nal gladness, was shadowed with alarm. The thought that their little angels may be suddenly snatched from them back to heaven is common to all mothers, and the deeper the motherly tenderness the more biting is the thought. But the mist of such conceits, quickly routed by the morning glow of love, makes but a flitting shadow. The shadow on the brow of Mary Shakespeare was not fitting; it passed not away, and at times was deepened by some inward motion. It was a wave from the general gloom that hung over the little town of Stratford. The plague had shown there its hideous skeleton.

Nature can afford to be a spendthrift, allowing myriads of young lives to be wasted, so teeming is she with new births, so deep her store of mysterious life-germs. But does she allow any of her capital buds to be cut off in infancy? When among the survivors (who are a vast majority) we find so few prime men, men of creative calibre, great poets, thinkers, discoverers, statesmen ; when we remember that during the long Napoleonic wars but two generals earned the first rank as masters of their craft, Napoleon and Wellington ; when we reflect how rare are Cavours and Washingtons, how difficult it continues to be for us to find a man eminently suited to be the head of our republic, - a man able and just, watchful and scrupulous, temperate and energetic; when we behold everywhere this dearth of high gifts, may we not conclude that few, if any, infants of best promise are sacrificed at the threshold of life, and that probably the native excellence of such involves a self-protecting vitality to resist physical destruction?

The air inbreathed by the infant that lay asleep near his anxious mother was feeding a brain destined to be the seat of a deeper and fuller consciousness than ever quickened a human mind. If the vitality through which the soul indues itself with corporeal consistence be not strong enough to insure the material form against earthly disease, a soul of this exceptional power, as a resplendent boon from the soul of souls, will be shielded from above, and the modest cottage in Henley Street would have been encircled with a sanitary belt of guardian angels.

Much as the earliest years of human life may deserve to be called, what Alfieri in his autobiography calls them, "an unintelligent vegetation," still one catches at any fact about a great man, authentically reported, out of that period; and the more luminous his nature the more welcome the fact, as in such a nature an infantile incident or speech would, we fancy, be the more significant. St. Augustine tells us that when an infant he laughed in his sleep. To take this as prophetic of the man Augustine, we should have to reckon by contraries, and thus to surmise that the infant Shakespeare (the man Shakespeare, in the proportions of his mental build, being the opposite of Augustine) might have wept in his sleep. About Goethe, that is a very significant statement that in his second or third year he cried at the sight of an ugly child, would not bear its presence, and had to be carried home.

From Shakespeare's prattling years no incidents have come down to us. Some sparkling ones, no doubt, there were ; for from a central soul of such fiery force that it was to blaze into flames, to be forever a joy and warmth for his fellows, there must early have shot forth rays and jets significant and prophetic. But Shakespeare kept no diary and wrote no autobiography. He seems to have been without egotism. This we infer partly from the objectivity of his poetry, — but that appears to have been a

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characteristic of his age, unlike herein to the age of Wordsworth and Byron. Alfieri, at the opening of his autobiography, confesses that what moves him to write his life, “among other feelings, but more imperious than any other, is the love of myself.” Is not a little too much prominence here given to the pivotal feeling in human nature ? and would it not have been truer to say of Alfieri's autobiography, as of St. Augustine's, — so different from it, and yet so similar in the depreciation of human nature, and also of Goethe's, so different from both, — that a love of self, not in these cases an unbecoming selfish love, combined with a love of their readers, had been the moving spring of their pens ? A writer whose books have been read and liked by the best educated readers is justified in believing that a book about himself will be acceptable and instructive; as it certainly will be, if the writer is a large-minded, honest man. No more instructive, enduring volumes than these three autobiographies are found on library shelves.

The gift of self-love, Alfieri says, has been lavished upon writers, especially poets. To. Shakespeare's non-egotism we owe, I think, some of his efficiency and range as poet. Too


much self-satisfaction opens the eyes ungracefully wide to one's own merits, and dulls their vision to the merits of others, and thus obstructs the avenues of the finer sympathies, closing the heart to nourishing admirations. Looks persistently turned inward self-complacently lose some of their curiosity towards abounding prospects and people about them. Self-esteem easily becomes a veil that dims for us our neighbors as well as distant things, and at the same time hides us from ourselves. To get out of and away from the little self is the best act a man can perform : it was one that Shakespeare performed often, and with immense results.

But if from Shakespeare's childhood no word or fact has come down to us, we have of his manhood the fullest, richest, truest, of autobiographies in his mighty works. And, after all, the incidents or sayings reported about great men in their childhood are neither many nor always expressive. Possibly, the most characteristic mental movements are internal, and make no outward sign, — sudden glows that swell the mind beyond its yet narrow compass, electric shootings in the brain, premature glimpses, flashing forerunners of rare manly

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