Изображения страниц


titles to be heaved at us any more than French or Spanish? glossaries they are useful; but histories of England should be written in English. And it is pleasant to turn to a great book of history, like that of Bishop Stubbs; where, in spite of the temptations and often of the necessities of a specialist dealing with a technical subject, the text is not needlessly deformed with obsolete, grotesque, and foreign words.



To take sides,' like schoolboys, about races and tongues, is after all a very arbitrary and, in one sense, a narrow thing. A wide range of ethnology and philology shows us that these origins and primitive tongues were themselves the issue of others before them, and are only a phase in the long evolution of history and language. These Engles, and Saxons, and Jutes, these Norse and Welsh, had far distant seats, and far earlier modes of speech. They were no more Autochthones in the forests of Upper Germany than they were in Wessex and Caint. Their speech has been traced back to Aryan roots current in Asia. And there, by the latest glimmerings of ethnographic science, we lose all these Cymric, and British, and Teutonic tribes in some (not definable) affinity, in some (not ascertainable) district of Central Asia, with some (not recoverable) common tongue of their own. So that all this shouting of war cries about the White Horse, and Engles, and Jutes, turns out to mean simply that a very industrious school of antiquarians choose to direct their attention to one particular phase of a movement which is in perpetual flux; and which, in time, in place, and in speech, can be traced back to very distant embryos in the infinite night of conjecture.

It is rank treason to our country and to scientific history to write (Professor Freeman is not the author of this extravagance) that with the landing of Hengest English history begins.' The history of England is something more than the tribal records of the Engles. The history of England began with the first authentic story of organised communities of men living in this island: and that most certainly existed since Cæsar narrated his own compaigns in Britain. The history of England, or the history of France, is the consecutive record of the political communities of men dwelling in the lands now called England and France. Tribal annals are useful as materials, but they are not history; and Orderics are quite obsolete in the reign of Victoria. The really great problem for history is the assimilation of race and the co-operation of alien forces. And so, too, the note of true literature lies in a loyal submission to the traditions of our composite tongue, and respect for an instrument which is hallowed by the custom of so many masterpieces. Loyal respect for that glorious speech would teach us to be slow how we desecrate its familiar names with brand-new archaisms; so as to ruffle its easy flow with alien cacophonies and solecisms, and daub its familiar typography with hieroglyphic phonograms.

In passing from the literary iconoclasm of the Old-English ' school I would venture to add that no man is a more humble admirer than I am of the vast learning and the marvellous powers of research belonging to the author of the Norman Conquest. Nor can any man more deeply deplore the disaster which our literature has sustained in the premature loss of the author of A History of the English People: one who has shown yet higher historical imagination and more cultivated literary power, and whom it is impossible to mention without a pang of regret. Si qua fata aspera rumpas, Tu Marcellus eris.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

I pass to a few words about various names which under the influence of a most mistaken literalism are being wantonly transformed. Persons who are anxious to appear well informed seem almost ashamed to spell familiar names as their grandfathers did. What is the meaning of Vergil'? As every one knows, two of the best MSS. in the last lines of the fourth Georgic spell Vergilium; and accordingly some scholars think fit so to alter the poet's name. Be it so. But Vergil' is not Latin, any more than Homer' is Greek. Virgil is a familiar word, rooted deep in English literature and thought. To uproot it and the like of it, would be to turn the English language into a quagmire. We shall be asked next to write 'Omer. If all our familiar names are to be recast, as new manuscripts or autographs turn up, none of these venerable names will remain to We shall have to talk of the epic poets, Omeros and Durante. Again, if autographs are conclusive, we shall have to write of Marie, Quean of Scots, and Lady Jane Duddley; of the statesmen, Cecyll and Walsyngham; of Lord Nelson and Bronte,' of the great Marleborough, of the poet Noel-Byron, of Sir Kenelme Digby, Sir Philip Sidnei, and Arbella Seymaure; of Bloody Marye,' and Robert Duddley, Earl of Leycester. The next step will be to write about these personages in the contemporary style; and archaic orthography will pass from proper names to the entire text.


