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INQUIRIES into the Life of Shakspere, which have ended in the omission and restoration of a letter in his name, may be pleaded as an excuse for an inquiry into the religious character of the man from the monuments he has left behind him.
For the judgment of sentiment no fairer dictum has been laid down than that of Shaftesbury- That is alone to be called a man's opinion, which is, of any other, the most habitual to him, and occurs upon most occasions.'
Of the possibility of drawing any inference as to the opinions of a person from his writings, we may add the authority of Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton In the mind of man there is always a resemblance to his works. His heroes may not be like himself, but they are like certain qualities which belong to him. The sentiments he utters are his at the moment; if you find them predominate in all his works, they predominate in his mind; if they are
advanced in one but contradicted in another, they still resemble their author, and betray the want of depth or of resolution in his mind. His works alone make not up a man's character, but they are the index to that living book.'-Sir E. B. Lytton's Student, vol. I., p. 9.
Hunter, in his Preface to his 'Illustrations,' and elsewhere, thinks that not only the mind and opinions, but the personal history of Shakspere may be derived from the criticism of his works. W. J. Fox, M.P., delivered Lectures on the Politics of Shakspere indicated in his plays.
We have endeavoured, therefore, in this inquiry, to decide. upon Shakspere's opinions on religion from the majority of instances in which he has declared himself on one side of the question more than the other.
The question to which we offer a solution is the one raised by Mr. Knight, the most complimentary of Shakspere's editors. To speak with brevity our Inquiry' is into the truth of our motto.
It is not hidden from us how many enthusiastic admirers of Shakspere will be startled at our views, and, perhaps, reject them; but if they will do us the favour to examine first, we shall be content. Not less than they do we admire the versatility of Shakspere's powers-we rejoice at his genius, and are proud of the reputation he has added to the national character, but these very circumstances make the inquiry more interesting-what were the peculiarities of his philosophy and religion?
The author wishes to be considered merely as an inquirer, not as a censor. He desires not to judge Shakspere for his ⚫ sentiments, but only to exhibit them. This, he trusts, he has done truly and impartially, without levity on the one side or bigotry on the other.
There was a time when this attempt might have been deemed injudicious, but now that Shakspere is enthroned in the hearts of the people, and at the head of the national, if not of European, literature, it may safely be adventured upon.
Much corroborative evidence of the correctness of the views delineated in this work had been prepared, but is withheld on account of the great size to which it would swell the book, and from a conviction that the internal evidence from Shakspere's writings, presented in the Inquiry,' is the fairest umpire to appeal to, and amply sufficient for the purpose.
As an explanation of any typographical or other errors, it must be mentioned, that the author resided in the country while composing the work, and during its progress through the press.
SHAKSPERE, HIS TIMES AND ASSOCIATES.
IT is not unlikely that the fictitious Unknown, to whom Shakspere addresses his Sonnets, was intended to represent the world to whom he prophesied of himself of the oblivion of his life, and fate of his works. Hence his predictionSonnet lxxiv.—
My life hath in this line some interest,
The earth can have but earth, which is his due,
Of his person in comparison with his poetry, he adds
The worth of that, is that which it contains;
Therefore his spirit,' the better part of him,' his philosophy and religion, we are justified in tracing from his writings.
In all ages, and among all people, a man's company has been held as a criterion of his tastes and sentiments.
A saying of antiquity, Noscitur a sociis,' has become an English proverb-a man is known by his friends. The French to the same effect, is still more expressive of the certainty which a knowledge of a man's acquaintances gives in deciding his character. Dis moi qui tu hantes, je dirai qui tu es.' Tell me the society you frequent, I will tell you what you are. Marlowe was the precursor of Shakspereaccording to Phillips he was another Shakspere. Of those dramatists who went before Shakspere he certainly came nearest to him, not only in point of time but in point of genius. According to Anthony Wood, Marlowe was a professor of Atheism, and writer of several discourses against the Christian religion. Marlowe was born but a few years before