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9. Our surprises do not cease at his death.

On the heavy

stone slab that marks his grave in the old church at Strat

ford, visitors read the following inscription:

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To dig the dust enclosed here:

Blest be the man that spares these stones,

And curst be he that moves my bones."

These lines are evidently his own, for the imprecation contained in them prevented his wife, who survived him, from being laid at rest by his side.

10. So far as we know, Shakespeare never claimed the authorship of the Plays. He simply permitted his name to be used, doubtless for good and sufficient reasons, and in accordance with a not unusual custom at that period, on the title-pages of fourteen of them printed in his life-time, though they all (thirty-seven in number) were ascribed to him unmistakably in the collected editions that appeared after his death. His reticence on the subject, especially after his retirement to Stratford, is itself a presumptive proof of his integrity and honor. His fellow-townsmen, it is probable, never witnessed one of his productions on the stage. Neither his local fame (if he had any) as a dramatist, nor the influence of his wealth and position (if exerted by him) overcame their repugnance to theatrical representations, for in 1602 the board of aldermen prohibited

any performance of the kind in the town under a penalty of ten shillings. In 1612, when Shakespeare's reputation among his neighbors should have been at its zenith, the penalty was increased to ten pounds. The key to the situation lies in his stolidity, or in his sense of honor.


11. The references to Shakespeare, direct and indirect, in contemporaneous literature (1592–1616) have been carefully collated and published. They number one hundred and twenty-five, and may be classified as follows: those made to him as a reputed author or to his works, one hundred and twenty; those made to him as a man, five. The citations in the first class are, of course, irrelevant to our purpose. In the second, we find statements from the following named persons: Robert Greene and Henry Chettle, 1592; John Manningham, 1601; an anonymous writer, 1605; and Thomas Heywood, 1612. Greene denounces Shakespeare as an impostor; Chettle disclaims the honor of a personal acquaintance with him; Manningham makes him the hero of an amour; the anonymous writer (after the manner of such writers) calls attention to his penurious habits, his chronic disregard of obligations, and his wealth; and Heywood is indignant because two of his own poems had been published by a piratical printer as Shakespeare's, but (he affirms) without the latter's con


Excepting Ben Jonson,* and apart from the official records of baptism, marriage and death, of transfers of property and suits at law, these obscure writers tell us all we know, and more than we can believe to be true, of William Shakespeare, the man. Not a word, not the remotest hint from friend or foe within the circle of his acquaintance, of a transcendent genius, or, indeed, of any literary ability whatever.

"I cannot marry this fact to his verse."-Emerson.

"A mere fabulous story, a blind and extravagant error.". Schlegel.

* * *

"What are we to have miracles in sport? Does God choose idiots by whom to convey divine truths to man?"-Cole


* For Jonson's testimony, see supra, p. 43.



1. Setting aside Shakespeare, Bacon was the most original, the most imaginative, and the most learned man of his time.

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'The most exquisitely constructed intellect that has ever been bestowed on any of the children of men.”—Macaulay.

"The great glory of literature in this island, during the reign of James, was my Lord Bacon."-Hume.

"Lord Bacon was the greatest genius that England, or perhaps any other country, ever produced."-Pope.

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The glory of the human intellect.”—De Quincey.

"Crown of all modern authors."-Geo. Sandys.


'He possessed at once all those extraordinary talents which were divided amongst the greatest authors of antiquity. He had the sound, distinct, comprehensive knowledge of Aristotle, with all the beautiful lights, graces, and embellishments of Cicero. One does not know which to admire most in his writings, the strength of reason, force of style, or brightness of imagination." -Addison.

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His imagination was fruitful and vivid; a temperament of the most delicate sensibility."—Montagu.

"He belongs to the realm of the imagination, of eloquence, of jurisprudence, of ethics, of metaphysics; his writings have the gravity of prose, with the fervor and vividness of poetry."Welsh.

"Who is there that, hearing the name of Bacon, does not instantly recognize everything of genius the most profound, of literature the most extensive, of discovery the most penetrating, of observation of human life the most distinguishing and refined?” -Edmund Burke.

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Shakespeare and the seers do not contain more expressive or vigorous condensations, more resembling inspiration; in Bacon, they are to be found everywhere.”—Taine.

Addison, referring to a prayer composed by Bacon, says that "for elevation of thought and greatness of expression it seems rather the devotion of an angel than a man.”

The critics all concur in ascribing to Bacon a particularly powerful poetic faculty. No man ever had an imagination, says Macaulay, "at once so strong and so thoroughly subjugated. In truth, much of Bacon's life was passed in a visionary world, amidst things as strange as any that are described in the Arabian tales."

2. Bacon came of a family eminent for learning. His father, Nicholas Bacon, was Lord Chancellor and Keeper of the Great Seal under Elizabeth; his mother, daughter of Sir Anthony Coke, tutor of the king.

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