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The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 06, No. 35, September, 1860 online

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of the text considerable knowledge of it and no inconsiderable ability
for poetical and dramatic criticism.

In the first scene of the first act of "The Tempest" Mr. Collier gives
the line, -

"Good Boatswain, have care," -

adding, "It may be just worth remark, that the colloquial expression is
_have a care_, and _a_ is inserted in the margin of the corrected folio,
1632, to indicate, probably, that the poet so wrote it, or, at all
events, that the actor so delivered it."

In the copy of Hanmer in my possession the _a_ is also inserted in the
margin, upon the authority of one of the eminent actors above mentioned.

SCENE II.

"The sky. it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to the welkin's cheek,
Dashes the fire out."

The manuscript corrector of the folio, 1632, has substituted _heat_
for "cheek," which appears to me an alteration of no value whatever.
Shakspeare was more likely to have written _cheek_ than _heat_; for
elsewhere he uses the expression, "Heaven's face," "the welkin's face,"
and, though irregular, the expression is poetical.

At Miranda's exclamation, -

"A brave vessel,
Who had no doubt some noble creature in her,
Dash'd all to pieces," -

Mr. Collier does Theobald the justice to observe, that he, as well as
the corrector of the folio, 1632, adds the necessary letter _s_ to the
word "creature," making the plural substantive agree with her other
exclamation of, "Poor souls, they perished!"

Where Mr. Collier, upon the authority of his folio, substitutes
_pre_vision for "provision" in the lines of Prospero, -

"The direful spectacle of the wreck . . .
I have with such provision in mine art
So safely ordered," etc., -

I do not agree to the value of the change. It is very true that
_pre_vision means the foresight that his art gave him, but _pro_vision
implies the exercise of that foresight or _pre_vision; it is therefore
better, because more comprehensive.

Mr. Collier's folio gives as an improvement upon Malone and Steevens's
reading of the passage, -

"And thy father
Was Duke of Milan; and his only heir
A princess; no worse issued," -

the following: -

"And thy father
Was Duke of Milan, - thou his only heir
And princess no worse issued."

Supposing the folio to be ingenious rather than authoritative, the
passage, as it stands in Hanmer, is decidedly better, because clearer: -

"And thy father
Was Duke of Milan, - thou, his only heir
A princess - no worse issued."

In the next passage, given as emended by the folio, we have what appears
to me one bad and one decidedly good alteration from the usual reading,
which, in all the editions given hitherto, has left the meaning barely
perceptible through the confusion and obscurity of the expression.

"He being thus _lorded_,
Not only with what my revenue yielded,
But what my power might else exact, - like one
Who having _unto truth_ by telling of it
Made such a sinner of his memory
To credit his own lie, - he did believe
He was indeed the Duke."

The folio says, -

"He being thus _loaded_."

And to this change I object: the meaning was obvious before; "lorded"
stands clearly enough here for made lord of or over, etc.; and though
the expression is unusual, it is less prosaic than the proposed word
_loaded_. But in the rest of the passage the critic of the folio does
immense service to the text, in reading

"Like one
Who having _to untruth_ by telling of it
Made such a sinner of his memory
To credit his own lie, - he did believe
He was indeed the Duke."

This change carries its own authority in its manifest good sense.

Of the passage, -

"Whereon,
A treacherous army levied, one midnight
Fated to the purpose, did Antonio open
The gates of Milan, and in the dead of darkness
The ministers for the purpose hurried thence
Me and thy crying self," -

Mr. Collier says that the iteration of the word "purpose," in the fourth
line, after its employment in the second, is a blemish, which his folio
obviates by substituting the word _practice_ in the first line. I think
this a manifest improvement, though not an important one.

Mr. Collier gives Rowe the credit of having altered "butt" to _boat_,
and "have quit it" to _had quit it_, in the lines, -

"Where they prepar'd
A rotten carcase of a _butt_ not rigg'd,
Nor tackle, sail, nor mast, - the very rats
Instinctively _have quit it_."

Adding, that in both changes he is supported by the corrector of the
folio, 1632. Hanmer gives the passage exactly as the latter, and as Rowe
does.