The objection to insisting on strict contemporary orthography is this: the family name is continually changing, and to write it in a dozen ways is to break the tradition of the family. If we call Burleigh Cecyll,' as he wrote it himself, we lose the tradition of the family of the Prime Minister. If we call the author of the Arcadia Sidnei, as he wrote it himself, we detach him from the Sidneys. The Percys, Howards, Harcourts, Douglas, Wyatts, Lindsays, and Montgomerys of our feudal history will appear as the Perses, Hawards, Harecourts, Dowglas, Wiats, Lyndesays, and Monggomberrys. Somebody will be editing Chevy Chase for us in the pure palæography; and will tell us how the 'Doughete dogglas' spoke to the 'lord perse;' and how there died in the fray, Wetharryngton, ser hewe the monggomberry, ser dauy lwdale, and ser churls a murre.

And then how the purists do drag us up and down with their


orthographic edicts! Just as the Old-English school is restoring the diphthong on every side, the classical reformers are purging it out like an unclean thing. We need not care much whether we write of Caesar or Cæsar.' But just as we have learned to write Caesar and Vergil's Aeneid, in place of our old friends, we are taught to write Bada and Alfred, for 'Bede' and 'Alfred.' The Old-English' school revel in diphthongs, even in the Latin names; your classical purist would expire if he were called upon to write 'Cæsar' or 'Pompey.' Ah! the delightful gossipy style of the last century about "Tully,' and Maro,' and 'Livy'! They knew quite as much about them at heart as we do to-day with all our Medicean manuscripts and oursic Cod. Vat.'

The way in which it all works into ordinary books is this. The compilers of dictionaries, catalogues, compendiums, vade-mecums, and the like,the writers of newspaper paragraphs and literary announcements, are not only a most industrious, but a most accurate and most alert, race of men. They are ever on the watch for the latest discovery and the last special work on every conceivable topic. It is not to be expected that they can go very deeply into each matter themselves; but the latest spelling, the last new commentary, or the newest literary fad,' is eminently the field of their peculiar work. To them, the man who has abolished the 'Battle of Hastings' as a popular error must know more about history than any man living; and so, the man who writes Shakspere has apparently the latest lights on the Elizabethan drama. Thus it comes that our ordinary style is rapidly infiltrated with Karls and Elfreds, and Senlacs, Qu'râns, and Shaksperes; till it becomes at last almost a kind of pedantry to object.

How foolish is the attempt to re-name Shakespeare himself by the aid of manuscripts! As every one knows, the name of Shakespeare may be found in contemporary documents in almost every possible form of the letters. Some of these are-Shakespeare, Schakespere, Schakespeire, Shakespeyre, Chacsper, Shakspere, Shakespere, Shakespeere, Shackspear, Shakeseper, Shackespeare, Saxspere, Shackspeere, Shaxeper, Shaxpere, Shaxper, Shaxpeer, Shaxspere, Shakspeare, Shakuspeare, Shakesper, Shaksper, Shackspere, Shakspyr, Shakspear, Shakspeyr, Shackspeare, Shaxkspere, Shackspeyr, Shaxpeare, Shakesphere, Sackesper, Shackspare, Shakspeere, Shaxpeare, Shakasper, Shaxpere, Shakspeyr, Shagspur, and Shaxberd. Here are forty of the contemporary modes of spelling his name. the facsimilists prepared to call the great poet of the world by whichever of these, as in a parish election, commands the majority of the written documents? So that, if we have at last to call our immortal bard, Chacsper, or Sharper, or Shagspur, we must accept it; and in the meantime leave his name as variable as ever his contemporaries did?

Now are

Shakespeare no doubt, like most persons in that age, wrote his

name in various ways; but the vast preponderance of evidence establishes that in the printed literature of his time his name was written-Shakespeare. In his first poems, Lucrece and Venus and Adonis, he placed Shakespeare on the title-page. So it stands on the folios of 1623 and 1632. So also it was spelled by his friends in their published works; by Ben Jonson, by Bancroft, Barnefield, Willobie, Freeman, Davies, Meres, and Weever. It is certain that his name was pronounced Shake-spear (i.e. as 'Shake' and 'Spear' were then pronounced) by his literary friends in London. This is shown by the punning lines of Ben Jonson, by those of Bancroft and others; by Greene's allusion to him as the only Shakescene; and, lastly, by the canting heraldry of the arms granted to his father in 1599:- In a field of gould upon a bend sables a speare of the first: with crest a ffalcon supporting a speare.'

