Ptolemais. Ptolemy VI 
was called * God-love-Mother * (Philometor), because 
he hated his mother Cleopati a ; Ptolemy IV was 
* God-love-Father ' (Philopalor), because he had 
poisoned his father ; Ptolemy II was * God-love. 

106 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Brothers ' (Philadelphus), because he had killed his 
two brothers. 

Let us return to Ptolemy Evergetes. 

He was the son of the Philadelphus who gave golden 
crowns to the Roman ambassadors, the same to whom 
the pseudo-Aristeus wrongly attributes the version 
of the Septuagint. This Philadelphus had much 
increased the library of Alexandria, which during 
his lifetime counted two hundred thousand volumes, 
and which in the sixth century attained, it is said, 
the incredible number of seven hundred thousand 
manuscripts. 

This stock of human knowledge, formed under the 
eyes of Euclid and by the efforts of Callimachus, 
Diodorus Cronus, Theodoras the Atheist, Philetas, 
Apollonius, Aratus, the Egyptian priest Manetho, 
Lycophron, and Theocritus, had for its first librarian, 
according to some Zenodotus of Ephesus, according 
to others Demetrius of Phalerum, to whom the Athe 
nians had raised two hundred and sixty statues, which 
they took one year to construct, and one day to destroy. 
Now, this library had no copy of ^Eschylus. One 
day the Greek Demetrius said to Evergetes, * Pharaoh 
has not JLschylus ', exactly as, at a later time, 
Leidrade, archbishop of Lyons and librarian of Charle 
magne, said to Charlemagne, ' The Emperor has not 
Scceva Memor'. 

Ptolemy Evergetes, wishing to complete the work 
of Philadelphus his father, resolved to give ./Eschylus 
to the Alexandrian library. He declared that he 
would cause a copy to be made. He sent an embassy 
to borrow from the Athenians the unique and sacred 
copy, under the care of the recorder of the Republic. 
Athens, not over-prone to lend, hesitated, and de 
manded a security. The King of Egypt offered 
fifteen silver talents. Now, those who wish to compre 
hend the value of fifteen talents, have but to know 
that it was three fourths of the annual tribute of ran 
som paid by JudaBa to Egypt, which was twenty 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 107 

talents, and weighed so heavily on the Jewish people 
that the high-priest Onias II, founder of the Onian 
Temple, decided to refuse this tribute at the risk of a, 
war. Athens accepted the security. The fifteen 
talents were deposited. The complete copy of ^Eschy- 
lus was delivered to the King of Egypt. The King 
gave up the fifteen talents, and kept the book. 

Athens, indignant, had some thought of declaring 
war against Egypt. To reconquer ^Eschylus would 
be as good as reconquering Helen. To repeat the 
Trojan war, but this time to recover Homer, seemed 
a fine thing. Yet time was taken for consideration. 
Ptolemy was powerful. He had forcibly taken back 
from Asia the two thousand five hundred Egyptian 
gods formerly carried there by Cambyses because 
they were in gold and silver. He had, besides, con 
quered Cilicia and Syria and all the country from the 
Euphrates to the Tigris. With Athens it was no 
longer the day when she had improvised a fleet of 
two hundred ships against Artaxerxes. She left 
^Eschylus a prisoner in Egypt. 

A prisoner-god. This time the word * god ' is in 
its right place. They paid ^Eschylus unheard-of 
honours. The King refused, it is said, to allow the 
works to be transcribed, stupidly bent on possessing 
a unique copy. 

Particular care was taken of this manuscript when 
the library of Alexandria, augmented by the library 
of Pergamus, which Antony gave to Cleopatra, was 
transferred to the temple of Jupiter Serapis. There 
it was that Saint Jerome came to read, in the Athenian 
text, the famous passage in the Prometheus prophesying 
Christ : ' Go and tell Jupiter that nothing shall make 
me name the one who is to dethrone him.' 

Other doctors of the Church made, from the same 
copy, the same verification. For in all times orthodox 
asseverations have been combined with what have 
been called the testimonies of polytheism, and great 
pains have been taken to make pagans say Christian 

108 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

things. * Teste David cum Sibylla.' People came 
to the Alexandrian library, as on a pilgrimage, to 
examine the Prometheus, constant visits which perhaps 
deceived the Emperor Hadrian, making him write 
to the Consul Serviamis : ' Those who worship Serapis 
are Christians ; those who profess to be bishops of 
Christ are at the same time devotees of Serapis.' 

Under the Roman dominion, the library of Alex 
andria belonged to the Emperor. Egypt was Caesar's 
property. ' Augustus ', says Tacitus, * seposuit Egypt- 
urn.' It was not every one who could travel there. 
Egypt was closed. The Roman knights, and even the 
senators, could not easily obtain admittance. 

It was during this period that the complete copy of 
jEschylus was exposed to the perusal of Timocharis, 
Aristarchus, Athenaeus, Stobaeus, Diodorus of Sicily, 
Macrobius, Plotinus, Jamblichus, Sopater, Clement 
of Alexandria, Nepotian of Africa, Valerius Maximus, 
Justin the Martyr, and even of ^Elian, although ^Elian 
left Italy but seldom. 

In the seventh century a man entered Alexandria. 
He was mounted on a camel and seated between two 
sacks, one full of figs, the other full of corn. These 
two sacks were, with a wooden platter, all that he 
possessed. This man never seated himself except on 
the ground. He drank nothing but water, and ate 
nothing but bread. He had conquered half Asia and 
Africa, taken or burned thirty-six thousand towns, 
villages, fortresses, and castles, destroyed four thou 
sand pagan or Christian temples, built fourteen hun 
dred mosques, conquered Izdeger, King of Persia, 
and Heraclius, Emperor of the East ; and he called 
himself Omar. He burned the library of Alexandria. 

Omar is for that reason celebrated ; Louis, called 
the Great, has not the same celebrity, an injustice, 
for he burned the Rupertine library at Heidelberg. 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 109 

CHAPTER V 

Now, is not this incident a complete drama ? It 
might be entitled, ' ^Eschylus Lost '. Exposition, 
plot, and denouement. After Evergetes, Omar. The 
action begins with a robber, and ends with an incendi 
ary. 

Evergetes this is his excuse robbed from the 
motive of love. The admiration of a fool has its 
attendant inconveniences. 

As for Omar, he is the fanatic. By the way, we 
must mention that strange historical rehabilitations 
have been attempted in our time. We do not speak 
of Nero, who is the fashion ; but an attempt has been 
made to exonerate Omar, as well as to bring a verdict 
of " not guilty " for Pius V. Saint Pius V personifies- 
the Inquisition ; to canonize him was enough : why 
declare him innocent ? We do not lend ourselves 
to these attempts at appeal in trials which have re 
ceived final judgment. We have no taste for rendering 
such little services to fanaticism, whether it be caliph 
or pope, whether it burn books or men. Omar has 
had many advocates. A certain class of historians 
and biographical critics are easily moved to tears 
over the sabre : a victim of slander, this poor sabre ! 
Imagine, then, the tenderness that is felt for a scimi 
tar, the scimitar being the ideal sabre. It is better 
than brute, it is Turk. Omar, then, has been cleared 
as far as possible. A first fire in the Bruchion district, 
where the Alexandrian library stood, was used as an 
argument to prove how easily such accidents happen. 
That fire was the fault of Julius Cassar, another 
sabre ! Then a second argument was found in a second 
conflagration, only partial, of the Serapeum, in order to 
accuse the Christians, the demagogues of those days. 
If the fire at the Serapeum had destroyed the Alex 
andrian library in the fourth century, Hypatia would 
not have been able, in the fifth century, to give in 
that same library those lessons in philosophy which 

110 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

caused her to be murdered with broken pieces of 
earthen pots. Touching Omar, we are willing to 
believe the Arabs. Abdallatif saw at Alexandria, 
.about 1220, ' a shaft of the pillars supporting a cupola 51 , 
And said, * There stood the library that Amroo-Ibn- 
Al-Aas burned by permission of Omar'. Aboolfaraj, 
in 1260, relates in precise terms in his Dynastic Histonj 
that by order of Omar they took the books from the 
library, and with them heated the baths of Alexandria 
for six months. According to Gibbon, there were 
were at Alexandria four thousand baths. Ibn-Khal- 
doon, in his Historical Prolegomena, relates another 
wanton destruction, the annihilation of the library 
of the Medes by Saad, Omar's lieutenant. Now, 
Omar having caused the burning of the Median library 
in Persia by Saad, was logical in causing the destruc 
tion of the Egyptian -Greek library in Egypt by Amroo. 
His lieutenants have preserved his orders for us : 
' If these books contain falsehoods, to the fire with 
them ! If they contain truths, these truths are in 
the Koran : to the fire with them ! ' In place of the 
Koran, put the Bible, Veda, Edda, Zend-Avesta, 
Toldos-Jeschut, Talmud, Gospel, and you have the 
imperturbable and universal formula of all fanaticisms. 
This being said, we do not see any reason to reverse 
the verdict of history ; we award to the Caliph the 
smoke of the seven hundred thousand volumes of 
Alexandria, ^Eschylus included, and we maintain 
Omar in possession of his conflagration. 

Evergetes, through his wish for exclusive posses 
sion, treating a library as a seraglio, has robbed us of 
^schylus. Imbecile contempt may have the same 
results as imbecile adoration. Shakespeare came very 
near meeting the fate of ^Eschylus. He also has had 
Ms conflagration. Shakespeare was so little printed, 
printing existing so little for him, thanks to the stupid 
indifference of his immediate posterity, that in 1666 

1 The original reads : ' la colonne des piliers supportant 
>une coupole.' TB. 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 111 

there was still but one edition of the poet of Stratford- 
on-Avon (Hemynge and Condell's edition), three 
hundred copies of which were printed. Shakespeare, 
with this obscure and pitiful edition awaiting the public 
in vain, was a sort of poor but proud relative of the 
glorious poets. These three hundred copies were 
nearly all stored up in London when the Fire of 1666 
broke out. It burned London, and nearly burned 
Shakespeare. The whole edition of Hemynge and 
Condell disappeared, with the exception of the forty- 
eight copies which had been sold in fifty years. Those 
forty-eight purchasers saved from death the words 
of Shakespeare *. 

CHAPTER VI 

THE disappearance of ^Eschylus ! Extend this catas 
trophe hypothetically to a few more names, and it 
seems as though one perceived a vacuum forming 
in the human mind. 

The work of JEschylus was, by its extent, the great 
est, certainly, of all antiquity. By the seven plays 
which remain to us, we may judge what that universe 
was. 

Let us point out what * JSschylus Lost ' imports : 

Fourteen trilogies, * The Promethei ', of which 

Prometheus Bound formed a part ; The Seven Chiefs 

against Thebes, of which there remains one piece ; 

The Danaldes, which included The Suppliants, written 

1 In addition to Hemynge and Condell's edition (known 
as the ' First Folio, or Folio of 1623 '), there had been, before 
the year of the Great Fire, two editions, the ' Second 
Folio', 1632, and the 'Third Folio', 1663-64. Besides 
these during the poet's lifetime, and throughout a large 
part of the aeventeenth century, single plays of Shakespeare 
.red in quarto form. See Dowden s Primer, pp. 30-31. 
In the last chapter of this useful little book some facts are 
jzivcii which show that Shakespeare wan by no means so 
unknown and unpopular throughout the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries as Victor Hugo would persuade us 
that he was. TR. 

112 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

in Sicily, and in which the ' Sicilianism ' of ^Eschylus is 
traceable ; Laius, which included (Edipus ; Athamas, 
which ended with The Isthmiastes ; Perseus, the 
node of which was The Phorcydes ; JEtna, which had 
as prologue The Mnean Women; Iphigenia, the 
denouement of which was the tragedy of The Priestesses ; 
The Ethiopid, the titles of which are nowhere to be 
found ; Peniheus, in which were The Hydrophori 
(Water-carriers) ; Teucer, which opened with The 
Judgment of Arms ; Niobe, which began with The 
Nurses and ended with The Men of the Train ; a 
trilogy in honour of Achilles, The Tragic Iliad, com 
posed of The Myrmidons, The Nereids, and The Phry 
gians ; one in honour of Bacchus, The Lycurgia, 
composed of The Edons, The Bassarides, and The 
Young Men. 

These fourteen trilogies alone give a total of fifty-six 
plays, if we consider that nearly all were tetralogies ; 
that is to say, quadruple dramas, and ended with a 
satyric after-piece. Thus The Oresteia had as a 
satyric after-piece, Proteus ; and The Seven Chiefs 
against Thebes had The Sphinx. 

Add to these fifty-six pieces a probable trilogy of 
The Laldacides ; add the tragedies of The Egyptians, 
The Ransom of Hector, Memnon, undoubtedly connected 
with such trilogies ; add all the satyric plays, Sisyphus 
the Deserter, The Heralds, The Lion, The Argians, 
Amymone, Circe, Cercyon, Glaucus the Mariner, 
comedies in which was found the mirth of that wild 
genius. 

That is what we have lost. 

Evergetes and Omar have robbed us of all this. 

It is difficult to fix precisely the total number of 
pieces written by ^Eschylus. The statements vary. 
The anonymous biographer speaks of seventy-five, 
Suidas of ninety, Jean Deslyons of ninety-seven, 
Meursius of a hundred. Meursius enumerates more 
than a hundred titles ; but some probably do double 
service. 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE US 

Jean Deslyons, doctor of the Sorbonne, lecturer 
on divinity at Senlis, author of the Diacours ecclesi- 
ostique centre le poganisme du Roi boit 1 , published in 
the seventeenth century a work against laying coffins 
one above another in cemeteries, in which he took for 
his authority the twenty-fifth canon of the Council of 
Auxerre : * Non licet mortuum super mortuum mitti '. 
Deslyons, in a note added to that work, which is now 
very rare, and of which we believe Charles Nodier 
possessed a copy, quotes a passage from the great 
antiquarian numismatist of Venloo, Hubert Goltzius, 
in which, in reference to embalming, Goltzius mentions 
The Egyptians of ^Eschylus, and The Apotheosis of 
Orpheus, a title omitted in the enumeration given 
by Meursius. Goltzius adds that The Apotheosis 
of Orpheus was recited at the mysteries of the Lyco- 
mides 2 . 

This title, The Apotheosis of Orpheus, sets one to- 
thinking. ^Eschylus speaking of Orpheus, the Titan 
measuring the hundred-handed, the god intrepreting 
the god, what could be nobler, and how one would 
long to read that work ! Dante speaking of Virgil 
and calling him his master, does not fill up this gap, 
because Virgil, a noble poet, but without invention, 
is less than Dante ; it is between equals, from genius 
to genius, from sovereign to sovereign, that such hom 
age is splendid. ^Eschylus raises to Orpheus a temple 
of which he might occupy the altar himself : this is 
grand ! 

CHAPTER VII 

JSsciiYLUs is disproportionate. There is in him 
something of India. The wild majesty of his stature 
recalls those vast poems of the Ganges which stride 
through Art with the steps of a mammoth, and which 
have, among the Iliads and the Odysseys, the appear- 

1 ' Ecclesiastical Discourse against the Paganism of the 
King drinks.' (?) 

2 *S'tc in original. 

I 

114 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

ance of hippopotami among lions. ^Eschylus, a 
thorough Greek, is yet something more than a Greek ; 
he has the Oriental incommensurableness. 

Salmasius declares that he is full of Hebraisms 
and Syrianisms : ' Hebrai'smis et Syrianismis '. ^Eschy- 
lus makes the Winds bear Jupiter's throne, as the 
Bible makes the Cherubim bear Jehovah's throne, 
as the Rig- Veda makes the Marouts bear the throne 
of Indra. The Winds, the Cherubim, and the Marouts 
are the same beings, the Breathings. For the rest, 
Salmasius is right. Plays upon words so frequent in 
the Phoenician language, abound in ^Eschylus. He plays, 
for instance, in reference to Jupiter and Europa, on 
the Phoenician word ilpha, which has Hie double 
meaning of ' ship ' and ' bull '. He loves that language 
of Tyre and Sidon, and at times he borrows from it 
the strange gleams of his style ; the metaphor, 
' Xerxes with the dragon eyes ', seems an inspiration 
from the Ninevite dialect, in which the word draka 
meant at the same time ' dragon ' and ' clear-sighted '. 
He has Phoenician heresies : his heifer, lo, is rather 
the cow, Isis ; he believes, like the priests of Sidon, 
that the temple of Delphi was built by Apollo with 
a paste made of wax and bees' -wings. In his exile in 
Sicily he goes often to drink religiously at the fountain 
of Arethusa ; and never do the shepherds who watch 
him hear him mention Arethusa otherwise than by 
this mysterious name, Alphaga, an Assyrian word 
signifying ' spring surrounded with willows '. 

./Eschylus is, in the whole Hellenic literature, the 
sole example of the Athenian mind with a mixture 
of Egypt and Asia. These depths were repugnant to 
the Greek intelligence. Coniith, Epidaurus, (Edepsus, 
Gythium, Chaeroneia, which was to be the birthplace 
of Plutarch, Thebes, where Pindar's house was, Man- 
tineia, where the glory of Epaminondas shone, all 
these golden towns repudiated the Unknown, a glimpse 
of which was seen like a cloud behind the Caucasus. 
It seemed as though the sun was Greek. The sun, 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 115 

used to the Parthenon, was not made to em/er the 
diluvian forests of Grand Tartary, under the thick mould 
of gigantic endogens, under the lofty ferns of five hun 
dred cubits, where swarmed all the first dreadful 
models of Nature, and under whose shadows existed 
unknown, shapeless cities, such as that fabled Anarod- 
gurro, the existence of which was denied until it sent 
an embassy to Claudius. Gagasruira, Sambulaca, 
Maliarpha, Barygaza, Caveripatnam, Sochoth-Benoth, 
Tiglath-Pileser, Tana-Serim, all these almost hideous 
names affrighted Greece when they came to be 
reported by the adventurers on their return, first by 
those with Jason, then by those of Alexander. ^Eschylus 
had no such horror. He loved the Caucasus. It was there 
he had made the acquaintance of Prometheus. One 
almost feels in reading ^Eschylus that he had haunted 
the vast primitive thickets now become coal-measures, 
and that he had taken huge strides over the roots, 
snake-like and half-living, of the ancient vegetable 
monsters. ^Eschylus is a kind of behemoth among 
the great intelligences. 

Let us say, however, that the affinity of Greece 
with the East an affinity hated by the Greeks 
was real. The letters of the Greek alphabet are 
nothing but the letters of the Phoenician alphabet 
reversed. ^Eschylus was all the more Greek from the 
fact of his being something of a Phoenician. 

This powerful mind, at times apparently shapeless, 
on account of its very greatness, has the Titanic 
gaiety and affability. He indulges in quibbles on the 
names of Prometheus, Polynices, Helen, Apollo, 
Ilion, on the cock and the sun, imitating, in this 
respect, Homer, who made about the olive that famous 
pun which caused Diogenes to throw away his plate 
of olives and eat a tart. 

The father of ^Eschylus, Euphorion, was a disciple 
of Pythagoras. The soul of Pythagoras ; that philos 
opher half magian and half Brahmin, seemed to have 
entered through Euphorion into ^Eschylus. We have 

116 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

already said that in the dark and mysterious quarrel 
between the celestial and the terrestrial gods, the 
intestine war of paganism, ^Eschylus was terrestrial. 
He belonged to the faction of the gods of earth. The 
Cyclops having worked for Jupiter, he rejected them, 
as we should reject a corporation of workmen who had 
betrayed us, and he preferred to them the Cabiri. 
He adored Ceres. ' O thou, Ceres, nurse of my soul ! ' 
and Ceres is Demeter, that is, Ge-meter, the mother- 
earth. Hence his veneration for Asia. It seemed 
then as though the Earth was rather in Asia than 
elsewhere. Asia is in reality, compared with Europe, 
a kind of block almost without capes and gulfs, and 
little penetrated by the sea. The Minerva of ^Eschy- 
lus says * Asia the Great '. ' The sacred soil of Asia ', 
says the chorus of the Oceanides. In his epitaph, 
graven on his tomb at Gela, and written by himself, 
^Eschylus attests 'the long-haired Mede' 1 . He 
makes the chorus celebrate * Susicanes and Pegastagon, 
born in Egypt, and the chief of Memphis the sacred 
city '. Like the Phoenicians, he gives the name ' Oncea ' 
to Minerva. In The Mtna, he celebrates the Sicilian 
Dioscuri, the Palici, those twin gods whose worship, 
connected with the local worship of Vulcan, had 
reached Asia through Sarepta and Tyre. He calls 
them ' the venerable Palici '. Three of his trilogies 
are entitled The Persians, The Ethiopid, The Egypt 
ians. In the geography of ^Eschylus, Egypt, as well 
as Arabia, was in Asia. Prometheus says, ' the flower 
of Arabia, the hero of Caucasus '. ^Eschylus was 
in geography a notable specialist. He had a Gorgonian 
city, Cysthenes, which he placed in Asia, as well as 
a River Pluto, rolling sands of gold, and defended by 

1 The epitaph is translated by John Stuart Blackie as 
follows : 

Here ^schylus lies, from his Athenian home 

Remote, 'neath Gela's wheat-producing loam ; 

How brave in battle was Euphorion's son, 

The long-haired Mede can tell who fell at Marathon. TB. 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 117 

men with a single eye, the Arimaspians. The pirates 
to whom he makes allusion somewhere are, according 
to all appearance, the pirates of Angria *, who in 
habited the rock Vizindruk. He could see distinctly 
beyond the Pas-du-Nil, in the mountains of Byblos, 
the source of the Nile, still unknown to-day. He knew 
the precise spot where Prometheus had stolen the 
fire, and he designated without hesitation Mount 
Mosychlus, in the neighbourhood of Lemnos. 

When this geography ceases to be fanciful, it is 
exact as an itinerary. It becomes true, and remains 
incommensurable. There is nothing more real than 
that splendid transmission, in one night, of the news 
of the capture of Troy, by bonfires lighted one after 
the other, and answering from mountain to mountain, 
from Mount Ida to the promontory of Hermes, from 
the promontory of Hermes to Mount Athos, from 
Mount Athos to Mount Macispe, from Macispe to 
Messapius, from Mount Messapius over the River 
Asopus to Mount Cytheron, from Mount Cytheron 
over the morass of Gorgopis to Mount Egiplanctus, 
from Mount Egiplanctus to Cape Saronica (later 
Spireum), from Cape Saronica to Mount Arachne, 
from Mount Arachne to Argos. You may follow on 
the map that train of fire announcing Agamemnon 
to Clytemnestra. 

This bewildering geography is mingled with an 
extraordinary tragedy, in which you hear dialogues 
more than human : Prometheus ' Alas ! * Mercury 
* This is a word that Jupiter speaks not.' And again, 
where the Ocean plays the part of a Geronte : ' To 
appear mad ' says the Ocean to Prometheus * is 
the secret of the sage ' a saying as deep as the sea. 
Who knows the mental reservations of the tempest ? 
And the Power exclaims : * There is but one free god 
Jupiter.' 

^Eschylus has his own geography ; he has also his 
fauna. 

1 The original reads : ' les pirates angrias.' TB. 

118 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

This fauna, which strikes us as fabulous, is enig 
matical rather than chimerical. The author of these 
lines has discovered and identified, in a glass case of 
the Japanese Museum at the Hague, the impossible 
serpent of The Oresteia, having two heads at its two 
extremities. There are, it may be added, in the same 
case several specimens of a monstrosity which would 
seem to be of another world, and is, at all events, 
strange and unexplained, as, for our part, we are 
little disposed to admit the odd hypothesis of Japan 
ese manufacturers of monsters. 

^Eschylus at times sees Nature with simplifications 
stamped with a mysterious disdain. Here the Pythagor 
ean disappears, and the magian shows himself. All 
beasts are the beast. ^Eschylus seems to see in the 
animal kingdom only a dog. The griffin is a ' dumb 
dog ' ; the eagle is a ' winged dog ', * the winged 
dog of Jupiter ', says Prometheus. 

We have just used the word ' magian '. In fact, 
this poet, like Job, performs at times the functions 
of a priest. One would say that he exercises over 
Nature, over human creatures, and even over gods, 
a kind of magianism. He upbraids animals for their 
voracity. A vulture which seizes a doe-hare with 
young, in spite of its running, and feeds on it, ' eats 
a whole race stopped in its flight '. He addresses the 
dust and the smoke : the first he calls * thirsty sister 
of mire ' ; the other, * black sister of fire '. He insults 
the dreaded bay of Salmydessus, 'stepmother of 
ships.' He reduces to dwarfish proportions the 
Greeks who took Troy by treachery : he exhibits them 
whelped by a machine of war ; he calls them ' these 
foal of a horse '. As for the gods, he goes so far as 
to incorporate Apollo with Jupiter. He finely calls 
Apollo * the conscience of Jupiter '. 

His bold familiarity is absolute, a mark of sove 
reignty. He makes the sacrificer take Iphigenia 
* as a she-goat .' A queen who is a faithful spouse 
is for him ' the good house-bitch '. As for Orestes, 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 119 

he has seen him when a babe, and he speaks of him 
as ' wetting his swaddling-clothes ' (humectatio ex 
urina). He goes even beyond this Latin. The 
expression, which we do not repeat here, is to be found 
in The Litigants 1. If you are bent upon reading the 
word which we hesitate to write, apply to Racine. 

The whole is vast and mournful. The profound 
despair of fate is in ^Eschylus. He portrays in terrible 
lines ' the impotence which chains down, as in a dream, 
the blind living creatures '. His tragedy is nothing 
but the old Orphic dithyramb suddenly bursting into 
tears and lamentations over man. 

CHAPTER VIII 

ARISTOPHANES loved ^Eschylus by that law of affinity 
which causes Marivaux to love Racine. 

Tragedy and comedy are made to understand one 
another. 

The same distracted and all-powerful breath fills 
^Ischylus and Aristophanes. They are the two 
inspired wearers of the antique mask. 

Aristophanes, who is not yet finally judged, adhered 
to the Mysteries, to Cecropian poetry, to Eleusis, to 
Dodona, to the Asiatic twilight, to the profound 
pensive dream. This dream, whence sprang the art 
of ^Egina, was at the threshold of the Ionian philosophy 
in Thales as well as at the threshold of the Italic 
philosophy in Pythagoras. It was the sphinx guarding 
the entrance. 

This sphinx was a muse, the great pontifical 
and wanton muse of universal procreation ; and Aris 
tophanes loved it. This sphinx breathed tragedy 
into ^Eschylus, and comedy into Aristophanes. It 
contained something of Cybele. The antique sacred 
immodesty is found in Aristophanes. At times he 
shows Bacchus foaming at the lips. He comes from 

1 Les Plaideurs, act iii scene iii. 

120 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

the Dionysia, or from the Ascolia *, or from the great 
trieterical Orgy, and he strikes one as a raving maniac 
of the Mysteries. His staggering verse recalls the 
Bacchant hopping giddily upon air-bladders. Aris 
tophanes has the sacerdotal obscenity. He is for 
nudity against love. He denounces the Phccdras 
.and the Sthenobseas, and he creates * Lysistrata '. 

Let no one fail to note that this was religion, and 
that a cynic was an austere mind. The Gymnosophists 
formed the point of intersection between lewdness 
and thought. The he-goat, with its philosopher's 
beard, belonged to that sect. That dark, ecstatic, 
and bestial Oriental spirit lives still in the santon, the 
dervish, and the fakir. Aristophanes, like Diogenes, 
belonged to that family. ^Eschylus was related to it 
by his Oriental temperament, but he retained the 
tragic chastity. 

This mysterious naturalism was the antique Genius 
of Greece. It was called poetry and philosophy. 
It had under it the group of the seven sages, one of 
whom, Periander, was a tyrant. Now, a certain 
vulgar spirit of moderation appeared with Socrates ; 
it was sagacity clarifying wisdom. Thales and Pytha 
goras reduced to immediate truth : such was the 
operation, a sort of filtration, which, purifying and 
weakening, allowed the ancient divine doctrine to 
percolate, drop by drop, and become human. These 
simplifications disgust fanaticism ; dogmas object 
to a process of sifting. To ameliorate a religion is to 
lay violent hands on it. Progress, offering its services 
to Faith, offends it. Faith is an ignorance which 
professes to know, and which in certain cases does, 
perhaps, know more than Science. In the face of 
the lofty affirmations of believers, Socrates had an 
uncomfortable, sly half-smile. There is in Socrates 
something of Voltaire. Socrates denounces all the 
Eleusinian philosophy as unintelligible and incon- 

1 ' Aschosie ' in the original. The translator supposes the 
' Ascoliasmus ' or ' Ascolia ' to be intended. TB. 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 121 

ceivable ; and he said to Euripides, that to under 
stand Heraclitus and the old philosophers, ' one 
would have to be a swimmer of Delos ', that is, a 
swimmer capable of landing on an island which recedes 
before him. That was impiety and sacrilege toward 
the ancient Hellenic naturalism. One need seek no 
other cause for the antipathy of Aristophanes for 
Socrates. 

This antipathy was hideous : the poet has the 
bearing of a persecutor ; he lends assistance to the 
oppressors against the oppressed, and his comedy is 
guilty of crimes. Aristophanes fearful punishment ! 
has remained in the eyes of posterity in the predica 
ment of an evil genius. But there is for him one 
extenuating circumstance, he was an ardent admirer 
of the poet of Prometheus, and to admire him was 
to defend him. Aristophanes did what he could to 
prevent his banishment ; and if anything can diminish 
one's indignation in reading The Clouds, with its rabid 
satire of Socrates, it is to see in the background the 
hand of Aristophanes detaining by the mantle the 
departing ^Eschylus. ^Eschylus has likewise a comedy, 
a sister of the broad farce of Aristophanes. We 
have spoken of his mirth ; it goes very far in The, 
Argians. It equals Aristophanes, and outstrips the 
Shrove Tuesday of our Carnival. Listen : ' He 
throws at my head a chamber utensil. The full vase 
falls on my head, and is broken, odoriferous, but not 
precisely like an urn of perfume.' Who says that ? 
^Eschylus. And in his turn Shakespeare will come 
and exclaim through Falstaff's lips : * Empty the 
jorden '. What can you say ? You have to deal with 
savages. 

One of these savages is Moliere ; witness, from 
one end to the other, Le Malade Imaginaire. Racine 
also is, to some extent, one of them ; see Lea Plaidevrs, 
already mentioned. 

The Abbe Camus was a witty bishop, a rare thing 
at all times ; and, what is more, he was a good mun. 

122 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

He would have deserved this reproach of another 
bishop, our contemporary, of being * good to the 
point of silliness '. Perhaps he was good because he 
was clever. He gave to the poor all the revenue of his 
bishopric of Belley. He objected to canonization. 
It was he who said, ' There's no chase but with 
old dogs, and no shrine but for old saints ' * ; and 
although he did not like new-comers in sainthood, 
he was the friend of Saint Frangois de Sales, by whose 
advice he wrote romances. He relates in one of his 
letters that FranQois de Sales had said to him, * The 
Church enjoys a laugh '. 

Art enjoys a laugh. Art, which is a temple, has 
its laughter. Whence comes this hilarity ? All at 
once, in the midst of the stern faces of serious master 
pieces, there bursts forth a buffoon, a masterpiece 
he also. Sancho Panza jostles Agamemnon. All 
the marvels of thought are there ; irony comes to 
complicate and complete them. Enigma. Behold 
Art, great Art, seized with a fit of gaiety. Its problem, 
matter, amuses it. It was forming it, now it deforms 
it. It was shaping it for beauty, now it delights in 
extracting from it its ugliness. It seems to forget 
its responsibility. It does not forget it, however ; 
for suddenly, behind the grimace, there shines the 
countenance of philosophy, a smooth-browed philo 
sophy, less sidereal more terrestrial, quite as mysterious 
as the gloomy philosophy. The unknown man 
and the unknown in things confront each other ; and 
in the act of meeting, these two augurs, Fate and 
Nature, fail to keep their faces straight. Poetry 
burdened with anxieties, befools, whom ? Itself. 
A mirth, which is not serenity, gushes out from the 
incomprehensible. An unknown, austere, and sinister 
raillery flashes its lightning through the human dark- 
The shadows piled around us play with our soul. 

1 This saw involves a quaint pun between ckasse (chase) 
and chdsse (shrine). TB. 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 123 

Formidable blossoming of the Unknown : the jest 
issuing from the abyss. 

This alarming mirth in Art is called, in antiquity, 
Aristophanes ; and in modern times, Rabelais. 

When Pratinas the Dorian had invented the play 
with satyrs, comedy making its appearance face to 
face with tragedy, mirth by the side of mourning, 
the two styles ready, perhaps, to unite, it was a 
matter of scandal. Agathon, the friend of Euripides, 
went to Dodona to consult Loxias. Loxias is Apollo. 
Loxias means * crooked ', and Apollo was called 

* The Crooked ', because his oracles were always indirect 
and full of meanders and coils. Agathon inquired 
of Apollo whether comedy existed by right as well 
as tragedy. Loxias answered : ' Poetry has two 
ears '. 

This answer, which Aristotle declares obscure, seems 
to us very clear. It sums up the entire law of Art. 
The poet finds himself, in fact, confronted by two 
problems. The first open to the sunlight : the noisy, 
tumultuous, stormy, clamorous problem, problem 
of the crowded thoroughfare, of all the paths open to 
the multitudinous tread of human feet ; problem of 
disputing tongues, of feuds, of the passions with their 

* Wherefore ? ' problem of evil, which is the beginning 
of sorrow, for to be evil is worse than to do it ; problem 
of pain, dolor, tears, cries, groans. The other, the 
mute problem of the shadow, the vast silence, of un 
speakable and dread significance. And poetry has 
two ears : the one listens to the living, the other to the 
dead. 

CHAPTER IX 

THE power that Greece had to throw out light is 
marvellous, even now that we have the example of 
France. Greece did not colonize without civilizing, 
an example that more than one modern nation might 
follow : to buy and sell is not all. 

124 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Tyre bought and sold ; Berytus bought and sold ; 
Sidon bought and sold ; Sarepta bought and sold. 
Where are these cities ? Athens taught ; and she is 
to this hour one of the capitals of human thought. 

The grass is growing on the six steps of the tribune 
where spoke Demosthenes ; the Ceramicus is a ravine 
half-choked with the marble dust which was once the 
palace of Cecrops ; the Odeon of Herod Atticus, at 
the foot of the Acropolis, is now but a ruin on which 
falls, at certain hours, the imperfect shadow of the 
Parthenon ; the temple of Theseus belongs to the 
swallows ; the goats browse on the Pnyx. Still the 
Greek spirit lives ; still Greece is queen ; still Greece 
is goddess. A counting-house passes away : a school 
remains. 

It is curious to remind one's self to-day that twenty- 
two centuries ago, small towns, isolated gfcd scattered 
on the outskirts of the known world, possessed, all of 
them, theatres. In the interest of civilization, Greece 
began always by the construction of an academy, of 
a portico, or of a logeum. Whoever could have seen, 
at almost the same period, rising at a short distance 
one from the other, in Umbria, the Gallic town of Sens 
(now Sinigaglia), and, near Vesuvius, the Hellenic 
city Parthenopea (at present Naples), would have 
recognized Gaul by the big stone standing all red with 
blood, and Greece by the theatre. 

This civilization by Poetry and Art had such a 
mighty force that sometimes it subdued even war. 
The Sicilians, as Plutarch relates in speaking of Nicias, 
gave liberty to the Greek prisoners who sang the 
verses of Euripides. 

Let us point out some very little known and very 
singular facts. 

The Messenian colony, Zancle, in Sicily ; the Corin 
thian colony, Corcyra, distinct from the Corcyra 
of the Absyrtides Islands ; the Cycladian colony, 
Cyrene, in Libya ; the three Phocsean colonies, Helea 
in Lucania, Palania in Corcisa, Marseilles in France, 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 125 

all had theatres. The gadfly having pursued lo all 
along the Adriatic Gulf, the Ionian Sea reached as 
far as the harbour of Venetus, and Tergeste (now 
Trieste) had a theatre. A theatre at Salpe, in 
Apulia ; a theatre at Squillacium, in Calabria ; a 
theatre at Thernus, in Livadia ; a theatre at Lysi- 
machia, founded by Lysimachus, Alexander's lieu 
tenant ; a theatre at Scapta-Hyla, where Thucydides 
had gold mines ; a theatre at Byzia, where Theseus 
had lived ; a theatre in Chaonia, at Buthrotum, where 
those equilibrists from Mount Chimaera performed 
whom Apuleius admired on the Pcocile ; a theatre in 
Pannonia, at Buda, where the Metanastes were, 
that is to say, * the Transplanted '. Many of these 
remote colonies were much exposed. In the Isle 
of Sardinia which the Greeks named Ichnusa, on 
account of its resemblance to the sole of the foot 
Calaris (now Cagliari) was in some sort under the 
Punic claw ; Cibalis, in Mysia, had to fear the Triballi ; 
Aspalathon, the Illyrians ; Tomis, the future resting- 
place of Ovid, the Scordiscae ; Miletus, in Anotlia, 
the Massagetre ; Denia, in Spain, the Cantabrians ; 
Salmydessus, the Molossians ; Carsina, the Tauro- 
Scythians ; Gelonus, the Arymphaeans of Sarmatia, 
who lived on acorns ; Apollonia, the Hamaxobians 
prowling in their chariots ; Abdera, the birthplace 
of Democritus, the tattooed Thracians. All these 
towns by the side of their citadel had a theatre. Why ? 
Because the theatre keeps alive the flame of love for 
the fatherland. Having the Barbarians at their gates, 
it was imperative that they should remain Greeks. 
The national spirit is the strongest of bulwarks. 

The Greek drama was profoundly lyrical. It was 
often less a tragedy than a dithyramb. It had upon 
occasion strophes as powerful as swords. It rushed 
helmeted upon the stage ; it was an ode armed for 
battle. We know what a Marseillaise can do. 

Many of these theatres were of granite, some of 
brick. The theatre of Apollonia was of marble. The 

126 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

theatre of Salmydessus, which could be moved to the 
Doric place or to the Epiphanian place, was a vast 
scaffolding rolling on cylinders, after the fashion of 
those wooden towers which are thrust against the 
stone towers of besieged towns. 

And what poet did they prefer to play at these 
theatres ? ^Eschylus. 

^Eschylus was for Greece the autochthonal poet. 
He was more than Greek, he was Pelasgian. He 
was born at Eleusis ; and not only was he Eleusinian, 
but Eleusiac * that is to say, a believer. It is the 
same shade as that between * English ' and ' Anglican '. 
The Asiatic element, a sublime distortion of his genius, 
increased the popular respect ; for people said that 
the great Dionysius that Bacchus common to Occi 
dent and Orient came in dreams to dictate to him 
his tragedies. You find again here the ' familiar spirit ' 
of Shakespeare. 

^Eschylus, Eupatrid and ^Eginetic, struck the 
Greeks as more Greek than themselves. In those times 
of mingled code and dogma, to be sacerdatol was a 
lofty way of being national. Fifty-two of his tragedies 
had been crowned. On leaving the theatre after the 
performance of the plays of ^schylus, the men 
would strike the shields hung at the doors of the 
temples, crying, ' Fatherland, fatherland ! ' Let us 
add that to be hieratic did not hinder him from being 
demotic. ^Eschylus loved the people, and the people 
adored him. There are two sides to greatness : majesty 
is one, familiarity the other. ^Eschylus was familiar 
with the turbulent and generous mob of Athens. He 
often gave to that mob the noble part in his plays. 
See in The Oresteia how tenderly the chorus, which 
is the people, receives Cassandra ! The Queen mal 
treats and frightens the slave whom the chorus tries 
to reassure and soothe. ^Eschylus had introduced 

1 Victor Hugo's word is ' eleusiaque.' Neither the 
word nor the distinction is to be found in the ordinary 
books of reference. TR. 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 127 

the people in his grandest works, in Pentheiw, by 
the tragedy of The Wool-carders ; in Niobe, by the 
tragedy of The Nurses ; in Athamas, by the tragedy 
of The Net-drawers ; in Iphigenia, by the tragedy of 
The Bed-makers. It was on the side of the people 
that he turned the balance in the mysterious drama 
The Weighing of Souls J . Therefore had he been chosen 
to preserve the sacred fire. 

In all the Greek colonies they played The Oresteia 
and The Persians. ^Eschylus being present, the 
fatherland was no longer absent. These almost 
religious representations were ordered by the magis 
trates. It was as if to the gigantic ^Eschylean theatre 
the task had been entrusted of watching over the 
infancy of the colonies. It threw around them the 
Greek spirit, it protected them from the influence of 
bad neighbours and from all temptations of being led 
astray. It preserved them from contact with Barbar 
ism, it maintained them within the Hellenic circle. 
It was there as a warning. All those young offspring 
of Greece were, so to speak, placed under the care of 
^Eschylus. 

In India they often give the children into the charge 
of elephants. These mountains of goodness watch 
over the little ones. The whole group of flaxen heads 
sing, laugh, and play under the shade of the trees. 
The dwelling is at some distance. The mother is not 
with them, she is at home ; busy with her domestic 
cares, she gives no heed to her children. Yet, merry 
as they are, they are in danger. These beautiful 
trees are treacherous ; they hide beneath their thickets 
thorns, claws and teeth. There the cactus bristles, the 
lynx roams, the viper crawls. The children must not 
wander away ; beyond a certain limit they would be 
lost. Nevertheless, they run about, call to each other, 
pull and entice one another away, some of them just 
beginning to stammer, and quite unsteady on their 

i The Psychostasia. 

128 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

feet. At times one of them ventures too far. Then 
a formidable trunk is stretched out, seizes the little one, 
and gently leads him home. 

CHAPTER X 

SOME copies, more or less complete, of ^schylus were 
at one time in existence. 

Besides the small copies in the colonies, which were 
limited to a small number of pieces, it is certain that 
partial copies of the original at Athens were made by 
the Alexandrian critics and scholiasts, who have left 
us some fragments ; among others, the comic fragment 
of The Argians, the Bacchic fragment of The Edons, 
the lines [cited by Stobseus, and even the probably 
apocryphal verses given by Justin the Martyr. 

These copies, buried, but perhaps not destroyed, 
have buoyed up the persistent hope of searchers, 
notably of Le Clerc, who published in Holland, 
in 1709, the discovered fragments of Menander. Pierre 
Pelhestre of Rouen, the man who had read everything 
(for which the worthy Archbishop Perefixe scolded him), 
affirmed that the greater part of the poems of ^Ischylus 
would be found in the libraries of the monastries of 
Mount Athos, just as the five books of The Annals 
of Tacitus had been discovered in the convent of Corwey 
in Germany, and The Institutes of Quintilian in an 
old tower of the abbey of St. Gall. 

A tradition, not undisputed, would have it that 
Evergetes II returned to Athens, not the original 
draft of ^Eschylus, but a copy, leaving the fifteen 
talents as compensation. 

Independently of the story about Evergetes and 
Omar which we have related, and which, while true 
in substance, is perhaps legendary in more than one 
particular, the loss of so many fine works of antiquity 
is but too well explained by the small number of copies. 
Egypt, hi particular, transcribed everything on papyrus. 
Papyrus, being very dear, became very rare. People 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 129 

were reduced to the necessity of writing on pottery. 
To break a vase was to destroy a book. About the 
time when Jesus Christ was painted on the walls 
at Rome with ass's hoofs and this inscription, ' The 
God of the Christians, hoof of an ass ' (namely, in 
the third century), to make ten manuscripts of Tacitus 
yearly, or, as we should say to-day, to strike off ten 
copies of his works a Caesar must needs call himself 
Tacitus, and believe Tacitus to have been his uncle. 
And yet Tacitus is nearly lost. Of the twenty -eight 
years of his History of the Ccesars, extending from 
the year 69 to the year 96, we have but one complete 
year, 69, and a fragment of the year 70. Evergetes 
prohibited the exportation of papyrus, which pro 
hibition caused parchment to be invented. The 
price of papyrus was so high that Firmius the Cyclops, 
manufacturer of papyrus about the year 270, made 
by his trade enough money to raise armies, wage war 
against Aurelian, and declare himself emperor. 

Gutenberg is a redeemer. These submersions 
of the works of the mind, inevitable before the inven 
tion of printing, are now impossible. Printing is 
the discovery of the inexhaustible ; it is perpetual 
motion found in social science. From time to time 
a despot seeks to stop or to slacken it, and he is worn 
away by the friction. Thought no more to be shackled, 
progress no more to be impeded, the book imperish 
able, such is the result of printing. Before printing, 
civilization was subject to losses of substance. The 
indications essential to progress, derived from such 
a philosopher or such a poet, were all at once missing. 
A page was suddenly torn from the human book. To 
disinherit humanity of all the great bequests of 
genius, the stupidity of a copyist or the caprice of 
a tyrant sufficed. No such danger exists in the present 
day. Henceforth the undistrainable reigns. No one 
could serve a writ upon thought and take up its body. 
The manuscript was the body of the masterpiece ; 
the manuscript was perishable, and carried off the 

130 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

soul the work. The work, made a printed sheet, is 
delivered. It is now only a soul. Kill now this 
immortal ! Thanks to Gutenberg, the copy is no 
longer exhaustible. Every copy is a germ, and has 
in itself its own possible regeneration in thousands of 
editions ; the unit is pregnant with the innumerable. 
This miracle has rescued universal intelligence. Guten 
berg in the fifteenth century emerges from the awful 
obscurity, bringing out of the darkness that ransomed 
captive, the human mind. Gutenberg is for ever the 
auxiliary of life ; he is the permanent fellow- workman 
in the great task of civilization. Nothing is done 
without him. He has marked the transition from 
man enslaved to man free. Try to deprive civiliza 
tion of him, and you have Egypt. The simple diminu 
tion of the freedom of the press is enough to diminish 
the stature of a people. 

One of the great features in this deliverance of 
man by printing is let us insist on it the indefinite 
preservation of poets and philosophers. Gutenberg 
is a second father of the creations of the mind. Before 
him yes, it was possible for a masterpiece to die. 

A mournful thing to say : Greece and Rome have 
left vast ruins of books. A whole facade of the human 
mind half crumbled : such is antiquity. Here the 
ruin of an epic, there a tragedy dismantled ; great 
verses effaced, buried, and disfigured, pediments of 
ideas almost entirely fallen, geniuses truncated like 
columns, palaces of thought without ceiling and 
door, bleached bones of poems, a death's-head which 
was once a strophe, immortality in rubbish ! These 
things inspire bodeful dreams. Oblivion, a black 
spider, hangs its web between the drama of jEschylus 
and the history of Tacitus. 

Where is ^Eschylus ? In scraps everywhere. 
JEschylus is scattered about in twenty texts. His 
ruins must be sought in innumerable places. Athe- 
nseus gives the dedication ' To Time ', Macrobius the 
fragment of Mtna and the homage to the Palici, 

THE ANCIENT SHAKESPEARE 131 

Pausanias the epitaph ; the biographer is anonymous ; 
Goltzius and Meursius give the titles of the lost pieces. 

We know from Cicero, in the Disputationcs Tus- 
culance, that ^Eschylus was a Pythagorean ; from 
Herodotus that he fought bravely at Marathon ; from 
Diodorus of Sicily that his brother Amynias behaved 
valiantly at Plataea ; from Justin that his brother 
Cynegyrus was heroic at Salamis. We know by the 
didascalies that The Persians was represented under 
the archon Meno, The Seven Chiefs against Thebes 
under the archon Theagenides, and The Oresteia 
under the archon Philocles ; we know from Aristotle 
that ^Eschylus was the first to venture to make two 
personages speak at once on the stage ; from Plato 
that the slaves were present at his plays ; from Horace 
that he invented the mask and the buskin ; from 
Pollux that pregnant women miscarried at the appear 
ance of his Furies ; from Philostratus that he abridged 
the monodies ; from Suidas that his theatre fell in 
under the weight of the crowd ; from JSlian that he 
committed blasphemy ; from Plutarch that he was 
exiled ; from Valerius Maximus that an eagle killed 
him by letting a tortoise fall on his head ; from Quin- 
tilian that Jus plays were recast ; from Fabricius 
that his sons are accused of the crime of leze-paternity ; 
from the Arundel marbles the date of his birth, the 
date of his death, and his age, sixty-nine years. 

Now, take away from the drama the Orient and 
replace it by the North, take away Greece and put 
in England, take away India and put Germany (that 
other immense mother, Alemannia, All-men), take 
away Pericles and put in Elizabeth, take away the 
Parthenon and put in the Tower of London, take 
away the plebs and put in the mob, take away fatality 
and put in melancholy, take away the Gorgon and put 
in the witch, take away the eagle and put in the cloud, 
take away the sun and light the wind-swept heath 
with a ghastly moonrise, and you have Shakespeare. 

Given the dynasty of men of genius, the originality 

132 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

of each being absolutely reserved, the poet of the 
Carlovingian formation being the natural successor 
of the poet of the Jupiterian formation, the Gothic 
mist succeeding the antique mystery, and Shake 
speare is ^Eschylus II. 

There remains the right of the French Revolution, 
creator of the third world, to be represented in Art. 
Art is an immense gaping chasm, ready to receive 
all that is within possibility. 

BOOK V 

SOULS 

CHAPTER I 

THE production of souls is the secret of the unfathom 
able depth. The innate, what a shadow ! What 
is that concentration of the unknown which takes 
place hi the darkness ; arid whence abruptly breaks 
the light of genius ? What is the law of such advents, 
O Love ? The human heart does its work, on earth, 
and by that the great deep is moved. What is that 
incomprehensible meeting of material sublimation 
and moral sublimation in the atom, indivisible from 
the point of view of life, incorruptible from the point 
of view of death ? The atom, what a marvel ! 
No dimension, no extent, nor height, nor breadth, 
nor thickness, independent of every possible measure 
ment ; and yet, everything in this nothing ! For 
algebra a geometrical point, for philosophy a soul. 
As a geometrical point, the basis of science ; as a 
soul, the basis of faith. Such is the atom. Two 
urns, the sexes, imbibe life from the infinite, and the 
spilling of one into the other produces the being. 
This is the norm for all, for the animal as well as for 
man. But the man more than man, whence comes 
he? 

