« PreviousContinue »
thing appeared without signature, differentiated it from other people's best, set us to discovering its authorship, and made us quick to recognize that master-hand elsewhere.
Thus I remember delighting in two fascinating stories of Paris in the time of François Villon, anonymously reprinted by a New York paper from a London magazine. They had all the quality, all the distinction, of which I speak. Shortly afterward I met Mr. Stevenson, then in his twenty-ninth year, at a London club, where we chanced to be the only loungers in an upper room. To my surprise he opened a conversation-you know there could be nothing more unexpected than that in London and thereby I guessed that he was as much, if not as far, away
I from home as I was. He asked many questions concerning “the States"; in fact, this was but a few months before he took his steerage passage for our shores. I was drawn to the young Scotsman at once. He seemed more like a New Englander of Holmes's Brahmin caste, who might have come from Harvard or Yale. he grew animated I thought, as others have thought, and as one would suspect from his name, that he must have Scandinavian blood in his veins—that he was of the heroic, restless, strong and tender Viking strain, and certainly from that day his works and wanderings have not belied the surmise. He told me that he was the author of that charming book of gipsying in the Cévennes which just then had gained for him some attentions from the literary set. But if I had known that he had written those two stories of Sixteenth-century Paris—as I learned afterward when they reappeared in the “New Arabian Nights -I would not have bidden him good-by as to an “unfledged comrade," but would have wished indeed to “grapple him to my soul with hooks of steel.”'
Another point is made clear as crystal by his life itself. He had the instinct, and he had the courage, to make it the servant, and not the master, of the faculty within him. I say he had the courage, but so potent was his birth-spell that doubtless he could not otherwise. Nothing commonplace sufficed him. A regulation stay-at-home life would have been fatal to his art. The ancient mandate, “ Follow thy Genius," was well obeyed. Unshackled freedom of person and habit was a prerequisite; as an imaginary artist he felt-Nature keeps her poets and storytellers children to the last-he felt, if he ever reasoned it out, that he must gang his own gait,” whether it seemed promising, or the reverse, to kith, kin, or alien. So his wanderings were not only in the most natural but in the wisest consonance with his creative dreams. Wherever he went, he found something essential for his use, breathed upon it, and returned it fourfold in beauty and worth. The longing of the Norseman for the tropic, of the pine for the palm, took him to the South Seas. There, too, strange secrets were at once revealed to him, and every island became an “Isle of Voices." Yes, an additional proof of Stevenson's artistic mission lay in his careless, careful, liberty of life; in that he was an artist no less than in his work. He trusted to the impulse which possessed him that which so many of us have conscientiously disobeyed and too late have found ourselves in reputable bondage to circumstances.
But those whom you are waiting to hear will speak more fully of all this—some of them with the interest of their personal remembrance—with the strength of their affection for the man beloved by young and old. In the strange and sudden intimacy with an author's record which death makes sure, we realize how notable is the list of Stevenson's works produced since 1878; more than a score of books—not fiction alone, but also essays, criticism, biography, drama, even history, and, as I need not remind you, that spontaneous poetry which comes only from a true poet. None can have failed to observe that, having recreated the story of adventure, he seemed in his later fiction to interfuse a subtler purpose—the search for character, the analysis of mind and soul. Just here his summons came. Between the sunrise of one day and the sunset of the next he exchanged the forest study for the mountain grave. There, as he had sung his own wish, he lies “under the wide and starry sky.' If there was something of his own romance, so exquisitely capricious, in the life of Robert Louis Stevenson, so, also, the poetic conditions are satisfied in his death, and in the choice of his burial-place upon the top of Pala. As for the splendor of that maturity upon which we counted, now never to be fulfilled on sea or land, I say—as once before, when the great New England romancer passed in the stillness of the night:
What though his work unfinished lies? Half bent
The shining cataract half-way down the heigl t
On listeners unaware,
CHARLES WILLIAM STUBBS
SHAKESPEARE AS A PROPHET
[Address by the Very Reverend Charles William Stubbs, D. D., Dean of Ely, since 1894 (born in Liverpool, England, September 3, 1845; - -), delivered in New York, in November, 1899, during his American lecture tour through the season of 1899-1900.)
I have to speak to you to-day of Shakespeare as a National Prophet. You will rightly ask me in what sense I use this term. Let me answer you in the words of two modern poets.
In his magnificent prose essay on “The Defence of Poetry,” the poet Shelley thus compares the functions of the poet and the prophet :
“ Poets, according to the circumstance of the age and nation in which they appeared, were called in the earlier epochs of the world, legislators or prophets. A poet essentially comprises and unites both these characters. For he not only beholds intensely the present as it is, and discovers those laws according to which present things ought to be ordered, but he beholds the future in the present, and his thoughts are the germs of the Aower and fruit of latest time. Not that I assert poets to be prophets in the gross sense of that word, or that they can foretell the form as surely as they foreknow the spirit of events. Such is the pretence of superstition which would make poetry an attribute of prophecy, rather than prophecy an attribute of poetry."
And this is how the great American poet, Russell Lowell, has expressed a similar thought in imperishable verse:
“To know the heart of all things was his duty,
All things did speak to him to make him wise,
The soul of all looked grandly from his eyes.
He watched the flowing of Time's steady tide,
And whispered to him, and he prophesied.
And all his brethren cried with one accord
Him who hath spoken with the unseen Lord.'”.
But you will ask me very probably, and some of you perhaps with some surprise-Can you really speak of Shakespeare, even in this sense, as a prophet? Can you speak of him in any sense even as a religious man? My friends, I should not care to speak of him in this place at all if I did not think that he was both.
If the underlying and almighty essence of this world be good, then it is likely-is it not?-that the writer who most deeply approached to that essence will be himself good. There is a religion of week-days as well as of Sundays, a religion of “ cakes and ale” as well as of pews and altar-cloths. This England lay before Shakespeare as it lies before us all, with its green fields, and its long hedgerows, and its many trees, and its great towns, and its endless hamlets, and its motley society, and its long history, and its bold exploits and its gathering power; and he saw that they were good. To him, perhaps, more than to any one else, has it been given to see that they were a great unity, a great religious object; that if you could only descend to the inner life, to the deep things, to the secret principles of its noble vigor, to the essence of character, to what we know of Hamlet and seem to fancy of Ophelia, we might, so far as we are capable of so doing. understand the Nature which God has made. then, think of Shakespeare, not as a teacher of dry dogmas, or a sayer of hard sayings, but as
"A priest to us all
a teacher of the hearts of men and women; one from