Imágenes de páginas

rin regularly as public

of biography might well conveyances. If Shake

be exchanged for a brief speare, after the custom

account of one evening of the time, bought a

in the commons room horse for the occasion,

of some college when he probably sold it, as

the greatest and most Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps

companionable of Engsuggests on reaching

lish men of genius was Smithfield, to James Bur

the guest of scholars b.nge, who was a livery

who shared with him the man in that neighbor

liberating power of the hood—the father of the

new age; for Shake famous actor Richard

speare was loved by men Burbage, with whom the

of gentle breeding and poet was afterwards

of ripest culture. thrown in intimate re

Dickens once said lations. It was the cus

that if he sat in a room tom among men of small

five minutes, without means to buy horses for

consciously taking note a journey, and sell them

of his surroundings, he when the journey was

found himself able, by accomplished. Tradition has long af- the instinctive action of his mind, to defirmed that Shakespeare habitually used scribe the furnishing of the room to the the route which ran through Oxford and smallest detail. This faculty of what High Wycombe. The Crown Inn, which may be called instinctive observation stood near Carfax, in Oxford, was the Shakespeare possessed in rare degree; center of many associations, real or imag- he saw everything when he seemed to be inary, with Shakespeare's journeys from seeing nothimg. It is not impossible that, the Capital to his home in New Place. as Aubrey declares, “he happened to take The beautiful university city was even the humor of the constable in • Midsumthen venerable with years, and thronged mer Night's Dream 'in a little town near with students. Shakespeare's infinite wit Oxford.” There is no constable in Shake and marvelous charm, to which there are speare's single fairy-play, and Aubrey was many contemporary testimonies, made probably thinking of D. gberry or Verges. him a welcome companion in one of the Shakespeare was constantly " taking the most brilliant groups of men in the his-humor" of men and women wherever he tory of literature. The spell of Oxford found himself, and although Oxford is must have been upon him, and volumes connected with his life only by a faint



[ocr errors]


tradition, it may have furnished him with more than one sketch which he later developed into a figure full of reality and substance. It would have been quite in keeping with the breadth and freedom of his genius to find a clown in Oxford more interesting than some of the scholars he met ; for clowns occasionally have some touch of individuality, some glimmer of humor, while schol. ars are sometimes found with. out favor, pungency, or originality. Shakespeare's principle of selection in dealing with men was always vital; he put his hand unerringly on significant persons.

In 1586 the foremost Englishman reached London, without means, in search of a vocation and a place in which to exercise it. The time was fortunate, and co-operated with him in ways which he did not, then or later, understand; for, however clearly a man may comprehend his gift and master his tools, he is too much a part of his age to discern his spiritual relations to it as these are later disclosed in the subtle channels through which it inspires and vitalizes him, and he in turn expresses, interprets, and affects it.

To the youth from the little village on the Avon, London was a great and splendid city; but the vast metropolis of to-day, with a population of more than five million people, was then a town of about one hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants. The great fire which was to change it from a mediæval to a modern city was almost a century distant; and the spire of old St. Paul's was seen, as one ap proached, rising over masses of red-roofed, many-gabled

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]

From an old print showing the bridge as it looked upon Shakespeare's arrival in London.

This bridge was replaced by a modern structure in 1831. houses, crowded into the smallest space, winter; a ditch, picturesquely called “the and protected by walls and trenches. The kennel,” ran through the road and served most conspicuous objects in the city were as a gutter. Into these running streams, the Tower, which rose beside the Thames fed with the refuse which now goes as a symbol of the personal authority of through the sewers, horses splashed and the monarch; the Cathedral, which served pedestrians often slipped. The narrow as a common center of community life, passage for foot-passengers was overwhere the news for the day was passed crowded, and every one sought the space from group to group, where gossip was furthest away from the hurrying pedesfreely interchanged, and servants were trians and litter-carriers and reckless hired, and debtors found immunity from riders. Two centuries later Dr. Johnson arrest; and old London Bridge, a town divided the inhabitants of London into in itself, lined with buildings, crowded two classes-the peaceable and the quarwith people, with high gate-towers at relsome, or those who "gave the wall ” either end, often ghastly with the heads and those who took it. To add to the dis that had recently fallen from the block at comfort, great water-spouts gathered the the touch of the executioner's ax.

