gomery, followed James IL to France; and how
the Emperor ordered the Duke of Mantua, a vassal
of the Empire, to drive the Marquis Amorati from
his court; and how there came to be always two
Cardinals Barberini living, etc., ā all that is impor-
tant business. A snub-nose is made historic. Two
little meadows adjacent to the ancient Mark and
to the Duchy of Zell are memorable for having
almost caused a war between England and Prussia.
In fact the skill of the governing and the apathy
of the obeying classes have so arranged and
confused affairs that all these regal nothings
take their places in human destiny, and war and
peace, the movement of armies and fleets, the re-
coil or the advance of civilization, depend upon
Queen Anne's cup of tea or the Dey of Algiers'
History stands behind the royal seat, registering
404 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.
Knowing so many things, it is quite natural that
it should be ignorant of some. Should you be so
curious as to ask it the name of the English mer-
chant who first, in 1612, entered China from the
north; of the glass-workman who first, in 1663,
established a manufactory of crystal glass ; of the
citizen who, under Charles VIII., carried in the
States-General at Tours the fruitful principle of
the elective magistracy, ā a principle subsequently
adroitly suppressed; of the pilot who, in 1405,
discovered the Canary Isles; of the Byzantine
lute-maker who, in the eighth century, by the
invention of the organ, gave to music its most
sonorous voice; of the Campanian mason who
originated the clock by placing the first sun-dial
upon the temple of Quirinus at Rome; of the
Roman toll-collector who, by the construction of
the Appian Way in the year 312 B. C, invented the
paving of towns ; of the Egyptian carpenter who
conceived the dove-tail, ā one of the keys of archi-
tecture, found under the obelisk of Luxor ; of the
Chaldaean goatherd who, by the observation of the
signs of the zodiac, founded astronomy and gave a
starting-point to Anaximenes; of the Corinthian
calker who, nine years before the first Olympiad,
calculated the force of the triple lever, conceived
the trireme, and built a towboat two thousand six
hundred years before the first steamboat ; of the
Macedonian ploughman who discovered the first
gold-mine on Mount Pangseus, ā these names
history cannot give you ; these people are un-
known to history.
Who are these? A ploughman, a calker, a goat-
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. 40$
herd, a carpenter, a toll-gatherer, a mason, a lute-
maker, a sailor, a burgher, and a merchant. The
dignity of history must be preserved.
In Nuremberg, near the Aegidienplatz, in a
room on the second floor of a house facing the
church of St. Aegidius, there lies upon an iron
tripod a wooden globe twenty inches in diameter,
covered with a dingy vellum streaked with lines
which were once red and yellow and green. Upon
this globe is a sketch of the earth's divisions as
they could be conceived in the fifteenth century.
At the twenty-fourth degree of latitude, under the
sign of Cancer, there is vaguely indicated a kind of
island called " Antilia," which attracted, one day,
the attention of two men. The one who had made
the globe and drawn Antilia, showed this island to
the other, laid his finger upon it, and said, " There
it is." The man looking on was Christopher Co-
lumbus ; the man who said, " There it is," was
Martin Behaim. Antilia was America. Of Fer-
nando Cortez, who ravaged America, history
speaks; but not of Martin Behaim, who guessed
If a man has " cut to pieces " his fellow-men, if
he has " put them to the edge of the sword," if he
has " made them bite the dust," ā horrible phrases,
which have grown hideously familiar, ā whatever
this man's name may be, you will find it in history.
Search there for the name of him who invented the
compass, ā you will not find it !
In 1747, in the full tide of the eighteenth cen-
tury, under the very eyes of the philosophers, the
battles of Raucoux and of Laffeld, the siege of the
406 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.
Sas van Ghent, and the taking of Bergen-op-Zoom,
overshadow and hide the sublime discovery of
electricity, which is to-day effecting the trans-
formation of the world.
Voltaire himself at about that time is distractedly
celebrating who knows what exploit of Trajan
(read, Louis XV.).
From this history is evolved a kind of public
stupidity. This history is almost everywhere
superposed upon education. If you doubt this,
see, among others, the publications of Perisse
Brothers, ā designed, says a parenthesis, for pri-
It makes us laugh if a prince assumes the name
of an animal. We ridicule the Emperor of China
for having himself styled " His Majesty the Dra-
gon," and we ourselves complacently talk of
" Monseigneur the Dauphin."
History is domestic; the historian is a mere
master-of-ceremonies to the centuries. In the
model court of Louis the Great there are four
historians, as there are four bedchamber violinists.
