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By Win R. Alger

The Works of WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. The Plays edited from the Folio of MDCXXIII., with Various Readings from all the Editions and all the Commentators, Notes, Introductory Remarks, a Historical Sketch of the Text, an Account of the Rise and Progress of the English Drama, a Memoir of the Poet, and an Essay upon his Genius. By RICHARD GRANT WHITE. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co. 1861. 12 vols. Small 8vo.

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WE place this descriptive title of Mr. White's edition of the works of the greatest poet of the world at the head of our article, not in order to describe its characteristics and eulogize its merits, but simply to serve as a text from which to start in treating the special theme indicated above. Thus much, however, we feel impelled to say that if we could own but one edition of the works of Shakespeare, and had our choice out of all the editions ever printed, we should select the one now-with the exception of the first volume, which is not yet published — offered to the public by Richard Grant White, from the press of Messrs. Little, Brown, & Co.

Shakespeare, in whose comprehensive genius the entire sphere of human experience lay mirrored, has scattered through his plays hundreds of graphic traits and sayings relating to friendship. Whoever reads his pages with a direct eye to this theme, will be surprised to find how thick the allusions to it are; how varied, delicate, and earnest they are; and what a collective sum of wisdom and emotion, of manifold passion, tenderness, and judgment, is in them. Such a perusal proves that Shakespeare's heart was as teeming and wonderful a treasury of love as his mind was of thought.

In the world of the good affections there is not a point, particle, or motion which was not well known to him, both by intuitive experience and by reflective consciousness. He was the most sensitive, loving, generous of men; - an organization "servile to all the skyey influences"; a heart no less fond and mobile than vast and tenacious; an intellect capable of taking accurate impressions of all phenomena, and rendering quick interpretations enriched by the commingling reactions of his

redundant genius. Though he enters and informs all sorts of characters, and meets all kinds of exigencies in wonderful accordance with the demands of dramatic truth, he seems most untrammelled and complete, most perfectly himself, when depicting or paying tribute to the noblest forms of human nature, breathing the gentlest sentiments. He condemns, scorns, loathes, hates, with a terrible emphasis indeed; but he approves, admires, pities, loves, with a pervasive unction and irresistible sincerity superior still. In the former, he seems comparatively mimetic; in the latter, organic. There he is a dramatist, filling a part with forms suited to his conceit; here he is himself, at one with the very spirit of nature and humanity: his words give an echo to the seat where love is throned. All the finest expressions of reverence and sympathy between persons which he puts into the mouths of his interlocutors bear the marks of the soul of Shakespeare, a mellow flavor of catholicity, a deep tinge of beauty, an unfathomable fondness, a poised and sad wisdom, ever and anon fringing itself with sportiveness. In this mood, every utterance of his, however adapted to the character and situation it is assigned to, carries the stamp of its sublime parentage, is redolent of the rich place it came from.

In addition to these precious incidental touches, Shakespeare has drawn no less than eight memorable pictures of friendship, designed portraitures. The first of these, in time and in interest, is that of the rapturous love subsisting between himself and the mysterious Nameless whose entrancing charms he has overlaid with the amber of his Sonnets, where the final generation of men may gaze on them with unspent astonishment.

"Who will believe my verse in time to come,

If it were filled with your most high deserts ?
Though yet, Heaven knows, it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.

So should my papers, yellowed with their age,

Be scorned, like old men of less truth than tongue;

And your true rights be termed a poet's rage,
And stretched metre of an antique song."

These matchless compositions mark the highest point in lit

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erature ever attained by the sentiment of friendship in its richest and most inspired form. None but the finest, warmest souls should ever read them. Should? No others can. And when such a one, retreating to some secluded spot, with pensive, leisurely, and yearning heart, roams in these flushed and spicy precincts, like an enchanted sultan, he walks in meadows of roses, strolls beside rivers of milk and honey, wanders over the hills of frankincense, and pitches his tent on the mountains of myrrh.

The information these productions contain in relation to the personal character and experience of their wondrous author, possesses the very highest interest; for, as Wordsworth says, in naming the chief writers of sonnets, "With this key Shakespeare unlocked his heart." Though called Sonnets, they are not strictly such, but rather loosely-connected poems in sonnet stanza. The writer praises the beauty and goodness of his friend, and tries to persuade him to marry; complains of a severe wrong, but forgives him; complains also of coldness, and warns him that decay and death are swift; moved by fear of a rival, expostulates on inconstancy; reproves him for certain faults; excuses his own silence, and protests his undying truth. Such is the general argument, but infinitely varied and fulfilled, which he pours along his lines,

"too excellent For every vulgar paper to rehearse.”

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It is astonishing how rich a treatment of friendship these poems give. Their wealth does not appear at once. They must be perused a great number of times, in favorable moods, with absolute attention. Such a study of them, really discerning all that is in them, will show that they touch with masterly stroke almost everything that belongs to the experience in its fullest and most diversified form. Of the large number of the Sonnets that it would be a delight to adorn these pages with, the three that follow must suffice.

"If thou survive my well-contented day,

When that churl, Death, my bones with dust shall cover,

And shalt by fortune once more re-survey

These poor, rude lines of thy deceased lover,

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Compare them with the bettering of the time;
And though they be outstripped by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O, then vouchsafe me but this loving thought!
Had my friend's muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,

To march in ranks of better equipage;

But since he died, and poets better prove,

Theirs for their style I'll read, his for his love!"

How powerfully the spirit of sincerity reveals itself through the poetic exaggeration of the foregoing lines, and what a fine example they afford of the divine grace that waits on modesty !

The next piece depicts, with a marvellous power of tender delicacy, and truth to experience, the ideal sovereignty of the image of a dear friend in the mind.

"When to the sessions of sweet, silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past,

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,

And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,

For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long-since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight.
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored, and sorrows end.”

Who would not willingly suffer the pains of absence and suspicion, to receive such protestation as the poet here brings, in lines where every kind of skill and worth vies with another which shall be first?

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Never believe, though in my nature reigned
All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,
That it could so preposterously be stained,
To leave for nothing all thy sum of good:
For nothing this wide universe I call,
Save thou, my rose; in it thou art my all."

We are the more resigned to leave the Sonnets with this painfully inadequate exposition, because we hope at a future time to devote a distinct article to a consideration of their autobiographic contents and value.

Probably the earliest portrayal of friendship in the plays of Shakespeare is that of the generous and constant Valentine and the false and fickle Proteus, in the "Two Gentlemen of Verona." ona." Valentine is about going abroad, against the arguments of his comrade:

"Cease to persuade, my loving Proteus;
Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits."

Proteus rejoins:

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"Wilt thou begone? Sweet Valentine, adieu !
Think on thy Proteus when thou, haply, seest
Some rare noteworthy object in thy travel."

In his absence Proteus betrays his friend, and plays a perjurer's part against him. The Duke of Milan asks Valentine

if he knows the son of Don Antonio. He answers:

"I know him as myself; for from our infancy

We have conversed, and spent our hours together;
And though myself have been an idle truant,
Omitting the sweet benefit of time,

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To clothe mine age with angel-like perfection,
Yet hath Sir Proteus, for that's his name,
Made use and fair advantage of his days."

Afterwards, learning the base disservice done him by his trusted mate, he breaks out on him :

"Thou common friend, that's without faith or love,—
For such is a friend now, - treacherous man!

Thou hast beguiled my hopes; naught but mine eye

Could have persuaded me. Now I dare not say

I have one friend alive; thou wouldst disprove me.
Who should be trusted now, when one's right hand
Is perjured to the bosom? Proteus,

I am sorry I must never trust thee more,

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