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Literary Life of the Rev. William Harness
Chapter III.

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
‣ Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
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If any gifted men have been insensible to the beauties of Shakespeare, Mr. Harness was not among their number. On the contrary, he was a devoted student of the writings of the great dramatist, and ever found that the deeper that mine was worked, the richer was the ore which was brought to light. In such feelings of admiration he coincided with the views of some of the most eminent and learned divines, especially with those of Dr. Sortin and Bishop Warburton.* “Shakespeare,” writes Mr. Harness, “was not only habitually conversant with the chronicles of his country, but had also deeply imbibed the Scriptures.”

History teaches that theatrical representations originally partook of a ceremonial character. They

* He edited Shakespeare’s works.

were performed in honour of Dionysus, the great symbolic deity of Earth, Heaven, and Hell, before he received, in degenerate days, the unworthy name and attributes of Bacchus. The plays of
Æschylus, the father of Tragedy, are so full of sublime and spiritual conceptions, that, notwithstanding the dim light in which his creations move, they convey high instruction and admonition; indeed, were it not for the glory of his poetry, he might incur the imputation of being distastefully moralizing and transcendental. In the same way, we find that Comedy arose from a joyous festival at harvest, or rather at vintage-home, in which the grape-gatherers acknowledged the bounty of the Giver of all good with mystic dances, thanksgivings, and sacrifices; and ignorant and misguided as those worshippers were, no one can read the literature of their times without feeling convinced that their piety, though false in direction, was in many respects of a genuine and religious character.

Notwithstanding a long obscuration in the latter age of Greece and Rome, the drama never entirely lost its instructive and ethical character; and we find the Latin church availing itself of it in the early part of the Middle Ages, for the representation of the most solemn scenes in our Saviour’s sufferings.


Those who have studied the transformations of religion, or, as I should better say, the steps by which false systems have changed into the true, will admit that ancient customs have been very often retained, although their signification has been entirely altered.* The cause of the revival in this case may have been the general recognition of the influence of dramatic action and impersonation; but we may safely affirm that had the uses of the stage been polluted, it would never have been brought into connection with the Christian Church.

Our modern plays long retained a religious character, and even in later years were used as a vehicle for moral instruction. In tracing the rise and progress of the English Drama, we cannot do better than quote Mr. Harness’s own words:—

“It is impossible for any art to have attained a more rapid growth than was attained by the art of dramatic writing in this country. The people had indeed been long accustomed to a species of exhibition called ‘miracles’ or ‘mysteries,’ founded

* Many instances of adaptation will probably occur to the reader. In the Early Church, we find a great attempt made to encumber Christianity with Jewish ceremonies. The Romanists adopted those of the surrounding Pagans. A remarkable continuance of the sanctity of a locality is traceable at Le Puy; in the floor of the cathedral lies the table-stone of a druidical dolmen; in the walls are fragments of a Roman Temple; it is now Roman Catholic, and, we roust hope, will some day be Protestant.

on sacred subjects, and performed by the ministers of religion themselves on the holy festivals in or near the churches, and designed to instruct the ignorant in the leading facts of sacred history.* From the occasional introduction of allegorical characters, such as Faith, Death, Hope, or Sin into these religious dramas, representations of another kind, called ‘moralities,’ had by degrees arisen, of which the plots were more artificial, regular, and connected, and which were entirely formed of such personifications. But the first rough draught of a regular tragedy and comedy that appeared,
Lord Sackville’sGorboduc,’ and Still’sGammer Gurton’s Needle,’ were not produced till within the latter half of the sixteenth century, and but little more than twenty years previous to Shakespeare’s arrival in the metropolis.

“About that time the attention of the public began to be more generally directed to the stage, and it throve admirably beneath the cheerful beams of popularity. The theatrical performances which

* Mr. Harness here adds a note to the effect that the most ancient collection of this kind—the Chester mysteries—were not written by Ralph Higden, as supposed by Warton, Malone and others; but by an earlier Ecclesiastic of Chester, named Randall, and that they were first enacted between 1268 and 1276. In the Harl. MSS., we read: “Exhibited at Chester in 1327, at the expense of the Trading Companies of the City: The ‘Fall of Lucifer,’ by the Tanners; ‘Abraham, Melchisedeck, and Lot,’ by the Barbers; the ‘Puri-

had, in the early part of the reign of
Elizabeth, been exhibited on temporary stages, erected in such halls or apartments as the actors could procure, or more generally in the yards of the great inns, while the spectators surveyed them from the windows and galleries, began to be established in more convenient and permanent situations. About the year 1569 a regular play-house under the appropriate name of ‘The Theatre’ was built. It is supposed to have stood somewhere in Blackfriars; and three years after the commencement of this establishment (yielding to her inclination for the amusement of the theatre, and disregarding the remonstrances of the Puritans,) the Queen granted a license and authority to the servants of the Earl of Leicester ‘to use, exercise, and occupie the arte and facultie of playinge commedies, tragodies, interludes, stage-playes, as well for the recreation of our lovinge subjects as for our own solace and pleasure, when we shall think good to see them, throughoute our realm of England.’ From this time the number of theatres increased with the ripening taste and the increasing demands of the people. Various noble-

