26 DECEMBER 1931, Page 18


[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] SIR,—May I reply to Mr. G. B. Harrison's at first sight rather damaging criticism of my book, The Imperial Theme ? He gives especial attention to my remark that the word " lover " occurs with " amazing " frequency in Julius Caesar, and points out that it is only found four times. He also notes that " love " occurs 41 times in Julius Caesar as against 63 in Hamlet and 50 in Lear. Similarly, he gives figures for " loved."

This argument disguises the truth. Why does not Mr. Harrison note the figures for " lover " ? It is a rare word in Shakespeare's late work. Here are the figures : Troilus, 5 ; Julius Caesar, 4; Othello and Antony and Cleopatra, 2 ; Hamlet, Coriolanus, The Tempest, Timon, Measure for Measure, 1 ; Lear and Macbeth, 0. If we are to go by rigid statistics, my phrase is amply justified.

But statistics alone will not render up the secret of Shakes- peare's imaginations. They are helpful, but never auto. nomous. " Love " we find 63 times in Hamlet, 41 times in Julius Caesar. Very well. But, whereas in Julius Caesar it is ever charged with positive significance, in Hamlet it is pre- dominantly negative. And yet Julius Caesar is, superficially, a play of political and military action, with hardly any sex interest. Surely my emphasis was more than justified ? Let any reader of Mr. Harrison's review who also suspects my methods when " examined critically " re-read Julius Caesar, observing the massed impressions of warmth and gentleness in the words " love," " lover," " friend," wherever they occur.

—I am, sir, &e., G. WILSON KNIGHT. Trinity College, Toronto 5, Ont.