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BEING treasurer and secretary to a country
book-club, I have imposed it as a duty upon
myself to read the criticisms on new books
in a variety of journals, and to collect from
all some notion of the merits of the
publications of the day, by which I may be enabled
to suggest convenient purchases. My way is
to give equal weight to every opinion, and
then think for myself with the majority. The
other eveningwhen I had been reading up
the views taken in a great number of critical
notices of the same eight or ten last published
worksI fell upon a consideration of the
times in which we live, and of the great
disadvantage under which among our forefathers,
both writers and readers lay, when the appeal
made by every book was straight home from
the writer to the reader, and there were no
journals to advise a reader what to think
about the works he read, or to instruct a
writer, as he went along, by pointing out to him
his merits and his faults. Only let us think,
for example, of what Shakespeare lost, in this
way. Ben Jonson might review him
favourably in the Oracle of Apollo; but, such
reviewing was mere after-supper talk. Had
the Oracle of Apollo been a literary journal,
or a newspaper, opinions expressed in it might
indeed have been of inestimable service.

Let us shut our ears for a few minutes to
rare Ben's notions of sweet Will, and suppose
that, instead of being subject to mere
playhouse and pot-house comments, Shakespeare's
Hamlet, which,—for argument's sake, we
will suppose to be a first work,—has been
distributed, with leaves uncut, among the

The poet's housekeeper collects for him,
while he is out of town, the reviews that
appear during his absence; and at the end
of a few weeks, when he has come home,
he takes them in his lap one evening after
dinner, and, nestling snugly in his easy chair,
is instructed:

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. A Tragedy.
and Co.

It was the deliberate and characteristic
opinion of the economist Malthus, that those
early incursions into Britain of the " warlike
Dane," whose piratical flag Charlemagne
had wept to behold upon the translucent
waters of the Mediterranean, were to be
ascribed to continued over-population; the
rigidly enforced law of primogeniture offers,
however, a more feasible solution of the
interesting and important problem. The
country situated between the channel of
the Skager-rack, the Elba, the North Sea,
and the Kattegat, though the breadth of the
isthmus of Sleswig does not at one part
materially exceed thirty miles, has always
been peculiarly interesting to the inhabitants
of Britain. Even more interesting to us is
the land of wonders subject to the Dane upon
which the pirate Naddod was cast a thousand
years ago, which the adventurous Gardar
Swarfarson circumnavigated, and whither, as
our readers are, of course, perfectly aware,
Floki went with the intention of settling. We
cannot help thinking that the author of this
tragedy when he chose Denmark as a scene
of action interesting to the reader in this
country, might have succeeded better in his
purpose, had he looked to Iceland for a
background to his plot. Upon this point, however,
we must allow him to be, perhaps, upon his
own behalf the better judge, and since the
Tragedy is to be called that of Hamlet,
Prince of Denmark, we will make no further
comment on this head.

The plot of Mr. Shakespeare's tragedy,
though, on the whole, well constructed, is
exceedingly involved, and it is made more
difficult to follow by the circumstance that
two of the principal characters are mad, a
third is foolish, and a fourth is a ghost. This
is a most talkative ghost; the ghost, indeed,
of Hamlet's father, who is addressed by his
son as a " truepenny," an " old mole," and
"a perturbed spirit." The great complication
of the plot seems, however, to arise out
of the introduction of a King of Denmark,
who is a fratricide; and, as Hamlet himself
is made by the author most truly to say, " a
king of shreds and patches." He is called
also elsewhere, a " paddock," a " bat," and a
"gib "! By the omission of this character of
King Claudius the plot would be greatly
simplified and the interest of the play would be
more strictly centered upon Hamlet. If this
play should ever be reprinted (and it certainly
has merits which warrants a belief that it
may deserve the honours of a second edition),