fication,’ by the Blacksmiths; the ‘Temptation,’ by the Butchers; ‘The Last Supper,’ by the Bakers; the ‘Descent into Hell,’ by the Cooks; the ‘Resurrection,’ by the Skinners; the ‘Ascension,” by the Tailors,’ &c.” We know not at how early a date these plays were acted in the Latin Church. They were continued in Cornwall after they had lost the support of the clergy.

men led their respective companies of performers, who were associated as their servants, and acted under their protection; and during the period of
Shakespeare’s theatrical career, not less than seven principal play-houses were open in the metropolis.”

Mr. Harness yielded to few in his enthusiasm for Shakespeare. He was wont to say that his plays contained almost everything. In his early years, inspired with youthful ardour, he made a pilgrimage to the birthplace of the great poet, and although he started with the intention of staying there only four days, he ended by remaining five weeks. He was charmed with the place, and spent his time most enjoyably in exploring the beauties of the country, and in visiting the spots hallowed by the dramatist’s memory. He told me that at the close of one long summer day, after returning from a walk to Anne Hathaway’s cottage, he took out his volume of Shakespeare, which was his constant companion, and opening it at “King John,” became completely absorbed in the tragic story. Time flew by rapidly and unheeded, until warned by his waning lamp, he started up and found that it was past midnight. He went to the window; the stars were shining brightly in the clear sky and shedding their thin light over the old gabled houses and lofty elm trees; the night was breezeless, and all was shrouded in
silence. Suddenly the church clock struck one. The deep booming reverberated through the stillness as though it would awake the spirits of the past; the hour and the scene were alike inspired. Mr. Harness thought how “that great man” might have listened to the same solemn stroke, and recalled the lines:—

“The midnight bell
Did with his iron tongue and brazen mouth
Sound ‘one’ unto the drowsy race of night.”*

Mr. Harness found the inscription on Shakespeare’s monument in a very imperfect condition. He had it restored at his own expense. Above the epitaph by Ben Jonson is the line:—
“Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,”
the false quantity in which offended Mr. Harness’s classical ear, and he proposed to substitute “Sophoclem” for “Socratem.” The mistake might have been due to some ignorant copyist; and the genius of Shakespeare seemed as much allied to that of the great tragedian as to that of the philosopher. He much regretted that the original colouring of the bust had not been allowed to remain.

His Edition of Shakespeare was published by Mr. Harness immediately after his appointment to St.

* Act iii.; Scene 3.

Pancras. It had been prepared when he was residing at Hampstead, and had no parochial cure, but only Sunday duty in London. He did not confine himself in his undertaking to merely adding notes to the text of the Poet; but also prefixed a Life, which occupied the first volume.* This biography was remarkable for its scrupulous impartiality; no such record being in his opinion instructive or valuable, which was not absolutely faithful in all its details, and which did not chronicle the frailties as well as the virtues of its subject.
Miss Mitford, in praising the work, says, “I am quite delighted with your edition of Shakespeare. It must do. The ‘Life’ is like the portrait affixed to it; the old beloved, well-known features which we all have by heart, but inspired with a fresh spirit.” She objects, however, to his over-sensitiveness and anxiety to notice all the invidious allegations made against his author’s fame. But Mr. Harness thought it unworthy of the character

* Mr. Harness’s Edition of Shakespeare was published in 1825, in 8 vols. octavo; a second edition, with plates, appeared in 1830; and a third, with 40 plates by Heath, in 1833. In the latter year also he published an edition in Imperial 4to, one volume, with 100 of Boydell’s plates; and a one volume edition in Royal octavo was published in 1836, and again in 1840 and 1842; the last reprint being for the American market. The edition of 1840 is still sometimes to be met with; its only illustration is a very fine engraving of the Chandos portrait.

