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who might possibly pay for a Falstaff's drinks for the sake of laughing at his talk, but who in no possible juncture of circumstances could be supposed to take an active part in the conversation.
Very good people are sometimes troubled with doubts about the doctrine of the Trinity, and ever since I first read of Miss Bacon's theory, that Shakspeare did not write Shakspeare's plays, but that he was merely a mask for Lord Bacon - intellectually the greatest Englishman of his time I have had spasms of infidelity about the “divine William." As I looked at his graven image in Stratford church, and read the mysterious curse which forbids any meddling with his bones, all my doubts returned. How was it possible, thought I, that a drunken, dissolute youth, educated in this out-of-the-way place, ever acquired the information displayed in a long series of historical plays? How did anybody born in Stratford-on-Avon ever come to write anything? I was glad to go out of the church; and as I went I gazed again on the serious countenance of Mr. Butcher, and wondered if he did not have his doubts, and if he did not have to struggle with himself to keep from breaking out sometime before a party of American visitors, and telling them that they were humbugged; that there never was any Shakspeare; that he never was born
never died, and never wrote any plays. If Mr. Butcher had any doubts, he kept them locked in his bosom by a "combination” known only to himself. But he was not a Shakspearean enthusiast; for as we walked down the aisle, he called my attention to some new stained-glass windows, and to the modern arrangements for heating the church with hot-water pipes, for, he remarked, it was a cold place in the winter time; and so he said "good night,” and left me in the churchyard.
It was a quiet place. The Avon flows at the foot of the stone wall which forms one side of the churchyard. On the other side of the narrow stream, which winds among sedgy islands, was a broad, green meadow, but a few inches above the level of the water; and beyond that was a green embankment, and then a line of scattered oak trees, and beyond them the evening sky. Young people were walking arm-in-arm in the meadow, and some boys were fishing from the stone wall, and some fresh-faced, hoy. denish young girls were running and romping about among the gravestones. It was possible here to believe in Shakspeare. It was possible to suppose that he might have walked beside this stream, and that his brilliant fancy might have here conjured up such bits of melody as “Where the bee sucks," and "Come unto these yellow sands.” And yet, if history be true, all this was fancy. The immortal plays were written in London, the London of nearly three hundred years ago, a city of dirty, narrow streets and unsavory smells. The chances are that "All the world's a stage” was thought out, not under the blue sky at Stratford, but at the wings and amid the smoke of the candles that lit the stage of the Globe Theatre, in London. Poets have lived in most unpoetical places, and Shakspeare was not an exception. Stratford had nothing to do with his genius. In the little town he was born, and spent a not very reputable youth. He sought real life in London, and passed his greatest days there, and retired at last with a not uncommon feeling of attachment to one's birthplace, to Stratford, to die and be buried. His family name is not an
There is a Shakspeare in the town now, who keeps a little shop; there is, or was not many years ago, a Captain Shakspeare in the British army, who, Mr. Butcher told me, had visited Stratford; but no Shakspeare traces his descent from the
one great man of the name, and really but little is known of him whose epitaph might read: “He furnished the world with quotations."
It was quite dark when I got back to the inn. Bardolph, Pistol and the rest kept up an awful noise in a tar-room near, singing convivial songs, and occasionally I heard a female voice above the din, which I suppose was that of Dame Quickly; and to make the illusion yet more perfect, I met Doll Tearsheet on the stairs the next morning very drunk indeed.
On my way to the station, I stopped at the house where Shakspeare was born.
It is a "timber-and-plaster” house, with a slightly-projecting upper story, such as are found all over England. One may see a row of them in Gray's Inn Road, London, I should judge this style of house was the ancestor of the “ crete” house -a variety of architecture unfortunately prevalent in Kansas. The Shakspeare house is kept in excellent repair, and the museum it contains is really interesting. I noticed the trace of America all around. Washington Irving's lines, “written on the spot,” are framed and hung up in a conspicuous place. The fame of that excellent man and pioneer of American literature appears to be very well cared for in England. I saw among the pictures a photograph of the “death mask” of Shakspeare, found in Germany, but did not find in the library the copy of “Scribner" containing a very interesting paper on the mask and other portraits of Shakspeare.
It was very pleasant to see so many evidences of American appreciation in this little interior town of England; it recalled one of the singular facts of history. Four years after Shakspeare died, the company of Puritans landed at Plymouth. In that
company there was not a man or woman, I venture to say, who did not regard Shakspeare as "a maker of profane stage plays," and a son of perdition; and I am equally confident that Shakspeare in his day regarded the Puritans as a set of sour-faced bigots, unworthy a place on the earth they darkened with their gloomy presence. Yet in that new nation founded by these contemners of the vanities of the stage, the name of Shakspeare is held in the greatest reverence.
“New Place,” the site of the house where Shakspeare died, I did not care to visit. We are told that the property fell into the hands of a clergyman who was bored by visitors, and who, more anxious to have a comfortable place to die in himself than to preserve an old house, tore it down. The place is a sort of beer garden now, I believe.
Further about Stratford, this deponent saith not. Were it ten times as ugly, and, in itself, uninteresting as it is, it would always be visited. Men cannot resist, after all the vanished years, the spell of that mysterious genius which came like a meteor from out the darkness; which passed over the earth like the wind, "but whence it cometh and whither it goeth, ye cannot tell.”
WARWICK AND ITS CASTLE,
MORNING ride from Stratford-on-Avon to Warwick is
not a particularly inspiriting operation, as the road leads through an exclusively agricultural country.
Warwickshire, in its surface, is not unlike Dickinson and other counties of Kansas in that region, but trees are very plentiful; in fact, the country was, centuries ago, a forest. The trees sometimes cover the hillsides in groves, but oftener stand in the hedge-rows which cut the country up into small fields. The hawthorn, by-the-way, is a much handsomer hedge plant than the Osage orange. The grain looked short; and they were cutting the grass with little one-horse mowers, and the swaths laid thin on the ground. I saw not a stalk of Indian corn; nor did I see an ear of it in England, except those exhibited in the British Museum as curiosities. There were many fields of turnips, and others of some plants that looked like milk-weed, but which, I learned afterward, were horse beans. Where the land had been recently plowed, it looked yellow and poor. It was evident that the high cultivation, associated in our minds with modern English farming, had not been tried in Warwickshire; or if so, it had done but little good. Creeping around in these fields were men in dingy white clothes, hoeing turnips and the like. The American black slave was not, in his day, remarkable for the celerity and suddenness of his movements, but he was a miracle