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of age 1). I fear that the marriage of the poet was not productive of that long continued bliss which he anticipated. His wife did not reside with him in London; their children were born within the first few years of their marriage; and in his will Shakspeare speaks of her with the cold and brief notice, “I give unto my wife my second-best bed, with the furniture” 2).
In connection with these circumstances I may mention the story of Shakspeare's gallantry at Oxford, which has been transmitted to us by authority as respectable as any that can be quoted for the traditionary part of the poet's history. In his journeys to and from Stratford and London, the dramatist often baited at the Crown Inn, in Oxford. Mine hostess was beautiful and witty; her husband a grave and discreet citizen, of a melancholy disposition, but a lover of plays and play-makers, especially of Shakspeare 3). The frequent visits of the bard, and the charms of the landlady, gave birth to the surmises which the succeeding anecdote embodies. Young William 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 observing the boy running homeward almost out of breath, asked him, whither he was posting in that heat and hurry. He answered, " to see his god-father Shakspeare. “There's a good boy,” said the other, but have a care you don't take God's name in vain ” *).
The sonnets of Shakspeare proclaim it to have been the misfortune of their author to love where “loving he was much forsworn”5). Scarcely less pains are taken to proclaim the worthlessness than the beauty of his enchantress; he
“Swore her fair, and thonght her bright,
“While she was black as hell, and dark as night" 6). The affair is worth pursuing to its sequel. With a perversity common in the history of love, the lady slighted the poet, and fixed her affections on a youth of singulur beauty, the dear and intimate companion of Shakspeare himself
. The participation of the young man in this outrage on love and friendship, is somewhat doubtful, as appears from many passages 7), and particularly from the hundred and forty-fourth sonnet, which pretiy neurly epitomizes the whole of the hapless talc.
“Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.." A breach nerertheless ensued between the hard and his belter angel. But the pangs of alicnation were intolerable, and, in defiance of suspicion and perplexity, Shakspeare received his friend to his bosom, with an attachment, apparently strengthened by its temporary abruption 8).
But to resume our account of the family of the bard. Hamnet, his only son, died in 1596, when he was twelve years old 9).
Judith, the twin child with Hamnet, was married in February, 1615-16, the year of her father's death, to 'Thomas Queeny, a vintner in Stratford. Their children were Shakspeare, who died un infant, and Richard and Thomas, both
1) Mrs. Shakspeare's tomb-stone in Stratford charch. 2 Note P.
3) Athenae Oxon. 4) Oldys, on the anthority of Pope, who quoted Betterton. 5) Sonnets 142 151, 152.
6) Sonnet 147. 7) Sonnets 40. 42. 132-4. 137-145. 8) Note Q.
9) Purish Register.
buried in 1638-9; the former in the twenty-first, the latter in the nineteenth year of his age, without leaving any issue. Their mother, Judith, survived till February 1661-2, when she had altained the advanced age of seventy-seven 1).
The legacies of the dramatist to this, his youngest, daughter, are extremely inconsiderable. One hundred pounds in discharge of her marriage portion; one hundred and fifty vested in trustees, for the benefit of her and her issue; his “ broad silver gilt bowl;” and fifty pounds, as a compensation for the surrender of her interest in a copyhold estatc to her sister Susanna.
Susanna, the eldest of the poet's family, married, in June, 1607, Dr. John Hall, a physician settled in Stratford, whom she survived fourteen years 2)
The causes which led to the marked distinction, made in Shakspeare's will, between his two surviving children, are buried in oblivion. The fact alone remains, that while Judith is only remembered by legacies to the amount of three hundred pounds, Susanna is invested with the entire remainder of her father's ample property, excepting a few legacies. His capital dwelling-house in Stratford, called New Place; two houses in Henley Street; various lands and tenements in, and in the neighbourhood of, Stratford; and his house in Blackfriars; are all specifically given to her. The residuc of his estate, after the discharge of his funeral and testamentary expences, is devised to her and her husband, who are likewise nominated the executors of the will.