of the great poet to allow him to gain anything by concealment; and speaking of his early days at Stratford, and of the probability that he assisted his father in the unpoetical trade of a butcher, he emphatically rejects “that absurd spirit of refinement which is only too common among the writers of biography, as well as history, and which induces them to conceal or misrepresent every occurrence which is at all of a humiliating nature, and does not accord with those false and effeminate notions so generally entertained respecting the dignity of that peculiar class of composition.” He, at the same time, blades the severity with which Shakespeare’s early vagaries were punished by
Sir Thomas Lucy. “Every contemporary,” he says, “who has spoken of our author, has been lavish in the praise of his temper and disposition. ‘The gentle Shakespeare’ seems to have been his distinguishing appellation. No slight portion of our enthusiasm for his writings may be traced to the fair picture which they present of the author’s character. We love the tenderness of heart, the candour and openness and singleness of mind, the largeness of sentiment, the liberality of opinion, which the whole tenor of his works proves him to have possessed. His faults seem to have been the transient aberrations of a thoughtless moment, which reflection never failed to correct; the ebullition of high spirits might mislead him;
but the principles and the affections never swerved from what was right. Against such a person, the extreme severity of the magistrate should not have been exerted. But the powerful enemy of Shakespeare was not to be appeased; the heart of the Puritan or the game-preserver is very rarely formed of ‘penetrable stuff.’ Our author fled from the inflexible persecutions of his opponent to seek shelter in the metropolis; and he found friends and wealth and fame where he had only hoped for an asylum. Sir Thomas Lucy remained to enjoy the triumph of his victory, and he yet survives, in the character of Justice Shallow, as the laughing-stock of posterity.”*

Shakespeare’s first employment in connexion with the theatre in London presents us with a characteristic picture of the times. He was to receive the horses of those who rode to the performance, and was to hold them until the end of the performance. He became, we are told, such a favourite in this office that every one, when he alighted, called out, ‘Will Shakespeare!’ and he soon was in such demand that he hired young men

* (Note by Mr. Harness.) “There can be no doubt that Justice Shallow was designed as the representative of the Knight. If the traditional authority of this fact were not quite satisfactory, the description of his coat of arms in the first scene of ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor,’ which is, with very slight deviation, that of the Lucys, would be sufficient to direct us to the original of the portrait.”

to assist him, who would present themselves, saying, ‘I am Shakespeare’s boy, Sir!’ That the above anecdote was really communicated by
Pope,” adds Mr. Harness, “there is no room to doubt.”

“But however inferior,” he continues, “was the situation which Shakespeare first occupied, his talents were not long buried in obscurity. He rapidly rose to the first station in the theatre, and by the power of his genius raised our national dramatic poetry, then in its infancy, to the highest state of perfection which it is perhaps capable of reaching.”

Speaking of the characters played by Shakespeare, Mr. Harness draws the following conclusions:—“It would appear that the class of characters to which the histrionic exertions of Shakespeare were confined was that of elderly persons—parts rather of declamation than of passion. With a countenance which, if any of his pictures is a genuine resemblance of him, we may adduce that one as our authority for esteeming capable of every variety of expression; with a knowledge of the art which rendered him fit to be the teacher of the first actors of his day, and to instruct Joseph Taylor in the character of ‘Hamlet,’ and John Lowine in that of ‘King Henry the Eighth;’ with such admirable qualifications for pre-eminence, we must infer that nothing but some personal defect could have reduced
him to limit the exercise of his powers, and even in youth assume the slow and deliberate motion which is the characteristic of old age. In his minor poems we perhaps trace the origin of this direction of his talents. It appears from two places in his Sonnets that he was lamed by some accident. In the 37th Sonnet he writes:—
‘So I made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite.’
And in the 89th he again alludes to his infirmity, and says,
‘Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt.’
This imperfection would necessarily have rendered him unfit to appear as the representative of any characters of youthful ardour, in which rapidity of movement or violence of exertion was demanded, and would oblige him to apply his powers to such parts as were compatible with his measured and impeded action.
Malone has most inefficiently attempted to explain away the palpable meaning of the above lines, and adds, ‘If Shakespeare was in truth lame, he had it not in his power to halt occasionally for this or any other purpose, the defect must have been fixed and permanent.’ Not so! Surely many an infirmity of the kind may be skilfully concealed, or only become visible in the moments of hurried movement. Either Sir Walter Scott or Lord Byron might, without any impro-
priety, have written the verses in question; they would have been applicable to either of them. Indeed the lameness of Lord Byron was exactly such as Shakespeare’s might have been; and I remember, as a boy, that he selected those speeches for declamation which would not constrain him to the use of such exertions as might obtrude the defect of his person into notice.”

These observations are interesting when we remember the writer’s experience in his own infirmity.

