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bethan literature. In a wonder From Willie Hughes's life I fully graphic account of the last soon passed to thoughts of his days of the great Earl of Essex, death. I used to wonder what his chaplain, Thomas Knell, tells had been his end. us that the night before the Earl Perhaps he had been one of died, “he called William Hewes, those English actors who in 1604 which was his musician, to play went across sea to Germany and upon the virginals and to sing played before the great Duke "Play,' said he, 'my song, Will Henry Julius of Brunswick, himHewes, and I will sing it myself.' self a dramatist of no mean order, So he did it most joyfully, not as and at the Court of that strange the howling swan, which, still Elector of (Brandenburg, who was looking down, waileth her end, so enamoured of beauty that he but as a sweet lark, lifting up his was said to have bought for his hands and casting up his eyes to weight in amber the young son of his God, with this mounted the a travelling Greek merchant, and to crystal skies, and reached with have given pageants in honour of his unwearied tongue the top of his slave all through that dreadful highest heavens.” Surely the boy famine year of 1606-7, when the who played on the virginals to the people died of hunger in the very dying father of Sidney's Stella streets of the town, and for the
none other but the Will space of seven months there was Hews to whom Shakespeare ded
We know at any rate icated the Sonnets, and whom that “Romeo and Juliet” he tells us was himself sweet brought out at Dresden in 1613, “music to hear." Yet Lord Essex along with “Hamlet” and “King died in 1576, when Shakespeare Lear,” and it was surely to none himself was but twelve years of other than Willie Hughes that in age. It was impossible that his 1615 the death-mask of Shakemusician could have been the Mr speare was brought by the hand of W. H. of the Sonnets. Perhaps one of the suite of the English Shakespeare's young friend was ambassador, pale token of the the son of the player upon the passing away of the great poet who virginals? It was at least some had so dearly loved him. Indeed thing to have discovered that Will there would have been something Hews was an Elizabethan name. peculiarly fitting in the idea that Indeed the name Hews seemed to the boy-actor, whose beauty had have been closely connected with been so vital an element in the music and the stage. The first realism and romance of ShakeEnglish actress was the lovely speare's art, should have been the Margaret Hews, whom Prince first to have brought to Germany Rupert so madly loved. What the seed of the new culture, and more probable than that between was in his way the precursor of her and Lord Essex's musician had that Aufklarung or Illumination come the boy-actor of Shakespeare's of the eighteenth century, that plays? But the proofs, the links splendid movement which, though –where were they? Alas! I begun by Lessing and Herder, and could not find them. It seemed brought to its full and perfect to me that I was always on the issue by Goothe, was in no small brink of absolute verification, but part helped on by another actor--that I could never really attain Friedrich Schroeder— who awoke to it.
the popular consciousness, and by VOL. CXLVI. -NO. DCCCLXXXV.
means of the feigned passions and lips of the Sicilian vine-dressers ? mimetic methods of the stage Nay, did not the purple and red showed the intimate, thc vital, stain of the wine-froth on face and connection between life and litera- limbs give the first saggestion of ture. If this was so, and there the charm and fascination of diswas certainly no evidence against guisa_the desire for self-concealit, -it was not improbable that ment, the sense of the value of Willie Hughe3 was one of those objectivity thus showing itself in English comedians (mime quidam the rude beginnings of the art ? At ex Britannia, as the old chronicle any rate, wherever he lay-whether calls them), who were slain at in the little vineyard at the gate Nuremberg in a sudden uprising of the Gothic town, or in some of the people, and were secretly dim London churchyard amidst buried in a little vineyard outside the roar and bustle of our great the city by some young men “who city - no gorgeous monument had found pleasure in their per- marked his resting-place. His formances, and of whom some had true tomb, as Shakespeare saw, sought to be instructed in the was the poet's verse, his true mysteries of the new art." Cer- monument the permanence of the tainly no more fitting place could drama. So had it been with others there be for him to whom Shake- whose beauty had given a new speare said, “ thou art all my art,” creative impulse to their age. than this little vineyard outside The ivory body of the Bithynian the city walls. For was it not slave rots in the green ooze of the from the sorrows of Dionysos Nile, and on the yellow hills of the that Tragedy sprang? Was not Cerameicus is strewn the dust of the 'light laughter of Comedy, the young Athenian; but Antinous with its careless merriment and lives in sculpture, and Charmides quick replies, first heard on the in philosophy.
