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SHAKSPERE.

Others abide our question. Thou art free.
We ask and ask-Thou smilest and art still,
Out-topping knowledge. For the loftiest hill
Who to the stars uncrowns his majesty,
Planting his steadfast footsteps in the sea,
Making the heaven of heavens his dwelling-place,
Spares but the cloudy border of his base
To the foild searching of mortality ;
And thou, who didst the stars and sunbeams know,
Self-schoold, self-scann'd, self-honour'd, self-secure,
Didst stand on earth unguess'd at.Better so!
All pains the immortal spirit must endure,
All weakness which impairs, all griefs which bow,
Find their sole voice in that victorious brow.'

MATTHEW ARNOLD.

INTRODUCTION.

THE LIFE OF SHAKSPERE.

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6

HAKSPERE has not been dead three hundred years,

he belonged to a period of English history of which we have ample records, we have abundant information of many of his contemporaries; and yet of the greatest man of that age we have the most unsatisfactory knowledge. Hallam, in his Introduction to the Literature of Europe, says, “ All that insatiable curiosity and unwearied diligence have hitherto detected about Shakspere serves rather to disappoint and perplex us, than to furnish the slightest illustration of his character. It is not the register of his baptism, or the draft of his will, or the orthography of his name that we seek. No letter of his writing, no record of his conversation, no character of him drawn with any fulness by a contemporary, has been produced.' The personal Shakspere is, then, to a large extent, a problem. We have to try to guess what he was by the works he wrote. And even here, again, we are baffled. In many cases the character of a writer is clearly expressed in his books; you can gather a good deal of information about Dickens and Thackeray and George Eliot from their novels; you can make a tolerable guess as to their mental peculiarities, personal habits and forms of character. But not so with

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