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much as any.' They drank with him, they jested with him, and knew him, as they did so, for the 'gentle Shakespeare,' seeing him as he was, and uncaring whether in his younger days he had been poacher or butcher's boy. To the same, in moodier moments-as perchance when old John Shakespeare died—he was Hamlet, mourning for the father he had loved ; or again, maybe, when Death had robbed him of his only boy, his sorrow found utterance in such words as Constance speaks :
Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form 18 To those who shared his brilliancy when the sack flowed, he was Falstaff, Touchstone, Jacques, or Launce, as the case might be, or his fate would have been swift and dismal. To those who shared his studies, he was the deep thinker, the world poet, the philosopher, the picker up of unconsidered trifles from the classics or elsewhere, the unerring delineator of character and master of dramatic incident, or the town would soon have rung with the silly imposture which had been foisted upon it in his name. The men who met and knew the man Shakespeare were aware, as we to-day are aware, that the creation of such works as his is far from being the monopoly of those born in the purple of aristocracy, or reared in the schools of university erudition. Of no such origin, as the world's history shows, have been the naturally gifted beings whose actions have shaped the destinies of nations or whose penmanship has lent an enduring distinction to the literature of their race.
Plebeia Dociorum animæ, plebeia fuerunt
If there be any genuine mystery surrounding Shakespeare, it is the mere mystery of the existence, at any period or in any rank of life, of such a mortal as Shakespeare was. Would it not be well to treat that mystery as the poet himself has treated the insoluble problems of the origin of evil upon earth ? He has given us Iago, unsurpassed in fiendishness; he leaves Cordelia lying strangled across the breast of Lear; but, as Dr. Dowden 18 tells us, he refuses to answer such questions as you may go on to ask, careless of the little rules that shape poetical justice. 'Shakespeare prefers to let you remain in the solemn presence of a mystery. He does not invite you into his little church or his little library brilliantly illuminated by philosophical or theological rushlights. You remain in the darkness. But you remain in the vital air. And the great night is overhead.'
EDWARD SULLIVAN. " King John, III. iv. 17 Juvenal, Sat. viii.
1s Op. cit.
FOUR-AND-TWENTY years ago the House of Commons appointed a Select Committee to consider the condition of British forestry, and to inquire whether, ' by the establishment of a forest school, or otherwise, our woodlands could be rendered more remunerative.' The Committee reported strongly in favour of the establishment of a Board of Forestry, and of a forest school in each of the three kingdoms, and expressed the opinion that some considerable proportion of the timber now imported, to the value of 16,000,0001., might, under more skilful management, be raised at home ... This subject,' they added, “ is one of great importance and well worthy of early consideration.' This Report slumbered peacefully in its pigeon-hole for fifteen years, till 1902, when the Royal Scottish Arboricultural Society succeeded in persuading the Board of Agriculture to appoint a Departmental Committee with practically the same reference as to the Select Committee. This second Committee fully endorsed the recommendations of its predecessor, adding some urgent paragraphs dealing especially with the increasing scarcity and price of coniferous timber and the effect of economic forestry as a source of employment in thinlypeopled districts.
A third Committee was appointed to inquire into the prospects of afforestation in Ireland, and reported last year in favour of the State acquiring 300,000 acres of growing wood in that country, and 700,000 acres of unplanted land. All three Committees dwelt with emphasis in their Reports on the advantage to be expected from the establishment of systematic forestry by providing employment as a check upon rural depopulation.
This appears to have been the chief consideration inducing the present Government to lend an ear to the repeated warnings about a failing timber supply. They took the somewhat unusual and puzzling course of directing the Royal Commission on Coast Erosion, which issued its first Report in 1907, to suspend its inquiry upon the inroads of the sea, a purely local mischief, and to apply themselves to inquiring whether, in connexion with reclaimed lands or otherwise, it is desirable to make an experiment in afforestation as a means of increasing employment during periods of depression in the labour market, and,
if so, by what authority and under what conditions such experiment should be conducted.'
Great are the virtues of that phrase ' or otherwise.' Fortunately Mr. Guest's colleagues have availed themselves to the full extent of its elasticity. The Report, which is signed by all the nineteen Commissioners, will certainly not disappoint those persons who, for many years past, have been disquieted by the world's rapidly increasing consumption of timber, the disappearance of accessible forests, the persistent rise in prices and the equally persistent neglect of the forest resources-present and potential—of the British Isles, both by the State and by private landowners.
It is not surprising to find no reference in the Report to reclaimed land-that is, land reclaimed from the sea--such land being usually the reverse of suitable for tree planting; but under the shield of
otherwise' the Commissioners have prepared the details of a scheme of such magnitude as to raise apprehension lest it should scare away our rulers from forestry enterprise on any scale whatever. Doubtless in framing this scheme the Commissioners desired to bring forcibly to the Government and the public a knowledge of the extent of the dormant and neglected resources of the country. It would be exceedingly unfortunate if they were understood to declare that it must be the scheme, the whole scheme, and nothing but the scheme. They have prepared a plan representing the utmost—the maximum--that can be profitably undertaken, but there is nothing in their Report unfavourable to State forestry being undertaken on a less ambitious scale.
The principal recommendations of the Commission may be summarised as follows: Commissioners are to be appointed charged with the duty of carrying out a national scheme of afforestation, equipped with compulsory powers for the acquisition of such land as may be required, the owners receiving the full value in all the circumstances of each particular case. The Treasury is to grant the Commissioners an annual free loan for the necessary period, that is, until the plantations become self-supporting.'
