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calls a peculiar and “ very humane mode of punishment, probably introduced by the great Norman barons, out of their own country, where it had been lately made the in strument of the most compendious and expeditious massacres that ever disgraced the forms of justice.” >* It may, perhaps, be asked, why such a tribunal of local jos tiệe was not established at Wakefield, the capital of this great honour, rather than in a remote and obscure corner of it. The answer, I fear, will not be favourable to the morals of the old foresters of Hardwick. It was placed near at hand to check their thievish propensities, which, after all, it very imperfectly repressed. The object of this jurisdiction was the furtum manifestum of a chattle to the value of 13s. 1d, so that the offence must in the first place be grand larceny, when money was perbaps of twenty times the value that it is at present. Secondly, it must be found upon the person. Yet, with these restrictions in the description of the offence itself, and with the certainty of speedy and inexorable justice, for no appeal lay to any higher court,) there are no less than forty-nine executions recorded in the parish registers, during little more than a century, so inveterate and incorrigible was the propensity. “ The people seem to have been as savage as they were thievish.” One of the vicars was murdered by robbers in his own house, and one of the chapels was suspended by the metropolitan, as having been polluted, (the interior of a place of worship!) by the effusion of buman blood.” (vol. ii. p. 386—387.)
In order not to break the chain of connection in this topographical work, we have hitherto avoided entering on a curious and entertaining portion of Dr. Whitaker's labour, or the detail supplied of the melancholy catastrophe, which furnished the plot of the Yorkshire tragedy, a play attributed to Shakspeare, and printed in the supplement to his more indisputable productions in 1664. Dr. Whitaker following the authority of some of the commentators of our great dramatists, without probably having read the piece himself, ventures to assert dogmatically and roundly, that it is not Shakspeare's. For our own part, we are by no means inclined to adopt this opinion, for, to our minds, it leaves quite as pregnant internal evidence of being the work of the author of Hamlet or Othello, as Titus Andronicus or Pericles; of which probably, Dr. Whitaker would not think of depriving him, for the very reason which in." duced him to deny him the Yorkshire tragedy; and had our reverend critic found it in the editions of these plays, which are considered authorities, he would not have hazarded a judgment against the notioni commonly re. ceived."
cus or Pericythor of Har internal en for, to oure are
It is to be lamented, that since Tonson's edition, in 1795, it has not, we believe, been thought necessary to reprint the suppositious plays of Shakspeare : more than an hundred, or perhaps a thousand editions have been published of the usually admitted dramas, but no opportunity has been offered to enable a reader, who is not possessed of tbe folios of 1664, or 1685, nor of the copy above mentioned, to form a judgment for himself; like Dr. Whitaker, he has been obliged to be content with second-hand opinions, however unsatisfactorily they may have been formed.
The position that the Yorkshire tragedy was written, or at least revised and improved, by the pen of Shakspeare, bas of late received some support from the dramatic lec tures of professor Schlegel, whose criticisms upon the English stage and its productions of an early date, are as learned as they are liberal and tasteful. After a patient perusal he sees no reason to believe that nearly all the im., puted plays are not among the early essays of Shakespear; or, perhaps, the writings of inferior dramatists, corrected and improved by him. We could have wished, however, that he had entered more into particulars, and pointed out some of the characteristic excellencies, and better portions of these pieces.
It is unfortunate for Dr. Whitaker's unhesitating asser tion, that, of all the seven plays attributed to Shakspeare, the Yorkshire tragedy is the one that possesses the greatest number of passages that indicate the workings of a great mind. Of course, we cannot here quote, though we may refer to scenes of excellence, such as the dreadful conflict between the husband and wife, while the latter is endeavouring to protect her youngest child, which resembles, in the agony, of passion, some of the fiercer parts of Othello. The remorseful accusations of the husband, who, by his propensity for gaming, bad reduced his family to misery, is in the noblest stile of Tragedy-“ What is there in three dice to make a man draw thrice three thousand acres into the compass of a little round table, and with the gentleman's palsy in the hand, shake out his posterity thieves or beggars?",
Probably this Tragedy was originally written by Nash or Green, for the two lines its Divines and dying men may talk of hell,
de But in my breast her several torments dwell." ... are to be found in a poem attributed to both of those wri. ters. Some critics have complained that the piece was too
CAIT. Rev. VOL. IV. Dec. 1816.
makest stile ng bad redif the bush parts obles, in the ring to
short, and must have been performed as an interlude; but it may be doubted, if a part have not been lost; or if the Yorkshire tragedy, as it is now handed down to us, were finished.-That Shakespear was in some way concerned in it, we have quite as little difficulty in maintaining, as Dr, Whitaker finds in asserting the contrary.
Before we take our leave, as we have spoken so freely of the incidental demerits of the editor, we must, in regard to our own feelings, say a few words in his praise, as we would be always willing to do justice to those who sometimes withhold it from others. There is, throughout this splendid work, a great deal of learned research, indicat. ing that sort of laborious and patient investigation, which may occasionally obtain relief from the exercise of asperity. To this cause should, perhaps, be attributed much of the moroseness we have noticed; but be the conjecture true or otherwise, it is the best apology we can discover for the indulgence of such a disposition.