The supreme intelligence, which here below is 
the great man, what is the power which evokes it, 
incarnates it, and reduces it to a human state ? What 
part do flesh and blood take in this miracle ? Why 
do certain terrestrial sparks seek certain celestial 
molecules ? Where do they plunge, those sparks ? 
Whither do they go ? How do they proceed ? What 

133 

134 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

is this faculty of man to set fire to the unknown ? 
This mine, the infinite, this product, a genius, what 
more formidable ? Whence does it issue ? Why, 
at a given moment, this one, and not that one ! Here, 
as everywhere, the incalculable law of affinities appears 
but to escape our ken. One gets a glimpse, but seea 
not. forgeman of the gulf ! where art thou ? 

Qualities the most diverse, the most complex, the 
most opposed in appearance, enter into the composi 
tion of souls. Contraries are not mutually exclusive ; 
far from that, they complete each other. Such a 
prophet contains a scholiast ; such a magian is a 
philologian. Inspiration knows its own trade. Every 
poet is a critic : witness the excellent piece of theatri 
cal criticism that Shakespeare puts into the mouth of 
Hamlet. A visionary mind may also be precise, like 
Dante, who writes a book on rhetoric, and a grammar. 
A precise mind may be also visionary, like Newton, 
who comments on the Apocalypse ; like Leibnitz, 
who demonstrates, nova inventa logica, the Holy 
Trinity. Dante knows the distinctions between the 
three sorts of words, parola piana, parola sdrucciola, 
parola tronca : he knows that the piana gives a trochee, 
the sdrucciola a dactyl, and the tronca an iamb. New 
ton is perfectly sure that the Pope is the Antichrist. 
Dante combines and calculates ; Newton dreams. 

There is no tangible law in this obscurity. No 
system is possible. The currents of adhesion and 
of cohesion cross each other at random. At times 
one imagines that one detects the phenomenon of 
the transmission of the idea ; one seems- distinctly 
to see a hand taking the torch from him who is depart 
ing, and passing it on to him who arrives. 1642, for 
example, is a strange year. Galileo dies, Newton is 
born in that year. Very good, it is a clue ; but try 
to tie it, it breaks at once. Here is a disappearance : 
on the 23rd of April, 1616, on the same day, almost 
at the same minute, Shakespeare and Cervantes die. 
Why are these two flames extinguished at the same 

SOULS 135 

moment ? No apparent logic. A whirlwind in the 
night. 

Questions unanswered at every turn: why does 
Commodus issue from Marcus Aurelius ? 

These problems beset in the desert Jerome, that 
man of the caves, that Isaiah of the New Testament. 
He interrupted his preoccupation with eternity and 
his attention to the trumpet of the archangel, in 
order to meditate on the soul of some Pagan in whom 
he felt interested ; he calculated the age of Persius, 
connecting that research with some obscure chance 
of possible salvation for that poet, dear to the Cenobite 
on account of his austerity. And nothing is so sur 
prising as to see this wild thinker, half naked on his 
straw like Job, dispute on this question, apparently 
so frivolous, of the birth of a man, with Rufinus and 
Theophilus of Alexandria, Rufinus observing to him 
that he is mistaken in his calculations, and that Persius 
having been born in December, under the consulship 
of Publius and Marius Asinius Callus, these periods 
do not correspond rigorously with the year II of the 
two hundred and third olympiad and the year II of 
the two hundred and tenth, the dates fixed by Jerome. 
It is thus that the mystery invites contemplation. 

These calculations, almost wild, of Jerome or others 
like him, are made by more than one dreamer. Never 
to find a stop, to pass from one spiral to another like 
Archimedes, and from one zone to another like Alighieri, 
to fall fluttering down the circular shaft, this is the 
eternal lot of the dreamer. He strikes against the 
hard wall on which the pale ray glides. Sometimes 
certainty comes to him as an obstacle, and some 
times clearness as a fear. He keeps on his way. He 
is the bird beneath the vault. It is frightful ; but 
no matter, the dreamer goes on. 

To muse is to think here and there, passim. What 
means the birth of Euripides during the battle of 
Salamis, where Sophocles, a youth, prays, and whero 
^Eschylus, a mature man, fights ? What means the 

136 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

birth of Alexander the night which saw the burning 
of the temple of Ephesus ? What tie exists between 
that temple and that man ? Is it the conquering 
and radiant spirit of Europe, which, perishing in the 
form of the masterwork, reappears in the form of 
the hero ? For it must not be forgotten that Ctesiphon 
is the Greek architect of the temple of Ephesus. We 
mentioned just now the simultaneous disappearance 
of Shakespeare and Cervantes. Here is another 
case not less surprising. The day Diogenes dies 
at Corinth, Alexander dies at Babylon. These two 
cynics the one of the tub, the other of the sword 
depart together ; and Diogenes, eager to bathe in 
the radiance of the vast unknown, will again say to 
Alexander, ' Stand out of my sunlight '. 

What is the meaning of certain harmonies in the 
myths represented by divine men ? What is that 
analogy between Hercules and Jesus which struck 
the Fathers of the Church, which shocked Sorel but 
edified Duperron, and which makes Alcides a 
kind of material mirror of Christ ? Was there not 
a community of soul and an unconscious commu 
nication between the Greek legislator and the Hebrew 
legislator, who (neither of them knowing the other, 
or even suspecting his existence) created at the same 
moment, the first the Areopagus, the second the 
Sanhedrim ? Strange resemblance between the jubilee 
of Moses and the jubilee of Lycurgus ! What are 
these double paternities, paternity of the body, 
paternity of the soul, like that of David for Solomon ? 
Giddy heights, steeps, precipices. 

He who looks too long into this sacred horror feels 
immensity unsettling his brain. What does the 
sounding-line give you when thrown into that mystery ? 
What do you see ? Conjectures waver, doctrines 
shudder, hypotheses float ; all human philosophy 
shivers in the mournful blast rising from that chasm. 

The expanse of the possible is in some sort under 
your eyes. The dream that you have within your- 

SOULS 137 

self, you discover beyond yourself. All is indistinct. 
Confused white shadows are moving. Are they 
souls ? In the deeps of space there are passings 
of vague archangels : will they one day be men ? 
Grasping your head between your hands, you strive 
to see and to know. You are at the window opening 
into the unknown. On all sides the deep layers of 
effects and causes, heaped one behind the other, 
wrap you with mist. The man who meditates not, 
lives in blindness ; the man who meditates, li ves in 
darkness. The choice between darkness and darkness, 
that is all we have. In that darkness, which thus 
far is nearly all our science, experience gropes, obser 
vation lies in wait, supposition wanders about. If 
you gaze into it very often, you become the vatcs. 
Protracted religious meditation takes possession of 
you. 

Every man has within him his Patmos. He is 
free to go, or not to go, out upon that frightful promon 
tory of thought from which one perceives the shadow. 
If he goes not, he remains in the common life, with 
the common conscience, with the common virtue, 
with the common faith, or with the common doubt ; 
and it is well. For inward peace it is evidently the 
best. If he goes out upon those heights, he is taken 
captive. The profound waves of the marvellous 
have appeared to him. No one views with impunity 
that ocean. Henceforth he will be the thinker, 
dilated, enlarged, but floating ; that is to say, the 
dreamer. He will partake of the poet and of the 
prophet. Henceforth a certain portion of him be 
longs to the shadow. An element of the boundless 
enters into his life, into his conscience, into his virtue, 
into his philosophy. Having a different measure 
from other men, he becomes extraordinary in their 
eyes. He has duties which they have not. He lives 
in a sort of diffused prayer, and, strange indeed, at 
taches himself to an indeterminate certainty which 
he calls God. He distinguishes in that twilight enough 

138 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

of the anterior life and enough of the ulterior life to 
seize these two ends of the dark thread, and with 
them to bind his soul to life. Who has drunk will 
drink, who has dreamed will dream. He will not 
give up that alluring abyss, that sounding of the 
fathomless, that indifference for the world and for 
this life, that entrance into the forbidden, that effort 
to handle the impalpable and to see the invisible : 
he returns to it, he leans and bends over it, he takes 
one step forward, then two ; and thus it is that one 
penetrates into the impenetrable, and thus it is that 
one finds the boundless release of infinite meditation. 

He who descends there is a Kant ; he who falls 
there is a Swedenborg. 

To preserve the freedom of the will in that expansion, 
is to be great. But, however great one may be, the 
problems cannot be solved. One may ply the fathom 
less with questions : nothing more. As for the 
answers, they are there, but veiled by the shadow. 
The colossal lineaments of truth seem at times to 
appear for a moment ; then they fade away, and are 
lost in the absolute. Of all these questions, that 
among them all which besets the intellect, that among 
them all which weighs upon the heart, is the question 
of the soul. 

Does the soul exist ? question the first. The 
persistence of self is the longing of man. Without 
the persistent self, all creation is for him but an immense 
cui bono ? Listen, therefore, to the tremendous 
affirmation which bursts forth from all consciences. 
The whole sum of God that there is on the earth, 
within all men, concentrates itself in a single cry to 
affirm the soul. And then, question the second: 
Are there great souls ? 

It seems impossible to doubt it. Why not great 
minds in humanity, as well as great trees in the forest, 
as well as great peaks at the horizon ? We behold 
great souls as we behold great mountains : hence 
they exist. But here the interrogation presses, it 

SOULS 139 

becomes anxious : whence come they ? What are 
they ? Who are they ? Are these atoms more divine 
than others ? This atom, for instance, which shall 
be endowed with irradiation here below, this one 
which shall be Thales, this one ^Eschylus, this one 
Plato, this one Ezekiel, this one Maccabneus, this 
one Apollonius of Tyana, this one Tertullian, this 
one Epictetus, this one Marcus Aurelius, this one 
Nestorius, this one Pelagius, this one Gama, this one 
Copernicus, this one John Huss, this one Descartes, 
this one Vincent de Paul, this one Piranesi, this one 
Washington, this one Beethoven, this one Garibaldi, 
this one John Brown, all these atoms, souls having 
a sublime function among men, have they seen other 
worlds, and do they bring to earth the essence of 
those worlds ? The master-souls, the guiding intelli 
gences, who sends them ? who determines their 
advent ? who is judge of the actual want of humanity ? 
who chooses the souls ? who musters the atoms ? 
who ordains the departures ? who premeditates the 
arrivals ? Does the link-atom, the atom universal, 
the atom binder of worlds, exist ? Is not that the 
great soul ? 

To complete one universe by the other;" to pour 
upon the insufficiency of the one the excess of the 
other ; to increase here liberty, there science, there 
the ideal ; to communicate to inferiors patterns of 
superior beauty ; to effect an exchange of effluences ; 
to bring the central fire to the planet ; to harmonize 
the various worlds of the same system ; to urge for 
ward those which lag behind ; to mingle the crea 
tions, does not that mysterious function exist ? 

Is it not unwittingly fulfilled by certain chosen 
spirits who, during the moments of their earthly 
pilgrimage, are in part unknown to themselves ? 
Is it not the function of such or such an atom, a divine 
motive power called soul, to bring a solar man to go 
and come among terrestrial men ? Since the floral 
atom exists, why should not the stellar atom exist ? 

140 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

That solar man will be, in turn, the sarant, the seer, 
the calculator, the thaumaturgus, the navigator, 
the architect, the magian, the legislator, the philosopher, 
the prophet, the hero, the poet. The life of humanity 
will move onward through them. The transport 
of civilization will be their task ; these spirit- teams 
will draw the huge chariot. One being unyoked, 
another will start again. Each turn of a century 
will be a stage, and there will never be a break in 
the connection. That which one mind begins, another 
mind will finish, chaining phenomenon to phenomenon, 
sometimes without suspecting links. To each revolu 
tion in fact will correspond an adequate revolution 
in idea, and reciprocally. The horizon will not be 
allowed to extend to the right without stretching 
as much to the left. Men the most diverse, the most 
opposite even, will find unexpected points of contact, 
and in these alliances the imperious logic of progress 
will be made plain. Orpheus, Buddha, Confucius, 
Zoroaster, Pythagoras, Moses, Manu, Mahomet, with 
many more, will be links of the same chain. A Guten 
berg discovering a method for the sowing of civiliza 
tion and a means for the ubiquity of thought, will be 
followed by a Christopher Columbus discovering a 
new field. A Christopher Columbus discovering a 
new world will be followed by a Luther discovering 
a new liberty. After Luther, innovator in dogma, 
will come Shakespeare, innovator in art. One genius 
completes another. 

But not in the same region. The astronomer 
supplements the philosopher ; the legislator is the 
executor of the poet's wishes ; the fighting liberator 
lends his aid to the thinking liberator ; the poet 
corroborates the statesman. Newton is the appendix 
to Bacon ; Danton originates in Diderot ; Milton 
confirms Cromwell ; Byron supports Bozzaris ; ^Eschy- 
lus, before him, has assisted Miltiades. The work 
is mysterious even for the men who perform it. Some 
are conscious of it, others are not. At great distances, 

SOULS 141 

at intervals of centuries, the correlations manifest 
themselves, wonderful ; the softening of human 
manners begun by the religious revealer, will be 
completed by the philosophical reasoner, so that 
Voltaire continues Jesus. Their work harmonizes 
and coincides. If this concordance depended upon 
them, both would resist, perhaps : the one, the divine 
man, indignant in his martyrdom ; the other, the 
human man, humiliated in his irony. But the fact 
remains. Some power that is very high ordains it 
thus. 

Yes, let us meditate upon these vast obscurities. 
Reverie fixes its gaze upon the shadow until there 
issues from it light. 

Properly speaking, civilization is humanity develop 
ing itself from within outward. Human intelligence 
radiates, and, little by little, wins, subdues, and hu 
manizes matter. Sublime domestication ! This 
labour has phases, and each of these phases, marking 
an age in progress, is opened or closed by one of those 
beings called ' men of genius.' These missionary 
spirits, these legates of God, do they not carry in them 
a sort of partial solution of the question, so abstruse, 
of free-will ? The apostolate, being an act of will, 
is related on one side to liberty ; and on the other, 
being a mission, is related by predestination to 
fatality. The voluntary necessity. Such is the 
Messiah; such is genius. 

Now let us return for all questions which pertain 
to mystery form the circle from which one cannot 
escape let us return to our starting-point and to 
our first question : What is a genius ? Is it not 
perchance a cosmic soul, a soul penetrated by a ray 
from the unknown ? In what deeps are such souls 
prepared ? What stages do they pass through ? What 
medium do they traverse ? What is the germination 
which precedes the hatching ? What is the antenatal 1 
mystery ? Where was this atom ? It seems to be 
the point of intersection of all the forces. How come* 

H2 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

all the powers to converge and tie themselves into an 
invisible unity in this sovereign intelligence ? Who 
has brooded upon this eagle ? The incubation of 
genius by the abysmal deep : what a riddle ! These 
lofty souls, momentarily belonging to earth, have they 
not seen something else ? Is it for that reason that 
they come to us with so many intuitions ? Some 
of them seem full of the dream of a previous world. 
Is it thence that comes to them the terror that they 
sometimes feel ? Is it this which inspires them with 
perplexing words ? Is it this which fills them with 
strange agitations ? Is it this which possesses them 
until they seem to see and touch imaginary things 
and beings? Moses had his burning bush; Socrates 
his familiar demon ; Mahomet his dove ; Luther his 
goblin playing with his pen, to whom he would say, 
* Be still, there ! ' Pascal his open precipice, which 
he hid with a screen. 

Many of these majestic souls are evidently conscious 
of a mission. They act at times as if they knew. They 
seem to have a confused certainty. They have it. 
They have it for the mysterious ensemble ; they have 
it also for the detail. John Huss dying predicts 
Luther. He exclaims : ' You burn the goose (Huss), 
but the swan will come '. Who sends these souls ? 
Who fills them with life ? What is the law of their 
formation anterior and superior to life ? Who pro 
vides them with force, patience, fruitfulness, will, 
wrath ? From what urn of goodness have they 
drawn their austerity ? In what regions of the light 
nings have they gathered love ? Each of these great 
new-born souls renews philosophy, or art, or science, 
or poetry, and recreates these worlds in its own image. 
They are as if impregnated with creative power. At 
times there emanates from these souls a truth which 
lights up the questions on which it falls : such a soul 
is like a star from which light should gutter. From 
what wonderful source, then, do they proceed, that 
they are all different ? No one springs from the 

SOULS 143 

other, and yet they have this in common, that they 
all bring in the infinite. Incommensurable and 
insoluble question ! That does not hinder worthy 
pedants and knowing people from bridling up and 
saying, as they point to the heights of civilization 
where shines the starry group of men of genius : 
* You shall see no more men like those. They cannot 
be matched. There are no more of them. We 
declare to you that the earth has exhausted its con 
tingent of master-spirits. Now for decadence and 
general closing up. We must make up our minds 
to it. We shall have no more men of genius '. Ah ! 
you have seen the bottom of the unfathomable, you ! 

CHAPTER II 

No, Thou art not worn out ! Thou hast not before 
thee the bourn, the limit, the term, the frontier. Thou 
hast nothing to bound Thee, as winter bounds summer, 
as lassitude the birds, as the precipice the torrent, 
as the cliff the ocean, as the tomb man. Thou art 
without end. * Hitherto shalt thou come, but no 
farther ', is spoken by Thee, and it is not spoken of 
Thee. No, Thou windest not a diminishing skein 
of brittle thread. No, Thou stoppest not short. No, 
Thy quantity decreaseth not ; Thy breadth is not 
becoming narrowness ; Thy faculty miscarrieth not. 
No, it is not true that they begin to perceive in Thy 
omnipotence that transparence which announces the 
end, and to get a glimpse of something else beyond 
Thee. Something beyond ! And what then ? an 
obstacle : obstacle to whom ? An obstacle to creation ! 
an obstacle to the immanent ! an obstacle to the 
necessary ! What a dream ! 

Men say, ' This is as far as God advances. Ask 
no more of Him. He starts from here and stops there. 
In Honor, in Aristotle, in Newton, He has given you 
all that He had. Leave Him at rest now ; His strength 
is drained. God does not begin again. He could 

144 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

do that once, He cannot do it twice. He has quite 
spent Himself upon this man ; enough of God does 
not remain to make a similar man '. At hearing 
such things, wert Thou a man like them, Thou wouldst 
smile in Thy dreadful deep ; but Thou art not in a 
dreadful deep, and, being goodness, Thou hast no 
smile. The smile is but a passing wrinkle, unknown 
to the absolute. 

Thou stricken by a chill ! Thou cease ! Thou 
suffer impediment ! Thou to cry ' Halt ! ' Never. 
Shouldst Thou be compelled to take breath after 
having created a man ? No ; whoever that man 
may be, Thou art God. If this pale throng of living 
beings, in presence of the unknown, must feel wonder 
and dismay at something, it is not at beholding the 
generative principle dry up, and creative power grow 
sterile ; it is, O God, at the eternal unleashing of 
miracles. The hurricane of miracles blows perpetually. 
Day and night the phenomena surge around us on all 
sides, and (what is not least marvellous) without 
disturbing the majestic tranquillity of the Creation. 
This tumult is harmony. 

The huge concentric waves of universal life are 
shoreless. The starry sky that we study is but a 
partial appearance. We grasp but a few meshes 
of the vast network of existence. The complication 
of the phenomenon, of which a glimpse can be caught 
beyond our senses only by contemplation and ecstasy, 
makes the mind giddy. The thinker who reaches 
so far is to other men only a visionary. The necessary 
interlacement of the perceptible with the non-per 
ceptible strikes the philosopher with stupor. This 
plenitude is required by Thy omnipotence, which 
admits no gap. The interpenetration of universe 
with universe makes part of Thy infinitude. Here 
we extend the word * universe ' to an order of facts 
that no astronomer can reach. In the Cosmos, invisi 
ble to fleshly eye, but revealed to vision, sphere blends 
with sphere without change of form, the creations 

SOUIJ3 145 

being of diverse density ; so that, to all appearance, 
with our world is inexplicably merged another, invisible 
to us as we to it. 

And Thou, centre and base of things, Thou, the 
* I Am ', exhausted ! Can the absolute serenities 
be distressed, from time to time, by want of power 
on the part of the Infinite ? Shall we believe that 
an hour may come when Thou canst no longer 
furnish the light of which humanity has need ; that, 
mechanically unwearied, Thou mayst grow faint in 
the intellectual and moral order, so that men may 
say, ' God is extinct upon that side ' ? No ! No ! 
No ! O Father ! 

Phidias created does not hinder Thee from making 
Michael Angelo. Michael Angelo formed, there still 
remains to Thee the material for Rembrandt. A 
Dante does not fatigue Thee. Thou art no more 
exhausted by a Homer than by a star. Auroras by 
the side of auroras, the indefinite renewal of meteors, 
worlds above worlds, the portentous passage of those 
flaming stars called comets, men of genius, Orpheus, 
then Moses, then Isaiah, then ^Eschylus, then Lucre 
tius, then Tacitus, then Juvenal, then Cervantes and 
Rabelais, then Shakespeare, then Moliere, then Vol 
taire, those who have been and those to come, all 
that does not weary Thee. Chaos of constellations ! 
there is room in Thy immensity. 

PART SECOND 

BOOK I 
SHAKESPEARE'S GENIUS 

CHAPTER I 

* SHAKESPEARE ', says Forbes, ' had neither the tragic 
talent nor the comic talent. His tragedy is artificial, 
and his comedy is but instinctive.' Dr Johnson 
confirms the verdict. * His tragedy is the product 
of industry, and his comedy the product of instinct.' 
After Forbes and Johnson have contested his claim 
to dramatic talent, Greene contests his claim to origi 
nality. Shakespeare is * a plagiarist ' ; Shakespeare 
is ' a copyist ' ; Shakespeare * has invented nothing ' ; 
he is * a crow adorned with the plumes of others * ; 
he pilfers from ^Eschylus, Boccaccio, Bandello, Hollin- 
shed, Belleforest, Benoist de St. Maur ; he pilfers 
from Layamon, Robert of Gloucester, Robert of Wace, 
Peter of Langtoft, Robert Manning, John de Mande- 
ville, Sackville, Spenser; he pilfers from the Arcadia 
of Sidney ; he pilfers from the anonymous work called 
The True Chronicle of King Leir ; he pilfers from 
! Rowley, in The Troublesome Reign of King John 
'(1591), the character of the bastard Faulconridge. 
Shakespeare plunders Robert Greene ; Shakespeare 
plunders Dekker and Chettle. Hamlet is not his ; 
'Othello is not his. As for Green, Shakespeare is for 
him not only ' a bumbaster of blank verses ', a * Shake- 
scene ', a Joliannes factotum (allusion to his former 
position as call-boy and supernumerary) ; Shakespeare 
is a wild beast. Crow no longer suffices ; Shakespeare 
is promoted to a tiger. Here is the text: * Tyger's 

147 

148 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

heart wrapt in a player's hide ' (A Groats-worth of 
Wit, 1592) i. 

Thomas Rymer thus judges Othello : ' The moral 
of this story is certainly very instructive ; it is a 
warning to good housewives to look after their linen '. 
Then the same Rymer condescends to give up joking, 
and to take Shakespeare in earnest : ' What edifying 
and useful impression can the audience receive from 
such poetry ? To what can this poetry serve, unless 
it is to mislead our good sense, to throw our thoughts 
into disorder, to trouble our brain, to pervert our 
instincts, to crack our imaginations, to corrupt our 
taste, and to fill our heads with vanity, confusion, 
clatter, and nonsense ? ' This was printed some four 
score years after the death of Shakespeare, in 1693. 
All the critics and all the connoisseurs were of one 
opinion. 

Here are some of the reproaches unanimously 
addressed to Shakespeare : Conceits, word-play, puns. 
Improbability, extravagance, absurdity. Obscenity. 
Puerility. Bombast, emphasis, exaggeration. False 
glitter, pathos. Far-fetched ideas, affected style. 
Abuse of contrast and metaphor. Subtilty. Immo 
rality. Writing for the mob. Pandering to the rabble. 

1 It may be well to transcribe the familiar passage referred 
to, noting that Hugo here distinguishes between Robert 
Greene, the dramatist (whom he re -christens Thomas) 
and an imaginary critic, ' Green.' In the Groats-worth of 
Wit bought with a Million of Repentaunce, written by the 
unhappy Greene upon his death -bed, he warns his fellow 
playwrights of certain ' puppits that speak from our mouths 
those anticks garnished in our colours '. ' Yes, trust them 
not ; for there is an upstart crow, beautified with our 
feathers, that with his Tygers heart wrapt in a players hide, 
supposes he is as well able to bumbast out a blanke verse 
as the best of you ; and being an absolute Johannes Fac 
totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a 
countrie.' Greene's reference to the line of Henry VI 
Part III, ' O tiger's heart, wrapped in a woman's hide ! ' 
is of extreme interest, says Halliwell-Phillipps, as including 
the earliest record of words composed by the great drama 
tist. Tn. 

SHAKESPEARE'S GENIUS 149 

Delighting in the horrible. Want of grace. Want 
of charm. Overreaching his aim. Having too much 
wit. Having no wit. Overdoing his work. 

* This Shakespeare is a rude and savage mind ', 
says Lord Shaftesbury. Dryden adds, ' Shakespeare 
is unintelligible '. Airs Lennox applies the ferule 
to Shakespeare as follows : ' This poet alters historical 
truth'. A German critic of 1680, Bentheim, feels 
himself disarmed, because, says he, * Shakespeare is 
a mind full of drollery '. Ben Jonson, Shakespeare's 
protege, relates (ix, 175, Gifford's edition) : ' I recollect 
that the players often mentioned it as an honour to 
Shakespeare that, in his writing, whatsoever he 
penned, he never blotted out a line : I answered. 
" Would to God he had blotted out a thousand ! " ' 
This wish, moreover, was granted by the worthy 
publishers of 1623, Blount and Jaggard. They struck 
out of Hamlet alone, two hundred lines ; they cut out 
two hundred and twenty lines of King Lear *. Garrick 
played at Drury Lane only the King Lear of Nahum 
Tate 2 . Listen again to Rymer : ' Othello is a san 
guinary farce without wit '. Dr Johnson adds : 
* Julius Cczsar, a cold tragedy, and lacking the power 
to move the public '. * I think ', says Warburton, 
in a letter to the Dean of St Asaph, ' that Swift has 
much more wit than Shakespeare, and that the 
comic in Shakespeare, altogether low as it is, is very 
inferior to the comic in Shad well '. As for the witches 
in Macbeth, * nothing equals ', says that critic of the 
seventeenth century, Forbes, repeated by a critic 

1 This statement is very wild. Readers unversed in 
literary history should consult Dowden,or Halliwell-Phillipps, 
or Mrs. Caroline H.Dall's popularization of the latter, en titled, 
What we really know about Shakespeare. TB. 

* Furness says that Tate's version of Lear held the stage 
for a hundred and sixty years, and in it all the greatest 
actors won applause. Mac-ready (Reminiscences) says it ' was 
the only acting copy from the date of its production until 
the restoration of Shakespeare's tragedy at Covent Garden 
in 1838 '. TB. 

150 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

of the nineteenth, ' the absurdity of such a spectacle '. 
Samuel Foote, the author of The Young Hypocrite, 
makes this declaration : ' The comic in Shakespeare 
is too heavy, and does not make one laugh ; it is 
buffoonery without wit '. Finally, Pope, in 1725, 
finds a reason why Shakespeare wrote his dramas, 
and exclaims, * One must eat ! ' 

After these words of Pope, one cannot understand 
with what object Voltaire, aghast about Shakespeare, 
writes : ' Shakespeare, whom the English take for 
a Sophocles, nourished about the time of Lopez [Lope, 
if you please, Voltaire] de Vega '. Voltaire adds : 
* You are not ignorant that in Hamlet the diggers 
prepare a grave, drinking, singing ballads, and cracking 
over the heads of dead people jokes appropriate to 
men of their profession '. And, concluding, he charac 
terizes the whole scene by the term ' these fooleries '. 
He characterizes Shakespeare's pieces as ' monstrous 
farces called tragedies ', and completes the judgment 
by declaring that Shakespeare * has ruined the English 
theatre '. 

Marmontel comes to see Voltaire at Ferney. Vol 
taire is in bed, holding a book in his hand ; all at once 
he rises up, throws the book away, stretches his thin 
legs out of the bed, and cries to Marmontel : ' Your 
Shakespeare is a Huron Indian '. ' He is not my 
Shakespeare at all ', replies Marmontel. 

Shakespeare was an occasion for Voltaire to show 
his skill at the target. Voltaire missed it rarely. 
Voltaire shot at Shakespeare as peasants shoot at a 
goose. It was Voltaire who had opened in France 
the fire against this Barbarian. He nicknamed him 
the ' Saint Christopher of Tragic Poets '. He said 
to Madame de Graffigny : ' Shakespeare for a jest '. 
He said to Cardinal de Bernis, ' Compose pretty 
verses ; deliver us, monsignor, from plagues, from 
bigots, from the Academy of the King of Prussia, 
from the Bull Unigenitus and its supporters, from 
the convulsionists, and from that ninny Shakespeare. 

SHAKESPEARE'S GENIUS 151 

Libera nos, Domine '. The attitude of Freron toward 
Voltaire has in the eyes of posterity as an extenuating 
circumstance the attitude of Voltaire toward Shake 
speare. Nevertheless, throughout the eighteenth cen 
tury Voltaire gives the law. The moment that Vol 
taire sneers at Shakespeare, Englishmen of wit, such 
is my Lord Marshal, follow suit. Dr Johnson admits 
the ignorance and vulgarity ' of Shakespeare. Fred- 
crick II also puts in a word. He writes to Voltaire hi 
xespect of Julius Caesar : * You have done well in 
recasting, according to principles, the formless piece 
of that Englishman '. Thus stood Shakespeare in 
the last century. Voltaire insults him ; La Harpe 
protects him : ' Shakespeare himself, coarse as he 
was, was not without reading and knowledge' 1 . 

In our days, the class of critics of whom we have 
just seen some samples have not lost courage. Cole 
ridge speaks of Measure for Measure : ' a painful 
comedy ', he hints. * Revolting ', says Mr Knight. 
* Disgusting ', responds Mr Hunter 2 . 

In 1804 the author of one of those idiotic Universal 
Biographies, in which they contrive to relate the 
history of Calas without mentioning the name of 
Voltaire, and to which governments, knowing what 
they are about, grant readily their patronage and 
subsidies, a certain Delandine, feels himself called 
upon to be a judge, and to pass sentence on Shakespeare ; 
and after having said that * Shakespeare, which is 
pronounced Chekspir ', had, in his youth, * stolen the 
deer of a nobleman ', he adds : ' Nature had brought 
together in the head of this poet the highest greatness 
we can imagine, with the lowest coarseness, without 
wit '. Lately we read the following words, written 

1 La Harpe, Introduction to the Course in Literature. 

a Victor Hugo could hardly have betrayed with more 
charming simplicity his unique and delightful ignoance 
of English literature than by thus confusing with Shake 
speare's revilera such devout worshippers as Coleridge and 
Knight. TB. 

152 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

a short time ago by an eminent dolt who is still living : 
' Second-rate authors and inferior poets, such as 
Shakespeare ', etc. 

CHAPTER II 

THE poet is necessarily at once poet, historian, and 
philosopher. Herodotus and Thales are included 
in Homer. Shakespeare, likewise, is this triple mar. 
He is besides, a painter, a painter upon a colossal 
scale. The poet in reality does more than relate, 
he exhibits. Poets have in them a reflector, obser 
vation, and a condenser, emotion ; thence those grand 
luminous spectres which issue from their brain, and 
which go on shining for ever against the murky human 
wall. These phantoms have life. To have an exis 
tence as real as that of Achilles would be the ambition 
of Alexander. Shakespeare has tragedy, comedy, 
fairy scenes, hymn, farce, deep divine laughter, terror 
and horror, in one word, the drama. He touches 
the two poles : he belongs to Olympus and to the 
itinerant show. No possibility escapes him. When 
he grasps you, you are subdued. Do not expect 
pity from him. His cruelty is pathetic. He shows 
you a mother, Constance, the mother of Arthur ; 
and when he has brought you to such a point of tender 
ness that your heart is as her heart, he kills the child. 
He goes farther in horror even than history, a difficult 
feat : he does not content himself with killing Rutland 
and driving York to despair ; he dips in the blood of 
the son the handkerchief with which he wipes the 
father's eyes. He causes Elegy to be choked by the 
Drama, Desdemona by Othello. No respite to anguish : 
genius is inexorable. It has its law, and follows it. 
The mind also has its inclined planes, and these slopes 
determine its direction. Shakespeare flows toward 
the terrible. Shakespeare, ^Eschylus, Dante, are 
great streams of human emotion pouring from 
the depth of their cavern the urn of tears. 

SHAKESPEARE'S GENIUS 153 

The poet is only limited by his aim ; he considers 
nothing but the idea to be worked out ; he recognizes 
no sovereignty, no necessity, save the idea : for since 
Art emanates from the Absolute, in Art, as in the 
Absolute, the end justifies the means. This is, it may 
be said in passing, one of those deviations from the 
ordinary terrestrial law which make the higher criti 
cism muse and reflect, and which reveal to it the 
mysterious side of Art. In Art, above all, is visible 
the quid divinum. The poet moves in his work as 
Providence in its own. He excites, dismays, strikes ; 
then exalts or depresses, often in inverse ratio to 
your expectation, ploughing into your very soul 
through surprise. Now consider. Art, like the 
Infinite, has a Because superior to all the Whys. Go 
and ask of the Ocean, that great lyric poet, the where 
fore of a tempest. What seems to you odious or 
absurd has an inner reason for existing. Ask of Job 
why he scrapes the pus from his ulcer with a potsherd, 
and of Dante why he sews with a thread of iron the 
eyelids of the ghosts in Purgatory, making the stitches 
trickle with frightful tears l . Job upon his dungheap 
continues to clean his sore with his potsherd, and Dante 
goes on his way. It is the same with Shakespeare. 

His sovereign horrors reign and force themselves 
upon you. He mingles with them, when he chooses, 
the charm, the august charm, of the strong, excelling 
the feeble sweetness, the slender attraction, of Ovid 
or of Tibullus, as the Venus of Milo excels the Venus 
of Medici. The things of the unknown ; the meta 
physical problems which recede beneath the diving 
plummet ; the enigmas of the soul and of Nature, 
which is also a soul ; the far-off intuitions of the even 
tual included in destiny ; the amalgams of thought 

i ' And as the sun does not reach the blind, so the spirits 
of which I was just speaking have not the gift of light. 
An iron wire pierces and fastens together their eyelids, 
as it is done to the wild hawk in order to tame it.' Purga 
tory, canto xiii. 

154 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

and event, can be translated into delicate traceries, 
filling poetry with mysterious and exquisite types, the 
more lovely that they are somewhat sorrowful, half 
clinging to the invisible, and at the same time very 
real, absorbed by the shadow behind them, and yet 
endeavouring to give you pleasure. Profound grace 
does exist. 

Prettiness combined with greatness is possible ; 
it is found in Homer, Astyanax is a type of it ; but 
the profound grace of which we speak is something 
more than this epic delicacy. It is complicated with 
a certain agitation, and hints the infinite. It is a 
kind of irradiance of blended light and shade. Modern 
genius alone has that smiling profundity which discloses 
the abyss while veiling it with beauty. 

Shakespeare possesses this grace, the very con 
trary of morbid grace, although resembling it, emanat 
ing, as it also does, from the tomb. Sorrow, the 
deep sorrow of the drama, which is but the human 
social atmosphere transferred to Art, envelops this 
grace and this horror. 

At the centre of his work is Hamlet, doubt ; 
and at the two extremities, love, Romeo and Othello, 
the whole heart. There is light in the folds of Juliet's 
shroud, but only blackness in the winding-sheet of 
Ophelia disdained and of Desdemona suspected. 
These two innocents, to whom love has broken faith, 
cannot be consoled. Desdemona sings the song of the 
willow, under which the water sweeps away Ophelia. 
They are sisters without knowing each other, and 
kindred souls, although each has her separate drama. 
The willow trembles over them both. In the mysterious 
song of the calumniated woman who is about to die, 
floats the dishevelled shadow of the drowned Ophelia. 

Shakespeare hi philosophy goes at times deeper 
than Homer. Beyond Priam there is Lear ; to weep 
at ingratitude is worse than to weep at death. Homer 
meets envy and strikes it with the sceptre ; Shake 
speare gives the sceptre to the envious, and out of 

SHAKESPEARE'S GENIUS 155 

Thersites creates Richard III. Envy is exposed in 
its nakedness all the more strongly for being clothed 
in purple ; its reason for existing is then visibly alto 
gether in itself : envy on the throne, what more 
striking ? 

Deformity in the person of the tyrant is not enough 
for this philosopher ; he must have it also in the shape 
of the valet, and he creates Falstaff. The dynasty 
of common sense, inauguarated in Panurge, continued 
in Sancho Panza, goes wrong and miscarries in Falstaff. 
The rock which this wisdom splits upon is, in reality, 
baseness. Sancho Panza, in combination with the 
ass, is one with ignorance ; Falstaff glutton, poltroon, 
savage, obscene, a human face and belly with the 
lower parts of the brute walks on the four hoofs of 
turpitude ; Falstaff is the centaur man and pig. 

Shakespeare is, above all, imagination. Now 
and this is a truth to which we have already alluded, 
and which is well known to thinkers imagination 
is depth. No faculty of the mind penetrates and 
plunges deeper than imagination ; it is the great diver. 
Science, reaching the lowest depths, meets imagination. 
In conic sections, in logarithms, in the differential 
and integral calculus, in the calculations of sonorous 
waves, in the application of algebra to geometry, 
the imagination is the coefficient of calculation, and 
mathematics becomes poetry. I have no faith in the 
science of stupid men of learning. 

The poet philosophizes because he imagines. That 
is why Shakespeare has that sovereign management 
of reality which enables him to have his way with it. 
And his very whims are varieties of the true, varieties 
which deserve meditation. Does not destiny resemble 
a constant whim ? Nothing more incoherent in 
appearance, nothing less connected, nothing worse 
as deduction. Why crown this monster, John ? 
Why kill that child, Arthur ? Why have Joan of Arc 
burned ? Why Monk triumphant ? Why Louis XV 
happy ? Why Louis XVI punished ? Let the logic 

156 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

of God pass. It is from that logic that the fancy of 
the poet is drawn. Comedy bursts forth in the midst 
of tears ; the sob rises out of laughter ; figures mingle 
and clash ; massive forms, as of beasts, pass clum 
sily ; spectres women, perhaps, perhaps smoke 
float about ; souls, dragon-flies of the shadow, flies of 
the twilight, flutter among all those black reeds that 
we call passions and events. At one pole Lady Mac 
beth, at the other Titania : a colossal thought, and an 
immense caprice. 

What are The Tempest, Troilus and Cressida, The 
Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Merry Wives of Windsor, 
The Midsummer Night's Dream, The Winter's Tale? 
They are fancy, arabesque work. The arabesque 
in Art is the same phenomenon as vegetation in Nature. 
The arabesque sprouts, grows, knots, exfoliates, 
multiplies, becomes green, blooms, and entwines itself 
with every dream. The arabesque is incommensurable ; 
it has a strange power of extension and enlargement ; 
it fills horizons, and opens up others ; it intercepts 
the luminous background by innumerable interlace 
ments ; and if you mingle the human face with these 
entangled branches, the whole thrills you and makes 
you giddy. Behind the arabesque, and through its 
openings, all philosophy can be seen ; vegetation lives ; 
man becomes pantheistic ; an infinite combination takes 
form in the infinite ; and before such work, in which 
are blended the impossible and the true, the human soul 
quivers with an emotion obscure, and yet supreme. 

For all this, the edifice ought not to be overrun by 
vegetation, nor the drama by arabesque. 

One of the characteristics of genius is the singular 
union of faculties the most distant. To design an 
astragal like Ariosto, then to scrutinize the soul like 
Pascal, such are the poet's gifts. Man's inner tri 
bunal belongs to Shakespeare, and he finds you constant 
surprises there. He extracts from human conscious 
ness whatever it contains of the unforeseen. Few 
poets surpass him in this psychical research. Many 

SHAKESPEARE'S GENIUS 157 

of the strangest peculiarities of the human mind are 
indicated by him. He skilfully makes us feel the 
simplicity of the metaphysical fact under the com 
plication of the dramatic fact. That which the 
human creature does not acknowledge to himself, 
the obscure thing that he begins by fearing and ends 
by desiring, such is the point of junction and the 
strange place of meeting for the heart of the virgin 
and the heart of the murderer, for the soul of Juliet and 
the soul of Macbeth ; the innocent girl fears and longs 
for love, just as the wicked man for ambition. Peri 
lous kisses given furtively to the phantom, now smiling 
and anon austere. 

To all this prodigality analysis, synthesis, creation 
in flesh and bone, reverie, fancy, science, metaphysics 
add history : here the history of historians, there 
the history of the tale. This history contains specimens 
of everything : of the traitor, from Macbeth, the assas 
sin of his guest, up to Coriolanus, the assassin of his 
country ; of the despot, from the tyrant brain, Csesar, 
to the tyrant belly, Henry VIII ; of the carnivore, 
from the lion down to the ursurer. One may say 
to Shylock, ' Well bitten, Jew ! ' And in the back 
ground of this wonderful drama, on the desert heath, 
there appear in the twilight three black shapes promis 
ing crowns to murderers, silhouettes in which Hesiod, 
through the vista of ages, perhaps recognizes the 
Parca?. Inordinate force, exquisite charm, epic 
ferocity, pity, creative faculty, gaiety (that lofty 
gaiety unintelligible to narrow understandings), sar 
casm (the cutting lash for the wicked), sidereal 
grandeur, microscopic tenuity, a universe of poetry, 
with its zenith and its nadir, the vast whole, the pro 
found detail, nothing is wanting in this mind. One 
feels, on approaching the work of this man, a vast 
wind blowing off the shores of a world. The irradiation 
of genius on every side, such is Shakespeare. ' Totus 
in antithesi ', says Jonathan Forbes. 

158 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

CHAPTER III 

ONE of the characteristics which distinguish men of 
genius from ordinary minds, is that they have a 
double reflection, just as the carbuncle, according 
to Jerome Cardan, differs from crystal and glass in 
having a double refraction. 

Genius and carbuncle, double reflection, double 
refraction : the same phenomenon in the moral and 
in the physical order. 

Does this diamond of diamonds, the carbuncle, 
exist ? It is a question. Alchemy says yes ; chem 
istry searches. As for genius, it does exist. It is 
sufficient to read one verse of ^Eschylus or Juvenal 
in order to find this carbuncle of the human brain. 

This phenomenon of double reflection raises to 
the highest power in men of genius what rhetoricans 
call * antithesis ' ; that is to say, the sovereign faculty 
of seeing the two sides of things. 

I dislike Ovid, that proscribed coward, that licker 
of bloody hands, that fawning cur of exile, that far 
away flatterer disdained by the tyrant, and I hate 
the literary elegance of which Ovid is full ; but I do 
not confound that elegance with the powerful anti 
thesis of Shakespeare. 

Complete minds have everything. Shakespeare 
contains Gongora, as Michael Arigelo contains Ber 
nini ; and there are on that subject ready-made 
sentences : ' Michael Angelo is a mannerist, Shake 
speare is antithetical '. These are the formulas of 
the school which express the petty view of the great 
question of contrast in Art. 

Totus in antithesi. Shakespeare is all in antithesis. 
Certainly it is not very just to see the entire man, 
and such a man, in one of his qualities. But, with this 
reservation, let us observe that this saying, totus in 
antithesi, which pretends to be a criticism, might be 
simply a statement of fact. Shakespeare, in fact, 
has deserved, like all truly great poets, this praise, 

SHAKESPEARE'S GENIUS 150 

that he is like creation. What is creation ? Good 
and evil, joy and sorrow, man and woman, roar and 
song, eagle and vulture, lightning and ray, bee and 
drone, mountain and valley, love and hate, the medal 
and its reverse, beauty and ugliness, star and swine, 
high and low, Nature is the eternal bifrons. And 
this antithesis, whence comes the antiphrasis, is found 
in all the habits of man ; it is in fable, in history, in 
philosophy, in language. Are you the Furies, they 
call you Eumenides, the Charming ; do you kill your 
'brother, you are called Philadelphus ; kill your father, 
they will call you Philopater ; be a great general, they 
will call you the little corporal. The antithesis of 
; Shakespeare is the universal antithesis, present 
always and everywhere ; it is the ubiquity of opposites, 
life and death, cold and heat, just and unjust, angel 
and demon, heaven and earth, flower and lightning, 
'melody and harmony, spirit and flesh, high and low, 
ocean and envy, foam and slaver, hurricane and whistle, 
'self and not-self, objective and subjective, marvel and 
miracle, type and monster, soul and shadow. It is 
from this sombre, flagrant quarrel, from this endless 
ebb and flow, from this perpetual yes and no, from 
'this irreconcilable opposition, from this vast, perma 
nent antagonism, that Rembrandt obtains his clare- 
obscure, and Piranesi his vertiginous effects. 

Before removing this antithesis from Art, we should 
begin by removing it from Nature. 

CHAPTER IV 

* HE is reserved and discreet. You may trust him ; 
he will take no advantage. He has, above all, a 
very rare quality, he is sober '. 

What is this a recommendation for a domestic ? 
No. It is an eulogy upon a writer. A certain school 
called * serious ', has in our days hoisted this motto 
for poetry : sobriety. It seems that the only question 
should be to preserve literature from indigestion. 

100 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Formerly the device was * fecundity and power ' ; 
to-day it is ' barley-gruel '. You are in the resplen 
dent garden of the Muses, where those divine blossoms 
of the mind that the Greeks call ' tropes ' blow in riot 
and luxuriance on every branch ; everywhere the 
ideal image, everywhere the thought-flower, every 
where fruits, metaphors, golden apples, perfumes, 
colours, rays, strophes, wonders : touch nothing, be 
discreet. It is by plucking nothing there that the 
poet is known. Be of the temperance society. A 
good critical book is a treatise on the dangers of drink 
ing. Do you wish to compose the Iliad, put yourself 
on diet. Ah ! thou mayest well open wide thine eyes, 
old Rabelais ! 

Lyricism is heady ; the beautiful intoxicates, the 
noble inebriates, the ideal causes giddiness. One 
who makes it his starting, point no longer knows what 
he is about. When you have walked among the stars, 
you are capable of refusing an under prefecture ; you 
are no longer in your right mind ; they might offer 
you a seat in the senate of Domitian, and you would 
refuse it ; you no longer render to Caesar what is due 
to Caesar ; you have reached such a point of mental 
alienation that you will not even salute the Lord 
Incitatus, consul and horse. See what is the result 
of your having jjjeen drinking in that shocking place, 
the Empyrean ! You become proud, ambitious, dis 
interested. Now be sober. It is forbidden to haunt 
the tavern of the sublime 

Liberty means libertinism. To restrain yourself 
is well ; to emasculate yourself is better. 

Pass your life in holding in. 

Sobriety, decorum, respect for authority, irre 
proachable toilet. No poetry unless it is fashionably 
dressed. An uncombed savannah, a lion which does 
not pare its nails, an unregulated torrent, the navel 
of the sea which exposes itself to the sight, the cloud 
which forgets itself so far as to show Aldebaran. 
Oh ! shocking. The wave foams on the rock, the 

SHAKESPEARE'S GENIUS IG1 

cataract vomits into the gulf, Juvenal spits on the 
tyrant. Fie ! 

We like too little better than too much. No 
exaggeration. Henceforth the rose-bush is to be 
required to count its roses ; the meadow to be re 
quested not to be so prodigal of daisies ; the spring 
to be commanded to calm itself. The nests are rather 
too prolific. Attention, groves ! not so many war 
blers, if you please. The Milky Way will have the 
goodness to number its stars ; there are a good many. 
Take example from the big Cereus serpentaria 
of the Jardin des Plantes, which blooms but once 
in fifty years : that is a flower truly respectable. 

A true critic of the sober school is that garden- 
keeper who, to the question, 'Have you any night 
ingales in your trees ? ' replied, * Ah ! don't mention 
it ; during the whole month of May these ugly fowl 
have been doing nothing but bawl '. 

M. Suard gave to Marie Joseph Chenier this certifi 
cate : ' His style has the great merit of not containing 
comparisons '. In our days we have seen that singular 
eulogy reproduced. This reminds us that a great 
professor of the Restoration, indignant at the com 
parisons and figures which abound in the prophets, put 
a crusher on Isaiah, Daniel, and Jeremiah, with this 
profound apophthegm : ' The whole Bible is in like '. 
Another, a greater professor still, was the author of 
this saying, still celebrated at the Ecole Normale : 
1 1 toss Juvenal back upon the romantic dunghill '. 
Of what crime was Juvenal guilty ? Of the same 
crime as Isaiah ; namely, of being fend of expressing 
the idea by image. Shall we return, little by little, 
in the walks of learning, to metonymy as a term of 
chemistry, and to the opinion of Pradon touching 
metaphor ? 

One would suppose, from the demands and clamours 
of the doctrinaire school, that it had to furnish, at its 
own expense, the whole supply of the metaphors and 
figures that poets may use, and that it felt itself ruined 

162 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

by spendthrifts like Pindar, Aristophanes, Ezekiel, 
Plautus, and Cervantes. This school puts under lock 
and key passions, sentiments, the human heart, reality, 
the ideal, life. It looks with dismay upon men of 
genius, hides from them everything, and says, ' How 
greedy they are ! ' It has, accordingly, invented for 
writers this superlative praise : ' He is temperate '. 

On all these points, vestry-room criticism frater 
nizes with doctrinaire criticism. The prude and the 
devotee are cheek-by-jowl. 

A curious bashful fashion tends to prevail. We 
blush at the coarse manner in which grenadiers 
meet death. Rhetoric has for heroes modest vine- 
leaves termed ' periphrases'. It is assumed that the 
bivouac speaks like the convent ; the talk of the 
guard-room is a calumny. A veteran drops his eyes 
at the recollection of Waterloo, and the Cross of the 
Legion of Honour is given to these downcast eyes. 
Certain sayings which are in history have no right 
to be historical ; and it is well understood, for example, 
that the gendarme who fired a pistol at Robespierre 
at the Hotel de Ville rejoiced in the name ' The-guard- 
dies-and-never-surrenders ' 1 . 