Lulli leads the latter, Boileau the former.
In this old-fashioned history ā the only style
authorized down to 1789, and classic in the com-
plete sense of the word ā the best narrators, even
the honest ones, of whom there are a few, even
those who think themselves free, remain mechani-
cally subordinate, make a patchwork of traditions,
yield to the force of habit, receive the countersign
in the antechamber, go with the crowd in accept-
ing the stupid divinity of the coarse personages of
the foreground, ā kings, " potentates," " pontiffs,"
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. 407
soldiers, ā and, though devoutly believing them-
selves historians, end by wearing the livery of
historiographers, and are lackeys without know-
This history is taught, imposed, commanded, and
recommended ; all young minds are more or less
imbued with it. The mark remains ; their thought
suffers from it, recovering only with difficulty;
school-boys are compelled to learn it by heart, and
I, who am speaking, was, as a child, its victim.
This history contains everything except history,
ā displays of princes, of" monarchs," and of cap-
tains. Of the people, the laws, the manners, very
little; of letters, arts, sciences, philosophy, the
trend of universal thought, ā in one word, of man,
ā nothing. Civilization is made to date by reigns,
not by progress. Some king forms a stage. The
true relays, the relays of great men, are nowhere
indicated. It is explained how Francis II. suc-
ceeds Henri II., how Charles IX. succeeds Fran-
cis II., and Henri III. Charles IX. ; but no one
teaches how Watt succeeds Papin, and how Fulton
succeeds Watt. Behind the heavy upholstery of
hereditary monarchy the mysterious dynasty of
genius is scarcely glimpsed. The smoky torch
upon the opaque facade of royal accessions hides
the starry light streaming down upon the centuries
from the creators of civilization. Not a single one
of this series of historians points to the divine
lineage of human miracles, that applied logic of
Providence ; not one exhibits the manner in which
progress gives birth to progress. It would be
shameful not to know that Philip IV. comes after
408 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.
Philip III., and Charles II. after Philip IV. ; but
that Descartes continues Bacon and that Kant
continues Descartes, that Las Casas continues
Columbus, that Washington continues Las Casas
and that John Brown continues and rectifies Wash-
ington, that John Huss continues Pelagius, that
Luther continues John Huss and that Voltaire
continues Luther, ā it is almost a scandal to be
aware of these things.
It is time to change all this. It is time that
men of action should step back, and that men of
thought should take the lead. The summit is the
head. Where thought is, there power exists. It
is time that the genius take precedence of the hero.
It is time to render to Caesar the things that are
Caesar's, and to the book the things that belong to
the book. Such a poem, such a drama, such a
novel, is doing more service than all the courts of
Europe put together. It is time that history
should proportion itself to reality, that it should
give every influence its ascertained value, that it
should cease to thrust regal masks upon epochs
made in the image of poets and of philosophers.
To whom belongs the eighteenth century, ā to
Louis XV., or to Voltaire? Compare Versailles
and Ferney, and consider from which of the two
sources civilization flows.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. 409
A century is a formula; an epoch is an ex-
pressed thought. One such thought expressed,
Civilization passes to another. The centuries are
the phrases of Civilization; what she says here
she does not repeat there. But these mysterious
phrases are linked together ; logic ā the logos ā
is within them, and their series constitutes pro-
gress. In all these phrases, expressions of a single
thought, the divine thought, we are slowly deci-
phering the word Fraternity.
All light is at some point condensed into a
flame; likewise every epoch is condensed in a
man. The man dead, the epoch is concluded.
God turns over the leaf, Dante dead, a period is
placed at the end of the thirteenth century; John
Huss may come. Shakespeare dead, a period is
placed at the end of the sixteenth century. After
this poet, who contains and epitomizes all philoso-
phy, may come the philosophers, ā Pascal, Des-
cartes, Moli^re, Le Sage, Montesquieu, Rousseau,
Diderot, Beaumarchais. Voltaire dead, a period
is placed at the end of the eighteenth century.
The French Revolution, that winding-up of the
first social form of Christianity, may come.
Each of these various periods, which we call
epochs, has its dominant note. What is this dom-
inant, ā a head wearing a crown, or a head bearing
a thought? Is it an aristocracy, or an idea? Make
your own answer. Consider where the power lies.
