Imatges de pàgina

But the question, then, arises,—and it but only in a single passage (if our m memis one which, under the circumstances, ory and Mr. Dyce's notes serve us) in must be answered,—To what must we the fifty-four plays of Beaumont and attribute the fact, that, of all the plays Fletcher. Equal, or greater, is the comthat have come down to us, written be- parative frequency with which Shaketween 1580 and 1620, Shakespeare's are speare uses other legal phrases; and much most noteworthy in this respect ? For it wider is the disparity, in this regard, beis true, that, among all the dramatic writ- tween him and the other dramatic writers ers of that period, whose works have sur- of his whole period, - Marlowe, Greene, vived, not one uses the phraseology of Peele, Kyd, Lilly, Chapman, Jonson, the law with the frequency, the free- Middleton, Marston, Ford, Webster, Masdom, and the correctness of Shakespeare. singer, and the undistinguished crowd. Beaumont, for instance, was a younger These facts dispose in great measure son of a Judge of the Common Pleas, of the plausible suggestion which has and, following the common routine that been made,-that, as the courts of law in we have noticed, after leaving the Uni- Shakespeare's time occupied public attenversity, became an Inns-of-Court man, tion much more than they do at present, but soon abandoned law for literature; they having then regulated the season," his friend and associate, Fletcher, was as the sittings of Parliament (not then the son of a bishop, but had an uncle frequent or stated) do now,* they would who was a lawyer and a diplomatist, and naturally be frequented by the restless, is himself believed to have been of the inquiring spirits of the time, Shakespeare Inns of Court. Rich gleanings of law- among them, and that there he and terms might, therefore, be expected from his fellow-dramatists picked up the lawthe plays written by these dramatists; phrases which they wove into their plays yet it may safely be asserted, that from

and poems. But if this view of the case Shakespeare's thirty-seven plays at least were the correct one, we should not find twice as many passages marked by legal that disparity in the use of legal phrases phraseology might be produced, as from which we have just remarked. Shakethe fifty-four written by Beaumont and speare's genius would manifest itself in Fletcher, together or alone! a fact the the superior effect with which he used great significance of which is heighten- knowledge acquired in this manner; but ed by another,— that it is only the vo- his genius would not have led him to cabulary of the law to the use of which choose the dry and affected phraseology Shakespeare exhibits this proclivity. He of the law as the vehicle of his flowing avails himself, it is true, of the peculiar thought, and to use it so much oftener than language of the physician, the divine, the any other of the numerous dramatists of husbandman, the soldier, and the sailor; his time, to all of whom the courts were but he uses these only on very rare oc- as open as to him. And the suggestion casions, by way of description, compari- which we are now considering fails in two son, or illustration, when something in other most important respects. For we the scene or the subject in hand sug- do not find either that Shakespeare's use gests them. But the technical language of legal phrases increased with his opof the law runs from his pen as part of portunities of frequenting the courts of his vocabulary and parcel of his thought law, or that the law-phrases, his use of The word “ purchase,” for instance, which which is most noteworthy and of most imin ordinary use means to acquire by giv- portance in the consideration of the quesing value, in law applies to all legal modes tion before us, are those which he would of obtaining property, except inheritance have heard oftenest in the course of the of descent. And the word in this pecu

* Falstaff, for instance, speaks of " the liar and most technical sense occurs five

wearing out of six fashions, which is four times in Shakespeare's thirty-seven plays, terms or two actions."


ordinary business of the courts in his day. very uncommon tenures of land. In the To look at the latter point first,—the law- “Comedy of Errors," when Dromio of terms used by Shakespeare are generally Syracuse says, " There's no time for a not those which he would have heard in man to recover his hair that grows

bald ordinary trials at nisi prius or before the by nature,” [Hear, O Rowland ! and give King's Bench, but such as refer to the ten- ear, 0 Phalon !] bis master replies, “ May ure or transfer of real property, " fine and he not do it by fine and recovery ? " recovery,"