From the combined effort of the two schools of 
criticism, guardians of public tranquillity, there results 
a salutary reaction. This reaction has already pro 
duced some specimens of poets, steady, well-bred, 
prudent, whose style always keeps good hours ; who 
never indulge in an outing with those mad creatures, 
Ideas ; who are never met at the corner of a wood, 
solus cum sold, with Reverie, that gypsy girl ; who 
are incapable of having relations either with Imagina 
tion, dangerous vagabond, or with the bacchante 
Inspiration, or with the grisette Fancy ; who have 
never in their lives given a kiss to that beggarly chit, 

i It is said that an indecent word of Carabronne (a com- 
mander of the Old Guard at Waterloo), in answer to the 
summons to surrender, was translated by some big-wig 
historian into this bit of heroic claptrap. TB. 

SHAKESPEARE'S GENIUS 163 

the Muse ; who never sleep away from home, and who 
are honoured with the esteem of their doorkeeper, 
Nicholas Boileau. If Polyhymnia goes by with her 
hair floating a little, what a scandal ! Quick ! they 
call the hairdresser. M. de la Harpe comes hastily. 
These two sister schools of criticism, that of the doctrin 
aire and that of the sacristan, undertake to educate. 
They bring up little writers. They keep a place to 
wean them, a boarding-school for juvenile reputa 
tions. 

Thence a discipline, a literature, and art. Fall into 
line, right dress ! Society must be saved in litera 
ture as well as politics. Every one knows that poetry 
is a frivolous, insignificant thing, childishly occupied 
in seeking rhymes, barren, vain ; consequently nothing 
is more formidable. It behoves us to tie up the 
thinkers securely. To the kennel with him ! He is 
dangerous ! What is a poet ? For honour, nothing ; 
for persecution, everything. 

This race of writers requires repression ; it is useful 
to have recourse to the secular arm. The means vary. 
From time to time a good banishment is expedient. 
The list of exiled writers opens with ^Eschylus, and 
does not close with Voltaire. Each century has its 
link in the chain. But there must be at least a pretext 
for exile, banishment, and proscription. Exile cannot 
be applied in all cases. It is rather unhandy ; it is 
important to have a lighter weapon for every-day 
skirmishing. A State criticism, duly sworn and 
accredited, can render service. To organize the 
persecution of writers is not a bad thing. To entrap 
the pen by the pen is ingenious. Why not have 
literary policemen ? 

Good taste is a precaution taken to keep the peace. 
Sober writers are the counterpart of prudent electors. 
Inspiration is suspected of love for liberty. Poetry is 
rather outside of legality ; there is, therefore, an 
official art, the offspring of official criticism. 

A whole special rhetoric proceeds from these premises. 

164 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Nature has in this particular art but a narrow entrance, 
and goes in through the sidedoor. Nature is infected 
with demagogism. The elements are suppressed, 
as being in bad form and making too much uproar. 
The equinoctial storm is guilty of trespass ; the squall 
is a midnight row. The other day, at the School of 
Fine Arts, a pupil painter having caused the wind to 
lift up the folds of a mantle during a storm, a local 
professor, shocked at this disordered apparel, said : 

* Style does not admit of wind '. 

Moreover, reaction does not despair. We get 
on ; some progress is made. A ticket of confession 
sometimes gets its bearer admitted into the Academy. 
Jules Janin, Theophile Gautier, Paul de Saint-Victor, 
Littre Renan, please to recite your credo. 

But that does not suffice ; the evil is deep-rooted. 
The ancient Catholic society and the ancient legiti 
mate literature are threatened. Darkness is in peril. 
To arms against the new generations ! To arms 
against the modern spirit ! And down with De 
mocracy, the daughter of Philosophy ! 

Cases of rabidness that is to say, works of genius 
are to be feared. Hygienic prescriptions are renewed. 
The public high-road is evidently badly watched. 
It appears that there are some poets wandering about. 
The prefect of police, a negligent man, allows some 
spirits to rove. What is Authority thinking of ? 
Let us take care. There is danger lest men's minds 
may be bitten. Indeed, the rumour is confirmed 
that Shakespeare has been met without a muzzle on. 

This Shakespeare without a muzzle is the present 
translation l . 

CHAPTER V 

IF ever a man was undeserving of the good character, 

* he is sober ' 2 , it is most certainly William Shake- 

1 The Complete Works of Shakespeare, translated by 
Francois Victor Hugo. 

2 See the beginning of the preceding chapter. TB. 

SHAKESPEARE'S GENIUS 1C5 

speare. Shakespeare is one of the worst cases that 
serious aesthetics ever had to regulate. 

Shakespeare is fertility, force, exuberance, the 
swelling breast, the foaming cup, the brimming trough, 
sap in excess, lava in torrents, the universal rain of 
life, everything by thousands, everything by millions, 
no reticence, no ligature, no economy, the inordinate and 
tranquil prodigality of the creator. To those who 
fumble in the bottom of their pockets, the inexhaustible 
seems insane. Will it stop soon ? Never. Shake 
speare is the sower of dazzling wonders. At every 
turn, an image ; at every turn, contrast ; at every 
turn, light and darkness. 

The poet, we have said, is Nature. Subtle, minute, 
keen, microscopical like Nature, and yet vast. Not 
discreet, not reserved, not parsimonious ; magnifi 
cently simple. Let us explain this word * simple'. 

Sobriety in poetry is poverty ; simplicity is grandeur. 
To give to each thing the quantity of space which 
fits it, neither more nor less ; this is simplicity. 
Simplicity is justice. The whole law of tasteisin that. 
Each thing put in its own place and spoken with its 
own word. On the single condition that a certain 
latent equilibrium is maintained and a certain mysteri 
ous proportion is preserved, simplicity may be found 
in the most stupendous complication, either in the style 
or in the ensemble. These are the arcana of great art. 
The higher criticism alone, which takes its starting- 
point from enthusiasm, penetrates and comprehends 
these profound laws. Opulence, profusion, dazzling 
radiancy, may be simplicity. The sun is simple. 

Such simplicity evidently does not resemble the 
simplicity recommended by Le Batteux, the Abbe 
d'Aubignac, and Father Bouhours. 

Whatever may be the abundance, whatever may 
be the entanglement, even were it perplexing, con 
fused, and inextricable, all that is true is simple. 
The only form of simplicity recognized by Art is the 
simplicity that is profound. 

166 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Simplicity, being true, is artless. Artlessness is 
the countenance of truth. Shakespeare is simple 
in the grand manner ; he is infatuated with it : but 
petty simplicity is unknown to him. 

The simplicity which is impotence, the simplicity 
which is meagreness, the simplicity which is short- 
winded, is a case for pathology. A hospital ticket 
suits it better than a ride on the hippogriff. 

I admit that the hump of Thersites is simple ; 
but the pectoral muscles of Hercules are simple also. 
I prefer this simplicity to the other. 

The simplicity proper to poetry may be as bushy 
as the oak. Does the oak happen to produce on you 
the effect of a Byzantine and of a delicate being ? 
Its innumerable antitheses, gigantic trunk and small 
leaves, rough bark and velvet mosses, absorption 
of rays and lavishness of shade, crowns for heroes 
and mast for swine, are they marks of affectation, 
corruption, subtlety, and bad taste ? Could the 
oak be too witty ? could the oak belong to the 
Hotel Rambouillet ? could the oak be a finical prude ? 
could the oak be tainted with Gongorism ? could the 
oak belong to an age of decadence ? Is it possible 
that all simplicity, sancta simplicitas, is concentrated 
in the cabbage ? 

Refinement, excess of wit, affectation, Gongorism, 
all that has been hurled at Shakespeare's head. 
They say that these are the faults of littleness, and 
they hasten to reproach the giant with them. 

But then this Shakespeare respects nothing ; he 
goes straight on, putting out of breath those who 
wish to follow him. He strides over proprieties, he 
overthrows Aristotle, he spreads havoc among the 
Jesuits, the Methodists, the Purists, and the Puritans ; 
he puts Loyola to disorderly rout, and upsets Wesley ; 
he is valiant, bold, enterprising, militant, direct. 
His inkstand smokes like a crater. He is always 
laborious, ready, spirited, disposed, pressing forward. 
Pen in hand ? his brow blazing, he goes on, driven by 

SKAKESPEARE'S GENIUS 16? 

the demon of genius. The stallion is over-demon 
strative ; there are jack-mules passing by, to whom 
this is displeasing. To be prolific is to be aggressive. 
A poet like Isaiah, like Juvenal, like Shakespeare, is, in 
truth, exorbitant. By all that is holy, some attention 
ought to be paid to others ; one man has no right to 
everything ! What ! virility always, inspiration every 
where ; as many metaphors as the meadow, as many 
antitheses as the oak, as many contrasts and depths 
as the universe ; incessant generation, pubescence, 
hymen, gestation ; a vast unity with exquisite and 
robust detail, living communion, fecundation, plenitude, 
production ! It is too much ; it infringes the rights 
of neuters. 

For nearly three centuries Shakespeare, this poet 
all brimming with virility, has been looked upon by 
sober critics with that discontented air which certain 
bereaved spectators must have in the seraglio. 

Shakespeare has no reserve, no restraint, no limit, 
no blank. What is wanting in him is that he wants 
nothing. He needs no savings-bank. He does not 
keep Lent. He overflows like vegetation, like ger 
mination, like light, like flame. Yet this does not 
hinder him from thinking of you, spectator or reader, 
from preaching to you, from giving you advice, from 
being your friend, like the first good-natured La 
Fontaine you meet, and from rendering you small 
services. You can warm your hands at the con 
flagration he kindles. 

Othello, Romeo, lago, Macbeth, Shylock, Richard 
III, Julius Caesar, Oberon, Puck, Ophelia, Desdemona, 
Juliet, Titania, men, women, witches, fairies, souls, 
Shakespeare is the grand distributor ; take, take, 
take, all of you ! Do you want more ? Here are 
Ariel, Parolles, Macduff, Prospero, Viola, Miranda, 
Caliban. More yet ? Here are Jessica, Cordelia, 
Cressida, Portia, Brabantio, Polonius, Horatio, Mer- 
cutio, Imogen, Pandarus of Troy, Bottom, Theseus. 
Ecce Deus ! It is the poet, he offers himself ; who will 

166 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Simplicity, being true, is artless. Artlessness is 
the countenance of truth. Shakespeare is simple 
in the grand manner ; he is infatuated with it : but 
petty simplicity is unknown to him. 

The simplicity which is impotence, the simplicity 
which is meagreness, the simplicity which is short- 
winded, is a case for pathology. A hospital ticket 
suits it better than a ride on the hippogriff. 

I admit that the hump of Thersites is simple ; 
but the pectoral muscles of Hercules are simple also. 
I prefer this simplicity to the other. 

The simplicity proper to poetry may be as bushy 
as the oak. Does the oak happen to produce on you 
the effect of a Byzantine and of a delicate being ? 
Its innumerable antitheses, gigantic trunk and small 
leaves, rough bark and velvet mosses, absorption 
of rays and lavishness of shade, crowns for heroes 
and mast for swine, are they marks of affectation, 
corruption, subtlety, and bad taste ? Could the 
oak be too witty ? could the oak belong to the 
Hotel Rambouillet ? could the oak be a finical prude ? 
could the oak be tainted with Gongorism ? could the 
oak belong to an age of decadence ? Is it possible 
that all simplicity, sancta simplicitas, is concentrated 
in the cabbage ? 

Refinement, excess of wit, affectation, Gongorism, 
all that has been hurled at Shakespeare's head. 
They say that these are the faults of littleness, and 
they hasten to reproach the giant with them. 

But then this Shakespeare respects nothing ; he 
goes straight on, putting out of breath those who. 
wish to follow him. He strides over proprieties, he 
overthrows Aristotle, he spreads havoc among the 
Jesuits, the Methodists, the Purists, and the Puritans ; 
he puts Loyola to disorderly rout, and upsets Wesley ; 
he is valiant, bold, enterprising, militant, direct. 
His inkstand smokes like a crater. He is always 
laborious, ready, spirited, disposed, pressing forward. 
Pen in hand ? his brow blazing, he goes on, driven by 

SKAKESPE ARE'S GENIUS 1&7 

the demon of genius. The stallion is over-demon 
strative ; there are jack-mules passing by, to whom 
this is displeasing. To be prolific is to be aggressive. 
A poet like Isaiah, like Juvenal, like Shakespeare, is, in 
truth, exorbitant. By all that is holy, some attention 
ought to be paid to others ; one man has no right to 
everything ! What ! virility always, inspiration every 
where ; as many metaphors as the meadow, as many 
antitheses as the oak, as many contrasts and depths 
as the universe ; incessant generation, pubescence, 
hymen, gestation ; a vast unity with exquisite and 
robust detail, living communion, fecundation, plenitude, 
production ! It is too much ; it infringes the rights 
of neuters. 

For nearly three centuries Shakespeare, this poet 
all brimming with virility, has been looked upon by 
sober critics with that discontented air which certain 
bereaved spectators must have in the seraglio. 

Shakespeare has no reserve, no restraint, no limit, 
no blank. What is wanting in him is that he wants 
nothing. He needs no savings-bank. He does not 
keep Lent. He overflows like vegetation, like ger 
mination, like light, like flame. Yet this does not 
hinder him from thinking of you, spectator or reader, 
from preaching to you, from giving you advice, from 
being your friend, like the first good-natured La 
Fontaine you meet, and from rendering you small 
services. You can warm your hands at the con 
flagration he kindles. 

Othello, Romeo, lago, Macbeth, Shylock, Richard 
III, Julius Caesar, Oberon, Puck, Ophelia, Desdemona, 
Juliet, Titania, men, women, witches, fairies, souls, 
Shakespeare is the grand distributor; take, take, 
take, all of you ! Do you want more ? Here are 
Ariel, Parolles, Macduff, Prospero, Viola, Miranda, 
Caliban. More yet ? Here are Jessica, Cordelia, 
Cressida, Portia, Brabantio, Polonius, Horatio, Mer- 
cutio, Imogen, Pandarus of Troy, Bottom, Theseus. 
Ecce Deus ! It is the poet, he offers himself ; who will 

BOOK II 

SHAKESPEARE'S WORK : THE CULMINATING 
POINTS 

CHAPTER I 

THE characteristic of men of genius of the first order 
is to produce each a peculiar model of man. All 
bestow on humanity its portrait, some laughing, 
some weeping, others pensive ; these last are the 
greatest. Plautus laughs, and gives to man Am 
phitryon ; Rabelais laughs, and gives to man Gargan- 
tua ; Cervantes laughs, and gives to man Don Quixote ; 
Beaumarchais laughs, and gives to man Figaro ; 
Moliere weeps, and gives to man Alceste ; Shake 
speare dreams, and gives to man Hamlet ; ^Eschylus 
meditates, and gives to man Prometheus. The 
others are great ; ^Eschylus and Shakespeare are 
vast. 

These portraits of humanity (left to humanity as 
a last farewell by those passing spirits, the poets) are 
rarely flattering, always exact, likenesses of profound 
resemblance. Vice, or folly, or virtue is extracted 
from the soul and stamped upon the visage. The 
tear congealed, becomes a pearl ; the smile petrified, 
at last appears a menace ; wrinkles are the furrows 
of wisdom ; certain frowns are tragic. This series 
of models of man is a permanent lesson for the genera 
tions : each century adds in some figures, sometimes 
done in full light and strong relief, like Macette, 
Celimene, Tartuffe, Turcaret, and Rameau's Nephew ; 
sometimes simple profiles, like Gil Bias, Manon Lescaut, 
Clarissa Harlowe, and Candide. 

170 

SHAKESPEARE'S WORK 171 

God creates by intuition ; man creates by inspir 
ation, strengthened by observation. This second 
creation, which is nothing else but divine action 
carried out by man, is what is called * genius'. 

The poet stepping into the place of destiny; an 
invention ef men and events so strange, so true to 
nature, and so masterly that certain religious sects 
hold it in horror as an encroachment upon Provi 
dence, and call the poet ' the liar ' ; the conscience 
of man taken in the act and placed in surroundings 
which it resists, governs, or transforms : such is the 
drama. And there is in this something supreme. 
This handling of the human soul seems a kind of 
equality with God : equality, the mystery of which 
is explained when we reflect that God is within man. 
This equality is identity. Who is our conscience ? 
He ; and He counsels right action. Who is our 
intelligence ? He ; and He inspires the master 
piece. 

God may be there ; but this, as we have seen, 
does not lessen the crabbedness of critics ; the greatest 
minds are the ones most called in question. It even 
sometimes happens that real intelligences attack 
genius ; the inspired, strangely enough, do not recog 
nize inspiration. Erasmus, Bayle, Scaliger, St Evre- 
mond, Voltaire, many of the Fathers of the Church, 
whole families of philosophers, the whole Alexandrian 
School, Cicero, Horace, Lucian, Plutarch, Josephus, 
Dion Chrysostom, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Philo- 
stratus, Metrodorus of Lampsacus, Plato, Pythagoras, 
have severely criticized Homer. In this enumeration 
we omit Zoilus. Men who deny are not critics. Hatred 
is not intelligence. To insult is not to discuss. Zoilus, 
Maevius, Cecchi, Green, Avellaneda, William Lauder, 
Vise, Freron, no cleansing of these names is possible. 
These men have wounded the human race in her 
men of genius ; these wretched hands for ever retain 
the colour of the mud that they have thrown. 

Nor have these men even the miserable renown 

172 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

that they seem to have amply earned, nor the whole 
quantity of infamy that they had hoped for. It is 
scarcely known that they have existed. They are 
half forgotten, a greater humiliation than to be 
wholly forgotten. With the exception of two or 
three among them who have become by-words of 
contempt, despicable owls nailed up for a warning, 
all the wretched names are unknown. An obscure 
notoriety follows their equivocal existence. Look 
at that Clement who called himself the ' hypercritic ', 
and whose profession it was to bite and denounce 
Diderot ; he disappears, and is confounded, although 
born at Geneva, with Clement of Dijon, confessor 
to Mesdames ; with David Clement, author of the 
Bibliotheque Curieuse ; with Clement of Baize, Bene 
dictine of St. Maur ; and with Clement d'Ascain, 
Capuchin, definitor and provincial of Beam. What 
avails it him to have declared that the work of Diderot 
is but ' obscure verbiage ', and to have died mad at 
Charenton, to be afterward submerged in four or 
five unknown Clements ? In vain did Famien Strada 
rabidly attack Tacitus : he is scarcely distinguished 
now from Famien Spada, called * the Wooden Sword ', 
the jester of Sigismond Augustus. In vain did Cecchi 
vilify Dante : we are not certain that his name was 
not Cecco. In vain did Green fasten on Shakespeare : 
he is now confounded with Greene J . Avellaneda, 
the ' enemy ' of Cervantes, is perhaps Avellanedo. 
Lauder, the slanderer of Milton, is perhaps Leuder. 
The unknown De Vise, who ' smashed ' Moliere, 
turns out to be a certain Donneau ; he had surnamed 
himself De Vise through a taste for nobility. Those 
men relied, in order to create for themselves a little 
notoriety, on the greatness of those whom they out 
raged. But no ; they have remained obscure. These 
poor insulters did not get their wages ; they are 
bankrupt of contempt. Let us pity them. 

1 And rightly ; for he is indeed the same individual. See 
note, p. 148. TB. 

SHAKESPEARE'S WORK 173 

CHAPTER II 

LET us add that calumny's labour is lost. Then what 
purpose can it serve ? Not even an evil one. Do 
you know anything more useless than the injurious 
which does not injure ? 

Better still. This injury is beneficial. In good 
time it is found that calumny, envy, and hatred, 
thinking to work harm, have worked benefit. Their 
insults bring fame ; their blackening adds lustre. 
They succeed only in mingling with glory an outcry 
which increases it. 

Let us continue. 

Thus each great poet tries on in his turn this immense 
human mask. And such is the strength of the soul 
which shines through the mysterious aperture of the 
eyes, that this look changes the mask, and from terrible 
makes it comic, then pensive, then grieved, then young 
and smiling, then decrepit, then sensual and gluttonous, 
then religious, then outrageous ; and it is Cain, Job,. 
Atreus, Ajax, Priam, Hecuba, Niobe, Clytemnestra,. 
Nausicaa, Pistoclerus, Grumio, Davus, Pasicompsa, 
China ene, Don Arias, Don Diego, Mudarra, Richard 
III, Lady Macbeth, Desdemona, Juliet, Romeo, Lear, 
Sancho Panza, Pantagruel, Panurge, Arnolphe, Dandin,. 
Sganarelle, Agnes, Rosine, Victorine, Basile, Almaviva, 
Cherubin, Manfred. 

From the direct divine creation proceeds Adam, 
the prototype. From the indirect divine creation 
that is to say, from the human creation proceed 
other Adams, the types. 

A type does not reproduce any man in particular ; 
it cannot be exactly superposed upon any individual ; 
it sums up and concentrates under one human form 
a whole family of characters and minds. A type 
is no abridgment : it is a condensation. It is not 
one, it is all. Alcibiades is but Alcibiades, Petronius; 
is but Petronius, Bassompierre is but Bassompierre,. 
Buckingham is but Buckingham, Fronsac is but Fron- 

174 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

sac, Lauzun is but Lauzun ; but take Lauzun, Fronsac, 
Buckingham, Bassompierre, Petronius, and Alcibiades, 
and bray them in the mortar of the dream, and there 
issues from it a phantom more real than them all, 
Don Juan. Take usurers individually, and no one 
of them is that fierce merchant of Venice, crying : 
* Go, Tubal, fee me an officer, bespeak him a fortnight 
before ; I will have the heart of him if he forfeit '. 
Take all the usurers together, from the crowd of them 
is evolved a total, Shylock. Sum up usury, you 
have Shylock. The metaphor of the people, who 
are never mistaken, confirms unawares the invention 
of the poet ; and while Shakespeare makes Shylock, 
the popular tongue creates the bloodsucker 1 . Shylock 
Is the embodiment of Jewishness ; he is also Judaism, 
that is to say, his whole nation, the high as well as 
the low, faith as well as fraud ; and it is because he 
sums up a whole race, such as oppression has made 
it, that Shylock is great. The Jews are, however, 
right in saying that none of them not even the 
mediaeval Jew is Shylock. Men of pleasure may 
with reason say that no one of them is Don Juan. 
No leaf of the orange-tree when chewed gives the 
flavour of the orange ; yet there is a deep affinity, 
an identity of roots, a sap rising from the same source, 
a sharing of the same subterranean shadow before 
life. The fruit contains the mystery of the tree, and 
the type contains the mystery of the man. Hence 
the strange vitality of the type. 

For and this is the marvel the type lives. Were 
it but an abstraction, men would not recognize it, and 
would allow this shadow to go its way. The tragedy 
termed * classic ' makes phantoms ; the drama creates 
living types. A lesson which is a man ; a myth with 
a human face so plastic that it looks at you and that 
its look is a mirror ; a parable which nudges you ; a 
symbol which cries out ' Beware ! ' an idea which is 
nerve, muscle, and flesh, which has a heart to love, 
i Happe-chair ; literally, ' grab-flesh '. TR. 

SHAKESPEARE'S WORK 175 

bowels to suffer, eyes to weep, and teeth to devour 
or to laugh ; a psychical conception with the relief 
of actual fact, which, if it be pricked, bleeds red, 
such is the type. power of all poetry ! These 
types are beings. They breathe, they palpitate, their 
steps are heard on the floor, they exist. They exist 
with an existence more intense than that of any 
creature thinking himself alive there in the street. 
These phantoms are more substantial than man. 
In their essence is that eternal element which belongs 
to masterworks, which makes Trimalchio live, while 
M. Romieu is dead. 

Types are cases foreseen of God ; genius realizes 
them. It seems that God prefers to teach man a 
lesson through man, in order to inspire confidence. 
The poet walks the street with living men ; he has 
their ear. Hence the efficacy of types. Man is a 
premise, the type the conclusion ; God creates the 
phenomenon, genius gives it a name ; God creates 
the miser only, genius forms Harpagon ; God creates 
the traitor only, genius makes lago ; God creates 
the coquette, genius makes Celimene ; God creates 
the citizen only, genius makes Chrysale ; God creates 
the king only, genius makes Grandgousier. Some 
times, at a given moment, the type issues full-grown 
from some unknown collaboration of the mass of the 
people with a great natural actor, an involuntary and 
powerful realizer ; the crowd is a midwife ; in an 
epoch which bears at one extreme Talleyrand, and 
at another Chodruc-Duclos, there springs up suddenly, 
in a flash of lightning, under the mysterious incubation 
of the theatre, that spectre Robert Macaire *. 

Types go and come on a common level in Art and 
in Nature ; they are the ideal realized. The good 
and the evil of man are in these figures. From each 
of them springs, in the eyes of the thinker, a humanity. 

1 For an entertaining account of Chodruc-Ducloe, by 
Dr Holmes, see The Atlantic Monthly, July, 1886, pp. 12, 

176 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

As we have said before, as many types, as many 
Adams. The man of Homer, Achilles, is an Adam : 
from him comes the species of the slayers ; the man 
of ^Eschylus, Prometheus, is an Adam : from him 
comes the race of the wrestlers ; the man of Shake 
speare, Hamlet, is an Adam : to him belongs the 
family of the dreamers. Other Adams, created by 
poets, incarnate, this one, passion ; another, duty ; 
another, reason ; another, conscience ; another, the 
fall ; another, the ascension. 

Prudence, drifting into trepidation, passes from 
the old man Nestor to the old man Geronte. Love, 
drifting into appetite, passes from Daphne to Love 
lace. Beauty, entwined with the serpent, passes from 
Eve to Melusina. The types begin in Genesis, and a 
link of their chain passes through Restif de la Bretonne 
and Vade. The lyric suits them, Billingsgate does 
not misbecome them. They speak a country dialect 
by the mouth of Gros-Rene, and in Homer they say 
to Minerva, who takes them by the hair : * What 
wouldst thou with me, Goddess ? ' 

A surprising exception has been conceded to Dante. 
The man of Dante is Dante. Dante has, so to speak, 
recreated himself in his poem : he is his own type ; 
his Adam is himself. For the action of his poem he 
has sought out no one. He has taken Virgil only as 
a supernumerary. Moreover, he made himself epic 
at once, without even giving himself the trouble to 
change his name. What he had to do was in fact 
simple, to descend into hell, and remount to heaven. 
What use was it to trouble himself for so little ? He 
knocks gravely at the door of the Infinite and says : 
' Open ! I am Dante.' 

CHAPTER III 

THE man of ^Eschylus, Prometheus, and the man of 
Shakespeare, Hamlet, are, as we have just said, 
two marvellous Adams. 

SHAKESPEARE'S WORK 177 

Prometheus is action ; Hamlet is hesitation. 

In Prometheus the obstacle is exterior ; in Hamlet 
it is interior. 

In Prometheus the four limbs of incarnate Will 
are nailed down with brazen spikes, and cannot move : 
besides, it has by its side two watchers, Force and 
Power. In Hamlet the Will is still more enthralled : 
it is bound by preliminary meditation, the endless 
chain of the irresolute. Try to get out of yourself 
if you can ! What a Gordian knot is our reverie ! 
Slavery from within, is slavery indeed. Scale me 
the barricade of thought ! escape, if you can, from 
the prison of love ! The only dungeon is that which 
immures the conscience. Prometheus, in order to 
be free, has but a bronze collar to break and a god to 
conquer ; Hamlet must break and conquer himself. 
Prometheus can rise upright, quit with lifting a moun 
tain ; in order that Hamlet may stand erect, he must 
lift his own thought. If Prometheus plucks the vul 
ture from his breast, all is done ; Hamlet must rend 
from his flank Hamlet. Prometheus and Hamlet 
are two livers laid bare : from the one trickles blood, 
from the other doubt. 

We are hi the habit of comparing ^Eschylus and 
Shakespeare by Orestes and Hamlet, these two 
tragedies being the same drama. Never in fact was 
there more identity of subject. The learned note 
an analogy between them ; the impotent, who are 
also the ignorant, the envious, who are also the imbe 
cile, have the petty joy of thinking they detect a 
plagiarism. There is here, for the rest, a possible 
field for comparative erudition and for serious criti 
cism. Hamlet walks behind Orestes, a parricide 
through filial love. This easy comparison, rather 
superficial than substantial, is less striking than 
the mysterious confrontment of those two captives, 
Prometheus and Hamlet. 

Let it not be forgotten that the human mind, half 
divine as it is, creates from time to time superhuman 

M 

178 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

works. Furthermore, these superhuman works of 
man are more numerous than is believed, for they 
make up the whole of art. Outside of poetry, where 
wonders abound, there is, in music, Beethoven ; in 
sculpture, Phidias ; in architecture, Piranesi ; in 
painting, Rembrandt ; and in painting, architecture, 
and sculpture, Michael Angelo. We pass over many, 
and not the least. 

Prometheus and Hamlet are among these more 
than human works. 

A kind of gigantic prepossession : the usual measure 
exceeded ; greatness everywhere, the dismay of 
commonplace minds ; the true demonstrated, when 
necessary, by the improbable ; destiny, society, law, 
religion, brought to trial and judgment in the name 
of the Unknown, the abyss of the mysterious equili 
brium ; the event treated as a role to be played, and, 
on occasion, hurled as a reproach against Fatality 
or Providence ; Passion, terrible personage, going 
and coming in man ; the audacity and sometimes 
the insolence of reason ; the haughty forms of a style 
at ease in all extremes, and at the same time a pro 
found wisdom ; the gentleness of the giant, the good 
nature of a softened monster ; an ineffable dawn 
which cannot be accounted for and which lights up 
everything : such are the signs of these supreme 
works. In certain poems there is starlight. 

This light is in ^Eschylus and in Shakespeare. 

CHAPTER IV 

NOTHING can be more fiercely wild than Prometheus 
stretched on the Caucasus. It is gigantic tragedy. 
The old punishment which our ancient laws of torture 
called ' extension ', and which Cartouche escaped 
because of a hernia, this, Prometheus undergoes ; 
only the rack is a mountain. What is his crime ? 
The Right. To characterize right as crime, and 
movement as rebellion, is the immemorial skill of 

SHAKESPEARE'S WORK 179 

tyrants. Prometheus has done on Olympus what 
Eve did in Eden, he has taken a little knowledge. 
Jupiter identical, indeed, with Jehovah (lovi, lova) 
punishes this temerity of having desired to live. The 
^Eginetic traditions, which localize Jupiter, deprive 
him of the cosmic impersonality of the Jehovah of 
Genesis. The Greek Jupiter bad son of a bad 
father, in rebellion against Saturn, who has himself 
been a rebel against Coelus, is an upstart. The 
Titans are a sort of elder branch which has its legiti 
mists, of whom ^Eschylus, the avenger of Prometheus, 
was one. Prometheus is the right conquered. Jupiter 
has, as is always the case, consummated the usurpation 
of power by the punishment of right. Olympus claims 
the aid of Caucasus. Prometheus is fastened there 
by the brazen collar. There is the Titan, fallen, 
prostrate, nailed down. Mercury, everybody's friend, 
comes to give him such counsel as generally follows 
the perpetration of coups d' etat. Mercury is the 
cowardice of intelligence ; the embodiment of all 
possible vice, but full of cleverness : Mercury, the 
god Vice, serves Jupiter, the god Crime. These 
flunkeys hi evil are marked to this day by the venera 
tion of the thief for the assassin. There is something 
of that law in the arrival of the diplomatist behind 
the conqueror. The masterworks are immense in 
this, that they are eternally present at the deeds 
of humanity. Prometheus on the Caucasus, is Poland 
after 1772 ; France after 1815 ; the Revolution after 
Brumaire. Mercury speaks ; Prometheus listens but 
little. Offers of amnesty miscarry when it is the 
victim alone who should have the right to grant pardon, 
Prometheus, thrown to earth, scorns Mercury standing 
proudly above him, and Jupiter standing above 
Mercury, and Destiny standing above Jupiter. Pro 
metheus jests at the vulture which gnaws at him ; 
he disdainfully shrugs his shoulders as much as his 
chain allows. What does he care for Jupiter, and 
of what good is Mercury ? There is no hold upon 

180 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

this haughty sufferer. The scorching thunderbolt 
causes a smart, which is a constant appeal to pride. 
Meanwhile tears flow around him, the earth despairs, 
the cloud- women the fifty Oceanides come to 
worship the Titan, forests cry aloud, wild beasts 
groan, winds howl, waves sob, the elements moan, 
the world suffers in Prometheus, his brazen collar 
chokes the universal life. An immense participation 
in the torture of the demigod seems to be henceforth 
the tragic delight of all Nature ; anxiety for the 
future mingles with it : and what is to be done now ? 
How are we to move ? What will become of us ? 
And in the vast whole of created beings, things, men, 
animals, plants, rocks, all turned toward the Caucasus, 
is felt this unspeakable anguish : the liberator is 
enchained. 

Hamlet, less gigantic and more human, is not less 
great. 

Hamlet, that awful being complete in incom 
pleteness ; all, in order to be nothing ! He is prince 
and demagogue, sagacious and extravagant, profound 
and frivolous, man and neuter. He has little faith 
in the sceptre, rails at the throne, has a student for 
his comrade, converses with any one passing by, 
argues with the first comer, understands the people, 
despises the mob, hates violence, distrusts success, 
questions obscurity, and is on speaking terms with 
mystery. He communicates to others maladies that 
he has not himself ; his feigned madness inoculates 
his mistress with real madness. He is familiar with 
spectres and with actors. He jests, with the axe 
of Orestes in his hand. He talks literature, recites 
verses, composes a theatrical criticism, plays with 
bones in a churchyard, dumfounds his mother, avenges 
his father, and closes the dread drama of life and death 
with a gigantic point of interrogation. He terrifies, 
and then disconcerts. Never has anything more 
overwhelming been dreamed. It is the parricide 
saying, ' What do I know ? ' 

SHAKESPEARE'S WORK 181 

Parricide ? Let us pause upon that word. Is 
Hamlet a parricide ? Yes, and no. He confines 
himself to threatening his mother ; but the threat 
is so fierce that the mother shudders. ' Thy word 
is a dagger ! . . . What wilt thou do ? Thou wilt 
not murder me ? Help ! help ! ho ! ' and when 
she dies, Hamlet, without grieving for her, strikes 
Claudius with the tragic cry : * Follow my mother ! * 
Hamlet is that sinister thing, the possible parricide '. 

Instead of the North, which he has in his brain, 
let him have, like Orestes, the South in his veins, 
and he will kill his mother. 

This drama is stern. In it truth doubts, sincerity 
lies. Nothing can be vaster, nothing subtler. In 
it man is the world, and the world is zero. Hamlet, 
even in full life, is not sure of his existence. In this 
tragedy which is at the same time a philosophy 
everything floats, hesitates, shuffles, staggers, becomes 
discomposed, scatters, and is dispersed. Thought 
is a cloud, will is a vapour, resolution a twilight ; the 
action blows every moment from a different direction : 
the mariner's card governs man. A work which 
disturbs and makes dizzy ; in which the bottom of 
everything is laid bare ; where the pendulum of 
thought oscillates only from the murdered king to 
buried Yorick ; and where that which is most real 
is kingliness impersonated in a ghost, and mirth 
represented by a death's-head. 

Hamlet is the supreme tragedy of the human dream. 

CHAPTER V 

ONE of the probable causes of the feigned madness 
of Hamlet has not been, up to the present time, indi 
cated by critics. It has been said, * Hamlet acts 
the madman to hide his thought, like Brutus '. In 
fact, it is easy for apparent imbecility to hatch a 

1 The quotation from Hamlet is left in the exact form 
that Hugo gave it. TB. 

182 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

great project ; the supposed idiot can take aim de 
liberately. But the case of Brutus is not that of Hamlet. 
Hamlet acts the madman for his safety. Brutus 
screens his project, Hamlet his person. Given the 
manners of those tragic courts, from the moment 
that, through the revelation of the ghost, Hamlet 
is acquainted with the crime of Claudius, he is in 
danger. The superior historian within the poet is 
manifested, and one feels the deep insight of Shake 
speare into the darkness of the ancient royalty. In 
the Middle Ages and in the Eastern Empire, and 
even at earlier periods, woe unto him who found 
out a murder or a poisoning committed by a king I 
Ovid, according to Voltaire's conjecture, was exiled 
from Rome for having seen something shameful in 
the house of Augustus. To know that the King was 
an assassin was a state crime. When it pleased the 
prince not to have had a witness, it was a matter of 
life and death to know nothing ; it was bad policy 
to have good eyes. A man suspected of suspicion 
was lost. He had but one refuge, madness ; to pass 
for * an innocent ' : he was despised, and that was 
all. You remember the advice that, in ^Eschylus, 
the Ocean gives to Prometheus : * To seem mad is : 
the secret of the sage '. When the Chamberlain 
Hugolin found the iron spit with which Edric of 
Mercia * had impaled Edmund II, * he hastened to 
put on madness ', says the Saxon chronicle of 1016, 
and saved himself in that way. Heraclides of Nisibis, 
having discovered by chance that Rhinometer was 
a fratricide, had himself declared insane by the doctors, 
and succeeded in getting himself shut up for life in a 
cloister. He thus lived peaceably, growing old, and 
waiting for death with a vacant stare. Hamlet runs 
the same risk, and has recourse to the same means. 

1 Freeman says : ' The chronicles are silent as to the 
manner of Eadmund's death.' Norman Conquest, i. 470. 
The reality of the murder is very doubtful. The story of 
Hugolin is not mentioned by Freeman. TB. 

SHAKESPEARE'S WORK 183 

He gets himself declared insane like Heraclides, and 
puts on madness like Hugolin. This does not prevent 
the uneasy Claudius from twice making an effort to 
get rid of him, in the middle of the drama by the 
axe or the dagger, and toward the end by poison. 

The same indication is again found in King Lear : 
the Earl of Gloucester's son takes refuge also in appar 
ent lunacy. Herein is a key to open and understand 
Shakespeare's thought. To the eyes of the philosophy 
of Art, the feigned madness of Edgar throws light 
upon the feigned madness of Hamlet. 

The Hamblet of Belleforest is a magician ; the 
Hamlet of Shakespeare is a philosopher. We just 
now spoke of the singular reality which characterizes 
poetical creations. There is no more striking example 
than this type, Hamlet. Hamlet is not in the least 
an abstraction. He has been at the university ; he 
has the Danish savageness softened by the Italian 
politeness ; he is short, plump, somewhat lymphatic ; 
he fences well, but is soon out of breath. He does 
not care to drink too soon during the fencing-bout 
with Laertes, probably for fear of sweating. After 
having thus supplied his personage with real life, 
the poet can launch him into the full ideal ; there is 
ballast enough. 

Other works of the human mind equal Hamlet ; 
none surpasses it. There is in Hamlet all the majesty 
of the mournful. A drama issuing from an open 
sepulchre, this is colossal. Hamlet is to our mind 
Shakespeare's capital work. 

No figure among those that poets have created 
is more poignant and more disquieting. Doubt 
counselled by a ghost, such is Hamlet. Hamlet 
has seen his dead father and has spoken to him. 

Is he convinced ? No ; he shakes his head. What 
shall he do ? He does not know. His hands clench, 
then fall by his side. Within him are conjectures, 
systems, monstrous apparitions, bloody recollections, 
veneration for the ghost, hate, tenderness, anxiety 

184: WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

to act and not to act, his father, his mother, con 
flicting duties, a profound storm. His mind is 
occupied with ghastly hesitation. Shakespeare, won 
derful plastic poet, makes the grandiose pallor of this 
soul almost visible. Like the great spectre of Albrecht 
Diirer, Hamlet might be named 'Melancholia'. 
Above his head, too, there flits the disembowelled 
bat ; at his feet are science, the sphere, the compass, 
the hour-glass, love ; and behind him, at the horizon, 
a great and terrible sun, which seems to make the 
sky but darker. 

Nevertheless, at least one half of Hamlet is anger, 
transport, outrage, hurricane, sarcasm to Ophelia, 
malediction on his mother, insult to himself. He 
talks with the grave-diggers, almost laughs, then 
clutches Laertes by the hair in the very grave of 
Ophelia, and tramples furiously upon that coffin. 
Sword- thrusts at Polonius, sword- thrusts at Laertes, 
sword-thrusts at Claudius. At times his inaction 
gapes open, and from the rent, thunderbolts flash 
out. 

He is tormented by that possible life, interwoven 
of reality and dream, concerning which we are all 
anxious. Somnambulism is diffused through all his 
actions. One might almost consider his brain as a 
formation : there is a layer of suffering, a layer of 
thought, then a layer of dream. It is through this 
layer of dream that he feels, comprehends, learns, 
perceives, drinks, eats, frets, mocks, weeps, and 
reasons. There is between life and him a transpar 
ency, the wall of dreams ; one sees beyond it, but 
one cannot step over it. A kind of cloudy obstacle 
everywhere surrounds Hamlet. Have you never, 
while sleeping, had the nightmare of pursuit or flight, 
and tried to hasten on, and felt the anchylosis of 
your knees, the heaviness of your arms, the horrible 
paralysis of your benumbed hands ? This night 
mare Hamlet suffers while awake. Hamlet is not 
upon the spot where his life is. He has ever the air 

SHAKESPEARE'S WORK 185 

of a man who talks to you from the other side of a 
stream. He calls to you at the same time that he 
questions you. He is at a distance from the catas 
trophe in which he moves, from the passer-by he 
questions, from the thought he bears, from the action 
he performs. He seems not to touch even what he 
crushes. This is isolation carried to its highest power. 
It is the loneliness of a mind, even more than the 
unapproachableness of a prince. Indecision is, in 
fact, a solitude ; you have not even your will to keep 
you company. It is as if your own self had departed 
and had left you there. The burden of Hamlet is 
less rigid than that of Orestes ; it fits patter to his 
form : Orestes bears fatality, Hamlet destiny. 

And thus, apart from men, Hamlet still has within 
him an undefined something which represents them 
all. Agnosco fratrem. If at certain hours we felt 
our own pulse, we should be conscious of his fever. 
His strange reality is our own reality, after all. He 
is the mournful man that we all are in certain situations. 
Unhealthy as he is, Hamlet expresses a permanent 
condition of man. He represents the discomfort of 
the soul in a life unsuited to it. He represents the 
shoe that pinches and stops our walking : this shoe 
is the body. Shakespeare delivers him from it, and 
rightly. Hamlet prince if you like, but king never 
is incapable of governing a people, so wholly apart 
from all does he exist. On the other hand, he does 
better than to reign ; he is. Take from him his family, 
his country, his ghost, the whole adventure at Elsinore, 
and even in the form of an inactive type he remains 
strangely terrible. This results from the amount of 
humanity and the amount of mystery in him. Hamlet 
is formidable, which does not prevent his being 
ironical. He has the two profiles of destiny. 

Let us retract a word said above. The capital 
work of Shakespeare is not Hamlet: the capital 
work of Shakespeare is all Shakespeare. This is, 
moreover, true of all minds of this order. They 

186 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

are mass, block, majesty, bible ; and their unity is 
what renders them impressive. 

Have you never gazed upon a beclouded head 
land running out be3^ond eye-shot into the deep sea ? 
Each of its hills contributes to its make-up. No 
one of its undulations is lost upon it. Its bold out 
line is sharply marked upon the sky, and juts far 
out amid the waves ; and there is not a useless rock. 
Thanks to this cape, you can go amidst the boundless 
waters, walk among the winds, see closely the eagles 
soar and the monsters swim, let your humanity 
wander in the eternal uproar, penetrate the impene 
trable. The poet renders this service to your mind. 
A genius is a headland into the infinite. 

CHAPTER VI 

WITH Hamlet, and upon the same level, must be 
placed three noble dramas, Macbeth, Othello, King 
Lear. 

Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Lear these four figures 
tower upon the lofty edifice of Shakespeare. We 
have said what Hamlet is. 

To say ' Macbeth is ambition ', is to say nothing. 
Macbeth is hunger. What hunger ? The hunger 
of the monster, always possible in man. Certain 
souls have teeth. Do not arouse their hunger. 

To bite at the apple is a fearful thing. The apple 
is named ' Omnia ', says Filesac, that doctor of the 
Sorbonne who confessed Ravaillac. Macbeth has a 
wife whom the chronicle calls Gruoch. This Eve 
tempts this Adam. Once Macbeth has taken the first 
bite, he is lost. The first thing that Adam produces 
with Eve is Cain ; the first thing that Macbeth accom 
plishes with Gruoch is murder. 

Covetousness easily becoming violence, violence 
easily becoming crime, crime easily becoming mad 
ness : this progression is in Macbeth. Covetousness, 
Crime, Madness these three night-hags have spoken 

SHAKESPEARE'S WORK 187 

to him in the solitude, and have invited him to the 
throne. The cat Gray-malkin has called him : Macbeth 
will be cunning ; the toad Paddock has called him : 
Macbeth will be horror. The unsexed being, Gruoch, 
completes him. It is done ; Macbeth is no longer 
a man. He is no longer anything but an unconscious 
energy rushing wildly toward evil. Henceforth, 
no notion of right ; appetite is everything. The 
transitory right of royalty, the eternal right of hospi 
tality Macbeth murders both. He does more than 
slay them : he ignores them. Before they fell bleeding 
under his hand, they already lay dead within his 
soul. Macbeth begins by this parricide, the murder 
of Duncan, his guest ; a crime so terrible that, as a 
consequence, in the night when their master is stabbed, 
the horses of Duncan become wild again. The first 
step taken, the ground begins to crumble ; it is the 
avalanche. Macbeth rolls headlong ; he is pre 
cipitated ; he falls and rebounds from one crime to 
another, ever deeper and deeper. He undergoes 
the mournful gravitation of matter invading the 
soul. He is a thing that destroys. He is a stone 
of ruin, a Same of war, a beast of prey, a scourge. 
He marches over all Scotland, king as he is, his bare 
legged kernes and his heavily armed gallow-glasses 
slaughtering, pillaging, massacring. He decimates 
the thanes, he murders Banquo, he murders all the 
Macduffs except the one that shall slay him, he murders 
the nobility, he murders the people, he murders his 
country, he murders * sleep'. At length the catas- 
itrophe arrives, the forest of Birnam moves against 
him. Macbeth has infringed all, overstepped all, 
destroyed all, violated all ; and this desperation 
ends in arousing even Nature. Nature loses patience, 
Nature enters into action against Macbeth, Nature 
becomes soul against the man who has become brute 
force. 

This drama has epic proportions. Macbeth re 
presents that frightful hungry creature who prowla 

188 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

throughout history in the forest called brigand, 
and on the throne, conqueror. The ancestor of 
Macbeth is Nimrod. These men of force, are they 
for ever furious ? Let us be just ; no. They have 
a goal, which being attained, they stop. Give to 
Alexander, to Cyrus, to Sesostris, to Caesar what ? 
the world ; they are appeased. Geoffrey St. 
Hilaire said to me one day : ' When the lion has 
eaten, he is at peace with Nature '. For Cambyses, 
Sennacherib, Genghis Khan, and the like, to have 
eaten is to possess the whole earth. They would calm 
themselves down in the process of digesting the human 
race. 

Now what is Othello ? He is the night. An 
immense fatal figure. Night is amorous of day. 
Darkness loves the dawn. The African adores the 
white woman. Othello has for his light and for 
his frenzy, Desdemona. And then, how easy to him 
is jealousy ! He is great, he is dignified, he is majestic, 
he soars above all heads ; he has as an escort bravery, 
battle, the braying of trumpets, the banners of war, 
renown, glory ; he is radiant with twenty victories, 
he is studded with stars, this Othello : but he is black. 
And thus how soon, when jealous, the hero becomes 
the monster, the black becomes the negro ! How 
speedily has night beckoned to death ! 

By the side of Othello, who is night, there is lago, 
who is evil evil, the other form of darkness. Night 
is but the night of the world ; evil is the night of 
the soul. How deeply black are perfidy and false 
hood ! It is all one whether what courses through 
the veins be ink or treason. Whoever has jostled 
against imposture and perjury, knows it : one must 
blindly grope one's way with knavery. Pour hypocrisy 
upon the break of day, and you put out the sun ; 
and this, thanks to false religions, is what happens 
to God. 

lago near Othello is the precipice near the landslip. 
* This way ! ' he says in a low voice. The snare 

SHAKESPEARE'S WORK 189 

advises blindness. The lover of darkness guides 
the black. Deceit takes upon itself to give what 
light may be required by night. Falsehood serves 
as a blind man's dog to jealousy. Othello the negro 
and lago the traitor pitted against whiteness and 
candour ; what more formidable ? These ferocities 
of darkness act in unison. These two incarnations 
of the eclipse conspire, the one roaring, the other 
sneering, for the tragic suffocation of light. 

Sound this profound thing. Othello is the night, 
and being night, and wishing to kill, what does he 
take to slay with ? Poison ? the club ? the axe ? 
the knife? No; the pillow. To kill is to lull to 
sleep. Shakespeare himself perhaps did not take 
this into account. The creator sometimes, almost 
unknown to himself, yields to his type, so truly is 
that type a power. And it is thus that Desdemona, 
spouse of the man Night, dies, stifled by the pillow 
upon which the first kiss was given, and which receives 
the last sigh. 

Lear is the occasion for Cordelia. Maternity of 
the daughter toward the father. Profound subject ! 
A maternity venerable among all other maternities, 
so admirably translated by the legend of that Roman 
girl who in the depth of a prison nurses her old father. 
The young breast near the white beard : there is no 
holier sight ! Such a filial breast is Cordelia ! 

