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the public interest justify a national memorial in London, it is most desirable to define the principles whereby its precise form should be determined.
In one important particular the consideration of the subject to-day is simpler than when it was debated on former occasions. Differences existed, then as now, in regard to the propriety of erecting a national memorial of Shakespeare in London; but almost all who interested themselves in the matter in the nineteenth century agreed that the public interest justified, if it did not require, the preservation from decay or demolition of the buildings at Stratford-on-Avon with which Shakespeare's life was associated. So long as those buildings were in private hands, every proposal to commemorate Shakespeare in London had to meet a formidable objection which was raised on their behalf. If the nation undertook to commemorate Shakespeare at all, it should make its first aim (it was argued) the conversion into public property of the surviving memorials of Shakespeare's career at Stratford. The scheme of the London memorial could not be thoroughly discussed on its merits while the claims of Stratford remained unsatisfied. It was deemed premature, whether or no it were justifiable, to entertain any scheme of commemoration which left the Stratford buildings out of account.
A natural sentiment connected Shakespeare more closely with Stratford-on-Avon than with any other place. Whatever part London played in his career, the public mind was dominated by the fact that he was born at Stratford, died, and was buried there. If he left Stratford in youth in order to work out his destiny in London, he returned to it in middle life
COMMEMORATION AT STRATFORD-ON-AVON 221
in order to end his days there "in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends."
In spite of this widespread feeling, it proved no easy task, nor one capable of rapid fulfilment, to consecrate in permanence to public uses the extant memorials of Shakespeare at Stratford-on-Avon. Stratford was a place of pilgrimage for admirers of Shakespeare from early days in the seventeenth century-soon, in fact, after Shakspeare's death in 1616. But local veneration did not prevent the demolition in 1759, by a private owner, of New Place, Shakespeare's last residence. That act of vandalism was long in provoking any effective resentment. Garrick, by means of his Jubilee Festival of 1769, effectively, if somewhat theatrically, called the attention of the English public to the claims of the town to the affectionate regard of lovers of the great dramatist. Nevertheless, it was left to the nineteenth century to dedicate in perpetuity to the public service the places which were the scenes of Shakespeare's private life in his native town.
Charles Mathews' effort of 1821 took its rise in an endeavour to purchase in behalf of the nation the vacant site of Shakespeare's demolished residence of New Place, with the great garden attached to it. But that scheme was overweighted by the incorporation with it of the plan for a London monument, and both collapsed ignominiously. In 1835 a strong committee was formed at Stratford to commemorate the poet's connection with the town. It was called "the Monumental Committee," and had for its object, firstly, the repair of Shakespeare's tomb in the Parish Church; and secondly, the preservation and restoration of all the Shakespearean buildings in the
town. Subscriptions were limited to £1, and all the members of the royal family, including the Princess Victoria, who two years later came to the throne, figured, with other leading personages in the nation's life, in the list of subscribers. But the subscriptions only produced a sum sufficient to carry out the first purpose of the Monumental Committeethe repair of the tomb.
In 1847 the sale by public auction was announced of the house in which Shakespeare was born. It had long been a show-place in private hands. A general feeling declared itself in favour of the purchase of the house for the nation. Public sentiment was in accord with the ungrammatical grandiloquence of the auctioneer, the famous Robins, whose advertisement of the sale included the sentence: "It is trusted the feeling of the country will be so evinced that the structure may be secured, hallowed and cherished as a national monument almost as imperishable as the poet's fame." A subscription list was headed by Prince Albert with £250. A distinguished committee was formed under the presidency of Lord Morpeth (afterwards the seventh Earl of Carlisle), then Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests, who offered to make his department perpetual conservators of the property. (That proposal was not accepted.) Dickens, Macaulay, Lord Lytton, and the historian Grote were all active in promoting the movement, and it proved successful. The property was duly secured by a private trust in behalf of the nation. The most important house identified with Shakespeare's career in Stratford was thus effectively protected from the risks that are always inherent in private ownership. The step was not taken with
THE PURCHASE OF NEW PLACE
undue haste; two hundred and thirty-one years had elapsed since Shakespeare's death.
Fourteen years later, in very similar circumstances, the still vacant site of Shakespeare's demolished residence, New Place, with the great garden behind it, and the adjoining house, were acquired by the public. A new Shakespeare Fund, to which the Prince Consort subscribed £100, and Miss BurdettCoutts (afterwards Baroness Burdett-Coutts) £600, was formed not only to satisfy this purpose, but to provide the means of equipping a library and museum which were contemplated at the Birthplace, as well as a second museum which was to be provided on the New Place property. It was appropriate to make these buildings depositories of authentic relics and books which should illustrate the poet's life and work. This national Shakespeare Fund was actively promoted, chiefly by the late Mr Halliwell-Phillipps, for more than ten years; a large sum of money was collected, and the aims with which the Fund was set on foot were to a large extent fulfilled. It only remained to organise on a permanent legal basis the completed Stratford Memorial of Shakespeare. By an Act of Parliament passed in 1891 the two properties of New Place and the Birthplace were definitely formed into a single public trust "for and in behalf of the nation." The trustees were able in 1892, out of their surplus income, which is derived from the fees of visitors, to add to their estates Anne Hathaway's Cottage at Shottery, a third building of high interest to students of Shakespeare's history.
The formation of the Birthplace Trust has every title to be regarded as an outward and visible tribute to Shakespeare's memory on the part of the British
nation at large.1 The purchase for the public of the Birthplace, the New Place property, and Anne Hathaway's Cottage was not primarily due to local effort. Justly enough, a very small portion of the necessary funds came from Stratford itself. The British nation may therefore take credit for having set up at least one fitting monument to Shakespeare by consecrating to public uses the property identified with his career in Stratford. Larger funds than the trustees at present possess are required to enable them to carry on the work which their predecessors began, and to compete with any chance of success for books and relics of Shakespearean interestsuch as they are empowered by Act of Parliament to acquire when these memorials chance to come into the market. But a number of small annual subscriptions from men of letters has lately facilitated the performance of this part of the trustees' work, and that source of income may, it is hoped, increase.
At any rate, the ancient objection to the erection
1 Nor is this all that has been accomplished at Stratford in the nineteenth century in the way of the national commemoration of Shakespeare. While the surviving property of Shakespearean interest was in course of acquisition for the nation, an early ambition to erect in Stratford a theatre in Shakespeare's memory was realised-in part by subscriptions from the general public, but mainly by the munificence of members of the Flower family, three generations of which have resided at Stratford. The Memorial Theatre was opened in 1879, and the Picture Gallery and Library which were attached to it were completed two years later. The Memorial Buildings at Stratford stand on a different footing from the properties of the Birthplace Trust. The Memorial institution has an independent government, and is to a larger extent under local control. But the extended series of performances of Shakespearean drama, which takes place each year in April at the Memorial Theatre, has something of the character of an annual commemoration of Shakespeare by the nation at large.