This favorite daughter of Shakspeare died in July, 1649, aged sixty-six, and her tomb-stone recorded her wit, her piety, and her humanity 3).
“Witty above her sexe, bat that's not all,
When tbou hast ne'er a teare to shed.” It is not to be presumed that the art of writing was among the accomplishments of this lady, as the mark of her sister Judith appears to a deed still extant, accompanied by the explanatory appendage of “Signum Judith Shakspeare” 4).
The only child of Dr. and Mrs. Hall was a daughter named Elizabeth. At the time of her grandfather's death, she was eight years of age. His remembrances of her in his will are, a contingent interest in a hundred pounds bequeathed to his daughter Judith and her heirs, and “all his plate,”5) with the exception of the broad silver and gilt bowl given to her aunt Judith.
Elizabeth Hall married a Mr. Thomas Nash. He died in April, 1647; and his widow, after the expiration of two years, was united to Sir John Barnard, of Abington, Northamptonshire, where she was buried in 1669-70. She left no children, and thus the family of Shakspeare became extinct.
“Worthy,” “gentle,” and “beloved,” are the epithets uniformly connected with the contemporary mention of Shakspeare's name. He is also described as a man of a ready, smooth, and pleasant wit6). “Many were the wit-combates, says Fuller, "between Shakspeare and Ben Jonson. I behold them like a Spanish great galleon, and an English man of war. Master Jonson, like the former, was built far higher in learning, solid, but slow in his performances; Shakspeare, like the latter, lesser in bulk, but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides,
1) Rowe, Strat. Regist.
2) Strat. Regist. 3) Strat. Regist. The verses are not now remaining on the stone, bat have been preserved by Dngdale.
4) Wheeler's Guide to Stratford.
5) Shakspeare bequeathed his plate twice: in the last item of the will, which constitutes Dr. and Mrs. Hall residuary legatees, he gives "all the rest of his goods, chattels, leases, plate , jewels, etc.
6) Rowe and Aubrey.
tack about, and take advantage of all winds by the quickness of his wit and invention.” This farfetched simile of the quaint biographer is no very happy illustrution of conversational powers rich in variety, and astonishing in versatility. A few anecdotes have been transmitted as specimens of Shakspeare's talent at repartee, but they are really unworthy of transcription, and must be deemed inost unfortunate specimens of the colloquial brilliancy of a man who was not the meanest neinber of a club of which Jonson, Beaumont, Fletcher, Selden, Cotton, Carew, Martin, and Donne were members, and whose meetings furnished matter for retrospective delight in so competent a judge as Beaumont.
“What things have we seen
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest" 1). The best specimen of Shakspeare's extemporary wit is his jocular epitaph on Mr. John Combe, who had amassed great wealth by the practice of usury. In the gaiety of conversation, Combe told the poet, that he fancied he intended to furnish his epitaph; and since whatever might be said of him after he was dead must be unknown to him, he requested that it might be written forthwith: Shakspeare immediately gave him the following verses:
* Pen in the hundred lies here ingrav'd;
Oh! oh! quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe” 2). It is asserted of Shakspeare, that he was a handsome, well-shaped man 3); but as it is not known that any authentic likeness of him exists, fancy is left at liberty to imagine the peculiar conformation of his features. Pictures, indeed, are not wanting whose claims to authenticity have been confidently asserted; but their merits so generally fade before the test of examination, that the pretensions of few are worthy of consideration.
If the positive testimony of a contemporary, and an associate, could authenticate a portrait, the verses of Ben Jonson on the engraving by Droeshout, attached to the first folio edition of Shakspeare's works, its exact resemblance to the immortal dramatist ought to be considered as established.
