2 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 13


The Case of Sir John Fastolf, and other Historical Studies. By David Wallace Duthie. (Smith, Elder, and Co. 5s. nat.)- There is no doubt of the truth of Mr. Duthie's contention that Shakespeare's Falstaff is "a thing of flesh and blood," and that, in spite of all his flagrant vices, he fascinates us. How, then, did Shakespeare come by him, so to speak ? Mr. Duthie imagines a meeting between the dramatist and Sir William Paston, a fautor literarum, as more than one foundation testifies. It is true that Sir William died in 1610 at the age of eighty-two, but the meeting is not impossible, scarcely improb- able. The difficulty is,—what was there to tell about the former owner of Calder Castle to supply the outlines of the dramatist's great picture? Well, our readers should see what Mr. Duthie has to say. It may not convince them, but it is of intrinsic value. Certainly, too, having made acquaintance with the first of these "historical studies," they will not fail to go on to the others. The "Misadventures of John Payn "gives a curious glimpse into fifteenth-century life. Payn played a humble part in the Jack Cade rebellion, and was dogged by ill-luck in the strangest way. Then comes "The Chronicle of Salimbene," written by an early Franciscan friar, whom the cowl scarcely became. He was as unlike his great master as a man could be ; but it is to this we owe the singular picturesqueness of his Chronicle. But what a place is the Italy which he describes ! It was an ago of faith, we are told. If so, there never was a case in which faith was more widely separated from good works. If the Italy of the thirteenth century—Salimbene's Chronicle covers some four decades of it—was the best that a dominant priesthood could make of the world, it was distinctly a failure. The last two " studies " deal with Samuel Pepys, who meets with a most merciful judgment at Mr. Duthie's hands.