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AN AUTHOR'S EVENINGS FOR THE PORT FOLIO.

THE CHARACTER OF POLONIUS VINDICATED.

" Follow that Lord, and, look you MOCK HIM NOT.

Hamlet.

BISHOP WARBURTON, with all that rashness of expression, so common in the writings of a prelate, whose dogmatism sometimes sturdily supports sophistry, as well as nobly defends the powers of reason and truth, talks somewhere of the foolish Polonius. As we liave a totally different impression of the character of this nobleman, and as he is generally degraded into a zany on all the theatres, we have ever frequented, we are solicitous, this evening, to vindicate the meaning of SHAKSPEARE, and to rescue an injured courtier from the blunders of the closet, and from the buffoonery of the stage.

Hamlet, in his valedictory civilities to the company of players, prior to their representation of the murder of Gonzago, says to one of them,

Follow that Lord, and, look you mock him not.

This line, which we have adopted for our motto, contains excellent advice, and we wish the commentators and the comedians had followed it scrupulously. They would then have never defaced the pages of a matchless poet, nor defamed the character of an accomplished statesman. They would never have described him as a weak, or personated him as a pedantic courtier. We could easily forgive such underlings as Rymer and Dennis for the grossest misapprehension, and the utter destitution of taste; but that the Colossal Warburton should tread so loosely on the firm ground of Shakspeare, is a problem in the history of the human mind.

In the second scene of Hamlet, Laertes, a very noble youth, is represented as standing in the hall of state in the guise of a petitioner. The ingenuousness of his countenance, the dignity of his deportment, the gracefulness of his manners or the validity of his pretensions make such an impression upon the Majesty of Denmark that he addresses the juvenile courtier in the most gracious tones of courteous complacency ;

And now, Laertes, what's the news with you ?
You told us of some suit; what is't Laertes?
You cannot speak of reason to the Dane,
And loose your voice. What woulds': thou beg, Laertes,
Tbat shalt not be my ofer, not thy asking?

The HEAD IS NOT MORE NATIVE TO THE HEART,
The HAND MORE INSTRUMENTAL TO THE MOUTH,
THAN IS THE THRONE OF DENMARK TO THY FATHER.

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In this memorable passage, in the very first allusion to his Lord. Chamberlain, the king, after premising to Laertes that he could prefer no reasonable request to his Prince, but what would meet with the most cheerful compliance, nay, that even the wishes of Laertes should be anticipated, adds, in three of the most forcible lines to be found in any poet, a most vivid description of a decided partiality for his parent. Now, can it for an instant be imagined by any brain of firmer texture than that of a piddling commentator, or a skipping

who scaramouch of the stage, that the King of Denmark,

appears to be by no means deficient in talents, or in the discernment of character, should lavish such encomium and repose such confidence on Polonius a fool, a dotard and a mountebank? On the contrary, in the triple character of a sage, a scholar, and a statesman, he so justly merits all the respect and attachment of his master that their alliance is

expressed by the strongest similitudes, that can be supplied by the imagination of man.

Laertes now apprises his sovereign that after having paid him his l'espects during the ceremonial of the coronation, he is solicitous to return to France, where, as appears from the context, he is acquiring a knowledge of the polite and fashionable exercises. The king here makes a very pointed interrogatory,

Have you your father's leave? What says Polonius.?

Now this very pregnant line may be paraphrased very advantageously for our argument. It imports you little, Laertes, that your own merit and my kindness afford you the amplest passport for foreign travel ; unless that wise and good man, your experienced and prudent father, give his sanction to your tour, you may not, you must not, you shall not go.

Polonius himself is now introduced to our fixed attention, and he is introduced with all the poet's art in the character of a cool, sagacious and deliberate sire, as loving a darling son much, but loving prudence and discretion more.

He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave
By laboursome petition, and, at last,
Upon his will I sealed my hard consent, &c.

As if the Lord Chamberlain had said : I have consented, in consequence of the eager desire of Laertes to finish his education, to permit him to leave the kingdom, but I am fully sensible of all the perils, to which he is exposed in a dissipated metropolis, and it cost me many a painful struggle, before his arguments could vanquish my anxiety.

In the next scene, Laertes appears making preparations for his voyage, which are for a moment, delayed, by his parting exhortation to a beloved sister to beware of the perils of Love, and the machinations of man. Polonius now enters and taunts his son for his seeming sluggishness in lingering ashore, while the favouring gale and the clamorous crew are equally loud in calling him to the ship.

Yet here, Laertes ! aboard, aboard, for shame,
The wind sets in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are staid for.

