"Some that are proper find signify o'thing, And some another, and some that are nothing."
But perhaps he pronounced thing, ting? If he did, Herrick as surely did not, for he has
"Maides should say, or virgins sing, Herrick keeps, as holds, nothing,"
where the accent divides the word into its original elements, and where it is out of the question that he should lay the emphasis on a bit of broken English. As to the hs which Mr. White adduces in such names as Anthony and such words as authority, they have no bearing on the question, for those words are not English, and the h in them is perhaps only a trace of that tendency in t to soften itself before certain vowels and before r, as d also does, with a slight sound of theta, especially on the thick tongues of foreigners. Shakspeare makes Fluellen say athversary; and the Latin t was corrupted first to d and then to dth in Spanish. The h here has not so much meaning as the h which has crept into Bosporus, for that is only the common change of p to f, corresponding to v for b. So when Mr. White reads annotanize rather than anatomize, because the Folio has annothanize, we might point him to Minsheu's "Spanish Dictionary," where, in the earlier editions, we find anathomia. In lanthorn, another word adduced by Mr. White, the h is a vulgarism of spelling introduced to give meaning to a foreign word, the termination being supposed to be derived from the material (horn) of which lanterns were formerly made,—like Bully Ruffian for Bellerophon in our time, and Sir Piers Morgan for Primaguet three centuries ago. As for t'one and t'other, they should be 'tone and 'tother, being elisions for that one and that other, relics of the Anglo-Saxon declinable definite article, still used in Frisic.
We have been minute in criticizing this part of Mr. White's notes, because we think his investigations misdirected, the results at which he arrives mistaken, and because we hope to persuade him to keep a tighter rein on his philological zeal in future. Even could he show what the pronunciation of Shakspeare's day was, it is idle to encumber his edition with such disquisitions, for we shall not find Shakspeare clearer for not reading him in his and our mother-tongue. The field of philology is famous for its mare's-nests; and, if imaginary eggs are worth little, is it worth while brooding on imaginary chalk ones, nest-eggs of delusion?
Life is short and Shakspeare long. We believe the pronunciation of Shakspeare's day to have been so qualified with perfectly understood provincialisms as to have allowed puns and rhymes impossible now. It is not eighty years since you could tell the county[N] of every country member of Parliament by his speech. Speculations like Mr. White's would be better placed in a monograph by themselves. We have subjected his volumes to a laborious examination such as few books receive, because the text of Shakspeare is a matter of common and great concern, and they have borne the trial, except in these few impertinent particulars, admirably. Mr. Dyce and Mr. Singer are only dry commonplace-books of illustrative quotations; Mr. Collier has not wholly recovered from his "Corr. fo."-madness; Mr. Knight (with many eminent advantages as an editor) is too diffuse; and we repeat our honest persuasion, that Mr. White has thus far given us the best extant text, while the fulness of his notes gives his edition almost the value of a variorum. We shall look with great interest for his succeeding volumes.
[Footnote N: Mr. White is mistaken in thinking that to say "my country" for "my county" was a peculiarity of Shallow. It was common in the last century in England. He is wrong also in thinking that he was restoring a characteristic vulgarism in aleven. Gabriel Harvey uses it, and says there is no difference in sound between that and a leaven.]
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In the introductory part of this article, we said that it was doubtful if Shakspeare had any conscious moral intention in his writings. We meant only that he was purely and primarily poet. And while he was an English poet in a sense that is true of no other, his method was thoroughly Greek, yet with this remarkable difference,—that, while the Greek dramatists took purely national themes and gave them a universal interest by their mode of treatment, he took what may be called cosmopolitan traditions, legends of human nature, and nationalized them, by the infusion of his perfectly Anglican breadth of character and solidity of understanding. Wonderful as his imagination and fancy are, his perspicacity and artistic discretion are more so. This country tradesman's son, coming up to London, could set high-bred wits, like Beaumont, uncopiable lessons in drawing gentlemen such as are seen nowhere else but on the canvas of Titian; he could take Ulysses away from Homer and expand the shrewd and crafty islander into a statesman whose words are the pith of history. But what makes him yet more exceptional was his utterly unimpeachable judgment, and that poise of character which enabled him to be at once the greatest of poets and so unnoticeable a good citizen as to leave no incidents for biography. His material was never far-sought; (it is still disputed whether the fullest head of which we have record were cultivated beyond the range of grammar-school precedent!) but he used it with a poetic instinct which we cannot parallel, identified himself with it, yet remained always its born and question-less master. He finds the Clown and Fool upon the stage,—he makes them the tools of his pleasantry, his satire, and even his pathos; he finds a fading rustic superstition, and shapes out of it ideal Pucks, Titanias, and Ariels, in whose existence statesmen and scholars believe forever. Always poet, he subjects all to the ends of his art, and gives in Hamlet the churchyard-ghost, but with the cothurnus on,—the messenger of God's revenge against murder; always philosopher, he traces in Macbeth the metaphysics of apparitions, painting the shadowy Banquo only on the o'erwrought brain of the murderer, and staining the hand of his wife-accomplice (because she was the more refined and higher nature) with the disgustful blood-spot that is not there. We say he had no moral intention, for the reason, that, as artist, it was not his to deal with the realities, but only with the shows of things; yet, with a temperament so just, an insight so inevitable as his, it was impossible that the moral reality, which underlies the mirage of the poet's vision, should not always be suggested. His humor and satire are never of the destructive kind; what he does in that way is suggestive only,—not breaking bubbles with Thor's hammer, but puffing them away with the breath of a Clown, or shivering them with the light laugh of a genial cynic. Men go about to prove the existence of a God! Was it a bit of phosphorus, that brain whose creations are so real, that, mixing with them, we feel as if we ourselves were but fleeting magic-lantern shadows?
But higher even than the genius, we rate the character of this unique man, and the grand impersonality of what he wrote. What has he told us of himself? In our self-exploiting nineteenth century, with its melancholy liver-complaint, how serene and high he seems! If he had sorrows, he has made them the woof of everlasting consolation to his kind; and if, as poets are wont to whine, the outward world was cold to him, its biting air did but trace itself in loveliest frost-work of fancy on the many windows of that self-centred and cheerful soul.
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Annals of the American Episcopal Pulpit; or Commemorative Notices of Distinguished Clergymen of the Episcopal Church in the United States. From the Early Settlements of the Country to the Close of 1855, with an Historical Introduction. By Wm. B. Sprague, D.D. Being the Fifth Volume of the Annals of the American Pulpit. 8vo. $2.50. New York. Robert Carter & Brothers.
The New Testament. Translated from the Original Greek, with Chronological Arrangement of the Sacred Books, and Improved Divisions of Chapters and Verses. By Leicester Ambrose Sawyer. 12mo. $1.25. Boston. John P. Jewett & Co.