Weigh Francis I. against Gargantua; put the
whole of chivalry into the balance with ' Don
Each one to his own place, therefore. About
41 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.
face ! And now consider the centuries as they
are. In the first rank, mind ; in the second, third,
twentieth, soldiers and princes. Down with the
warrior; the thinker retakes possession of the
pedestal. Pull down Alexander, and set up Aris-
totle. Strange that to this day people should have
read the Iliad in such a manner as to overshadow
Homer by Achilles !
It is time, I repeat, to change all this. The
initiative, indeed, is taken. Noble minds are al-
ready at work ; the future history is approaching ;
some superb partial rehandlings exist as speci-
mens; a general recasting is about to take place.
Ad usum populi. Compulsory education requires
true history; true history is begun, and will be
The old medals will be re-minted: that which
was the reverse will become the face ; that which
was the head will become the tail ; Urban VIII. will
be the reverse of Galileo.
The true profile of humanity will reappear upon
the various prints of civilization offered by the
succession of the centuries.
The historical effigy will no longer be the man
king, it will be the man people.
No one shall reproach us with failing to insist
that real and veracious history, while pointing to
the real sources of civilization, will not underesti-
mate the appreciable utility of the sceptre-holders
and sword-racks at certain moments and in pres-
ence of certain human conditions. Wrestling-
matches require some equality between the two
combatants; barbarity must sometimes be pitted
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. 411
against barbarism. There are cases of violent
progress. Caesar is good in Cimmeria, and Alex-
ander in Asia. But to Alexander and to Caesar
the second rank suffices.
The veracious history, the true history, the de-
finitive history, charged henceforward with the
education of that royal child, the people, will
reject all fiction, will be wanting in complaisance,
will logically classify phenomena, will unravel
hidden causes, will study, philosophically and
scientifically, the successive disorders of humanity,
and will take less account of great sabre-strokes
than of great strokes of thought. The deeds of
the light will form the van ; Pythagoras will be a
greater event than Sesostris. We said just now
that heroes, crepuscular men, are relatively bright
in the darkness ; but what is a conqueror beside a
sage? what is the invasion of kingdoms compared
with the opening of the mind? The winners of
minds overshadow the winners of provinces. The
true conqueror is the man who does the thinking
for others. In the coming history, the slave ^Esop
and the slave Plautus will take precedence of
kings ; such a vagabond will outweigh such a
victor, such an actor will outweigh such an emperor.
To make what we are saying obvious by examples,
it is certainly useful that a man of power should
have marked the period of stagnation between the
crumbling of the Latin world and the outgrowth
of the Gothic world ; it is useful that another man
of power, following the first, the shrewd after the
bold, should have outlined, in the form of a
catholic empire, the future universal group of
412 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.
nations and the wholesome encroachments of
Europe upon Africa, Asia, and America. But it
is still more useful to have made the ' Divina Corn-
media ' and * Hamlet ; ' no wicked deed is mingled
with these master-works ; here the account of the
civilizer bears no debit charge of nations crushed ;
and the enlargement of the human mind being
taken as a result, Dante counts for more than
Charlemagne, Shakespeare for more than Charles
In history, as it is to be made upon the pattern
of absolute truth, that commonplace intelligence,
that unconscious and vulgar being, the "Non pluri-
bus impar," the sultan-sun of Marly, becomes
merely the almost mechanical fabricator of the
shelter required by the thinker who wore the
theatrical mask, ā of the environment of ideas and
of men requisite for the philosophy of Alceste.
Louis XIV. is bed-maker to MoHere.
These reversals of rdle will exhibit characters
in their true light; the new historical optics will
map out the still chaotic sky of civilization ; per-
spective, that geometrical justice, will take pos-
session of the past, placing this in the foreground,
that in the background; every man will resume his
real stature ; tiaras, crowns, and other head-dresses
will serve simply to render dwarfs ridiculous ; stupid
prostrations will disappear. From such readjust-
ments will stream forth the right.
That great judge. We All, having henceforth as
a standard a clear conception of that which is ab-
solute and of that which is relative, the deductions
and restitutions will take place of themselves.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. 413
The innate moral sense of man will find its bear-
ings. It will no longer be forced to ask itself
questions like this: Why do people revere in Louis
XV., and in the rest of the royalty, the act for
which they are at the same moment burning
Deschaufifours in the Place de Gr^ve? The author-
ity of the king will no longer impose a false moral
weight. The facts, well balanced, will balance con-
science well. A good light will arise, mild to the
sons of men, serene, equitable. Henceforward
there is to be no interposition of clouds between
the truth and the brain of man. Definitive ascen-
sion of the good, the just, the beautiful, to the
zenith of civilization.
