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Hamlet says to Polonius, Aye, Sir, to be honest as this world
goes is to be a man picked out of two thousand. “ Pol. That is very true, my Lord.
“ Hamlet. For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good-kissing carrion--Have you a daughter ?
• Pui. I have, my Lord.
Now the meaning of “good-kissing carrion” is certainly not very obvious, and the words are therefore altered by the commentators according to their usual process. Warburton is the first to display his dexterity upon this passage, and, after complaining heavily of the uncertainty of the meaning of the words as they now stand, proposes to read God for good, signifying, forsooth, a God-kissing carrion. Then follows Johnson, who appears rapt in admiration at Warburton's skill and ingenuity, and bursts into exclamation: “ This,” says he," is a noble emendation, which almost sets the critic on a level with the author.” Next steps in Malone, with a spirit fired with emulation, and eagerly ambitious of being placed on the same level : to which he really entitles himself, if not to a still higher place, by making an emendation upon an emendation, and ingeniously slipping in an hyphen between the words God and kissing: the words of the noble emendation then are retained, but the sense changed to god-kissing ; which is proved to be right, because Shakespeare uses an hyphen before the word kissing elsewhere, as, “heaven-kissing hill," "common-kissing Titan," and the like. Why indeed, then, should be not adopt the same form here! Steevens appears last, and feeling, perhaps, as any sensible man would do, the evident absurdity of these annotations, and the ridicule to which they subjected the work, he seeks to excuse himself for their insertion by saying, “ that he has not ventured to expunge a note (it occapies two pages in small pica), written by a great critic, and applauded by a greater." We think he might more wisely have adopted a different course: but we must now conclude by subjoining Mr. Caldecot's explanation of the original pas. sage.
“ As it would be too forced a sense to say that our author calls the sun • a good kissing carrion,' we have nothing better to offer than that the carcass of a dead dog, being a good-kissing carrion,' may mean, good for the sun, the breeder of maggots, to kiss for the purpose of causing putrefaction, and so conceiving or generating any thing carrion like, any thing apt quickly to contract taint in the sunshine; good at catching or drawing the rays or kisses of common kissing Titan:' and in the phraseology of the day, as shewn by Mr. Malone in the historical play of Edw. III. 1596, the above ideas appear to have been connected.” P. 46.
Again, “it is dangerous for your daughter to be in the sun, because the sun will breed maggots in a dead dog, he being so good (lusty) a kisser even of carrion. Here is unquestionably much doubt and difficulty; and whether we have chanced to have made. a fortunate conjecture must be left to others; be this as it may, we cannot resist the temptation of subjoining a specimen of the notemaking, alluded to at the close of the observations upon the character of Polonius ; and one that was certainly not made for the sake of the author or his reader.” Ibid.
This is, in our opinion, the true mode of commenting upon an author like Shakespeare ; nor bave we any doubt but that most of our readers will agree with us on this point. Mr. Caldecott's plan is, indeed, the only one which can be allowed to be just and reasonable.
A person, to be duly fitted to be a commentator, should in truth not only be a faithful treasurer of all his sayings, and jealous of his honour, and even of his name, (as is abundantly proved in the Preface to this book,) but should be in some sort in love with his author: Mr. Caldecott clearly is so. He has both feeling and sagacity to qualify him for the task ; and if, as he says, the materials for the whole edition have been collected, and for the greatest part already worked up, we must add our wishes, both in bebalf of ourselves and of the public at large, that the reception of this specimen may be such as to induce him to complete the undertaking which he has so ably commenced. Having said this, our duty calls apon us to observe, that the various readings of the folio and quarto are not always quoted with that accuracy and diligence which a strict adherence to the plan of the work should seem to require; and we trust and hope, that this admonition being made, we shall have no occasion to repeat our complaint in future.
We will close these remarks with one other quotation ; it is not in this instance the rescue of a passage from the clutches of those cruel operators, that pleases, but the explanation of an unexplained passage, and which Jobnson pronounces obscure and affected.
“ Nature is fine in love : and, where 'tis fine,
It sends some precious instance of itself
After the thing it loves.” “ They are, in our conception, of a very different character : and so far from being such, and fit, as he says, to be expunged, we
thipk, that these abstractions and this high mood, beyond their in: trinsic value, teach us, that what Milton derived from Plato and the Greek philosophy, our author could draw from nature and his own resources alone,” P. 107.
And these doctrines are happily illustrated by him in Sonnet LXI.
“ Is it thy spirit, that thou send'st from thee
So farre from home into my deeds to prye."
Art. V. A Brief Display of the Origin and History of
Ordeals ; Trials by Battle ; Courts of Chivalry or Honour; and the Decision of private Quarrels by single Combat ; also a Chronological Register of the principal Duels fought from the Accession of His late Majesty to the present Time. By James P. Gilchrist. 8vo. pp. 390. 12s. Sams. 1821.
We do not think that much good will be done by this volume, though the intentions of its author are evidently directed to a benevolent purpose. As far as the History of Ordeals is concerned (and it was this part of the title which at first attracted our notice) nothing can be more unsatisfactory. A meagre extract from a paper in the Asiatic Researches acquaints us with the nine modes in use among the Hindoos; and Mosheim and Dr. Henry supply the little wbich is of. fered relative to those in Christian countries. The Trial by Battle is illustrated from Blackstone; and to the chapter on Duelling are appended a few very proper but somewhat obvious remarks on the folly and wickedness of the practice. In his original pages, Mr. Gilchrist exhibits a talent for fine writing, which it is wrong in him to confine to a mere dry compilation. A gentleman who opens his preliminary observations with an announcement that “ man, in his individual, or aggregate character, alike presents an exhaustless subject of political and moral disquisition” might vie in metaphysics with Sir Richard Philips or Sir Charles Morgan : and one who in plain prose can speak of illustrious names “ ingulfed within a putrid vortex" is not far from belonging to some of our most popular schools of modern poetry.
