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"fashions. Let it be remembered, too, that we receive this tale on no higher authority "than that of Cibber's Lives of the Poets, "vol. i. p. 130. Sir William Davenant told "it to Mr. Betterton, who communicated it to "Mr. Rowe, who, according to Dr. Johnson, "related it to Mr. Pope."
Mr. Malone concurs in opinion that this story stands on a very slender foundation, while he differs with Mr. Steevens as to the fact of gentlemen going to the theatre on horseback. With respect to Shakspeare's father "being engaged in a lucrative business," we may remark that this could not have been the case at the time our author came to London. He is said to have arrived in London in 1586, the year in which his father resigned the office of alderman, and was in decayed circumstances.
But in whatever situation he was first employed at the theatre, he appears to have soon discovered those talents which afterwards made him
The applause! delight! the wonder of our stage!"
Some distinction he probably first acquired as an actor, although Mr. Rowe was not able to discover any character in which he appeared to more advantage than that of the ghost in Hamlet. The instructions given to the players in that tragedy, and other passages of his works, show an intimate acquaintance with the skill of acting, and such as is scarcely surpassed in our own days. He appears to have studied nature in acting as much as in writing. Mr. Malone, however, does not believe that he played parts of the first rate, though he probably distinguished himself by whatever he performed; and the distinction which he obtained could only be in his own plays, in which he would be assisted by the novel appearance of author and aetor combined. Before his time, it does not appear that any actor could avail himself of the wretched pieces represented on the stage.
Mr. Rowe regrets that he cannot inform us which was the first play he wrote, nor is that a point yet determined. Mr. Malone, in his first edition, appears to have attained something conclusive; but in his last edition, he has changed the dates of so many of the plays, that we can only refer to the lists given at the end of his History of the Stage. The progress of Shakspeare's taste or genius, it seems to be impossible to ascertain with any certainty.
His plays, however, must have been not
only popular, but approved by persons of the higher order, as we are certain that he enjoyed the gracious favour of queen Elizabeth, who was very fond of the stage; and the particular and affectionate patronage of the earl of Southampton, to whom he dedicated his poem of "Venus and Adonis," and his "Rape of Lucrece." On Sir William Davenant's authority, it has been asserted that this nobleman at one time gave him a thousand pounds to enable him to complete a purchase. This anecdote Mr. Malone thinks extravagantly exaggerated, and considers it as far more likely that he might have presented the poet with an hundred pounds in return for his dedications.
At the conclusion of the advertisement prefixed to Lintot's edition of Shakspeare's poems, it is said, "that most learned prince and great "patron of learning, king James the First, was pleased with his own hand to write an "amicable letter to Mr. Shakspeare: which "letter, though now lost, remained long in the " hands of sir William Davenant, as a credible "person now living can testify." Dr. Farmer with great probability supposes, that this letter was written by King James in return for the compliment paid to him in Macbeth. The relator of this anecdote was Sheffield, duke of Buckingham. These brief notices, meagre as they are, may show that our author enjoyed high favour in his day. Whatever some may think of king James as a "learned prince," his patronage, as well as that of his predecessor, was sufficient to give celebrity to the founder of a new stage. It may be added, that Shakspeare's uncommon merit, his candour, and good-nature are supposed to have procured him the admiration and acquaintance of every person distinguished for such qualities. It is not difficult, indeed, to suppose that Shakspeare was a man of humour and a social companion, and probably excelled in that species of minor wit not ill adapted to conversation, of which it could have been wished he had been more sparing in his writings.
How long he acted has not been discovered, but he continued to write till the year 1614. During his dramatic career he acquired a property in the theatre,* which he must have disposed of when he retired, as no mention occurs of it in his will. His connection with Ben Jonson has been variously related. It is said
*In 1603 he and several others obtained a license from king James to exhibit comedies, tragedies, histories, &c. at the Globe Theatre and elsewhere.
that when Jonson was unknown to the world, be offered a play to the theatre, which was rejected after a very careless perusal, but that Shakspeare having accidentally cast his eye on it, conceived a favourable opinion of it, and afterwards recommended Jonson and his writings to the public. For this candour he is said to have been repaid by Jonson, when the latter became a poet of note, with an envious disrespect. Jonson acquired reputation by the variety of his pieces, and endeavoured to arrogate the supremacy in dramatic genius. Like a French critic, he insinuated Shakspeare's incorrectness, his careless manner of writing, and his want of judgment; and, as he was a remarkable slow writer himself, he could not endure the praise frequently bestowed on Shakspeare, viz. that he seldom altered or blotted out what he had written. Mr. Malone says, that, "not long after the year 1600, a coolness arose "between Shakspeare and him, which, however he may talk of his almost idolatrous "affection, produced, on his part, from that time to the death of our author and for "many years afterwards, much clumsy sarcasm "and many malevolent reflections." But from these, which were until lately the commonly received traditions on this subject, the learned Dr. Farmer was inclined to depart; and to think Jonson's hostility to Shakspeare absolutely groundless: and this opinion has been amply confirmed by modern critics.
