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the intelligibility of the whole process. If any tendency is discoverable, as far as the mere facts are in question, it is to omission ; and accordingly the reader will observe that the attention of the narrator is called back to one material circumstance, which he was hurrying by, by a direct question from the friend (How WAS THIS SEALED?) to whom the story is communicated. But by a trait which is indeed peculiarly characteristic of Hamlet's mind, ever disposed to generalise, and meditative to excess, all the digressions and enlargements consist of reflections, truths, and principles of general and permanent interest, either directly expressed or disguised in playful satire.
Instances of the want of generalisation are of no rare occurrence; and the narration of Shakspeare's Hostess differs from those of the ignorant and unthinking in ordinary life, only by its superior humour, the poet's own gift and infusion, not by its want of method, which is not greater than we often meet with in that class of minds of which she is the dramatic representative. Nor will the excess of generalisation and reflection have escaped our observation in real life, though the great poet has more conveniently supplied the illustrations. In attending too exclusively to the relations which the past or passing events and objects bear to general truth, and the moods of his own mind, the most intelligent man is sometimes in danger of overlooking that other relation, in which they are likewise to be placed, to the apprehension and sympathies of his hearers. His discourse appears like soliloquy intermixed with dialogue. But the uneducated and unreflecting talker overlooks all mental relations, and consequently precludes all method that is not purely accidental. Hence,the nearer the things and incidents in time and place, the more distant, disjointed, and impertinent to each other, and to any common purpose, will they appear in his narration; and this from the absence of any leading thought in the narrator's own mind. On the contrary, where the habit of method is present and effective, things the most remote and diverse in time, place, and outward circumstance, are brought into mental contiguity and succession, the more striking as the less expected. But while we would impress the necessity of this habit, the illustrations adduced give proof that in undue preponderance, and when the prerogative of the mind is stretched into despotism, the discourse may degenerate into the wayward or the fantastical.
Shakspeare needed not to read Horace in order to give his characters that methodical unity which the wise Roman so strongly recommends :
Si quid inexpertum scenæ committis, et audes
Qualis ab incepto processerit, et sibi constet. But this was not the only way in which he followed an accurate philosophic method : we quote the expressions of Schlegel, a foreign critic of great and deserved reputation :-“ If Shakspeare
deserves our admiration for his characters, he is equally deserving of it for his exhibition of passion, taking this word in its widest signification, as including every mental condition, every tone from indifference or fainiliar mirth, to the wildest rage and despair. He gives us the history of minds: he lays open to us, in a single word, a whole series of preceding conditions." This last is a profound and exquisite remark; and it necessarily implies that Shakspeare contemplated ideas, in which alone are involved conditions and consequences ad infinitum. Purblind critics, whose mental vision could not reach far enough to comprise the whole dimensions of our poetical Hercules, have busied themselves in measuring and spanning him muscle by muscle, till they fancied they had discovered some disproportion. There are two answers applicable to most of such remarks. First, that Shakspeare una derstood the true language and external workings of passion better than his critics. He had a higher, and a more ideal, and consequently a more methodical sense of harmony than they. A very slight knowledge of music will enable any one to detect discords in the exquisite harmonies of Haydn or Mozart; and Bentley has found more false grammar in the Paradise Lost than ever poor boy was whipped for through all the forms of Eton or Westminster; but to know why the minor note is introduced into the major key, or the nominative case left to seek for its verb, requires an acquaintance with some preliminary steps of the methodical
scale, at the top of which sits the author, and at the bottom the critic. The second answer is, that Shakspeare was pursuing two methods at once; and besides the psychological * method, he had also to attend to the poetical. Now the poetical method requires above all things a preponderance of pleasurable feeling; and where the interest of the events and characters and passions is too strong to be continuous without becoming painful, there poetical method requires that there should be, what Schlegel calls “a musical alleviation of our sympathy.” The Lydian mode must temper the Dorian. This we call method.
We said that Shakspeare pursued two methods. Oh! he pursued many, many more" both oar and sail”—and the guidance of the helm, and the heaving of the lead, and the watchful observation of the stars, and the thunder of his grand artillery. What shall we say of his moral conceptions ? Not made
of miserable clap-traps, and the tag-ends of mawkish novels, and endless sermonising;—but furnishing lessons of profound meditation to frail and fallible human nature. He shows us crime and want of principle clothed not with a spurious greatness of soul, but with a force of intellect which too often imposes but the more easily on the weak, misjudging multitude. He shows us the innocent mind of Othello plunged by its own unsuspecting and therefore unwatchful confidence, in guilt and misery not to be endured. Look at Lear, look at Richard, look, in short, at every moral picture of this mighty moralist! Whoso does not rise from their attentive perusal “a sadder and a wiser man”-let him never dream that he knows any thing of philosophical method.
• We beg pardon for the use of this insolens verbum ; but it is one of which our language stands in great need. We have no single term to express the philosophy of the human mind; and what is worse,
the principles of that philosophy are commonly called metaphysical, a word of very different meaning.
Nay, even in his style, how methodical is our “ ' sweet Shakspeare.” Sweetness is indeed its predominant characteristic, and it has a few immethodical luxuriances of wit; and he may occasionally be convicted of words which convey a volume of thought, when the business of the scene did not absolutely require such deep meditation. But pardoning him these dulcia vitia, who ever fashioned the English language, or any language, ancient or modern, into such variety of appropriate apparel, from “the gorgeous pall of scepter'd tragedy” to the easy dress of flowing pastoral ?
More musical to lark than shepherd's ear,
When wheat is green, and hawthorn buds appear. Who, like him, could so methodically suit the very flow and tone of discourse to characters lying so wide apart in rank, and habits, and peculiarities, as Holofernes and Queen Catharine, Falstaf and Lear? When we compare the pure English style of Shakspeare with that of the very best writers of his day, we stand astonished at the