It seems, upon Mr. Gilchrist's calculation (wbich in our own knowledge is extremely incorrect) that since the year 1762, one hundred and seventy-two duels have been fought.
In three of these neither of the combatants have survived ; in sixty-six, one of the parties has fallen, and in ninety-six, wounds have been received. During the saine period only eighteen trials have taken place. In which (but not according to Cocker) six of the arraigned persons have been acquitted, seven found guilty of manslaughter, and three of murder ; two have been executed, and eight imprisoned. If we adopt this system of numeration, either one of the acquitted must have suffered innprisonment by mistake, or 6+7 +3+2+8=18.
Our readers will care little about Captain T. and Major A.; or about Counsellor R. and
; though the unbappy Counsellor was condemned to death in Dublin, for killing this apparently unsubstantial antagonist. Neither will they be much amused by hearing that Mr.
and Mr. exchanged shots without effect, for which the sheriff of Edinburgh very wisely fined both principals and seconds five and twenty gaineas each. On another occasion we find that Lieutenant L's ball bit Captain N.'s head, “ bút fortunately did not seriously injure him ;" next to this that Captain F. after shooting Mr. R. through the body, parted from him in good friendship and married his sister. Again, that Mr. B. took the trouble of going from England to Calais, to obtain the satisfaction of losing three of his fingers: that two other initials fought about " a dashing beauty :” and two more about a horse-whipping. That a student in anatomy lodged his pistol ball in Mr. C.'s hip, because he (the student) was in love with Mr. C.'s sister; and lastly that Captain T. carried off an ounce of lead in his knee, because he chose to pay “unsolicited attention” to a lady in the company of Mr. R. · All this is sufficiently silly; and the coxcombs who hazarded their lives in order to furnish the newspaper para. graphs from which their brief histories are taken, must be not a little mortified to find that their glory depends upon the short lived and uncertain interpretation of equivocal initials. A few cases of another class occur which we read with unmixed horror and disgust. We need not cite the well known murder of Mr. Chaworth by Lord Byron ; but the following narratives, however laconically given, will account for our feelings. “ Duel between Mr. Mc.LEAN, Jun. und Mr. CAMERON,
May 24, 1772. « Mr. Mc.Lean, Jun. of Gartmoor, in Scotland, being at supper with a select party, at a friend's house, words arose between him and Mr. Cameron, on an old grudge, when the latter gave him the lie, on which a duel ensued, and Mr. Mc. Lean was killed on the
spot. His mother on hearing of this melancholy event, was instantly
deprived of her senses ; and Miss Mc.Leod, a young lady to whom Mr. Mc.Lean was soon to have been married, was seized with fits, and died three days after.” P. 102. « Duel between Mr. RIDDELL and Mr. CUNNINGHAM,
April 21, 1783. “ A duel was fought between Mr. Riddell
, of the Horse Grenadiers, and Mr. Cunningham, of the Scots Greys. Both these gentlemen belonged formerly to the Scots Greys, and had differed at play. Mr. Riddell had challenged Mr. Cunningham, which challenge Mr. Cunningham had declined; but many of the gentlemen of the Scots Greys, reviving at intervals, that circumstance, Mr. Cunningham found it necessary, for the full restoration of his honour, that he should call upon Mr. Riddell. This appeal, Mr. Riddell considering as out of season, declined attending to, till he had consulted his brother officers, who agreed, there was no obligation on him to answer Mr. Cunningham.
“ This being their determination, Mr. Cunningham resolved upon forcing him to the point, and meeting him accidentally at Mr. Christie's, their Agent, spate in bis face. Mr. Riddell observed that this being a fresh affront, he should take notice of it, and took his departure. He then proceeded to make a few arrangements in his affairs. But before he had completed them, he received a billet from Mr. Cunningham, reminding him of the affront which he had passed upon him, and declaring his readiness to give him satisfac. tion. This note coming while the wafer was yet wet, to the hands of Sir James Riddell, who was under some apprehension of his son's situation, opened it, and having read it, closed it, without taking any other notice of its contents, than providing, in consequence of it, the assistance of several surgeons of the first abilities. The meeting was fixed. They were both punctual, Mr. Riddell attended by Captain Topham, of the Horse Grenadiers, and Mr. Cundingham by Captain Cunningham of the 69th regiment of foot.
“ Eight paces were first measured by the seconds, and afterwards the contending parties took their ground. They tossed up for the first fire, which Mr. Riddell won. Mr. Riddell fired, and shot Mr. Cunningham under the right breast, the ball passing, as is supposed, through the ribs, and lodging on the left side near the back. The moment Mr. Cunningham received the shot, he reeled, but did not fall. He opened his waistcoat, and declared he was mortally wounded. Mr. Riddell still remained on his ground, when Mr. Cunningham, after a pause of two minutes, declared he would not be taken off the field till he had fired at his adversary. Mr. Cunningham then presented his pistol, and shot Mr. Riddell in the groin; he immediately fell, and was carried in a backoy coach to Mr. Topbam's. The unhappy man lingered until seren o'clock on Tuesday morning, and then expired.