Once this figure dreamed of and found, Shake 
speare created his drama. Where should he put 
this consoling vision ? In an obscure age. Shake 
speare has taken the year of the world SI 05, the 
time when Joash was king of Judah, Aganippus 
king of France, and Leir king of England. The 
whole earth was at that time mysterious. Picture 
to yourself that epoch. The temple of Jerusalem 
is still quite new ; the gardens of Semiramis, con 
structed nine hundred years before, are beginning 
to crumble ; the first gold coin appears in ^Egina ; 
the first balance is made by Phydon, tyrant of Argos ; 

190 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

the eclipse of the sun is calculated by the Chinese ; 
three hundred and twelve j^ears have passed since 
Orestes, accused by the Eumenides before the Areo 
pagus, was acquitted ; Hesiod is just dead ; Homer, 
if he still lives, is a hundred years old ; Lycurgus, 
thoughtful traveller, re-enters Sparta ; and one may 
perceive in the depth of the sombre cloud of the 
Orient the chariot of fire which carries Elijah away : 
it is at that period that Leir Lear lives, and reigns 
over the dark islands. Jonas, Holofernes, Draco, 
Solon, Thespis, Nebuchadnezzar, Anaximenes who 
is to invent the signs of the zodiac/ Cyrus, Zorobabel, 
Tarquin, Pythagoras, ^Eschylus, are not yet born ; 
Coriolanus, Xerxes, Cincinnatus, Pericles, Socrates, 
Brennus, Aristotle, Timoleon, Demosthenes, Alexander, 
Epicurus, Hannibal, are ghosts awaiting their hour to 
enter among men ; Judas Maccabseus, Viriatus, 
Popilius, Jugurtha, Mithridates, Marius and Sylla, 
Csesar and Pompey, Cleopatra and Antony, are far 
away in the future ; and at the moment when Lear 
is king of Britain and of Iceland, there must pass 
away eight hundred and ninety-five years before 
Virgil says, ' Penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos ', 
and nine hundred and fifty years before Seneca says 
4 Ultima Thule'. The Picts and the Celts (the Scotch 
and the English) are tattooed. A redskin of the 
present day gives a vague idea of an Englishman 
then *. It is this twilight that Shakespeare has 
chosen, a long, dreamy night in which the inventor 
is free to put anything he likes : this King Lear, 
and then a king of France, a duke of Burgundy, a 
duke of Cornwall, a duke of Albany, an earl of 
Kent, and an earl of Gloucester. What matters 
your history to him who has humanity ? Besides, 
he has with him the legend, which is also a 
kind of science, and as true as history, perhaps, 
although from another point of view. Shake - 

1 Victor Hugo is responsible for the words ' English ' 
and ' Englishman ', instead of ' British ' and ' Briton.' TB. 

SHAKESPEARE'S WORK 191 

gpeare agrees with Walter Mapes, archdeacon of 
Oxford, that is something ; he admits, from Brutus 
to Cadwalla, the ninety-nine Celtic kings who have 
preceded the Scandinavian Hengist and the Saxon 
Horsa : and since he believes in Mulmutius, Cinigisil, 
Ceolulf, Cassibelan, Cymbeline, Cynulphus, Arviragus. 
Guiderius, Escuin, Cudred, Vortigern, Arthur, Uther 
Pendragon, he has every right to believe in King Lear 
and to create Cordelia. This site adopted, the place 
for the scene marked out, the foundation laid deep, 
he takes all in hand and builds his work, unheard-of 
edifice. He takes tyranny, of which at a later period 
he will make weakness, Lear ; he takes treason, 
Edmund ; he takes devotion, Kent ; he takes 
Ingratitude, which begins with a caress, and he gives 
to this monster two heads, Goneril, whom the legend 
calls Govnerille, and Regan, whom the legend calls 
Ragaii 1 ; he takes paternity ; he takes royalty ; 
ho takes feudality ; he takes ambition ; he takes 
madness, which he divides, and he places face to 
face three madmen the King's buffoon, madman by 
trade ; Edgar of Gloucester, mad for prudence' sake ; 
the King, mad through misery. It is at the summit 
of this tragic pile that he sets the bending form of 
Cordelia. 

There are some formidable cathedral towers, 
as, for instance, the Giralda of Seville, which seem 
made all complete, with their spirals, their staircases, 
their sculptures, their cellars, their ccecums, their 
aerial cells, their sounding chambers, their bells, 
their wailing, and their mass and their spire, and all 
their vastness, in order to support at their summit 
an angel spreading its golden wings. Such is the 
drama, King Lear. 

The father is the pretext for the daughter. That 
admirable human creature, Lear, serves, as a support 

1 In Holinshed's Chronicle, Shakespeare's source, the 
names are, Gonorilla, Regan, and Cordeilla ; in Layamon's 
' Brut ', Gornoille, Regan, and Cordoille or Gordoylle. TB. 

192 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

to this ineffable divine creation, Cordelia. All that 
chaos of crimes, vices, manias, and miseries, finds its 
justification in this shining vision of virtue. Shake 
speare, bearing Cordelia in his brain, in creating this 
tragedy was like a god who, having an Aurora to 
establish, should make a world to put her in. 

And what a figure is that father ! What a carj r atid ! 

It is man stooping. He does nothing but shift his 

burdens for others that are heavier. The more the 

old man becomes enfeebled, the more his load augments. 

He lives under an over-burden. He bears at first 

power, then ingratitude, then isolation, then despair, 

then hunger and thirst, then madness, then all Nature. 

Clouds overcast him, forests heap their shadow upon 

him, the hurricane swoops down upon the nape of his 

neck, the tempest makes his mantle heavy as lead, the 

rain weighs upon his shoulders, he walks bent and 

haggard as if he had the two knees of Night upon 

his back. Dismayed and yet colossal, he flings to the 

winds and to the hail this epic cry : * Why do ye 

hate me, tempests ? Why do ye persecute me ? 

Ye are not my daughters '*. And then all is over ; 

the light is extinguished ; Reason loses courage, 

and leaves him ; Lear is in his dotage. This old 

man, being childish, requires a mother. His daughter 

appears, his only daughter, Cordelia. For the two 

others, Regan and Goneril, are no longer his daughters, 

save so far as to entitle them to the name of parricides. 

Cordelia approaches, ' Sir, do you know me ? ' 

* You are a spirit, I know ', replies the old man, with 

the sublime clairvoyance of frenzy. From this moment 

the filial nursing begins. Cordelia applies herself 

to nursing this old despairing soul, dying of inanition 

in hatred. Cordelia nourishes Lear with love, and 

1 Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters : 
I tax not you, you elements, with unkmdness ; 
I never gave you kingdom, call'd you children, 
You owe me no subscription. 

Act iii, scene ii. 

SHAKESPEARE'S WORK 193 

his courage revives : she nourishes him with respect, 
and the smile returns ; she nourishes him with hope, 
and confidence is restored ; she nourishes him with 
wisdom, and reason awakens. Lear, convalescent, 
rises again, and step by step returns again to life ; 
the child becomes again an old man, the old man 
becomes a man again. And behold him happy, 
this wretched one ! It is upon this expansion of 
happiness that the catastrophe is hurled down. Alas ! 
there are traitors, there are perjurers, there are mur 
derers. Cordelia dies. Nothing more heart-rending 
than this. The old man is stunned ; he no longer 
understands anything; and, embracing her corpse, 
he expires. He dies upon his daughter's breast. 
He is saved from the supreme despair of remaining 
behind her among the living, a poor shadow, to .feel 
the place in his heart empty, and to seek for his soul, 
carried away by that sweet being who is departed. 
O God ! those whom Thou lovest Thou takest away. 
To live after the flight of the angel; to be the 
father orphaned of his child ; to be the eye that no 
longer has light ; to be the deadened heart that knows 
no more joy ; from time to time to stretch the hands 
into obscurity and try to reclasp a being who was 
there (where, then, can she be ?) ; to feel himself 
forgotten in that departure ; to have lost all reason 
for being here below ; to be henceforth a man who 
goes to and fro before a sepulchre, not received, not 
admitted, this is indeed a gloomy destiny. Thou 
hast done well, poet, to kill this old man l . 

1 Perhaps the reader will pardon, in view of the remarkable 
parallelism, a reference to Charles Lamb's Essay on the 
Tragedies of Shakespeare, which Victor Hugo probably 
never saw. ' A happy ending ! as if the living martyrdom 
that Lear had gone through, the flaying of his feelings 
alive, did not make a fair dismissal from the stage of lifo 
the only decorous tiling for him.' Ta. 

BOOK III 

ZOILUS AS ETERNAL AS HOMER 
CHAPTER I 

That vulgar flatt'rer of the ignoble herd * 

THIS line is by La Harpe, who aims it at Shakespeare. 
Elsewhere La Harpe says : ' Shakespeare panders 
to the mob.' 

Voltaire, as a matter of course, reproaches Shake 
speare with antithesis : that is well. And La Beau- 
melle reproaches Voltaire with antithesis : that is 
better. 

Voltaire, when it is a personal matter with him, 
pro domo sua, gets angry. * But ', he writes, * this 
Langleviel, alias La Beaumelle, is an ass. I defy 
you to find in any poet, in any book, a fine thing 
which is not an image or an antithesis.' 

Voltaire's criticism is double-edged. He wounds 
and is wounded. This is how he characterizes the 
Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs : ' Works without 
order, full of low images and coarse expressions.' 

A little while after he exclaims, furious, 

The barb'rous Cr^billon's preferred to me ! 2 

An idler of the (Eil-de-Bceuf, wearing the red heel 
and the blue ribbon, a stripling and a marquis, M. 
de Crequi, comes to Ferney, and writes with an 
air of superiority : ' I have seen Voltaire, that old 
dotard.' 

That the unjust should receive a counterstroke 
from injustice, is nothing more than right ; and 

1 Ce courtisan grossier du profane vulgaire. 

2 On m'ose preferer Cr6 billon le barbare ! 

194 

ZOILUS AS ETERNAL AS HOMER 195 

Voltaire gets what he deserves. But to throw stones 
at men of genius is a general law, and all have to bear 
it. To be insulted is, it seems, a coronation. 

For Salmasius, ^Eschylus is nothing but farrago *. 
Quintilian understands nothing of The Oresteia. 
Sophocles mildly scorned ^Eschylus. * When he 
does well, he does not know it ', said Sophocles. Ra 
cine rejected everything, except two or three scenes 
of The, Choephori, which, by a note in the margin of 
his copy of ^schylus, he condescended to spare. 
Fontenelle says in his Remarks : ' One does not know 
what to make of the Prometheus of ^Eschylus. ^Eschy- 
lus is a kind of madman'. The eighteenth century, 
without exception, ridicules Diderot for admiring 
The Eumenides. 

' The whole of Dante is a hotch-potch ', says Chau- 
don. * Michael Angelo wearies me ', says Joseph de 
Maistre. * Not one of the eight comedies of Cervantes 
is tolerable ', says La Harpe. 'It is a pity that 
Moliere does not know how to write ', says Fenelon. 
* Moliere is a base mountebank ', says Bossuet. * A 
schoolboy would have avoided the mistakes of Milton ', 
says the Abbe Trublet, an authority as good as any 
other. * Corneille exaggerates, Shakespeare raves ', 
says Voltaire again, Voltaire, who must ever be 
resisted, and ever defended. 

' Shakespeare ', says Ben Jonson, talked heavily 
and without any wit '. How prove the contrary ? 
What is written abides; talk passes away. Still, 
so much stands denied to Shakespeare. That man 
of genius had no wit : how that flatters the numberless 
men of wit who have no genius ! 

Some time before Scudery called Corneille ' corneille 
deplumee ' (unfeathered carrion-crow), Greene had 

1 The passage in Salmaaius is curious, and worth tran 
scribing : ' Unus ejus Agamemnon obscuritate suporat 
quantum est librorum sacrorum cum suis hebraismis et 
syrianiamis et tot a hellenistica supelloctile vel farragino.' 
DC Re Hellenisticd, p. 38, ep. dedic. 

196 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

called Shakespeare * a crow beautified with our fea 
thers '. In 1752 Diderot was sent to the fortress of 
Vincennes for having published the first volume of 
the Encyclopaedia, and the great success of the year 
was a print sold on the quays which represented a 
Gray Friar flogging Diderot. Death is always an 
extenuating circumstance for those guilty of genius ; 
but although Weber is dead, he is ridiculed in Germany, 
and for thirty-three years a masterpiece has been 
disposed of by a pun. Euryanthe is called the * Ennu- 
yante ' [tedious womanj. 

D'Alembert hits at one blow Calderon and Shake 
speare. He writes to Voltaire [letter cv] : ' I have 
announced to the Academy your " Heraclius " of 
Calderon. The Academy will read it with as much 
pleasure as the harlequinade of Gilles Shakespeare.' 

That everything should be perpetually re-examined, 
that everything should be contested, even the incon 
testable, what does it matter ? The eclipse is a 
good test of truth as well as of liberty. Genius, being 
truth and liberty, has a claim to persecution. What 
i does genius care for what is transient ? It has been, 
and will be again. It is not toward the sun that the 
eclipse casts a shadow. 

Anything admits of being written. Paper is very 
patient. Last year a grave review printed this : 
' Homer is about to go out of fashion '. 

The judgment passed on the philosopher, on the 
artist, on the poet, is completed by the portrait of 
the man. 

Byron killed his tailor ; Moliere married his own 
daughter ; Shakespeare ' loved ' Lord Southampton 1 

At last, with their appetites whetted for vices, 

The pit roared for the author, that compound of all. 1 

This compendium of all the vices is Beaumarchais. 
As for Byron, we mention this name a second tune ; 

1 Et pour voir a la fin tous les vices ensemble, 
Le parterre en tumulte a demande 1'auteur. 

ZOILUS AS ETERNAL AS HOMER 197 

he is worth the trouble. Read Glenarvon, and listen, 
on the subject of Byron's abominations, to Lady 

Bl , whom he had loved, and who, of course, 

resented it. 

Phidias was a procurer ; Socrates was an apostate 
and a thief, ' a detacher of mantles ' ; Spinoza was a 
renegade and a legacy-hunter ; Dante was a peculator ; 
Michael Angelo was cudgelled by Julius II, and quietly 
put up with it for the sake of five hundred crowns ; 
D'Aubigne was a courtier sleeping in the king's closet, 
ill-tempered when he was not paid, and to whom 
Henry IV was too kind ; Diderot was a libertine ; 
Voltaire a miser ; Milton was venal, he received a 
thousand pounds sterling for his Latin apology for 
regicide : * Defensio pro se ' 1 , etc. Who says these 
things ? who relates these stories ? That good person, 
your old fawning friend, tyrants ; your old comrade, 
O traitors ; your old auxiliary, O bigots ; your old 
comforter, O imbeciles ! Calumny. 

CHAPTER II 

LET us add one particular, diatribe is, upon occasion, 
a means of government. 

Thus in the print of ' Diderot flogged ', the hand 
of the police appeared, and the engraver of the Gray 
Friar must have been of close kin to the turnkey of 
Vincennes. Governments, more passionate than is 
necessary, fail to keep aloof from the animosities 
of the crowd below. The political persecution of 
former days it is of former days that we are speak 
ing willingly availed itself of a dash of literary perse 
cution. Certainly, hatred hates without being paid 
for it. Envy, to do its work does not need a minister 
of state to encourage and pension it, and there is such 
a thing as unofficial calumny. But a money-bag 
does no harm. When Roy, the court-poet, rhymed 

1 The work referred to is probably Milton's Defensio 
Populi Angdicani, written by way of reply to Salmasius. TR. 

198 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

against Voltaire, ' Tell me, daring stoic ', etc., the 
position of treasurer of the excise office of Clermont, 
and the cross of St. Michael, were not likely to damp 
his enthusiasm for the court, and his spirit against 
Voltaire. A gratuity is pleasant to receive after a 
service rendered. The masters upstairs smile ; you 
receive the agreeable order to insult some one you 
detest ; you obey amply ; you are free to bite ad 
libitum ; you take your fill : it is all profit ; you 
hate, and you give satisfaction. Formerly, authority 
had its scribes. It was a pack of hounds as good as 
any other. Against the free rebellious spirit, the 
despot would let loose the scribbler. To torture 
was not sufficient ; teasing was resorted to likewise. 
Trissotin would hold a confabulation with Vidocq, 
and from their tete-a-tete a complex inspiration would 
result. Pedantry, thus supported by the police, felt 
itself an integral part of authority, and strengthened 
its aesthetics with legal means. It grew haughty. 
No arrogance is equal to that of the base pedant 
raised to the dignity of bumbailiff. See, after the 
struggle between the Arminians and the Gomarists, 
with what a superb air Sparanus Buyter, his pockets 
full of Maurice of Nassau's florins, denounces Joost 
Vondel, and proves, Aristotle in hand, that the Pala- 
medes of Vondel's tragedy is no other than Barne- 
veldt ! useful rhetoric, by which Buyter obtains against 
Vondel a fine of three hundred crowns, and for himself 
a fat prebend at Dordrecht. 

The author of the book, Literary Quarrels, the Abbe 
Trail, canon of Monistrol, asks of La Beaumelle, 
' Why do you insult M. de Voltaire so much ? ' 'It 
is because it sells well ', replies La Beaumelle. And 
Voltaire, informed of the question and of the reply, 
concludes : ' Precisely so : the simpleton buys the 
writing, and the minister buys the writer. It sells 
well '. 

Fran9oise d'Issembourg de Happoncourt, wife 
of Francois Hugo, chamberlain of Lorraine, and 

ZOILUS AS ETERNAL AS HOMER 199 

celebrated under the name of Madame de Graffigny, 
writes to M. Devaux, reader to King Stanislaus: 
1 My dear Pampan, Atys being sent away (Read : 
Voltaire being banished), the police cause to be pub 
lished against him a swarm of small writings and 
pamphlets, which are sold at a sou in the cafes and 
theatres. That would displease the Marquise 1 , 
if it did not please the King '. 

Desfontaines, that other insulter of Voltaire, who 
had rescued him from the mad-house of Bicetre, 
said to the Abbe Prevost, who advised him to make 
his peace with the philosopher : * If Algiers did not 
make war, Algiers would die of hunger '. 

This Desfontaines, also an abbe, died of dropsy ; 
and his well-known tastes gained for him this epitaph : 
1 Periit aqua qui meruit igne '. 

Among the publications suppressed in the last 
century by decree of parliament, is found a document 
printed by Quinet and Besogne, and destroyed doubt 
less because of the revelations which it contained, 
and of which the title gave promise : The Aretiniad 2 ; 
or, Price-list of Libellers and Abusive Men of Letters. 

Madame de Stael, exiled to a distance of forty-five 
leagues from Paris, stops exactly at the forty-five 
leagues, at Beaumont-sur-Loire, and thence writes 
to her friends. Here is a fragment of a letter addressed 
to Madame Gay, mother of the illustrious Madame 
de Girardin : ' Ah, dear madame, what a persecution 
are these exiles ! ' (We suppress some lines.) ' You 
write a book ; it is forbidden to speak of it. Your 
name in the journals displeases. Permission is, 
however, fully given to speak ill of it '. 

CHAPTER III 

SOMETIMES the diatribe is sprinkled with quicklime. 
All these black pen-nibs end by digging dismal pits. 

1 Madame de Pompadour. 

2 From Pietro Aretino, the literary jackal of the sixteenth 
century. TB. 

200 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Among the writers abhorred for having been useful, 
Voltaire and Rousseau stand in the first rank. Living, 
they were lacerated ; dead, they were mangled. To 
have a hack at these renowned ones was a splendid 
deed, and set down as such in the bills of service of 
literary catchpolls. To insult Voltaire even once, 
was enough to give one the rank of pedant-laureate. 
Men of power egged on the men of libel. A swarm 
of mosquitoes settled upon these two illustrious men, 
and the insects are still humming. 

Voltaire is the more hated, being the greater. 
Everything was good for an attack on him, every 
thing was a pretext : the princesses of France, Newton, 
Madame du Chatelet, the Princess of Prussia, Mauper- 
tuis, Frederick, the Encyclopaedia, the Academy, even 
Labarre, Sirven, and Galas. Never a truce. His 
popularity suggested to Joseph de Maistre this line : 
* Paris crowned him ; Sodom would have banished 
him.' Arouet was translated into A rouer 1 . At 
the house of the Abbess of Nivelles, Princess of the 
Holy Empire, half recluse and half worldling having 
recourse, it is said, in order to make her cheeks rosy, 
to the method of the Abbess of Montbazon charades 
were played ; among others, this one : ' The first 
syllable is his fortune ; the second should be his duty '. 
The word was Vol-taire 2 . A celebrated member of 
the Academy of Sciences, Napoleon Bonaparte, seeing 
in 1803, in the library of the Institute, this inscription 
in the centre of a crown of laurels, ' To the Great 
Voltaire ', scratched with his nail the last three letters, 
leaving only * To the Great Volta ! ' 

Around Voltaire especially there is a sanitary 
cordon of priests, the Abbe Desfontaines at the head, 
the Abbe Nicolardot at the tail. Freron, although 
a layman, is a critic after the priestly fashion, and 
belongs to this band. 

It was at the Bastile that Voltaire made his debut. 

1 Deserving of being broken on the wheel. TB. 

2 Vol, * theft ', taire, ' to be silent.' TB. 

ZOILUS AS ETERNAL AS HOMER 201 

Hi8 cell was next to the dungeon in which Bernard 
Palissy had died. Young, he tasted the prison ; old, 
he tasted exile. He was kept twenty-seven years 
away from Paris. 

Jean-Jacques, being wild and somewhat solitary, 
was, in consequence of these traits, hunted about. 
Paris issued a writ against his person ; Geneva ex 
pelled him ; Neufchatel rejected him : Motiers- 
Travers condemned him ; Bienne stoned him ; Berne 
gave him the choice between prison and expulsion ; 
London, hospitable London, scoffed at him. 

Both died at about the same time *. Death caused 
no interruption to the outrages. A man is dead ; 
insult does not slacken pursuit for such a trifle. Hatred 
can feast on a corpse. Libels continued, piously 
rabid against such glory. 

The Revolution came, and placed them in the 
Pantheon. 

At the beginning of this century, children were 
often brought to see these two graves. They were 
told, ' It is here ! ' That made a strong impression 
on their minds. They carried for ever in their thought 
that vision of two sepulchres side by side : the elliptical 
arch of the vault, the antique form of the two monu 
ments provisionally covered with wood painted like 
marble ; these two names, ROUSSEAU, VOLTAIRE, 
in the twilight ; and the hand bearing a torch which 
was thrust out of the tomb of Jean-Jacques. 

Louis XVIII returned. The restoration of the 
Stuarts had torn Cromwell from his grave ; the restora 
tion of the Bourbons could not do less for Voltaire. 

One night, in May, 1814, about two o'clock in the 
morning, a cab stopped near the city-gate of La Gare, 
opposite Bercy, at a door in a board fence. This 
fence surrounded a large vacant piece of ground, 
reserved for the projected warehouses, and belonging 
to the city of Paris. The cab had come from the 

1 Voltaire died May 30, 1778; Rousseau, four days 
later. TR. 

202 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Pantheon, and the coachman had been ordered to 
take the most deserted streets. The fence -gate was 
opened. Some men alighted from the cab and entered 
the inclosure. Two carried a sack between them. 
They were conducted, so tradition asserts, by the 
Marquis de Puymaurin, afterward deputy to the 
Invisible Chamber * and Director of the Mint, accom 
panied by his brother, the Comte de Puymaurin. 
Other men, some in cassocks, were awaiting them. 
They proceeded toward a hole dug in the middle of 
the field. This hole according to one of the wit 
nesses, who has since been a waiter at the Marronniers 
inn at La Rapee was round, and looked like a dry 
well. At the bottom of the hole was quicklime. These 
men said nothing, and had no lanterns. The wan 
daybreak gave a ghastly light. The sack was opened. 
It was full of bones. These were the intermingled 
bones of Jean -Jacques and of Voltaire, which had 
just been withdrawn from the Pantheon. The mouth 
of the sack was brought close to the hole, and the 
bones were thrown into that black pit. The two 
skulls struck against each other ; a spark, not likely 
to be seen by such men as those present, was doubtless 
exchanged between the head that had made The 
Philosophical Dictionary and the head that had made 
The Social Contract, and reconciled them. When 
that was done, when the sack had been shaken, when 
Voltaire and Rousseau had been emptied into that 
hole, a digger seized a spade, threw into the opening 
the heap of earth at the side, and filled up the grave. 
The others stamped with their feet on the ground, 
so as to remove from it the appearance of having been 
freshly disturbed ; one of the assistants took for his 
trouble the sack as the hangman takes the clothing 
of his victim ; they left the inclosure, shut the gate, 
got into the cab without saying a word, and hastily, 
before the sun had risen, these men got away. 

1 ' Chambre introuvable ', referring to the French Cham 
ber of Deputies of 1815. TB. 

ZOILUS AS ETERNAL AS HOMER 203 

CHAPTER IV 

SALMASIUS, that worse Scaliger, does not comprehend 
./Eschylus, and rejects him. Who is to blame ? 
Salmasius much ; JEschylus little. 

The attentive man who reads great works feels 
at times, in the midst of his reading, certain sudden 
chills, followed by a kind of excess of heat ' I no 
longer understand ! . . . I understand ! ' shivering 
and burning, something which causes him to be a 
little upset at the same time that he is very much 
struck. Only minds of the first order, only men of 
supreme genius, subject to absences in the infinite, 
give to the reader this singular sensation, stupor 
for the most, ecstasy for a few. These few are the 
children of light. As we have already observed, 
these select few, gathering from century to century, 
and continually gaining recruits, at last become 
numerous, and make up the supreme company, the 
definitive public of genius, and like it, sovereign. 

It is with this public that, first or last, one must 
deal. 

Meanwhile there is another public ; there are other 
appraisers, other judges, to whom we have just now 
given a word. These are not content. 

The men of genius, the great minds this ^Eschylus, 
this Isaiah, this Juvenal, this Dante, this Shakespeare 
are beings imperious, tumultuous, violent, passionate, 
hard riders of winged steeds, ' overleaping all bounda 
ries ', having their own goal, which itself * is beyond 
the mark ', * exaggerated ', taking scandalous strides, 
flying abruptly from one idea to another, and from 
the North ^ole to the South Pole, crossing the heavens 
in three steps, making little allowance for the scant 
of breath, shaken by all the winds of space, and at 
the same time full of some unaccountable equestrian 
confidence amidst their bounds across the abyss, 
intractable to the ' Aristarchs ', refractory to official 
rhetoric, not amiable to asthmatic literati, unsubdued 

204 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

to academic hygiene, preferring the foam of Pegasus 
to ass's-milk. 

The worthy pedants are kind enough to fear for 
them. The ascent occasions a calculation of the 
fall. Compassionate cripples lament for Shakespeare. 
He is mad ; he mounts too high ! The mob of college 
scouts (they are a mob) look on in wonder, and get 
.angry. ^Eschylus and Dante make these connoisseurs 
blink every moment. This JEschylus is lost ! This 
Dante is near falling ! A god spreads his wings for 
flight : the Philistines cry out to him, ' Mind your 
self ! ' 

CHAPTER V 

BESIDES, these men of genius are disconcerting. 

There is no reckoning with them. Their lyric 
{fury obeys them ; they interrupt it when they like. 
They seem wild. Suddenly they stop. Their frenzy 
becomes melancholy. They are seen among the 
precipices, alighting on a peak and folding their wings ; 
and then they give way to meditation. Their medita 
tion is not less surprising than their transport. Just 
now they were soaring, now they are sinking shafts. 
But their audacity is ever the same. 

They are pensive giants. Their Titanic reverie 
needs the absolute and the unfathomable for its expan 
sion. They meditate as the suns shine, conditioned 
by the medium of the abyss around them. 

Their roving to and fro in the ideal dizzies the ob 
server. Nothing is too high for them, and nothing 
too low. They pass from the pigmy to the Cyclops, 
from Polyphemus to the Myrmidons, from Queen 
Mab to Caliban, from a love-affair to a deluge, from 
Saturn's rings to a child's doll. Sinite parvulos venire. 
One of their eyes is a telescope, the other a microscope. 
They investigate familiarly those two frightful inverse 
depths the infinitely great, and the infinitely little. 

And one should not be angry with them ! and 

ZOILUS AS ETERNAL AS HOMER 205 

one should not reproach them for all this ! Indeed, 
what would result if such excesses were to be tolerated ? 
What ! No scruple in the choice of subjects, horrible 
or sad ; and the thought, even if it be distressing 
and formidable, always relentlessly followed up to its 
extreme consequence ! These poets see only their 
own aim ; and in everything they have an immoderate 
way of doing things. What is Job ? A maggot 
upon a sore. What is the Divina Commedia? A 
series of torments. What is the Iliad ? A collection 
of plagues and wounds. Not an artery cut which 
is not complacently described. Go about for opinions 
of Homer ; ask Scaliger, Terrasson, Lamotte, what 
they think of him. The fourth of a canto to the 
shield of Achilles what want of proportion ! He 
who does not know when to stop, never knew how 
to write. These poets agitate, disturb, trouble, upset, 
overwhelm, make everything shiver, break things 
occasionally here and there ; they may do mischief, 
the thing is serious ! Thus speak the Athenaea, the 
Sorbonnes, the sworn professors, the societies called 
* learned ', Salmasius, successor of Scaliger at the 
University of Leyden, and the Philistines after them 
all who represent in literature and art the great party 
of order. What can be more natural ? The cough 
quarrels with the hurricane. 

Those who are poor in wit are joined by those who- 
have too much wit. The sceptics join hands with 
the simpletons. Men of genius, with few exceptions, 
are proud and stern; that is in the very marrow of 
their bones. They have in their company Juvenal, 
Agrippa d'Aubigne, and Milton ; they are prone 
to harshness ; they despise the panem et circenses ,- 
they seldom grow sociable, and they growl. People 
do well to rally them in a pleasant way. 

Aha, Poet ! Aha, Milton ! Aha, Juvenal ! So> 
you keep up resistance ! you perpetuate disinterested 
ness ! you bring together those two firebrands, faith 
and will, in order to draw flame from them ! So 

206 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

there is something of the Vestal in you, old grumbler ! 
So you have an altar, your country ! you have a 
tripod, the ideal ! you believe in the rights of man, 
in emancipation, in the future, in progress, in the 
beautiful, in the just, in what is great ! Take care ; 
you are behindhand ! All this virtue is infatuation. 
You emigrate with honour, but you emigrate. This 
heroism is no longer in good form. It no longer suits 
the spirit of the time. There comes a moment when 
the sacred fire is no longer fashionable. Poet, you 
believe in right and truth ; you are behind your age. 
Your very immortality makes you a thing of the past. 

So much the worse, without doubt, for those grumb 
ling geniuses accustomed to greatness, and scornful 
of what is not great. They are slow of movement 
when honour is at stake ; their back is struck with 
anchylosis for anything like bowing and cringing ; 
when success passes along, deserved or not. but saluted, 
they have an iron bar stiffening their vertebral column. 
That is their affair. So much the worse for those 
antique Romans. They are ready to be relegated 
to antiquarian museums. To bristle up at every 
turn may have been all very well in former days ; 
these unkempt manes are no longer worn ; lions went 
out of fashion with the perukes. The French Revolu 
tion is nearly seventy-five years old ; at that age 
dotage comes. The people of the present time mean 
to belong to their day, and even to their minute. 
Certainly, we find no fault with this. Whatever is, 
must be ; it is quite right that what exists should 
exist ; the forms of public prosperity are diverse ; 
one generation is not bound to imitate another. Cato 
took example from Phocion ; Trimalchio, who is 
sufficiently unlike either, embodies the idea of inde 
pendence. You bad-tempered old fellows, you wish 
us to emancipate ourselves ? Let it be so. We 
disencumber ourselves of the imitation of Timoleon, 
Thrasea, Artevelde, Thomas More, Hampden. This 
is our way of emancipating ourselves. You wish 

ZOILUS AS ETERNAL AS HOMER 207 

for a revolt there it is. You wish for an insurrection 
we rise up against our rights. We enfranchise our 
selves from the solicitudes of freedom. Citizenship 
is a heavy burden. Rights entangled with obligations 
are shackles to one who desires mere enjoyment. It 
is fatiguing to be guided by conscience and truth in 
all the steps that we take. We mean to walk without 
leading-strings and without principles. Duty is a 
chain ; we break our shackles. What do you mean 
by speaking to us of Franklin ? Franklin is a rather 
too servile copy of Aristides. We carry our horror 
of servility so far as to prefer Grimod de la Reyniere. 
To eat and drink well is an aim in life. Each epoch 
has its peculiar manner of being free. Feasting is 
freedom. This way of reasoning is triumphant ; 
to adhere to it is wise. There have been, it is true, 
epochs when people thought otherwise. In those 
times the things which were trodden on would some 
times resent it, and would rebel ; but that was the 
ancient fashion, ridiculous now ; and tiresome people 
and croakers must just be allowed to go on affirming 
that there was a better notion of right, justice, and 
honour in the paving-stones of yore than in the men 
of the present. 

The rhetoricians, official and officious we have 
pointed out already their wonderful sagacity take 
strong precautions against men of genius. Men of 
genius are but slightly academic ; what is more, they 
do not abound in commonplaces. They are lyrists, 
colourists, enthusiasts, enchanters, possessed, exalted, 
* rabid ' we have read the word beings who, when 
everybody is small, have a mania for creating great 
characters ; in fact, they have every vice. A doctor 
has recently discovered that genius is a variety of 
madness. They are Michael Angelo chiselling giants, 
Rembrandt painting with a palette all bedaubed with 
the sun's rays ; they are Dante, Rabelais, Shakespeare, 
excessive. They bring with them a style of art 
wild, howling, flaming, dishevelled like the lion and 

208 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

the comet. Oh, shocking ! People are right in form 
ing combinations against them. It is a fortunate 
circumstance that the ' teetotallers ' of eloquence and 
poetry exist. ' I admire pallor ', said a literary 
Philistine one day for there is a literary Philistine. 
Rhetoricians, solicitous on account of the contagions 
and fevers which are spread by genius, recommend 
with a lofty wisdom which we have commended, 
temperance, moderation, * common sense ', the art of 
keeping within bounds ; writers expurgated, trimmed 
pruned, regulated ; the worship of the qualities 
that the malignant call negative, continence, absti 
nence, Joseph, Scipio, the water-drinkers. All this 
is excellent ; only young students must be warned 
that by following these sage precepts too closely they 
run the risk of glorifying the chastity of the eunuch. 
Perhaps I admire Bayard ; I admire Origen less. 

CHAPTER VI 

SUMMARY statement : Great minds are importunate ; 
it is judicious to restrain them a little. 

After all, let us admit it at last, and complete our 
statement : there is some truth in the reproaches 
that are hurled at them. This anger is natural. 
The powerful, the grand, the luminous, are, from a 
certain point of view, things calculated to offend. 
To be surpassed is never agreeable ; to feel one's 
own inferiority is to feel a pang. The beautiful exists 
so truly by itself that it certainly has no need of pride ; 
nevertheless, given human mediocrity, the beautiful 
humiliates at the same time that it enchants : it seems 
natural that beauty should be a vase for pride, a 
brimming vase ; so that the pleasure beauty gives 
is tainted with resentment, and the word ' superb ' 
comes finally to have two senses, one of which breeds 
distrust of the other. This is the fault of the beautiful, 
as we have already said. It wearies : a sketch by 
Piranesi disconcerts you ; the hand-grasp of Hercules 

ZOILUS AS ETERNAL AS HOMER '209 

bruises you. Greatness is sometimes in the wrong. 
It is ingenuous, but obstructive. The tempest thinks 
to sprinkle you : it drowns you ; the star thinks to 
give light : it dazzles, sometimes blinds. The Nile 
fertilizes, but overflows. Excess does not comport 
with comfort : the deeps of space form but an inhospi 
table dwelling-place ; the infinite is scarcely tenant- 
able. A cottage is badly situated on the cataract 
of Niagara, or in the circus of Gavarnie ; it is awkward 
to keep house with these fierce wonders : to frequent 
them regularly without being overwhelmed, one must 
be a cretin or a genius. 

The dawn itself at times seems to us immoderate : 
he who looks straight at it, suffers ; the eye at certain 
moments thinks very ill of the sun. Let us not, then, 
be surprised at the complaints made, at the incessant 
protests, at the fits of passion and prudence, at the 
poultices applied by a certain school of criticism, at 
the chronic ophthalmy of academies and teaching 
bodies, at the precautions suggested to the reader, 
at all the curtains drawn and at all the shades set up 
against genius. Genius is intolerant unaware*, because 
it is genius. What familiarity is possible with ^Eschy- 
lus, with Ezekiel, with Dante ? 

The self is one's title to egoism. Now, the first 
thing that those beings do, is to shock the self of every 
man. Exorbitant in everything, in thoughts, in 
images, in convictions, in emotions, in passion, in 
faith, whatever may be the side of yourself to which 
they address themselves, they disturb it. They 
overshoot your intelligence ; they dazzle the inner 
eye of imagination ; they question and search your 
conscience ; they wrench your deepest sensibilities ; 
they tear your heart-strings ; they sweep away your 
soul. 

The infinite that is in them passes from them, and 
multiplies them, and transfigures them before your 
eyes every moment, a fearful strain upon the vision ! 
With them, you never know where you are. At every 

210 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

turn you encounter the unforeseen. You were looking 
for men only : there come giants who cannot enter 
your chamber. You expected only an idea : cast 
down your eyes, for they are the ideal. You expected 
only eagles : these beings have six wings, they are 
seraphs. Are they then beyond Nature ? Are they 
lacking in humanity ? 

Certainly not ; and far from that, and quite the 
reverse. We have already said, and we insist upon 
it, Nature and humanity are in them more than in 
any other beings. They are superhuman men, but 
men. Homo sum. This word of a poet sums up all 
poetry. Saint Paul strikes his breast, and says, 
' Peccamus '. Job tells you who he is : 'I am the 
son of a woman '. They are men. What troubles 
you is that they are men more than you ; they are 
too much men. Where you have but the part, they 
have the whole ; they carry in their vast heart entire 
humanity, and they are you more than yourself ; 
you recognize yourself too much in their work 
hence your outcry. To that total of Nature, to that 
complete humanity, to that clay which is all your 
flesh, and which is at the same time the whole earth, 
they add something ; and this marvellous reflection 
of the light of unknown suns completes your terror. 
They have vistas of revelation ; and suddenly, and 
without crying ' Beware ! * at the moment when you 
least expect it, they burst the cloud, and make in 
the zenith a gap whence falls a ray lighting up the 
terrestrial with the celestial. It is quite natural 
that people should have no great fancy for their com 
pany, and no taste for neighbourly intimacy with 
them. 

Whoever has not a soul well attempered by a vigo 
rous education prefers to avoid them. For colossal 
books there must be athletic readers. To open Jere 
miah, Ezekiel, Job, Pindar, Lucretius, and this 
Alighieri, and this Shakespeare, one must be robust. 
Let it be owned that commonplace habits, a vulgar 

ZOILUS AS ETERNAL AS HOMER 211 

life, the dead calm of the conscience, ' good taste ' 
and * common sense ' all petty and placid egoism 
are disturbed by the portents of the sublime. 

Yet, when one plunges in and reads them, nothing 
is more hospitable for the mind at certain hours than 
these stern spirits. They suddenly assume a lofty 
gentleness, as unexpected as the rest. They say to 
you, ' Come in ! ' They receive you at home with 
an archangelic fraternity. They are affectionate, 
sad, melancholy, consoling. You are suddenly at 
your ease. You feel yourself loved by them ; you 
almost imagine yourself personally known to them. 
Their sternness and their pride veil a profound sym 
pathy ; if granite had a heart, how deep would its 
goodness be ! Well, genius is granite with goodness. 
Extreme power goes with great love. They join you 
in your prayers. Such men know well that God exists. 
Apply your ear to these giants, and you will hear 
their hearts beat. Would you believe, love, weep, 
beat your breast, fall upon your knees, raise your 
hands to heaven with confidence and serenity ? Listen 
to these poets : they will aid you to rise toward a 
wholesome and fruitful sorrow ; they will make you 
feel the heavenly use of emotion. Oh, goodness 
of the strong ! Their emotion, which, if they will, 
can be an earthquake, is at moments so cordial and 
so gentle that it seems like the rocking of a cradle. 
They have just quickened within you something which 
they foster tenderly. There is maternity in genius. 
Advance a step ; a new surprise awaits you : these 
poets have a grace like that of Aurora herself. 

High mountains have upon their slopes all climes, 
and the great poets all styles. It is sufficient to 
change the zone. Go up, it is the tempest ; descend, 
the flowers are there. The inner fire accommodates 
itself to the winter without ; the glacier makes an 
admirable crater ; and the lava has no finer outlet 
than through the snow. A sudden blaze of flame 
is not strange on a polar summit. This contact of 

212 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

the extremes is a law in Nature, in which the theatrical 
strokes of the sublime are exhibited at every moment. 
A mountain, a genius, both possess an austere majesty. 
These masses evolve a sort of religious intimidation. 
Dante is not less precipitous than Etna ; Shakespeare's 
heights equal the steeps of Chimborazo. The summits 
of the poets are not less cloud-piercing than mountain 
peaks. There thunders roll ; while in the valleys, 
in passes, in sheltered nooks, at the bottom of canons, 
are rivulets, birds, nests, foliage, enchantments, extra 
ordinary floras. Above the frightful arch of the 
Aveyron, in the middle of the Mer de Glace, there is that 
paradise, called 'The Garden' have you seen it? What 
a freak of Nature ! A hot sun, a shade tepid and 
fresh, a vague exudation of perfumes on the grass-plots, 
an indescribable month of May perpetually crouching 
amid precipices. Nothing can be more tender and 
more exquisite. Such are the poets ; such are the 
Alps. These vast, dreadful heights are marvellous 
growers of roses and violets. They avail themselves 
of the dawn and of the dew better than all your mea 
dows and all your hills, whose natural business it is. 
The April of the plain is flat and vulgar compared 
with their April, and they have, those immense old 
mountains, in their wildest ravine, their own charming 
spring-tide well known to the bees. 

BOOK IV 
CRITICISM 

CHAPTER I 

ALL Shakespeare's plays, with the exception of Mac 
beth and Romeo and Juliet thirty-four plays out of 
thirty-sixoffer to the observer one peculiarity which 
seems to have escaped, up to this day, the most eminent 
commentators and critics ; one which is unnoticed 
by the Schlegels, and even by M. Villemain himself, 
in his remarkable labours, and of which it is impossible 
not to speak. It is the double action which traverses 
the drama and reflects it on a small scale. Beside 
the tempest in the Atlantic is the tempest in the 
tea-cup. Thus, Hamlet makes beneath himself a 
Hamlet; he kills Polonius, father of Laertes, and 
there stands Laertes over against him exactly as he 
stands over against Claudius. There are two fathers 
to avenge. There might be two ghosts. So, in 
King Lear, side by side and simultaneously, Lear, 
driven to despair by his daughters Goneril and Regan, 
and consoled by his daughter Cordelia, is repeated 
in Gloster, betrayed by his son Edmund and loved 
by his son Edgar. The idea bifurcated, the idea 
echoing itself, a lesser drama copying and elbowing 
the principal drama, the action attended by its moon, 
a smaller action like it, unity cut in two ; surely 
the fact is a strange one. These double actions have 
been strongly condemned by the few commentators 
who have pointed them out. In this condemnation 
we do not sympathize. Do we then approve and 
accept as good these double actions ? By no means. 
We recognize them, and that is all. The drama of 
Shakespeare as we said with all our force as far back 

213 

214 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

as 1827 1 , in order to discourage all imitation the 
drama of Shakespeare is peculiar to Shakespeare ; 
it is a drama inherent in this poet ; it is his own essence ; 
it is himself. Thence his originalities, which are 
absolutely personal ; thence his idiosyncrasies, which 
exist without establishing a law. 

These double actions are purely Shakespearean. 
Neither ^Eschylus nor Moliere would admit them ; 
and we should certainly agree with ^Eschylus and 
Moliere. 

These double actions are, moreover, the sign of 
the sixteenth century. Each epoch has its own 
mysterious stamp. The centuries have a signature 
which they affix to masterpieces, and which it is 
necessary to know how to decipher and recognize. 
The signature of the sixteenth century is not that 
of the eighteenth. The Renascence was a subtle time, 
a time of reflection. The spirit of the sixteenth cen 
tury was reflected in a mirror. Every idea of the 
Renascence has a double compartment. Look at 
the rood-lofts in the churches. The Renascence, 
with an exquisite and fantastical art, always makes 
the Old Testament an adumbration of the New. 
The double action is there in everything. The symbol 
explains the personage by repeating his gesture. If, 
in a low-relief, Jehovah sacrifices his son, he has for 
a neighbour, in the next low-relief, Abraham sacrificing 
his son. Jonah passes three days in the whale, and 
Jesus passes three days in the sepulchre ; and the 
jaws of the monster swallowing Jonah answer to the 
mouth of hell engulfing Jesus. 

The carver of the rood-loft of Fecamp, so stupidly 
demolished, goes so far as to give for a counterpart 
to St Joseph whom ? Amphitryon. 

These singular parallels constitute one of the habits 

of the profound and far-sought art of the sixteenth 

century. Nothing can be more curious in that manner 

than the use which was made of St Christopher. In 

1 Preface to Cromwell. 

CRITICISM 215 

the Middle Ages and in the sixteenth century, in paint 
ings and sculptures, St Christopher the good giant 
martyred by Decius in 250, recorded by the Bollandists 
and accepted imperturbably by Baillet is always 
triple, an opportunity for the triptych. To begin 
with, there is a first Christ- bearer, a first Chris tophorus ; 
this is Christopher with the infant Jesus on his shoulders. 
Next, the Virgin with child is a Christopher, since 
she carries Christ. Lastly, the cross is a Christopher ; 
it also carries Christ. This treble illustration of the 
idea is immortalized by Rubens in the cathedral of 
Antwerp. The twin idea, the triple idea such is 
the stamp of the sixteenth century. 

Shakespeare, faithful to the spirit of his time, must 
needs add Laertes avenging his father to Hamlet 
avenging his father, and cause Hamlet to be pursued 
by Laertes at the same time that Claudius is pursued 
by Hamlet ; he must needs make the filial piety of 
Edgar a comment on the filial piety of Cordelia, and 
bring out in contrast, weighed down by the ingratitude 
of unnatural children, two wretched fathers, each 
bereaved of one of the two kinds of light Lear mad, 
and Gloster blind. 

CHAPTER II 

WHAT then ? No criticisms ? No strictures ? You 
explain everything ? Yes. Genius is an entity 
like Nature, and requires, like Nature, to be accepted 
purely and simply. A mountain must be accepted 
as such, or left alone. There are men who would 
make a criticism on the Himalayas, pebble by pebble. 
Mount Etna blazes and sputters, throws out its glare, 
its wrath, its lava, and its ashes ; these men take 
scales and weigh these ashes, pinch by pinch. Quot 
librae in monte summo ? Meanwhile genius continues 
its eruption. Everything in it has its reason for 
existing. It is because it is. Its shadow is the under 
side of its light. Its smoke comes from its flame. Its 

216 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

precipice is the condition of its height. We love 
this more, and that less ; but we remain silent wherever 
we feel God. We are in the forest ; the crossed 
grain of the tree is its secret. The sap knows what 
it is doing ; the root understands its trade. We 
take things as they are ; we are on good terms with 
what is excellent, tender, or magnificent ; we acquiesce 
in masterpieces ; we do not make use of one to find 
fault with the other ; we do not insist that Phidias 
should sculpture cathedrals, nor that Pinaigrier 
should glaze temples. The temple is harmony, the 
cathedral is mystery ; they are two different models 
of the sublime ; we do not claim for the minster the 
perfection of the Parthenon, nor for the Parthenon 
the grandeur of the minster. 

We are so far whimsical as to be satisfied if a thing 
is beautiful. We do not reproach for its sting the 
insect that gives us honey. We renounce our right 
to criticise the feet of the peacock, the cry of the 
swan, the plumage of the nightingale, the larva of the 
butterfly, the thorn of the rose, the odour of the lion, 
the hide of the elephant, the prattle of the cascade, 
the pips of the orange, the immobility of the Milky 
Way, the saltness of the ocean, the spots on the sun, 
the nakedness of Noah. 

The quandoque bonus dormitat is permitted to Horace. 
We raise no objection. What is certain is that Homer 
would not say this of Horace, he would not take the 
trouble. But that eagle would find this chattering 
humming-bird charming enough. I grant it is pleasant 
to a man to feel himself superior, and to say, ' Homer 
is puerile, Dante is childish '. The smile accompanying 
such a remark is rather becoming. Why not crush 
these poor geniuses a little ? To be the Abbe Trublet, 
and to say, * Milton is a schoolboy ', is agreeable. 
How witty is the man who finds that Shakespeare 
has no wit ! That man is La Harpe, Delandine, 
Auger; he is, was, or shall be, an Academician. 
* All these great men are full of extravagance, bad 

CRITICISM 217 

taste, and childishness '. What a fine decision to 
render ! These manners tickle their possessors voluptu 
ously ; and, in reality, when they have said, * This 
giant is small ', they can fancy that they are great. 
Every man has his own way. As for myself, the 
writer of these lines, I admire everything, like a fool. 

That is why I have written this book. 

To admire, to be an enthusiast, it has struck 
me that it was well to give, in our century, this 
example of folly. 

CHAPTER III 

LOOK, therefore, for no criticism. I admire ^Eschylus, 
I admire Juvenal, I admire Dante in the mass, in the 
lump, all. .1 do not cavil at those great benefactors. 
What you characterize as a fault, I call accent. I 
accept, and give thanks. The marvels of the human 
mind being my inheritance, I claim no exemption 
from the liabilities of the succession. Pegasus being 
given to me, I do not look the gift-horse in the mouth. 
A masterpiece offers me its hospitality : I approach 
it hat in hand, and I admire the countenance of my 
host. Gilles Shakespeare, be it so. I admire Shake 
speare, and I admire Gilles. Falstaff is proposed 
to me, I accept him, and I admire the * Empty 
the jorden.' I admire the senseless cry, * A rat ! * 
I admire the quips of Hamlet ; I admire the whole 
sale murders of Macbeth : I admire the witches, 
' that ridiculous spectacle ' ; I admire * the buttock 
of the night ' ; I admire the eye plucked from Glouces 
ter. I have no more intelligence than that comes to. 
Having recently had the honour to be called * silly ' 
by several distinguished writers and critics, and even 
by my illustrious friend M. de Lamartine *, I am 
determined to justify the epithet. 

1 'The whole biography, sometimes rather puerile even 
rather silly, of Bishop Myriel.' LAMARTINE : Course in 
Literature (Discourse Uxxiv, p. 385. 

218 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

We close with a final observation of detail which 
we have specially to make regarding Shakespeare. 

Orestes, that fatal senior of Hamlet, is not, as we 
have said, the sole link between ^Eschylus and Shake 
speare ; we have noted a relation, less easily per 
ceptible, between Prometheus and Hamlet. The 
mysterious intimacy between the two poets appears, 
with reference to this same Prometheus, still more 
strangely striking in a particular which, up to this 
time, has escaped the notice of observers and critics. 
Prometheus is the grandsire of Mab. 

Let us prove it. 

