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the critical incense they burn at Shakespeare's shrine is offered with the tongue in the cheek. But that suspicion is not justified. Ducis and Dumas worship Shakespeare with a whole heart. Their misapprehensions of his tragic conceptions are due, involuntarily, to native temperament. In point of fact, Ducis and Dumas see Shakespeare through a distorting medium. The two Frenchmen were fully conscious of Shakespeare's towering greatness. They perceived intuitively that Shakespeare's tragedies transcended all other dramatic achievement. But their æsthetic sense, which, as far as the drama was concerned, was steeped in the classical spirit, set many of the essential features of Shakespeare's genius outside the focus of their vision.
To a Frenchman a tragedy of classical rank connotes "correctness," an absence of tumult, some observance of the classical law of unity of time, place, and action. The perpetration of crime in face of the audience outraged all classical conventions. Ducis and Dumas recognised involuntarily that certain characteristics of the Shakespearean drama could not live in the classical atmosphere of their own theatre. Excision, expansion, reduction was inevitable before Shakespeare could breathe the air of the French stage. The grotesque perversions of Ducis and Dumas were thus not the fruit of mere waywardness, or carelessness, or dishonesty; they admit of philosophical explanation.
By Englishmen they may be viewed with equanimity, if not with satisfaction. They offer strong proof of the irrepressible strength or catholicity of the appeal that Shakespeare's genius makes to the mind and heart of humanity. His spirit survived
the French efforts at mutilation. The Gallicised or classicised contortions of his mighty work did not destroy its saving virtue. There is ground for congratulation that Ducis' and Dumas' perversions of Shakespeare excited among Frenchmen almost as devoted an homage as the dramatist's work in its native purity and perfection claims of men whose souls are free of the fetters of classical tradition.
If any still doubt the sincerity of the worship which is offered Shakespeare in France, I would direct the sceptic's attention to a pathetically simple tribute which was paid to the dramatist by a French student in the first year of the last century, when England and France were in the grip of the Napoleonic War. It was then that a young Frenchman proved beyond cavil by an ingenuous confession that the English poet, in spite of the racial differences of æsthetic sentiment, could touch a French heart more deeply than any French or classical author. In 1801 there was published at Besançon, "de l'imprimerie de Métoyer," a very thin volume in small octavo, under fifty pages in length, entitled, Pensées de Shakespeare, Extraites de ses Ouvrages. No compiler's name is mentioned, but there is no doubt that the book was from the pen of a precocious native of Besançon, Charles Nodier, who was in later life to gain distinction as a bibliographer and writer of
This forgotten volume, of which no more than twenty-five copies were printed, and only two or
three of these seem to survive, has escaped the notice of M. Jusserand. No copy of it is in the British Museum, or in La Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, with which the author, Nodier, was long honourably associated as librarian. I purchased it a few years ago by accident in a small collection of imperfectly catalogued Shakespeareana. Lurking in the rear of a very ragged regiment on the shelves of the auctioneer stood Charles Nodier's Pensées de Shakespeare. None competed with me for the prize. A very slight effort delivered into my hands the little chaplet of French laurel.
The major part of the volume consists of 190 numbered sentences-each a French rendering of an apophthegm or reflection drawn from Shakespeare's plays. The translator is not faithful to his English text, but his style is clear and often rises to eloquence. The book does not, however, owe its interest to Nodier's version of Shakespearean maxims. Nor can one grow enthusiastic over the dedication. "A elle"-an unidentified fair-one to whom the youthful writer proffers his homage with respectful propriety. The salt of the little volume lies in the "Observations Préliminaries," which cover less than five widely-printed pages. These observations breathe a genuine affection for Shakespeare's personality and a sense of gratitude for his achievement in terms which no English admirer has excelled for tenderness and simplicity.
"Shakespeare," writes this French worshipper, "is a friend whom Heaven has given to the unhappy of every age and every country." The writer warns us that he offers no eulogy of Shakespeare; that is to be found in the poet's works, which the
NODIER'S PERSONAL DEVOTION
Frenchman for his own part prefers to read and read again rather than waste time in praising them. "The features of Alexander ought only to be preserved by Apelles." Nodier merely collects some of Shakespeare's thoughts on great moral truths which he thinks to be useful to the conduct of life. But such extracts, he admonishes his reader, supply no true knowledge of Shakespeare. "From Shakespeare's works one can draw forth a philosophy, but from no systems of philosophy could one construct one page of Shakespeare." Nodier concludes his "Observations" thus:
"I advise those who do not know Shakespeare to study him in himself. I advise those who know him already to read him again. . . . I know him, but I must needs declare my admiration for him. I have reviewed my powers, and am content to cast a flower on his grave since I am not able to raise a monument to his memory.'
Language like this admits no questioning of its sincerity. Nodier's modest tribute handsomely atones for his countrymen's misapprehensions of Shakespeare's tragic conceptions. None has phrased more delicately or more simply the sense of personal devotion, which is roused by close study of his work.
THE COMMEMORATION OF SHAKE-
THE public memory is short. At the instant the suggestion that Shakespeare should receive the tribute of a great national monument in London is attracting general attention. In the ears of the vast majority of those who are taking part in the discussion the proposal appears to strike a new note. Few seem aware that a national memorial of Shakespeare has been urged on Londoners many times before. Thrice, at least, during the past eighty-five years has it exercised the public mind.
At the extreme end of the year 1820, the wellknown actor, Charles Mathews, set on foot a movement for the erection of "a national monument to the immortal memory of Shakespeare." He pledged himself to enlist the support of the new King, George the Fourth, of members of the royal family, of "every man of rank and talent, every poet, artist, and sculptor." Mathews' endeavour achieved
1 This paper was first printed in The Nineteenth Century and After, April, 1905.