To BRYAN WALLER PROCTER
Bristol, March 3rd, 1824
DEAR PROCTER,–I have just been reading your epistle to our Ajax Flagellifer, the bloody John Lacy: on one point, where he is most vulnerable, you have omitted to place your sting. I mean his palpable ignorance of the Elizabethans and many other dramatic writers of this and preceding times, with whom he ought to have formed at least a nodding acquaintance before he offered himself as a physician to Melpomene.
About Shakespeare you don’t say enough. He was an incarnation of nature; and you might just as well attempt to remodel the seasons, and the laws of life and death, as to alter “one jot or tittle” of his eternal thoughts. “A star” you call him. If he was a star, all the other stage scribblers can hardly be considered a constellation of brass buttons.
I say he was an universe, and all material existence with its excellences and defects was reflected in shadowy thought upon the crystal wares of his imagination, ever glorified as they were by the sleepless sun of his golden intellect. And this imaginary universe had its seasons and changes, its harmonies and its discords, as well as the dirty reality. On the snow-maned necks of its winter hurricanes rode madness, despair, and “empty death, with the winds whistling through the white grating of his sides”; its summer of poetry glistening through the drops of pity; and its solemn and melancholy autumn breathing deep melody among the “sere and yellow leaves” of thunder-stricken life, etc., etc. (See Charles Phillip’s speeches and X.Y.Z. for the completing furbelow of this paragraph.)
By the third scene of the fourth act of “Macbeth,” I conclude that you mean the dialogue between Malcolm and Macduff, which is only part of the scene, for the latter part, from the entrance of Rosse, is of course necessary to create an interest in the destined avenger of Duncan, as well as to set the last edge to our hatred of the usurper. The Doctor’s speech is merely a compliment to the “right divine” of people in turreted night-caps to cure sores a little more expeditiously than Dr. Solomons, and is, too, a little bit of smooth chat, to show by Macduff’s manner that he has not yet heard of his wife’s murder.
I hope Guzman has grown since I saw him, and has improved in voice. I shall be in London in about a week, and hope to find you in your Franciscan eyrie, singing among the red-brick boughs, and laying tragedy eggs for Covent Garden Market.
So you “think this last author will do something extraordinary;” so do I too. I should not at all wonder if he was to be plucked after his degree; which would be quite delightful and new.
When does Fitzgerald publish his tragedy?
This March wind has blown all my sense away, and so farewell.