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A Hero and Some Other Folks by William A. Quayle

And as dreamer this article purposes portraying him


the works of Shakespeare is impossible. But the man who wrote Hamlet was no mediocre, be he Bacon or Shakespeare. He was a superlative genius. This fact admitted, we need have no difficulty with the problem. It becomes a question a child can answer. The "myriad-minded Shakespeare" could do what to an ordinary, or even extraordinary, man would be an absolute impossibility. One critic discovers Shakespeare to be a musician; another, a classical scholar; and so he has been claimed in almost every field. He was not all. So critics confound us. They also confound themselves. The genius which could write the plays could master all these, though he squandered his youth. Let the history of genius guide from this labyrinth. Was not Caesar orator, general, historian? Was not Napoleon the same? Does not genius destroy all demonstrations with reference to itself? Do not Pascal, Euler, Da Vinci, and Angelo confound us? How dare we dogmatize as to the doings of genius? Read Shakespeare, and find you can not discover the characteristic of the man. You can not in his writings read his interior life. David Copperfield may display Dickens, and Byron's poems may give us the author's autobiography, and Shelley's writings may give a photograph of his intellectual self; but Shakespeare's plays give no clew to his character. He is all. He grovels in Falstaff; he towers in Prospero. He smites all strings that have music in them. He baffles us like a spirit, hiding himself in darkness. To attribute the authorship of the plays to Bacon is, to my thought, not to rid us of our difficulty, but rather to increase difficulty. Bacon we know. He was jurist, statesman, natural philosopher. Add to these the possibility of his having written Shakespeare, and the magnificence of his achievement would dwarf that of Shakespeare. Space forbids dwelling on this longer, though the theme is fascinating to any lover of letters. The thought in this paper (and that goes without the saying) is, not to discuss thoroughly these various phases of literary iconoclasm, but rather to call attention to them and to co-ordinate them.

I desire to show that these phases of criticism are not difficult of explanation. These are natural, and are the outgrowth of an image-making age. Study the age, understand it thoroughly, and the literature of that period can hardly be a puzzling question. The nineteenth century will stand in history as the chiefest iconoclast which has arisen in the world's first six thousand years. And its science, statecraft, art, and literature will be looked upon as segments of the one circle, and that circle the century.

VII

Tennyson the Dreamer

My earliest recollections of Alfred Tennyson are associated with the old Harper's volume, green-bound, large-paged, and frontispieced with two pictures of the poet--one of them, a face bearded, thoughtful, with eyes seeming not to see the near, but the remote; a head well-poised and noble, with hair tangled as if matted by the wind; the face, as I a lad thought, of a dreamer and a poet; and my first impressions, I think, were right, since the years are confirmatory of this first conviction. The second portrait pictured the poet wrapped in his cloak, standing, lost in thought, alone upon a cliff, gazing solitary at the sea, and listening. If I do not mistake, these pictures caught the poet's spirit in so far as pictures can portray spirit. Tennyson was always alone beside a sea, looking, listening, dreaming; and as dreamer this article purposes portraying him.


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