Mr. Harness was accustomed to say that all that Shakespeare wrote was good, but that many passages were attributed to him which were not authentic. He explains his views on the corruptions of the text in the following words:

“If Shakespeare still appears to us the first of poets, it is in spite of every possible disadvantage to which his own sublime contempt of applause had exposed his fame, from the ignorance, the avarice, or the officiousness of his early editors. To these causes it is to be ascribed that the writings of Shakespeare have come down to us in a state more imperfect than those of any other author of his time, and requiring every exertion of critical skill to illustrate and amend them. That so little should be known with certainty of the history of his life was the natural consequence of the events which immediately followed his dissolution. It is
true that the age in which he flourished was little curious about the lives of literary men; but our ignorance must not wholly bo attributed to the want of curiosity in the immediate successors of the poet. The public mind soon became violently agitated in the conflict of opposite opinions. Every individual was called upon to take his stand as the partisan of a religious or political faction. Each was too intimately occupied with his personal interest to find leisure for so peaceful a pursuit as tracing the biography of a poet. If this was the case during the time of civil commotion, under the Puritanical dynasty of
Cromwell the stage was totally destroyed; and the life of a dramatic author, however eminent his merits, would not only have been considered as a subject undeserving of inquiry, but only worthy of contempt and abomination. The genius of Shakespeare was dear to Milton and to Dryden; to a few lofty minds and gifted spirits; but it was dead to the multitude of his countrymen, who, in their foolish bigotry, would have considered their very houses polluted if they had contained a copy of his works.

“After the Restoration these severe restrictions were relaxed; and, as is universally the case, the counter-action was correspondent to the action. The nation suddenly exchanged the rigid austerity of Puritanism for the extreme of pro-
fligacy and licentiousness. When the Drama was revived, it existed no longer to inculcate such lessons of morality as were enforced by the contrition of Macbeth, the purity of Isabel, or the suffering constancy of Imogen; but to teach modesty to blush at its own innocence, to corrupt the heart by pictures of debauchery, and to exalt a gay selfishness and daring sensuality above all that is noble in principle and honourable in action. At this period
Shakespeare was forgotten. He wrote not for such profligate times. His sentiments would have been met by no correspondent feelings in the breasts of such audiences as were then collected within the walls of the Metropolitan theatres, composed of men who came to hear their vices flattered, and of women masked, ashamed to show their faces at representations which they were sufficiently abandoned to delight in. The jesting, lying, bold intriguing rake, whom Shakespeare had rendered contemptible in Lucio, and hateful in Iachimo, was the very character that the dramatists of Charles’s time were painting after the model of the Court favourites, and representing in false colours as a deserving object of approbation. French taste and French morals had banished our author from the stage, and his name had faded from the memory of the people. Tate, in his altered play of “King Lear,” mentions the original, in his dedication, as
an obscure piece. The author of the “
Tatler,” in quoting some lines of “Macbeth,” cites them from the disfigured alteration of D’Avenant. The works of Shakespeare were only read by those whom the desire of literary plunder induced to pry into the volumes of antiquated authors, with the hope of discovering some neglected jewels that might be clandestinely transferred to enrich their own poverty of invention; and so little were the productions of the most gifted poet that ever ventured to embark on the varying waters of the imagination known to the generality of his countrymen, that Otway stole the character of the Nurse, and all the love-scenes of “Romeo and Juliet,” and published them as his own without the slightest acknowledgment of the obligation or any apprehension of detection. A better taste returned; but when, nearly a century after the death of Shakespeare, Rowe undertook to superintend an edition of his Plays, and to collect the memoirs of his life, the race had passed away from whom any certain recollections of the great national poet might have been gathered, and nothing better was to be obtained than the slight notes of Aubrey, the scattered hints of Oldys, the loose intimations which had escaped from D’Avenant, and the vague reports which Betterton had gleaned in his pilgrimage to Stratford.”


The following sketch by Mr. Harness of the manner in which the performances of the theatre were conducted, affords an interesting picture of the times: he was always fond of characteristic details:

“The ‘Globe’ and the playhouse in ‘Blackfriars’ were the property of the company to which Shakespeare was himself attached, and by whom all his productions were exhibited. The ‘Globe’ appears to have been a wooden building, of a considerable size, hexagonal without and circular within; it was thatched in part, but a large portion of the roof was open to the weather. This was the company’s Summer theatre, and the plays were acted by daylight. At the ‘Blackfriars,’ on the contrary, which was the Winter theatre, the top was entirely closed, and the performances were exhibited by candlelight. In every other respect the economy and usages of the houses appear to have been the same, and to have resembled those of every other contemporary theatre.

