Abbildungen der Seite


of a national monument in London, which was based on the absence of any memorial in Stratford, is no longer of avail. In 1821, in 1847, and in 1864, when the acquisition of the Stratford property was unattempted or uncompleted, it was perfectly just to argue that Stratford was entitled to have precedence of London when the question of commemorating Shakespeare was debated. It is no just argument in 1906, now that the claims of Stratford are practically satisfied.

Byron, when writing of the memorial to Petrarch at Arquà, expressed with admirable feeling the sentiment that would confine outward memorials of a poet in his native town to the places where he was born, lived, died, and was buried. With very little verbal change Byron's stanza on the visible memorials of Petrarch's association with Arquà is applicable to those of Shakespeare's connexion with Stratford :— They keep his dust in Stratford, where he died; The midland village where his later days

Went down the vale of years; and 'tis their pride—

An honest pride-and let it be their praise,

To offer to the passing stranger's gaze

His birthplace and his sepulchre; both plain

And venerably simple, such as raise

A feeling more accordant with his strain

Than if a pyramid form'd his monumental fane.1

Venerable simplicity is hardly the characteristic note of Shakespeare's "strain" any more than it is of Petrarch's "strain." But there can be no just quarrel with the general contention that at Stratford, where Shakespeare gave ample proof of his characteristic modesty, a pyramidal fane would be out of harmony with the environment. There his 1 Cf. Childe Harold, Canto IV., St. xxxi.

birthplace, his garden, and tomb are the fittest memorials of his great career.


It may justly be asked: Is there any principle which justifies another sort of memorial elsewhere? On grounds of history and sentiment, but in conditions which demand most careful definition, the right answer will, I think, be in the affirmative. For one thing, Shakespeare's life was not confined to Stratford. His professional career was spent in London, and those, who strictly insist that memorials to great men should be erected only in places with which they were personally associated, can hardly deny that London shares with Stratford a title to a memorial from a biographical or historical point of view. Of Shakespeare's life of fifty-two years, twenty-four years were in all probability spent in London. During those years the work that makes him memorable was done. It was in London that the fame which is universally acknowledged was


Some valuable details regarding Shakespeare's life in London are accessible. The districts where he resided and where he passed his days are known. There is evidence that during the early part of his London career he lived in the parish of St Helen's, Bishopsgate, and during the later part near the Bankside, Southwark. With the south side of the Thames he was long connected, together with his youngest brother, Edmund, who was also an actor, and who was buried in the church of St Saviour's, Southwark.

In his early London days Shakespeare's profes



sional work, alike as actor and dramatist, brought him daily from St Helen's, Bishopsgate, to The Theatre in Shoreditch. Shoreditch was then the chief theatrical quarter in London. Later, the centre of London theatrical life shifted to Southwark, where the far-famed Globe Theatre was erected, in 1599, mainly out of the materials of the dismantled Shoreditch Theatre. Ultimately Shakespeare's company of actors performed in a theatre at Blackfriars, which was created out of a private residence on a part of the site on which The Times office stands now. At a few hundred yards' distance from the Blackfriars Theatre, in the direction of Cannon Street, Shakespeare, too, shortly before his death, purchased a house.

Thus Shakespeare's life in London is well identified with four districts-with Bishopsgate, with Shoreditch, with Southwark, and with Blackfriars. Unhappily for students of Shakespeare's life, London has been more than once remodelled since the dramatist sojourned in the city. The buildings and lodgings, with which he was associated in Shoreditch, Southwark, Bishopsgate, or Blackfriars, have long since disappeared.

It is not practicable to follow in London the same historical scheme of commemoration which has been adopted at Stratford-on-Avon. It is impossible to recall to existence the edifices in which Shakespeare pursued his London career. Archæology could do little in this direction that was satisfactory. There would be an awkward incongruity in introducing into the serried ranks of Shoreditch warehouses and Southwark wharves an archæological restoration of Elizabethan playhouse or private residence. Pictorial

representations of the Globe Theatre survive, and it might be possible to construct something that should materialise the extant drawings. But the genius loci has fled from Southwark and from Shoreditch. It might be practicable to set up a new model of an Elizabethan theatre elsewhere in London, but such a memorial would have about it an air of unreality, artificiality, and affectation which would not be in accord with the scholarly spirit of an historic or biographic commemoration. The device might prove of archæological interest, but the commemorative purpose, from a biographical or historical point of view, would be ill served. Wherever a copy of an Elizabethan playhouse were brought to birth in twentieth-century London, the historic sense in the onlooker would be for the most part irresponsive; it would hardly be quickened.


Apart from the practical difficulties of realising materially Shakespeare's local associations with London, it is doubtful if the mere commemoration in London of Shakespeare's personal connexion with the great city ought to be the precise aim of those who urge the propriety of erecting a national monument in the metropolis. Shakespeare's personal relations with London can in all the circumstances of the case be treated as a justification in only the second degree. The primary justification involves a somewhat different train of thought. A national memorial of Shakespeare in London must be reckoned of small account if it merely aim at keeping alive in public


memory episodes of Shakespeare's London career. The true aim of a national London memorial must be symbolical of a larger fact. It must typify Shakespeare's place not in the past, but in the present life of the nation and of the world. It ought to constitute a perpetual reminder of the position that he fills in the present economy, and is likely to fill in the future economy of human thought, for those whose growing absorption in the narrowing business of life tends to make them forget it.

The day is long since past when vague eulogy of Shakespeare is permissible. Shakespeare's literary supremacy is as fully recognised by those who justly appreciate literature as any law of nature. To the man and woman of culture in all civilised countries he symbolises the potency of the human intellect. But those who are content to read and admire him in the cloister at times overlook the full significance of his achievement in the outer world. Critics of all nationalities are in substantial agreement with the romance-writer Dumas, who pointed out that Shakespeare is more than the greatest of dramatists; he is the greatest of thinking men.

The exalted foreign estimate illustrates the fact that Shakespeare contributes to the prestige of his nation a good deal beyond repute for literary power. He is not merely a literary ornament of our British household. It is largely on his account that foreign nations honour his country as an intellectual and spiritual force. Shakespeare and Newton together give England an intellectual sovereignty which adds more to her "reputation through the world" than any exploit in battle or statesmanship. If, again, Shakespeare's pre-eminence has added dignity to the

« ZurückWeiter »