After three weeks had elapsed, tory, but rescuing the honour of I determined to make a strong Shakespeare himself from the tediappeal to Erskine to do justice to ous memory of a commonplace the memory of Cyril Graham, and intrigue. I put into the letter all
to give to the world his marvellous my enthusiasm. I put into the interpretation of the Sonnets—the letter all my faith. only interpretation that thorough- No sooner, in fact, had I sent it ly explained the problem. I have off than a curious reaction came not any copy of my letter, I regret
It seemed to me that I to say, nor have I been able to lay had given away my capacity for my hand upon the original; but I belief in the Willie Hughes theory remember that I went over the of the Sonnets, that something had whole ground, and covered sheets gone out of me, as it were, and of paper with passionate reitera- that I was perfectly indifferent to tion of the arguments and proofs the whole subject. What was it that my study had suggested to that had happöned ? It is difficult me. It seemed to me that I was to say. Perhaps, by finding pernot merely restoring Cyril Graham fect expression for a passion, I had to his proper place in literary his- exhausted the passion itself. Emo
tional forces, like the forces of ed. by the story of Cyril Graham's physical life, have their positive deatlı, fascinated by his romantic limitations. Perhaps the mere theory, enthralled by the wonder effort to convert any one to a and norelty of the whole idea. I theory involves some form of re see now that the theory is based on nunciation of the power of cre a delusion. The only evidence for dence. Perhaps I was simply tired the existence of Willie Hughes is of the whole thing, and, my enthu. that picture in front of you, and siasm having burnt out, my reason the picture is a forgery. Don't be was left to its own unimpassioned carried away by mere sentiment in judgment. However it came about this matter. Whatever romance and I cannot pretend to explain it, may have to say about the Willie, there was no doubt that Willie Hughes theory, reason is dead Hughes suddenly became to me against it.” a mere myth, an idle dream, the “I don't understand you,” said boyish fancy of a young man who, Erskine, looking at me in amazelike most ardent spirits, was more ment. "Why, you yourself have anxious to convince others than to convinced me by your letter that, be himself convinced.
Willie Hughes is an absolute As I had said some very unjust reality. Why have you changed and bitter things to Erskine in my your mind? Or is all that you letter, I determined to go and see have been saying to me merely a him at once, and to make my apol. joke ?” ogies to him for ny behaviour. "I cannot explain it to you, Accordingly, the next inorning I rejoined, " but I see now that there · drove down to Birdcage Walk, and is really nothing to be said in found Erskine sitting in his library, favour of Cyril Graham's interwith the forged picture of Willie pretation. The Sonnets are adHughes in front of him.
dressed to Lord Pembroke. For “My dear Erskine !” I cried, “I heaven's sake* don't waste your have come to apologise to you." time in a foolish attempt to dis
“To apologise to me?” he said. cover a young Elizabethan actor “What for?"
who never existed, and to make a “For my letter," I answered. phantom puppet - the centre of
“You have nothing to regret in the great cycle of Shakespeare's your letter,” he said. “ On the Sonnets." contrary, you have done me the “I see that you don't undergreatest service in your power. stand the theory,” he replied. You have shown me that Cyril My dear Erskine,” I cried, Graham's theory is perfectly sound.” “ not understand it! Why, I feel
“ You don't mean to say that as if I had invented it. Surely my you believe in Willie Hughes ?” I letter shows you that I'not merely exclaimed.
went into the whole matter, but Why not?” he rejoined. “You that I contributed proofs of every have proved the thing to me. Do kind. The one flaw in the theory you think I cannot estimate the is that it presupposes the existence value of evidence."
of the person whose existence is “ But there is no evidence at the subject of dispute. If we all;" I groaned, sinking into a chair. grant that there was in Shake " When I wrote to you I was speare's company a young actor of under the influence of a perfectly the name of Willie Hughes, it is silly enthusiasm. I had been touch- not difficult to make him the object
of the Sonnets. But as we know Willie Hughes; and by the time that there was no actor of this you receive this, I shall have died name in the company of the Globe by my own hand for Willie Hughes's Theatre, it is idle to pursue the in- sake: for his sake, and for the vestigation further."