We now come to the stage-directions in the folio, to which Mr. Collier
gives, I think, a most exaggerated value. He says, that, where Prospero
says, -

"Lend thy hand
And pluck my magic garment from me, - so
Lie there, my art," -

the words, "Lay it down," are written over against the passage. Now this
really seems a very unnecessary direction, inasmuch as the text very
clearly indicates that Prospero lays down as well as plucks off his
"magic garment," - unless we are to suppose Miranda holding it over her
arm till he resumes it. But still less do I agree with Mr. Collier in
thinking the direction, "Put on robe again," at the passage beginning,
"Now I arise," any extraordinary accession to the business, as it is
technically called, of the scene: for I do not think that his resuming
his magical robe was in any way necessary to account for the slumber
which overcomes Miranda, "in spite of her interest in her father's
story," and which Mr. Collier says the commentators have endeavored to
account for in various ways; but putting "_because_ of her interest in
her father's story," instead of "_in spite_ of," I feel none of the
difficulty which beset the commentators, and which Mr. Collier conjures
by the stage-direction which makes Prospero resume his magic robe at
a certain moment in order to put his daughter to sleep. Worthy Dr.
Johnson, who was not among the puzzled commentators on this occasion,
suggests, very agreeably to common sense, that "Experience proves that
any violent agitation of the mind easily subsides in slumber." But Mr.
Collier says, the Doctor gives this very reasonable explanation of
Miranda's sleep only because he was not acquainted with the folio
stage-direction about Prospero's coat, and knew no better. Now we are
acquainted with this important addition to the text, and yet know no
better than to agree with Doctor Johnson, that Miranda's slumbers were
perfectly to be accounted for without the coat. Mr. Collier does not
seem to know that a deeper and heavier desire to sleep follows upon the
overstrained exercise of excited attention than on the weariness of a
dull and uninteresting appeal to it.

But let us consider Shakspeare's text, rather than the corrector's
additions, for a moment. Within reach of the wild wind and spray of
the tempest, though sheltered from their fury, Miranda had watched the
sinking ship struggling with the mad elements, and heard when "rose from
sea to sky the wild farewell." Amazement and pity had thrown her into a
paroxysm of grief, which is hardly allayed by her father's assurance,
that "there's no harm done." After this terrible excitement follows the
solemn exordium to her father's story, -

"The hour's now come;
The very minute bids thee ope thine ear.
Obey and be attentive."

The effort she calls upon her memory to make to recover the traces
of her earliest impressions of life, - the strangeness of the events
unfolded to her, - the duration of the recital itself, which is
considerable, - and, above all, the poignant personal interest of
its details, are quite sufficient to account for the sudden utter
prostration of her overstrained faculties and feelings, and the profound
sleep that falls on the young girl. Perhaps Shakspeare knew this, though
his commentators, old and new, seem not to have done so; and without a
professed faith, such as some of us moderns indulge in, in the mysteries
of magnetism, perhaps he believed enough in the magnetic force of the
superior physical as well as mental power of Prospero's nature over
the nervous, sensitive, irritable female organization of his child to
account for the "I know thou canst not choose" with which he concludes
his observation on her drowsiness, and his desire that she will not
resist it. The magic gown may, indeed, have been powerful, - but hardly
more so, we think, than the nervous exhaustion which, combined with
the authoritative will and eyes of her lord and father, bowed down the
child's drooping eyelids in profoundest sleep.

The strangest of all Mr. Collier's comments upon this passage, however,
is that where he represents Miranda as, up to a certain point of her
father's story, remaining "standing eagerly listening by his side." This
is not only gratuitous, but absolutely contrary to Shakspeare's text, - a
greater authority, I presume, than even that of the annotated folio.
Prospero's words to his daughter, when first he begins the recital of
their sea-sorrow, are, -

"Sit down!
For thou must now know further."

Does Mr. Collier's folio reject this reading of the first line? or does
he suppose that Miranda remained standing, in spite of her father's
command? Moreover, when he interrupts his story with the words, "Now I
arise," he adds, to his daughter, "Sit still," which clearly indicates
both that she was seated and that she was about to rise (naturally
enough) when her father did. We say, "Sit _down_," to a person who is
standing; and, "Sit _still_," to a person seated who is about to rise;
and in all these minute particulars, the simple text of Shakspeare, if
attentively followed, gives every necessary indication of his intention
with regard to the attitudes and movements of the persons on the stage
in this scene; and the highly commended stage-directions of the folio
are here, therefore, perfectly superfluous.