The extent of mountain and heathland, and poor tillage land that is considered more fit for sylviculture than for agriculture is estimated by the Royal Commission at 6,000,000 acres in Scotland, 2,500,000 acres in England and Wales, and 500,000 in Ireland, equal to 9,000,000 acres in the United Kingdom, leaving out of account all land exclusively devoted to sport or of a greater altitude than 1500 feet. This area of 9,000,000 acres it is proposed that the State should acquire and plant at the rate of 150,000 acres per annum, the total estimated outlay involved amounting at the end of eighty years to upwards of 400,000,0001., more than half the National Debt!
The annual deficit on the transaction rises from 90,0001. in the first year to 3,131,2501. in the fortieth year. In the forty-first and up to the sixtieth year the forest becomes practically self-supporting ; in the sixty-first year and
subsequently an increased revenue is received, but it is not until the eighty. first year that the full results are obtained, in this year and subsequently an approximate equalised revenue of 17,411,000l. per annum being realised. Further calculation shows that the value of the property would then be 562,075,0001., or 106,993,000l. over and above the cost of its creation.
The average annual revenue after the forest has attained maturity and is in full productive rotation represents a yield of 31. 168. 60. on the excess of accumulated charges over receipts. The Commissioners also present an alternative scheme for dealing with only 6,000,000 acres, under which both outlay and revenue are proportionately less than in the other.
In every detail of the forecast, your Commissioners have aimed at underestimating rather than overestimating the receipts, while the opposite course has been taken in dealing with the various items of expenditure. We have endeavoured to include all contingencies that can be reasonably anticipated, and the estimates have been based on the present prices of timber.
It will occur to anybody acquainted with Continental systems to ask why the Commissioners, in preparing a scheme for the afforestation of 9,000,000 acres on a rotation of eighty years, should recommend that 150,000 acres, or one sixtieth of the entire area, should be dealt with annually. The orthodox and preferable course, ensuring regularity of yield and revenue, would be to deal with only 112,500 acres or one eightieth part. The reason which led to this departure from approved practice seems inadequate, namely that the “unemployed problem is so insistent on receiving public attention as to justify some departure from the theoretical ideal.' The result must be a serious diminution in the revenue for twenty years after the 140th year.
It is certainly remarkable that all the nineteen gentlemen composing the Commission should have been so nearly of a mind as to sign a common Report, especially one submitting such an heroic enterprise as that which they advocate. Complete unanimity in so large a Commission is rare indeed, and requires a very strong case on the evidence to ensure it. It is true that a single note of partial dissent has been uttered by one of the Commissioners. Mr. Stanley Wilson, although signing the report, has appended a memorandum expressing his opinion that the financial estimate of his colleagues is too sanguine. He considers that they have underrated the cost involved in the utilisation for forestry of unemployed labour and the risks from fire, insect and other pests, gales, &c. On the first point it is not unlikely that he may prove to be right; I will refer to it later. As to the second, it should be remembered that there is abundant evidence, both historical and geological, to prove that 2000 years ago the greater part of these islands below the 1500 feet was dense forest from sea to sea, and that if gales and snowstorms are more destructive than they were of yore, that is not owing to any change in the climate of the North Atlantic, but to the denudation of the face of the country which has been stripped of its
natural protection. British woodland, such as it is, consists chiefly of belts and clumps, in which the trees have almost invariably suffered from premature and excessive thinning, causing them to grow wide branching heads inviting wind damage. It is a rare thing to find in this country a contiguous mass of, say, two or three hundred acres of wood managed in rotation and with due regard to wind direction. It is otherwise in German forests, where not only does the owner, whether the State or a private person, regulate his annual felling with a constant eye to windward, but is also compelled by law to take precautions against letting the wind into his neighbour's forest.
As to the fires and insect pests, although the risk from them ought not to be overlooked in creating a forest, their prevalence on the Continent does not prevent forestry being a very remunerative industry. Dr. Schlich laid before the Commission the balance sheet for 1904 of the State forests of Saxony, which extend to 429,300 acres. It showed a gross revenue of 348. an acre, from which 128. an acre has to be deducted for maintenance, leaving a net profit of 228. Dr. Schlich chose Saxony as an example because, physically and economically, it resembles the United Kingdom more closely than does any other of the German States ; but he might have quoted higher profits earned in Würtemberg and some other States. The State forests of the German Empire, covering about 9,848,000 acres, yielded during the five years 1877-81 an average net income of 4,280,0001., equal to 88. 6d. per acre. Being worked in regular rotation, and yielding to the acre each year no more than the equivalent of the national annual increment, these forests ensured to the management full advantage from the general rise in timber prices (they have advanced about 50 per cent. in the Prussian State forests since 1880), so that in the quinquennium 1892-6 the average annual net profits had risen to 5,416,6001. or 1ls. an acre. But these State forests represent only 32:9 per cent. of the whole woodland area in the German Empire. Taking State and private forests together, the average net annual profit works out at only 6s. 8d. an acre. This may seem nothing very magnificent, unless it is remembered that by far the greater part of the forest area in Germany is either mountain or sandy waste, either useless for any other purpose than woodland or incapable of yielding a grazing rent of more than, at most, 18. or 2s.
The returns of the Board of Agriculture show an estimate of about 3,000,000 acres under woodland of sorts in the United Kingdom. Were it possible to compile a balance sheet of the management of this area, it would infallibly show an enormous deficit; whereas, were it under economic treatment like the German forests, there are no physical or other causes to prevent it yielding a similar net profit of 6s. 8d. an acre per annum.
Nor can we look to the existing State forests of Great Britain for better economic results than those of private woodland management. In the Annual Report of the Office of Woods and Forests for