Prometheus, like all personages who have become 
legendary, like Solomon, like Caesar, like Mahomet, 
like Charlemagne, like the Cid, like Joan of Arc, like 
Napoleon, has a double continuation, the one in 
history, the other in fable. Now, the continuation 
of Prometheus in the fable is this : 

Prometheus, creator of men, is also creator of 
spirits. He is father of a dynasty of Divs, whose 
filiation the old metrical romance have preserved: 
Elf, that is to say, the Rapid, son of Prometheus ; 
then Elfin, king of India ; then Elfinan, founder of 
Cleopolis, town of the fairies ; then Elfilin, builder 
of the golden wall ; then Elfinell, winner of the battle 
of the demons ; then Elfant, who built Panthea all 
in crystal ; then Elfar, who killed Bicephalus and 
Tricephalus ; then Elfinor, the magian, a kind of 
Salmoneus, who built over the sea a bridge of copper, 
sounding like thunder, ' non imitabile fulmen sere 
et cornipedum pulsu simularet equorum ' ; then 
seven hundred princes ; then Elficleos the Sage ; 
then Elferon the Beautiful; then Oberon ; then 
Mab. Wonderful fable, which, with a profound 
meaning, unites the sidereal and the microscopic, 
the infinitely great and the infinitely small. 

And it is thus that the animalcule of Shakespeare 
is connected with the giant of ^Eschylus. 

The fairy drawn athwart men's noses as they lie 

CRITICISM 219 

asleep, in her chariot covered with the wings of grass 
hoppers, by eight little atomies harnessed with moon 
beams and whipped with a lash of film the fairy 
atom has for ancestor the huge Titan, robber of stars, 
nailed on the Caucasus, having one hand on the 
Caspian Gates, the other on the Gates of Ararat, one 
heel on the source of the Phasis, the other on the 
Validus-Murus, closing the passage between the 
mountain and the sea, a colossus whose vast profile 
of shadow was projected by the sun, according to ita 
rising or setting, now over Europe as far as Corinth, 
now over Asia as far as Bangalore. 

Nevertheless, Mab who is also called Tanaquil 
has all the wavering inconsistency of a dream. 
Under the name of Tanaquil she is the wife of the 
elder Tarquin, and she spins for young Servius Tulliua 
the first tunic worn by a young Roman after leaving 
off the praetexta ; Oberon, who turns out to be Numa, 
is her uncle. In * Huon de Bordeaux * she is called 
Gloriande, and has for a lover Julius Caesar, and 
Oberon is her son ; in Spenser she is called Gloriana, 
and Oberon is her father ; in Shakespeare she is 
called Titania, and Oberon is her husband. This 
name, Titania, connects Mab with the Titan, and 
Shakespeare with ^Eschylus. 

CHAPTER IV 

AN eminent man of our day, a celebrated historian, 
a powerful orator, an earlier translator of Shake 
speare, is in our opinion mistaken when he regrets, 
or appears to regret, the slight influence of Shake 
speare upon the theatre of the nineteenth century. 
We cannot share that regret. An influence of any 
sort, even that of Shakespeare, could but mar the 
originality of the literary movement of our epoch. 

* The system of Shakespeare ', says this honourable* 
and grave writer, with reference to that movement, 

* may furnish, it seems to me, the plans after which 

220 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

genius must henceforth work '. We have never been 
of that opinion, and we said so, in anticipation, forty 
years ago 1 . For us, Shakespeare is a genius, and 
not a system. On this point we have already ex 
plained our views, and we mean soon to explain them 
at greater length ; but let us say now that what 
Shakespeare has done, is done once for all. There 
is no reverting to it. Admire or criticize, but do not 
recast. It is finished. 

A distinguished critic, recently deceased, M. Chaude- 
saigues, lays stress on this reproach. ' Shakespeare ', 
says he, * has been revived without being followed. 
The romantic school has not imitated Shakespeare ; 
that is its fault'. That is its merit. It is blamed 
for this ; we praise it. The contemporary theatre, 
such as it is, is itself. The contemporary theatre 
has for device, ' Sum, non sequor '. It belongs to no 
' system '. It has its own law, and it fulfils this 
law ; it has its own life, and it lives this life. 

The drama of Shakespeare expresses man at a 
given moment. Man passes away ; this drama 
remains, having as its eternal background life, the 
heart, the world, and as its foreground the sixteenth 
century. This drama can neither be continued nor 
begun anew. Another age, another art. 

The theatre of our day has no more followed Shake 
speare than it has followed ^Eschylus ! And without 
enumerating all the other reasons that we shall note 
farther on, how perplexed would he be who wished 
to imitate and copy, in making a choice between 
these two poets ! ^Eschylus and Shakespeare seem 
made to prove that contraries may be admirable. 
The point of departure of the one is absolutely opposite 
to the point of departure of the other. ^Eschylus 
is concentration, Shakespeare is diffusion. One 
deserves applause because he is condensed, and the 
other because he is dispersed ; to JEschylus unity, 

1 Preface to Cromwell. 

CRITICISM 221 

to Shakespeare ubiquity. Between them they divide 
God. And as such intelligences are always complete, 
one feels in the unit drama of ^Eschylus the free 
agitation of passion, and in the diffusive drama of 
Shakespeare the convergence of all the rays of life. 
The one starts from unity and reaches the multiple ; 
the other starts from the multiple and arrives at 
unity. 

The evidence of this is striking, especially when 
we compare Hamlet with Orestes. Extraordinary 
double page, obverse and reverse of the same idea, 
which seems written expressly to prove how true 
it is that two different geniuses, making the same 
thing, will make two different things. 

It is easy to see that the theatre of our day has, 
rightly or wrongly, traced out its own way between 
Greek unity and Shakespearean ubiquity. 

CHAPTER V 

LET us set aside, for the present, the question of 
contemporary art, and take up again the general 
question. 

Imitation is always barren and bad. 

As for Shakespeare since Shakespeare is the 
poet who claims our attention now he is in the 
highest degree a genius human and general ; but, 
like every true genius, he is at the same time an idiosyn 
cratic and a personal mind. Axiom : the poet starts 
from his own inner self to come to us. It is that 
which makes the poet inimitable. 

Examine Shakespeare, fathom him, and see how 
determined he is to be himself. Expect from him 
no concession. He is certainly not selfish, but what 
he does he does of deliberate choice. He commands 
his art, within the limits, of course, of his proper 
work. For neither the art of ^Eschylus, nor the art 
of Aristophanes, nor the art of Plautus, nor the art 

222 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

of Macchiavelli, nor the art of Calderon, nor the art 
of Moliere, nor the art of Beauinarchais, nor any 
of the forms of art, deriving life each of them from 
the special life of a man of genius, would obey the 
orders given by Shakespeare. Art thus understood 
is vast equality and profound liberty ; the region 
of equals is also the region of the free. 

It is an element of Shakespeare's grandeur that 
he cannot be taken as a model. In order to realize 
his idiosyncrasy, open one of his plays no matter 
which it is always, foremost and above all, Shake 
speare. 

What more personal than Troilus and Cressida ? 
A comic Troy ! Here is Much Ado about Nothing 
a tragedy which ends with a burst of laughter. Here 
is The Winter's Tale a pastoral drama. Shake 
speare is at home in his work. Would you see a 
despotism ? consider his imagination. What arbi 
trary determination to dream ! What despotic re 
solution in his dizzy flight ! What absoluteness in 
his indecision and wavering ! The dream fills some 
of his plays to such a degree that man changes his 
nature, and becomes a cloud rather than a man. 
Angelo in Measure for Measure is a misty tyrant. 
He becomes disintegrated, and wears away. Leontes 
in The Winter's Tale is an Othello who fades out. 
In Cymbeline one thinks that lachimo will become 
an lago ; but he dissolves. The dream is there 
everywhere. Watch Manilius, Posthumus, Hermione, 
Perdita, passing by. In The Tempest the Duke of 
Milan has ' a brave son ', who is like a dream within 
a dream. Ferdinand alone speaks of him, and no 
one but Ferdinand seems to have seen him. A brute 
becomes reasonable : witness the constable Elbow 
in Measure for Measure. An idiot comes suddenly 
by his wits : witness Cloten in Cymbeline. A king 
of Sicily is jealous of a king of Bohemia. Bohemia 
has a sea-coast ; the shepherds piok up children 
there. Theseus, a duke, espouses Hippolyta, the 

CRITICISM 223 

Amazon. Oberon comes in also. For here it is Shake 
speare's will to dream ; elsewhere he thinks. 

We say more : where he dreams, he still thinks ; 
with a profundity different, but not inferior. 

Let men of genius remain in peace in their originality. 
There is something wild in these mysterious civilizers. 
Even in their comedy, even in their buffoonery, 
even in their laughter, even in their smile, there is 
the unknown. In them is felt the sacred dread that 
belongs to art, and the all-powerful terror of the 
imaginary mingled with the real. Each of them 
is in his cavern, alone. They hear each other from 
afar, but never copy. We are not aware that the 
hippopotamus imitates the roar of the elephant. 

Lions do not ape each other. 

Diderot does not recast Bayle ; Beaumarchais 
does not copy Plautus, and has no need of Davus 
to create Figaro ; Piranesi is not inspired by Daedalus ; 
Isaiah does not begin again the work of Moses. 

One day, at St Helena, M. de las Casas said, ' Sire, 
had I been like you, master of Prussia, I should have 
taken the sword of Frederick the Great from the 
tomb at Potsdam, and I should have worn it '. ' Fool ', 
replied Napoleon, ' I had my own '. 

Shakespeare's work is absolute, sovereign, im 
perious, eminently solitary, unneighbourly, sublime 
in radiance, absurd in reflection and must remain 
without a copy. 

To imitate Shakespeare would be as insane as to 
imitate Racine would be stupid. 

CHAPTER VI 

LET us agree, by the way, respecting a designation 
much used on every hand, ' profanum vulgus ', a 
word of a poet emphasized by pedants. This ' pro 
fanum vulgus' seems to be everybody's missile. 
Let us fix the meaning of this word. What is the 
* vulgar herd ' ? The school says, * It is the people '. 
And we, for our part, say, * It is the school '. 

224 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

But let us first define this expression, * the school '. 
When we say * the school ', what must be understood ? 
Let us explain. The school is the resultant of ped 
antry ; the school is the literary excrescence of the 
budget ; the school is intellectual mandarinship 
governing in the various authorized and official teach 
ings, either of the press or of the state, from the theatri 
cal feuilleton of the prefecture to the biographies and 
encyclopaedias duly examined and stamped and 
hawked about, and made sometimes, by way of refine 
ment, by republicans agreeable to the police ; the 
school is the classic and scholastic orthodoxy, with its 
unbroken girdle of walls. Homeric and Virgilian 
antiquity traded upon by official and licensed literati, 
a sort of China calling itself Greece ; the school is, 
summed up in one concretion which forms part of 
public order, all the knowledge of pedagogues, all 
the history of historiographers, all the poetry of 
laureates, all the philosophy of sophists, all the criticism 
of pedants, all the ferules of the teaching friars, all 
the religion of bigots, all the modesty of prudes, all 
the metaphysics of partisans, all the justice of place 
men, all the old age of dapper young men bereft of 
their virility, all the flattery of courtiers, all the 
diatribes of censer- bearers, all the independence of 
flunkeys, all the certitudes of short sights and of 
base souls. The school hates Shakespeare. It detects 
him in the very act of mingling with the people, 
going to and fro in public thoroughfares, ' trivial ', 
having a word for every man, speaking the language 
of the people, uttering the human cry like any other, 
accepted by those whom he accepts, applauded by 
hands black with tar, cheered by the hoarse throats 
of all those who come from labour and from weariness. 
The drama of Shakespeare is for the people ; the 
school is indignant, and says, * Odi profanum vulgus'. 
There is demagogy in this poetry roaming at large ; 
the author of Hamlet * panders to the mob '. 

Be it so. The poet ' panders to the mob '. 

CRITICISM 226 

If anything is groat, it ia that. 

In the foreground everywhere, in full light, amidst 
the flourish of trumpets, are the powerful men, followed 
by the gilded men. The poet does not see them, oiv 
if he does, he disdains them. He lifts his eyes and 
looks at God ; then he drops his eyes and looks at 
the people. There in the depths of shadow, well- 
nigh invisible by reason of its submersion in darkness, 
is that fatal crowd, that vast and mournful heap of 
suffering, that venerable populace of the tattered 
and of the ignorant a chaos of souls. That crowd 
of heads undulates obscurely like the waves of a 
nocturnal sea. From time to time there pass over 
that surface, like squalls over the water, catastrophe* 
a war, a pestilence, a royal favourite, a famine. 
This causes a tremor of but brief duration, the deeps 
of sorrow being calm, like the deeps of the sea. Despair 
leaves in the soul a dreadful weight, as of lead. Th& 
last word of the abyss is stupor. This is the night. 
Such is, beneath the mournful glooms amid which all 
is indistinct, the sombre sea of the poor. 

These burdened ones are silent ; they know nothing, 
they can do nothing, they think nothing : they simply 
endure. Plectuntur Achivi. They are hungry and 
cold. Their indelicate flesh appears through their 
tatters. Who makes those tatters ? The purple. 
The nakedness of virgins comes from the nudity of 
odalisques. From the twisted rags of the daughters 
of the people fall pearls for the Fontanges and the 
Chateauroux. It is famine that gilds Versailles. 
The whole of this living and dying shadow moves ; 
these spectral forms are in the pangs of death ; the 
mother's breast is dry, the father has no work, the 
brain has no light. If there is a book in that desti 
tution it resembles the pitcher, so insipid or corrupt i 
what it offers to the thirst of the mind. Mournful 
households ! 

The group of the little ones is wan. This whole 
mass expires and creeps, not having even the power 

226 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

to love ; and perhaps unknown to them, while they 
bow and submit, from all that vast unconsciousness 
in which Right dwells, from the inarticulate murmur 
of those wretched breaths mingled together proceeds 
an indescribable, confused voice, a mysterious fog 
of expression, succeeding, syllable by syllable in the 
darkness, in uttering wonderful words : Future, 
Humanity, Liberty, Equality, Progress. And the 
poet listens, and he hears ; and he looks, and he sees ; 
and he bends lower and lower, and he weeps ; and 
then, growing with a strange growth, drawing from 
all that darkness his own transfiguration, he stands 
erect, terrible and tender, above all these wretched 
ones those of high place as well as those of low 
with naming eyes. 

And with a loud voice he demands a reckoning. 
And he says, Here is the effect ! And he says, Here 
is the cause ! Light is the remedy. Erudimini. 
He is like a great vase full of humanity shaken by 
the hand within the cloud, from which should fall 
to earth great drops fire for the oppressors, dew 
for the oppressed. Ah ! you deem that an evil ? 
Well, we, for our part, approve it. It seems to us< 
right that some one should speak when all are suffer 
ing. The ignorant who enjoy and the ignorant who 
suffer have equal need of instruction. The law of 
fraternity is derived from the law of labour. The 
practice of killing one another has had its day ; the 
hour has come for loving one another. It is to promul 
gate these truths that the poet is good. For that, 
he must be of the people ; for that, he must be of the 
populace : that is to say, the poet, as he leads in 
progress, should not draw back before the elbow 
ing of facts, however ugly the facts may be. The 
actual distance between the real and the ideal cannot 
otherwise be measured. Besides, to drag the ball and 
chain a little completes a Vincent de Paul. To steel 
themselves, therefore, to promiscuous contact with 
trivial things, to the popular metaphor, to the great 

CRITICISM 227 

life in common with those exiles from joy who are 
called the poor such is the first duty of poets. It 
is useful, it is necessary, that the breath of the people 
should traverse these all-powerful souls. The people 
have something to say to them. It is good that 
there should be in Euripides a flavour of the herb- 
dealers of Athens, and in Shakespeare of the sailors 
of London. 

Sacrifice to * the mob ', O poet ! Sacrifice to that 
unfortunate, disinherited, vanquished, vagabond, 
shoeless, famished, repudiated, despairing mob ; 
sacrifice to it, if it must be and when it must 
be, thy repose, thy fortune, thy joy, thy country, 
'thy liberty, thy life. The mob is the human race 
in misery. The mob is the mournful beginning of 
the people. The mob is the great victim of dark 
ness. Sacrifice to it ! Sacrifice thyself ! Let thy 
self be hunted, let thyself be exiled like Voltaire to 
Ferney, like D'Aubigne to Geneva, like Dante to 
Verona, like Juvenal to Syene, like Tacitus to Me- 
thymna. like ^Eschylus to Gela, like John to Patmos, 
like Elijah to Horeb, like Thucydides to Thrace, like 
Isaiah to Ezion-geber ! Sacrifice to the mob. Sacri 
fice to it thy gold, and thy blood which is more than 
thy gold, and thy thought which is more than thy blood, 
and thy love which is more than thy thought ; 
sacrifice to it everything except justice. Receive 
its complaint ; listen to it touching its faults and 
touching the faults of others ; hear its confession and 
its accusation. Give it thy ear, thy hand, thy arm, 
thy heart. Do everything for it, excepting ovil. 
Alas ! it suffers so much, and it knows nothing. Cor 
rect it, warn it, instruct it, guide it, train it. Put it 
to the school of honesty. Make it spell truth, show 
it the alphabet of reason, teach it to read virtue, 
probity, generosity, mercy. Hold thy book wide 
open. Be there, attentive, vigilant, kind, faithful, 
humble. Light up the brain, inflame the mind, 
extinguish selfishness ; and thyself give the ex- 

228 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

ample. The poor are privation ; be thou abnega 
tion. Teach ! irradiate ! they need thee ; thou art 
their great thirst. To learn is the first step ; to 
live is but the second. Be at their command : 
dost thou hear ? Be ever there in the form of light ! 
For it is beautiful on this sombre earth, during this 
dark life, brief passage to something beyond, it is 
beautiful that Force should have Right for a master, 
that Progress should have Courage as a leader, that 
Intelligence should have Honour as a sovereign, that 
Conscience should have Duty as a despot, that Civiliza 
tion should have Liberty as a queen, and that the 
servant of Ignorance should be the Light. 

BOOK V 

THE MINDS AND THE MASSES 
CHAPTER I 

MEMORABLE things have been done during the last 
eighty years. The pavement is cluttered with the 
rubbish of a vast demolition. 

What is done is but little compared with what 
remains to be done. 

To destroy is mere task-work ; the work of the 
artist is to build. Progress demolishes with the 
left hand ; it is with the right hand that it builds. 

The left hand of Progress is called Force ; the 
right hand is called Mind. 

A great deal of useful destruction has, up to this 
hour, been accomplished ; all the old cumbersome 
civilization is, thanks to our fathers, cleared away. 
It is well ; it is finished, it is thrown down, it is on 
the ground. Up, now, O intelligences ! gird your 
selves for work, for travail, for fatigue, for duty ; it 
becomes necessary to construct. 

Here are three questions, 

To construct what ? 

To construct where ? 

To construct how ? 

We reply, 

To construct the people. 

To construct it according to the laws of progress. 

To construct it by means of light. 

CHAPTER II 

To work for the people this is the great and urgent 
need. 

It is important, at the present time, to bear in 

230 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

mind that the human soul has still greater need of 
the ideal than of the real. 

It is by the real that we exist ; it is by the ideal 
that we live. Would you realize the difference ? 
Animals exist, man lives *. 

To live, is to understand. To live, is to smile at 
the present ; it is to be able to see over the wall of 
the future. To live, is to have in one's self a balance, 
and to weigh in it good and evil. To live, is to have 
justice, truth, reason, devotion, probity, sincerity, 
common-sense, right, and duty welded to the heart. 
To live, is to know what one is worth, what one can 
do and should do. Life is conscience. Cato would 
not rise before Ptolemy. Cato really lived. 

Literature secretes civilization, poetry secretes 
the ideal. That is why literature is one of the wants 
of societies ; that is why poetry is a hunger of the 
soul. 

That is why poets are the first instructors of the 
people. 

That is why Shakespeare must be translated in 
France. 

That is why Moliere must be translated in England. 

That is why comments must be made on them. 

That is why there must be a vast public literary 
domain. 

That is why all the poets, all the philosophers, 
all the thinkers, all the producers of nobility of soul 
must be translated, commented on, published, printed, 
reprinted, stereotyped, distributed, hawked about, 
explained, recited, spread abroad, given to all, given 
cheaply, given at cost price, given for nothing. 

Poetry evolves heroism. M. Royer-Collard, that 
original and ironical friend of routine, was, taken for 
all in all, a wise and noble spirit. Some one we know 
heard him say one day, * Spartacus is a poet.' 

1 Perhaps it should be noted that, in the original, exis 
tence is made the higher, more absolute mode of being ; 
e.^r., ' kes animatp; vivent, 1'homme existe.' Ta. 

THE MINDS AND THE MASSES 231 

That dreadful and consoling Ezckiel, the tragic 
revcaler of progress, has all kinds of singular passages 
full of a profound meaning : * The voice said to me, 
Fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the 
cherubim, and scatter them over the city '. And 
elsewhere : * The spirit having gone into them, whither 
soever the spirit was to go they went ' . And again : 
* Behold, a hand was sent unto me ; and lo, a roll of 
a book was therein. The voice said unto me : Eat 
this roll. Then did I eat it : and it was in my mouth 
as honey for sweetness' *. To eat the book is a strange 
and striking image, embodying the whole formula of 
perfectibility, which is made up of knowledge above, 
and of instruction below. 

We have just said: * Literature secretes civiliza 
tion '. Do you doubt it ? Open the first statistics 
you come across. 

Here is one fact which we find under our hand : 
Toulon Penitentiary, 1862. Three thousand and 
ten prisoners. Of these three thousand and ten 
convicts, forty know a little more than to read and 
write, two hundred and eighty-seven know how to 
read and write, nine hundred and four read badly 
and write badly, seventeen hundred and seventy-nine 
can neither read nor write. In this wretched crowd, 
all the merely mechanical trades are represented by 
numbers decreasing as you rise toward the enlight 
ened professions ; and you arrive at this final result, 
goldsmiths and jewellers in the prison, four ; ecclesi 
astics, three ; attorneys, two ; actors, one ; musicians, 
one ; men of letters, not one. 

The transformation of the crowd into the people 
profound task ! It is to this labour that the men 
called Socialists have devoted themselves during 
the last forty years. The author of this book, how 
ever insignificant he may be, is one of the oldest 
in this labour. The Last Day of a Condemned Pris- 

1 In this passage, as elsewhere, the quotations appear to 
be made from memory. TE. 

232 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

oner dates from 1828, and Claude Gueux from 1834. 
If he claims his place among these philosophers, it is 
because it is a place of persecution. A certain hatred 
of Socialism, very blind, but very general, has raged 
for fifteen or sixteen years, and is still raging most 
bitterly among the influential classes (classes, then, 
are still in existence ?). Let it not be forgotten that 
true Socialism has for its end the elevation of the 
masses to the civic dignity, and that, therefore, its 
principal care is for moral and intellectual cultivation. 
The first hunger is ignorance; Socialism wishes, 
then, above all, to instruct. That does not hinder 
Socialism from being calumniated, and Socialists from 
being denounced. To most of the infuriated tremblers 
who have the public ear at the present moment, these 
reformers are public enemies ; they are guilty of 
everything that has gone wrong. * O Romans ! ' 
said Tertullian, * we are just, kind, thinking, lettered, 
honest men. We meet to pray, and we love you because 
you are our brethren. We are gentle and peaceable 
like little children, and we wish for concord among 
men. Nevertheless, O Romans, if the Tiber over 
flows, or if the Nile does not, you cry, " To the lions 
with the Christians ! " ' 

CHAPTER IU 

THE democratic idea, the new bridge of civilization, 
is just now undergoing the formidable trial of over 
weight. Every other idea would certainly give way 
under the load that it is made to bear. Democracy 
proves its solidity by the absurdities that are heaped 
upon it without shaking it. It must bear everything 
that people choose to place upon it. At this moment 
they are attempting to make it carry despotism. 

* The people have no need of liberty' such was the 
password of a certain innocent but deluded school, 
the head of which has been dead some years. That 
poor honest dreamer sincerely believed that progress 

THE MINDS AND THE MASSES 233 

can continue without freedom. We have heard him 
put forth, probably without intention, this aphorism : 
' Freedom is good for the rich '. Such maxims have 
the disadvantage of not being prejudicial to the 
establishment of empires. 

No, no, no ; nothing without freedom ! 

Servitude is the soul blinded. Can you picture 
to yourself a man voluntarily blind ? This terrible 
thing exists. There are willing slaves. A smile 
in irons ! Can anything be more hideous ? He who 
is not free is not a man ; he who is not free has no 
sight, no knowledge, no discernment, no growth, no 
comprehension, no will, no faith, no love ; he has 
no wife and children, he has only a female with young : 
he lives not. Ab luce principium. Freedom is the 
apple of the eye ; freedom is the visual organ of pro 
gress. 

To attempt, because freedom has inconvenience 
and even perils, to produce civilization without it, 
would be like attempting to cultivate the ground 
without the sun, which is also a not unexceptionable 
star. One day, in the too beautiful summer of 1829, 
a critic, now forgotten and wrongly, for he was not 
without some talent M.P., feeling too warm, ex 
claimed as he mended his pen : * I am going to write 
down the sun.' 

Certain social theories, very distinct from Socialism 
as we understand it and desire it, have gone astray. 
Let us discard all that resembles the convent, the 
barrack, the cell, and the straight line. Paraguay 
minus the Jesuits is Paraguay just the same. To 
give a new shape to the evil is not a useful task. To 
remodel the old slavery would be stupid. Let the 
nations of Europe beware of a despotism made anew 
from materials which to some extent they have them 
selves supplied. Such a thing, cemented with a 
special philosophy, might easily endure. We have 
just mentioned the theorists, some of them otherwise 
upright and sincere, who, through fear of a dispersion 

234 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

of activities and energies, and of what they call ' an 
archy ', have arrived at an almost Chinese acceptance 
of absolute social centralization. They turn their 
resignation into a doctrine. Provided man eats and 
drinks, all is right. The happiness of the beast is 
the solution. But this is a happiness which others 
might call by a different name. 

We dream for nations something besides a felicity 
made up solely of obedience. The bastinado sums up 
that sort of felicity for the Turkish fellah, the knout 
for the Russian serf, and the cat-o' -nine-tails for the 
English soldier. These Socialists outside of Socialism 
derive from Joseph de Maistre and from Ancilion, 
perhaps without suspecting it ; for these ingenious 
theorists, the partisans of the ' deed accomplished ', 
have or fancy they have democratic intentions, 
and speak energetically of ' the principles of '80.' 
Let these involuntary philosophers of a possible despot 
ism reflect that to indoctrinate the masses against 
freedom, to allow appetite and fatalism to get a hold 
upon the minds of men, to saturate them with material 
ism and expose them to the results this would be 
to understand progress in the fashion of that worthy 
man who applauded a new gibbet and exclaimed, 
* Excellent ! We have had till now only an old wooden 
gallows ; but times have changed for the better, 
and here we are with a good stone gibbet, 
which will do for our children and our grandchildren ! * 

CHAPTER IV 

To enjoy a full stomach, a satisfied digestion, a satiated 
belly, is doubtless something, for it is the enjoyment 
of the brute. However, one may set one's ambition 
higher. 

Certainly, a good salary is a fine thing. To have 
beneath one's feet the firm ground of good wages, 
is pleasant. The wise man likes to want nothing. 
To assu re jjj s QWQ position is the characteristic of an 

THE MINDS AND THE MASSES 235 

intelligent man. An official chair, with ten thousand 
sesterces a year, is a graceful and convenient seat ; 
liberal emoluments give a fresh complexion and good 
health ; one lives to an old age in pleasant well-paid 
sinecures ; the high financial world, abounding in 
profits, is a place agreeable to live in ; to be on a good 
footing at court settles a family well and brings a 
fortune. As for myself, I prefer to all these solid 
comforts the old leaky vessel in which Bishop Quod- 
vultdeus embarks with a smile. 

There is something beyond satisfying one's appetite. 
The goal of man is not the goal of the animal. 

A moral lift is necessary. The life of nations, like 
the life of individuals, has its moments of depression ; 
these moments pass, certainly, but no trace of them 
ought to remain. Man, at this day, tends to fall into 
the stomach:, man must be replaced in the heart, 
man must be replaced in the brain. The brain this 
is the bold sovereign that must be restored ! The 
social question requires to-day, more than ever, to 
be examined on the side of human dignity. 

To show man the human goal ; to ameliorate intelli 
gence first, the animal afterward ; to contemn the 
flesh as long as the thought is despised, and to set 
the example upon their own flesh such is the actual, 
immediate, urgent duty of writers. 

This is what men of genius have done at all times. 

You ask in what poets can be useful. Simply this 
in permeating civilization with light. 

CHAPTER V 

UP to this day there has been a literature for the 
lettered. In France particularly, as we have already 
said, literature tended to form a caste. To be a 
poet was something like being a mandarin. Words 
did not all belong by right to the language ; regis 
tration was granted or refused by the dictionary. The 
dictionary had a will of its own. Imagine the botanist 

236 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

declaring to a vegetable that it does not exist, and 
Nature timidly offering an insect to entomology which 
refuses it as incorrect ! Imagine astronomy cavilling 
at the stars ! We recollect having 'heard an academi 
cian, now dead, say before the full Academy that 
French had been spoken in France only in the seven 
teenth century, and then for but twelve years, we no 
longer recollect which years. Let us abandon for 
it is time this order of ideas ; democracy requires 
it. The present enlargement of thought demands 
something else. Let us forsake the college, the con 
clave, the cell, trivial tastes, trivial art, the trivial 
chapel. 

Poetry is not a coterie. An effort is now being 
made to galvanize things that are defunct. Let us 
strive against this tendency. Let us insist on the 
truths that are urgent. The masterpieces recom 
mended by the manual for the bachelorship, com 
pliments in verse and in prose, tragedies serving 
merely as canopies over the head of some king, inspira 
tion in full dress, decorated big-wigs laying down the 
laws of poetry, the manuals of poetic art which forget 
La Fontaine and for which Moliere is a ' perhaps ', 
the Planats emasculating the Corneilles, prudish 
tongues, thought shut in between the four walls of 
Quintilian, Longinus, Boileau, and La Harpe : all 
this although the official public instruction is soaked 
and saturated with it all this is of the past. A certain 
epoch called the great century which was certainly, 
for literature, a fine century is after all, at bottom, 
nothing but a literary monologue. Is it possible to 
realize such a thing a literature which is an aside? 
A certain form of art seems to bear upon its pediment 
the legend, * No admittance.' As for ourselves, we 
understand poetry only with the door wide open. The 
hour has struck for hoisting the * All for All '. What is 
needed by civilization, henceforth a grown-up matron, 
is a popular literature. 

The year 1832 opened a debate, on the surface 

THE MINDS AND THE MASSES 237 

literary, at bottom social and human. Tho time has 
come to conclude the debate. We conclude it in 
favour of a literature having in view this goal : * The* 
People.' 

Thirty-one years ago the author of these pages 
wrote, in the preface to Lucretia Borgia, a word often 
repeated since : * The poet feels the burden of souls '. 
Were it worth while, he would add here that, possible 
error apart, this utterance of his conscience has beem 
the rule of his life. 

CHAPTER VI 

MACCHIAVELLI cast upon the people a strange glance. 
To heap the measure, to overflow the cup, to exagger 
ate the horror of the prince's deed, to make the burden 
more crushing in order to make the revolt more certain, 
to cause idolatry to grow into execration, to push the 
masses to extremities such seems to be his policy. 
His Yes signifies No. He charges despotism to the- 
muzzle in order to explode it ; the tyrant becomes 
in his hands a hideous projectile which will shatter 
itself. Macchiavelli conspires. For whom? Against 
whom ? Guess ! His apotheosis of kings is thus 
the thing to make regicides. On the head of his; 
Prince he places a diadem of crimes, a tiara of vices, 
a halo of baseness, and he invites you to adore hia 
monster with the air of a man expecting an avenger. 
He glorifies evil with a sidelong glance toward the 
shadow where Harmodius lurks. Macchiavelli, this 
getter up of princely outrages, this servant of the- 
Medici and of the Borgias, had in his youth been- 
put to the rack for admiring Brutus and Cassius. 
He had perhaps plotted with the Soderini for the- 
deliverance of Florence. Does he remember this ? 
Does he continue ? His advice is followed, like the- 
lightning. by a low rumbling in the cloud, an alarming 
reverberation. What did he mean to say ? Against 
whom has he a design ? Is- the advice for or against 

238 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

him to whom he gives it ? One day at Florence, in 
the garden of Cosmo Ruccelai, there being present 
the Duke of Mantua and John de' Medici, who after 
ward commanded the Black Bands of Tuscany, Varchi, 
the enemy of Macchiavelli, heard the latter say to 
the two princes, * Let the people read no book, not 
even mine '. It is curious to compare with this 
remark the advice given by Voltaire to the Due de 
Choiseul at once advice to the minister, and in 
sinuation for the King : ' Let the noodles read our 
nonsense ; there is no danger in reading, my lord. 
What can a great monarch like the King of France 
fear ? The people are but rabble, and the books 
are but trash '. Let them read nothing let them 
read everything. These two pieces of contrary advice , 
coincide more than one would think. Voltaire with 
hidden claws is purring at the feet of the King. Vol 
taire and Macchiavelli are two formidable, indirect 
revolutionists, dissimilar in everything, and yet really 
identical by their profound hatred disguised as flattery 
of their master. The one is sly, the other is sinister. 
The princes of the sixteenth century had as theorist 
-upon their infamies, and as enigmatical courtier, 
Macchiavelli, a dark enthusiast. It is a dreadful 
thing to be flattered by a sphinx ! Better to be 
flattered, like Louis XV, by a cat. 

Conclusion : Make the people read Macchiavelli, 
and make them read Voltaire. 

Macchiavelli will inspire them with horror, and 
Voltaire with contempt, for crowned guilt. 

But the hearts should turn, above all, toward the 
grand, pure poets, be they sweet like Virgil, or bitter 
like Juvenal. 

CHAPTER VII 

THE progress of man through intellectual advance 
ment : there is no safety but in that. Teach ! 
learn .! All the revolutions of the future are enclosed 

THE MINDS AND THE MASSES 239 

and engulfed in this phrase : Gratuitous and obliga 
tory instruction. 

This large scheme of intellectual instruction should 
be crowned by the exposition of works of the first 
order. The highest place to the men of genius ! 

Wherever there is a gathering of men, there ought 
to be, in a special place, a public expositor of the 
great thinkers. 

By a great thinker we mean a beneficent thinker. 

The perpetual presence of the beautiful in their 
works makes the poets the highest of teachers. 

No ono can foresee the quantity of light that will 
be evolved by placing the people in communication 
with men of genius. The combination of the heart 
of the people with the heart of the poet will be the 
voltaic pile of civilization. 

Will the people understand this magnificent teach 
ing ? Certainly. We know of nothing too high for the 
people. The soul of the people is great. Have you 
ever gone, of a holiday, to a theatre open gratuitously 
to all ? What do you think of that audience. Do 
you know of any other more spontaneous and intelli 
gent ? Do you know, even in the forest, a vibration 
more profound ? The court of Versailles admires 
like a well-drilled regiment ; the people throw them 
selves passionately into the beautiful. They pack 
together, crowd, amalgamate, combine, and knead 
themselves in the theatre, a living paste, which 
the poet is about to mould. The powerful thumb 
of Moliere will presently make its mark on it; the 
nail of Corneille will scratch this shapeless mass. 
Whence does that mass come ? From the Courtille, 
from the Porcherons, from the Cunette ; it is barefoot, 
barearmed, ragged. Silence ; This is the raw 
material of humanity 1 . 

The house is crowded ; the vast multitude looks, 
listens, loves ; all consciences, deeply moved, throw 

1 The places mentioned are banlicues, or low quarters of 
Paris, full of driaking-dons. TB. 

240 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

out their internal fire ; all eyes glisten ; the huge, 
thousand-headed beast is there, the Mob of Burke, 
the Plebs of Titus Livius, the Fex Urbis of Cicero. 
It caresses the beautiful, smiling at it with the grace 
of a woman. It is literary in the most refined sense 
of the word ; nothing equals the delicacy of the 
monster. The tumultuous crowd trembles, blushes, 
palpitates ; its modesty is surprising : the crowd is a 
virgin. No prudery, however ; this creature is no 
fool. It is wanting in no kind of sympathy ; it has 
in itself the whole keyboard, from passion to irony, 
from sarcasm to the sob. Its pity is more than pity, 
it is real mercy. God is felt in it. Suddenly the 
sublime passes, and the sombre electricity of the 
deep instantly arouses all that mass of hearts ; enthusi 
asm works its transfiguration. And now, is the 
enemy at the gates ? is the country in danger ? Give 
the word to this populace, and it will re-enact Ther 
mopylae. What has produced this transformation ? 
Poetry. 

The multitude and in this lies their grandeur 
are profoundly open to the ideal. When they 
come in contact with lofty art they are pleased, they 
palpitate. Not a detail escapes them. The crowd 
is one liquid and living expanse capable of vibration. 
A mob is a sensitive-plant. Contact with the beautiful 
stirs ecstatically the surface of multitudes, a sure sign 
that the deeps are sounded. A rustling of leaves, a 
mysterious passing breath the crowd trembles 
beneath the sacred insufflation of the deep. 

And even when the man of the people is not of 
the crowd, he is still a good auditor of great things. 
His ingenuousness is honest, his curiosity healthy. 
Ignorance is a longing. His near relation with Nature 
renders him open to the holy emotion of the true. 
He has secret absorbents for poetry which he himself 
does not suspect. Every kind of instruction fs due 
to the people. The more divine the light, the more 
is it made for this simple soul. We would have in 

THE MINDS AND THE MASSES 241 

every village a chair from which Homer should be 
explained to the peasants. 

CHAPTER VIII 

EXCESSIVE devotion to the material is the evil of 
our epoch ; hence a certain sluggishness. 

The great problem is to restore to the human mind 
something of the ideal. Whence shall we draw tho 
ideal ? Wherever it is to be found. The poets, the 
philosophers, the thinkers are its urns. The ideal 
is in ^Eschylus, in Isaiah, in Juvenal, in Alighieri, in 
Shakespeare. Throw ^Eschylus, throw Isaiah, throw 
Juvenal, throw Dante, throw Shakespeare into the 
deep soul of the human race. 

Pour Job, Solomon, Pindar, Ezekiel, Sophocles, 
Euripides, Herodotus, Theocritus, Plautus, Lucre 
tius, Virgil, Terecne, Horace, Catullus, Tacitus, Saint 
Paul, Saint Augustine, Tertullian, Petrarch, Pascal, 
Milton, Descartes, Corneille, La Fontaine, Montes 
quieu, Diderot, Rousseau, Beaumarchais, Sedaine, 
Andre Ch^nier, Kant, Byron, Schiller pour all these 
souls into man. 

Pour in all the wits from ^Esop up to Moliere, 
all the intellects from Plato up to Newton, all the 
encyclopaedists from Aristotle up to Voltaire. 

By this means you will cure the present malady 
and establish forever the health of the human mind. 

You will cure the middle-class, and found the 
people. 

As already indicated, after the destruction which 
has delivered the world, you will construct the home 
for the permanent life of the race. 

What an aim to construct the people ! Princi 
ples combined with science, all possible quantity of 
the absolute introduced by degrees into the fact, 
Utopia treated successively by every mode of reali 
zation, by political economy, by philosophy, by 
physics, by chemistry, by dynamics, by logic, by 

242 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

art ; union gradually replacing antagonism, and unity 
replacing union ; for religion God, for priest the father, 
for prayer virtue, for field the whole earth, for language 
the word, for law the right, for motive-power duty, 
for hygiene labour, for economy universal peace, for 
canvas the very life, for the goal progress, for authority 
freedom, for people the man. Such is the simplifica 
tion. 

And at the summit the ideal. 

The ideal ! stable type of ever-moving progress. 

To whom belong men of genius, if not to thee, O 
people ? They do belong to thee ; they are thy sons 
and thy fathers. Thou givest birth to them, and 
they teach thee. They open in thy chaos vistas of 
light. As children, they have drunk at thy breasts. 
They have leaped in the universal matrix of humanity. 
Each of thy phases, O people, is^an avatar. The deep 
action of life it is in thee that it must be sought. 
Thou art the great mother. From thee issue the 
mysterious company of the intelligences : to thee, 
therefore, let them return. 

To thee, O people, they are dedicated by their 
author, God ! 

BOOK VI 

THE BEAUTIFUL THE SERVANT OF THE 

TRUE 
CHAPTER I 

AH, minds, be useful ! Be of some service. Do 
not be fastidious when so much depends upon being 
efficient and good. Art for art's sake may be very fine, 
but art for progress is finer still. To dream of castles 
in Spain is well ; to dream of Utopia is better. Ah ! 
you must think ? Then think of making man better. 
You must have a vision ? Here is a vision for you 
the ideal. The prophet seeks solitude, but not 
isolation. He unravels and untwists the threads of 
humanity, tied and rolled in a skein within his soul ; 
he does not break them. He goes into the desert 
to think of whom ? Of the multitudes. It is not to 
the forests that he speaks, it is to the cities. It is 
not a reed that he sees shaken with the wind, it is 
man ; it is not against lions that he cries aloud, 
it is against tyrants. Woe unto thee, Ahab ! woe 
unto thee, Hoshea ! woe unto you, kings ! woe 
unto you, Pharaohs ! is the cry of the great solitary. 
Then he weeps. 

Over what ? Over that eternal Babylonish cap 
tivity suffered long ago by Israel ; suffered by Poland, 
by Roumania, by Hungary, by Venice to-day. He 
grows old, the good and gloomy thinker ; he watches, 
he lies in wait, he listens, he looks, his ear inclined to 
the silence, his eye straining into the night, his claw 
half unsheathed toward the wicked. Go, then, and 
talk of ' art for art's sake ' to this cenobite of the ideal. 

243 

244 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

He walks straight toward his goal, which is this : the 
best. To this he is consecrated. 

He is not his own ; he belongs to his apostleship. 
To him is intrusted the great duty of impelling the 
human race upon its forward march. Genius is not 
made for genius, it is made for man. Genius on earth 
is God giving himself. Whenever a masterpiece 
appears, a distribution of God is taking place. The 
masterpiece is a variety of the miracle. Thence, in 
all religions and among all peoples, comes faith in 
divine men. They deceive themselves who think 
that we deny the divinity of the Christs. 

At the point now reached by the social question, 
all action should be in common. Isolated forces 
frustrate one another ; the ideal and the real are 
solidary. Art should aid science. These two wheels 
of progress should turn together. 

Generation of new talents, noble group of writers 
and poets, legion of young men, O living future of 
my country, your elders love and salute you ! Cour 
age ! let us consecrate ourselves. Let us devote 
ourselves to the good, to the true, to the just ; it is 
well for us to do so. 

Some pure lovers of art, moved by a solicitude 
which is not without its dignity and its nobility, 
discard the formula, * Art for Progress ', the Beau 
tiful Useful, fearing lest the useful should deform 
the beautiful. They tremble to see the drudge's 
hand attached to the muse's arm. According to 
them, the ideal may become perverted by too much 
contact with reality. They are solicitous for the 
sublime if it descends as far as to humanity. Ah ! 
they are in error. 

The useful, far from circumscribing the sublime, 
enlarges it. The application of the sublime to human 
affairs produces unexpected masterpieces. The useful, 
considered in itself and as an element combining with 
the sublime, is of several kinds : there is the useful 
which is tender, and there is the useful which is indig- 

THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE TRUE 245 

nant. Tender, it cheers the unfortunate and creates 
the social epopee ; indignant, it flagellates the wicked 
and creates the divine satire. Moses passes the rod 
to Jesus ; and after having caused the water to gush 
from the rock, that same august rod drives the vendors 
from the Temple. 

What ! could art decrease by being expanded ? 
No ; a further service is an added beauty. 

But people protest : To undertake the cure of 
social evils, to amend the codes, to impeach law in 
the court of right, to utter those hideous words, 
* penitentiary ', * convict-keeper ', * galley-slave ', ' girl 
of the street ' ; to inspect the police registers, to 
contract the business of dispensaries, to study the 
questions of wages and want of work, to taste the 
black bread of the poor, to seek labour for the work 
ing-woman, to confront fashionable idleness with 
ragged sloth, to throw down the partition of ignor 
ance, to open schools, to teach little children how to 
read ; to attack shame, infamy, error, vice, crime, 
want of conscience ; to preach the multiplication of 
spelling-books, to proclaim the equality of the sun, 
to improve the food of intellects and of hearts, to give 
meat and drink, to demand solutions for problems 
and shoes for naked feet these things are not the 
business of the azure. Art is the azure. 

Yes, art is the azure ; but the azure from above, 
whence falls the ray which swells the wheat, yellows 
the maize, rounds the apple, gilds the orange, sweetens 
the grape. Again I say, a further service is an added 
beauty. At all events, where is the diminution ? 
To ripen the beet- root, to water the potato, to increase 
the yield of lucern, of clover, or of hay ; to be a fellow- 
workman with the ploughman, the vine -dresser, and 
the gardener, this does not deprive the heavens of 
one star. Ah ! immensity does not despise utility, 
and what does it lose by it ? Does the vast vital 
fluid that we call magnetic or electric flash through 
the cloud-masses with less splendour because it 

246 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

consents to perform the office of pilot to a bark, and 
to keep constant to the north the little needle intrusted 
to it, the gigantic guide ? Is Aurora less splendid, 
clad less in purple and emerald ; suffers she any 
diminution of majesty and of radiant grace, because, 
foreseeing an insect's thirst, she carefully secretes 
in the flower the dewdrop needed by the bee ? 

Yet people insist that to compose social poetry, 
human poetry, popular poetry ; to grumble against 
the evil and laud the good, to be the spokesman of 
public wrath, to insult despots, to make knaves 
despair, to emancipate man before he is of age, to 
push souls forward and darkness backward, to know 
that there are thieves and tyrants, to clean penal 
cells, to flush the sewer of public uncleanness shall 
Polyhymnia bare her arm to these sordid tasks ? Fie ! 

Why not ? 

Homer was the geographer and historian of his 
time, Moses the legislator of his, Juvenal the judge 
of his, Dante the theologian of his, Shakespeare the 
moralist of his, Voltaire the philosopher of his. No 
region, in speculation or in fact, is shut to the mind. 
Here a horizon, there wings ; freedom for all to soar. 

For certain sublime beings, to soar is to serve. 
In the desert, not a drop of water ; the wretched file 
of pilgrims drag along, overcome with a horrible 
thirst ; suddenly, in the horizon, above an undula 
tion in the sands, a lammergeier is seen soaring, and 
all the caravan cry out, ' There is a spring ! ' 

What thinks ^Eschylus of art for art's sake ? If 
ever there was a poet, ^Eschylus is certainly he. Listen 
to his reply. It is in the Frogs of Aristophanes, line 
1039. ^Eschylus speaks : ' From the beginning 
the illustrious poet has served men. Orpheus has 
taught the horror of murder, Musaeus oracles and 
medicine, Hesiod agriculture, and divine Homer 
heroism. And I, after Homer, have sung Patroclus 
and Teucer the lion-hearted, to the end that every 
citizen may endeavour to imitate great men '. 

THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE TRUE 247 

Just as the whole sea is salt, the whole Bible is 
poetry. This poetry takes its own time for talking 
politics. Open 1 Samuel, chapter viii. The Jewish 
people demand a king. ... ' And the Lord said 
unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people 
in all that they say unto thee : for they have not 
rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should 
not reign over them.' ... * And Samuel told all 
the words of the Lord* unto the people that asked 
of him a king. And he said, This will be the manner of 
the king that shall reign over you : He will take your 
sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots 
and to be his horsemen ; and some shall run before 
his chariots '. . . . * And he will take your daughters 
to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. 
And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and 
your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them 
to his servants '. . . . * And he will take your men- 
servants, and your maid-servants, and your good 
liest young men, and your asses, and put them to 
his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep : 
and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out 
in that day because of your king which ye shall have 
chosen you ; and the Lord will not hear you in that 
day '. Samuel, we see, denies the right divine ; 
Deuteronomy shakes the altar, the false altar, let 
us observe ; but is not the next altar, always the false 
altar ? ' Ye shall demolish the altars of the false 
gods. Ye shall seek God where he dwells'. It is 
almost Pantheism. Because it takes part in human 
affairs, because it is democratic here, iconoclastic 
there, is this book less magnificent and less supreme ? 
If poetry is not in the Bible, where is it ? 

You say : The muse is made to sing, to love, to 
believe, to pray. Yes, and no. Let us understand 
each other. To sing whom ? The void ? To love 
whom ? One's self ? To believe what ? The dogma? 
To pray to what ? The idol ? No ; here is the 
truth : to sing the ideal, to love humanity, to believe 
in progress, to pray toward the infinite. 

248 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Take care, ye who trace these circles about the 
poet ; ye place him outside of humanity. That the 
poet should be beyond humanity in one way by 
his wings, by his immense flight, by his possible 
sudden disappearance in the fathomless is well, 
it must be so; but on condition of reappearance. 
He may go, but he must return. Let him have 
wings for the infinite, provided he has feet for the 
earth, and that, after having been seen flying, he is 
seen to walk. Having gone beyond humanity, let 
him become man again. After he has been seen 
as an archangel, let him be once more a brother. 
Let the star which is in that eye shed a tear, and 
let it be a human tear. Thus, human and super 
human, he shall be the poet. But to be altogether 
beyond man, is not to be. Show me thy foot, genius, 
and let us see if, like myself, thou hast the dust of 
earth upon thy heel. If thou hast never walked in 
the dusty footpath which I tread, thou knowest not 
me, nor I thee. Depart ! Thou who believest thy 
self an angel art but a bird. 

Help from the strong for the weak, help from the 
great for the small, help from the free for the slaves, 
help from the thinkers for the ignorant, help from 
the solitary for the multitudes, such is the law, from 
Isaiah to Voltaire. He who does not follow this law 
may be a genius, but he is only a genius of luxury. By 
not handling the things of the earth, he thinks to 
purify himself ; but he annuls himself. He is the 
refined, the delicate, he may be the exquisite genius ; 
he is not the great genius. Any one, roughly useful, 
but useful, has the right to ask, on seeing this good- 
for-nothing genius, * Who is this idler ? ' The amphora 
which refuses to go to the fountain deserves the hisses 
of the water-pots. 

