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By E. Tallmadge Root
[This act of Acacius. Bishop of Amida (the modern Diarbekr), in A.D., 422, helped forward negotiations of peace between Varahran V. and Theodosius, Emperor of the East; and was the more remarkable since the war had been undertaken to save Armenian Christians from "Persia's bigot king." See Rawlinson's "Seven Monarchies," Voi, III., p. 399.]
Copyright, 1900, Hamilton W. Mabie. All rights reserved.
THE BOAR AT CHARLECOTE GATE
HERE are traditions but no records of the
period between 1577, when Shakespeare's school life ended, and the year 1586, when he left Stratford. In this age, when all events, significant and insignificant, are reported; when biography has assumed proportions which are often out of all relation to the importance or interest of those whose careers are described with microscopic detail; when men of letters, especially, are urged to produce and publish with the greatest rapidity, are photographed, studied, described, and characterized with journalistic energy and industry, and often with
journalistic indifference to perspective; and when every paragraph from the pen of a successful writer is guarded from the purloiner and protected from plagiarist by laws and penalties, it seems incredible that so little, relatively, should be known about the daily life, the working relations, the intimate associations, the habits and artistic training, of the greatest of English poets.
And this absence of biographic material on a scale which would seem adequate from the modern point of view has furnished, not the ground--for the word ground implies a certain solidity or basis of fact, but the occasion, of many curious speculations and of some radical skepticism. Absence of the historical sense has often led the rash and uncritical to read into past times the spirit and thought of the present, and to interpret the conditions of an earlier age in the light of existing conditions. Taking into account the habits of Shakespeare's time; the condition of life into which he was born; the fact that he was not a writer of dramas to be read, but of plays to be acted, and that, in his own thought and in the thought of his contemporaries, he was a playwright who lived by writing for the stage and not a poet who appealed to a reading public and was eager for literary reputation ; recalling the inferior position which actors occupied in society, and the bohemian atmosphere in which all men who connected with the stage lived, it is surprising, not that we know so little, but that we know so much, about Shakespeare.
Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps, one of the highest authorities in this field, has covered this ground with admirable clearness and precision: “In this aspect the great drama tist participates in the fate of most of his literary contemporaries, for if a collection of the known facts relating to all of them were tabularly arranged, it would be found the number of the ascertained particulars of his life reached at leas: the average. the present day, with biography carried to a wasteful and ridiculous excess, Shakespeare the idol not merely of a nation but of the educated world, it is dimicult to realize a period when no interest was taken in the events in the lives of authors, and when the great poet himself, notwithstanding the immense popularity of some of his works, was held in no general reverence. It must be borne in mind that actors
occupied an inferior position in society, Prayse,” the fruits of the critical scholarand that in many quarters even the voca- ship of the last half-century, the record in tion of a dramatic writer was considered the Stationers' Register taken in connecscarcely respectable. The intelligent ap- tion with the dates of the first representapreciation of genius by individuals was not tions of the different plays; and, finally, sufficient to neutralize in these matters the the study of Shakespeare's work as a effect of public opinion and the animosity whole, have, however, gone a long way of the religious world; all circumstances toward making good the absence of vo thus uniting to banish general interest in luminous biographic material. Enough the history of persons connected in any way remains to make the story of the poet's with the stage. This biographical indif- career connected and intelligible, the recference continued for many years, and ord of his growth as an artist clear and long before the season arrived for a real deeply significant, and the history of his curiosity to be taken in the subject, the spiritual development legible and of abrecords from which alone a satisfactory sorbing interest. memoir could have been constructed had The kind of occupation which fell to disappeared. At the time of Shake Shakespeare's hands during the five years speare's decease, non-political correspond- of his adolescence between 1577 and 1582 ence was rarely preserved, elaborate is a matter of minor interest ; the education diaries were not the fashion, and no one, of sense and imagination which he received excepting in semi-apocryphal collections during that impressionable period is a of jests, thought it worth while to record matter of supreme interest. That he early many of the sayings and doings, or to formed the habit of exact observation his delineate at any length the characters, of work shows in places innumerable. No actors and dramatists, so that it is gen- detail of natural life escaped him; the erally by the merest accident that particu- plays are not only saturated with the spirit lars of interest respecting them have been of nature, but they are accurate calendars recovered."
of natural events and phenomena ; they History, tradition, contemporary judg. abound in the most exact descriptions of ments scattered through a wide range of those details of landscape, flora, and anibooks and succeeded by a “Centurie of mal life which a writer must learn at first
THE PATH TO SHOTTERY
Kissing-gate in forestound.
ANNE HATHAWAY'S COTTAGE Ai Shottery, about a mile and a half from Stratford. A good example of an Elizabethan farm-house. hand and which he can learn only when he knew it actively, for there is every reathe eye is in the highest degree sensitive son to believe that he participated in the and the imagination in the highest degree sports of his time, and saw fields and responsive. A boy of Shakespeare's gen- woods and remote bits of landscape as ius and situation would have mastered one sees them in hunting, coursing, and almost unconsciously the large and thor- fishing. He was in a farming country, ough knowledge of trees, flowers, birds, and his kin on both sides were landowndogs, and horses which his work shows. ers or farmers; he had opportunities to Such a boy sees, feels, and remembers become acquainted not only with the everything which in any way relates itself country, but with the habits of the birds to his growing mind. The Warwickshire and animals that lived in it. landscape became, by the unconscious He loved action as well as meditation, process of living in its heart, a part of his and his life was marvelously well poised memory, the background of his conscious when one recalls what perilous stuff of life. He knew it passively in numberless thought, passion, and imagination were in walks, loiterings, solitary rambles; and him. It was perhaps through physical