," "statutes,” “purchase," " in- Fine and recovery was a process by denture," " tenure,"

,” “ double voucher," which, through a fictitious suit, a transfer ** fee simple," " fee farm,” “ remainder," was made of the title in an entailed es" reversion,” “ dower,” “ forfeiture,” etc., tate. In “Love's Labor's Lost," almost etc.; and it is important to remember that without a doubt the first comedy that suits about the title to real estate are very Shakespeare wrote, on Boyet's offering to much rarer in England than they are with kiss Maria, (Act ii. Sc. 1,) she declines us, and in England were very much rarer the salute, and says, “My lips are no in Shakespeare's time than they are now. common, though several they be.” This Here we buy and sell houses and lands passage--an important one for his puralmost as we trade in corn and cotton; pose-Lord Campbell has passed by, as but in England the transfer of the title of he has some others of nearly equal cona piece of real estate of any consequence sequence. Maria’s allusion is plainly to is a serious and comparatively rare oc- tenancy in common by several (i. e., dividcurrence, that makes great work for at- ed, distinct) title. (See Coke upon Littorneys and conveyancing counsel ; and tleton, Lib. iii. Cap. iv. Sec. 292.) She two hundred and fifty years ago the facil- means, that her lips are several as being ities in this respect were very much less two, and (as she says in the next line) than they are now. Shakespeare could as belonging in common to her fortunes hardly have picked up bis conveyancer's and herself,—yet they were no common jargon by hanging round the courts of pasture. law; and we find,—to return to the first Here, then, is Shakespeare using the objection,-- that, in his early plays, writ- technical language of conveyancers in his ten just after he arrived in London, he earliest works, and before he had had uses this peculiar phraseology just as free- much opportunity to haunt the courts of ly and with as exact a knowledge as he law in London, even could he have made displayed in after years, when (on the such legal acquirements in those schools. supposition in question) he must have be- We find, too, that he uses law-terms in come much more familiar with it. Shake general with frequency notably greater speare's earliest work that has reached - in an excess of three or four to oneus is, doubtless, to be found in “ King than any of the other playwrights of his Henry the Sixth,” “ The Comedy of Er- day, when so many playwrights were or rors," and "Love's Labor's Lost.” In had been Noverints or of the Inns of the very earliest form of Part II. of the Court; that this excess is not observable first-named play, (" The First Part of the with regard to his use of the vocabulary Contention betwixt the two Houses of peculiar to any other occupation or proYork and Lancaster,” to which Shake- fession, even that of the actor, which we speare was doubtless a contributor, the know that he practised for many years; part of Cade being among his contribu- but that, on the contrary, although he tions,) we find him making Cade declare, uses other technical language correctly, (Act iv. Sc. 7,) “Men shall hold of me he avails himself of that of any single in capite ; and we charge and command art or occupation with great rarity, and that wives be as free as heart can wish only upon special occasions. Lord Campor tongue can tell.” Both the phrases that bell remarks, as to the correctness with we have Italicized express tenures, and which Shakespeare uses legal phrases,and this is a point upon which his Lord- among all the lawyer-playwrights of his ship speaks with authority, - that he is day, showed,---not, be it noticed, (as we amazed by the accuracy and propriety are at present regarding his works,) the with which they are introduced,” and profoundest knowledge of the great prinin another place adds, that Shakespeare ciples of law and equity, although he did “ uniformly lays down good law”; and it that too, – but the most complete masis not necessary to be a Chief Justice of tery of the technical phrases, the jargon, the Queen's Bench to know that his Lord of the law and of its most abstruse ship is fully justified in assuring us that branch,—that relating to real estate, " there is nothing [of the kind (?)] and who used it very much the oftenest so dangerous as for one not of the of them all, and with an air of as encraft to tamper with our free-masonry.” tire unconsciousness as if it were a part Remembering, then, that genius, though of the language of his daily life, makit reveals general and even particular ing no mistakes that can be detected truths, and facilitates all acquirement, by a learned professional critic, — must does not impart facts or the knowledge we believe that this man was distinguishof technical terms, in what manner can ed among those play-writing lawyers, not we answer or set aside the question that only by his genius, but his lack of particwe have partly stated before,— How did ular acquaintance with the law ? Or shall it happen, that, in an age when it was we rather believe that the son of the High a common practice for young attorneys Bailiff of Stratford, whose father was welland barristers to leave their profession to-do in the world, and who was a someand take to writing plays and poems, one what clever lad and ambitious withal, playwright left upon his works a strong- was allowed to commence his studies for er, clearer,• sharper legal stamp than we a profession for which his cleverness fitted can detect upon those of any other, and him and by which he might reasonably that he used the very peculiar and, to hope to rise at least to moderate wealth a layman, incomprehensible language of and distinction, and that he continued the law of real property, as it then ex- these studies until his father's loss of propisted, in his very earliest plays, written erty, aided, perhaps, by some of those acts soon after he, a raw, rustic youth, bred of youthful indiscretion which clever lads in a retired village, arrived in London ? as well as dull ones sometimes will comHow did it happen that this playwright mit, threw him upon his own resources, fell into the use of that technical phrase- and that then, having townsmen, perhaps ology, the proper employment of which fellow-students and playfellows, among more than any other, demands special the actors in London, and having used his training, and that he availed himself of it pen, as we may be sure he had, for other with apparent unconsciousness, not only purposes than engrossing and drawing. so much oftener than any of his contem- precedents, he, like so many others of his poraries, but with such exact knowledge, time, left his trade of Noverint and went that one who has passed a long life in the up to the metropolis to busy himself with professional employment of it, speaking endeavors of art ? One of these concluas it were officially from the eminent po- sions is in the face of reason, probability, sition which he has won,- Lord Camp- and fact; the other in accordance with bell, - declares, that,