Jonson had only one advantage over Shakspeare, that of superior learning, which might, in certain situations, give him a superior rank, but could never promote his rivalship with a man who attained the highest excellence without it. Nor will Shakspeare suffer by its being known, that all the dramatic poets before he appeared were scholars. Greene, Lodge, Peele, Marlow, Nashe, Lily, and Kid, had all, says Mr. Malone, a regular university education; and, as scholars in our universities, frequently composed and acted plays on historical subjects.*
The latter part of Shakspeare's life was spent in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends. He had accumulated considerable property, which Gildon (in his "Letters and Essays" in 1694,) stated to amount to 3001.
This was the practice in Milton's days. "One "of his objections to academical education, as it "was then conducted, is, that men designed for orders in the church were permitted to act "plays," &c. Johnson's Life of Milton.
per annum; a sum at least equal to 1000l. in our days; but Mr. Malone doubes whether all his property amounted to much more than 2001. per annum, which yet was a considerable fortune in those times; and it is supposed that he might have derived 2001. per annum from the theatre while connected with it.
He retired about four years (1611 or 1612) before his death, to a house in Stratford, of which it has been thought important to give the history. It was built by sir Hugh Clopton, a younger brother of an ancient family in that neighbourhood. Sir Hugh was sheriff of London in the reign of Richard III., and lordmayor in that of Henry VII. By his will he bequeathed to his elder brother's son his manor of Clopton, &c., and his house by the name of the Great House in Stratford.* A good part of the estate was in possession of Edward Clopton, Esq. and sir Hugh Clopton, Knt. in 1733. The principal estate had been sold out of the Clopton family for above a century, at the time when Shakspeare became the purchaser; who, having repaired and modelled it to his own mind, changed the name to New Place, which the mansion-house, afterwards erected in the room of the poet's house, retained for many years. The house and lands belonging to it continued in the possession of Shakspeare's descendants to the time of the Restoration, when they were repurchased by the Clopton family. Here in May, 1742, when Mr. Garrick, Mr. Macklin, and Mr. Delane visited Stratford, they were hospitably entertained under Shakspeare's mulberry-tree by Sir Hugh Clopton. He was a barrister-at-law, was knighted by king George I., and died in the eightieth year of his age, in Dec. 1751. His executor, about the year 1752, sold New Place to the Rev. Mr. Gastrell, a man of large fortune, who resided in it but a few years, inçonsequence of a disagreement with the inhabitants of Stratford: as he resided part of the year at Lichfield, he thought he was assessed too highly in the monthly rate towards the maintenance of the poor; but being very properly compelled by the magistrates of Stratford to pay the whole of what was levied on him, on the principle that his house was occupied by his servants in his absence, he peevishly declared,
• The account of this house in Malone's Shakspeare, 1821, is the same which appeared in his edition of 1790, but which he probably would have corrected, had he seen some further information on the subject, by Mr. Wheler, in Gent. Mag. vol. lxxix. and vol. lxxx.
that that house should never be assessed again; | The sharpness of the satire is said to have stung and soon afterwards pulled it down, sold the the man so severely that he never forgave it. materials, and left the town. He had some These lines, however, or some which nearly time before cut down Shakspeare's mulberry- resembled them, appeared in various collectree, to save himself the trouble of showing it tions, both before and after the time when they to those whose admiration of our great poet led were said to have been composed; and the inthem to visit the classic ground on which it quiries of Mr. Steevens and Mr. Malone satisstood. That Shakspeare planted this tree ap-factorily prove that the whole story is a fabricapears to be sufficiently authenticated. Where New Place stood is now a garden.-Before concluding this history, it may be necessary to mention that the poet's house was once honoured by the temporary residence of Henrietta Maria, queen to Charles I. Theobald has given an inaccurate account of this, as if she had been obliged to take refuge in Stratford from the rebels: but that was not the case. She marched from Newark, June 16, 1643, and entered Stratford triumphantly about the 22d of the same month, at the head of 3000 foot and 1,500 horse, with 150 waggons and a train of artillery. Here she was met by prince Rupert, accompanied by a large body of troops. She resided about three weeks at our poet's house, which was then possessed by his grand-daughter, Mrs. Nash, and her husband.
tion. Betterton is said to have heard it when he visited Warwickshire on purpose to collect anecdotes of our poet, and probably thought it of too much importance to be nicely examined. We know not whether it be worth adding of a story which we have rejected, that a usurer, in Shakspeare's time, did not mean one who took exorbitant, but any interest or usuance for money, and that ten in the hundred, or ten per cent., was then the ordinary interest of money. It would have been of more consequence, however, to have here recorded the opinion of Mr. Malone, in his first edition, that Shakspeare, during his retirement, wrote the play of Twelfth Night; but unfortunately, in his last edition, he carried the date of this play back to the year 1607.