sake of Oyril Graham, whom I “ But that is exactly what we drove to his death hy ing shallow don't know," said Erskine. “It scepticism and ignorant lack of is quite true that his name does faith. The truth was once renot occur in the list given in the vealed to you, and you rejected first folio; but, as Cyril pointed out, it. It comes to you now stained that is rather a proof in favour of with the blood of two lives,-do the existence of Willie Hughes not turn away from it.” than against it, if we remember It was a horrible moinent. I his treacherous desertion of Shake- felt sick with unisery, and yet I speare for a rival dramatist.”
could not believe it. To die for We argued the matter over for one's theological beliefs is the worst hours, but nothing that I could use a man can make of his life, but say could make Erskine surrender to die for a literary theory! It his faith in Cyril Graham's inter- seenied impossible. pretation. He told me that he I looked at the date. The letter intended to devote his life to was a week old. Some unfortuproving the theory, and that he nate chance had prevented my was determined to do justice to going to the club for several days, Cyril Graham's memory,
or I might have got it in time to treated him, laughed at him, beg- save him. Perhaps it was not too ged of him, but it was of no use. late. I drove off to my rooms, Finally we parted, not exactly in packed up my things, and started anger, but certainly with a shadow by the night-mail from Charing between He thought me Cross. The journey was intolershallow, I thought him foolish. able. I thought I would never When I called on him again, his arrive. seryant told me that he had gone As soon as I did I drove to the to Germany.
They told Two years afterwards, as I was me that Erskine had been buried going into my club, the hall-porter two days before, in the English handed me a letter with a foreign cemetery. There was something postmark. It was from Erskine, horribly grotesque about the whole and written at the Hotel d’Angle- tragedy. I said all kinds of wild terre, Cannes. When I had read things, and the people in the hall it I was filled with horror, though looked curiously at me. I did not quite believe that he Suddenly Lady Erskine, in deep would be so mad as to carry his mourning, passed across the vesresolve into execution. The gist tibule. When she saw
me she of the letter was that he had came up to me, murmured sometried in every way to verify the thing about her poor son, and Willie Hughes theory, and had burst into tears. I led her into failed, and that as Cyril Graham her sitting-room. An elderly genhad given his life for this theory, he tle.nan was there waiting for her. himself had determined to give his It was the English doctor. own life also to the same cause. We talked a great deal about The concluding words of the letter Erskine, but I said nothing about were these : "I still believe in his motive for committing suicide.
It was evident that he had not here to die. The moment I saw told his mother anything about him I knew that there was no the reason that had driven him to hope. One lung was almost gone, so fatal, so mad an act. Finally and the other was very much afLady Erskine rose and said, "George fected. Three days before he died left you something as a memento. he asked me was there any hope. It was a thing he prized very much. I told him frankly that there was ( will get it for you."
none, and that he had only a few As soon as she had left the roon days to live. He wrote some letI turned to the cloctor and said, ters, and was quite resigned, re“What a dreadful shock it niust taining his senses to the last." have been to Lady Erskine! I At that moment Lady Erskine wonder that she bears it as well entered the rooin with the fatal as she cloes.”
picture of Willie Hughes in her Oh, she knew for months pas! hand. “When George was dying that it was coining,” he answered. he begged me to give you this,
“ Kuew it for months past !"I she said. As I took it from her, cried. “But why didn't she stop hier tears fell on 'my hand. hinn? Why didn't she Lave him The picture hangs now in my watched ? He must have been library, where it is very much admad.”
mired by my artistic friends. They The doctor stared at me. “I have decided that it is not a don't know what you mean,” he Clouet, but an Ouvry. I have said.
never cared to tell them its true “Well,” I cried, “if a mother history. But sometimes, when I knows that her son is going to look at it, I think that there is commit suicide
really a great deal to be said for “Suicide!” he answered. “Poor the Willie
the 'Willie Hughes theory, of Erskine did not commit suicide. Shakespeare's Sonnets. He died of consumption. He came