It is very probable that this grant of arms, about which Dethick, the Garter-King, was blamed and had to defend himself, practically settled the pronunciation as well as the spelling. It is probable that hitherto the family name had not been so spelt or so pronounced in Warwickshire. It is possible that Shake-speare was almost a nickname, or a familiar stage-name; but, like Erasmus, Melanchthon, or Voltaire, he who bore it carried it so into literature. For some centuries downwards, the immense concurrence of writers, English and foreign, has so accepted the name. A great majority of the commentators have adopted the same form: Dyce, Collier, HalliwellPhillipps, Staunton, W. G. Clark. No one of the principal editors of the poet writes his name 'Shakspere.' But so Mr. Furnivall decrees

it shall be.

One would have thought so great a preponderance of literary practice need not be disturbed by one or two signatures in manuscript, even if they were perfectly distinct and quite uniform. Yet, such is the march of palæographic purism, that our great poet is in imminent danger of being translated into Shakspere and ultimately Shaxper. The Museum Catalogue devotes six volumes to the poet and his editors. All these thousands of works are entered under ‘Shakspere ;' though in about 95 per cent. of them the name is not so written. The editions of Dyce, Collier, Staunton, Halliwell-Phillipps, and Clark, which have Shakespeare on their title-pages, are lettered in the binding Shakspere. Nay, the facsimile of the folio of 1623, where we not only read Shakespeare on the title-page, but laudatory verses addressed to 'Shake-speare' (sic), is actually lettered in the binding (facsimile as it purports to be), Shakspere. We shall certainly end with 'Shaxper.'

The claim of the palæographists to re-name great men rests on a confusion of ideas. 'Shakespeare' is a word in the English language, just as Tragedy' is; and it is as vain to ask us, in the name of etymography, to turn that name into Shakspere, as it would be to

ask us, in the name of etymology, to turn 'Tragedy' into Goat-song. The point is not, how did the poet spell his name--that is an antiquarian, not a literary matter, any more than how Homer or Moses spelled their names. Homer and Moses, as we know, could not possibly spell their names: since alphabets were not in use. And, as in a thousand cases, the exact orthography is not possible, the matter which concerns the public is the form of a name which has obtained currency in literature. When once any name has obtained that currency in a fixed and settled literature, it is more than pedantry to disturb it: it is an outrage on our language. And it is a serious hindrance to popular education to be ever unsettling familiar names.

If we are to re-edit Shakespeare's name by strict revival of contemporary forms, we ought to alter the names of his plays as well. Mr. Freeman has discovered that Macbeth was Malbathe. The twentieth century will go to see Shaxper's Malbathe performed on the stage. And so they will have to go through the cycle of the immortal plays. Hamlet was variously written Hamblet, Amleth, Hamnet, Hamle, and Hamlett; and every 'revival' of Hamlet will be given in a new name. Leir's daughters were properly Gonorill, Ragan and Cordila. If Shakspere's' own orthography is decisive, we must talk about the Midsummer Night's Dreame, and TwelffeNight, Henry Fift, and Cleopater, for so he wrote the titles himself. Under the exasperating revivalism of the palæographic school all things are possible; and, in the next century, it will be the fashion. to say that the master-creations of Shaxper are undoubtedly Cordila, Hamblet, and Mælbæthe.' Goats and monkeys! can we bear this?

All this combative revivalisın rests upon the curious delusion of antiquarians, that bits of ancient things can be crammed into the living organism of modern civilisation. Any rational historical culture must be wisely subordinate to organic evolution; gross lumps of the past are not to be inserted into our ribs or thrust down our throats like a horse drench. A brick or two from our fathers' houses will not really testify how they built their homes; and exhuming the skeletons of their buried words may prove but a source of offence to the living. An actor who had undertaken the character of Othello once blacked himself all over the body, in order to enter more fully into the spirit of the part; but it is not recorded that he surpassed either Kean or Salvini. So, we are told that, in the Early-English Groves of Hampstead, there exists a company of enthusiastic Ann-ists, who meet in the dress of Addison and Pope, in boudoirs which Stella and Vanessa would recognise, and read copies of the old Spectator, reprinted in contemporary type.

In days when we are warned that the true feeling for high art is only to be acquired by the wearing of ruffles and velvet breeches, we shall soon be expected, when we go to a lecture on the early Britons, to stain our bodies all over with woad, in order to realise the sensations

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »