Page images
PDF
EPUB

PREFACE TO FOURTH EDITION.

canon.

Nothing is more tenacious of life than an old popular belief. It has the force of habit which the pressure of enlightened opinion through successive generations alon can overcome. “O Lord, thou hast taught us," once prayed a good deacon, “that as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined”-a truth drawn from the Book of Nature, and as indubitable as though the writings of Pope were a part of the sacred

Trees that have unnatural and uncomely twists in their branches, even if growing on Mount Zion, must die of old age, or be cut down, before the errors of arboriculture will cease to torment us. Intelligent and conscientious scholars among us are still defending the historical accuracy of the first chapter of Genesis. A personal devil is almost as potent in the minds of men to-day as he was when Martin Luther hurled the inkstand at his head. In Germany, how often one hears the polite ejaculation Gesundheit, uttered when a person sneezes!

Who does not turn, almost instinctively, to see in which part of the heavens the moon quarters, for a forecast of the weather, though that luminary is as innocent of any intermeddling with that branch of our local affairs as is the most distant star which the Lick telescope has revealed to us!

And the worst of it is, these old beliefs linger in the noblest minds to the last. The shadow of a solar eclipse, sweeping over the earth, lets the just and the unjust, the wise and the foolish, emerge into the light behind it indiscriminately. Evil spirits do not always beg the privilege, when they find themselves about to be exorcised, of taking refuge in a herd of swine and leaping over a precipice into the sea. The horrible butcheries of the Salem Witchcraft, marking the close of that delusion, were perpetrated by those to whom the love of God was the chief end of man. One of the last judges in England to send a witch to the gallows was Time's noblest offspring, Sir Matthew Hale. The last in that country to manumit their slaves were the clergy. The Garrison mob in Boston wore broadcloth on their backs and all the current virtues in their hearts. It is, therefore, no criterion of a good cause that men of acknowledged abilities and culture support it, nor of a bad cause that such men denounce it.

Indeed, truth has a modest way of entering the world

PREFACE TO FOURTH EDITION.

13

a nurse.

like a mendicant, at the back door. Such a guest is seldom admitted, on his first arrival, at the other end of the house. Poor Copernicus stood there shivering in the cold thirteen years before he dared even to lift the knocker. Every great religion has sprung up among the poor. Every great reform owes its origin to the oppressed. Every great invention has had, like the founders of Rome, a wolf for

It is not to be expected that rebellion against a king of poets will find favor among the nobility that surround his throne. The high-priests who, with unsandaled feet, minister in a sacred temple will not be the first to despoil the idol they worship. No captain in that "fleet of traffickers and assiduous pearl-fishers” to which Carlyle, in the most eloquent sentence he ever wrote, refers, will strike his colors or change his outfit so long as the products of his industry under the old régime are bringing him wealth. And what to him are winds and waves, or any storm of criticism, whose barque is anchored to the theory of Inspiration! Showers of verbal aerolites on the mimic stage, only a product of untaught Nature !

Amid the turmoil of our daily life, if we listen reverently, we may hear voices crying in the wilderness, perhaps the voice of a woman, alone and forsaken, in a strange city.

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

From the banks of the Missouri, from the wheat-fields of Minnesota, from far-off Melbourne at the antipodes, out of the heart of humanity somewhere, a response in due time is sure to come.

E. R.

ANDOVER, Mass., January 1, 1891.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

It is conceded by all that the author of the Shakespeare Plays was the greatest genius of his age, perhaps of any age, and, with nearly equal unanimity, that he was a man of profound and varied scholarship.

1. He was a linguist, many of the Plays being based on Greek, Spanish, and Italian productions which had not then been translated into English. Latin and French were seemingly as familiar to him as a mother tongue. It is thus apparent that not less than five foreign languages, living and dead, were included in his repertory.

LATIN.—The Comedy of Errors was founded upon the Menæchmi of Plautus, a comic poet, who wrote about 200 B.C. The first translation of the Latin work into English, so far as known, was made in 1595, subsequently to the appearance of the Shake

« PreviousContinue »