The next alteration in the received text is a decided improvement. In
speaking of the royal fleet dispersed by the tempest, Ariel says, -

"They all have met again,
And are upon the Mediterranean _flote_
Bound sadly home for Naples"; -

for which Mr. Collier's folio substitutes, -

"They all have met again,
And all upon the Mediterranean _float_,
Bound sadly back to Naples."

Mr. Collier notices, that the improvement of giving the lines,

"Which any print of goodness will not take,"

to Prospero, instead of Miranda, dates as far back as Dryden and
Davenant's alteration of "The Tempest," from which he says Theobald and
others copied it.

The corrected folio gives its authority to the lines of the song, -

"Foot it featly here and there,
And, sweet sprites, the burden bear," -

which stands so in Hanmer, and, indeed is the usually received
arrangement of the song.

This is the last corrected passage in the first act, in the course of
which Mr. Collier gives us no fewer than sixteen, altered, emended, and
commented upon in his folio. Many of the emendations are to be found
_verbatim_ in the Oxford and subsequent editions, and three only appear
to us to be of any special value, tried by the standard of common sense,
to which we agreed, on Mr. Collier's invitation, to refer them.

The line in Prospero's threat to Caliban, -

"I'll rack thee with old cramps,
Fill all thy bones with _aches_, make thee roar," -

occasioned one of Mr. John Kemble's characteristic differences with the
public, who objected, perhaps not without reason, to hearing the word
"aches" pronounced as a dissyllable, although the line imperatively
demands it; and Shakspeare shows that the word was not unusually so
pronounced, as he introduces it with the same quantity in the prose
dialogue of "Much Ado about Nothing," and makes it the vehicle of a pun
which certainly argues that it was familiar to the public ear as _ache_
and not _ake_. When Hero asks Beatrice, who complains that she is sick,
what she is sick for, - a hawk, a hound, or a husband, - Beatrice replies,
that she is sick for - or of - that which begins them all, an _ache_, - an
_H_. Indeed, much later than Shakspeare's day the word was so
pronounced; for Dean Swift, in the "City Shower," has the line, -

"Old _aches_ throb, your hollow tooth will
rage."

The opening of this play is connected with my earliest recollections. In
looking down the "dark backward and abysm of time," to the period when
I was but six years old, my memory conjures up a vision of a stately
drawing-room on the ground-floor of a house, doubtless long since swept
from the face of the earth by the encroaching tide of new houses
and streets that has submerged every trace of suburban beauty,
picturesqueness, or rural privacy in the neighborhood of London,
converting it all by a hideous process of assimilation into more London,
till London seems almost more than England can carry.

But in those years, "long enough ago," to which I refer, - somewhere
between Lea and Blackheath, stood in the midst of well-kept grounds a
goodly mansion, which held this pleasant room. It was always light and
cheerful and warm, for the three windows down to the broad gravel-walk
before it faced south; and though the lawn was darkened just in front of
them by two magnificent yew-trees, the atmosphere of the room itself,
in its silent, sunny loftiness, was at once gay and solemn to my small
imagination and senses, - much as the interior of Saint Peter's of Rome
has been since to them. Wonderful, large, tall jars of precious old
china stood in each window, and my nose was just on a level with the
wide necks, whence issued the mellowest smell of fragrant _pot-pourri_.
Into this room, with its great crimson curtains and deep crimson carpet,
in which my feet seemed to me buried, as in woodland moss, I used to be
brought for recompense of having been "very good," and there I used to
find a lovely-looking lady, who was to me the fitting divinity of this
shrine of pleasant awfulness. She bore a sweet Italian diminutive for
her Christian name, added to one of the noblest old ducal names of
Venice, which was that of her family.

I have since known that she was attached to the person of, and warmly
personally attached to, the unfortunate Caroline of Brunswick, Princess
of Wales, - then only unfortunate; so that I can now guess at the drift
of much sad and passionate talk with indignant lips and tearful eyes, of
which the meaning was then of course incomprehensible to me, but which I
can now partly interpret by the subsequent history of that ill-used and
ill-conducted lady.

The face of my friend with the great Venetian name was like one of
Giorgione's pictures, - of that soft and mellow colorlessness that
recalls the poet's line, -

"E smarrisce 'l bel volto in quel colore
Che non è pallidezza, ma candore," -

or the Englishman's version of the same thought, -

"Her face, - oh, call it fair, not pale!"

