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name of Englishman abroad, it has also quickened the sense of unity among the intelligent sections of the English-speaking peoples. Admiration, affection for his work has come to be one of the strongest links in the chain which binds the English-speaking peoples together. He quickens the fraternal sense among all who speak his language.
London is no nominal capital of the kingdom and the Empire. It is the headquarters of British influence. Within its boundaries are assembled the official insignia of British prestige. It is the mothercity of the English-speaking world. To ask of the citizens of London some outward sign that Shakespeare is a living source of British prestige, an unifying factor in the consolidation of the British Empire, and a powerful element in the maintenance of fraternal relations with the United States, seems therefore no unreasonable demand. Neither cloistered study of his plays, nor the occasional representation of them in the theatres, brings home to either the English-speaking or the English-reading world the full extent of the debt that England owes to Shakespeare. A monumental memorial, which should symbolise Shakespeare's influence in the universe, could only find an appropriate and effective home in the capital city of the British Empire. It is this conviction, and no narrower point of view, which gives endeavour to commemorate Shakespeare in London its title to consideration.
The admitted fact that Shakespeare's fame is established beyond risk of decay does not place him
outside the range of conventional methods of commemoration. The greater a man's recognised service to his fellows, the more active grows in normally constituted minds that natural commemorative instinct, which seeks outward and tangible expression. A strange fallacy underlies the objection that has been taken to any commemoration of Shakespeare on the alleged ground that Milton warned the English people of all time against erecting a monument to Shakespeare.
In 1630 Milton asked the question that is familiar to thousands of tongues:
What needs my Shakespeare for his honoured bones?
By way of answer he deprecated any such "weak witness of his name" as "piléd stones" or "star-ypointing pyramid." The poet-laureate of England echoed Milton's sentiment in 1905. He roundly asserted that "perishable stuff" is the fit crown of monumental pedestals. "Gods for themselves," he concluded, "have monument enough."
There are ample signs that the sentiment to which Milton and the laureate give voice has a good deal of public support. None the less the poetlaureate's conclusion is clearly refuted by experience and cannot terminate the argument. At any rate, in the classical and Renaissance eras monumental sculpture was in habitual request among those who would honour both immortal gods and mortal heroes -especially mortal heroes who had distinguished themselves in literature or art.
A little reflection will show, likewise, that Milton's fervid couplets have small bearing on the question at issue in its present conditions. Milton's poem
is an elegy on Shakespeare. It was penned when the dramatist had lain in his grave less than fourteen years, and when the writer was in his twenty-second year. The exuberant enthusiasm of youth was couched in poetic imagery which has from time immemorial been employed in panegyrics of great poets. The beautiful figure which presents a great man's work as his only lasting monument is as old as poetry itself. The conceit courses through the classical poetry of Greece from the time of Pindar, and through that of Italy from the time of Ennius. No great Renaissance writer of modern Italy, of sixteenth-century France, or of Elizabethan England, tired of arguing that the poet's deathless memorial is that carved by his own pen. Shakespeare himself clothed the conceit in glowing harmonies in his sonnets. Ben Jonson, in his elegy on the dramatist, adapted the time-honoured figure when he hailed his dead friend's achievement as monument without a tomb."
"The truest poetry is the most feigning," and, when one recalls the true significance and influence of great sculptured monuments through the history of the civilised world, Milton's poetic argument can only be accepted in what Sir Thomas Browne called "a soft and flexible sense"; it cannot "be called unto the rigid test of reason." To treat Milton's eulogy as the final word in the discussion of the subject whether or no Shakespeare should have a national monument, is to come into conflict with Sir Walter Scott, Tennyson, Ruskin, Dickens, and all the greatest men of letters of the nineteenth century, who answered the question in the affirmative. It is to discredit crowds of admirers of great
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writers in classical and modern ages, who have commemorated the labours of poets and dramatists in outward and visible monuments.
The genius of the great Greek dramatists was not underrated by their countrymen. Their literary efforts were adjudged to be true memorials of their fame, and no doubt of their immortality was entertained. None the less, the city of Athens, on the proposition of the Attic orator, Lycurgus, erected in honour of Eschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides statues which ranked with the most beautiful adornments of the Greek capital. Calderon and Goethe, Camoens and Schiller, Sir Walter Scott and Burns enjoy reputations which are smaller, it is true, than Shakespeare's, but are, at the same time, like his, of both national and universal significance. In memory of them all, monuments have been erected as tokens of their fellow-countrymen's veneration and gratitude for the influence which their poetry wields.
The fame of these men's writings never stood in any "need" of monumental corroboration. The sculptured memorial testified to the sense of gratitude which their writings generated in the hearts and minds of their readers.
Again, the great musicians and the great painters live in their work in a singularly vivid sense. Music and painting are more direct in popular appeal than great poetry. Yet none can ridicule the sentiment which is embodied in the statue of Beethoven at Bonn, or in that of Paolo Veronese at Verona. To accept literally the youthful judgment of Milton and his imitators is to condemn sentiments and practices which are in universal vogue among civilised peoples.
It is to deny to the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey a rational title to existence.
To commemorate a great man by a statue in a public place in the central sphere of his influence is, indeed, a custom inseparable from civilised life. The theoretic moralist's reminder that monuments of human greatness sooner or later come to dust is a doctrine too discouraging of all human effort to exert much practical effect. Monuments are, in the eyes of the intelligent, tributes for services rendered by great men to posterity. But incidentally they have an educational value. They help to fix the attention of the thoughtless on facts which may, in the absence of outward symbols, escape notice. They may act as incentives to thought. They may convert the thoughtless into the thoughtful. Wide as are the ranks of Shakespeare's readers, they are not, in England at any rate, incapable of extension; and, whatever is likely to call the attention of those who are as yet outside the pale of knowledge of Shakespeare to what lies within it, deserves respectful consideration.
It is never inconsistent with a nation's dignity for it to give conspicuous expression of gratitude to its benefactors, among whom great writers take first rank. Monuments of fitting character give that conspicuous expression. Bacon, the most enlightened of English thinkers, argued, within a few years of Shakespeare's death, that no self-respecting people could safely omit to erect statues of those who had contributed to the genuine advance of their knowledge or prestige. The visitors to Bacon's imaginary island of New Atlantis saw statues erected at the public expense in memory