We know what the Baconian's verdict would be: "THERE IS NOT A RAG OF EVIDENCE THAT THE KITTEN HAS HAD ANY TRAINING, ANY EDUCATION, ANY EXPERIENCE QUALIFYING IT FOR THE PRESENT OCCASION, OR IS INDEED EQUIPPED FOR ANY ACHIEVEMENT ABOVE LIFTING SUCH UNCLAIMED MILK AS COMES ITS WAY; BUT THERE IS ABUNDANT EVIDENCE--UNASSAILABLE PROOF, IN FACT--THAT THE OTHER ANIMAL IS EQUIPPED, TO THE LAST DETAIL, WITH EVERY QUALIFICATION NECESSARY FOR THE EVENT. WITHOUT SHADOW OF DOUBT THE TOMCAT CONTAINS THE MOUSE."

CHAPTER VI

When Shakespeare died, in 1616, great literary productions attributed to him as author had been before the London world and in high favor for twenty-four years. Yet his death was not an event. It made no stir, it attracted no attention. Apparently his eminent literary contemporaries did not realize that a celebrated poet had passed from their midst. Perhaps they knew a play-actor of minor rank had disappeared, but did not regard him as the author of his Works. "We are justified in assuming" this.

His death was not even an event in the little town of Stratford. Does this mean that in Stratford he was not regarded as a celebrity of ANY kind?

"We are privileged to assume"--no, we are indeed OBLIGED to assume- -that such was the case. He had spent the first twenty-two or twenty-three years of his life there, and of course knew everybody and was known by everybody of that day in the town, including the dogs and the cats and the horses. He had spent the last five or six years of his life there, diligently trading in every big and little thing that had money in it; so we are compelled to assume that many of the folk there in those said latter days knew him personally, and the rest by sight and hearsay. But not as a CELEBRITY? Apparently not. For everybody soon forgot to remember any contact with him or any incident connected with him. The dozens of townspeople, still alive, who had known of him or known about him in the first twenty-three years of his life were in the same unremembering condition: if they knew of any incident connected with that period of his life they didn't tell about it. Would they if they had been asked? It is most likely. Were they asked? It is pretty apparent that they were not. Why weren't they? It is a very plausible guess that nobody there or elsewhere was interested to know.

For seven years after Shakespeare's death nobody seems to have been interested in him. Then the quarto was published, and Ben Jonson awoke out of his long indifference and sang a song of praise and put it in the front of the book. Then silence fell AGAIN.

For sixty years. Then inquiries into Shakespeare's Stratford life began to be made, of Stratfordians. Of Stratfordians who had known Shakespeare or had seen him? No. Then of Stratfordians who had seen people who had known or seen people who had seen Shakespeare? No. Apparently the inquiries were only made of Stratfordians who were not Stratfordians of Shakespeare's day, but later comers; and what they had learned had come to them from persons who had not seen Shakespeare; and what they had learned was not claimed as FACT, but only as legend--dim and fading and indefinite legend; legend of the calf-slaughtering rank, and not worth remembering either as history or fiction.

Has it ever happened before--or since--that a celebrated person who had spent exactly half of a fairly long life in the village where he was born and reared, was able to slip out of this world and leave that village voiceless and gossipless behind him--utterly voiceless, utterly gossipless? And permanently so? I don't believe it has happened in any case except Shakespeare's. And couldn't and wouldn't have happened in his case if he had been regarded as a celebrity at the time of his death.

When I examine my own case--but let us do that, and see if it will not be recognizable as exhibiting a condition of things quite likely to result, most likely to result, indeed substantially SURE to result in the case of a celebrated person, a benefactor of the human race.

Is Shakespeare Dead? Page 12

Mark Twain

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