Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

earlier anonymous plays, which were included in the collection published, after this player's decease, as the plays of William Shakespeare, are, indeed, known to have been produced anonymously at other theatres, and by companies with which this actor had never any connection; but the poet's company and the player's were, as it seems, two different things; and that is a fact which the criticism and history of these plays, as it stands at present, already exhibits. Several of the plays which form the nucleus of the Shakespeare drama had already been brought out, before the Stratford actor was yet in a position to assume that relation to it which proved so advantageous to his fortunes. Such a nucleus of the Shakespeare drama there was already, when the name which this actor bore, with such orthographical variations as the purpose required, began to be assumed as the name and device of that new sovereignty of genius which was then first rising and kindling behind its cloud, and dimming and overflowing with its greater glory all the less, and gilding all it shone on. The machinery of these theatrical establishments offered, indeed, the most natural and effective, as well as, at that time, on other accounts, the most convenient mode of exhibition for that particular class of subjects which the genius of this particular poet naturally inclined him to meddle with. He had the most profoundly philosophical reasons for preferring that mode of exhibiting his poems, as will be seen hereafter.

And, when we have once learned to recognize the actor's true relations to the works which have given to his name its anomalous signifi. cance, we shall be prepared, perhaps, to accept, at last, this great offer of aid in our readings of these works, which has been lying here now two hundred and thirty years, unnoticed; then, and not till then, we shall be able to avail ourselves, at last, of the aid of those “friends of his,” to whom, two hundred and thirty years ago, “knowing that his wit could no more lie hid than it could be lost," the editors of the first printed collection of these works venture to refer us; "those other friends of his, whom, IF WE NEED, can be our guides ; and, IF WE NEED THEM NOT, we are able to lead ourselves and others, and such readers they wish him."

If we had accepted either of these two conditions-if we had found ourselves with those who need this offered guidance, or with those who need it not-if we had but gone far enough in our readings of these works to feel the want of that aid, from exterior sources, which is here proffered us—there would not have been presented to the world, at this hour, the spectacle-the stupendous spectacle—of a nation referring the origin of its drama-a drama more noble, and learned, and subtle than the Greek—to the invention—the accidental, unconscious invention-of a stupid, ignorant, illiterate, third-rate play-actor.

If we had, indeed, but applied to these works the commonest rules of

historical investigation and criticism, we might, ere this, have been led to enquire, on our own account, whether “ this player here," who brought them out, might not possibly, in an age like that, like the player in Hamlet, have had some friend, or “friends,” who could, “an' if they would,” or “an' if they might,” explain his miracles to us, and the secret of his “poor cell.”

If we bad accepted this suggestion, the true Shakespeare would not have been now to seek. In the circle of that patronage with which this player's fortunes brought him in contact, in that illustrious company of wits and poets, we need not have been at a loss to find the philosopher who writes, in his prose as well, and over his own name also,

“ In Nature's infinite book of secrecy,

A little I can read ”_

we should have found one, at least, furnished for that last and ripest proof of learning which the drama, in the unmiraculous order of the human development, must constitute ; that proof of it in which philosophy returns from history, from its noblest fields, and from her last analysis, with the secret and material of the creative synthesis—with the secret and material of art. With this direction, we should have been able to identify, ere this, the Philosopher who is only the Poet in disguise—the Philosopher who calls bimself the New Magician—the Poet who was toiling and plotting to fill the globe with his Arts, and to make our common, every-day human life poetical—who would have all our lise, and not a part of it, learned, artistic, beautiful, religious.

We should have found, ere this, ONE, with learning broad enough, and deep enough, and subtle enough, and comprehensive enough, one with nobility of aim and philosophic and poetic genius enough, to be able to claim his own, his own immortal progeny—undwarfed, unblinded, undeprived of one ray or dimple of that all-pervading reason that informs them; one who is able to reclaim them, even now, “cured and perfect in their limbs, and absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them.”

John William Draper.

BORN at St. Helen's, near Liverpool, England, 1811, Died at Hastings-on-Hudson, N. Y., 1882.

THE ORGANIZATION OF PUBLIC INTELLECT.

(History of the Intellectual Development of Europe. -Revised Edition. 1876.]

NATIONS, like individuals, are born, pass through a predestined

growth, and die. One comes to its end at an early period and in an untimely way; another, not until it has gained maturity. One is cut off by feebleness in its infancy, another is destroyed by civil disease, another commits political suicide, another lingers in old age. But for every one there is an orderly way of progress to its final term, whatever that term may be.

Now, when we look at the successive phases of individual life, what is it that we find to be their chief characteristic? Intellectual advancement. And we consider that maturity is reached when intellect is at its maximum. The earlier stages are preparatory ; they are wholly subordinate to this.

If the anatomist be asked how the human form advances to its highest perfection, he at once disregards all the inferior organs of which it is composed, and answers that it is through provisions in its nervous structure for intellectual improvement; that in succession it passes through stages analogous to those observed in other animals in the ascending scale, but in the end it leaves them far behind, reaching a point to which they never attain. The rise in organic development measures intellectual dignity.