The production itself, as to embellishments in the type, the paper, and the designs of the artist, is one of the most magnificent we have lately seen, and will be necessary to the collection of every gentleman who is curious in topographical antiquities, and can properly appreciate this va; luable addition to the stock of knowledge in this department.
We have already said, that Dr. Whitaker is preparing a general history of the county of York; but we are informed, that in consequence of the obliquity of temper, he has manifested in the work under our present review, some of those subscribers have withdrawn their names, who were most anxious to avail themselves of his assistance." If it would at all tend to alter that determination, we should be disposed to say, that we know no person better prepared by his previous studies and local knowledge for such an undertaking, than Dr. Whitaker, and we only hope, that in pursuing his object, in his love of antiquity, he will not despise what is modern ; in his attachment to churches, he will not disregard every other species of archi. tecture; and, that in the minuteness of the biography of his own profession, he will not overlook the history of every other order of society. In the prosecution of his design, we would have him omit nothing that from early pursuits has been rendered grateful to him. We allow, with him, that “ the history of Rome, when connected with remote and provincial topography, has an interest peculiar to itself. To combine dates and facts which had exercised the fancy in the happiest days of classical pur. suit with the obscure, but romantic scenery in which those days were passed ; to confirm and particularize the general evidence of ancient history, by contemporary remains; to bring home, for instance, the narrative of Tacitus, and the operations of Agniola, to our own villages, is a process of the mind, which can dignify what else were mean, or 'endear what else were indifferent."* When the editor is under these chaste and pleasing impressions, we find all the acidity of his temper corrected, and we follow him in the delightful paths through which he conducts us, with unchecked and unmixed satisfaction.
* Among those who have returned the present work in disgust, on account of the illiberality to which we have alluded are, a great land proprietor, near Otley; and an ingenious gentleman, in the neighbourhood of Leeds, who has more largely contributed to the commercial reputation and success of this great trading establishment, than any individual from the time of Thoresby, to that of his editor, ..
Chaucer's Assem. of Foules, st. 4.
JAMES SHIRLEY. Art. VIII.—Poems, dic. By James Shirley. « Sine
aliquâ dementiâ nullus Phæbus.” London, printed for
Humphrey Moseley, and are to be sold at his shop, at the '. signe of the Princes Armes in St. Pauls Church-yard.
1646. Mr. Gifford having announced his intention of publishing a complete edition of the Plays and Poems of James Shirley, we thought that an article affording some specimens of what may be expected, would not be unacceptable to our readers. Of course, in this department of our Review we could have, nothing to do with the labours of the acute and learned editor; nor can we be supposed to anticipate any ..part of his promised disquisition upon the merits of his
• Whitaker's History of Whalley and Clitheroe, p. 12,
authors they will be noticed in due time in their proper place, · It may, and no doubt will be a disputed point, what rank Shirley is entitled to hold in the scale of. dramatic poets : the number of his theatrical performances exceeds that of any writer either before or since his time, except Heywood, and had he lived in an age more favourable to the exercise of his talent, it is not unlikely that he might have rivalled even him in the fertility of his pen : but at the period when his genius may be supposed to have been in its zenith, he fell“ upon evil times and evil tongues," and his ardour was cbilled by the cold anti-poetic spirit of puritanical institutions: the straight-haired zealots, while they themselves acted the bloodiest and most real tragedies, interdicted the exhibition of their shadows on the stage as “the very pomps of the Devil; as sinful, heathenish, infamous, and ungodly spectacles and most pernicious corruptions."'* Notwithstanding this prohibition, enforced with the greatest rigour, plays were sometimes secretly performed, and several by Shirley bear the information upon the title page that they were acted at the private houses in Black Friars or Drury Lane.
It is not our purpose here so much to criticise as to enable the reader to form an opinion for bimself; but after having read the whole of the productions of Shirley, with only the single'exception of a play which we could not procure, it may not be unfit to observe that he does not appear to us to deserve to be placed upon the same level with Fletcher or Massinger ; of the two, he most resembles the former in taste and delicacy, but he seldom approaches the eloquence and dige nity of the latter; he has many prettinesses and elegant passages dispersed through his works, and now and then we meet with an ingenious display of fancy, but it seldom or never attains the height of imagination; his pathetic powers are very considerable, and some of his love scenes are unexcelled in beauty and tenderness. He does not deal in the majestic and high-wrought similes of Chapman, nor does he rival bim in the weight and energy of his language, but he is far superior in the lighter dialogues of comedy and in the easier scenes of familiar intercourse: thus in the tragedy of Philip Chabot, which they wrote conjointly, the difference is as clearly to be marked as the distinction between the styles of Massinger and Dekker in the Virgin
• Title to Prynnes' Histriomastit, 1633.