Nothing can escape the law of simplification.
By the sheer force of things, the material side of
events and of men scales off and vanishes. There
is no such thing as solidity of darkness. What-
ever the mass or the block, every compound of
ashes ā and matter is nothing else ā returns to
ashes. The idea of the grain of dust is embodied
in the very word " granite." Pulverization is
inevitable. All those granites, oligarchy, aristoc-
racy, theocracy, are the promised prey of the four
winds. The ideal alone is indestructible.
Nothing is abiding but mind.
In this indefinite inundation of light called civili-
zation, phenomena of levelling and of setting up
are taking place. The imperious dawn penetrates
everywhere, enters as master, and enforces obedi-
ence. The light is working; under the great eye
of posterity, before the light of the nineteenth
century, a simplification is going on, the fungus
414 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.
is collapsing, glory falls like the leaf, great names
are divided up. Take Moses, for example. In
Moses there are three glories, ā the captain, the
lawgiver, the poet. Of these three men contained
in Moses, where is the captain to-day? In the
dark, with the brigands and assassins. Where is
the lawgiver? Buried under the rubbish of dead
religions. Where is the poet? By the side of
The day has an irresistible corrosive power upon
the things of night. Hence a new historic sky over
our heads. Hence a new philosophy of cause and
effect. Hence a new aspect of facts.
Some minds, however, whose honest and austere
solicitude is not displeasing, object: "You have
said that men of genius form a dynasty; we are
as unwilling to submit to this dynasty as to any
other." This is to misunderstand, to be fright-
ened by a word when the thought is reassuring.
The very law which requires that mankind should
have no owners, requires that it sho'uld have guides.
To be enlightened is the reverse of being subjected.
Between " Homo sum " and " I am the state " is
the whole space between fraternity and tyranny.
The march forward requires a directing hand; to
rebel against the pilot scarcely advances the ship ;
one does not see what would be gained by throw-
ing Columbus overboard. The word, " This way,"
never humiliated the man who was seeking the
road. At night, I accept the authority of the
torches. Furthermore, there is little that is op-
pressive in the dynasty of genius, whose kingdom
is Dante's exile, whose palace is Cervantes' donjon,
tVILLlAM SHAKESPEARE. 415
whose budget is Isaiah's wallet, whose throne is
Job's dunghill, whose sceptre is Homer's staff.
Let us resume.
Mankind no longer owned, but guided: such
is the new aspect of things.
Henceforward history is bound to reproduce this
new aspect of things. It is a strange thing to alter
the past; but that is what history is about to un-
dertake. By lying ? No ; by telling the truth.
History has been only a picture; it is about to
become a mirror.
This new reflection of the past will modify the
The former King of Westphalia, a man of wit,
was one day examining an inkstand upon the table
of some one we know. The writer at whose house
Jerome Bonaparte was at that moment, had brought
back from a trip to the Alps, made in company
with Charles Nodier some years before, a bit of
steatitic serpentine, carved and hollowed into an
inkstand, which he had purchased of a chamois-
hunter of the Mer-de-Glace. Jerome Bonaparte
was looking at this. "What is it?" he asked.
" My inkstand," replied the writer. Then he
added : " It is steatite. Admire Nature, who
makes this charming green stone out of a little
dirt and oxide." "I admire much more the men,"
41 6 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.
responded Jerome Bonaparte, " who make an ink-
stand out of this stone."
For a brother of Napoleon, this was not a bad
reply; and he should be credited with it, for the
inkstand is to destroy the sword.
The diminution of the men of war, of violence,
of prey; the indefinite and superb expansion of
the men of thought and of peace; the entrance
of the real giants upon the scene of action : this
is one of the greatest facts of our great era.
There is no more sublime and pathetic spectacle,
ā mankind's deliverance from above, the potentates
put to flight by the dreamers, the prophet crushing
the hero, the sweeping away of violence by thought,
the heaven cleansed, a majestic expulsion !
Lift up your eyes, the supreme drama is enact-
ing ! The legions of light are in full pursuit of the
hordes of flame.