Shakspeare died on his birth-day, Tuesday, April 23, 1616, when he had exactly completed his fifty-second year, and was buried on the north side of the chancel, in the great church at Stratford, where a monument is placed in the wall, on which he is represented under an arch, in a sitting posture, a cushion
During Shakspeare's abode in this house, his pleasurable wit, and good nature, says Mr. Rowe, engaged him the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. This may be readily believed, for he was entitled to their respect. He had left his native place, poor, and almost un-placed before him, with a pen in his right known. He returned ennobled by fame, and hand, and his left rested on a scroll of paper. enriched by fortune. The following Latin distich is engraved under the cushion :
Mr. Rowe gives us a traditional story of a miser, or usurer, named Combe, who, in conversation with Shakspeare, said, he fancied the poet intended to write his epitaph if he should survive him, and desired to know what he meant to say. On this Shakspeare gave him the following, probably extempore :
Ten in the hundred lies here engrav'd,
"As the curiosity of this house and tree brought much fame, and more company and profit to the town, a certain man, on some disgust, has pulled the house down, so as not to leave one stone upon another, and cut down the tree, and piled it as a stack of firewood, to the great vexation, loss, and disappointment of the inhabitants; however, an honest silversmith bought the whole stack of wood, and makes many odd things of this wood for the curious." Letter in Annual Register, 1760. Of Mr. Gastrell and his Lady see Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson, vol. ii. p. 456. edit. 1822. 4 vol.
Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
"The first syllable in Socratem,' says "Steevens, is here made short, which cannot "be allowed. Perhaps we should read 'So"phoclem.' Shakspeare is then appositely "compared with a dramatic author among "the ancients: but still it should be remem"bered that the eulogium is lessened while "the metre is reformed; and it is well known "that some of our early writers of Latin poetry were uncommonly negligent in their prosody, "especially in proper names. The thought
The only notice we have of his person is from Aubrey, who says, "he was a handsome "well-shaped man," and adds, "verie good com "pany, and of a very ready, and pleasant, and
"of this distich, as Mr. Tollet observes, might | band. Judith, Shakspeare's youngest daughter, "have been taken from the Faery Queene of was married, February 10, 1615-16, to a Mr. Spenser, B. II. c. ix. st. 48., and c. x. Thomas Quiney, and died February 1661-62, ** sl. 3. in her 77th year. By Mr. Quiney she had three sons, Shakspeare, Richard, and Thomas, who all died unmarried, and here the descendants of our poet became extinct.
"To this Latin inscription on Shakspeare "may be added the lines which are found un"derneath it on his monument :
Stay, passenger, why dost thou go so fast?
Obiit An°. Dni. 1616.
æt. 53, die 23 Apri."
It appears from the verses of Leonard Digges, that our author's monument was erected before the year 1623. It has been engraved by Vertue, and done in mezzotinto " by Miller."
On his grave-stone underneath are these lines, in an uncouth mixture of small and capital letters:
* Good Friend for Iesus SAKE forbeare
It is uncertain whether this request and imprecation were written by Shakspeare, or by one of his friends. They probably allude to the custom of removing skeletons after a certain time, and depositing them in charnel-houses; and similar execrations are found in many ancient Latin epitaphs. Shakspeare's remains, however, have been ever carefully protected from injury.*
We have no account of the malady which at no very advanced age closed the life and labours of this unrivalled and incomparable genius.
Sir Hugh Clopton, who was born two years after the death of lady Barnard, which happened in 1669-70, related to Mr. Macklin, in 1742, an old tradition, that she had carried away with her from Stratford many of her grandfather's papers. On the death of sir John Barnard, Mr. Malone thought "these "must have fallen into the hands of Mr. "Edward Bagley, lady Barnard's executor, "and if any descendant of that gentleman be now living, in his custody they probably re"main." But Mr. Malone, in his last edition, tacitly confesses, that he has been able to make no discovery of such descendant, or such papers.
If tradition may be trusted, Shakspeare "often baited at the Crown Inn or Tavern in "Oxford, in his journey to and from London; "the landlady was a woman of great beauty "and sprightly wit, and her husband, Mr. "John Davenant (afterwards mayor of that city), a grave melancholy man; who, as well as his wife, used much to delight in Shakspeare's pleasant company. Their son, young Will. Davenant (afterwards sir William), was then a little school-boy in the town, of about seven or eight years old, and
so fond also of Shakspeare, that whenever he "heard of his arrival, he would fly from school "to see him. One day an old townsman ob"serving the boy running homeward almost "out of breath, asked him whither he was He an"posting in that heat and hurry.
