Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 18

To the Editor of the Argus

page 23

To the Editor of the Argus.

SirEt ego in Arcadiâ. Pray, of your goodness, allow this particular member of the distinguished family of Robinson to have his brief say touching the topic which his celebrated form-fellows, Smith, Brown, and Jones, are so hotly debating in your generously open columns.

I start with claiming to be a far more competent critic of Mr. Montgomery's Hamlet than either of my three friends aforesaid, and for the simple reason that I have never seen it. A disadvantage, you call it I Well, there you are wrong. Was it not Sydney Smith's fixed canon of criticism never to read a book before reviewing it, because "it prejudices one so?" And did not Mr. James Mill father of the illustrious member for Westminster, preface his very able History of India with an elaborate dissertation, proving that the best man to write the history of any country is a man who has never seen it? Here is warrant more than sufficient for the modest claim I prefer. Unprejudiced and unbiassed, I am also enthusiastic "'Tis distance lends," &c.

With the unhesitating frankness of perfect impartiality, then, I at once take side with Mr. Montgomery, and with my friends, Brown and Jones, and against Mr. Smith, albeit he is backed up by those two noted experts, Drs. Bucknill and Conolly, I declare war to the knife with the specious but baseless and untenable theory of a mad Hamlet. Mad! indeed. No doubt had the noble Prince of Denmark lived in these our days, those three noted experts, Drs. Smith, Bucknill and Conolly, would have had out a writ de lunatico at once, clapped him into Hanwell without any circumlocution, and then set zealously to work to exercise their joint professional skill on him. How the three would have revelled in psychological analysis! What an infinite deal of professional prattle there would have been about the poor patient's "subjective" and "objective" moods! How positive in its terms the certificate of insanity, clear and undoubted, which these practised adepts in all forms of mania would have sent to the old King at Elsinore.

But Hanwell and its psychological doctors apart, the question still remains open for discussion—Did Shakspeare design to depict a page 24 mere phase of madness in his character of Hamlet? Mr. Smith says "Yes," and claims to have all the critics with IBM. Now I on the other side, concede to Mr. Smith the two mad doctors from Hanwell. The critics, I maintain, are with me. Every one of them worth the name goes dead against the madness theory. In proof I name Hazlitt, Schlegel, Goëthe, Tieck, Franz Horn, and in fact all the later German critics, with G. H. Lewes, W. S. Walker, and generally all the English critics since Hazlitt's time. Even Coleridge's view (of Hamlet's undoubted madness) is qualified with so many limitations that one may justly say that Coleridge himself was to the last in doubt upon the point. And Hartley Coleridge, the finely-gifted son, ably vindicates the view of Hamlet's perfect sanity in one of the most delightful Shakspearian essays ever written. It is entitled, "On the Feigned Madness of Hamlet," and was published first in Blackwood, and afterwards in Hartley's collected writings (Marginalia). I think I may venture to assert that the old theory of Hamlet's insanity has now become as obsolete as the text of Malone and Steevens, or the notes of Warburton. Mr. Montgomery's conception of the character is, therefore, in entire accord with the latest results of Shakspearian criticism; and, I may add, with the soundest principles of psychology. Mr. Smith seems to have got no further in his philosophy than the old Kantian principle of the categorical imperative, He stops at the "subjective" and "objective." Did he never hear of Schelling, with his doctrine of the absolute correlation of the subjective and the objective? or of Hegel, with his magnificent theory of the subjectivity of the objective, and the objectivity of the subjective. This is the famous theory which solves all mundane problems with infallible certainty, while one may say

Jack Robinson (Jun.).