“With respect to the interior arrangements there were very few points of difference between our modern theatres and those of the days of Shakespeare. The terms of admission indeed were considerably cheaper; to the boxes the entrance was a shilling; to the pit and galleries only sixpence; sixpence also was the price paid for stools upon the
stage; and these seats, as we learn from
Dekker’sGull’s Hornbook,’ were peculiarly affected by the wits and critics of the time. The conduct of the audience was less restrained by the sense of public decorum, and smoking tobacco, playing at cards, eating and drinking, were generally prevalent among them. The hour of performance also was earlier; the play beginning at first at one, and afterwards at three o’clock in the afternoon. During the time of representation a flag was unfurled at the top of the theatre, and the floor of the stage (as was the case with every floor at the time from the cottage to the palace) was strewn with rushes. But in other respects, the ancient theatres seem to have been very nearly similar to those of modern times; they had their pit, where the inferior class of spectators, the ‘groundlings,’ vented their clamorous censure or approbation; they had their boxes, to which the right of exclusive admission was hired by the night for the more wealthy and refined portion of the audience; and there were again the galleries or scaffolds above the boxes, for those who were content to purchase inferior accommodation at a cheaper rate. “On the stage, the arrangements appear to have been nearly the same as at present; the curtain divided the audience from the actors, which at the third sounding—not indeed of the bell, but of the trumpet—was withdrawn
for the commencement of the performance. With regard to the use of scenery, it is scarcely possible, from the very circumstances of the case, that such a contrivance should have escaped our ancestors. All the materials were ready to their hands; they had not to invent for themselves, but to adapt an old invention to their purposes, and at a time when every better apartment was adorned with tapestry; when even the rooms of the commonest taverns were hung with painted cloths; while all the essentials of scenery were continually before their eyes, we can hardly believe our forefathers to have been so deficient in ingenuity as never to have conceived the design of converting the common ornaments of their walls into the decorations of their theatres.
Mr. Gifford, who adheres to Malone’s opinion, says, ‘A table, with a pen and ink thrust in, signified that the stage was a counting-house; if these were withdrawn and two stools put in their places, it was then a tavern;’ and this might be satisfactory as long as the business of the play was supposed to be passing within doors; but when it was removed to the open air, such meagre devices would no longer be sufficient to guide the imagination of the audience, and some new method must have been adopted to indicate the place of action. After giving the subject considerable attention, I cannot help thinking that Steevens
was right in rejecting the evidence of Malone, and concluding that the spectators were, as at the present day, assisted in following the progress of the story by means of painted and moveable scenery.”*

It must be remembered that, in the days in which Mr. Harness wrote, the legitimate drama had not yet been superseded by extravagant and ephemeral representations. A charge of pedantry might have been brought against the stage with more justice than one of frivolity. The theatres, of which there were but two, were not places for idleness and dissipation, but for study and intellectual enjoyment. There were then no stalls; nor did the pit offer that cheap rate of accommodation which has tempted managers to introduce performances of a broad and tawdry character. Moreover, the lovers of Shakespeare could then have their taste gratified to an extent which has since been impossible. The works of the great dramatist were rightly represented by the combined talent of the Kemble family. Under them, the stage became a source of high moral, as well as artistic, instruction. Never, since the days of classic Attica had the drama

* This opinion is confirmed by the ancient stage directions. In the folio Shakespeare, of 1623, we read ‘Enter Brutus, in his orchard;’ ‘Enter Timon, in the woods;’ ‘Enter Timon, from his cave.’

struck so deeply the finer chords of the human heart; and the well-read volume was as frequent in the pit as was the white handkerchief in the gilded tiers. So jealous at this time were the audience of the fame of the great dramatist, that I have been told that the omission of a single line, or even of a word, would call forth an immediate expression of disapproval. The proud sovereign of this assemblage of high-born women and scholarly men was no less a person than
Mrs. Siddons, who seems to have enjoyed a celebrity verging upon adoration. At her appearance enthusiastic applause rang through the crowded house. None who had not seen her could ever realize the impression she made. As she walked the stage like one of Nature’s queens, all could understand the dignity of motion implied in Virgil’s expression:

“Incessu patuit dea.”

Campbell speaks of “her lofty beauty, her graceful walk and gesture.” And when we add to this the charm of her flexible and expressive voice, we cannot be suprised at the admiration she awakened. Few who saw her ever forgot her. Crabbe Robinson used to say that he prided himself on three things; he had been intimate with Göthe, he had made a walking tour with Wordsworth, and he had seen Mrs. Siddons. Mr. Harness could not
be less deeply impressed by one who so eloquently interpreted his favourite oracle; and as might have been expected, he regarded her performance from a critical point of view. “Her high judgment watched over her qualifications.” “It was not merely her appearance that gave her such power,” observed Mr. Harness, “she owed much to her persevering industry. She admitted to me one day, in reply to a question, that, although it might sound egotistical for her to say it, she did not think that there would be again such an impersonation of Calista* as her own, taking into consideration the voice, the use of the stage, and above all the laborious study.” On a later occasion, when he was referring to the excellence of her intonation, she observed that over-exertion in large theatres had injured her power of expression, which was much greater in her earlier days. The perfection at which she had arrived in her art, and the skill with which she equalled Nature, may be estimated from a reply made to Mr. Harness by a well-known critic, when he observed that Mrs. Siddons had played her part with spirit on the previous night. “Yes,” returned his friend, “but I never before saw her so much like an actress.”