showers as they fell on the roofs of houses The streets were narrow, irregular, and shops, and discharged them in concenoverhung with projecting signs which trated form on the heads of passers-by. creaked on rusty hinges and, in high The London of that day was the relawinds, often came down on the heads of tively small and densely populated area unfortunate pedestrians. These highways in the heart of the modern metropolis were still foul with refuse and evil odors; which is known as the City. Its center within the memory of men then living was St. Paul's Cathedral; and Eastcheap, they had been entirely unpaved. Their which Falstaff loved so well, was a typicondition had become so noisome and cal thoroughfare. A labyrinth of foul dangerous fifty years earlier that Henry alleys and dingy, noisome courts covered VIII. began the work of paving the the space now penetrated by the most principal thoroughfares. Round stones crowded streets. Outside the limits of were used for this purpose, and were put the town stretched lonely, neglected fields, in position as they came to hand, without dangerous at night by reason of footpads reference to form, size, or regularity of and all manner of lawless persons, in an surface. Walking and riding were, in age when streets were unlighted and police consequence, equally disagreeable. The unknown. St. Pancras, surrounded by thoroughfares were beaten into dust in its ancient graves, stood in a lonely place summer and hollowed out into pools in with extensive rural views in all directions, Westminster was separated from the city power of a community which was never by a long stretch of country known later lacking in the independence which comes as the Downs; cows grazed in Gray's from civic courage and civic wealth. Inn Fields.

James I said, with characteristic pedantry, The Thames was the principal thorough- that “the growth of the capital resembleth fare between London and Westminster, that of the head of a rickety child, in and was gay with barges and boats of every which an excessive influx of humours drawkind, and noisy with the cries and oaths eth and impoverisheth the extremities, of hundreds of watermen. The vocabu- . and at the same time generateth distemper lary of profanity and vituperation was in the overloaded parts." The instinct nowhere richer; every boat's load on its which warned the father of Charles I. way up or down the stream abused every against the growth of London was sound, other boat's load in passing; the shouts as the instincts of James often were ; but “ Eastward Hol” or “ Westward Ho!" there was no power within reach of the were deafening.

sovereign which could check the growth In 1586 London was responding to the of the great city of the future. That impetus which rapidly increasing trade growth was part of the expansion of Eng. . had given the whole country, and was fast land; one evidence of that rising tide of outgrowing its ancient limits. Neither racial vitality which was to carry the Eng. the Tudor nor the Stuart sovereigns lish spirit, genius, and activity to the ends looked with favor on the growth of the of the earth.


A Flight

By Tighe Hopkins
HIS is some dream,” was the Then he wondered how he had done it,

man's first thought : “oh, if I but he could not in the least remember
could prove it real I”

what had happened since he had quitted He lay there in the long, moist grass his cell for work in the carpenter's shop afraid to move, although the night all in the afternoon. It puzzled him, yet it about him was so dark, so very dark. did not seem too strange. He thought he What stirred him chiefly was a wonderful must have slipped in letting himself down sweetness of the air ; a clean, fresh savor from the wall, and fainted on falling But that he had not known for years. “It he was not hurt in the least; he had never was never like that in there," he thought. felt such strength in him, such lightness.

Without lifting himself, he turned half It was a dark, rich night of summer;. round, and his eyes strained at the dark- no moon, and scarcely the shimmer of a ness. Then it was that he began to think star; it was the very night he had hoped he was alive and awake. Behind him, to escape in. He sat up in the grass, and not twenty yards away, rose the huge considered what he should do; turned it black mass of the prison.