Great is he who consecrates himself ! Even when 
overcome, he remains serene, and his misfortune is 
happiness. No, it is not a bad thing for the poet to 
be brought face to face with duty. Duty has a stern 

THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE TRUE 240 

likeness to the ideal. The task of doing one's duty is 
worth undertaking. No, the jostling with Cato is 
not to t>e avoided. No, no, no ; truth, honesty, the 
instruction of the masses, human liberty, manly 
virtue, conscience, are not things to disdain. Indig 
nation and compassion for the mournful slavery of 
man are but two sides of the same faculty ; those 
who are capable of wrath are capable of love. To 
level the tyrant and the slave, what a magnificent 
endeavour! Now, the whole of one side of actual 
society is tyrant, and all the other side is slave. A 
grim settlement is impending, and it will be accom 
plished. All thinkers must work with that end in 
view. They will gain greatness in that work. To 
be the servant of God in the task of progress, and the 
apostle of God to the people, such is the law which 
regulates the growth of genius. 

CHAPTER II 

THERE are two poets the poet of caprice, and the 
poet of logic ; and there is a third poet, a composite 
of the other two, correcting and completing the one 
by the other, and summing up both in a higher entity, 
so that the two forms are blended in one. This last 
is the first. He has caprice, and he follows the divine 
breath ; he has logic, and he follows duty. The 
first writes the Song of Songs, the second writes 
Leviticus, the third writes the Psalms and the Prophe 
cies. The first is Horace, the second is Lucan, the 
third is Juvenal ; the first is Pindar, the second is 
Hesiod, the third is Homer. 

No loss of beauty results from goodness. Is the 
lion less beautiful than the tiger because he has the 
faculty of compassionate emotion ? Is that mane 
deprived of its majesty because the jaw opens to 
drop the child into its mother's arms ? Does the 
roaring vanish from that terrible mouth because it 
has licked Androcles ? The unhelpful genius, no 

250 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

matter how graceful, is really ugly. A prodigy with 
out love is a monster. Let us love ! let us love ! 

To love has never hindered from pleasing. Where 
have you seen one form of the good excluding the 
other ? On the contrary, all that is good is allied. 
Let me, however, be understood : it does not follow 
that to have one quality implies necessarily the posses 
sion of the other ; but it would be strange that one 
quality added to another should produce diminution. 
To be useful, is but to be useful ; to be beautiful, is 
but to be beautiful ; to be both useful and beautiful, 
is to be sublime. Such are Saint Paul in the first 
century, Tacitus and Juvenal in the second, Dante in 
the thirteenth, Shakespeare hi the sixteenth, Milton 
and Moliere in the seventeenth. 

We have just now recalled a saying that has become 
famous, ' Art for art's sake '. Let us, once for all, 
explain ourselves touching this expression. If an 
assertion very general and very often repeated (in 
good faith, we believe) can be credited, the shibboleth, 
' Art for art's sake ', must have been written by the 
author of this book. Written ? never. You may 
read, from the first to the last line, all that we have 
published ; you will not find these words. It is the 
contrary that is written throughout our works, and, 
we insist, in our entire life. As to the expression in 
itself, what reality has it ? Here is the fact, which 
several of our contemporaries remember as well as 
we do. One day, thirty- five years ago, in a discussion 
between critics and poets on Voltaire's tragedies, 
the author of this book threw out this interruption : 
* This tragedy is not a tragedy. It does not contain 
living men ; it contains glib maxims. Rather, a 
hundred times, " Art for art's sake ".' This remark, 
turned doubtless involuntarily from its true sense 
to serve the ends of the discussion, has since assumed, 
to the great surprise of him who had uttered it, the 
proportions of a formula. It is this phrase, limited 
to Alzire and to the Orphan of China, and incontestable 

THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE TRUE 251 

in that restricted application, which has been turned 
into a perfect declaration of principles, and an axiom 
to inscribe on the banner of Art. 

This point settled, let us go on. 

Between two verses the one by Pindar, deifying 
a coachman or glorifying the brazen nails of a chariot 
wheel ; the other by Archilochus, so powerful that, 
after having read it, Jeffreys would leave off his career 
of crime and would hang himself on the gallows pre 
pared by him for honest people between two such 
verses of equal beauty, I prefer that of Archilochus. 

In times anterior to history, when poetry is fabulous 
and legendary, it has a Promethean grandeur. What 
forms this grandeur ? Utility. Orpheus tames wild 
animals ; Amphion builds cities ; the poet, tamer 
and architect, Linus aiding Hercules, Musaeus assisting 
Daedalus, poetry a civilizing power : such are the 
origins. Tradition agrees with reason : in that, the 
good sense of the nations is not deceived. The people 
have always invented fables in the interest of truth. 
Magnified by that hazy remoteness, everything is great. 
Now, the beast- taming poet whom you admire in 
Orpheus, you may recognize again in Juvenal. 

We insist on Juvenal. Few poets have been more 
insulted, more contested, more calumniated. Calumny 
against Juvenal has been drawn at such long date 
that it still lasts. It passes from one knave of the 
pen to another. These grand haters of evil are 
hated by all the flatterers of power and success. 
The mob of servile sophists, of writers who 
have the mark of the collar about their necks, of 
bullying historiographers, of scholiasts kept and 
fed, of court and school followers, stand in the way 
of the punishers and avengers. They croak around 
these eagles. Scant and grudging justice is ren 
dered to dispensers of justice. They hinder the 
masters, and rouse the indignation of the lackeys, 
for there is such a thing as the indignation of baseness. 

Moreover, the diminutives cannot do less than 

252 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

help each other, and Cscsarion must at least have 
Tyrannion as a support. The pedant breaks ferules 
for the satrap. For such jobs there are lettered 
courtiers and official pedagogues. These poor, dear 
vices, so open-handed, these excellent condescending 
crimes, his Highness Rufinus, his Majesty Claudius, 
the august Madame Messalina who entertains so 
sumptuously and grants pensions out of her privy 
purse, and who abides and perpetuates her reign 
under the names of Theodora, Fredegonde, Agnes, 
Margaret of Burgundy, Isabel of Bavaria, Catherine 
de' Medici, Catherine of Russia, Caroline of Naples, 
etc., etc. all these great lords the crimes, all these 
fine ladies the turpitudes, shall they have the sorrow 
of witnessing the triumph of Juvenal ? No. War 
with the scourge in the name of sceptres ! War with 
the rod in the name of the cliques ! That is well ! 
Go on, courtiers, clients, eunuchs, and scribes. Go 
on, publicans and pharisees. You will not hinder 
the republic from thanking Juvenal, or the temple 
from approving Jesus. 

Isaiah, Juvenal, Dante, are virgins. Observe 
their downcast eyes. There is chastity in the wrath 
of the just against the unjust. The Imprecation can 
be as holy as the Hosanna ; and indignation, honest 
indignation, has the very purity of virtue. In point 
of whiteness, the foam has no reason to envy the 
snow. 

CHAPTER III 

ALL history proves the working partnership of art 
and progress. Dictus ob hoc lenire tigres. Rhythm 
is a power, a power that the Middle Ages recognize 
and submit to not less than antiquity. The second 
barbarism, feudal barbarism, also dreads the power 
of verse. The barons, not over-timid, are abashed 
before the poet, who is this man ? They fear lest 
* a manly song be sung'. Behind this unknown 
man is the spirit of civilization. The old donjons 

THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE TRUE 253 

full of carnage open thoir wild eyes and scan the dark 
ness ; anxiety seizes them. Feudality trembles, 
the den is disturbed. The dragons and the hydras are 
ill at ease. Why ? Because an invisible god is there. 

It is curious to find this power of poetry in countries 
where barbarism is densest, particularly in England, 
in that extreme feudal darkness, * penitus toto divisos 
orbe Britannos.' If we believe the legend a form 
of history as true and as false as any other it is 
due to poetry that Colgrim, besieged by the Britons, 
is relieved in York by his brother Bardulf the Saxon ; 
that King Awlof penetrates into the camp of Athel- 
etan ; that Werburgh, prince of Northumbria, is 
delivered by the Welsh, whence, it is said, that Celtic 
device of the Prince of Wales, Ich dien * ; that Alfred, 
King of England, triumphs over Gitro, King of the 
Danes, and that Richard the Lion-hearted escapes 
from the prison of Losenstein. Ranulf, Earl of 
Chester, attacked in his castle of Rothelan, is saved 
by the intervention of the minstrels, the legend is 
confirmed by the privileges still enjoyed under Elizabeth 
by the minstrels, who were patronized by the Lords 
of Dalton. 

The poet had the right of reprimand and menace. 
In 1316, at Whitsuntide, Edward II being at table in 
the grand hall of Westminster with the peers of Eng 
land, a female minstrel entered the hall on horseback, 
rode all around, saluted Edward II, predicted in a 
loud voice to the minion Spencer the gibbet and 
castration by the hand of the executioner, and to the 
King the horn by means of which a red-hot iron should 
be buried in his intestines, placed on the table before 
the King a letter, and departed, unchallenged and un 
molested. 

At the festivals, the minstrels passed before the 
priests, and were more honourably treated. At 
Abingdon, at the festival of the Holy Cross, each 

1 Welsh eich dyn, ' behold your man.' See Stormonth'a 
Dictionary, a. v. TB. 

254 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

of the twelve priests received fourpence, and each 
of the twelve minstrels two shillings. At the 
priory of Maxtoke, the custom was to give supper 
to the minstrels in the Painted Chamber lighted by 
eight huge wax candles. 

As we advance toward the North, the rising fogs 
seem to magnify the poet. In Scotland, his propor 
tions are colossal. If anything surpasses the legend 
of the rhapsodists, it is the legend of the scalds. At 
the approach of Edward of England, the bards defend 
Stirling as the three hundred had defended Sparta ; 
.and they have their Thermopylae, equal to that of 
Leonidas. Ossian, perfectly certain and real, has 
had a plagiarist. That is nothing ; but this plagiarist 
has done more than rob him, he has made him insipid. 
To know Fingal only through Macpherson is as if one 
knew Amadis only through Tressan. They show at 
Staffa the poet's stone, Clachan an Bairdh, so named, 
according to many antiquaries, long before the visit of 
Walter Scott to the Hebrides. This Bard's Chair, a 
great hollow rock furnishing a proper seat for a giant, 
is at the entrance of the grotto. Around it are the 
waves and the clouds. Behind Cie Clachan an Bairdh 
is piled the superhuman geometry of the basaltic 
prisms, the chaos of colonnades and waves, and all 
the mystery of that dread edifice. The gallery of 
Fingal runs next to the poet's chair, and there the 
sea breaks before entering beneath that terrible ceiling. 
At nightfall the fishermen of the Mackinnon clan think 
they see in that chair a leaning figure. ' It is the 
ghost ', they say ; and no one would venture even in 
full daylight, to ascend to that awful seat ; for to the 
idea of the stone is linked the idea of the tomb, and 
none but the shadow-man may sit upon that granite 
chair. 

CHAPTER IV 

THOUGHT is power. 

All power is duty. Should this power enter into 

THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE TRUE 255 

repose in our age ? Should duty shut its eyes ? and 
is the moment come for art to disarm ? Less than 
ever. Thanks to 1789, the human caravan has reached 
a high pleateau ; and, the horizon being vaster, art 
has more to do. This is all. To every widening of 
the horizon, an enlargement of conscience corresponds. 

We have not reached the goal. Concord condensed 
into felicity, civilization summed up in harmony, that 
is yet far off. In the eighteenth century that dream 
was so distant that it seemed guilty. The Abbe de 
St. Pierre was expelled from the Academy for having 
dreamed that dream, an expulsion which appears 
rather severe at a period when pastorals carried the 
day even with Fontenelle, and when St. Lambert 
invented the idyl for the use of the nobility. The 
Abbe de St. Pierre has left behind him a word and a 
dream ; the word is his own, ' Beneficence ' ; his 
dream is the dream of us all, ' Fraternity '. This 
dream, which made Cardinal de Polignac foam, and 
Voltaire smile, is now less hidden that it once was in 
the midst of the improbable ; it is a little nearer : 
but we have not attained it. The people, those 
orphans seeking their mother, 4o not yet hold in their 
hand the hem of the robe of peace. 

There remains about us enough of slavery, of sophis 
try, of war, and of death, to make it essential that 
the spirit of civilization should relinquish none of its 
resources. The idea of the right divine is not yet 
entirely dissipated. The spirit which animated Fer 
dinand VII in Spain, Ferdinand II in Naples, George 
IV in England, Nicholas in Russia, is still in the air. 
A spectral remnant still flits about. From that 
fatal cloud inspirations descend upon wearers of 
crowns bent in dark meditation. 
Civilization has not yet done with the granters of 
constitutions, with the proprietors of nations, and 
with the legitimate and hereditary madmen who 
assert themselves kings by the grace of God, and think 
that they have the right of manumission over the 

250 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

human race. It is becoming important to raise some 
obstacle, to show bad will to the past, and to bring 
some check to bear on these men, on these dogmas, 
on these chimeras which stand in the way. Intelli 
gence, thought, science, austere art, philosophy, ought 
to watch and beware of misunderstandings. False 
rights contrive very easily to put actual armies in the 
field. There are murdered Polands at the horizon. 
* All my anxiety ', said a contemporary poet, recently 
deceased, * is the smoke of my cigar '. My anxiety 
is also a smoke the smoke of the cities which are 
burning yonder. Let us, therefore, bring the tyrants 
to grief, if we can. 

Let us again, in the loudest possible voice, repoat 
the lesson of the just and the unjust, of right and 
usurpation, of sworn truth and perjury, of good and 
evil, of fas et nefas ; let us display all our old antitheses, 
as they say. Let us contrast what ought to be with 
what actually is. Let us dispel all confusion touching 
these things. Bring light, ye that have it ! Let us 
oppose dogma to dogma, principle to principle, energy 
to obstinacy, truth to imposture, dream to dream, 
the dream of the future to the dream of the past, 
liberty to despotism. We shall be able to stretch 
ourselves at full length and smoke out the cigar of 
fanciful poetry, and laugh over Boccaccio's Decameron, 
with the soft blue sky over our heads, on the day when 
the sovereignty of a king shall be exactly of the same 
dimensions as the liberty of a man. Until then, 
little sleep ; I am distrustful. 

Place sentinels everywhere. Do not expect from 
despots a large share of liberty. Let all the Polands I 
effect their own deliverance. Unlock the future! 
with your own hand. Do not hope that your chain I 
will forge itself into the key of freedom. Up, children i 
of the fatherland ! O mowers of the steppes, arise ! j 
Trust to the good intentions of orthodox czars just 
enough to take up arms. Hypocrisies and apologies,! 
being traps, are an added danger. 

THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE TRUE 267 

We live in a time when orators are heard praising 
the magnanimity of white bears and the tender feelings 
of panthers. Amnesty, clemency, grandeur of soul; 
an era of felicity opens ; fatherly love is the order of 
the day ; behold all that is already done ; it must 
not be thought that the spirit of the time is not under 
stood ; august arms are open ; rally still closer round 
the Emperor ; Muscovy is kind-hearted. See how 
happy the serfs are ! the streams are to flow with 
milk, prosperity, liberty for all ; your princes groan, 
like you, over the past ; they are excellent. Come, 
fear nothing, little ones ! All very good ; but candidly, 
we are of those who put no faith in the lachrymal 
gland of crocodiles. 

The reigning public monstrosities impose stern 
obligations on the conscience of the thinker, the 
philosopher, or the poet. Incorruptibility must 
resist corruption. It is more than ever requisite to 
show men the ideal, that mirror reflecting the face of 
God. 

CHAPTER V 

IN literature and philosophy we encounter now and 
then a man with tears and laughter at command, 
Heraclitus masked as Democritus ; often a very great 
man like Voltaire. Such a man is an irony, sometimes 
tragic, which keeps its countenance. 

These men, under the pressure of the influences 
and prejudices of their time, speak with a double 
meaning. One of the most profound is Bayle, the 
man of Rotterdam, the powerful thinker. When 
Bayle coolly utters this maxim : * It is better to 
weaken the grace of a thought than to anger a tyrant,' 
I smile, for I know the man ; I think of him perse 
cuted, almost proscribed, and I know well that he 
has given way to the temptation of aflirming merely 
to give me the itch of contradiction. But when it 
is a poet who speaks, a poet wholly free, rich, happy, 
prosperous, inviolable, one expects clear, frank, and 

258 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

wholesome instruction ; one cannot believe that such 
a man can be guilty of anything like desertion of con 
science ; and it is with a blush that one reads this : 
' Here below, in time of peace, let every man sweep 
before his own door. In war, if conquered, one must 
make terms with the enemy.' ... * Let every 
enthusiast be put on a cross when he reaches his* 
thirtieth year. When once he comes to know the- 
world, he ceases to be a dupe, and becomes a rogue.' 
... ' What utility, wha" result, what advantage 
does the holy liberty of the press offer you ? You 
have the certain demonstration of it, a profound con 
tempt for public opinion.' . . . 'There are people 
who have a mania for railing at everything that is 
great ; they are men who have attacked the Holy 
Alliance : and yet nothing has been invented more 
august and more salutary for humanity.' These 
things, belittling to the man who wrote them, are 
signed Goethe. When he wrote them, Goethe was 
sixty years old. Indifference to good and evil is 
heady, liable to intoxicate ; and this is what comes 
of it. The lesson is sad, the sight mournful ; for here 
the helot is an intelligence. 

A quotation may be a pillory. We post on the 
public highway these lugubrious sentences ; it is 
our duty. Goethe wrote that. Let it be remem 
bered, and let no one among the poets fall again into 
the same error *. 

1 Never having known the real Goethe, Victor Hugo 
never could do justice to him ; and possibly the relation 
would not have been improved by better acquaintance. 
The character and works that we call ' Goethe' make up 
an exceedingly complex whole ; to condemn it is akin to 
condemning an entire civilization. Burke professed himself 
unable to draw up an indictment against a whole nation ; 
and in Goethe's case any one broadly acquainted with the 
facts would probably find the task almost equally awkward. 
Hitherto, at least, it is observable that the severe judgments 
have not emanated from the most patient and competent 
investigators. It would be lamentable indeed should 
sensible people be misled, by the garbled scraps here cited, 

THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE TRUE 259 

To become impassioned for the good, for the true, 
for the just ; to suffer with the sufferers ; to feel 
upon one's soul all the strokes inflicted by tormentors 
upon human flesh ; to be scourged with Christ and 
flogged with the negro ; to be strengthened and to 
lament ; to scale, a Titan, that frowning summit 
where Peter and Caesar make their swords fraternize, 
gladium cum gladio copulemus ; to pile for that escalade 
the Ossa of the ideal on the Pelkm of the real ; to 
make a vast apportionment of hope ; to avail one's 
self of the ubiquity of the book in order to be everywhere 
at the same time with a consoling thought ; to push 
pell-mell men, women, children, whites, blacks, peoples, 
hangmen, tyrants, victims, impostors, the ignorant, 
proletaries, serfs, slaves, masters, toward the future 
(a precipice to some, to others a deliverance) ; to go 
forth, to awaken, to hasten, to march, to run, to think, 
to will that is indeed well ; that makes it worth 
while to be a poet. Take care ! You are losing 
your temper. Certainly, but I am gaining wrath. 
And now for thy blast in my pinions, O hurricane ! 

There was, of late years, a moment when impassi 
bility was recommended to poets as a condition of 
divinity. To be indifferent was called being Olym 
pian. Where had they seen that ? That is an Olym 
pus very unlike the real one. Read Homer. The 
Olympians are passion, and nothing else. Boundless 
humanity such is their divinity. They fight inces 
santly. One has a bow, another a lance, another a 
sword, another a club, another thunderbolts. One 
of them compels the leopards to draw him. Another 
Wisdom she has cut off the serpent- bristling head 
of Night, and nailed it to her shield. Such is the 
calm of the Olympians. Their wraths cause the 
thunders to roll from end to end of the Iliad and of 

into hasty prejudgment of him whose spirit and work are 
ao much more accurately indicated by this line of his, 

Wouldst thou give freedom to many, first dare to do ser 
vice to many.' TR. 

260 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

the Odyssey. These wraths, when just, are good. 
The poet who has them is the true Olympian. Juvenal, 
Dante, Agrippa d'Aubigne, and Milton were subject 
to these wraths, Moliere too. From the soul of Alceste 
flashes constantly the lightning of ' vigorous hatreds.' 
It was the hatred of evil which Jesus meant when he 
said, * I am come to bring war.' 

I like Stesichorus, indignant, preventing the alli 
ance of Greece with Phalaris, and fighting the brazen 
bull with strokes of the lyre. 

Louis XIV found it good to have Racine sleeping 
in his chamber when he, the King, was ill, thus turning 
the poet into an assistant to his apothecary. Wonder 
ful patronage of letters ! But he asked nothing 
more from the men of letters, and the horizon of his 
alcove seemed to him sufficient for them. One day 
Racine, somewhat urged by Madame de Maintenon, 
conceived the thought of leaving the King's chamber 
and of visiting the garrets of the people. Thence a 
memoir on the public distress. Louis XIV cast at 
Racine a killing look. Poets fare ill when, being 
courtiers, they do what royal mistresses ask of them. 
Racine, at the suggestion of Madame de Maintenon, 
risks a remonstrance which causes him to be driven from 
court, and he dies of it ; Voltaire, at the instigation 
of Madame de Pompadour, ventures a madrigal an 
awkward one, it appears which causes him to be 
driven from France, and he does not die of it. Louis 
XV on reading the madrigal (' Et gardez tous deux 
vos conquetes ') had exclaimed, ' What a fool this 
Voltaire is ! ' 

Some years ago * a well-authorized pen,' as they 
say in official and academic cant, wrote this : ' The 
greatest service that poets can render us is to be good 
for nothing. We ask of them nothing else.' Observe 
the scope and sweep of this word, * the poets ' 
which includes Linus, Musaeus, Orpheus, Homer, 
Job, Hesiod, Moses, Daniel, Amos, Ezekiel, Isaiah, 
Jeremiah, ^Esop, David, Solomon, JSschylus, Sopho- 

THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE TRUE 261 

cles, Euripides, Pindar, Archilochus, Tyrtaeus, 
Stesichorus, Menander, Plato, Asclepiades, Pytha 
goras, Anacreon, Theocritus, Lucretius, Plautus, 
Terence, Virgil, Horace, Catullus, Juvenal, Apuleius, 
Lucan, Persius, Tibullus, Seneca, Petrarch, Ossian, 
Saadi, Firdusi, Dante, Cervantes, Calderon, Lope de 
Vega, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Camoens, Marot, Ronsard, 
Regnier, Agrippa d* Aubigne, Malherbe, Segrais, Racan, 
Milton, Pierre Corneille, Moliere, Racine, Boileau, 
La Fontaine, Fontenelle, Regnard, Lesage, Swift, Vol 
taire, Diderot, Beaumarchais, Sedaine, Jean-Jacques 
Rousseau, Andre Chenier, Klopstock, Lessing, Wieland, 
Schiller, Goethe, Hofmann, Alfieri, Chateaubriand, 
Byron, Shelley, Wordsworth, Burns, Walter Scott, 
Balzac, Musset, Beranger, Pellico, Vigny, Dumas, 
George Sand, Lamartine, all declared by the oracle 

* good for nothing ', and having uselessness for the 
excellence. That sentence a ' success ', it appears 
has been very often repeated. We repeat it in our 
turn. When the conceit of an idiot reaches such 
proportions, it deserves registration. The writer 
who uttered that aphorism is, so they assure us, one 
of the high personages of the day. We have no 
objection ; dignities shorten no ears. 

Octavius Augustus, on the morning of the battle 
of Actium, met an ass called by its driver * Triumphus '. 
This Triumphus, endowed with the faculty of braying, 
seemed to him of good omen. Octavius Augustus 
won the battle ; and remembering Triumphus, had 
him cast in bronze and set up in the Capitol. That 
made a Capitoline ass ; but still an ass. 

One can understand kings saying to the poet, 

* Be useless ' ; but one does not understand the 
people saying so to him. The poet is for the people. 
'Pro populo poeta', wrote Agrippa d' Aubigne. 

* All things to all men ', exclaims Sant Paul. What 
is an intelligence ? A feeder of souls. The poet is 
at the same time a menace and a promise. The 
distress he arouses in oppressors calms and consoles 

262 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

the oppressed. It is the glory of the poet to place 
a restless pillow on the purple bed of the tormentors. 
It is often thanks to him that the tryant awakes, 
saying, ' I have slept badly.' Every slave, every 
despondency, every sorrow, every misfortune, every 
distress, every hunger, and every thirst has a claim 
upon the poet ; he has one creditor the human race. 

Certainly it detracts nothing from the poet to be 
the great servant. All the mysterious voices sing 
within him none the less because upon occasion, and 
impelled by duty, he has uttered the cry of a race, 
because his bosom must needs swell with the deep 
human sob. Speaking so loudly does not prevent 
his speaking low. He is not less the confidant, and 
sometimes the confessor, of hearts. He is not less 
intimately connected with those who love, with those 
who think, with those who sigh, thrusting his head 
in the darkness between the heads of lovers. Andre 
Chenier's love-verses are deprived of none of their 
tender serenity by their proximity to the wrathful 
iambic : * Weep thou, O virtue, if T die ! ' The 
poet is the only living being to whom is given both 
the voice of thunder and the whisper, having, like 
Nature, within himself the rumbling of the cloud and 
the rustling of the leaf. This is a double function, 
individual and public ; and it is for this reason that 
he needs, as it were, two souls. 

Ennius said, ' I have three of them, an Oscan 
soul, a Greek soul, and a Latin soul.' It is true that he 
referred only to the place of his birth, to the place 
of his education, and to the place where he was a 
citizen ; and moreover Ennius was but a rough cast 
of a poet, vast, but shapeless. 

No poet can exist without that activity of soul 
which is the resultant of conscience. The primal 
moral laws need to be confirmed ; the new moral 
laws need to be revealed : these two series do not 
coincide without some effort. This effort is incumbent 
on the poet. At every turn he performs the function 

THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE TRUE 203 

of the philosopher. He must defend, according to 
the side attacked, now the liberty of the human mind, 
now the liberty of the human heart, to love being no 
less holy than to think. There is nothing in all that 
of ' Art for art's sake '. 

Into the midst of those goers and comers that 
we call the living, comes the poet, to tame, like ancient 
Orpheus, the tiger in man, his evil instincts, and, 
like legendary Amphion, to pull down the walls of 
prejudice and superstition, to mount the new blocks, 
to relay the foundations and the corner-stones, and 
to build anew the city of human society. 

That such a service, to co-operate in the work 
of civilization, should involve loss of beauty for 
poetry and of dignity for the poet, is a proposition 
which one cannot enunciate without smiling. Useful 
art preserves and augments all its graces, all its charms, 
all its prestige. In truth ^Eschylus is not degraded 
by taking part with Prometheus, the man progress 
crucified by force on Caucasus, and gnawed alive 
by hate ; Lucretius is no less great for having loosened 
the grave-clothes of idolatry and disentangled human 
thought from the knotted bonds of religions (arctis 
nodis religionum) ; the branding of tyrants with the 
red-hot iron of prophecy does not lessen Isaiah ; the 
defence of his country does not taint Tyrtaeus. The 
beautiful is not degraded by serving the ends of free 
dom and the amelioration of the human multitudes. 
The words, *a people liberated', would fitly end a 
strophe. No, patriotic or revolutionary usefulness 
robs poetry of nothing. For having screened under 
its cliffs the three peasants who took the terrible 
oath from which sprang Switzerland free, the huge 
Griitli is none the less at nightfall a lofty mass of 
serene shadow alive with herds, whence falls afar 
the soft tintinnabulation of innumerable little bells 
tinkling unseen through the clear twilight air. 

PART THIRD 

CONCLUSION 

BOOK I 

AFTER DEATH SHAKESPEARE ENGLAND 
CHAPTER I 

IN 1784, Bonaparte, then fifteen years old, arrived 
at the military school of Paris from Brienne, being 
one among four under the conduct of a minim priest. 
He mounted one hundred and seventy-three steps 
carrying his small valise, and reached in the attic 
the barrack chamber he was to occupy. This chamber 
had two beds, and a small window opening on the 
great yard of the school. The young predecessors of 
Bonaparte had bescrawled the whitewashed walls 
with charcoal, and the new-comer could read in his 
little cell these four inscriptions, which we ourselves 
read there thirty-five years ago : ' An epaulet is very 
long to win * : De Montgivray. ' The finest day in 
life is that of a battle * : Vicomte de Tinteniac. ' Life 
is but a prolonged lie ' : Le Chevalier Adolphe Delmas. 

* The end of all is six feet of earth ' : Le Cornte de la 
Villette. With the trifling substitution of the word 

* empire ' for ' epaulet ', these four sentences contained 
the whole destiny of Bonaparte, and formed a kind of 

* Mene, Tekel, Upharsin ', written in advance upon that 
wall. Desmazis, junior, who accompanied Bonaparte, 
being his room-mate, and about to occupy one of 
the two beds, saw him take a pencil Desmazis him 
self has related the incident and draw, under the 
inscriptions that he had just read, a rough sketch of 

266 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

his house at Ajaccio ; then, by the side of that house, 
without suspecting that he was thus bringing near the 
Island of Corsica another mysterious island then hid 
in the far future, he wrote the last of the four sentences : 
' The end of all is six feet of earth.' 

Bonaparte was right. For the conqueror, for the 
soldier, for the man of material fact, the end of all 
is six feet of earth ; for the man of thought, all begins 
there. 

Death is a power. 

For him who has had no activity but that of the 
mind, the tomb is the elimination of the obstacle. 
To be dead is to be all-powerful. 

The man of war is formidable while alive ; he 
stands erect ; the earth is silent, siluit : he has exter 
mination in his' gesture ; millions of haggard men 
rush after him, a fierce horde, sometimes a ruffianly 
one ; it is no longer a human head, it is a conqueror, 
it is a captain, it is a king of kings, it is an emperor, 
it is a dazzling crown of laurels which passes, throwing 
out lightning flashes, and showing, in a starry light 
beneath, a vague profile of Caesar. This vision is 
splendid and astounding ; but a little gravel in the 
liver, or an abrasion of the pylorus, six feet of earth, 
and all is over. This solar spectrum vanishes. This 
tumultuous life falls into a hole ; the human race 
pursues its way, leaving behind this emptiness. If 
this man-hurricane has made some lucky rupture 
like Alexander in India, Charlemagne in Scandinavia, 
and Bonaparte in old Europe that is all that remains 
of him. But let some passer-by who has in him the 
ideal ; let a poor wretch like Homer throw out a word 
in the darkness, and die, that word lights up the 
gloom, and becomes a star. 

This defeated man, driven from town to town, is 
called Dante Alighieri, take care ! This exile is 
called ^Eschylus, this prisoner is called Ezekiel, 
beware ! This one-handed man is winged, it is 
Miguel Cervantes. Do you know whom you see 

AFTER DEATH 267 

wayfaring there before you ? It is a sick man, Tyrtaeus ; 
it is a slave, Plautus ; it is a labourer, Spinoza ; it 
is a valet, Rousseau. Well, that cibasement, that 
labour, that servitude, that infirmity, is power, 
the supreme power, mind. 

On the dunghill like Job, under the stick, like 
Epictetus, under contempt like Moliere, mind re 
mains mind. It is destined to have the last word. 
The Caliph Almanzor makes the people spit on Averroes 
at the door of the mosque of Cordova ; the Duke of 
York himself spits on Milton ; a Rohan almost a 
prince, ' Due ne daigne, Rohan suis ' *, attempts to 
cudgel Voltaire to death ; Descartes is driven from 
France in the name of Aristotle ; Tasso pays for a 
kiss given a princess by twenty years in a prison 
cell ; Louis XV sends Diderot to Vincennes : these 
are mere incidents ; must there not be some clouds ? 
Those appearances that were taken for realities, those 
princes, those kings, melt away ; there remain only 
what should remain, the human mind on the one side, 
the divine mind on the other ; the true work and 
the true workers ; society to be perfected and made 
fruitful, science seeking the true, art creating the 
beautiful, the thirst of thought, the torment and 
the happiness of man ; the lower life aspiring to 
the higher. Real questions are to v be dealt with ; 
progress in intelligence and by intelligence is to be 
secured. The aid of the poets, the prophets, the 
philosophers, the inspired thinkers is invoked. It 
is perceived that philosophy is a nourishment, and 
poetry a need. Man cannot live by bread alone. 
Give up the poets, and you give up civilization. There 
comes an hour when the human race is compelled 
to reckon with Shakespeare the actor, and with Isaiah 
the beggar. 

They are the more present when they are no longer 
seen. Once dead, these beings live. 

1 ' I would not stoop to be a duke ; I am Rohan.' Tn. 

2C8 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

What life did they lead? What kind of men 
were they ? What do we know of them ? Sometimes 
but little, as of Shakespeare ; often nothing, as of 
those of ancient days. Did Job exist ? Is Homer 
one, or several ? Meziriac makes ^Esop straight, 
and Planudes makes him a hunchback. Is it true that 
the prophet Hosea, in order to show his love for his 
country, even when she was fallen into opprobrium 
and infamy, espoused a harlot, and named his children 
Mourning, Famine, Shame, Pestilence, and Misery ? 
Is it true that Hesiod must be divided between Cyme 
in ^Eolis, where he was born, and Ascra in Bceotia, 
where he is said to have been brought up ? Velleius 
Paterculus places him one hundred and twenty ye^rs 
after Homer, with whom Quintilian makes him con 
temporary. Which of the two is right ? Wl at 
matters it ? The poets being dead, their thoug ht 
reigns. Having been, they are. 

They do more work among us to-day than when they 
were alive. Others who have departed this life rest 
from their labours : dead men of genius work. 

They work upon what ? Upon minds. They 
make civilization. 

The end of all is six feet of earth ? No ; there all 
begins, germinates, flowers, grows, issues, streams 
forth. Such maxims are very well for you, O men 
of the sword ! 

Lay yourselves down, disappear, lie in the grave, 
rot. So be it. 

While life lasts, gilding, caparisons, drums and 
trumpets, panoplies, banners in the wind, tumults, 
delude the senses. The crowd gazes with admiration 
on these things. It imagines that it sees something 
grand. Who wears the casque ? Who the cuirass ? 
Who the sword-belt ? Who is spurred, helmeted, 
plumed, armed ? Hurrah for that one ! At death 
the difference becomes plain. Juvenal takes Hannibal 
in the hollow of his hand. 

It is not Caesar, it is the thinker, who can say when 

AFTER DEATH 209 

he expires, ' Deu8 fio '. So long as he remains a man, 
his flesh interposes between other men and him. 
The flesh is a cloud upon genius. Death, that im 
mense light, comes and penetrates the man with its 
aurora. No more flesh, no more matter, no more 
shadow. The unknown which was within him mani 
fests itself and beams forth. In order that a mind 
may give all its light, death is required. When that 
which was a genius becomes a soul, the human race 
begins to be dazzled. A book within which there is 
something of the phantom is irresistible. 

He who is still living does not appear disinterested. 
People mistrust him. People dispute him because 
they jostle against him. Both to be alive and to be 
a genius is too much. This being goes and comes as 
you do ; it walks the earth ; it has weight ; it casts 
a shadow ; it obstructs. There seems a kind of 
importunity in the presence of too great a man ; men 
find him not sufficiently like themselves. As we have 
said before, they owe him a grudge. Who is this 
privileged person ? This functionary cannot be 
dismissed. Persecution makes him greater, decapita 
tion crowns him. Nothing can be done against him, 
nothing for him, nothing with him. He is responsible, 
but not to you. He has his instructions. What he 
executes may be discussed, not modified. It seems 
as though he had a mission to accomplish from some 
one who is not a man. Such an exception displeases ; 
hence more hisses than applause. 

Once dead, he is out of the way. The useless hiss 
dies out. Laving, he was a rival ; dead, he is a bene 
factor. He becomes, in the beautiful expression of 
Lebrun, * the irreparable man.' Lebrun says this 
of Montesquieu ; Boileau says the same thing of 
Moliere. * Avant qu'un peu de terre ', etc *. This 

1 Part of the nineteenth line of Boileau's seventh epistle, 
which is dedicated to Racine. The whole sentence may be 
roughly rendered as follows : 

270 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

handful of earth has equally exalted Voltaire. Vol 
taire, so great in the eighteenth century, is still greater 
in the nineteenth. The grave is a crucible. The 
earth thrown on a man cleanses his name, and allows 
it not to pass forth till purified. Voltaire has lost 
his false glory and retained the true. To lose the 
false is gain. Voltaire is neither a lyric poet, nor a 
comic poet, nor a tragic poet ; he is the indignant 
yet tender critic of the Old World ; he is the mild 
reformer of manners ; he is the man who softens men. 
Voltaire, having lost ground as a poet, has risen as 
an apostle. He has done what is good rather than 
what is beautiful. The good being included in the 
beautiful, those who, like Dante and Shakespeare, 
have produced the beautiful, surpass Voltaire ; but 
below the poet, the place of the philosopher is still 
very high, and Voltaire is the philosopher. Voltaire 
is good-sense hi a continual stream. Excepting 
literature, he is a good judge of everything. In 
spite of his insulters, Voltaire was almost adored 
during his lifetime ; to-day he is, on thoroughly 
valid grounds, admired. The eighteenth century- 
saw his mind ; we see his soul. Frederick II, who 
liked to banter him, wrote to D' Alembert : ' Voltaire 
plays the buffoon. This century resembles the old 
courts ; it has its fool, and Arouet is he. ' This 
fool of the century was its sage. 

Such, for great minds, are the issues of the tomb. 
That mysterious entrance otherwhere leaves light 
behind. Their setting is resplendent. Death makes 
their authority free and effective. 

CHAPTER II 

SHAKESPEARE is the chief glory of England. England 

Before a little earth, obtained by intercession, 
Had for ever hidden Moliere from human sight, 
A thousand of those beauties, so highly praised to-day, 
Were by silly people rejected before our very eyes. 

TB. 

AFTER DEATH 271 

has in politics, Cromwell ; in philosophy, Bacon ; 
in science, Newton ; three lofty men of genius. But 
Cromwell is stained with cruelty, and Bacon with 
meanness ; as to Newton, his edifice is at this moment 
tottering. Shakespeare is pure, as Cromwell and 
Bacon are not, and unshaken, as Newton is not. 
Moreover, his genius is loftier. Above Newton are 
Copernicus and Galileo ; above Bacon are Descartes 
and Kant ; above Cromwell are Danton and Bona 
parte ; above Shakespeare there is no one. Shake 
speare has equals, but no superior. It is a singular 
honour for a land to have borne such a man. One 
may say to that land, Alma parens I The native 
town of Shakespeare is a chosen city ; an eternal 
light falls on that cradle ; Stratford-on-Avon has a 
security that Smyrna, Rhodes, Colophon, Salamis, 
Chios, Argos, and Athens, the seven towns which 
dispute the birthplace of Homer, do not possess. 

Shakespeare is a human mind ; he is also an English 
mind. He is very English too English ; he is 
English so far as to subdue the horror surrounding 
the abominable kings whom he places on the stage, 
when they are kings of England ; so far as to depre 
ciate Philip Augustus in comparison with John Lack 
land ; so far as to make a scapegoat, Falstaff, expressly 
in order to load him with the princely misdeeds of 
the young Henry V ; so far as in a certain measure 
to share the hypocrises of a history alleged to be 
national. Lastly, he is English so far as to attempt 
to exculpate Henry VIII ; it is true that the eye of 
Elizabeth is fixed upon him. But at the same time 
we insist, for therein consists his greatness this 
English poet is a humane genius. Art, like religion, 
has its Ecce Homo. Shakespeare is one of those to 
whom may be applied the noble name of Man. 

England is selfish : selfishness is an island. This 
Albion, who minds her own business and is apt to 
be eyed askance by other nations, is a little lacking 
in disinterested greatness ; of this, Shakespeare 

275: WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

gives her some portion. With that purple robe he 
drapes his country's shoulders. By his fame he is 
universal and cosmopolitan. He overflows island 
and egotism on every side. Deprive England of 
Shakespeare, and consider how soon this nation's 
far-shining light would fade. Shakespeare modifies 
the English countenance and makes it beautiful. 
He lessens the resemblance of England to Carthage. 

Strange meaning of the apparition of men of genius ! 
No great poet is born at Sparta, no great poet at 
Carthage. This condemns these two cities. Search, 
and you shall find this : Sparta is but the city of 
logic ; Carthage is but the city of matter ; love is 
wanting to both. Carthage immolates her children 
by the sword, and Sparta sacrifices her virgins by 
nudity ; here innocence is killed, and there modesty. 
Carthage knows only her crates and bales ; Sparta 
blends herself wholly with the law, there is her true 
territory : it is for the laws that her men die at Ther 
mopylae Carthage is hard, Sparta is cold. They 
are two republics based on stone. Therefore no 
books. The eternal sower, who is never deceived, 
has scattered none of the seed of genius on their 
thankless soil. Such wheat is not to be confided 
to the rock. 

Heroism, however, is not denied to them ; they 
will have, if necessary, either the martyr or the captain. 
Leonidas is possible for Sparta, Hannibal for Carthage ; 
but neither Sparta nor Carthage is capable of Homer. 
They are devoid of a certain sublime tenderness which 
makes the poet spring from the loins of a people. 
This latent tenderness, this ftebile nescio quid, England 
possesses, witness Shakespeare ; one might also add, 
witness Wilberforce. 

England, mercantile like Carthage, legal like Sparta, 
is better than Sparta and Carthage. She is honoured 
by that august exception, a poet ; to have given 
birth to Shakespeare makes England great. 

Shakespeare's place is among the most sublime 

AFTER DEATH 27i 

in that select company of absolute intelligences whcv 
ever and anon reinforced by some noble newcomei. 
form the crown of civilization, lighting the human 
race with a wide radiance. Shakespeare is legion. 
Alone, he forms the counterpoise to our grand French 
seventeenth century, and almost to the eighteenth. 

When one arrives in England, the first thing the 
eye seeks is the statue of Shakespeare ; it falls upon 
the statue of Wellington. 

Wellington is a general who, in collaboration 
with chance, gained a battle. 

If you insist, you are taken to a place called West 
minster where there are kings a crowd of kings; 
there is also a nook called * The Poets' Corner '. There, 
in the shade of four or five magnificent monuments 
where some royal nobodies shine in marble and bronze, 
you are shown a statuette upon a little bracket, and be 
neath this statuette the name, ' William Shakespeare '. 

Furthermore, there are statues everywhere, 
statues to the heart's content. Statue of Charles, 
statue of Edward, statue of William, statues of three 
or four Georges, of whom one was an idiot. Statue of 
the Duke of Richmond at Huntley ; statue of Napier 
at Portsmouth ; statue of Father Mathew at Cork ; 
statue of Herbert Ingram I forget where. A man 
has well drilled the riflemen a statue to him ; a 
man has commanded a manoeuvre of the Horse Guards 
a statue to him. Another has been a supporter of 
the past, has squandered all the wealth of England 
in paying a coalition of kings against 1789, against 
democracy, against light, against the upward inove- 
* ment of the human race quick ! a pedestal for 
that, a statue to Mr Pitt. Another has knowingly 
fought against truth, in the hope that it might be 
vanquished ; but finding, one fine morning, that 
truth is hard-lived, that it is strong, that it might 
come to be intrusted with forming a cabinet, has 
then passed abruptly over to its side one more 
pedestal, a statue to Mr Peel. Everywhere, in every 

T 

274 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

street, in every square, at every step, gigantic notes 
of admiration in the shape of columns, a column 
to the Duke of York, which should take the form of 
a point of interrogation ; a column to Nelson, with 
Caraccioli's ghost pointing the finger at it ; a column 
to Wellington, already mentioned ; columns for 
everybody : it is sufficient to have trailed a sabre 
a little. At Guernsey, by the seaside, on a promontory, 
there is a high column almost a tower resembling 
alight-house. This one is struck by lightning. ^Eschy- 
lus would have contented himself with it. To whom 
is this ? To General Doyle. Who is General Doyle ? 
A general. What did this general do ? He con 
structed roads. At his own expense ? No, at the 
expense of the inhabitants. A column to him. None 
to Shakespeare, none to Milton, none to Newton ; 
the name of Byron is obscene. Such is England, 
that illustrious and powerful nation. 

It avails little that this nation has for pioneer and 
guide the generous British press, which is more than 
free, which is sovereign, and which through innumer 
able excellent journals throws light upon every ques 
tion, that is where England is ; and let not France 
laugh too loudly, with her statue of Negrier ; nor, 
Belgium, with her statue of Belliard ; nor Prussia 
with her statue of Bliicher ; nor Austria, with the 
statue that she probably has of Schwartzenberg ; nor 
Russia, with the statue that she must have of Sou- 
waroff. If it is not Schwartzenberg, it is Windis- 
chgratz ; if it is not Souwaroff, it is Kutusoff. 

Be Paskiewitch or Jellachich, statue ; be Auge- 
reau or Bessieres, statue ; be an Arthur Wellesley, 
they will make you a colossus, and the ladies will 
dedicate you to yourself, quite naked, with this inscrip 
tion : 'Achilles'. A young man, twenty years of 
age, performs the heroic action of marrying a beautiful 
young girl ; they prepare for him triumphal arches ; 
they come to see him out of curiosity ; the garter is 
sent to him as on the morrow of a battle ; the public 

AFTER DEATH 275 

squares are brilliant with fireworks ; people who 
perhaps have grey beards put on perukes to come 
and harangue him almost on their knees ; they shoot 
into the air millions sterling in squibs and rockets, 
amid the applause of a multitude in tatters who will 
have no bread to-morrow ; starving Lancashire 
forms a companion -piece to the wedding ; people 
are in ecstasies, they fire guns, they ring the bells, 
* Rule Britannia ! ' * God save the prince '. What ! 
this young man has the kindness to do this ? What 
a glory for the nation! Universal admiration 
a great people becomes frantic, a great city falls into 
a swoon, a balcony looking upon the passage of the 
young man is rented for five hundred guineas, people 
crowd themselves together, press upon each other, 
thrust each other beneath the wheels of his carriage, 
seven women are crushed to death in the enthusiasm, 
their little children are picked up dead under the 
trampling feet, a hundred persons, partially stifled, 
are carried to the hospital ; the joy is inexpressible. 
While this is going on in London, the cutting of the 
Isthmus of Panama is postponed by a war ; the cutting 
of the Isthmus of Suez depends on some Ismail Pasha ; 
a company (limited) undertakes the sale of the water 
of Jordan at a guinea a bottle ; walls are invented 
proof against any cannon-ball, after which missiles 
are invented which will go through any wall ; an 
Armstrong cannon-shot costs fifty pounds ; Byzan 
tium contemplates Abdul-Azis, Rome goes to con 
fession ; the frogs, encouraged by the stork, call for 
a heron ; Greece, after Otho, again wants a king ; 
Mexico, after Iturbide, again wants an emperor ; 
China wants two of them, the Middle King, a Tartar, 
and the Celestial Emperor (Tien Wang), a China 
man. . . O earth ! throne of stupidity. 

CHAPTER III 

THE glory of Shakespeare reached England from 
abroad. There was almost a definite day and hour 

276 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

when one might have been present at the landing 
of his fame at Dover. 

It required three hundred years for England to 
catch those two words that the whole world shouted 
in her ear * William Shakespeare '. 

What is England ? She is Elizabeth. No incar 
nation is more complete. In admiring Elizabeth, 
England worships her own image in the glass. Proud 
and magnanimous, but strangely hypocritical, great 
but pedantic, able but haughty, at once daring and 
prudish, having favourites but no masters, even in 
her bed her own mistress, all-powerful queen, inacces 
sible woman Elizabeth is a virgin as England is an 
island. Like England, she calls herself Empress of 
the sea, Basilea maris. A dreadful deep, swept by 
the wraths that spare not even Essex, and by the 
tempests that engulf armadas, defends this virgin 
and this island from all approach. The ocean is the 
guardian of this modesty. A certain celibacy, in 
fact, constitutes the genius of England. Alliances 
there may be, but no marriage. The world must 
always keep its distance To live alone, to go 
alone, to reign alone, to be alone such is Eliza 
beth, such is England. 

On the whole, a remarkable queen, and a wonderful 
nation. 

Shakespeare, on the contrary, is a sympathetic 
genius. To him, insularity, far from being a source 
of strength, is a bond which he would gladly break. 
A little more, and Shakespeare would be European. 
He loves and praises France ; he calls her ' the soldier 
of God '. Moreover, in that prudish nation he is the 
free poet. 

England has two books, one which she has made, 
the other which has made her, Shakespeare and 
the Bible. These two books do not altogether agree ; 
the Bible opposes Shakespeare. 

Certainly, as a literary book, the Bible that 
vast Oriental beaker, brimming with poetry even 

AFTER DEATH 277 

more than Shakespeare might harmonize with him ; 
but from a social and religious point of view it abhors 
him. Shakespeare thinks, Shakespeare dreams, Shake 
speare doubts. There is in him something of that 
Montaigne whom he loved. The ' To be, or not to 
be ', comes from the ' What do I know ? ' of Mon 
taigne. 

Moreover, Shakespeare has the grievous habit 
of invention. Faith excommunicates imagination. 
In respect to fables, Faith is a bad neighbour, and 
licks none but her own cubs. One recollects Solon's 
staff raised against Thespis ; one recollects Omar's 
firebrand waved over Alexandria. The situation is 
always the same. Modern fanaticism has inherited 
that staff and that firebrand. This is true in Spain, 
and is not false in England. I have heard an Anglican 
bishop, in discussing the Iliad, sum up all in this 
crushing assertion : ' It is not true '. Now, Shake 
speare can be described, much more truly than Homer, 
as ' a liar '. 

Two or three years ago the journals announced 
that a French writer had just sold a novel for four 
hundred thousand francs. This made a noise in 
England. A conformist paper exclaimed, * How 
can a falsehood be sold at such a price ? ' 

Besides, two words, all-powerful in England, range 
themselves against Shakespeare and block his way 
* Improper ! ' ' Shocking ! ' Let it be noted that in 
a multitude of places the Bible also is * improper ', 
and Holy Writ is * shocking '. The Bible, even in 
French, and through the rough lips of Calvin, does 
not hesitate to say, * Tu as paillarde, Jerusalem ' J . 
These crudities form a part of poetry as well as of 
anger, and the propehts, those angry poets, do not 
abstain from them. Coarse words are constantly on 
their lips. But England, which is continually read 
ing the Bible, pretends not to notice this. Nothing 
equals the power of voluntary deafness in fanatics. 
1 Ezekiel xvi 28, and passim. TB. 

