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over the picturesque and romantic past, as we do over our youth and beauty, but it cannot be brought back. And I go further, and say that people are wanting in a true sense of the picturesque and the romantic who endeavour to carry the habits, the manners, and the customs of the remote past into the present. As the religious houses declined, hospitals, schools, colleges, and libraries took their places. The Reformation set the mind free, and the immediate result was seen in such men as Bacon, Shakespeare, Jonson, and the golden age of English letters. This classical period of England, when almost every man of rank was a man of letters, was hardly the age to pass Acts of Parliament merely to please a king. Ah! Mr. Gairdner, we are not all such fools as you think, and you may speak as contemptuously as you like of the burning of vulgar Lollards; and may shout as loud as you please of the ‘Martyrs for Rome,' but you ought not to be surprised if, in the midst of your performance, the wig of the advocate is discovered under the hood of the historian.
G. MONROE ROYCE.
VOL, LXV-No, 388
THE VINDICATORS OF SHAKESPEARE
A REPLY TO SIR EDWARD SULLIVAN
SIR EDWARD SULLIVAN has published two articles in this Review] wherein he has done me the honour to criticise my book," and the injury to class me, together with the late Judge Webb, among those whom he calls · The Defamers of Shakespeare.' I should feel more resentment at this odious appellation if it were not so palpably absurd. For how, pray, have I defamed Shakespeare, or what Shakespeare have I defamed ? Not, certainly, the immortal poet for whom I have expressed unbounded admiration. No, the real defamers of
Shakespeare' are the man who wrote and the men who have repeated with approval those preposterous lines which tell us that the bard who is not of an age but for all time,
For gain, not glory, winged his roving flight,
And grew immortal in his own despite. But if I have not defamed Shakespeare the poet, can I be said to have defamed Shakespeare the Stratford player ? I deny it absolutely. The defamers of Shakespeare of Stratford (unless, indeed, what they have recorded is 'true in substance and in fact') can be none other than the old note-collectors and memoir-writers such as those reverend gentlemen John Ward and William Fulman and Richard Davies ; such
; as John Aubrey and Nicholas Rowe and John Manningham, and the later biographers who have accepted and repeated the stories, sometimes far from edifying, which these chroniclers and diarists have related concerning the man who is so generally identified with the 'Swan of Avon. Yet were it not for such stories none of the socalled “Lives' of Shakespeare could have been written ; and to accuse a modern critic of Defamation' because he re-states them, and makes inquiry as to their value and their consequence, is manifestly ridiculous. For my part I may say that, so far from adopting such anecdotes and traditions in an uncritical spirit, I have been constrained by legal considerations to cast the gravest doubt upon the story of Shakspere's deer-stealing escapade (to take an example), although to
" See the Nineteenth Century for March and April 1909.
have accepted it as true, following in the wake of Mr. Sidney Lee and other orthodox authorities, would obviously have suited me much better in view of the case which I had to present. Nor have I laid any stress at all upon the tales of Shakspere's hard drinking propensities, for which, nevertheless, tradition furnishes us with some testimony which cannot be altogether set aside as a quantité négligeable.
How then, I ask once more, have I been guilty of the crime I am charged withal ? Well, if to argue that William Shakspere of Stratford did not write Venus and Adonis, and Love's Labour's Lost. and the Sonnets and Hamlet is to defame Shakespeare,' then indeed I must admit that Sir Edward Sullivan may be justified in the title of offence which he has chosen for his articles. And just as sensible (and just as silly) would it be to charge those who dispute the proposition, once universally accepted, that a certain 'blind old man of Scio’s rocky isle 'wrote both the Iliad and the Odyssey, with being • defamers of Homer'! We are, it seems, defamers of Moses if we deny that he wrote the Pentateuch, and defamers of St. Paul if we deny that he wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews !
The fact remains, as I have already written, that with regard to the life-story of Shakspere of Stratford, as the biographers have handed it down to us, “from first to last there is not one creditable act in the whole of it-not a single act indicative of a generous, highminded and great-souled man, not one such act that has a jot or tittle of evidence to support it.' This, surely, is a fact that we must all deplore. Possibly the biographers have done the man an injustice, but if so it is they, and not we of the 'unorthodox 'school, who are responsible for it. And if it should be established that the difficulty which Hallam so strongly felt (viz. in 'identifying the young man who came up from Stratford, was afterwards an indifferent player in a London theatre, and returned to his native place in middle life, with the author of Macbeth and Lear') is one that we are no longer called upon to contemplate, and that this man of the barren and banal life. story is not, in truth and in fact, the immortal poet whom none has dared defame, and at whose shrine we all must worship, then shall we have amply earned the title which I have ventured to place at the head of this paper.
But if Sir Edward Sullivan had confined himself to the puerile charge which he brings against me of being a defamer of Shakespeare I could have readily forgiven him. Unfortunately he does far worse. He has, I regret to say, allowed his irritation against those whose
* In re Shakespeare, Beeching v. Greenwood : Rejoinder on behalf of the Defendant, p. 124. (John Lane.)
