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LXXVII.-THE GREATNESS OF SHAKSPEARE.
(Eulogy pronounced at the Tercentenary Celebration, Chicago, April 23, 1864.}
1. The peculiar power of Shakspeare lies in the skill with which he delineates human nature. He does not attempt to create character, but to unfold it. He aims not to give to the world that which was not, but to reveal that which was and is, and ever shall be. He sought not the vain glory of a Faust who was swallowed up by his own creation, but to hold the mirror to already existing nature, to give herself undisguisedly, "nothing extenuating nor setting down aught in malice;" to present the image of the things themselves, and edify or amuse only by their comparisons or contrasts. Beyond this he had no ambition, he soared not after the illimitable, or even the difficult; his situations are all possible, his actions natural; the substantive is presented first, then the verb; the accessories are applied judiciously, never with a too lavish hand.
2. It is of the heart that Shakspeare speaks; he probes to its inmost recesses, and lays bare its most hidden work. ings. The subterfuges of the hypocrite are like plastic clay in his hands. one fell swoop he dives deep and brings to the surface the leading trait, which, there fixed, is surrounded by its necessary adjuncts only. In each of his personalities one sees the innate character,—the primary motive of action; it shines out in every word, defying concealment. One touch, and the image is before you; not a thousand labored words, but one bold, truth-speaking line brings out in full relief all one needs to know. Another and another is treated with equal skill. Almost in the twinkling of an eye, the panorama is before you, its parts all separately introduced, yet so rapidly and so skillfully blended as to give the idea of complete, perfect oneness.
3. As he speaks of the heart, so he speaks to the heart. His portrayals are things of life-speaking likenesses. We appreciate them instantaneously. Not that it is given to any one man in any age to comprehend the inexhaustible variety of character to be found in his works, but that all not beyond our experience, and therefore above appreciation, is instantly recognized as a perfect personation. Hence the varying estimation in which Shakspeare is held. The most unlettered boor is melted to tears or carried away in raptures at a proper revdition of his characters, because there is a language of the heart which needs no learning to enable us to interpret.
4. But the boor comprehends not all. The more exquisite touches, the blendings of the natural with the artificial, are only to be duly appreciated as we rise in our knowledge of humanity. Our horizon is limited thus by what we know; but never yet has one attained to that elevation whence be could look down and beyond the confines of Shakspearian thought. He who knows most has always venerated the bard most highly, and inasmuch as the heart of man is substantially the same in all ages and under all conditions, variable only in its manifestation, the perfectly truthful is always recognizable under the shifting shams of civilized advancement. That which is true in one age is true in all ; and the characters of Shakspeare will never die, never grow antiquated, but always retain the vigor and freshness of the Elizabethan age, so long as humanity itself endures.
5. The natal day of Shakspeare is also the day of St. George.
While Englishmen may feel justly proud of his fame, they are only his more immediate neighbors. The whole world claims kin. A perfect cosmopolite in thought, he had made the learning of other people his own; he was equally at home in delineating the specialties of men of foreign birth as of those who drew their first breath on his native soil.
6. Two hundred and forty-eight years have passed since the great one departed. He still lives his memory shall never die. Far as the wide range of civilization extends, his works are read. The Hindoo and the Laplander, equally with ourselves, appreciate them. In his writings, the great Shakspeare flourishes in immortal youth. When the conquerors of earth shall have been forgotten, he who opened up a new universe of thought shall be cherished in the memories of a grateful world. Each succeeding age does him greater homage, and when man shall have attained to the highest possible perfection of intellectual culture, then, and then only, will the value of the services which he rendered to humanity be really appreciated. The noble thoughts to which he first gave expression, will form the axiomata of future ages, and their purifying, elevating, ennobling influence, will largely tend to bring about that for which all men pray—the good time coming. Then, and then only, will his eulogium be written; then only will the world know how largely it has been indebted to William Shakspeare.
LXXVIII.-THE HERITAGE OF CULTURE.
1. Compare the condition of Christendom to-day with what it was when Roger Bacon's knowledge of mathematics was taken for witchcraft. Let the comparison include the physical condition and the intellectual and moral character of the people. The vast advance made since that period has required time. It has been the work of six centuries; and what one of the six has not made liberal contributions towards the grand result ?
2. One gave Europe the germ of those now ancient uni versities in which the hearts and intellects of nations have
been formed. Another gave the mariner's compass and the printing press, and almost doubled the terrestrial inheritance of man by the discovery of a new world. the discovery of Copernicus, the Protestant Reformation, and the universal awakening consequent thereupon. Another opened the eyes of men to the advantages of commerce and discovery, and began the overturn of the old despotic notions concerning government.
3. Another gave the American Declaration of Independence, and the discovery of the law of gravitation. And the present is continually astonishing us by its contributions to human wealth and knowledge in every form and in every department. And what shall be achieved in the next? and the next? Let us not despair. Surely the millenium is coming! The stream of history is flowing on to a glorious consummation, notwithstanding an occasional small eddy that seems to be setting backwards.
4. My friends, the theme upon which I have attempted to speak to you is one of the greatest that can engage the attention of men.
It is no less than the history of human thought in its highest and noblest efforts. I know of nothing better fitted to impress upon one the conviction of his own insignificance, and yet of his great responsibility. Compared with the whole sum of human thought, how puny is that of an ordinary man,
-or indeed of any man! And yet every man, and especially every scholar, comes into the line of succession, and is bound to transmit, unimpaired, and with whatever additions he may, the inheritance he has enjoyed.
5. I have touched upon a very few general facts, connected with the most prominent and best-known forms of civilization, But the subject needs to be examined in careful detail. To the scholar the study cannot fail of being in the highest degree interesting and stirring. The old Greeks thought that they could best train their boys to virtue and valor, by placing before them the narrative of Homer, and requiring them to study his description of the heroes who "fought at Ilium, on each side mixed with auxiliar gods.” And if characters like these, stained with blood and debased by ignoble passions, could inspire Grecian youth with a love of what was good and great, how much may the scholar of to-day be built up and strengthened by a study of the men and women to whom he
may be introduced in this history of human culture.
6. The memories of the good and wise are the noblest inheritance that comes to us from the past. They are the educational forces of the ages. And the ancient world is not alone our benefactor here. We have maintained that Christianity has not been a failure; and to declare that antiquity is alone our teacher here, that modern history furnishes no names illustrious enough to be held up as examples to the men of present and future time, is to declare that Christianity has signally failed.
7. But it is not so. Where shall we find such a spirit of self-sacrifice,-- of general love for man, as that which has characterized Christian societies from the fathers to the present times ?-a spirit which has filled every Christian country with asylums and hospitals for the unfortunate, the erring, the sick, and insane. Christianity does not, like the Spartans, throw its feeble children to the wolves and birds of prey because the state needs only those of strong limbs and lusty sinews. 8. No; it lavishes upon the feeble ones its most abundant
It labors to supply what nature and circumstances have failed to supply, whether the defect be in physical, intellectual, or moral strength. And inasmuch as it is more blessed to give than to receive,- inasmuch as moral greatness