278 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Would you have another example of this deafness ? 
Roman orthodoxy has not to this day admitted the 
brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, although authenti 
cated by the four Evangelists. It is in vain that 
Matthew says : * Behold, his mother and his brethren 
stood without '. . . . ' And his brethren, James, 
and Joses, and Simon, and Judas. And his sisters, 
are they not all with us ? ' In vain Mark insists : 
* Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother 
of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon ? and 
are not his sisters here with us ? ' In vain Luke 
repeats : * Then came to him his mother and his 
brethren '. In vain John adds : ' He, and his mother 
and his brethren '. . . . ' Neither did his brethren 
believe in him '. . . . ' But when his brethren were 
gone up ', Catholicism does not hear. 

To make up for this deafness, Puritanism turns 
a sensitive ear toward Shakespeare, of whom the 
Rev. John Wheeler says, he is ' like all poets, some 
thing of a Pagan '. Intolerance and inconsistency 
are sisters. Besides, in the matter of proscribing 
and damning, logic is superfluous. When Shakespeare, 
by the mouth of Othello, calls Desdemona * whore ', 
there is general indignation, unanimous revolt, uni 
versal scandal. Who is this Shakespeare ? All the 
Biblical sects stop their ears, forgetting that Aaron 
applies exactly the same epithet to Sephora, wife of 
Moses. It is true that this occurs in an apocryphal 
work, * The Life of Moses ' ; but the apocryphal works 
are quite as authentic as the canonical ones. 

Hence the dogged coldness of England toward 
Shakespeare. Her attitude toward him is still that 
of Elizabeth at least we fear so ; we should be 
happy to be contradicted. We are more ambitious 
for the glory of England than England is herself. 
This cannot displease her. 

England has a strange institution, ' the poet laure 
ate ', which attests the official, and perhaps the national 
admirations. Under Elizabeth, and during Shake- 

AFTER DEATH 279 

speare's life, England's poet was named Drum- 
mond 1 . 

Past, indeed, are the days when the playbills read : 

* Macbeth, Opera of Shakespeare, altered by Sir 
William Davenant '. But if Macbeth is played, it is 
before a small audience. Kean and Macready have 
failed in it. 

At this hour they would not play Shakespeare 
on any English stage without erasing from the text 
the word * God * wherever they find it. In the full 
tide of the nineteenth century, the Lord Chamber 
lain is still an incubus upon Shakespeare. In England, 
outside the church, the word ' God ' is not made use 
of. In conversation they replace ' God ' by * Good 
ness '. In the editions or in the representations of 
Shakespeare, ' God ' is replaced by * Heaven *. What 
matters it that the sense is perverted, that the verse 
limps ? * Lord ! Lord ! Lord ! ' the last outcry of 
expiring Desdemona, was suppressed by official 
command in the edition of Blount and Jaggard in 
1623. They do not utter it on the stage 2 . ' Sweet 
Jesus ! ' would be a blasphemy ; a devout Spanish 
woman on the English stage is bound to exclaim 

* Sweet Jupiter ! ' Do we exaggerate ? Would you 
have a proof ? Let us open Measure for Measure. 
There is a nun, Isabella. Whom does she invoke ? 
Jupiter. Shakespeare wrote it ' Jesus ' 3 . 

1 This ' strange institution ' seems not to have existed in 
Elizabeth's time ; and it is difficult to understand in what 
sense Scottish Drummond of Hawthorndon can be called 
' England's poet ' under Elizabeth, since he was but eighteen 
when Elizabeth died, and published his first volume of 
poetry ten years later. TR. 

2 The last words of Desdemona are 

Commend me to my kinde Lord : oh farewell. 
Her ' kinde Lord ' is not, as a Frenchman might naturally 
think, her God, but her husband. TR. 

3 On the other hand, however, in spite of all the Lord Cham 
berlains, it is difficult to beat the French censorship. Reli 
gions are diverse, but bigotry is one, and is the same in all 
its specimens. What we are about to write is an extract 

20 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

The tone of a certain Puritanical criticism toward 
Shakespeare is, most certainly, improved ; yet the 
cure is not complete. 

It is not many years since an English economist, 
a man of authority, making, in the midst of social 
questions, a literary excursion, affirmed, in a lofty 
digression, and without showing the slightest diffi 
dence, this : * Shakespeare cannot live because he 
has treated subjects for the most part foreign or 
ancient, Hamlet, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, 
Lear, Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, etc. 
Now, nothing is viable in literature except matters 
of immediate observation, and works relating to 
subjects of contemporary interest'. What say you 
to this theory ? We should not mention it if it had 
not found approvers in England and propagators in 

from the notes added to his translation by the new trans 
lator of Shakespeare : 

' Jesus ! Jesus ! ' This exclamation of Shallow was 
expunged in the edition of 1623, conformably to the statute 
which forbade the utterance of the name of the Divinity 
on the stage. It is worthy of remark that our modern 
theatre has had to undergo, under the scissors of the Bourbon 
censorship, the same stupid mutilations to which the censor 
ship of the Stuarts condemned the theatre of Shakespeare. 
I read what follows in the first page of the manuscript of 
Herncms which I have in my hands : 

4 Received at the Theatre-FranQais, Oct. 8, 1829. 
'The Stage-manager. 

' ALBERTIN/ 
And below, in red ink : 

' On condition of expunging the name of " Jesus " wher 
ever found, and conforming to the alterations marked at 
pages 27, 28, 29, 62, 74, and 76. 

' The Secretary of State for the Department of the Interior, 

' LA BOURDONNAYE.' < 

(Vol XI. Notes on Richard II and Henry IV, note 71, 
p. 462.) 

We may add that in the scenery representing Saragossa 
(second act of Hernani) it was forbidden to introduce any 
belfry or any church, a prohibition which made resem 
blance rather difficult, Sagarossa having had, in the sixteenth 
century, three hundred and nine churches, and six hundred 
411 ul seventeen convents. 

AFTER DEATH 281 

France. Besides Shakespeare, it simply excludes from 
literary 'life' Schiller, Corneille, Milton, Virgil, 
Euripides, Sophocles, ^Eschylus, and Homer. It 
is true that it surrounds with a halo of glory Aulus 
Gellius and Restif de la Bretorme. O critic, thia 
Shakespeare is not viable he is only immortal ! 

About the same time another English also, but of 
the Scotch school, a Puritan of that discontented variety 
of which Knox is the head declared poetry to be 
childishness ; rejected beauty of style as an obstacle 
interposed between the thought and the reader ; 
saw in Hamlet's soliloquy only * a cold lyricism ', 
and in Othello's adieu to camps and banners only 
* a declamation ' ; likened the metaphors of poets 
to coloured prints in books, fit only to amuse babies ; 
and showed a particular contempt for Shakespeare, 
as * bedaubed from one end to the other with those 
bright pictures'. 

Not longer ago than last January, a witty London 
paper was asking with indignant irony who is the 
more celebrated in England, Shakespeare, or * Mr 
Calcraft, the hangman '. ' There are localities in 
this enlightened country where, if you utter the name 
of Shakespeare, they will answer you : "I don't 
know what this Shakespeare may be, about whom you 
make all this fuss, but I will back Hammer Lane of 
Birmingham to fight him for five pounds ". But no 
mistake is made about Calcraft ' *. 

CHAPTER TV 

AT all events, Shakespeare has not the monument 
that England owes to him. 

France, let us admit, is not, in like cases, much 
prompter. Another glory, very different from Shake 
speare, but not less grand, Joan of Arc, waits also, 
and has waited long, for a national monument a 
monument worthy of her. 

i Daily Telegraph, Jon. 13, 1864. 

282 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

This land, which was once Gaul, and where the 
Velledas reigned, has, in a Catholic and historic sense, 
as patronesses two august figures, Mary and Joan. 
The one, holy, is the Virgin ; the other, heroic, is 
the Maid. Louis XIII gave France to the one ; the 
other gave back France to France. The monument 
of the second should not be less lofty than the monu 
ment of the first. Joan of Arc must have a trophy 
as grand as Notre Dame. When shall she have it ? 

England is insolvent toward Shakespeare, but France 
is bankrupt toward Joan of Arc. 

These ingratitudes need to be sternly denounced. 
Doubtless the governing aristocracies, which blind 
the eyes of the masses, are, in the first instance, guilty. 
But on the whole, conscience exists for a people as 
for an individual ; ignorance is only an extenuating 
circumstance ; and when these denials of justice last 
for centuries, they remain the fault of governments, 
while becoming the fault of nations. Let us know, 
when necessary, how to tell nations of their short 
comings. France and England, you are both wrong ! 

To flatter a people would be worse than to flatter 
a king. The one is base, the other would be dastardly. 

Let us go farther, and, since the thought presents 
itself, make a useful generalization from it, even 
should it take us for a moment from our subject. 
No, the people are not right in ascribing the blame 
indefinitely to the governments. The acceptance 
of oppression by the oppressed ends in complicity ; 
cowardice is consent whenever the duration of a 
bad thing, which weighs upon a people, and which 
that people could prevent if it would, goes beyond 
the bounds of an honest man's patience ; there is 
an appreciable solidarity and a partnership in shame 
between the government guilty of the evil and the 
people submitting to it. It is venerable to suffer ; to 
submit is contemptible. Let us pass on. 

It is a coincidence worthy of note that Voltaire, 
the denier of Shakespeare, is also the reviler of Joan 

AFTER DEATH 283 

of Arc. What are we to think of Voltaire ? Voltaire 
(we say it with mingled joy and grief) is the French 
mind the French mind up to the Revolution, solely. 
Since the Revolution, the French mind has grown 
with the growth of France, and tends to become the 
European mind. It is less local and more fraternal, 
less Gallic and more human. It represents more 
and more Paris, the urban heart of the world. As for 
Voltaire, he remains what he is the man of the 
future ; but also the man of the past. He is one of 
those glories which make the thinker say yes and 
no : he has against him two sarcasms Joan of Arc, 
and Shakespeare. He is punished through what he 
sneered at. 

CHAPTER V 

WHEREFORE, indeed, a monument to Spakespeare ? 
The statue he has made for himself, with all England 
for a pedestal, is better. Shakespeare has no need 
of a pyramid ; he has his work. 

What do you suppose marble could do for him t 
What can bronze do, where there is glory ? Mala 
chite and alabaster are of no avail ; jasper, serpen 
tine, basalt, red porphyry like that at the Invalides, 
granite, marble of Paros and Carrara, are a waste 
of pains : genius is genius without them. What 
though every variety of stone had its place there, 
would that add a cubit to this man's stature ? What 
arch shall be more indestructible than this The 
Winter's Tale, The Tempest, The Merry Wives of 
Windsor, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Julius Ccrsar, 
Coriolanus? What monument sublimer than Lear, 
sterner than The Merchant of Venice, more dazzling 
than Romeo and Juliet, more amazing than Richard HI? 
What moon could shed about the pile a light more 
mystic than that of A Midsummer -NigMs Dream ? 
What capital, were it even London, could rumble around 
it as tumultuously as Macbeth's perturbed soul ? 
What framework of cedar or of oak will last as long as 

284 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Othello ? What bronze can equal the bronze of Ham 
let ? No construction of lime, of rock, of iron, and 
of cement, is worth the deep breath of genius, which 
is the respiration of God through man. A head con 
taining an idea, such is the summit ; no heaps of 
brick and stone can rival it. What edifice equals a 
thought ? Babel is less lofty than Isaiah ; Cheops 
is smaller than Homer ; the Colosseum is inferior to 
Juvenal ; the Giralda of Seville is dwarfish by the 
side of Cervantes ; St. Peter's of Rome does not reach 
to the ankle of Dante. What architect has skill to 
build a tower as high as the name of Shakespeare ? 

Add anything, if you can, to a mind ! 

Imagine a monument. Suppose it splendid, 
suppose it sublime. A triumphal arch, an obelisk, 
a circus with a pedestal in the centre, a cathedral. 
No people is more illustrious, more noble, more splen 
did, more high-minded, than the English people. 
Wed these two ideas, England and Shakespeare, and 
let their issue be a monument. Such a nation cele 
brating such a man, the spectacle would be superb. 
Imagine the monument, imagine the inauguration. 
The Peers are there, the Commons follow, the bishops 
officiate, the princes join the procession, the Queen 
is present. The virtuous woman, in whom the English 
people, royalist as we know, see and revere their living 
personification, this worthy mother, this noble widow, 
comes, with the deep respect which is befitting, to 
incline material majesty before ideal majesty, the 
Queen of England salutes Shakespeare ; the homage of 
Victoria repairs the disdain of Elizabeth. As for 
Elizabeth, she is probably there also, sculptured 
somewhere on the surbase, with Henry VIII her 
father, and James I her successor, pigmies beneath 
the poet. Cannons boom, the curtain drops, the 
unveiled statue seems to say : ' At length ! ' It has 
grown in the darkness for three hundred years, three 
centuries, the youth of a colossus ; how vast it is ! 
To compose it, the bronze statues of York, of Cumber- 

AFTER DEATH 285 

land, of Pitt, and of Peel, have been utilized ; the 
public squares have been relieved of a heap of unjusti 
fiable castings ; all sorts of Henrys and Edwards 
have been blended in that lofty figure ; for it the 
various Williams and the numerous Georges have 
been melted down ; the Hyde Park Achilles forms 
its great toe : it is noble, behold Shakespeare almost 
as great as a Pharoah or a Sesostris ! Bells, drums, 
trumpets, applause, hurrahs. 

What then ? 

To England this is honourable ; to Shakespeare 
indifferent. 

What is the salutation of royalty, of aristocracy, 
of the army, and even of the English populace 
like almost all other nations, still ignorant what is the 
acclamation of all these variously enlightened groups, 
to one who has the eternal and well-considered applause 
of all centuries and of all men ? What oration of the 
Bishop of London or of the Archbishop of Canter 
bury is worth the cry of a woman before Desdemona, 
of a mother before Arthur, of a soul before Hamlet ? 

When, therefore, a universal voice demands of 
England a monument to Shakespeare, it is not for 
the sake of Shakespeare, it is for the sake of England. 

There are cases in which the repayment of a debt 
is of greater import to the debtor than to the creditor. 

A monument is an example. The lofty head of 
a great man is a light. Crowds, like the waves, 
require beacons above them. It is good that the 
passer-by should know that there are great men. 
People may not have time to read : they are forced 
to see. One passes that way, and stumbles against 
the pedestal ; one is almost obliged to raise the head 
and to glance a little at the inscription. Men escape 
a book ; they cannot escape the statue. One day on 
the bridge of Rouen, before the beautiful statue 
carved by David d' Angers, a peasant mounted on a 
donkey said to me, * Do you know Pierre Corneille ? * 
* Yes ', I replied. * So do I ', he rejoined. * And 

286 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

do you know The Cid ? ' I resumed. ' No ', said he. 

To him the statue was Corneille. 

The people need such an introduction to their 
great men. The monument incites them to know 
more of the man. They desire to learn to read, in 
order to know what this bronze means. A statue 
is a nudge to ignorance. 

The erection of such monuments is therefore not 
merely a matter of national justice, but of popular 
utility. 

In the end, England will certainly yield to the 
temptation of performing an act at once useful and 
just. She is the debtor of Shakespeare. To leave 
such a debt in abeyance is an attitude hardly com 
patible with national pride. It is a point of morality 
that nations should pay their debts of gratitude. 
Enthusiasm is probity. When a man is a glory upon 
his nation's brow, the nation that fails to recognize 
the fact excites the amazement of the raoe. 

CHAPTER VI 

As it was easy to foresee, England will build a monu 
ment to her poet. 

At the very moment when we finished writing 
the pages you have just read, announcement was 
made in London of the formation of a committee 
for the solemn celebration of the three-hundredth 
anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare. This com 
mittee will dedicate to Shakespeare, on the 23d of 
April, 1864, a monument and a festival, which will 
surpass, we doubt not, the incomplete programme 
we have just sketched out. They will spare nothing. 
The act of admiration will be a striking one. One 
may expect everything, in point of magnificence, 
from the nation which has created the prodigious 
palace at Sydenham, that Versailles of a people. 
The initiative taken by the committee will certainly 
receive support from the powers that be. We dis- 

AFTER DEATH 287 

card, for our part, and the committee will discard, we 
think, all idea of a testimonial by subscription. A 
subscription, unless of one penny that is to say, open 
to all the people is necessarily fractional. What is 
due to Shakespeare is a national testimonial a 
holiday, a public festival, a popular monument, 
voted by the Chambers and entered in the Budget. 
England would do it for her king. Now, what is 
the King of England beside the Man of England ? 
All confidence is due to the Shakespeare Jubilee 
Committee, a committee composed of persons highly 
distinguished in the Press, the peerage, literature, the 
theatre, and the Church. Eminent men from all 
countries, representing the intelligence of France, 
of Germany, of Belgium, of Spain, of Italy, complete 
this committee, which is from all points of view excel 
lent and competent. Another committee, formed at 
Stratford-on-Avon, seconds the London committee. 
We congratulate England. 

Nations are hard of hearing, but so long of life 
that their deafness is in no way irreparable. They 
have time to change their minds. The English are 
at last awakening to their glory. England begins 
to spell that name, Shakespeare, upon which the 
World has laid her finger. 

In April, 1664, a hundred years after Shakespeare's 
birth, England was engaged in applauding Charles II, 
who had sold Dunkirk to France for two hundred and 
fifty thousand pounds sterling, and in looking at 
something, that was a skeleton and had been Cromwell, 
whitening in the northeast wind and the rain on the 
gallows at Tyburn. In April, 1764, two hundred years 
after Shakespeare's birth, England was contemplating 
the aurora of George III, a king destined to imbecility, 
who, at that epoch, in secret councils, and in somewhat 
unconstitutional asides with the Tory chiefs and 
the German Landgraves, was sketching out that 
policy of resistance to progress which was to strive, 
first against liberty in America, then against demo- 

288 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

cracy in France, and which, under the single ministry 
of the first Pitt, had in 1778 raised the debt of England 
to the sum of eighty millions sterling. In April, 1864, 
three hundred years after Shakespeare's birth, England 
raises a statue to Shakespeare. It is late but it is 
well. 

BOOK II 

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 
CHAPTER I 

THE nineteenth century holds tenure of itself only ; 
it receives its impulse from no ancestor ; it is the 
offspring of an idea. Doubtless Isaiah, Homer, 
Aristotle, Dante, Shakespeare, have been or could 
be great starting-points for important philosophical 
or poetical growths ; but the nineteenth century has 
for its august mother the French Revolution. This 
redoubtable blood flows in its veins. It honours men 
of genius, and if need be salutes them when despised, 
proclaims them when ignored, avenges them when 
persecuted, re-enthrones them when dethroned : it 
venerates them, but it does not proceed from them. 
The nineteenth century has for family itself, and 
itself alone. It is the characteristic of its revolution 
ary nature to dispense with ancestors. 

Itself a genius, it fraternizes with men of genius. 
As for its source, it is where theirs is, beyond man. 
The mysterious gestations of progress succeed each 
other according to a providential law. The nineteenth 
century is a birth of civilization. It has a continent 
to bring into the world. France has borne this century, 
and this century bears Europe. 

When civilization was coexistent with Greece, it 
was at first circumscribed by the narrow limits of 
the Morea, or Mulberry Leaf ; then, widening by 
degrees, it spread over the Roman group of nations. 
To-day it distinguishes the French group ; that is to 
say, all Europe, with beginnings in America, in Africa, 
and in Asia. 

290 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

The greatest of these beginnings is a democracy, 
the United States, whose first tender growth was 
fostered by France in the last century. France, 
sublime essayist in progress, founded a republic in 
America before making one in Europe. Et vidit 
quod esset bonum. After having lent to Washington 
an auxiliary, Lafayette, France, returning home, 
gave to Voltaire, dismayed within his tomb, that 
formidable successor, Danton. When the Past, 
that grisly monster, being brought to bay, was hurling 
all its thunderbolts, exhaling all its miasmas, belching 
black vapours, protruding horrible talons, Progress, 
forced to use the same weapons, suddenly put forth 
a hundred arms, a hundred heads, a hundred fiery 
tongues, a hundred bellowings. The good took the 
form of the hydra. And this is what is called the 
Revolution. 

Nothing can be more august. 

The Revolution ended one century and began 
another. 

An agitation in the world of mind preparatory 
to an upheaval in the world of fact : such is the 
eighteenth century. The political revolution, once 
accomplished, seeks its expression, and the literary 
and social revolution takes place : such is the nine 
teenth century. It has been said with truth, although 
with hostile intent, that romanticism and socialism 
are the same fact. Hatred, wishing to injure, often 
affirms, and, so far as in it lies, consolidates. 

A parenthesis. This word ' romanticism ' has, 
like all war-cries, the advantage of sharply epito 
mizing a group of ideas ; it is brief, which pleases in 
the contest: but it has, to our mind, through its 
militant signification, the inconvenience of appearing 
to limit to a warlike action the movement that it 
represents. Now this movement is intelligence, an 
act of civilization, an act of soul ; and this is why the 
writer of these lines has never used the words ' roman 
ticism ' and ' romantic '. They will be found hi none 

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 291 

of the pages of criticism that he has had occasion to 
write. If to-day he departs from his usual prudence 
in polemics, it is for the sake of greater rapidity, and 
with every reservation. The same observation may 
be made on the subject of the word ' socialism ', 
which admits of so many different interpretations. 

The triple movement literary, philosophical, and 
social of the nineteenth century, which is one single 
movement, is nothing but the current of the revolu 
tion in ideas. This current, after having swept away 
so many facts, flows on, broad and deep, through the 
minds of men. 

The term ' literary '93 ', so often repeated in 1830 
against the contemporaneous literature, was not so 
much an insult as it was meant to be. It was certainly 
as unjust to employ it to characterize the whole liter 
ary movement as it is wrong to employ it to describe 
the whole political revolution ; there is in these two 
phenomena something besides '93. But this term, 
* literary '93 ', was so far relatively exact that it 
indicated, confusedly but truthfully, the origin of 
the literary movement of our epoch, while endeavouring 
to dishonour that movement. Here again the clair 
voyance of hatred was blind. Its daubings of mud 
upon the face of Truth are gilding, light, and glory. 

The Revolution, that grand climacteric of humanity, 
is made up of several years. Each of these years 
expresses a period, represents an aspect, or realizes 
a phase of the phenomenon. Tragic '93 is one of 
these colossal years. Good news must sometimes be 
spoken through a brazen mouth ; such a mouth is '93. 

Listen to the tremendous proclamation issuing 
from it. Bow down, remain awestruck, and be touched. 
In the beginning God himself said, ' Fiat lux ' ; the 
second time, He had it said. 

By whom ? 

By '93. 

Hence it is that we men of the nineteenth century 
glory in the reproach, ' You are of '93 '. 

292 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

But we must not stop here. We are of '89 as 
well as of '93. The Revolution, the whole Revolu 
tion, this is the source of the literature of the nine 
teenth century. 

Then put this literature on trial, or seek its triumph ; 
hate it or love it ; according to the amount of your 
faith in the future, insult it or salute it : little does 
it care for your animosity and fury. It is a logical 
deduction from the great chaotic and primordial fact 
which our fathers witnessed, and which has given the 
world a new point of departure. He who is against 
that fact is against that literature. He who is for 
that fact is on its side. What the fact is worth the 
literature is worth. Reactionary writers are not at 
fault. Wherever there is revolution, patent or latent, 
the Catholic and Royalist scent is unerring. These 
ancient men of letters award to contemporary litera 
ture an honourable portion of diatribe ; their aversion 
is convulsive. One of their journalists, who is, I be 
lieve, a bishop, pronounces the word ' poet ' with the 
same accent as the word ' Septembrist ' ; another, 
less episcopal but equally angry, writes : ' I feel in 
all this literature Marat and Robespierre '. This 
latter writer is slightly in error ; Danton, rather than 
Marat, is to be felt in this literature. 

But the fact is true ; this literature is full of demo 
cracy. 

The Revolution forged the bugle ; the nineteenth 
century sounds it. 

Ah ! this avowal suits us, and in truth we do not 
shrink from it ; let us admit our glory, we are the 
Revolutionists. The thinkers of this time poets, 
publicists, historians, orators, philosophers trace 
their lineage, every one, to the French Revolution. 
From it they descend, and from it alone. '89 de 
molished the Bastile ; '93 discrowned the Louvre. 
Deliverance sprang from '89 ; victory from '93. 
'89 and '93, from that source issue the men of the 
nineteenth century. This is their father and their 

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 203 

mother. Seek for them no other lineage, no other 
inspiration, no other breath of life, no other origin. 
They are the democrats of thought, successors to the 
democrats of action. They are liberators. Freedom 
was the nurse that bent over their cradles ; that ample 
breast suckled them all ; they all have her milk in 
their bodies, her marrow in their bones, her granite 
in their will, her rebellion in their reason, her fire in 
their intelligence. 

Even those among them (and there are some ) 
who were by birth aristocrats, who came into the 
world strangers in old-time families, who received 
that fatal early training whose stupid endeavour it 
is to counteract progress, and who began their message 
to the century by some unmeaning stammering of 
royalism, even these (they will not contradict me) 
felt within them, even from their infancy, the sublime 
monster. They felt the inward ferment of the vast 
reality. In the deeps of consciousness they felt an 
uprising of mysterious thoughts ; their souls were 
shaken by the profound perturbation of false certi 
tudes ; little by little they parceived the sombre 
surface of their monarchism, Catholicism, and aristo 
cracy, trembling, quaking, gaping open. One day 
the swelling of truth within them abruptly culminated, 
and suddenly the crust was rent, the eruption took 
place, and behold them opened, shivered by a light 
which fell not upon them from without, but nobler 
miracle ! issued from these astonished men, and 
illuminated them while it set them aflame. All un 
awares, they had become volcanic craters. 

They have been reproached with this phenomenon, 
as with treason. In fact, they passed over from 
right divine to human rights. They turned the back 
upon false history, false tradition, false dogmas, false 
philosophy, false daylight, false truth. That dawn- 
summoned bird, the free-soaring spirit, is offensive 
to minds saturated with ignorance and to embryons 
preserved in alcohol. He who sees, offends the blind ; 

294 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

he who hears, enrages the deaf ; he who walks, insults 
the cripple in his wooden bowl. In the eyes of dwarfs, 
abortions, Aztecs, myrmidons, and pigmies forever 
stunted with the rickets, growth is apostasy. 

The writers and poets of the nineteenth century 
have the admirable good fortune of proceeding from 
a genesis, of arriving after an end of the world, of 
accompanying a reappearance of light, of being the 
organs of a new beginning. This imposes on them 
duties unknown to their predecessors, the duties of 
intentional reformers and direct civilizers. They 
continue nothing ; they form everything anew. The 
new time brings new duties. The function of thinkers 
in our days is complex ; it no longer suffices to think, 
one must love ; it no longer suffices to think and to 
love, one must act. To think, to love, and to act, no 
longer suffice, one must suffer. Lay down the pen, 
and go where you hear the grape-shot. Here is a barri 
cade ; take your place there. Here is exile ; accept it. 
Here is the scaffold, be it so. Let the Montesquieu 
be able, in case of need, to act the part of John Brown. 
The Lucretius of this travailing century should contain 
a Cato. JEschylus, who wrote The Oresteia, had a 
brother, Cynegirus, who grappled the enemy's ships; 
that was sufficient for Greece at the time of Salamis, 
but it no longer suffices for France after the Revolu 
tion. That ^Eschylus and Cynegirus are brothers, 
is but little ; they must needs be the same man. 
Such are the present requirements of progress. Those 
who devote themselves to great and urgent causes can 
never be too great. To set ideas in motion, to heap 
up evidence, to scaffold up principles, such is the 
formidable endeavour. To heap Pelion on Ossa is 
the labour of infants beside that work of giants, the 
establishing of right upon truth. Afterward to scale 
that height, and to dethrone usurpations in the midst 
of thunders, such is the task. 

The future presses. To-morrow cannot wait. 
Humanity has not a minute to lose. Quick ! quick ! 

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 296 

let us hasten. The wretched have their feet on red- 
hot iron ; they hunger, they thirst, they suffer. Alas ! 
terrible emaciation of the poor human body. Parasi 
tism laughs, the ivy grows green and thrives, the 
mistletoe flourishes, the solitary slug is happy. How 
frightful is the prosperity of the tapeworm ! To 
destroy that which devours, in that is safety. Within 
your life death itself lives and thrives robustly. There 
is too much poverty, too much privation, too much 
immodesty, too much nakedness, too many houses of 
shame, too many convict prisons, too many tatters, 
too many defalcations, too many crimes, too much 
darkness ; not enough schools ; too many little inno 
cents growing up for evil ! The pallet of the poor girl 
is suddenly covered with silk and lace and in that 
is the worst misery ; by the side of misfortune there 
is vice, the one urging on the other. Such a society 
requires prompt succour. Let us seek out the best. 
Go, all of you, in this search ! Where are the promised 
lands ? Civilization must march forward ; let us 
test theories, systems, ameliorations, inventions, 
reforms, until the shoe for that foot shall be found. 
The experiment costs nothing, or costs but little. 
To try is not to adopt. But before all, above all, let 
us be lavish of the light. All sanitary purification 
begins by opening the windows wide. Let us open 
wide all intellects ; let us supply souls with air. 

Quick, quick, O thinkers ! Let the human race 
breathe. Shed abroad hope, sow the ideal, do good. 
One step after another, horizon after horizon, conquest 
after conquest ; because you have given what you 
promised, do not hold yourself quit of obligation. To 
perform is to promise. To-day's dawn pledges the 
sun for to-morrow. 

Let nothing be lost. Let not one force be isolated. 
Every one to work ! the urgency is supreme. No more 
idle art. Poetry the worker of civilization, what 
could be more admirable ? The dreamer should be 
a pioneer ; the strophe should mean something. The 

296 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

beautiful should be at the service of honesty. I am 
the valet of my conscience ; it rings for me : I come. 
' Go ', I go. What do you require of me, Truth ! 
sole monarch of this world ? Let each one have 
within him an eagerness for well-doing. A book is 
sometimes looked forward to for succour. An idea is a 
balm, a word may be a dressing for wounds ; poetry 
is a physician. Let no one delay. While you tarry, 
suffering man grows weaker. Let men throw off this 
dreamy laziness. Leave hashish to the Turks. Let 
men labour for the welfare of all ; let them rush 
forward, and put themselves out of breath. Do not 
be sparing of your strides. Let nothing remain useless. 
No inertia. What do you call dead nature ? Every 
thing lives. The duty of all is to live. To walk, to 
run, to fly, to soar, such is the universal law. What 
are you waiting for ? Who stops you ? Ah ! there 
are times when one might wish to hear the stones 
cry out against the sluggishness of man. 

Sometimes one wanders away into the woods. 
To whom does it not sometimes happen to be de 
jected ? one sees so many sad things. The goal does 
not appear, the results are long in coming, a generation 
is behindhand, the work of the age languishes. What ! 
so many sufferings yet ? One would say there had 
been retrogression. There is everywhere increase of 
superstition, of cowardice, of deafness, of blindness, 
of imbecility. Brutishness is weighted down by penal 
laws. The wretched problem has been set, to augment 
comfort by neglecting right ; to sacrifice the superior 
side of man to the inferior side ; to yield up principle 
to appetite. Caesar takes charge of the belly, I make 
over to him the brains : it is the old sale of the 
birthright for the mess of lentils. A little more, and 
this fatal counter-movement would set civilization 
upon the wrong road. The swine fattening for the 
knife would no longer be the king, but the people. . . . 
Alas ! this ugly expedient does not even succeed ; 
there is no diminution of wretchedness. For the last 

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 207 

ten years for the last twenty years the low-water 
mark of prostitution, of mendicity, of crime, has been 
constantly visible ; evil has not fallen a single degree. 
Of true education, of free education, there is none. 
Nevertheless, the child needs to be told that he is 
a man, and the father that he is a citizen. Where 
is the promise ? Where is the hope ? Oh ! poor, 
wretched humanity, one is tempted to shout for 
help in the forest, one is tempted to claim support 
and material assistance from vast and sombre Nature. 
Can this mysterious union of forces be indifferent to 
progress ? We supplicate, we call, we lift our hands 
toward the shadow. We listen, wondering if the 
rustlings will become voices. The duty of the springs 
and streams should be to babble forth the word ' For 
ward ' ! and one would wish to hear the nightingale 
sing new Marseillaises. 

But, after all, these seasons of halting have in them 
nothing but what is normal. Discouragement would 
be weakness. There are halts, rests, breathing- 
times in the march of nations, as there are winters 
in the progress of the seasons. The gigantic step, '89, 
is none the less a fact. To despair would be absurd, 
but to stimulate is necessary. 

To stimulate, to press, to chide, to awaken, to 
suggest, to inspire these are the functions which, 
fulfilled everywhere by writers, impress on the litera 
ture of this century so marked a stamp of power and 
originality. To remain faithful to all the laws of art, 
while combining them with the law of progress such 
is the problem triumphantly solved by so many noble 
and lofty minds. 

Thence the word * Deliverance ', shining aloft in 
the light as if it were written on the very brow of the 
Ideal. 

The Revolution is France sublimated. 

There came a day when France entered the furnace 
the furnace breeds wings upon such warrior martyrs 
and from these flames the giantess came forth an 

298 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

archangel. Throughout the earth to-day the name 
of France is revolution ; and henceforth this word 
' revolution ' will be the name of civilization, until it 
can be replaced by the word ' harmony.' Seek 
nowhere else, I repeat, the starting-point and the birth 
place of the literature of the nineteenth century. 
Ay ! every one of us, great and small, powerful and 
despised, illustrious and obscure, in all our works, good 
or bad, whatever they may be, poems, dramas, ro 
mances, history, philosophy, at the tribune of assem 
blies as before the crowds of the theatre or in solitary 
meditation ; ay ! everywhere and always ; ay J 
to combat violence and imposture ; ay ! to restore 
those who are stoned and run down ; ay ! to draw 
logical conclusions and to march straight onward; 
ay ! to console, to succour, to relieve, to encourage, 
to teach ; ay ! to dress wounds, in hope of curing 
them ! ay ! to transform charity into fraternity, 
alms into helpfulness, sloth into industry, idleness 
into usefulness, to make centralized power give place 
to the family, to convert iniquity to justice, the bour 
geois into the citizen, the populace into the people, 
the rabble into the nation, nations into humanity, 
war into love, prejudice into free inquiry, frontiers 
into welded joints, barriers into thoroughfares, ruts 
into rails, vestry-rooms into temples, the instinct of 
evil into the desire of good, life into right, kings into 
men ; ay ! to deprive religions of hell, and societies 
of the prison-den ; ay ! to be brothers to the wretched, 
the serf, the fellah, the poor labourer, the disinherited, 
the victim, the betrayed, the conquered, the sold, the 
shackled, the sacrificed, the harlot, the convict, the 
ignorant, the savage, the slave, the negro, the con 
demned, the damned ay ! for all these things were 
thy sons, O Revolution ! 

Ay ! men of genius ; ay ! poets, philosophers, 
historians ; ay ! giants of that great art of the early 
ages which is all the light of the past O men eternal, 
the minds of this day salute you, but do not follow 

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 290 

you. Concerning you they hold this law : Admire 
everything, imitate nothing. Their function is no> 
longer yours. They have to do with the manhood 
of the human race. The hour of man's majority has 
struck. We assist, under the full light of the ideal, 
at the majestic union of the Beautiful with the Useful. 
No present or possible genius can surpass you, ye 
ancient men of genius ; to equal you is all the ambition 
allowed : but to equal you we must provide for the 
needs of our time, as ye supplied the wants of yours ! 
Writers who are sons of the Revolution have a holy 
task. Their epic must sob, O Homer ! their history 
must protest, O Herodotus ! their satire must dethrone, 
O Juvenal ! their ' thou shalt be king ' must be said 
to the people, O Shakespeare ! their Prometheus 
must smite down Jupiter, O ^Eschylus ! their dunghill 
must be fruitful, O Job ! their hell must be quenched, 
O Dante ! thy Babylon crumbles, O Isaiah ! theirs 
must be radiant with light They do what you have 
done, they contemplate creation directly, they observe 
humanity directly ; they accept as lodestar no re 
fracted ray, not even yours. Like you, they have for 
their sole starting-point, outside themselves the Univer 
sal Being, within themselves the soul ; as the source 
of their work they have the one source whence flows 
Nature and whence flows Art, the Infinite. As the 
writer of these lines declared nearly forty years ago * : 
* The poets and the writers of the nineteenth century 
have neither masters nor models.' No, in all that 
vast and sublime art of all nations, among all those 
grand creations of all epochs, they find neither masters 
nor models, not even thee, O ^Eschylus ! not even 
thee, O Dante ! not even thee, O Shakespeare ! And 
why have they neither masters nor models ? It is 
because they have one model, Man, and because they 
have one master, God. 

* Preface to Cromwell. 

BOOK III 

TRUE HISTORY EVERY ONE PUT IN HIS 

PLACE 

CHAPTER I 

BEHOLD tlie rising of the new constellation ! 

It is now certain that what has hitherto been the 
light of the human race begins to pale its ineffectual 
fire, and that the ancient beacons are flickering out. 

From the beginning of human tradition men of 
force alone have glittered in the empyrean of his 
tory ; theirs was the sole supremacy. Under the 
various names of king, emperor, chief, captain, prince 
epitomized in the word ' hero ' this apocalyptic 
group shone resplendent. Terror raised acclamations 
to salute them, dripping with the blood of victories. 
They were followed by a train of tumultuous flames ; 
their dishevelled light gleamed portentous upon the 
children of men. If they lit the sky, it was with 
flames. They seemed to wish to extend their sway 
over the Infinite. Amid their glory was heard the 
crash of ruin. That red glare was it the purple ? 
was it blood ? was it shame ? Their light suggested 
the face of Cain. They hated one another. They 
exchanged flashing bolts. At times these vast stars 
crashed together amid volleys of lightning. Their 
look was furious. Their radiance stretched into 
sword- blades. All this hung terrible above us. 

Such is the tragic glare that fills the past ; to-day 
it is rapidly waning. 

There is decline in war, decline in despotism, decline 
in theocracy, decline in slavery, decline in the scaffold. 

TRUE HISTORY 301 

The s word- blade grows shorter, tlie tiara is fading away, 
the crown is vulgarized, war is coming to seem but 
madness, the plume is abased, usurpation is circmn- 
scribed, shackles are growing lighter, the rack is out 
of joint. The antique violence of the few against all, 
called right divine, is nearing its end. Legitimate 
sovereignty by the grace of God, the Pharamond 
monarchy, nations branded on the shoulder with the 
fleur-de-lys, the possession of nations by the fact of 
birth, rights over the living acquired through a long 
line of dead ancestors, these things still maintain 
the struggle for existence here and there, as at Naples, 
in Prussia, etc, ; but it is a struggle, not a battle, 
it is death straining after life. A stammering, which 
to-morrow will be speech, and the day after to-morrow 
a gospel, proceeds from the bruised lips of the serf, 
of the vassal, of the labouring- man, of the pariah. 
The gag is breaking between the teeth of the human 
race. The patient human race has had enough of 
the path of sorrow, and refuses to go farther. 

Already certain kinds of despots are no longer 
possible. The Pharaoh is a mummy, the Sultan is 
a phantom, the Ceesar is a counterfeit. This stylite 
of the Trajan columns is anchylosed upon its pedestal ; 
its head is covered with the excrement of the free 
eagles ; it is nonentity rather than glory ; this laurel 
garland is bound on with grave-clothes. 

The period of the men of violence is past. They 
have been glorious, certainly, but with a glory that 
melts away. That species of great men is soluble 
in progress. Civilization rapidly oxidizes these bronzes. 
The French Revolution has already brought the 
universal conscience to such a degree of maturity 
that the hero can no longer be a hero without render 
ing account ; the captain is discussed, the conqueror 
is inadmissible. A Louis XIV invading the Palatinate 
would, in our day, be regarded as a robber. Already 
in the last century these truths began to dawn. Fred 
erick II in the presence of Voltaire felt and owned 

302 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

himself something of a brigand. To be, materially, 
a great man, to be pompously violent, to reign by 
virtue of the sword-knot and the cockade, to forge a 
legal system upon the anvil of force, to hammer out 
justice and truth by dint of accomplished facts, to 
possess a genius for brutality this is to bejgreat, 
if you will, but it is a coarse way of being great. Glory 
advertised by drum-beats is met with a shrug of the 
shoulder. These sonorous heroes have, up to the 
present day, deafened human reason, which begins 
to be fatigued by this majestic uproar. Reason 
stops eyes and ears before those authorized butcheries 
called battles. The sublime cut-throats have had 
their day. Henceforth they can remain illustrious 
and august only in a certain relative oblivion. Human 
ity, grown older, asks to be relieved of them. The 
cannon's prey has begun to think, and, thinking 
twice, loses its admiration for being made a target. 

A few figures, in passing, would do no harm. 

Our subject includes all tragedy. The tragedy 
of the poets is not the only one ; there is the tragedy 
of the politicians and the statesmen. Would you 
know how much the latter tragedy costs ? 

Heroes have an enemy named finance. For a 
long time the amount of money paid for that kind 
of glory was unknown. In order to disguise the total, 
there were convenient little fireplaces, like that in 
which Louis XIV burned the accounts of Versailles. 
That day the smoke of one thousand millions of francs 
issued from the royal stove-pipe. The nations did 
not so much as look. Nowadays the nations have 
one great virtue, they are stingy. They know 
that prodigality is the mother of humiliation. They 
keep score, they understand double-entry book 
keeping. Henceforth there is a debit and credit 
account with Warlike Glory, which is thus rendered 
impossible. 

The greatest warrior of modern times is not Na 
poleon, it is Pitt. Napoleon waged war ; Pitt created 

TRUE HISTORY 303 

war. It IB Pitt who willed all the ware of the Revolu 
tion and of the empire. He is their fountain-head. 
Replace Pitt by Fox, and that outrageous battle of 
twenty-three years would be deprived of its motive- 
power ; there would be no coalition. Pitt was the soul 
of the coalition ; and, he dead, his soul still animated 
the universal war. Here is what Pitt cost England 
and the world ; we add this bas-relief to his pedestal : 

First, the expenditure of men. From 1791 to 
1814, France, constrained and forced, wrestling alone 
against Europe confederated by England, expended 
in slaughter for military glory and also, let us add, 
for the defence of her territory five millions of men ; 
that is, six hundred men per day. Europe, including 
France, expended sixteen millions six hundred thousand 
men ; that is, two thousand men destroyed daily for a 
period of twenty- three years. 

Secondly, the expenditure of money. Unfortu 
nately, we have no authentic account, except the 
account of England. From 1791 to 1814, England, 
in order to get France crushed by Europe, incurred 
a debt of twenty milliards three hundred and sixteen 
millions four hundred and sixty thousand and fifty- 
three francs. Divide this sum by the number of men 
killed, at the rate of two thousand per day for twenty - 
three years, and you arrive at the result that each 
corpse stretched on the field of battle cost England 
alone fifty pounds sterling. 

Add the figures for all Europe numbers unknown, 
but enormous. 

With these seventeen millions of men the European 
population of Australia might have been formed. 
With the eight hundred millions of English pounds 
sterKng shot from the cannon's mouth, the face of the 
earth might have been changed, civilization planted 
everywhere, and ignorance and poverty suppressed 
throughout the world. 

England pays eight hundred millions sterling for 
the two statues of Pitt and of Wellington. 

304 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

It is fine to have heroes, but it is a costly luxury. 
Poets are less expensive. 

CHAPTER II 

THE discharge of the warrior is signed. His splendour 
is fading in the distance. Nimrod the Great, Cyrus 
the Great, Sennacherib the Great, Sesostris the Great, 
Alexander the Great, Pyrrhus the Great, Hannibal 
the Great, Frederick the Great, Caesar the Great, 
Timour the Great, Louis the Great, still other Greats, 
all this greatness is passing away. 

To think that we indiscriminately reject these men 
would be a mistake. Five or six of those just named 
have in our eyes a legitimate title to glory ; they 
have even mingled some good with their havoc ; a 
final estimate of them is embarrassing to the thinker 
of absolute equity, who is forced to weigh in almost 
equal scale the harmful and the useful. 

Others have been nothing but harmful. These 
are numerous, innumerable even ; for the masters of 
the world are legion. 

The thinker is the weigher ; clemency is his dis 
tinction. Let us then admit that those who have 
done only evil may plead one extenuating circumstance 
imbecility. 

They have still another excuse the mental con 
dition of the race at the time of their advent ; the 
modifiable but obstructive realities of their environ 
ment. 

Not men, but things, are tyrants. The true tyrants 
are the frontier, the beaten track, routine, the blindness 
of fanaticism, deafness and dumbness caused by 
diversity of language, dispute caused by diversity 
of weights and measures and coin, hate born of dis 
pute, war born of hate. All these tyrants have a 
single name Separation. Division, whence issues 
the Reign, is the despot in the abstract state. 

Even the tyrants of flesh are mere things. Caligula 

TRUE HISTORY 305 

is much more a fact than a man, a result rather than a 
living being. The Roman proscriber, dictator, or 
caesar, prohibits fire and water to the vanquished, 
that is, deprives them of life. One day of Gelon 
represents twenty thousand prescripts ; one day of 
Tiberius, thirty thousand ; one day of Sulla, seventy 
thousand. Vitellius, being ill one evening, sees a 
house lighted up for a merry-making. * Do they 
think me dead ? ' says Vitellius. It is Junius Vlesus 
supping with Tuscus Caecina. The Emperor sends 
a cup of poison to these drinkers, that, by the fatal 
conclusion of too merry a night, they may feel that 
Vitellius still lives l . Otho and this Vitellius make 
friendly exchanges of assassins. Under the Ceesars, 
to die in one's bed is a marvel. Piso, to whom this 
happened, is remarked for this eccentricity. Balerius 
Asiaticus has a garden that pleases the Emperor ; 
Statilius a face that displeases the Empress : treason ! 
Valerius is strangled for having a garden, and Statilius 
for having a face. Basil II, Emperor of the East, 
captures fifteen thousand Bulgarians ; he divides 
them into bands of a hundred each, and puts out 
the eyes of all save one in each band. This one leads 
his ninety-nine blind comrades home to Vulgaria. 
History characterizes Basil II as follows : * He loved 
glory too much * (Delandine). Paul of Russia utters 
this axiom : * No man possesses power except whom 
the Emperor addresses, and his power continues only 
so long as the word he hears.' Philip V of Spain, so 
ferociously calm at the auto-da fe, is stricken with 
fright at the thought of changing his shirt, and lies 
in bed six months at a time without washing and 
without trimming his nails, for fear of being poisoned 
by the scissors, or by the water is his basin, or by his 
shirt, or by his shoes. Ivan, grandfather of Paul, 
puts a woman to the rack before admitting her to 
his bed ; hangs a bride and sets the bridegroom on 

1 ' Reddenham pro intempeativa licentia moestam et 
funebrem noctem qua sentiat vivere Vitellium et imperare. ' 

X 

306 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

guard to keep the rope from being cut ; has the father 
executed by the son ; invents a method of sawing 
men in two with a cord ; burns Bariatinsky by a 
slow fire, and, deaf to his victim's shrieks, adjusts the 
firebrands with the end of his stick. Peter aspires 
to excel as an executioner; he practises the art of 
decapitation. At first he can cut off but a trifle of 
five heads a day ; by strict application, however, he 
becomes expert enough to cut off twenty-five. What 
an accomplishment for a Czar, to be able to tear out 
a woman's breast with a stroke of the knout ! What 
are all these monsters ? Symptoms, angry pustules, 
pus issuing from an unhealthy body. They are 
hardly more responsible than the sum of a column 
is responsible for the figures. Basil, Ivan, Philip, 
Paul, and the rest, are the product of the vast environ 
ing stupidity. The Greek clergy having, for example, 
this maxim, ' Who could make us judges of those who 
are our masters ? ' it follows as a matter of course 
that a Czar, this same Ivan, should sew an archbishop 
in a bearskin and have him eaten by dogs. It is 
right that the Czar amuse himself. Under Nero, 
the man whose brother has been put to death goes to 
the temple to give thanks to the gods ; under Ivan, 
an impaled boyard employs his death-agony of twenty- 
four hours in repeating : ' O Lord, protect the Czar ! ' 
The Princess Sanguzko comes weeping and upon her 
knees to present a petition to Nicholas ; she begs 
mercy for her husband, she implores the master to 
spire Sanguzko a Pole guilty of loving Poland 
the terrible journey to Siberia. Nicholas mutely 
listens, takes the petition, and writes at the bottom 
the words, ' On foot.' Then Nicholas goes into the 
street, and the people throw themselves on the ground 
to kiss his boot. What can you say ? Nicholas is 
mad, his people imbruted. From the khan comes 
the knez, from the knez the tzar, from the tzar the 
czar, a series of phenomena rather than a lineage of 
men. What is more logical than that after this Ivan 

TRUE HISTORY 307 

should come this Peter, after Peter, Nicholas, after 
Nicholas, Alexander ? You all desire it more or less. 
The tortured consent to the rack. You have your 
selves made * this Czar, half putrefied, half frozen ', 
as says Madame de Stael. To be a nation, to be a 
force, and to witness these things, is to approve them. 
To be present is to assent. He who assists at the 
crime assists the crime. The presence of the inert 
is an encouraging sign of abjection. 

Let it be added that, even before the commission 
of the crime, some pre-existing corruption has given 
rise to the complicity ; some foul fermentation of 
original baseness engenders the oppressor. 

The wolf is the fact of the forest. He is the wild 
fruit of the defenceless solitude. Group and combine 
silence, darkness, ease of conquest, monstrous infatua 
tion, abundance of prey, security in murder, the 
connivance of all present, weakness, want of weapons, 
abandonment, isolation, from the point of intersection 
of all these things springs the ferocious beast. A 
gloomy region, where no cries for succour can he heard, 
produces the tiger. A tiger is blindness armed and 
hungry. Is it a creature ? Hardly. The beast's 
claw is no more conscious than the thorn of the plant. 
The fatal condition of things brings forth the uncon 
scious organism. In point of personality, and apart 
from the power of killing for a living, the tiger does 
not exist. If Muravieff thinks himself some one, he 
is mistaken. 

Bad men spring from bad things ; hence, let ua 
correct the things. 

And here we return to our starting-point : the ex 
tenuating circumstance of despotism is idiocy. 

We have just pleaded this extenuating circum 
stance. 

The idiotic despots, a legion, are the mob of the 
purple ; but beyond and above them, at the immeasur 
able distances separating that which shines from that 
which stagnates, are the despots of genius. 