The masters are going out, the liberators are
The hunters of men, the trailers of armies, Nim-
rod, Sennacherib, Cyrus, Rameses, Xerxes, Cam-
byses, Attila, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Alexander^
Caesar, Bonaparte, ā all these vast, ferocious men
Slowly they flicker out ; now they touch the
horizon ; mysteriously the darkness attracts them ;
they have kinship with the shades, ā hence their
fatal descent ; their resemblance to the other phe-
nomena of night draws them on to this dreadful
union with blind immensity ā submersion of all
light. Oblivion, that shadow of darkness, awaits
WILLIAM SITAKESPEARE. 417
They are hurled down, but they remain formi-
dable. Insult not what has been great. Hootings
would be misbecoming at the burial of heroes ; the
thinker should remain grave in presence of this
enshrouding. The old glory abdicates ; the strong
are lying down. Clemency to these vanquished
conquerors ! Peace to these fallen warriors ! The
shades of the grave interpose between their light
and ours. Not without a kind of pious terror can
one behold stars changing to spectres.
While smitten with the fatal wanness of approach-
ing doom, the flamboyant pleiad of the men of
violence descends the steep slope to the gulf of de-
vouring time ; lo ! at the other extremity of space,
where the last cloud has but now faded, in the deep
sky of the future, azure forevermore, rises, resplen-
dent, the sacred galaxy of the true stars, ā Orpheus,
Hermes, Job, Homer, ^schylus, Isaiah, Ezekiel,
Hippocrates, Phidias, Socrates, Sophocles, Plato,
Aristotle, Archimedes, Euclid, Pythagoras, Lucre-
tius, Plautus, Juvenal, Tacitus, Saint Paul, John of
Patmos, Tertullian, Pelagius, Dante, Gutenberg,
Joan of Arc, Christopher Columbus, Luther,
Michael Angelo, Copernicus, Galileo, Rabelais,
Calderon, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Rembrandt,
Kepler, Milton, Moliere, Newton, Descartes, Kant,
Piranesi, Beccaria, Diderot, Voltaire, Beethoven,
Fulton, Montgolfier, Washington ; and the mar-
vellous constellation, brighter from moment to
moment, radiant as a tiara of celestial diamonds,
shines in the clear horizon, and, as it rises, blends
with the boundless dawn of Jesus Christ.
iEscHYLUS, characterized, 47-48 ; a
grand ruin, 83, 84 ; not understood
by commonplace minds, 123 ; vast
and terrible nature of his drama,
123-125 ; representation of a play
described, 126-131 ; a target for
hate during life, 132, 133 ; glory
after death, 133-135 ; how his
works were added to the Alexan-
drian library, 135-137; consulted
by Fathers of the Church, 138, 139;
destroyed by Omar, 139-142 ;
Christ prophesied in the ' Prome-
theus,' 138; the lost dramas, 143-
146; Oriental character and style,
T46-148 ; a Pythagorean, 149;
epitaph, 149 ; his geography, 149-
151; his fauna, 151, 152; a priest
of Nature, 152; his bold familiar-
ity, 152, 153; his comedy, 156; a
favorite in the Greek colonies, 159-
164; may copies of his works be
discovered? 164, 165; sources of
our knowledge of him, 168, 169;
affinity with Shakespeare, 169 ;
Prometheus compared with Ham-
let, 228-239 ; iEschylus contrasted
with Shakespeare, 284; his opin-
ion of art for art's sake, 316 ; not
degraded by his partisanship, 337.
Agrippina, mother of Nero, 61.
Alexandrian library, its size, 136;
possessed the unique copy of
iEschylus, 137-139; destroyed by
Anaxagoras, his cosmography, 107.
Aristophanes, his opinion of iEschy-
lus, 133 ; his aflSnity with iEschy-
lus, 153-156; his antique, sacred
immodesty, 154, 155 ; his antipathy
for Socrates, 155.
Art, and Nature, 36, 37; relation of
God to human art, 37; imity of
art and nature, 99, 100; non-
perfectibility the law of art, loi-
104; art contrasted with science,
105-116; enjoys a laugh, 157; art
not degraded by descending to
humanity, 314-316; no loss of
beauty from goodness, 320 ; origin
of the phrase, " Art for art's sake,"
321, 322. (See Poetry.)
Bayle of Rotterdam, his profound
Beethoven, the typical man of Ger-
many, 87, 91.
Behaim, Martin, and Columbus, 405.
Bible, the, poetry of, 316, 317; not
less poetical for taking part in
human affairs, i6. ; contrasted
with Shakespeare, 355, 356.
Bonaparte, Jerome, anecdote of, 415,
Books, the best civilizers, 96-9S;
their immortality due to Guten-
berg, 166-167; Ezekiel's allegory
of, 296, 297.
Bossuet, his opinion of Molifere,
252; his history, 398.