In like manner, the physiologist, considering the vast series of animals now inhabiting the earth with us, ranks them in the order of their intelligence. He shows that their nervous mechanism unfolds itself upon the same plan as that of man, and that, as its advancement in this uniform and predetermined direction is greater, so is the position attained to higher

The geologist declares that these conclusions hold good in the history of the earth, and that there has been an orderly improvement in intellectual power of the beings that have inhabited it successively. It is manifested by their nervous systems. He affirms that the cycle of transformation through which every man must pass is a miniature representation of the progress of life on the planet. The intention in both cases is the same.

The sciences, therefore, join with history in affirming that the great aim of nature is intellectual improvement. They proclaim that the suc

[merged small][ocr errors]

cessive stages of every individual, from its earliest rudiment to maturity ---the numberless organic beings now living contemporaneously with us, and constituting the animal series—the orderly appearance of that grand succession which, in the slow lapse of time, has emerged-all these three great lines of the manifestation of life furnish not only evidences, but also proofs, of the dominion of law. In all the general principle is to differentiate instinct from automatism, and then to differentiate intelligence from instinct. In man himself the three distinct modes of life occur in an epochal order through childhood to the most perfect state. And this holding good for the individual, since it is physiologically impossible to separate him from the race, what bolds good for the one must also hold good for the other. Hence man is truly the archetype of society. His development is the model of social progress.

What, then, is the conclusion inculcated by these doctrines as regards the social progress of great communities? It is that all political institutions—imperceptibly or visibly, spontaneously or purposely-should tend to the improvement and organization of national intellect.

The expectation of life in a community, as in an individual, increases in proportion as the artificial condition or laws under which it is living agree with the natural tendency. Existence may be maintained under very adverse circumstances for a season ; but, for stability and duration, and prosperity, there must be a correspondence between the artificial conditions and the natural tendency.

Europe is now entering on its mature phase of life. Each of its nations will attempt its own intellectual organization, and will accomplish it more or less perfectly, as certainly as that bees build combs and fill them with honey. The excellence of the result will altogether turn on the suitability and perfection of the means.

There are historical illustrations which throw light upon the working of these principles. Thus, centuries ago, China entered on her Age of Reason, and instinctively commenced the operation of mental organization. What is it that has given to her her wonderful longevity? What is it that insures the well-being, the prosperity of a population of three hundred and sixty millions—more than one-fourth of the human race -on a surface not by any means as large as Europe? Not geographical position ; for, though the country may in former ages have been safe on the East by reason of the sea, it has been invaded and conquered from the West. Not a docility, want of spirit, or submissiveness of the people, for there have been bloody insurrections. The Chinese empire extends through twenty degrees of latitude; the mean annual temperature of its northern provinces differs from that of the southern by twenty-five Fahrenheit degrees. Hence, with a wonderful variety in its vegetation, there must be great differences in the types of men inhabiting it. But

the principle that lies at the basis of its political system has confronted successfully all these human varieties, and has outlived all revolutions.

The organization of the national intellect is that principle. A broad foundation is laid in universal education. It is intended that every Chinese sball know how to read and write. The special plan then adopted is that of competitive examinations. The way to public advancement is open to all. Merit, real or supposed, is the only passport to office. Its degree determines exclusively social rank. The government is organized on mental qualifications. The imperial constitution is imitated in those of the provinces. Once in three years public examinations are held in each district or county, with a view of ascertaining those who are fit for office. The bachelors, or those who are successful, are triennially sent for renewed examination in the provincial capital before two examiners deputed from the general board of public education. The licentiates thus sifted out now offer themselves for final examination before the imperial board at Pekin. Suitable candidates for vacant posts are thus selected. There is no one who is not liable to such an inquisition. When vacancies occur they are filled from the list of approved men, who are gradually elevated to the highest honors.

It is not because the talented, who, when disappointed, constitute in other countries the most dangerous of all classes, are here provided for, that stability of institutions has been attained, but because the political system approaches to an agreement with that physiological condition which guides all social development. The intention is to give a dominating control to intellect.

The method through which that result is aimed at is imperfect, and, consequently, an absolute coincidence between the system and the tendency is not attained, but the stability secured by their approximation is very striking. The method itself is the issue of political forms through which the nation for ages has been passing. Their insufficiency and imperfections are incorporated with and reappear in it.

To the practical eye of Europe a political system thus founded on a literary basis appears to be an absurdity. But we must look with respect on anything that one-fourth of mankind have concluded it best to do, especially since they have consistently adhered to their determination for several thousand years. Forgetting that herein they satisfy an instinct of humanity which every nation, if it lives long enough, must feel, Europe often asserts that it is the competitive system which has brought the Chinese to their present state, and made them a people without any sense of patriotism or honor, without any faith or vigor. These are the results, not of their system, but of old age. There are octogenarians among us as morose, selfish, and conceited as China.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »