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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXV. Scholars

§ 40. Henry Norman Hudson

The romantic treatment of Shakespeare reaches its culmination in the essays and the editions of Henry Norman Hudson (1814–86), whose edition (1851–56) is distinctly popular rather than scholarly. It makes many needless textual changes, some of them rather wild conjectural emendations of his own, but most of them adopted from other editors. His notes are very full and often obvious. His Introductions and Commentary in general, like the Lectures (1848) which preceded the edition and which are largely embodied in its Introductions, belong to the Coleridgean type of criticism—the type of criticism which endeavours to set forth Shakespeare’s inwardness, and pays comparatively little attention to his outwardness. The plays are made from within; the characters grow like a tree, by successive natural accretions; the whole effect is like that produced by a work of Nature; nature, in fact, is the essential quality of Shakespeare; and each play and each character in each play is, like Nature, the superlative embodiment of some essential and archetypal idea. This mode of disquisition, together with the treatment of Shakespeare’s “alleged immorality,” and “alleged want of taste,” naturally sentences itself to swift obsolescence.