" This figure that thou here seest put,
Not on his picture, but his book." Without the reader has had the misfortune to behold this much eulogised specimen of the graphic art, he will be surprised to learn, that the plate is not only at variance with the tradition of Shakspeare's appearance having been prepossessing; but irreconcileable with the belief of its ever having borne a striking resemblance to any human being. Its defects, indeed, are so obvious, that it has been thought necessary to apologise for Jonson by the production of instances of similar prostitutions of compliment; and, also, by the supposition, that he never saw the engraving, but wrote his lines from his recollection of the picture from which it was made, confiding in the ability of Drocshout to execute a faithful copy.
Not many years ago, an old painting was produced, and loudly proclaimed, as that long lost treasure the original of Droeshout's engraving. The history of its purchase out of the Boar’s Head, in Eastcheap, "where Shakspeare and his friends used to resort,” was advanced with becoming diffidence; but the authenticity of the portrait was confidently urged, on the ground of its near resemblance to the head of Shakspeare in the first folio, and the inscription on its back, “Guil. Shakspeare, 1597. R. N.” The strenuous patronage of Mr. Steevens insured its popularity for a time; but its pretensions gradually lost ground before the sensible reflection, that where the history of a picture was mysterious, coincidences so easily contrived as a reseniblance to the first folio, and the name of the poet on the back, could not be received as conclusive evidence in its favour. In 1792, this picture was in the possession of Mr. Felton, of Drayton in Shropshire, and thus became denominated the “Felton Shakspeare.” It was afterwards purchased by the Boydells.
1) Beaumont's Letter to Jonson. 3) Rowe and Aubrey.
About 1725, a mezzotinto print was scraped by Simon, said to be from an original picture of Shakspeare by Zoust or Soest. But as the carliest picture painted by Zoust, in England, was in 1657, the story is falsified by discordant dates.
Another picture, now belonging to Mr. Jennens of Gopsal in Leicestershire, has been advanced as a portrait of Shakspeare; the master, Cornelius Jansen. Its claims have generally been disallowed, in consequence of an assertion of Horace Walpole, that Jansen never saw England till 1618. The assertion is incorrect; and no objection founded on an anachronism can be raised against the genuineness of this picture.
The picture in the possession of Lord Oxford, turns out to be a portrait, not of Shakspeare, but of James the First! Pope's edition of our author's works was ornamented by an engraving from this head.
In the Somerville family, there is a tradition, that an ancestor of Somerville the poet lived in habits of intimacy with Shakspeare, especially after his retirement; and that, at his request, à portrait of the dramatist was painted. A small miniature, very richly set, has descended with the tradition, and is believed by its present possessor, Sir James Bland Burgess, to be an original picture of Shakspeare. It is not stated at what period of life Shakspeare gratified the wishes of his friend, but the miniature is far too youthful for the representation of a man of forty-five, which Shakspeare must have been when he retired to Stratford. This, however, forms no serious objection against the picture, for it might have been painted when Shakspeare was as youthful as il re
The picture in the collection of the Marquis of Buckingham, at Stowe, usually called the “Chandos portrait,” presents a very fair pedigree of possessors up to Petterton the actor; but there, where evidence is most wanted, it begins to fail. It came into Betterton's possession, it is said, after the death of Sir William Davenant, but whether by purchase, or otherwise, does not appear: administration of Davenant's effects was granted to his principal creditor in 1668. The previous history of the picture is still more unsatisfactory. It is not ascertaired that Davenani himself attached any importance to it; no credible account exists of the channel through which he obtained it; and the traditions respecting the artist who painted it are vague and contradictory.
The establishing of the claims of either the Chandos portrait, or the Somerville miniature, would invalidate the claims of the other; for of two pictures so exceedingly unlike, it is impossible to admit the genuineness of both. Vf the two portraits, the reader would most readily believe the Somerville a resemblance of Shakspeare, if it were admissible to give any weight to prepossession: the countenance of the Chandos picture is heavy, dúll, and inexpressive.
Of the prints which have been so prodigally issued of Shakspeare, some are mere fanciful delineations of the artist; some copies of the various genuine portraits of the bard found one day and forgotten on the next; but for the most part they are to be traced to the sources already pointed out. The origin of the head attached to the first folio is uncertain; but if, as is extremely probable, it was copied from an original picture, it is entitled, notwithstanding its abominable imitation of humanity, to somewhat more consideration than copies of unauthenticated pictures.