308 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Among them are captains, conquerors, strong 
men of war, civilizers by force, ploughmen of the 
sword. 

These we have just now recalled. The really 
great among them are Cyrus, Sesostris, Alexander, 
Hannibal, Caesar, Charlemagne, Napoleon ; and, 
with the restrictions mentioned, we admire them. 

But we admire them on condition of their disappear 
ance. 

Make room for better, greater men ! 

Are these greater, these better men anything new ? 
No. Their line is as ancient as the other, more 
ancient, perhaps, for the thought must have preceded 
the deed, and the thinker goes before the fighter ; 
but their place was taken, taken by violence. This 
usurpation is about to cease ; the thinker's hour has 
struck at last, his predominance becomes evident. 
Civilization, returning to its truer vision, recognizes 
him as its sole founder ; the brightness of his line 
outshines the rest ; the future, like the past, belongs 
to him ; and his line it is that God will henceforward 
establish. 

CHAPTER III 

IT is evident that history must be re-written. Up 
to the present time it has nearly always been written 
from the petty standpoint of fact ; it is time to write 
it from the standpoint of principle. And this under 
penalty of becoming null and void. 

Royal deeds, warlike uproar, coronations, the 
marriage, baptism, and mourning of princes, execu 
tions and festivals, the splendour of one crushing 
all, the insolence of regal birth, the prowess of sword 
and axe, great empires, heavy taxes, the tricks which 
chance plays chance, the world swayed by the haps 
of the first best head, provided it be a crowned 
head ; the destiny of a century changed by a lance 
thrust by a giddy fellow against the skull of an imbe 
cile ; Louis XIV's majestic fistula in ano ; the grave 

TRUE HISTORY 309 

words of the dying Emperor Matthias to his physician, 
who was groping under his coverlet to feel his pulse 
for the last time : * Erras, amice, hoc est membrum 
nostrum imperiale sacrocscsareum '; Cardinal Richelieu, 
in the disguise of a shepherd, performing a Castanet 
dance before the Queen of France in the little villa of 
the Rue de Gaillon ; Hildebrand completed by Cisne- 
ros ; the little dogs of Henri III ; the various Potem 
kins of Catherine II, here Orloff, there Godoy, etc. ; 
a great tragedy with a paltry intrigue, such, down 
to our own day, was history, oscillating between throne 
and altar, giving one ear to Dangeau, the other to 
Dom Calmet, sanctimonious rather than severe, not 
comprehending the real transitions from age to age, 
incapable of distinguishing the turning-points of 
civilization, exhibiting the human race as climbing 
up by ladders of stupid dates, learned in puerilitea 
while ignorant of law, of justice, and of truth, a 
history modelled rather upon Le Ragois than upon 
Tacitus. 

So true is this that Tacitus has, in our time, been 
made the object of an official requisition. 

We are not to be weary of repeating the fact that 
Tacitus is, like Juvenal, Suetonius and Lampridius, 
the object of special and well-earned hatred. The 
day when the professors of rhetoric in the colleges 
place Juvenal above Virgil, and Tacitus above Bos- 
suet, will be the morrow of humanity's day of deliver 
ance. Before this happens, all forms of oppression 
shall have disappeared, from the slave-dealer to the 
Pharisee, from the cabin where the slave weeps, to 
the chapel where the eunuch sings. Cardinal du 
Perron, who received for Henri IV the strokes of 
the Pope's staff, was kind enough to say : ' I despise 
Tacitus. ' 

Down to the present time, history has been a courtier. 

The double identification of the king with the 
nation and with God, is the work of this courtly 
history. The Grace of God begets the Right Divine. 

310 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Louis XIV declares : ' I am the state.' Madame 
du Barry, a plagiarist of Louis XIV, gives to Louis XV 
the name of France ; and the pompously haughty 
saying of the great Asiatic King of Versailles ends 
with the words : ' France, thy coffee is going to the 
devil ! ' 

Bossuet wrote without winking, although palli 
ating the facts here and there, the frightful legend of 
the crime-laden thrones of antiquity ; and, applying 
to the surface of things his vague theocratic declama 
tion, he satisfies himself with this formula : ' God 
holds in his hand the heart of kings.' Such is not 
the case, for two reasons, God has no hand, and 
kings have no heart. But of course we are speaking 
of the kings of Assyria only. 

This elder History is a good old dame to princes. 
When a Royal Highness says, * History, do not look 
this way ', she shuts her eyes. With the face of a 
harlot, she has imperturbably denied the dreadful 
skull -crushing helmet with its inner spike, intended 
by the Archduke of Austria for the Swiss magistrate 
Gundoldingen. This instrument is to-day hanging 
upon a nail in the town-hall of Lucerne, any one can 
see it for himself ; but History denies it still. Moreri 
calls the massacre of Saint Bartholomew ' a distur 
bance.' Chaudon, another biographer, thus charac 
terizes the author of the witticism for Louis XV cited 
above : ' A lady of the court, Madame du Barry '. 
History accepts as an attack of apoplexy the mattress 
under which John II of England smothers the Duke of 
Gloucester at Calais *. Why, in his coffin at the 
Escurial, is the head of the Infante Don Carlos severed 
from the trunk ? The father, Philip II, replies : 
* Because, the Infante having died a natural death, the 
coffin when made was found too short, and the head 
had to be cut off.' History blandly accepts this 
coffin story. But that the father should have had 

1 So in the original. Richard II is probably meant. Tn. 

TRUE HISTORY 3-H 

his son beheaded out upon it ! Only demagogues 
would say such things. 

The ingenuousness with which History glorifies 
the fact, whatever and however impious it be, appears 
nowhere better than in Cantemir and Karamsin 
the one the Turkish, the other the Russian historian. 
The Ottoman fact and the Muscovite fact evince, 
when confronted and compared, the Tartar identity. 
Moscow is no less darkly Asiatic than Stamboul. Ivan 
bears sway over the one as Mustapha over the other. 
Between this Christianity and this Mahometanism 
the distinction is imperceptible. The pope is brother 
to the ulema, the boyard to the pasha, the knout 
to the cord, and the moujik to the mute. To the 
passers in the streets there is little to choose between 
Selim who transfixes them with arrows, and Basil 
who lets bears loose upon them. Cantemir, a man 
of the South, a former Moldavian hospodar and long 
a Turkish subject, feels, although he has passed over 
to the Russians, that in deifying despotism he does 
not displease the Czar Peter ; and he prostrates his 
metaphors before the sultans. This grovelling is 
Oriental, and somewhat Occidental too. The sultans 
are divine, their scimitar is sacred, their dagger sub 
lime, their exterminations magnanimous, their parri 
cides good. They call themselves clement, as the 
Furies call themselves Eumenides. The blood they shed 
smokes with an odour of incense in Cantemir, and the 
prolonged assassination which constitutes their reign 
expands into an aureole. They massacre the peo 
ple for the people's good. When some padisha, I 
forget which Tiger IV or Tiger VI strangles his 
nineteen young brothers one after another, as they 
run terrified about the room, the historian of Turkish 
birth declares that ' this was a wise execution of the 
law of the empire '. The Russian historian Karamsin 
is no less tender to the czar than Cantemir to the 
sultan. Nevertheless it must be admitted that, com 
pared with Cantemir, Karamsin's fervour is lukewarm. 

312 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Thus Peter is glorified by Karamsin for killing his 
brother Alexis ; but the tone is apologetic. This 
is not the pure and simple acceptance of Cantemir, 
who is more natural in the kneeling posture. The 
Russian historian only admires ; the Turkish historian 
adores. In Karamsin there is no fire, no dash ; his 
^enthusiasm is sluggish, his deifications want unction, 
his good-will is congealed, his caresses are numb ; 
his flattery is not first-rate. The climate evidently 
counts for something Karamsin is a half-frozen 
Cantemir. 

Such is the history dominant to this day ; it passes 
from Bossuet to Karamsin by way of the Abbe Pluche. 
This history is based upon the principle of obedience. 
Obedience to whom ? To Success. Heroes are well 
treated, but kings are preferred. To reign is to be 
successful every morning. To-morrow belongs to the 
king. He is solvent. It is foreseen that a hero may 
turn out ill ; in that case he is only a usurper. Before 
this history, genius itself, were it the highest expres- 
tion of force served by intelligence, is held to continual 
success : if it trips, ridicule ; if it falls, insult. After 
Marengo, you are the hero of Europe, the man of Provi 
dence, anointed of the Lord ; after Austerlitz, Napo 
leon the Great ; after Waterloo, the Corsican ogre. 
It was an ogre that the Pope anointed. 

Nevertheless, in consideration of the services ren 
dered, impartial Father Loriquet dubs you marquis. 

The man of our time who has best swept this aston 
ishing scale, from the hero of Europe to the ogre of 
'Corsica, is Fontanes, the man chosen during so many 
years to cultivate, develop, and direct the moral sense 
of youth. 

This history keeps alive the notions of legitimacy, 
divine right, denial of universal suffrage ; it regards 
the throne as a fief, and nations as entailed estates. 
The hangman figures in it largely, Joseph de Maistre 
identifies him, delightfully enough, with the king. 
This kind of history is called in England * loyal '. 

TRUE HISTORY 313 

The English aristocracy, which is subject to these 
happy inspirations, has bethought itself to give to a 
political opinion the name of a virtue, Iiutrumentum 
regni. In England, to be a royalist is to be loyal; 
a democrat is disloyal, a variety of the dishonest 
man. This man believes in the people ? For shame ! 
He would like universal suffrage, he is a Chart 
ist ; are you sure of his honesty ? There goes a 
republican : beware of pickpockets ! This method 
is ingenious. Society in general is cleverer than 
Voltaire ; the English aristocracy is shrewder than 
Macchiavelli. 

The king pays, the people do not pay : such is 
pretty much the whole secret of this species of history. 
It also has its sale of indulgences. 

Honour and profit are divided : the master gets 
the honour, the historian the profit. Procopius is 
a prefect, and, what is more, Illustrious by decree, 
a fact which in no wise debars him from being a traitor ; 
Bossuet is a bishop ; Fleury is prelate-prior of Argen- 
teuil ; Karamsin is a senator ; Cantemir is a prince. 
Best of all is to be paid successively by For and by 
Against, and, like Fontanes, to be made a senator 
for idolatry, and a peer of France for spitting upon 
the idol. 

What is going on at the Louvre ? at the Vatican ? 
in the Seraglio ? at Buen Retiro ? at Windsor ? at 
Schonbrunn ? at Potsdam ? at the Kremlin ? at 
Oranienbaum ? That s the question. The human 
race is interested in nothing outside of these half- 
score of houses, of which history is the door-keeper. 

Nothing that relates to war, to the warrior, to 
the prince, to the throne, to the court, is trifling. 
He who lacks a talent for solemn puerility cannot 
be a historian. A question of etiquette, a hunt, a 
gala, a grand levee, a retinue, Maximilian's triumph, 
the number of carriages bearing ladies to the King's 
camp before Mans, the necessity of having vices 
in conformity with his Majesty's foibles, the clocks 

314 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

of Charles V, the locks of Louis XVI ; how Louis 
XV announced himself to be a good king by refus 
ing a broth before his coronation ; and how the 
Prince of Wales sits in the House of Lords not as 
Prince of Wales but as Duke of Cornwall ; and how 
drunken Augustus made Prince Lubormirsky, Starost 
of Kasimiroff, under-cupbearer to the Crown ; and how 
Charles of Spain gave the command of the army of 
Catalonia to Pimentel, because the Pimentels had been 
lords of Benavente since 1308 ; and how Frederick 
of Brandenburg granted a fief of forty thousand crowns 
to a huntsman who had enabled him to kill a fine 
stag ; and how Louis Antoine, Grand Master of the 
Teutonic Order and Prince Palatine, died at Liege of 
disappointment at not having been able to get him 
self elected bishop ; and how the Princess Borghese, 
dowager of Mirandola, and related to the Pope, married 
the Prince of Cellamare, son of the Duke of Gioven- 
azzo ; and how my Lord Seaton, a Montgomery, 
followed James II to France ; and how the Emperor 
ordered the Duke of Mantua, a vassal of the Empire, 
to drive the Marquis Amorati from his court ; and 
how there came to be always two Cardinals Barberini 
living, etc. all that is important business. A snub- 
nose is made historic. Two little meadows adjacent 
to the ancient Mark and to the Duchy of Zell are 
memorable for having almost caused a war between 
England and Prussia. In fact, the skill of the govern 
ing and the apathy of the obeying classes have so 
arranged and confused affairs that all these regal 
nothings take their places in human destiny, and war 
and peace, the movement of armies and fleets, the 
recoil or the advance of civilization, depend upon 
Queen Anne's cup of tea or the Dey of Algiers' fly- 
flap. 

History stands behind the royal seat, registering 
these fooleries. 

Knowing so many things, it is quite natural that 
it should be ignorant of some. Should you be so 

TRUE HISTORY 315 

curious as to ask it the name of tho English merchant 
who first, in 1612, entered China from the north ; of 
the glass-workman who first, in 1CG3, cstal Dished a 
manufactory of crystal glass ; of the citizen who, 
under Charles VIII, carried in the States-General at 
Tours the fruitful principle of the elective magistracy 
a principle subsequently adroitly suppressed ; of the 
pilot who, in 1405, discovered the Canary Isles ; of 
the Byzantine lute-maker who, in the eighth century,, 
by the invention of the organ, gave to music its most 
sonorous voice ; of the Campanian mason who origin 
ated the clock by placing the first sun-dial upon the- 
temple of Quirinus at Rome ; of the Roman toll- 
collector who, by the construction of the Appian Way 
in the year 312 B. c., invented the paving of towns ; 
of the Egyptian carpenter who conceived the dove 
tail one of the keys of architecture, found under 
the obelisk of Luxor ; of the Chaldaean goat-herd who, 
by the observation of the signs of the zodiac, founded 
astronomy and gave a starting-point to Anaximenes ; 
of the Corinthian calker who, nine years before the 
first Olympiad, calculated the force of the triple- 
lever, conceived the trireme, and built a towboat two- 
thousand six hundred years before the first steamboat ; 
of the Macedonian ploughman who discovered the first 
gold-mine on Mount Pangaeus these names history 
cannot give you ; these people are unknown to history. 

Who are these ? A ploughman, a calker, a goat 
herd, a carpenter, a toll-gatherer, a mason, a lute- 
maker, a sailor, a burgher, and a merchant. The 
dignity of history must be preserved. 

In Nuremberg, near the Aegidienplatz, in a room 
on the second floor of a house facing the church of St. 
Aegidius, there lies upon an iron tripod a wooden globe 
twenty inches in diameter, covered with a dingy vellum 
streaked with lines which were once red and yellow 
and green. Upon this globe is a sketch of the earth's 
divisions as they could be conceived in the fifteenth 
century. At the twenty-fourth degree of latitude. 

316 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

under the sign of Cancer, there is vaguely indicated a 
kind of island called ' Antilia ', which attracted, one 
day, the attention of two men. The one who had 
made the globe and drawn Antilia, showed this island 
to the other, laid his finger upon it, and said, * There 
it is.' The man looking on was Christopher Co 
lumbus ; the man who said, * There it is ', was Martin 
Behaim. Antilia was America. Of Fernando Cortez, 
who ravaged America, history speaks ; but not of 
Martin Behaim, who guessed its existence. 

If a man has ' cut to pieces ' his fellow-men, if 
he has * put them to the edge of the sword ', if he 
has ' made them bite the dust ', -horrible phrases, 
which have grown hideously familiar, whatever 
this man's name may be, you will find it in history. 
Search there for the name of him who invented the 
compass, you will not find it ! 

In 1747, in the full tide of the eighteenth century, 
under the very eyes of the philosophers, the battles 
of Raucoux and of Laffeld, the siege of the Sas van 
Ghent, and the taking of Bergen-op-Zoom, overshadow 
and hide the sublime discovery of electricity, which 
is to-day effecting the transformation of the world. 

Voltaire himself at about that time is distractedly 
celebrating who knows what exploit of Trajan (read, 
Louis XV). 

From this history is evolved a kind of public stupid 
ity. This history is almost everywhere superposed 
upon education. If you doubt this, see, among 
others, the publications of Perisse Brothers, designed, 
eays a parenthesis, for primary schools. 

It makes us laugh if a prince assumes the name 
of an animal. We ridicule the Emperor of China 
for having himself styled ' His Majesty the Dragon ', 
and we ourselves complacently talk of * Monseigneur 
the Dauphin.' 

History is domestic ; the historian is a mere master- 
of-ceremonies to the centuries. In the model court of 
Louis the Great there are four historians, as there are 

TRUE HISTORY 317 

four bedchamber violinists. Lulli leads the latter, 
Boileau the former. 

In this old-fashioned history the only style autho 
rized down to 1789, and classic in the complete sense 
of the word the best narrators, even the honest ones, 
of whom there are a few, even those who think them 
selves free, remain mechanically subordinate, make 
a patchwork of traditions, yield to the force of habit, 
receive the countersign in the antechamber, go with 
the crowd in accepting the stupid divinity of the coarse 
personages of the foreground, kings, ' potentates ', 
* pontiffs ', soldiers, and, though devoutly believing 
themselves historians, end by wearing the livery of 
historiographers, and are lackeys without knowing it. 

This history is taught, imposed, commanded, and 
recommended ; all young minds are more or less 
imbued with it. The mark remains ; their thought 
suffers from it, recovering only with difficulty ; school 
boys are compelled to learn it by heart, and I, who am 
speaking, was, as a child, its victim. 

This history contains everything except history, 
displays of princes, of ' monarchs ', and of captains. 
Of the people, the laws, the manners, very little ; of 
letters, arts, sciences, philosophy, the trend of univesral 
thought, in one word, of man, nothing. Civili 
zation is made to date by reigns, not by progress. 
Some king forms a stage. The true relays, the relays 
of great men, are nowhere indicated. It is explained 
how Francis II succeeds Henri II, how Charles IX 
succeeds Francis II, and Henri III Charles IX ; but 
no one teaches how Watt succeeds Papin, and how 
Fulton succeeds Watt. Behind the heavy upholstery 
of hereditary monarchy the mysterious dynasty of 
genius is scarcely glimpsed. The smoky torch upon 
the opaque facade of royal accessions hides the starry 
light streaming down upon the centuries from the 
creators of civilization. Not a single one of this series 
of historians points to the divine lineage of human 
miracles, that applied logic of Providence ; not one 

318 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

exhibits the manner in which progress gives birth to 
progress. It would be shameful not to know that 
Philip IV comes after Philip III, and Charles II after 
Philip IV ; but that Descartes continues Bacon and 
that Kant continues Descartes, that Las Casas con 
tinues Columbus, that Washington continues Las 
Casas and that John Brown continues and rectifies 
Washington, that John Huss continues Pelagius, that 
Luther continues John Huss and that Voltaire con 
tinues Luther, it is almost a scandal to be aware of 
these things. 

CHAPTER IV 

IT is time to change all this. It is time that men of 
action should step back, and that men of thought 
should take the lead. The summit is the head. Where 
thought is, there power exists. It is time that the 
genius take precedence of the hero. It is time to 
render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to 
the book the things that belong to the book. Such a 
poem, such a drama, such a novel, is doing more ser 
vice than all the courts of Europe put together. It 
is time that history should proportion itself to reality, 
that it should give every influence its ascertained 
value, that it should cease to thrust regal masks upon 
epochs made in the image of poets and of philosophers. 
To whom belongs the eighteenth century, to Louis 
XV, or to Voltaire ? Compare Versailles and Ferney, 
and consider from which of the two sources civiliza 
tion flows. 

A century is a formula ; an epoch is an expressed 
thought. One such thought expressed, Civilization 
passes to another. The centuries are the phrases 
of Civilization ; what she says here she does not repeat 
there. But these mysterious phrases are linked to 
gether ; logic the logos is within them, and their 
series constitutes progress. In all these phrases, 

TRUE HISTORY 319 

expressions of a single thought, the divine thought, 
we are slowly deciphering the word Fraternity. 

All light is at some point condensed into a flame ; 
likewise every epoch is condensed in a man. The 
man dead, the epoch is concluded. God turns over 
the leaf. Dante dead, a period is placed at the end 
of the thirteenth century ; John Huss may come. 
Shakespeare dead, a period is placed at the end of the 
sixteenth century. After this poet, who contains 
and epitomizes all philosophy, may come the philoso 
phers, Pascal, Descartes, Molidre, Le Sage, Montes 
quieu, Rousseau, Diderot, Beaumarchais. Voltaire 
dead, a period is placed at the end of the eighteenth 
century. The French Revolution, that winding-up 
of the first social form of Christianity, may come. 

Each of these various periods, which we call epochs, 
has its dominant note. What is this dominant, a 
head wearing a crown, or a head bearing a thought ? 
Is it an aristocracy, or an idea ? Make your own answer. 
Consider where the power lies. Weigh Francis I against 
Gargantua ; put the whole of chivalry into the balance 
with Don Quixote. 

Each one to his own place, therefore. About 
face ! And now consider the centuries as they are. 
In the first rank, mind ; in the second, third, twen 
tieth, soldiers and princes. Down with the warrior ; 
the thinker retakes possession of the pedestal. Pull 
down Alexander, and set up Aristotle. Strange that 
to this day people should have read the Iliad in such 
a manner as to overshadow Homer by Achilles ! 

It is time, I repeat, to change all this. The initiative, 
indeed, is taken. Noble minds are already at work ; 
the future history is approaching ; some superb 
partial rehandlings exist as specimens ; a general 
recasting is about to take place. Ad usum populi. 
Compulsory education requires true history ; true 
history is begun, and will be made. 

The old medals will be re-minted : that which 
was the reverse will become the face ; that which 

320 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

was the head will become the tail ; Urban VIII will 
be the reverse of Galileo. 

The true profile of humanity will reappear upon the 
various prints of civilization offered by the succession 
of the centuries. 

The historical effigy will no longer be the man king, 
it will be the man people. 

No one shall reproach us with failing to insist 
that real and veracious history, while pointing to 
the real sources of civilization, will not underesti 
mate the appreciable utility of the sceptre-holders 
and sword-racks at certain moments and in pres 
ence of certain human conditions. Wrestling-matches 
require some equality between the two combatants ; 
barbarity must sometimes be pitted against barbarism. 
There are cases of violent progress. Caesar is good in 
Cimmeria, and Alexander in Asia. But to Alexander 
and to Caesar the second rank suffices. 

The veracious history, the true history, the de 
finitive history, charged henceforward with the edu 
cation of that royal child, the people, will reject all 
fiction, will be wanting in complaisance, will logically 
classify phenomena, will unravel hidden causes, will 
study, philosophically and scientifically, the successive 
disorders of humanity, and will take less account of 
great sabre-strokes than of great strokes of thought. 
The deeds of the light will form the van ; Pytha 
goras will be a greater event than Sesostris. We said 
just now that heroes, crepuscular men, are relatively 
bright in the darkness ; but what is a conqueror beside a 
sage ? what is the invasion of kingdoms compared 
with the opening of the mind ? The winners of 
minds overshadow the winners of provinces. The 
true conqueror is the man who does the thinking 
for others. In the coming history, the slave ^Esop 
and the slave Plautus will take precedence of kings ; 
such a vagabond will outweigh such a victor, such an 
actor will outweigh such an emperor. To make what 
we are saying obvious by examples, it is certainly 

TRUE HISTORY 321 

useful that a man of power should have marked the 
period of stagnation between the crumbling of the 
Latin world and the outgrowth of the Gothic world ; 
it is useful that another man of power, following the 
first, the shrewd after the bold, should have outlined, 
in the form of a catholic empire, the future universal 
group of nations and the wholesome encroachments of 
Europe upon Africa, Asia, and America. But it 
is still more useful to have made the Divina Commedia 
and Hamlet ; no wicked deed is mingled with these 
master- works ; here the account of the civilizer bears 
no debit charge of nations crushed ; and the enlarge 
ment of the human mind being taken as a result, 
Dante counts for more than Charlemagne, Shakespeare 
for more than Charles the Fifth. 

In history, as it is to be made upon the pattern 
of absolute truth, that commonplace intelligence, 
that unconscious and vulgar being, the * Non pluribus 
impar ', the sultan-sun of Marly, becomes merely the 
almost mechanical fabricator of the shelter required 
by the thinker who wore the theatrical mask, of the 
environment of ideas and of men requisite for the philo 
sophy of Alceste. Louis XIV is bed-maker to Moliere. 

These reversals of role will exhibit characters in 
their true light ; the new historical optics will map 
out the still chaotic sky of civilization ; perspective, 
that geometrical justice, will take possession of the 
past, placing this in the foreground, that in the back 
ground ; every man will resume his real stature ; 
tiaras, crowns, and other head-dresses will serve 
simply to render dwarfs ridiculous ; stupid prostra 
tions will disappear. From such readjustments will 
stream forth the right. 

That great judge, We All, having henceforth as 
a standard a clear conception of that which is ab 
solute and of that which is relative, the deductions 
and restitutions will take place of themselves. The 
innate moral sense of man will find its bearings. It 
will no longer be forced to ask itself questions like 

322 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

this : Why do people revere in Louis XV, and in the 
rest of the royalty, the act for which they are at the 
same moment burning DeschaufTours in the Place de 
Greve ? The authority of the king will no longer 
impose a false moral weight. The facts, well-balanced, 
will balance conscience well. A good light will arise, 
mild to the sons of men, serene, equitable. Hence 
forward there is to be no interposition of clouds between 
the truth and the brain of man. Definitive ascension 
of the good, the just, the beautiful, to the zenith of 
civilization. 

Nothing can escape the law of simplification. By 
the sheer force of things, the material side of events and 
of men scales off and vanishes. There is no such 
thing as solidity of darkness. Whatever the mass 
or the block, every compound of ashes and matter is 
nothing else returns to ashes. The idea of the grain 
of dust is embodied in the very word ' granite '. 
Pulverization is inevitable. All those granites, oli 
garchy, aristocracy, theocracy, are the promised prey 
of the four winds. The ideal alone is indestructible. 

Nothing is abiding but mind. 

In this indefinite inundation of light called civili 
zation, phenomena of levelling and of setting up 
are taking place. The imperious dawn penetrates 
everywhere, enters as master, and enforces obedi 
ence. The light is working ; under the great eye 
of posterity, before the light of the nineteenth century, 
a simplification is going on, the fungus is collapsing, 
glory falls like the leaf, great names are divided up. 
Take Moses, for example. In Moses there are three 
glories, the captain, the lawgiver, the poet. Of 
these three men contained in Moses, where is the 
captain to-day ? In the dark, with the brigands and 
assassins. Where is the lawgiver ? Buried under 
the rubbish of dead religions. Where is the poet ? 
By the side of ^Eschylus. 

The day has an irresistible corrosive power upon 
the things of night. Hence a new historic sky over 

TRUE HISTORY 323 

>'ir 1 loads. Hence a new philosophy of cause and effect. 
Hence a new aspect of facts. 

Some minds, however, whose honest and austere 
solicitude is not displeasing, object : * You have said 
that men of genius form a dynasty ; we are as un 
willing to submit to this dynasty as to any other '. 
This is to misunderstand, to be frightened k by a word 
when the thought is reassuring. The very law which 
requires that mankind should have no owners, 
requires that it should have guides. To be enlight 
ened is the reverse of being subjected. Between 
' Homo sum ' and * I am the state ' is the whole space 
between fraternity and tyranny. The march forward 
requires a directing hand ; to rebel against the pilot 
scarcely advances the ship ; one does not see what 
would be gained by throwing Columbus overboard. 
The word, ' This way ', never humiliated the man who 
was seeking the road. At night, I accept the authority 
of the torches. Furthermore, there is little that is 
oppressive in the dynasty of genius, whose kingdom 
is Dante's exile, whose palace is Cervantes' donjon, 
whose budget is Isaiah's wallet, whose throne is 
Job's dunghill, whose sceptre is Homer's staff. 

Let us resume. 

CHAPTER V 

MANKIND no longer owned, but guided : such is the 
new aspect of things. 

Henceforward history is bound to reproduce this 
new aspect of things. It is a strange thing to alter 
the past ; but that is what history is about to under 
take. By lying ? No ; by telling the truth. History 
has been only a picture ; it is about to become a mirror. 

This new reflection of the past will modify the future. 

The former King of Westphalia, a man of wit, 
was one day examining an inkstand upon the table 
of some one we know. The writer at whose house 

324 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Jerome Bonaparte was at that moment, had brought 
back from a trip to the Alps, made in company with 
Charles Nodier some years before, a bit of steatitic 
serpentine, carved and hollowed into an inkstand, 
which he had purchased of a chamois-hunter of the 
Mer-de-Glace. Jerome Bonaparte was looking at 
this. ' What is it ? ' he asked. ' My inkstand ', 
replied the writer. Then he added : * It is steatite. 
Admire Nature, who makes this charming green stone 
out of a little dirt and oxide.' ' I admire much more 
the men,' responded Jerome Bonaparte, ' who make an 
ink-stand out of this stone.' 

For a brother of Napoleon, this was not a bad 
reply ; and he should be credited with it, for the 
inkstand is to destroy the sword. 

The diminution of the men of war, of violence, of 
prey ; the indefinite and superb expansion of the 
men of thought and of peace ; the entrance of the 
real giants upon the scene of action : this is one of the 
greatest facts of our great era. 

There is no more sublime and pathetic spectacle, 
mankind's deliverance from above, the potentates 
put to flight by the dreamers, the prophet crushing 
the hero, the sweeping away of violence by thought, 
the heaven cleansed, a majestic expulsion ! 

Lift up your eyes, the supreme drama is enacting ! 
The legions of light are in full pursuit of the hordes 
of flame. 

The masters are going out, the liberators are coming 
in. 

The hunters of men, the trailers of armies, Nimrod, 
Sennacherib, Cyrus, Rameses, Xerxes, Cambyses, 
Attila, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Alexander, Csesar, 
Bonaparte, all these vast, ferocious men are vanishing. 

Slowly they flicker out ; now they touch the horizon ; 
mysteriously the darkness attracts them ; they have 
kinship with the shades, hence their fatal descent ; 
their resemblance to the other phenomena of night 
draws them on to this dreadful union with blind 

TRUE HISTORY 3.'5 

immensity submersion of all light. Oblivion, that 
shadow of darkness, awaits them. 

They are hurled down, but they remain formid 
able. Insult not what has been great. Hootings 
would be misbecoming at the burial of heroes ; the 
thinker should remain grave in presence of this en 
shrouding. The old glory abdicates ; the strong 
are lying down. Clemency to these vanquished 
conquerors ! Peace to these fallen warriors ! The 
shades of the grave interpose between their light 
and ours. Not without a kind of pious terror can 
one behold stars changing to spectres. 

While smitten with the fatal wanness of approach 
ing doom, the flamboyant pleiad of the men of violence 
descends the steep slope to the gulf of devouring time ; 
lo ! at the other extremity of space, where the last 
cloud has but now faded, in the deep sky of the future, 
azure for evermore, rises, resplendent, the sacred 
galaxy of the true stars, Orpheus, Hermes, Job, 
Homer, ^Eschylus, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hippocrates, 
Phidias, Socrates, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, Archi 
medes, Euclid, Pythagoras, Lucretius, Plautus, Juvenal, 
Tacitus, Saint Paul, John of Patmos, Tertullian, 
Pelagius, Dante, Gutenberg, Joan of Arc, Christopher 
Columbus, Luther, Michael Angelo, Copernicus, Galileo, 
Rabelais, Calderon, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Rem 
brandt, Kepler, Milton, Moliere, Newton, Descartes, 
Kant, Piranesi, Beccaria, Diderot, Voltaire, Beet 
hoven, Fulton, Montgolfier, Washington ; and the 
marvellous constellation, brighter from moment to 
moment, radiant as a tiara of celestial diamonds, 
shines in tin* dear horizon, and, as it rises, blends 
with the boundless dawn of Jesus Christ. 

THE END 

INDEX 

characterized, 
35-37 ; a grand ruin, 64, 
65 ; not understood by 
commonplace minds, 95 ; 
vast and terrible nature of 
his drama, 95-97 ; repre 
sentation of a play de 
scribed, 98-102 ; a target 
for hate during life, 103 ; 
glory after death, 104, 
105 ; how his works were 
added to the Alexandrian 
library, 106-108; con 
sulted by Fathers of the 
Church, 1 08 ; destroyed 
by Omar, 109-111; Christ 
prophesied in the Prome 
theus, 107 ; the lost dra 
mas, 111-113; Oriental 
character and style, 114, 
115 ; a Pythagorean, 115 ; 
epitaph, 116; his geo 
graphy, 116, 117 ; his fau 
na, 118 ; a priest of Na 
ture, 118 ; his bold famili 
arity, 118, 119 ; his com 
edy, 121 ; a favourite in 
the Greek colonies, 126, 
127 ; may copies of his 
works be discovered ? 1 28; 
sources of our knowledge 
of him, 130, 131 ; affinity 
with Shakespeare, 131 ; 
Prometheus compared 
with Hamlet, 176-178 ; 
^5schylus contrasted with 
Shakespeare, 220, 221 ; 
his opinion of art for art's 
sake, 246 ; not degraded 
by his partisanship, 263. 
Agrippina, mother of Nero, 
47. 

Alexandrian library, its si/e, 
106 ; possessed the unique 
copy of yEschylus, 106- 
108 ; destroyed by Omar, 
108-110. 

Anaxagoras, his cosmo 
graphy, 83. 

Aristophanes, his opinion of 
^schylus, 104 ; his affi 
nity with JSschylus, 119- 
121 ; his antique, sacred 
immodesty, 120 ; his an 
tipathy for Socrates, 121. 

Art, and Nature, 27 ; rela 
tion of God to human art, 
27 ; unity of art and na 
ture, 77-78 ; non-perfecti 
bility the law of art, 79- 
81 ; art contrasted with 
science, 81-90; enjoys a 
laugh, 122; art not de 
graded by descending to 
humanity, 244, 245 ; no 
loss of beauty from good 
ness, 249 ; origin of the 
phrase, ' Art for art's 
sake,' 250. (See Poetry.) 

BAYLE of Rotterdam, his 
profound irony, 257. 

Beethoven, the typical man 
of Germany, 68, 71. 

Behaim, Martin, and Colum 
bus, 316. 

Bible, the, poetry of, 247 ; 
not less poetical for taking 
part in human affairs, 248 ; 
contrasted with Shake 
speare, 276, 277. 

Bonaparte, Jerome, anec 
dote of, 324. 

Books, the best civilizers,75- 

T\T>KX 

327 

77; their immortality due 

to Gutenberg, 129-130; 

Ezekiel's allegory of, L'.'i I . 
P.I i--uft. his opinion of Mo- 

Here, 195 ; his history, 

310. 
Bourgeois let. (See Philistines.) 

CALCRAFT, the hangman, 
more renewed in England 
than Shakespeare, Us I. 

Caligula, the emperor, char 
acterized, 45, 46. 

Calumny against men of 
genius, 195-197. 

Cantemir, historian of Tur 
key, 311, :U -2. 

Carthage, like England, ex 
cept that she had no poet, 
272. 

Cervantes, characterized, 59- 
62 ; La Harpe on come 
dies, 195. 

Chrysippus of Tarsus, erro 
neous beliefs of, 87, 88. 

Civilization, not yet at its 
goal of beneficence and 
fraternity, 254-257. 

Classic school of letters (ecole 
classique), eschews imagi 
nation, 159-164; charac 
terized, 224; outgr..\\n. 
235-237 ; its view of ih, 
poet's service, 260, 201. 

Claudius, the emperor, char- 
acterized, 46. 

Columbus and Behaim, anec 
dote of, 316. 

Cordelia, characterized, 189, 
191-193. 

Corneille, and the Marquise 
de Contades, 80-81 ; anec 
dote of his statue at 
Rouen, 285, 286. 

DANTE, characterized, 63- 
55 ; quoted, 153 ; re-cre 
ated himself in his poem, 
176 ; Chaudon's opinion 

<>f. 195 , his work greater 
than that of Charlemagne, 
811. 

Danton, a successor of Vol- 
tiiii-f, 290. 

Death, the end of all to the 
great captain, 265-268 ; 
the beginning of life to the 
thinker, 269, 270. 

Desdemona and Ophelia, 
sisters, 164 ; Desdemona 
characterized, 188, 189. 

KUZABETH, QUEEN, her 
want of regard for Shake 
speare, 22 ; characterized, 
276 ; typical of England, 
ib. 

England, her debt to Shake 
speare, 270, 271 ; selfish 
ness, 271, 272 ; compared 
to Carthage and Sparta, 
272 ; made superior to 
them by Shakespeare, ib. ; 
her statue of Shakespeare, 
273 ; her statues of kings, 
generals, and statesmen, 
273, 274; her generous 
press, 274 ; her flunkey- 
ism, 275 ; tardiness in ren 
dering justice to Shake 
speare, 275-276 ; her pru- 
dishness, 277-279 ; dog 
ged coldness toward S hake- 
speare, 278 ; tone of some 
English critics of Shake 
speare, 280, 281. 

Epic poetry, Oriental, 65- 
67 ; Spanish and German, 
66. 

Ezekiel, characterized,37-40 

FALSTAFF.characterized, 155. 

F6nelon, his opinion of M. >- 
Here, 195. 

Freedom, essential to hu 
manity. 232-234. 

GENIUS, extravagance and 
monstrouaness, 71-73 ; its 
divine mission, 139-143; 

328 

INDEX 

subject to calumny, 194- 
197 ; its unshackled na 
ture, 203, 204 ; attitude 
of Philistinism toward, 
204-208 ; to be accepted 
like nature, 215-217 ; hu 
manity of true genius, 248, 
249 ; death a liberation of, 
268-270. 

Germany, characterized, and 
her art described, 68-71. 

God, meaning of word, 27 ; 
His creative force unex 
hausted, 143-145 ; use of 
His name prohibited upon 
the English stage, 279. 
(See Jesus.) 

Goethe, his indifference to 
good and evil, 258 ; Hugo 
unjust to him, 258 (note). 

Good taste, an incubus upon 
art, 71 ; sobriety, bash- 
fulness, and weakness of 
the French ecole classique, 
159-164. 

Greece, cause of her immor 
tality, 123 ; how the dra 
ma was fostered in her 
colonies, 123-128. 
Greene, Robert, attack upon 
Shakespeare, 148 (arid 
note). 

Gutenberg, a redeemer, 129, 
130. 

HAMLET, contrasted with 
Prometheus, 176-178 ; 
characterized, 1 80- 186; 
greatness of, 321. 

History, the false, with 
many exemplifications, 
308-318; the true,318-323. 

Homer, characterized, 31- 
33 ; his Olympians far 
from impossible, 259. 

Hugo, Francois Victor, tran 
slator of Shakespeare, Pre 
face ; the unmuzzlef of 
Shakespeare, 164. 

Hugo, Victor, exile at Mar- 
ine Terrace, 1-4; anec 
dote of youth, 91 ; his ig 
norance of English litera 
ture, 151 (note) ; his en 
thusiastic admiration for 
works of genius, 217 ; un- 
just to Goethe, 258 (note). 

IAGO, characterized, 188-189. 
Imagination, abhorred by 

the ecole classique, 1 59- 162. 
Inspiration, nature of poet's, 

27-30. 
Isaiah, characterized, 36, 

37. 

JESUS, use of the name in 
' Hernani ' prohibited, 280 
(note) ; dawn of his era of 
peace, 325. 

Joan of Arc, her greatness, 
282 ; like Shakespeare, 
without a monument, ib. ; 
like him, sneered at by 
Voltaire, 282, 283. 

Job, characterized, 33, 36. 

John, the apostle, character 
ized, 48-50. 

Johnson, Dr. Samuel, opin 
ion of Shakespeare, 147, 
149. 

Jonson, Ben, relation to 
Shakespeare, 22 ; remark 
on Shakespeare's conver 
sation, 195. 

Juvenal, characterized, 43, 
44 ; a great justiciary, 
251-252. 

KARAMSIN, historian of Rus 
sia, 311, 312. 

LEAR, characterized, 189- 

193. 

Literature. (See Poetry.) 
Locomotion, improvements 

in, H4. 
London, in Shakespeare's 

time, 8, 9, 

INDEX 

Lucre! ni--. rluuart'-n/' 'I. 
tu \',l ; liis view <>f n-li- 
-n.ii.!H:lilwrHtrd thought 
from superstition, '2M. 

MACBETH, characterized, 186 
-188. 

Macchiavelli, his real mean 
ing, 237, 238. 

Malone, critic and white- 
washer of Shakespeare, 26. 

Man, Ilia goal not that of the 
brute, 234-235 ; his pro 
gress must be through in 
tellectual advancement, 
238, 240. 

Marine Terrace, 1, 4. 

Military science, improve 
ments in, 82. s:{. 

Milton, the Abbe Trublet 
on, 196, accused of ven 
ality, 197. 

Mind, compared to ocean, 
4, 6. 

Mirabeau, his opinion of 
JSschylus, 95. 

Mob. (See People.) 

Moliere, disapproved of by 
Fenelonand Bossuet, 195 ; 
Louis XIV. his bed-maker, 
321. 

Monument to a great man, 
value of, 285. (Sec Sta 
tues.) 

Muses, the, dangerous com 
panions for the * sober ' 
I "!. 163. 

Music, the, highest e\| r 
sion of the German spirit 
found in, 70-71. 

NAPOLEON BONAPARTE, an- 
ecdotes of, 200, 223 ; his 
view of the end of all, 
265, 266 ; compared with 
I'm. 302 ; his treatment by 
historians, 312. 

Nero, the emperor charac 
terized. lf>. 

Nineteenth century, the 
< liild of the French Revo 
lution, 289, 293. 

. compared with mind 
4,5. 

Omar, destroys the Alexan 
drian library and JSschy- 
In-. 108, 111. 

Ophelia and Desdetnona, 
sisters, 154. 

Oriental literature, 66, 67. 

Orthodoxy, literary in 
France, characterized, 159 
-164, 223, 224. (See So 
briety) ; outgrown, 235, 
236 ; its view of the poet's 
service, 260. 

in. a real poet, 254. 

Othello, characterized, 188, 
189. 

PAUL the apostle, character 
ized, 60, 53. 

People (the masses), their 
Behaviour at the theatre, 
2 (9, 240 ; their need, the 
ideal, 241 ; their servants, 
the thinkers, 242 ; to 
them minds must be use 
ful, 243, 244 ; complicity 
in their own oppression, 
281, 282. 

Philistines (lea bourgeois), 
their attitude toward 
works of poetic genius, 
204, 208. 

Pitt, William, his cost to 
England, 302-303. 

Poet, the, his relation to the 
superhuman, 27-30 ; his 
dangers and obstacles, 31 ; 
reality of his creations, 
152, 153 ; a philosopher 
and an historian, 152- 
157; the well-bred poet; 
of the classic school, 163 ; 

330 

INDEX 

the poet's method of crea 
tion. 171 ; his function to 
produce types of human 
character, 170, 171, 173- 
176 ; his brusque ways, 
208-210 ; his hospitality 
and tenderness, 211-212; 
panders to the mob, 225- 
228 ; an instructor of the 
people, 230 ; his high 
duty, 234-235 ; his hu 
manity, 347-348 ; a civil- 
izer, 251 ; need of vigil - 
lance, 255-257 ; of enthu 
siasm for useful work, 259, 
260 ; capable of wrath, 
259 ; sufferings of, 266, 
268. (See Poetry ; Gen 
ius ; Thinker.) 

Poetry, its ennobling and hu 
manizing influences, 74- 
77 ; its potential life, 90 ; 
its absolute and definitive 
nature, 91-94; its two 
ears, 123 ; sovereign hor 
ror of great poetry, 152, 
153 ; for the benefit of the 
people, 224-228 , not for 
the lettered alone, 235, 
236 ; utility the true test 
of, 243, 252 ; goodness in 
volves no loss of beauty, 
249 ; poetry feared by op 
pressors, 252 ; honoured 
in Middle Ages, 253; in 
Scotland, 254; dignified 
by its co-operation in the 
work of civilization, 261- 
263. 

Printing, its value illustrated 
by the destruction of the 
works of ^Eschylus and 
others, 129, 131. 

Prometheus, contrasted with 
Hamlet, 176-178 ; char 
acterized, 178-180 ; the 
grandsire of Mab and Ti- 
tania, 218, 219. 

Ptolemy Evergetes, adds 

to the Alexan 
drian library, 105-108. 

Puritanism, its voluntary 
deafness, 277 ; its sensi 
tiveness to Shakespeare's 
alleged impurity, 276- 
280 ; its criticism of Shake 
speare, 280, 281. 

Pythagoras, erroneous be 
liefs of, 86 ; greater than 
Sesostris, 320. 

RABELAIS, characterized, 55, 
59. 

Racine, his relation to Louis 
XIV, 260 ; contrasted 
with Voltaire, ib. 

Revolution, the French, the 
mother of the nineteenth 
century, 289, 290 ; charac 
terized, 290 ; romanticism 
and socialism sprung from 
'93, 291-294. 

Romanticism, called ' liter 
ary '93', 291-294. 

Rousseau, Jean Jacques, per 
secuted during life, 201 ; 
desecration of his grave, 
202. 

SALMASIUS, his opinion of 
yEschylus, 195. 

Scaliger, Joseph, anecdote 
of, 84. 

Science, the mission of, 29 ; 
its tentative, perfectible 
nature contrasted with the 
absolute nature of art, 81- 
90 ; erroneous science of 
antiquity, 85, 88. 

Service, greatness to be 
gained in, 248. 

Shakespeare, William, birth 
place, 5 ; coat of arms, 5 
(and note) ; spelling of 
name, 6 (and note) ; a 
butcher, 6 ; frolics of 
youth, 6-8 ; marriage, 7 ; 
appearance and manners, 

INDEX 

331 

12; dates of plays, 13-1 H; 
composition and publi 
cation of plays, 16-19; 
death of Hamnet and of 
John Shakespeare, 18 ; 
inhibition of plays, 19 ; 
Quiney's letter, ib. ; New 
Place, 20 ; the Davenant 
story, ib. ; daughters, 20 ; 
he returns to Stratford, ib.; 
the will and signatures, ib.; 
death, 21 ; life embittered 
16. ; his great popularity, 
23 (note) ; ' eclipse * of 
his fame at the Restora 
tion and in the eighteenth 
century, 23, 24 ; revisions 
of his plays, 25-26 ; his 
genius characterized, 62, 
64; compared with Lucre 
tius, 62 ; with Dante, 63 ; 
with Homer, 64 ; affinity 
with ^Eschylus, 132 ; dis"- 
paraging criticisms upon 
him, 147-152 ; his tragic 
horror, 152-154 ; his phil 
osophy immanent in his 
imagination, 154159; 
his psychological insight, 
156; his antithesis the an 
tithesis of creation, 168- 
159 ; his freedom from 
4 sobriety', 164-168 ; his 
simplicity, 166-167 ; his 
virility, 167-168 ; his agi 
tation, 168-169 ; com 
pared with ^Eschylus by 
Prometheus and Hamlet, 
176, 177 ; double action 
in his dramas, 213-215 ; 
contrasted with ^Eschylus, 
220 ; his independence 
and originality, 221-223 ; 
panders to the mob, 224, 
227 ; he is the chief glory 
of England, 270; con 
trasted with Cromwell, 
Bacon, Newton, ib. ; too 
English, 272 ; indecency 

of no greater thnnthatof 
the Bible, 276-278; less 
renowned in England than 
Calcraft, the hangman, 
281 ; superfluity of a monu 
ment to In in", 283-286; 
his centennial annivers 
aries, 286-288 ; his work 
greater than that of 
Charles V, 320, 321. 

Shylock, 174. 

Sobriety in poetry, its emas 
culating effect, 159-164 ; 
not found in Shakespeare, 
164-169. (See Orthodoxy.) 

Socialism, the true, 231,232 ; 
aims at freedom, 232, 234. 

Socrates, his scepticism, 120, 
121. 

Sophocles, his opinion of 
^Eschylus, 195. 

Soul, the, its genesis, 133, 
135 ; reality of its exist- 
tence, 138, 139. 

Sparta, city of law, 272 ; 
compared with England, 
ib. 

Stael, Madame de, on her 
exile, 199. 

Staffa, the bard's chair, 254. 

Stage. (See Theatre.) 

Statues (See Monument), 
England's statue of Shake 
speare, 273 ; her statues 
of kings, generals, and 
statesmen, 273, 276. 

Swinburne's 'Study of Shako 
speare,' 6 (note). 

TABLE-TIPPING, in the timr 
of Homer, 29 ; of Theodo- 
sius, 29; in 371 A.D., 85. 

Tacitus, characterized, 44- 
48 ; hateful to official in- 
structors, 309. 

Telescope, improvements in 
the, 82. 

Theatre, the English, in 
Shakespeare's time, 9-11 ; 

332 

INDEX 

that of Moliere, 11-12 ; in 
England tinder the Puri 
tans, 23 ; under the Stu 
art Restoration, 23, 24 ; 
that of Athens in the time 
of ^schylus, 98-102 ;' that 
of the nineteenth century 
independent of models, 
219-221 ; God's name pro 
hibited in English, 279. 

Thinker, his mission to-day, 
294, 296 ; his discourage 
ments, 296-297 ; his bene 
ficence and independence, 
297, 299 ; his place above 
the warrior and the mon 
arch, 308; ib., 318-325. 
(See Poet ; Genius.) 

Tiberius, the emperor, char 
acterized, 45. 

Types of character produced 
by the poets, 173-176. 

Tyrants, not to be trusted, 
255-257 ; acceptance of 
their oppression becomes 
complicity, 282 ; their 
blind cruelty, 304, 307. 

VOLTAIRE, reproached with 
kindness to young poets, 
10!J ; attacks upon Shake 
speare, 150-151 ; re 
proaches Shakespeare 
with antithesis, 194 ; IK 
himself reproached with 
it, ib. ; his remark upon 
Corneille and Shakespeare, 
195 ; writers paid to in 
sult him, 198, 199, 200 ; 
desecration of his grave, 
201-202 ; his advice to 
Louis XV, 238 ; com 
pared w T ith Macchiavelli, 
ib. ; Louis XV. calls him 
fool, 260 ; contrasted with 
Racine, ib. : typical of the 
French mind, 283 ; and 
Frederick the Great, 301 ; 
a civilizer, 318. 

Vondel, Joost, denounced by 
Buyter, 198. 

WAR, the decline of, 300-304. 
Writer. (See Poet; Thinker; 
Genius.)