Mr. Harness related the following anecdote in which the conduct of the great actress was very

* A part in “The Fair Penitent” for which she was celebrated.

characteristic. He was dining at
Lord Lonsdale’s, and among the company were Mrs. Siddons and Mr. and Miss Edgeworth. Mr. Edgeworth, who was sitting next to Mrs. Siddons, Sam Rogers being on the other side of her, observed after dinner, “Madam, I think I saw you perform Millamont thirty-five years ago.” “Pardon me, sir.” “Oh! then it was forty years ago; I distinctly recollect it.” “You will excuse me, sir, I never played Millamont.” “Oh, yes, ma’am, I recollect.” “I think,” she replied, turning to Mr. Rogers, “it is time for me to change my place,” and she rose with her own peculiar dignity.*

The enthusiasm for the stage which prevailed at that day can scarcely be understood at present. As there were no numbered seats in the pit, those who entered first took the best places. The performance commenced at six o’clock, and as early as two in the afternoon the play-goers began to collect outside the theatre. Two old gentlemen in Mr. Harness’s recollection were especially conspicuous from always posting themselves early against the doors. As they had to wait several hours, and found the time hang heavily, they adopted the good idea of bringing a portable chess-

* This incident is said, by Crabbe Robinson, to have occurred at Mr. Sotheby’s; but there was some confusion in his mind on the subject. It was related to him by Mr. Harness.

board with them. Thus they whiled away the time in alternate checkmates until the clock struck the magic hour, when they put up their board, folded their arms, and made ready for the rush to secure the front seats.

Mr. Harness objected much to the over-inquisitive spirit which some critics have evinced in the study of Shakespeare. In a review in the Quarterly of “Hunter on the ‘Tempest,’” in which he blames the writer for his persistent endeavours to define the localities mentioned in that play; he writes as follows:—

“The island was called into existence by a far more potent magician than even Prospero; and ‘like the baseless fabric of a vision ‘melted’ into thin air,’ leaving ‘no rack behind,’ with a deep and solemn sound of funeral music, on the 23rd April, 1616, the day when that mighty master died. After the departure of Prospero and Miranda, it was never visited again by any human creature. The unearthly inhabitants possessed it altogether till the hour of its dissolution. They were then variously dispersed. Caliban, clinging to one of the largest logs which Ferdinand had so industriously piled up, but which had never been ‘burnt,’ was floated on it in safety to the coast of Algiers. Ariel, with all his subtle company, the ‘elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,’ clapping
their tiny hands, and singing ‘Where the bee sucks’ in sweetest melody and fullest chorus, flitter away delighted to meet the spirit of the great magician from whose fancy they had derived their life and being, and to pour forth their gratulations around him as he ascended on his upward way to regions more bright and pure and ethereal than any to which they even ‘in their pride of flight’ could venture to aspire. Since that happy hour they have all dwelt in harmony together in one of the fairest and most secluded valleys of ‘Araby the Blest.’ We know the spot; but for worlds we would not be wicked enough to deliver them over in their merry ignorance to the tender mercies of the commentators. Were we to let fall the slightest hint of the position of their melodious home, we are well aware that
Mr. Hunter or Mr. Rodd, or both those gentlemen together, would start off to Rotherhithe to-morrow morning, would hire a steamer and go paddling away in a cloud of thick black smoke in pursuit of them; and having reached the spot, they would, without the least sense of compunction, gather tho sweetest blossoms that Ariel ever sucked his honey from and crush them between the leaves of their hortus siccus; they would hunt down the innocent spirits themselves; they would scare them with unearthly sounds; they would catch them with bird-limed twigs and butterfly nets, run pins through
their delicate bodies, fix them to the bottoms of glazed boxes, and bear them away in triumph to be deposited as curiosities among the natural history shelves of the British Museum.”

Macready lost, as he said, £2,000 a year owing to an article written by Mr. Harness in the Quarterly. So much weight had his critiques with the public of the day.

The following letters are interesting as giving an account of the Kembles’ visit to America:—

To the Rev. William Harness.
“Boston, Sunday, May 5th, 1833.

“Do not imagine that I have any intention of letting you forget me, my dear Mr. Harness, or that I mean to delegate to newspapers, and such like unsatisfactory channels of information, the task of keeping my recollection alive with you. I certainly have suffered a tolerably long interval to escape since the writing of my first epistle; but that it did not follow from thence that I never meant to write to you again, this is proof. If I were to ask you all the questions I should like answered with regard to things in general, and particularly in my poor dear little country, I might fill my letter with one huge note of interrogation, and leave you to answer all that is ‘being, doing and suffering’ in England; but I rather think some
account of ourselves might be more satisfactory to you; and so, according to your noble and poetical
friend, ‘Here goes!’ (By-the-by, his Life by Moore is a terrible pity; why couldn’t his works be left to speak for him? They are his best record after all.)