It is a tradition at Stratford, that Shakspeare's monumental bust was copied from a cast after nature. In imitation of nature, the hands and face were painted flesh colour, the cyes of a light hazcl, and the hair and beard auburn; the doublet or coat was scarlet, and covered with a loose black gown, or tabard, without
sleeves; the upper part of the cushion was green, the under half crimson, and the tassels gilt.
After remaining in this state above one hundred and twenty years, Mr. John Ward, grandfather of the Kembles, caused it to be repaired, and the original colours revived, from the profits of the performance of Othello, in 1748. In 1793, Mr. Malone was inspired with the ambition of connecting his name with Shakspeare's bust. His purpose was ingeniously effected by covering it over with one or more coats of white paint. This injudicious destruction of the original character of the figure, deprived it of more than half its interest; for it is no longer to be seen as Shakspeare's friends and acquaintances were wont to gaze
No pretensions whatever are made to originality by any other bust or statue of Shakspeare. The head of the statue in Westminster Abbey, executed by Scheemaker, was modelled from Simon's mezzotinto print. The figure carved by Roubiliac, for Garrick, was from the same authority; with the adoption of a hint or two from the Chandos picture. Hence the head so universally recognised in casts, seals, and other ornaments, as that of Shakspeare.
It was seven years subsequent to the death of Shakspeare, before any publication of the whole of his dramatic works was altempted, the policy of the managers, whose principal profits arose from the attraction of manuscript plays, pointing out to them the necessity of keeping the dramas belonging to their theatres unpublished. Fourteen 1) plays of Shakspeare, however, appeared singly, in quarto, previous to the death of their author, and Othello was printed in the year 1622. Of these plays, Love's Labour's Lost, and Much Ado about Nothing, only, did not reach a second edition; the first part of Henry the Fourth, went into a sixth, and Richard the Third, even to a seventh impression.
Though something must be allowed to the desire of the managers to enhance the value of their own cdition, their description of all the quartos, as “stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the fraudes and stealt hes of injurions impostors,” points out sufficiently clearly the means by which they found their way into the world. They were, in füct, purloined from the theatre, cntire, when opportunity afforded time for the completion of a perfect transcript from the prompter's book, or piecemeal, as the parts written out for the different players could be procured. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that there are many chasms in their matter, and frequent incoherencies in their scenes. With the exception of Othello, they are not divided into either acts or scenes; entries are frequently given to persons who take no part in the business of the stage; other persons whose entrances were not noticed are engaged in action; exits are frequently marked in improper places; very few stage directions are to be met with; and speeches are frequently assigned to wrong characters, and sometimes even the name of the actors who performed the part is inserted in the text, instead of that of the dramatis personae, The text throughout is miserably spelt: uncommon words are deformed almost beyond the possibility of recognition; prose is often printed for verse, and verse as frequently for prose. If amidst a mass of error, of which this is no exaggerated account, any preference is to be given to one edition over another, it is to the earlier copies; for additional errors were the consequence of every renewed passage through the press. It may be a matter of amusement to some readers, perhaps, to witness a specimen of the titles under which such of Shakspeare's plays as appeared in quarto were recommended to the public for purchase. “The Tragedy of Richard the Third. Containing his treacherous Plots against his brother Clarence: the pittieful Murder of his innocent Nephewes: his tyrannical Usurpation; with the whole of his detested Life, and most deserved Death. As it hath been lately acted by the Right Honorable the Lord Chamberlaine his servants.” “A most plesaunt and excellent conceited comedie, of Syr John Falstaffe and the Merrie Wives of Windsor. Enter
1) Richard II., Richard III., Romeo and Juliet, Love's Labour's Lost, Henry IV., part one and two, Henry V., Merchant of Venice, Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, Merry Wives of Windsor, Hamlet, Lear, and Troilus and Cressida.