them all. " While novelists and dramatists are constantly making mistakes as to the law of

But of how little real importance is it to marriage, of wills, and of inheritance, to establish the bare fact, that Shakespeare Shakespeare's law, lavishly as he propounds was an attorney's clerk before he was an it, there can neither be demurrer, nor bill of actor! Suppose it proved, beyond a exceptions, nor writ of error"?

doubt,— what have we learned ? NothMust we believe, that the man, who, ing peculiar to Shakespeare; but merely what was equally true of thousands of acter, presents no semblance to human other young men, his contemporaries, life or human creatures, as they are found and hundreds of thousands, if not mil- on any spot under the canopy, and which lions, of those of antecedent and succeed- seems to have been written on the model ing generations. It has a naked mate- of the Interlude of “ Pyramus and Thisrial relation to the other fact, that he be,” “ for, in all the play, there is not one uses legal phrases oftener than any other word apt, one player fitted,” — of the peodramatist or poet; but with his plastic ple to whom this play owed its monstrous power over those grotesque and rugged success, and who, for that very reason, it modes of speech it has nought to do what is safe to say, think Shakespeare a bore ever. That was his inborn mastery. Le- on the stage and off it, a goodly number gal phrases did nothing for him; but would eagerly buy and read a book that he much for them. Chance cast their told them when he went to bed and what uncouth forms around him, and the gold- he had for breakfast, and would pay a en overflow from the furnace of his glow- ready five-cent piece for a picture of him ing thought fell upon them, glorifying and as he appeared in the attorney's office, to enshielding them forever. It would have preserve as a companion to the equally been the same with the lumber of any veritable “ portrait of the Hon. Daniel E. other craft; it was the same with that of Sickles, as he appeared in prison.” Nay, many others,—the difference being only it must be confessed, that there are some of quantity, and not of kind. How, then, Shakespearean enthusiasts ever dabbling would the certainty that he had been and gabbling about what they call Shakebred to the law help us to the knowledge speariana, who would give more for the of Shakespeare's life,—of what he did for · pen with which he engrossed a deed or himself, thought for himself, how he joyed, wrote “Hamlet," than for the ability to how he suffered, what he was? Would understand, better than they do or ever it help us to know what the Stratford can, what he meant by that mysterious boys thought of him and felt toward him tragedy. Biography has its charms and who was to write “ Lear” and “ Ham- its uses; but it is not by what we know let," or how the men of London regarded of their bare external facts that him who was a-writing them ? Not a whit.

