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Although very much disinclined to depart from established usage in such a matter as mere expression, I have
to which the prophecy immediately narrows itself. It is an exordium followed up by no adequate amplification or specification, but rather the contrary. These men-the murderers of his friend Cæsar—and not either the limbs or the loins of mankind universally-must, one would say, have been uppermost at such a moment in his mind and in his impassioned words. Without something more, however, such general considerations as this would hardly entitle us to touch the passage. There would be no end of conjectural emendation if it were permitted us, in the text of Shakespeare or of any other writer, to disturb an authorized or accepted reading on no other ground than that it might, as we may think, be improved. This is the sort of wild disorganizing work with which so many would be reformers and restorers, male and female, busy themselves, without so much as a suspicion, in many cases, of the nature of a single canon or principle of critical science, or that such a science exists. But here, secondly, we have, almost universally admitted, what is the almost indispensable preliminary to any attempt at emendation,
-a manifest flaw in the ordinary reading. “ Limbs of men ” pleases nobody, or hardly anybody. Thirdly and lastly, then-for, if that can be made out, nothing more in the way of mere conjecture is possible,—
-can it be shown to be at all probable that the supposed words “ these impious men,” if written by Shakespeare, would or might have been mistaken by the printer of the First Folio for what he has given us—“the limbs of men?” It is ' not necessary to assume that he has adhered to the exact spelling of what he believed himself to have before him in his copy or manuscript. What he set up as “the limbs of” may have seemed to him to be written “the Limbes of.” Only, now, suppose farther that the writing was somewhat close or crowded, or rather that it appeared to him to be so, and it would not be very unlikely that what he took for a “the” followed by a capital L, with its final curve running possibly below the line, was really a “these,” written, of course, with a long s; and then it would not be difficult for him, thus misled, to convert the "impious” into “imbs of,” or “imbes of.” It may be thought that some confirmation is lent to this conjecture by the fact that Zachary Jackson, the printer, who published in 1818 a work entitled “ A Few Concise Examples of Seven Hundred Errors in Shakespeare's Plays, now corrected and elucidated" (reprinted the following year under the title of “Shakespeare's Genius Justified,”), proposes to read “these imps of men."
I am not blind to the bearing which this ingenious emendation, if
in the new editions both of the present and of another elementary philological work felt it indispensable to abandon the ordinary fashion of designating our national speech as Saxon or Anglo-Saxon before, and as English only since, the Norman Conquest. I cannot call to mind another customary form of words which involves so much at once of unfounded or questionable assumption and of positive misstatement as this. The common name for the language among the people themselves always has been, not Saxon, but English. It was so before the Conquest, as it is so still. Modern philologists, who call the earlier form of it Saxon or Anglo-Saxon, do so on the assumption that the portion of the population distinguished as the Saxons had a language of their own, known by their own name, before they left the continent for Britain, and that the common language of England before the Norman Conquest was identical with that. But nothing of all this is either proved or probable. There is much more reason for believing that the language was called English than that it was called Saxon on the continent as well as afterwards in Britain. In fact, there is no reason at all for supposing that it was ever at any time commonly or properly known as Saxon. There is, indeed, a Germanic dialect which philologists have baptised Old Saxon, or Continental Saxon, and of which their system supposes what it calls
it were held to be established, might be alleged to have upon the hypothesis that has been proposed in the Prolegomena in regard to the authority belonging to the corrections of Mr Collier's manuscript annotator. Can be, it may be argued, have had the author's or any other authentic copy of the Plays before him, if he has passed over so important a restoration as ought to have been made here? Of this particular passage, at least, he could not be supposed to have had any such copy. On the other hand, however, this necessary consequence would obviously tell as much against the proposed reading as that docs against the hypothesis.
Anglo-Saxon, or the Saxon of England, to be a modification; but the one name is as much a modern invention as the other; we have no remains of this so-called Old Saxon of so early a date by several centuries as the first settlement of the Angles and Saxons in Britain; and, although it and what is called the Saxon of England were no doubt nearly related, we have no evidence whatever either that the former was the mother and the latter the daughter, or even that their relationship was that of parent and child at all. So far, however, we have gratuitous assumption only, or little more.
In what comes next we have downright contradiction and absurdity. If the language was Saxon before the Norman Conquest, how did it or could it come to be English after that catastrophe? How is it that it is English now? The only effect that the Conquest had, or possibly could have, upon it was to make it, not more, but less purely, less exclusively, English than it was before.
G. L. C.
Queen's College Belfast;
P.S. Leaving the preceding note on pp. xiii and xiv as it stood, I take the opportunity of a revised impression to say here that I do not now feel the incongruity of the curse in the passage under consideration being made to extend to the whole human race, nor do I think that Antony's prophecy can be fairly affirmed to narrow itself in what immediately follows to the calamities about to fall merely upon Italy. I revert, therefore, to my original preference for the reading of the Collier Folio :“A curse shall light upon the loins of men.”
ENGLISH OF SHAKESPEARE,
I. SHAKESPEARE'S PERSONAL HISTORY.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was born at Stratford-uponAvon, in the county of Warwick, in April 1564. His baptism is recorded in the parish register as having taken place on Wednesday the 26th, and the inscription on his tomb makes him to have been in his fifty-third year when he died on the 23rd, of April 1616; his birth-day, therefore, cannot have been later than the 23rd. It was more probably some days earlier. It is commonly assumed, nevertheless, to have been the 23rd, which, besides being also the day of his death, is the day dedicated to St George the Martyr, the patron saint of England.
His father was John Shakespeare; his mother, Mary Arderne, or Arden. The Ardens were among the oldest of the county gentry; many of the Shakespeares also, who were numerous in Warwickshire, were of good condition. The name in provincial speech was probably sounded Shackspeare or Shacksper ; but even in the poet's own day its more refined or literary pronunciation seems to have been the same that now prevails. It was certainly recognised as a combination of the two words
Shake and Spear. His own spelling of it, however, in a few instances in which that, our only known fragment of his handwriting, has come down to us, is Shakspere.
John Shakespeare appears to have followed the business of a glover, including no doubt the making of gloves as well as the selling of them. He seems to have fallen latterly into decayed circumstances; but in his better days it is evident that he ranked with the first class of the burgesses of his town. He was for many years an alderman, and twice filled the office of High Bailiff, or chief magistrate. He was also, though perhaps never very wealthy, but rather always a struggling man, possessed of some houses in Stratford, as well as of a small freehold estate acquired by his marriage; and his connexion with the Arden family would itself bring him consideration. His marriage probably took place in 1557. He lived till 1602, and his wife till 1608. Of eight children, four sons and four daughters, William was the third, but the eldest son.
Shakespeare's father, like the generality of persons of his station in life of that day, appears to have been unable to write his name; all his signature in the books of the corporation is his cross, or mark ; but there can be no doubt that the son had a grammar-school education. He was in all probability sent to the free-school of his native town. After he left school it has been thought that he may have spent some time in an attorney's office. But in 1582, when he was only eighteen, he married; his wife, Anne Hathaway, of Shottery, in the neighbourhood of Stratford, was about eight years older than himself ; children soon followed,-first a daughter, then twins, a son and daughter; and this involvement may be conjectured to have been what drove him to London, in the necessity of finding some way of supporting his family which required no apprenticeship. He became first an actor, then a writer for the stage. Already by the year