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MALONE'S" INQUIRY."

1796.]

1796. The first point which he attacked was the spelling. There was, throughout all the performances, a prodigious affectation of antiquated orthography, exhibiting clusters of consonants, and tails attached to words, such as had never before met the public eye. "I have perused some thousand deeds and other manuscripts," said Malone," but never till now saw and written with a final e, or for changed into forre, or from into fromme, or as into asse, or one into oune, or Master into Masterre. I have seen," says he, " Leicester written Leycestre, but never Leycesterre." We find also expenneces, receyvedde, knottedde, thysse, nygheste, bllossoms, bllooms; and Shakspeare's mistress is called Dearesste Anna Hatherrewaye. But, in spelling, Ireland was not consistent with himself; sometimes he forgets to write forre in his peculiar way, and gives it in its present form; the same is the case with receyvedde, and also with shyllynge; and this is sometimes written, not thysse, but thys. As to the pretended handwriting of Queen Elizabeth, it was totally different from her genuine hand, with the exception of the signature, which was a clumsy and imperfect imitation of it. Arabic numerals are used in specifying sums of money, whereas they' used to be noted thus :-xx". vs. viiid. Shakspeare is made to live at "the Blackfryers" before he had it. Malone, in the course of his Shakspeare researches, had disinterred, in the year 1790, the name of William Ireland, who probably gave designation to Ireland's Yard, and young Ireland, seizing upon it, gave, as a contemporary name, William Henry Ireland, which is of itself, as Malone observes, sufficient to make the "deede of guyft" as he writes it, a felo de se, for second baptismal

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names had not then come into use. In this document, too, Shakspeare is made to say, "for the whyche service," [the preservation of his life when drowning,] "I doe herebye give hym as folowythe!!!," when no punctuation at all is employed in deeds, and the tripling of notes of admiration is an invention long subsequent to Shakspeare's time, first used perhaps by advertisers, and having in all probability never before had the honour of appearing in a legal instrument.

Let us extract, though we have perhaps already given enough, one more example of absurdity, with Malone's comment on it, as a specimen brick of his book. The verses to Queen Elizabeth contain the following lines:

"Queene of my thoughts by daye, my dreame by night,
My gracious mistress still is in my sight.

Her full perfections how shall I displaye?
No words the bright idea can portraye.

So when some lowly swain essayes to prove
His humble duty and obsequious love,
The practised accents in his throat are lost,
And his best purpose by his virtue crost.
So, the dumb bard, the spangled courtier cries,
And, round me speechless, all St. James's flies; '
Each titled dame deserts her rolls and tea,

And all the Maids of Honour crye, Te! He!"

The reader will observe that the affectation of antiquated. spelling is here almost wholly laid aside, though this may be attributed to the transcriber. Malone comments thus:

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IRELAND'S ABSURDITIES.

1796.]

be said to smell too strongly of one of our poet's plays, and to be faulty in another respect, as being little more than a comparison of a thing with itself, the answer, I suppose, would be that Shakspeare, when he wrote these lines, had probably recently composed his Midsummer Night's Dream;' and as to the other point, that Addison's celebrated simile of the angel was equally faulty; neither was the time of Elizabeth an age of such nicety of criticism as the present.

"

"On my objecting to the word idea in the fourth line, my friend," a gentleman who had procured a copy of these verses for Malone from the unknown in the country, as they are not among the printed specimens, and who expressed himself quite convinced of their authenticity, "my friend told me he had himself made the same objection to the gentleman who had communicated these verses; on which he said he had made a mistake, and that he had a better copy at home, without that word; but as I would not venture to alter anything that even pretended to be the composition of our immortal bard, I have adhered to the first copy. My friend scrupled a little at the mention of St. James's, but there he was certainly in an error; for Queen Elizabeth sometimes resided at that palace. The last line but two is more difficult to be got over; but those who may think those verses genuine may very consistently maintain either that Shakspeare foresaw in this, as in many other instances that might be produced from the Miscellaneous Papers,' what would be written in the eighteenth century, or, which is full as probable, that the ingenious author of the Epistle to Sir William Chambers' had a peep some years ago at this curious relique in the dark repository where it has been preserved, and stole from it one of his best lines.

"

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"Other objections were made by my friend to the omission. of the good chine and sirloin and manchet of Queen Elizabeth's days, and introducing our fragrant Chinese beverage, with its proper accompaniment, in their room; and also to the allusion to balloons and the earthquake at Lisbon, in a subsequent part of these verses, which he had heard, though he had not obtained a copy of them; but the good believer told

him that, a committee having been appointed to consider of these matters (consisting of Messrs. B. C. D. E. O. P. Q. and R.), these objections were overruled, and unanimously voted of no weight whatsoever.” *

Some critics thought that the extraordinary deviations from probability in the papers tended to prove their genuineness, as a forger would have kept nearer to the appearance of truth.

Malone deserves great credit for his perspicacity and research in the exposure of the forgeries, but his attempts at wit and merriment, in his exultation over the vanquished, are often heavy and pointless.

But Malone was not to enjoy an unquestioned triumph. In the following year, 1797, George Chalmers, with the assistance of we know not whom, put forth his "Apology for the Believers in the Shakspeare Papers," a weighty octavo of more than six hundred pages, which is not so much a defence of those who had looked favourably on the papers, as an attack upon Malone for having spoken scornfully of them. If Tomline's Life of Pitt, as Macaulay declares, enjoys the reputation of being the worst biography in the English language, Chalmers's Apology may well be allowed the honour of being the dullest book of criticism in the English language. Chalmers shook one or two of Malone's absolute assertions, and dug up an exceptional ande and forre, but did the case of the believers, on the whole, very little good. Porson was fond of joking on those who, though forced to acknowledge that Shakspeare did not write the papers, yet wanted to prove that he might

* Malone's Inquiry, p. 100.

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1797.]

CHALMERS'S "APOLOGY."

have written them. Even Wakefield* launched a happy couplet at Chalmers in his "Imitation of the First Satire of Juvenal:"

"See Chalmers urge with persevering page
To doubt and dulness a discerning age;

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while the author of the "Pursuits of Literature " applied to him Pope's lines,

"So, forced from wind-guns, lead itself can fly,
And pond'rous slugs cut swiftly through the sky."

But the application is suitable only in part. Chalmers's pages were leaden enough, but no impulse gave them a rapid flight.

An anonymous writer, about the same time, shot forth this squib:

"Chalmers, in every page thy readers trace

The heavy influence of thy leaden mace :
They all exclaim, when once thy book is read,
His ink is opium, and his pen is lead." †

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Mason closed the controversy with the following

lines in the "Morning Herald:"

"Four forgers, born in one prolific age,

Much critical acumen did engage;

The first was soon by doughty Douglas scared,

Though Johnson would have screen'd him, had he dared;

The next had all the cunning of a Scot;

The third invention, genius, nay, what not?

Fraud, now exhausted, only could dispense
To her fourth son their threefold impudence."

The first three were Lauder, Macpherson, and Chatterton.

Memoirs, vol. ii. p.

425.

† Spirit of the Public Journals for 1800.

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