It seemed to me, as I remember it, cream-colored; and her eyes, like
clear water over brown rocks, where the sun is shining. But though the
fair visage was like one of the great Venetian master's portraits, her
voice was purely English, low, distinct, full, and soft, - and in this
enchanting voice she used to tell me the story of the one large picture
which adorned the room.

Over and over again, at my importunate beseeching, she told
it, - sometimes standing before it, while I held her hand and listened
with upturned face, and eyes rounding with big tears of wonder and pity,
to a tale which shook my small soul with a sadness and strangeness
far surpassing the interest of my beloved tragedy, "The Babes in the
Wood," - though at this period of my existence it has happened to me to
interrupt with frantic cries of distress, and utterly refuse to hear,
the end of that lamentable ballad.

But the picture. - In the midst of a stormy sea, on which night seemed
fast settling down, a helmless, mastless, sailless bark lay weltering
giddily, and in it sat a man in the full flower of vigorous manhood.
His attitude was one of miserable dejection, and, oh, how I did long to
remove the hand with which his eyes were covered, to see what manner of
look in them answered to the bitter sorrow which the speechless lips
expressed! His other hand rested on the fair curls of a girl-baby of
three years old, who clung to his knee, and, with wide, wondering blue
eyes and laughing lips, looked up into the half-hidden face of her
father. - "And that," said the sweet voice at my side, "was the good Duke
of Milan, Prospero, - and that was his little child, Miranda."

There was something about the face and figure of the Prospero that
suggested to me those of my father; and this, perhaps, added to the
poignancy with which the representation of his distress affected my
childish imagination. But the impression made by the picture, the story,
and the place where I heard the one and saw the other, is among the most
vivid that my memory retains. And never, even now, do I turn the magic
page that holds that marvellous history, without again seeing the lovely
lady, the picture full of sad dismay, and my own six-year-old self
listening to that earliest Shakspearian lore that my mind and heart ever
received. I suppose this is partly the secret of my love for this,
above all other of the poet's plays; - it was my first possession in the
kingdom of unbounded delight which he has since bestowed upon me.

* * * * *


THE GREAT ARM-CHAIR.


Shall I not to-day, Estelle, give you the history of this great
arm-chair, the only historical piece of furniture in our house? The
heavy oak frame was carved by an imprisoned poet. They took away his
pen, and in larger lines he carved this chair. Heavily moulded Sphinxes
form its arms; the strong legs and feet of some wild beast its support;
the crest, a winged figure with bandaged eyes, - a Fate or Fortune
we might call it, - that mild look not to be resisted in its gentle
strength. But blind Fortune could not so master him: his prison made for
him only a secure room, in which to study, to work out, the mysteries.

The rich covering was wrought long years ago, in some ancient convent,
by a saintly nun. Holy, pious tears dropped on it as she wrought. She
pricked out brave bright flowers with her needle, though her own life
was pale and sad. I cover this sacred work with housewifely care; but it
makes our rest there more hallowed.

This old chair we call our dreaming-chair, - to borrow a name, our
Sleepy-Hollow. It is so simple and grand in workmanship, it should be
the seat of honor in a king's palace; and yet it is in place in our
small parlor. Perhaps some day I may tell you of the ancient dames and
knights who once possessed it; but they have long since slept their last
sleep, - no summer-afternoon's nap, but a sleep so long to last, now
their long day's work is done.

Not quite finished is the old man's work who this afternoon sat in the
chair and quietly dreamed back his youth. I saw the hardened, withered
face soften, as the bright light of childhood played around it; the
meagre, hard old man forgot for a little the sharp want that pinched
him; when he waked, he still babbled of green fields.

"Did Robinson Crusoe ever come back to his father and mother?" he says
to me. "Poor boy! poor boy! I went to sea when I was young. Father and
mother didn't like it. Came back after a four-years' voyage, and off
again, soon as the ship had unloaded, on another trip up the Channel:
took all my money to fit out. Might have had the Custom-House, if there
had been anybody to speak for me; would have done my work well, and
maybe had kept it thirty or forty years. Should be glad to creep into a
hay-mow and pay somebody to feed me. Wish old Uncle Jack was good for
somethin' besides work, work, - nothin' but hard work! Wish he could talk
and say somethin'.