“We are all in excellent health, except that my father is lame and cross, D—— sleepy and cross, and I purely cross, and nothing else. With regard to my father’s lameness, he caught it—or, rather, it caught him—by the calf of the leg, in the act of springing off the stage after me, in Benedick. ‘Tis an accident of no great importance—a sprain or fracture of one or two of the smaller fibres in the leg, which makes him go a little haltingly just now, but is not likely to inconvenience him long. As for all the other ailments, that is the crossness, ‘tis owing to a bitter bleak east wind, which is the only air that blows in Boston, and keeps us all in a state of misanthropy and universal dissatisfaction. Perhaps, under these circumstances, I had better have deferred writing to you; but, had I waited till the wind changed its quarter, I must have waited till we returned to New York; for Boston is the abiding place of the east wind.

“Our houses, wherever we go, are very fine; our business most successful. The people and places vie with each other in kindness and civility to us; and as for me, I am so praised, so admired, so
courted, and so flattered, that I am thrown into the depths of humility, sometimes, when I come to consider my own unworthiness; and only fear that at last I shall acquire such an idea of my own excellence, importance, and admirableness that I shall come to the conviction that ‘the world is mine oyster.’ Seriously, I am sometimes perplexed at the universal kindness and almost affection that is expressed towards me, when I cannot help feeling that Indeed I have done nothing really to deserve it. However, thank God for it! And as for the desert, why perhaps it is with me as with the man who said he did not know whether he could play on the fiddle or not, for he’d never tried.

“Boston is a Yankee town, which I daresay is as much as you know about it; but, Sir, ‘tis moreover the wealthiest town in the Union; ‘tis, Sir, the most belles-letterish and blue town in the Union; ‘tis, Sir, the most aristocratic town in the Union, and decidedly bears the greatest resemblance to an English town of any I have seen. The country round it, too, is more like a bit of the old land than anything I have yet seen; and, though some of the wild romantic scenery round Philadelphia enchanted me very much, the white clean cottages, the blossoming apple-trees and flowering garden-plots of the villages round this place have recalled England more vividly, and given me more pleasure
than anything I have yet seen. The society is a little stiff; they have, unfortunately, a reputation in this good town for superior intellect, and are proportionately starched and stupid. However, to have known
Webster, and even Audubon, is in itself something; and though Channing has been obliged by ill-health to leave Boston for the South, I trust yet to have the privilege of knowing him—who, I think, reflects more honour on his native city than all its other superiorities put together.

“We act every night here but Saturday. I grumble dreadfully at this hard work—not because it tires me, but because I am idle and like two holidays in a week. However, when I consider that every night lost is a large sum of money lost (for our profits are very great) I am willing to give up my laziness, so long as the work is not too much either for my father or myself. I take an amazing quantity of exercise on horseback; ‘tis meat and drink and sleep to me, and affords me, moreover, the best opportunity of seeing the country, which one never does well in a carriage; and ‘tis quite entertaining to see how, before I have been a fortnight in a place, all the women are getting into riding-skirts and up upon horses. I have received ever so many thanks for the improved health of the ladies here who, since my arrival, are all horseback-
mad; and I truly think a good shaking does a woman good in every way.

“I have acted several new parts since I have been in this new world; Katherine, the Shrew, which I do pretty well, Bizarre, which I also do pretty well, but particularly the dancing—Violante in ‘The Wonder,’ which I do worse than anything that can be seen, and Mary Copp in ‘Charles the Second,’ which I do very fairly well, leaving out the singing. Bianca seems to be my favourite part with the public, in tragedy, and Julia in the ‘Hunchback,’ in comedy. I hear Knowles has written another play with a magnificent woman’s part. Of course we shall have it out here before long; I am curious to see it.

“I have seen Washington Irving several times since I have been in this country. He is idolized here, and talks of settling himself in some little sunny nook on the Hudson—that broadest, brightest river in the world. He is very delightful, a most happy, cheerful, benevolent, simple person. His absence of seventeen years from this country has produced changes in it which seem to fill him with amazement and admiration. And, indeed, ‘tis a most marvellous country! It stands unparalleled under every aspect in which it can be considered, and presents one of the most interesting and extraordinary subjects of contemplation that the eye of
a politician, or the more extensive gaze of a philosopher, can scan. A land peopled, as this has been, by the overflowings of all other lands; to the south colonized by the adventurous but thrifty younger branches of noble families of England, and in great measure also by men whose vices and crimes, as well as their utter poverty, drove them to find shelter away from the society whose laws they had outraged; to the north, again, this new world owing its first civilized inhabitants to the purest and loftiest spirit of Freedom—the holiest and most steadfast spirit of Religion (emanating from England, too); and all having received their first dawn of civilization from bodies of men differing from each other in object, in religious faith, in country and lineage: a whole continent thus strangely reclaimed from utter savageness, and in the process of a century and a half becoming, from a desolate and utter wilderness, a great political existence, taking a firm and honourable station among the powers of the world. A land abounding in cultivation, civilization, populous towns, full of wealth, of business, of trade, of importance; vast ports receiving the flags of every nation under Heaven; to see huge ocean steamboats carrying hundreds of people to and fro every hour along the Hudson, the St. Lawrence, the Mississippi, whose waters, a hundred years ago, were never visited but by the Indian
canoe; to see forests felled, and towns arising, railways and canals traversing and connecting what were wild tracts of interminable wood and waste; to see life, and all its wonderful arts and sciences, reclaiming these vast solitudes to the uses of man and the purposes of civilized existence: this mighty operation which is at this instant going on under our very eyes makes this country one of great interest, of admiration, of anxious observation to all the world. ‘Tis a marvellous country indeed!