Then with all the benignity and affection of a parent, he lays his hand on the head of Laertes, and gives him his benediction;

There my blessing with you
And these few precepts in thy memory
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
THE FRIENDS THOU HAST, AND THEIR ADOPTION TRY'D,
GRAPPLE THEM TO THY NEART WITH HOOKS OF STEEL ;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-batch’d, unfledg'd comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel ; but, being in,
Bear it that the opposer may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few tby voice :
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy ; rish, not gaudy:
For the apparel oft proclaims the man.
Neither a borrower, nor a lender be:
For loan oft loses both itself and friend ;
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all,-To thine ownself be true ;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

The writer of this article cannot be suspected of making any indecent comparisons, or of impugning the wisdom and elegance of the Bible, but, we know not whether this passage is exceeded by any chapter in

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the Proverbs of Solomon, or the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach. The monitions of Polonius are of more sterling weight and lustre, than the Golden verses of Pythagoras, and are surpassed only by the Sermon on the Mount.

During the debates in the House of Commons in the year 1770, BURKE observed of the famous forty-fifth number of the North Briton, written by the patriot Wilkes, that it was a spiritless though a virulent performance, a mere mixture of vinegar and water, at once sour and vapid. The expression of this sentiment is perhaps not more happy than the correctness of the criticism.

It is amazing that any of Wilkes' writings should ever have been popular, in the best sense of thie word. They are certainly, for the most part, tame and inelegant productions. This is the more wonderful, when we reflect that Mr. Wilkes was confessedly a man of wit and genius, an elegant classical scholar, and very advantageously distinguished for the fluency and felicity of his colloquial powers. In this respect, he seems to have some resemblance to Charles Fox, who certainly could talk well, though, in our opinion, he was never very famous for writing well. In the hands of John Wilkes and Charles Fox, the fren appears to move sullenly over the page. But theirs was the voluble tongue to declaim and to delight. One spoke in the Senate, and men thought Demosthenes wa's resuscitated from the dead; another talked with his jovial friends, and it seemed they were listening to Aristippus, to Alcibiades, or to Petronius Arbiter. But when Wilkes and Fox retired to their closets they produced nothing but the awkward memorials of their own imbecility.

In the Plays of Sliakspeare, in almost every instance, where the poet's genius and peculiar powers of invention lead him to the use of what the vulgar call strange and out of the way expressions, those ingenious and pains taking gentlemen, the commentators, with all the sapience of the wise men of Gotham, are continually favouring us with their dainty emendations. In compliance with this precious custom, in the initial scene of Othello, we find a host of these note makers and paragraph weavers holding up their smouldering and smoky flambeaus to illuminate a passage which is as clear as the sun. Iago is describing contemptuously the effeminate person and indolent habits of the handsome and hated Cassio. After sneering at him as a scholar', an orator, and a Florentine, we are told that he is

The supplanted

A fellow, almost damned in a fair wife.

Even the sagacious Johnson most unaccountably appears to be baffled on this occasion; and, in a tone of despondency, tells us that this is one of the passages, which must for the present be resigned to corruption and obscurity; and that he has nothing that he can, with any approach to confidence, propose. The Oxford Editor, Sir Thomas Hanmer, in his wonted dashing and cut,and thrust way, proposes to read, almost damned in a fair phiz, an interpolation of so impudent and audacious a character, that the commentator ought to be almost damned for his presumption in thus mangling the Tragedy. Another prestilent knave assures us that the line ought to run thus, a fellow almost damned in a fair life; and then, after suitable reflections upon the inconveniences of an unsullied reputation, he gravely quotes, as from some Bible, that memorable passage,

Curged is he of whom all men speak well.

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As at this epoch in the story of the play, Cassio is not suspected, either by Roderigo or Othello, of being in love with another man's wife, and as it is equally clear that he has no wife of his own, his attachment to Bianca, a common courtezan, being altogether of a different character, it is not, we must confess, passing strange that the beetle headed commentators should flounder a little in the ocean of absurdity. But that JOHNSON should be embarrassed by our author's original manner of expressing himself is wonderful, when we reflect that the Doctor was pretty constantly in the habit of tracing the remote allusions of Shak

and faithfully translating his obscurer idiom into all the plainness of modern speech,

We are convinced that Shakspeare gave the line as it stands, as much as if we had been at his desk, when it was written. There is no room for any alteration; nor can we discern any doubt, or any obscurity. The phrase is picturesque, characteristical, and germane to the matter. It is purely Shakspearean. A vindictive soldier, irritated and injured, at once calumnious, suspicious, and malignant, is engaged in portraying, in lampblack colours, the exaggerated features of a fortunate rival. So slender are his claims, to military preferment, says Iago, that his knowledge of the art of war is confined merely to a closet acquaintance of tactics. He has read much and can talk plausibly, but is neither endowed with the gallantry of a soldier, nor skilled in any of the results of experience. Morcover, from the beauty of his person, the volubility of his tongue, and the speciousness of his manners, he is qualified to shine at toilets, to dazzle the fancy and to entrap the affections of some credulous female, and to be effectually ruined by some matrimonial engagement, which will more completely than ever disqualify him for that martiai eminence to which, by the partiality and injustice of O

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