over in his mind, comfortably, without the “Blessed be God I it was true, then I least anxiety. He had escaped; he was free. All the He would go home. Home, that had others were in there, locked in their cells, seemed so far

when they locked him in at and every gate and every door locked; night-every night of six unending years and he, he who had endured six years, -seemed now no further than the edge was free. The liberty that God destined of this warm, dark, quiet field where no for all his creatures was his at last. He one was stirring. He was sure he could rocked himself for joy, rolling to and fro be home before daylight. in the sweet, moist grass. It seemed, all He crept to his feet, and then, black as at once, so natural. He had longed to it was, he fancied that he stood very high. escape, he had dreamed of escaping, and He missed the whitewashed roof of the

cell, which he could almost touch with Copyright, 1900, by Tighe Hopkins.

his head, reaching on tiptoe, and the sense

he had escaped.

of space above gave him a feeling of Then, as he continued running, there greater height, and he asked himself if it traced itself against the obscurity of the were possible for him to be seen.

night an irregular large outline right in All this time he had been utterly alone, front of him; and the man went weak, and this sense of solitude made him think thinking he had been moving in a circle, that he had put the prison leagues behind and had reached the prison again. Stealing him; but as he stood up he heard a voice, closer, he saw that this was a place with a or voices, not very far away. The echo of low wall, and iron rails above it, and trees the voices shook him; he remembered that, overhanging ; and he bore in mind the when his fight was discovered, he would great cemetery of London, and guessed be pursued. He threw himself in the grass that this was it. More, he was now ceragain, and began to steal away, crawling. tain of his whereabouts. Then he rose, ran, and stopped.

He had stopped right against the ceme There were no lights about the prison. tery gate, and could see lights in the lodge Ile stayed, panting; perhaps they had not inside ; and he moved away and crouched yet found out. But he could see shadow- in an angle of the wall, and fell again to figures growing in the black beyond; he listening. It was so still that the man's was certain that he saw them; they made heart ceased thuinping; he had not lost marks upon the darkness. If they were his freedom yet. Then, again, he heard the warders, there should be lanterns with siren whistle of an engine, heard it more them; but perhaps they were scouting with clearly than before, and knew that he was their lanterns hidden, and would form a drawing closer to the line. cordon round him, and close in on him. He moved along, hugging the wall of He forgot the hope of home, and ran the cemetery, which was a definite means blindly for safety. He wished, in his of guidance. But the wall seemed to terror, that he were back again in prison. stretch out interminably, and he fancied

The whistle of an engine sounded; it that if he could climb into and strike across seemed not very far in front of him, and he the cemetery he would come out within a ran towards the sound. He remembered little distance of the railway. that the prison was quite close to London; With scarcely an effort he clambered the train, if he could reach it, might carry over-himself surprised how swift and agile him there, or far out into the country. he was grown-and stood amid the dense

He was quite sure now that he was being leafage of the burial-ground. Innumerable followed, and he ran headlong, with no white paths showed faintly around him, thought but of saving himself. If he could but he avoided these, and began at once to but reach the railway!

steer a cautious way among the tombs and Now and again he stumbled, and once gravestones, seeking always the straightest he fell heavily; but he felt no hurt, and

He had made but a short distance was scarcely conscious of the shock; he from his point of entrance, for every step believed he could run through the night was felt and groped in the utter darkness without fatigue. He thought of what would of the cemetery, when again he had a vivid happen to him if he were taken; he could sense of the nearness of another presence. hear the warders' chuckle of revenge as He stopped instantly, and cowered to the they hammered round his ankles the irons ground. This time he was not mistaken: he would have to wear waking and sleeping feet were on the gravel path quite close to for six months.

him--whether in front or behind he could The scrub that he was traversing had no not tell for certain. end, and in the dark it was as trackless as He had reached a space where the soil a desert; yet in the cell the man had was as yet untenanted; there was not so sometimes heard sounds of life out there, much as a headless mound to shelter by. music even, and far-off echoes of laughter; How foolish he had been in entering the and he knew that, desolate and black as it cemetery; they would send there at once was, he must even now be almost upon to search for him. He could still hear the London's edge. Streets were lighted, and feet moving softly on the gravel, and now people going to and fro in them, and shop- they were so near that, though he himself men at their doors, it might be not above could distinguish nothing, he thought he

must surely be perceived. The suspense


a mile away.

« AnteriorContinuar »