« ZurückWeiter »
Those also (a much larger class of the
reading public") to whom the writings of our vigorous and original author are but partially known, through the medium of stray volumes, or an accidental and cursory glance at his fresh, startling and animated pages, will welcome with no less eagerness what, if encouraged, may prove the commencing volume of a rich and attractive series-an edition of the miscellaneous and scattered writings of this Patriot, Metaphysician, and Critic. This latter class of seekers is rapidly increasing, as copies of the old editions disappear and the name of their author comes brighter and brighter out of the “ foul fog" in which contemporary jealousy and political prejudice hoped effectually to hide its lustre. The minds on which, in spite of every disadvantage, he made a deep impression during his lifetime, were the minds of younger men than himself, and these are now reacting on others more youthful than themselves. Many who are promoting the best interests of the world, in wide or narrow circles, in the press or the lecture room, the literary association or the mechanic's institute, owe much of the immediate spring and impulse of the power which is now so happily producing power, to the force and life of Hazlitt's writings. No
author in our language exceeds him in the great art of setting his readers thinking. Where his own thoughts, whether from carelessness or caprice, fall short of the point of truth always aimed at, they nevertheless serve as guides and monitors to the understanding and imagination of the reader. This seems especially the case with the work now submitted to the public. These views of the • Characters of Shakspeare's Plays' reminds one of Kean's acting in some of the tragedies here criticized. They are incomplete and faulty in some respects — speculative and doubtful in others; but wonderfully full of thought, and always brilliant in expression. Right or wrong, they cannot be read with indifference; for whatever may have been his faults, Hazlitt never wrote a dull sentence.
It is observed by Mr Pope, that “If ever any author deserved the name of an original, it was Shakspeare. Homer himself drew not his art. so immediately from the fountains of nature; it proceeded through Egyptian strainers and channels, and came to him not without some tincture of the learning, or some cast of the models, of those before him. The poetry of Shakspeare was inspiration indeed: he is not so much an imitator, as an instrument of nature; and it is not so just to say that he speaks from her, as that she speaks through him.
“ His characters are so much nature herself, that it is a sort of injury to call them by so distant a name as copies of her. Those of other poets have a constant resemblance, which shows that they have received them from one another, and were but multipliers of the same image: each picture, like a mock rainbow, is but the reflection of a reflection. But every single character in Shakspeare is as much an individual as those in life itself; it is as impossible to find any two alike, and such as, from their relation or affinity in any respect, appear most to be twins, will, upon comparison, be found remarkably distinct. To this life and variety of character, we must add the wonderful preservation of it; which is such throughout his plays, that, had all the speeches been printed without the very names of the persons, I believe one might have applied them with certainty to every speaker."
The object of the volume here offered to the public is to illustrate these remarks in a more particular manner by a reference to each play. A gentleman of the name of Mason, the author of a Treatise on Ornamental Gardening (not Mason the poet), began a work of a similar kind about forty years ago, but he only lived to finish a parallel between the characters of Macbeth and Richard III, which is an exceedingly ingenious piece of analytical criticism. Richardson's Essays include but a few of Shakspeare's principal characters. The only work which seemed to supersede the necessity of an attempt like the present was Schlegel's very admirable Lectures on the Drama, which gave