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gers and crew safely landed, when the winds again arose and the ship was dashed to pieces. In gratitude Edward erected an Abbey at Darnhall, the monks of which were afterwards removed to Vale Royal.
Amongst the curious old houses erected in this vicinity Marton Grange or Hall was the most picturesque. It has been pulled down about fourteen years. On this farm there was a sudden subsidence of a plot of land two years ago, similar to that mentioned by Ormerod as having occurred in the neighbourhood of Weaver Hall, near Over, and caused most likely by the underlying salt deposits yielding to the influence of under-currents of water, which are being constantly pumped up in the shape of brine at the salt manufactories adjacent. Through these latter the river Weaver runs its course, and is navigable from Winsford to Weston Point, where it falls into the Mersey.
In this vicinity is Lea Hall, once the residence of Dr. Fothergill. It is a square dwelling, having walls at least three feet thick, and it was formerly surrounded by a moat, a portion of which still remains. The staircases are wide and the rooms wainscoted and lofty. There are other halls in the neighbourhood deserving of notice, such as Darnhall Hall, Wettenhall Hall, and Minshull Hall. The ancient city of Eddisbury, in the Forest of Delamere, was erected by Queen Ethelfleda in 915 at the top of the hill are indications of ancient earthworks which are said to be the remains of it.
THE ENGLAND OF SHAKSPEARE.
By Nicholas Waterhouse Esq., Hon. Sec.
(READ 10TH NOVEMBER, 1864.)
DURING the present year, the tercentenary of Shakspeare's birth, I presume we have all of us paid a more than usual attention to the works of the great bard of Avon and I think whilst reading his plays, the question must have occurred to many-Who were his masters? Where did he acquire the wonderful power of depicting the many forms and phases of the mind of man? Where did the boy from a country grammar school, who married before he was twenty, and whose early life was immersed in the labour of supporting a family-where did he gain those poetic powers, which have made his name one of the glories of our country? Were Shakspeare's works inspired, or perhaps I should say, were they the results of intuition? I think when we look at his principal characters we may say that such was the case. For instance, the great master has determined to delineate a royal scapegrace repenting and assuming the duties of his station, and immediately the character of Henry V, imbued with all the nobleness and majesty of birth, arises from his magic touch. Again he wishes to depict a king fitted for the cloister, not for the troubles of a crown, and there appears the gentle monarch Henry VI, singing the praises of a lowly life even amid the din of battle. In the character of Wolsey, Shakspeare has drawn the portrait of a proud, ambitious
Churchman. In Richard III, the personification of guile, "seeming a saint when most he played the devil." In Jaques, the musings of a melancholy, contemplative man. In Shylock, the all-absorbing love of money. In Othello, of jealousy. In Cassius, the conspirator with lean and hungry look. In Falstaff, the career of a man who lived by his wits and his vices. In Romeo and Juliet, the tale that "true love never did run smooth," not even amid the orange-groves and balmy air of sunny Italy. In Macbeth, the horrible path cut out by unscrupulous ambition. And in Hamlet, the man of noble aspirations, feeling the dreadful circumstances of his lot in life, and moralizing on the deepest instincts of our being. I think we cannot regard these in any other light than as the results of intuition; they rose so naturally under his pencil that he never thought there was anything extraordinary about them; he never attempted to preserve them in a collected form; he seems to have written them because he could not help it. Yet if we leave the great characters out of sight for a time, I think we cannot avoid coming to the conclusion, that the minor parts of his plays were derived from what he saw around him, the every-day life of the men and women of the sixteenth century, and that much of his poetry was inspired by the scenes of his boyhood, the merry greenwood of Warwickshire, and from the birds and the flowers and the country life of Old England. On the latter subject, I do not at present intend to dwell; but I purpose, though it may be in a meagre and incomplete manner, to bring before you the ENGLAND OF SHAKSPEARE, believing that we may thus learn something of the character of the times, and also of the man Shakspeare himself, and of his sympathies, differing in some respects from those of the present age.
As Shakspeare was born in an inland county, let us first note down his ideas of country life. I do not think it was the life he loved; nor is this unnatural, when we consider that
he was driven to the metropolis by necessity or by the desire of getting on in the world, and that there he flourished. He does not seem to have liked the solitude of the country: when Rosalind and Celia, in As You Like It, make their way to the forest, the country is spoken of as a desert place; the farmer whose possessions they buy, is said to be
Of churlish disposition,
And little recks to find the way to heaven
All through that beautiful woodland play, we hear of the hard fare of the country and the scarcity of food. Still there is much in praise of lowly life-the nobility of honest labour comes out as fully as in any poem of the present time. Perhaps no where more strongly than in the contrast between Orlando rejoicing in his youth and strength and gentle birth, and his old servant Adam. When the latter gives him the five hundred crowns, the thrifty hire saved under his father, Orlando thus thanks him—
O good old man; how well in thee appears
Corin, in the same play, gives a very simple account of himself: "I am a true labourer; I earn that I eat, get that "I wear; owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness; glad "of other men's good, content with my harm: and the greatest of my pride is, to see my ewes graze, and my lambs "suck." This certainly speaks of the contentedness of a labourer's life, and I think the general impression to be derived from Shakspeare is that the labouring classes led
• As You Like It, Act ii, Scene 4. + Ibid., Act ii, Scene 3. Ibid., Act iii, Scene 2.
hard lives, but not miserable ones. I do not know any passages which would make us believe that there were any large masses of people in England, at the close of the sixteenth century, in the state of abject want which philanthropists and writers of fiction have found existing in the garrets of London and our large towns, in the rural villages of our southern counties, and in the cabins of the Scotch Highlands and of Ireland, during the prosperous days of our present Queen. Lord Macaulay is perhaps right in asserting that the mass of artizans and labourers are better off at present than they were two centuries ago-but have we not now social grades much lower than any which then existed?
Shakspeare makes even a king extol the happiness of a shepherd's life
His cold thin drink out of his leather bottle,
His wonted sleep under a fresh tree's shade,
Is far beyond a prince's delicates,
His viands sparkling in a golden cup,
His body couched in a curious bed,
When care, mistrust, and treason, wait on him.*
The upper classes of the rural population find no favour with our great poet. The country squires, the Shallows and Slenders are held up for our ridicule, they are foiled in their love affairs, they are governed even by their own serving men, and their money is abstracted by the courtier who knows how to fool them according to their bent. Their pride of birth is laughed at in a most unmerciful manner-“A gentleman "born, master parson; who writes himself armigero; in any "bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, armigero. All his successors, gone before him, have done't; and all his ancestors, that come after him, may: they may give the
* 3 Henry VI, Act ii, Scene 5.