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Of his "Characters of Shakespeare's Plays Mr Ireland, to whose brilliant anthology is mainly due the revival and survival of Hazlitt's fame, justly remarks that "although it professes to be dramatic criticism, it is in reality a discourse on the philosophy of life and human nature, more suggestive than many approved treatises expressly devoted to that subject." And not less justly Mr Ireland selects the best description of Hazlitt's intention and success from Jeffrey's article in the "Edinburgh Review." Supplementing Mr Ireland's quotation, we would give the whole of Jeffrey's two opening paragraphs as an admirable appreciation of this famous work. "This is not a book of blackletter learning, or historical elucidation;-neither is it a metaphysical dissertation, full of wise perplexities and elaborate reconcilements. It is, in truth, rather an encomium on Shakespeare than a commentary or critique on him-and is written, more to show extraordinary love than extraordinary knowledge of his productions. Nevertheless, it is a very pleasing book—and, we do not hesitate to say, a book of very considerable originality and genius. The author is not merely an admirer of our great dramatist, but an Idolater of him; and openly professes his idolatry. We have ourselves LOO great a leaning to the same superstition to blame him very much for his error: and though we think, of course, that our own admiration is, on the whole, more discriminating and judicious, there are not many points on which, especially after reading his eloquent exposition of them, we should be much inclined to disagree with him. The book, as we have already intimated, is written less to tell the reader what Mr H. knows about Shakespeare or his writings than to explain to them what he feels about them-and why he feels
so-and thinks that all who profess to love poetry should feel so likewise. What we chiefly look for in such a work, accordingly, is a fine sense of the beauties of the author, and an eloquent exposition of them; and all this, and more, we think, may be found in the volume before us. There is nothing. niggardly in Mr H.'s praises, and nothing affected in his raptures. He seems animated throughout with a full and hearty sympathy with the delight which his author should inspire, and pours himself gladly out in explanation of it, with a fluency and ardour obviously much more akin to enthusiasm than affectation. He seems pretty generally, indeed, in a state of happy intoxication-and has borrowed from his great original not indeed the force or brilliancy of his fancy, but something of its playfulness, and a large share of his apparent joyousness and self-indulgence in its exercise. It is evidently a great pleasure to him to be fully possessed with the beauties of his author, and to follow the impulse of his unrestrained eagerness to impress them upon his readers."
This appreciation of Jeffrey's needs little addition or qualification. If its expression is Georgian, its truth is sempiternal. Not the least valuable part of it is enshrined in its concluding words. For assuredly part of the secret of Hazlitt is his power as a teacher. He not only felt enthusiasm but he imparts it. No man's work better justifies the title of a labour of love. He wrote. with gusto-that was his own favourite expression; and we may truly say of him, borrowing and applying the noble words used by a distinguished metaphysician of last century towards a still greater philosopher, that no calculus can integrate the innumerable little impulses to literary understanding and enthusiasm that Hazlitt has made to vibrate
in the minds of succeeding generations. On one point Jeffrey is silent where he might justly have been critical. Had Hazlitt's reading been wider, he would not have described his work Shakespeare's plays as an attempt to rival Schlegel. He would rather have gloried to call himself the successor of the long line of eminent Shakespearean editors and commentators of our own eighteenth century.
J. H. L.
It is observed by Mr Pope, that
"If ever any author deserved the name of an original, it was Shakespear. Homer himself drew not his art so immediately from the fountains of nature; it proceeded through Ægyptian strainers and channels, and came to him not without some tincture of the learning, or some cast of the models, of those before him. The poetry of Shakespear was inspiration : indeed, he is not so much an imitator, as an instrument of nature; and it is not so just to say that he speaks from her, as that she speaks through him.
"His characters are so much nature herself, that it is a sort of injury to call them by so distant a name as copies of her. Those of other poets have a constant resemblance, which shews that they received them from one another, and were but multipliers of the same image: each picture, like a mock-rainbow, is but the reflection of a reflection. But every single character in Shakespear, is as much an individual, as those in life itself; it is as impossible to find any two alike; and such, as from their relation or affinity in any respect appear most to be twins, will, upon comparison, be found remarkably distinct. To this life and variety of character, we must add the wonderful preservation of it; which is such throughout his plays, that had all the speeches been printed without the very names of the persons, I believe one might have applied them with certainty to every speaker."
The object of the volume here offered to the public, is to illustrate these remarks in a more particular manner by a reference to each play. A gentleman of the name of Mason, the author of a Treatise on Ornamental Gardening, (not Mason the poet) began a work of a similar kind about forty years ago, but he only lived to finish a parallel between the characters of Macbeth and Richard III. which is an exceedingly