“Bless my soul, I didn’t mean to be cross* to you, because that’s an infliction! Don’t you wish that you and I wrote better hands? Pray, dear Mr. Harness, if you have time to spare, write to me again; it pleases me to hear from England, and it pleases me to hear from you.

“For I am very truly, and with great regard,
Fanny Kemble.”
To the Rev. W. Harness.
“New York, 24th April, 1834.
“My dear friend,

“When I left England I promised I would write to you, and I am ashamed that I have so long neglected to redeem my promise; but I rely upon your good-nature to excuse me, although I confess

* The last page of the letter is crossed.

I hardly deserve forgiveness.
Fanny, I know, has already told you all that we have seen and done; so that you have not been left in ignorance of our proceedings by my sin of omission. Pray, which are considered more deadly by Divines, sins of omission, or sins of commission? You will not have time to answer me on this point before we meet; therefore, I must seek for information from my friends of the cloth in this hemisphere—Dr. Wainwright or Dr. Channing: both learned men and pious Christians. Wainwright, with whom I am better acquainted than I am with Channing, seems to me more of a man of the world; ho mixes with general society, and is a well-bred, liberal clergyman, an Episcopalian, and likely to become the next Bishop of Boston. Channing, you know, is a Unitarian, a mild, engaging person in discourse, an eloquent and impressive preacher in the pulpit. Wainwright is a good preacher, too; he has much more physical power than Channing, but in my opinion is far his inferior in point of intellect.

“So much for the leaders in your profession. For those in mine, you are almost as well acquainted with their merits as I am. Mr. Booth, as well as Mr. Hamblin, you must have seen in England; and Mr. Forrest you will probably see, for report says he is to visit London. He is in person of Herculean proportions, fitter, in appear-
ance, for a drayman or a porter than an actor. I have seen him but in two parts, Pierre, which he acted indifferently well; the other, Oroloosa, an Indian; in the representation of which characters he has acquired his reputation. There was an American of the name of Scott, whom I preferred, in the same tragedy; but he is thought by his countrymen very inferior to Forrest. There are two favourite actresses, too, not very distinguished for talent. Miss Vincent and
Miss Clifton: the latter is a very tall but beautiful girl.

“We hope to find you and your dear sister at home when we reach London. We did intend to sail from New York on the 16th of June, but for the advantages of a superior ship and a more agreeable captain, we have been induced to postpone our departure until the 24th of June: so pray look out for the arrival of the ‘United States’ commanded by Captain Holdritch. How happy Fanny’s friends will be to see her once more before she is married, won’t they? The legitimate drama will have another chance, I hope, of resuscitation; and we shall both at least take leave of the British stage in a manner worthy of the house of Kemble!

“God bless you! give my affectionate regard to your dear sister; and believe me, my very dear friend, unalterably yours,


Fanny has told you of the irreparable loss we have sustained by the death of her aunt. May all our deaths be as peaceful and as happy!”

Mr. Harness took little interest in the drama of the present day. Low comedy and scenic effects were his aversion; and he was wont to say that acting was now a debased art. He still knew a few of the elder members of the histrionic profession, and especially Charles Kean, for whom he had a great personal regard. He remarked how much he had done to raise the social character of the stage, and was deeply affected when he was sent for to attend his friend in his last hours. He had an equal esteem for Mrs. Kean. Referring to her kindness and good-nature, he said that she took great interest in the little children who came to act in the pantomimes, and that she used to teach them their Catechism between the pieces, thus endeavouring to compensate for their loss of regular instruction. Mr. Harness’s schools, like many others in London, suffered much from the withdrawal of little pupils in the Winter. On first entering his schools at Knightsbridge, after the Christmas holidays, he inquired why the attendance was so small? “Because, Sir,” replied the teacher, “so many of the children are gone to be angels!”