* To write, as Sir E. Sullivan does, of a literary controversy [sic] directed to the dethronement of our greatest English poet,' seems to me simply childish. Shakespeare the poet is enthroned for as long as the English tongue shall be known. The question is, Who was the poet ? Sir Edward in this, as in other places, merely begs the question at issue.
views on this fascinating literary problem do not coincide with his own, to blind him to the rules of controversial courtesy. He has styled me (p. 433) 'the new advocate of the Baconians,' and has throughout both his articles referred to me as the author of a 'Baconian' work, and the upholder of the 'Baconian ’ hypothesis. Now I have expressly stated in the Preface to my book that I make no attempt whatever to uphold the 'Baconian ’ theory ; that I confine myself entirely to the negative proposition, viz. that Shakspere of Stratford was not the author of the Plays and Poems, and that 'I have made no attempt to deal with the positive side of the question.' Throughout my book, although I have naturally mentioned one or two ' Baconian' contentions, I have advanced no single argument in favour of the Baconian authorship. More than that, I have expressly denied, as the fact is, that I hold the Baconian faith, for I am altogether 'agnostic' on the question whether or not Francis Bacon had any share in any of the plays which were collectively published in the Folio of 1623 as 'The Works of Shakespeare.'
Sir Edward Sullivan is well aware of all this, for not only has he read my rejoinder to Canon Beeching, which leaves no possible room for doubt on this point, but very shortly after the publication of his first article I wrote to him to this effect, pointing out the error of which he had been guilty. He persists, nevertheless, and to my great surprise, in his deliberate misrepresentation of my position.
But the explanation is, of course, not far to seek. The fact is that just as a few years ago a rationalistic writer on theological matters was always styled an'atheist ' by orthodox disputants, because a stigma was supposed to be attached to the word, so at the present time every critic who is sceptical as to the received authorship of the Shakespearean plays is at once dubbed a 'Baconian' by the high priests and Pharisees of the Stratfordian faith, because the appellation is taken by many to connote' faddist' and 'fanatic,' and it is so much more easy to call a man 'faddist and fanatic'than to confute his arguments. It is true that in each case the justice of the epithet may be entirely repudiated by him upon whom it is bestowed; but what matters that to your controversial theologian or to your combative Stratfordian ? Magna est falsitas et praevalebit !
Coming now to closer quarters with some of Sir Edward Sullivan's pronouncements, we find this latest champion of the received belief casting about, as so many have done before him, for analogous cases to that of Shakespeare (on the assumption that Shakspere the player and Shakespeare the author are identical), and he thinks he has found a very remarkable parallel in the case of Plautus; nay, he even affects surprise that none of the 'Baconians,' amongst whom, more suo, he particularly refers to Judge Webb and myself, has made any allusion to 'so singular a parallel, and so curious an anticipation in its main
• See'the Nineteenth Century, April 1909, p. 635 note, and p. 641.
features, of the so-called mystery surrounding Shakespeare's career and work. Well, I cannot speak for the Judge, and unhappily he is not here to speak for himself, but I imagine that he made no reference to Plautus because he was of the same opinion as I am with regard to this supposed parallel,' viz. that the analogy between Plautus and Shakespeare (assuming the identity of player and poet) does not, in fact, hold good.
But what is the proposition in illustration of which the example of the Latin dramatist is cited by Sir Edward Sullivan ? The truth is,' he writes, for all that may be said to the contrary, that preeminence in the world of literature is not, and never will be, the monopoly of the educated or the high-born.' Nothing could more clearly show than this sentence how entirely this new Stratfordian protagonist has failed to understand the arguments advanced by those who believe, with Hallam, that player Shakspere was not the real Shakespeare of the Plays and Poems. Nobody, so far as I know, has ever been so idiotic as to maintain that pre-eminence in the world of literature is the monopoly of the educated or the high-born ʼ; nor can I conceive that any useful purpose is subserved by that method of controversy which consists in ignoring the real contentions of one's opponent in order to trample upon foolish arguments attributed to but never in fact advanced by him.
“No man who is not either well educated or high-born can possibly become a great poet!' Such is the proposition which Sir Edward Sullivan would fain put into my mouth, knowing that a hundred instances are vociferous to the contrary.
Let me endeavour to state once more what is the true nature of the argument put forward in this connexion by myself and others of the unorthodox' school. That a man of humble birth and very
fect education may rise to the highest ranks of literature is one of the notorious facts of human history. Take the constantly cited case of 'the Ayrshire ploughman,' for example, with which I have dealt in my book on The Shakespeare Problem under the head of
Shakespeare and Genius.' Here, if ever, we find an instructive example of what can be achieved in the realm of poetry by a man lowly born, and although by no means left in ignorance, still with a very moderate educational equipment. From the days of my boyhood the poetry of Burns, so graphic in description, so terrible in satire, so pathetic in elegy, so tender in the most exquisite of love songs, has been to me a wonder and a delight. But wherein is it that Burns so much excelled ? He gives us The Holy Fair and Tam o'Shanter, and The Jolly Beggars, and he gives us his immortal songs.
6 This could be very easily demonstrated, but in the space at my disposal for reply it would obviously be absurd for me to attempt to deal here with all the questions raised by Sir Edward Sullivan, though this is by no means my final word on his (in my opinion) most unfair attack.