His family consisted of two daughters, and a son named Hamnet, who died in 1596, in the twelfth year of his age. Susannah, the eldest daughter, and her father's favourite, was married, June 5, 1607, to Dr. John Hall, a physician, who died Nov. 1635, aged 60. Mrs. Hall died July 11, 1649, aged 66. They left only one child, Elizabeth, born 1607-8, "swered, to see his god-father Shakspeare. and married April 22, 1626, to Thomas Nashe, "There's a good boy, said the other, but have Esq., who died in 1647, and afterwards to sir a care that you don't take God's name in John Barnard, of Abingdon, in Northampton- "vain. This story Mr. Pope told me at the shire, but died without issue by either hus- "earl of Oxford's table, upon occasion of
• Mr. Malone's causing the bust to be painted white has been severely censured; he did not live to defend it. See this and other information respecting this bust in Gent. Mag. vol. lxxxv. and lxxxvi.
some discourse which arose about Shak"speare's monument, then newly erected in "Westminster Abbey.'
This story appears to have originated with Anthony Wood, and it has been thought a
presumption of its being true, that, after care-than that of any other man who has lived in ful examination, Mr. Thomas Warton was inclined to believe it. Mr. Steevens, however, treats it with the utmost contempt, but does not perhaps argue with his usual attention to experience when he brings sir William Davenant's "heavy, vulgar, unmeaning face," as a proof that he could not be Shakspeare's son.
In the year 1741 a monument was erected to our poet in Westminster Abbey, by the direction of the earl of Burlington, Dr. Mead, Mr. Pope. and Mr. Martyn. It was the work of Scheemaker (who received 3001. for it), after a design of Kent, and was opened in January of that year, one hundred and twenty-five years after the death of him whom it commemorates, and whose genius appears to have been forgotten during almost the whole of that long period. The performers of each of the London theatres gave a benefit to defray the expenses, and the dean and chapter of Westminster took nothing for the ground. The money received by the performance at Drury-lane theatre amounted to above 2001., but the receipts at Covent-Garden did not exceed 100%.
From these imperfect notices, which are all we have been able to collect from the labours of his biographers and commentators, our readers will perceive that less is known of Shakspeare than of almost any writer who has been considered as an object of laudable curiosity. Nothing could be more highly gratifying than an account of the early studies of this wonderful man, the progress of his pen, his moral and social qualities, his friendships, his failings, and whatever else constitutes personal history. But on all these topics his contemporaries and his immediate successors have been equally silent, and if aught can be hereafter discovered, it must be by exploring sources which have hitherto escaped the anxious researches of those who have devoted their whole lives, and their most vigorous talents, to revive his memory and illustrate his writings. In the sketch we have given, if the dates of his birth and death be excepted, what is there on which the reader can depend, or for which, if he contend eagerly, he may not be involved in controversy, and perplexed with contradictory opinions and authorities ?
It is usually said that the life of an author can be little else than a history of his works; but this opinion is liable to many exceptions. If an author, indeed, has passed his days in retirement, his life can afford little more variety
retirement, but if, as is generally the case with writers of great celebrity, he has acquired a preeminence over his contemporaries, if he has excited rival contentions, and defeated the attacks of criticism or of malignity, or if he has plunged into the controversies of his age, and performed the part either of a tyrant or a hero in literature, his history may be rendered as interesting as that of any other public character. But whatever weight may be allowed to this remark, the decision will not be of much consequence in the case of Shakspeare. Unfortunately, we know as little of his writings as of his personal history. The industry of his illustrators for the last fifty years is such as, probably, never was surpassed in the annals of literary investigation; yet so far are we from information of the conclusive or satisfactory kind, that even the order in which his plays were written rests principally on conjecture, and of some plays usually printed among his works, it is not yet determined whether he wrote the whole or any part
Much of our ignorance of every thing which it would be desirable to know respecting Shakspeare's works, must be imputed to the author himself. If we look merely at the state in which he left his productions, we should be apt to conclude, either that he was insensible of their value, or that while he was the greatest, he was at the same time the humblest dramatic writer the world ever produced: "that he "thought his works unworthy of posterity, "that he levied no ideal tribute upon future "times, nor had any further prospect than that "of present popularity and present profit.' And such an opinion, although it apparently partakes of the ease and looseness of conjecture, may not be far from probability. But before we allow it any higher merit, or attempt to decide upon the affection or indifference with which he reviewed his labours, it may be necessary to consider their precise nature, and certain circumstances in his situation which affected them; and, above all, we must take into our account the character and predominant occupations of the time in which he lived, and of that which followed his decease.
With respect to himself, it does not appear that he printed any one of his plays, and only eleven of them were printed in his life-time. The reason assigned for this is, that he wrote
* Dr. Johnson's Preface.