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fair state ;" the munificent Southampton, “ the observ'd of
all observers;" the gallant Raleigh; the rare Ben Jonson,
and his fellows, Alleyn, Armin, Burbage, Green, and that
prince of clowns, Dick Tarlton, whose true effigies have
passed to posterity, and enough of whose history remains
to give me some insight into their characters. Their very
places of resort, convivial and theatrical, though for the
most part destroyed by time, are transmitted by the graver's
art; and so minutely has description set forth each par-
ticular, that I pace the deserted chambers of the Falcon
and the Devil—I hear the wisdom and the wit, and the
loud laugh-I visit the Bear Garden, the Globe, and the
Fortune-- I listen to Tarlton, with his wondrous, plentiful,
pleasant, extemporal humour, exchanging gibes with our
merry ancestors—I behold Burbage, such a player
age must look to see the like,” in his original character of
the crafty RichardMaister Greene, than whom “ there
was not an actor of bis nature, in his time, of better ability
in performance of what he undertook, more applaudent by
the audience, of greater grace at the court, or of more
general love in the Citty,” in his crack part of Bubble, in
Tu Quoque !”—the merry and frolicsome Bob Armin, in
simple John, in the Hospitall-and

Alleyn, playing Faustus,
With the Cross upon his breast.”

as no

The age of Shakespeare was the age of romance,

“ Of pomp, and feast, and revelry,
With mask and antique pageantry;
Such sights as youthful poets dream

On summer eves by haunted stream.” As yet, frigid philosophy had not reduced man's existence to one dull round of sad realities ; but some magical drops

were distilled in the cup, to make the bitter draught of life go down. Shakespeare had drank deep at this fountain of inspiration; hence the high-toned sentiment, the noble enthusiasm, the perfect humanity, that make the heart tremble, and the tears start, in the works of this mighty enchanter. The age, too, was a joyous one; the puritanical ravings of Gosson and Stubbes, and the snarling of Prynne, had not disinclined the people to their ancient sports and pastimes; and England, in her holy-days and festivals, well deserved her characteristic appellation of “ Merrie.” These national peculiarities were not lost on a mind so excursive as Shakespeare's :-his works abound in curious illustrations of the domestic habits and popular superstitions of our ancestors; and he who has attentively studied them, may claim more credit for antiquarian knowledge than is generally conceded to the readers of fiction and fancy. From all that I can learn of his personal history, his disposition was bland, cheerful, and humane; by one who best knew him, he is styled the“ gentle Shakespeare." He possessed that happy temperament so beautifully described by Hamlet in his character of Horatio :

" For thou hast been
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing ;
A man that Fortune's buffets and rewards
Hast ta'en with equal thanks : and bless'd are those,
Whose blood and judgment are so well co-mingled,
That they are not a pipe for Fortune's finger

To sound what stop she please.” He loved the merry catch and the mirth-inspiring glee,the wine and wassail, the cakes and ale, which warmed the hearts of that immortal triumvirate, Sir Andrew, Sir Toby, and the Clown, and extracted from the taciturn Master Silence those precious relics of old ballad poetry that erst graced the collection, “ fair wrapt up in parchement, and

bound with a whipcord,” of that righte cunninge and primitive bibliographer, Captain Cox, of Coventry! And how deeply has he struck the chords of melancholy !--yet no marvel thereat; since there never was a true poet who did not feel the presence of this sublime spirit-a spirit that dwelt in Shakespeare in all its intensity:

To him the mighty mother did unveil
Her awful face ; the dauntless child
Stretch'd forth his little arms and smil'd.
This pencil take (she said), whose colours clear,
Richly paint the vernal

year :
Thine, too, these golden keys, immortal boy!
This can unlock the gates of joy !
Of horror, that, and thrilling fears,

And ope the sacred source of sympathetic tears.” Among the moments that I contemplate with peculiar complacency, are those passed in the theatre. Katharine and Constance-Hamlet and Lear- Richard and Shylockand those merry varlets, Benedick, Mercutio, and Autolicus, from being my idols on the stage, became my companions in the closet, and there inspired me with still more exquisite delight. Thus led to the fountain-head of true poetry, I discovered that the stream had been polluted by ignorance and presumption; that interpolation and stage necessity (?) had disfigured the bard, and shorn him of some of his choicest beauties; and that passages of high intellectual power, from being slurred over by a “robustious periwigpated fellow,” had fallen unheeded on my ear, but now discoursed most eloquent music. Like the traveller journeying afar, who has been alternately delighted and amazed with the various prospects that have opened to his viewwho has contemplated the smooth river and the mountaintorrent- -whose eye has rested on one unbounded extent of earth, and ocean, and sky; I, in studying the writings of Shakespeare, have been presented with every object in Nature's landscape, with the added charms of philosophic and metaphysical lore. I have seen the springs of passion unlocked, the inmost recesses of the heart explored, and every thought, however deeply seated there, revealed and analysed. The veil that separates the material from the immaterial world has been drawn aside, and I have bebeld the wonders of that mysterious region. I have been subdued by sorrow that I would not have exchanged for mirth, and exhilarated by merriment that might have unbent the dull brow of melancholy and softened it into a smile. I have seen morality and science in the many-coloured vesture of poetry; and philosophy, erect, not elated, cheerful, benevolent, and sublime. But envy hath no fancy to the rose of the garden, and what careth malice for the lily of the valley? Of Voltaire, and his host of infidels and buffoons, let me speak with temper. There are certain men to whom we cannot afford our anger; but charity demands something, and we throw them our contempt. This is the only feeling provoked by the French critics. Beautiful Spirit! what griefs hast thou not alleviated and charmed ? what sympathies hast thou not awakened and sublimed? In health and in sickness, in joy and in sorrow, in the busy turmoil of every-day life, in the silent tranquillity of reflection and solitude, the infirmities of our nature have in thy brightness been glorified and transfigured.

Shakespeare did not wait for the sear and yellow leaf, ere he bade a final adieu to the theatre of his glory. If ever pride became a virtue, it was that which glowed in the poet's bosom at this auspicious moment. Of fame he possessed a greater share than ever fell to the lot of human being. A splendid retirement was before him ;

" And that which should accompany

old

age, As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends.”

With what emotions must he have revisited that sacred pile, the last object where perchance he fondly lingered, when he went forth a wanderer !—Too soon it was to become his mausoleum—the shrine of adoring votaries, through distant ages; who, led thither by the divine spirit of his muse, account it no idolatry to bow before the dust of Shakespeare.

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