"Now that was good, sensible poetry you were reading, wasn't it? Good
stuff? Couldn't hear a word of it: poor old fellow can't hear much now.
Wish my father had lived longer; he would have told me things; he used
to be different to me. I could have been a sight of comfort to him in
mathematics." (His father died when the son was fifty years old; the
thirty years he had lived since seemed a long life to the old man.)
"Mayn't I look at the poetry?"

I found the place for him, - "New England."

"Yes, the farmer takes lots of comfort, walking on the road, foddering
cattle, cutting wood."

Uncle Jack believes heartily in New England corn, and in the planting
and hoeing of Indian corn he takes great delight: not to corn-laws, but
to Indian corn, the talk always drifts.

"I hear you are going to plant a couple of acres of corn, Sir. Glad of
it. This is an excellent dish of tea, Marm. This bread tastes like my
mother's bread; baked in a bake-kettle. These mangoes are nice, - such as
we used to have."

Turning to Aunt Sarah, he says, -

"Did you ever notice a difference in eggs, Marm?"

"Yes, Aunt thinks there is a difference between fresh and stale eggs."

"But I mean, Marm, that some are thin-shelled, some rough, some
round, some peaked: a hen lays 'em just so all her life. Ever see a
difference?"

It is an open question.

Then turning to the master of the house, -

"Do you like choc'late, Sir? Well, how you going to fix it when you
haven't got any milk? Well, you just beat up an egg, and pour on the
choc'late, boiling hot, stirring all the time, and you won't want any
milk, Sir. That was what kept me alive aboard the Ranger."

Now comes the story of the Ranger. He was getting in years, he said, and
wanted a home for his old age; so he built him a boat. He put a little
open stove in it, because an open fire felt kind o' comfortable to his
toes. He named it the Ranger; because when he was a little boy he took a
long walk to the beach with his father, the little Iulus following with
unequal steps, and they saw a shipwrecked vessel, named the Ranger, and
he liked the name. He kept that name in his heart many years. When at
last, by dint of much saving and scraping together, much hoeing of
Indian corn, the old stocking-foot was at last filled, all the little
odd bits, poured out and counted up, came to enough to speak to the
ship-builder. Oh, the model! how the old man's brain worked over that!
Then the timber, - each was a chosen piece; oak, apple, cherry, pine,
each tree sent a stick. The home was builded, was launched, was
christened: The Ranger. Alas, it was an ill-omened name to him! Brave
and young was he in heart, and loved right well his tossing, rolling
home; and many a hard gale did he ride out in her alone, old as he was.

Too old was he to be trusted on the treacherous deep; and friends (?)
advised and counselled, and the home of his old age was sold. (He never
got the pay!) Now, with restless, wandering feet, he makes long tramps,
trying to collect old debts. Kind-hearted old man that he is, thinking
always he is hard on 'em when he gets a promise to pay! A wife has been
sick; perhaps he had better not ask for it now. His ox has died; maybe
he had better wait. Fumbling over old papers in his pocket-book,
muttering something about a pension: he was on the list, but was never
called out, or somebody took his place.

Poor old Uncle Jack, with his dream of a pension, his dream of an
office, his dream of a home in a boat! With him "many a dream has gone
down the stream."

May some friendly hand at last close his eyes to that last long sleep,
when his turn comes to heave down!

He is always finding Indian arrowheads and hatchets and pestles. He
picks full pails of the nicest-looking huckleberries. He is always
dressed in clean, tidy clothes, a little scant and well patched. He pats
me on the head and says, "Didn't know you were Evelyn's sister; thought
it was a little three-year old." About to tell me a sad story he had
read in the newspaper, he stops suddenly and says, "Believe I won't tell
you, dear!" "Did you hear the newspipe has broke?" when the Atlantic
Telegraph Cable parted. He had plans for shoving off the Leviathan when
it stuck.

Shall I not tell you he brings me a little bunch of eels of his own
spearing? that you must be careful at table he has enough to eat, he
takes such small pieces? that he is altogether a sparse man? has rows of
pins on his sleeve that he picks up? - an old-fashioned man, whose type
is fast fading out from these "fast," "steep" times. He tells a story of
a stream of black flies which came so thick and so fast pouring on, he
looked as long as he darst to. Yet he can tell a good, big story yet,


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Online LibraryVariousThe Atlantic Monthly, Volume 06, No. 35, September, 1860 → online text (page 6 of 21)