" Lives of great men all remind us To prove the fact would merely satisfy

We can make our lives sublime, sheer aimless, fruitless curiosity; and it And departing leave behind us is a source of some reasonable satisfac

Footprints on the sands of time." tion to know that the very people who What the readers of Shakespeare, who would be most interested in the perusal are worthy to know aught of him, long of a biography of Shakespeare made up to know, would have been the same, had of the relation of such facts are they who he been bred lawyer, physician, soldier, have least right to know anything about or sailor. It is of his real life, not of its him. Of the hundreds of thousands of mere accidents, that they crave a knowlpeople who giggled through their senseless edge; and of that life, it is to be feared, hour at the “ American Cousin,”— a play they will remain forever ignorant, unless which, in language, in action, in char- he himself has written it.



if the book be at all readable, one that CHAPTER XVI.

by any possible chance can make its way We suppose the heroine of a novel, into a young mind, you may be sure that among other privileges and immunities, it will not only be read, but remembered has a prescriptive right to her own pri- to the longest day they have to live. vate boudoir, where, as a French writer Mrs. Katy Scudder's garret was not an has it," she appears like a lovely picture exception to the general rule. Those in its frame.”

quaint little people who touch with so Well, our little Mary is not without airy a grace all the lights and shadows this luxury, and to its sacred precincts of great beams, bare rafters, and unplaswe will give you this morning a ticket tered walls, had not failed in their work of admission. Know, then, that the gar- there. Was there not there a grand easyret of this gambrel-roofed cottage had a chair of stamped-leather, minus two of its projecting window on the seaward side, hinder legs, which had genealogical assowhich opened into an immensely large ciations through the Wilcoxes with the old apple-tree, and was a look-out as leafy Vernons and through the Vernons quite and secluded as a robin's nest.

across the water with Old England ? and Garrets are delicious places in any was there not a dusky picture, in an old case, for people of thoughtful, imagina- tarnished frame, of a woman of whose tive temperament. Who has not loved tragic end strange stories were whispered, a garret in the twilight days of childhood, -one of the sufferers in the time when with its endless stores of quaint, cast-off, witches were unceremoniously helped out suggestive antiquity, -old worm-eaten of the world, instead of being, as now-a chests,-rickety chairs,—boxes and casks days, helped to make their fortune in it full of odd comminglings, out of which, by table-turning ? with tiny, childish hands, we fished won- Yes, there were all these things, and derful hoards of fairy treasure? What many more which we will not stay to peep-holes, and hiding-places, and undis- recount, but bring you to the boudoir coverable retreats we made to ourselves, which Mary has constructed for herself —where we sat rejoicing in our security, around the dormer-window which looks and bidding defiance to the vague, dis- into the whispering old apple-tree. tant cry which summoned us to school, The inclosure was formed by blankets or to some unsavory every-day task! and bed-spreads, which, by reason of their How deliciously the rain came pattering antiquity, had been pensioned off to an on the roof over our head, or the red undisturbed old age in the garret,—not twilight streamed in at the window, while common blankets or bed-spreads, either, we sat snugly ensconced over the deli- —bought, as you buy yours, out of a shop, cious pages of some romance, which care- -spun or woven by machinery,—withful aunts had packed away at the bottom out individnality or history. Every one of all things, to be sure we should never of these curtains had its story. The one read it! If you have anything, beloved on the right, nearest the window, and friends, which you wish your Charley or already falling into holes, is a Chinese your Susie to be sure and read, pack it linen, and even now displays unfaded, mysteriously away at the bottom of a quaint patterns of sleepy-looking Chinatrunk of stimulating rubbish, in the dark- men, in conical hats, standing on the est corner of your garret;-in that case, leaves of most singular herbage, and with

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