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to lend, on proper security, a sum of money for
The author's reputation was no doubt increased by
3 presence necessary at Suttery was the only places mittance. On the contr dramatist was freque even noblemen made i
ose him at once as the be Shakspe In this manner, ciate of the all-accomplis at nobleman's father-inwas treasurer of the que acity it was his duty to ed at court: thas play ced upon the notice of hold theatrical amusem ent, even at a late per ning the court for a da his entertainment of Ce ordering Richard II. previous to the rebella akspeare's intimacy ed when the latter ge, and from the dete nd Adonis in 1593, and it is apparent that by great liberality in de in the poet. of Davenant, relates, peare to complete time presented him ift truly princely. om the wealth whit ve possessed in 1 arrival in London; fr that his opulence co ments, either as l productions were
and the gain accru een large, as he ne
thy. Some of his dr time; but this was d Once a fraud on sa
ive opulence there urchased
ford upon Ara
the summer, the Blackfriars the winter house of
LIFE OF SHAKSPEARE.
[For a more enlarged view of the subject, see
Inspired with feelings of gratitude for the dis-
Shakspeare seems to have cherished a sincere written of his plays, which refer to that monarch regard for James. There are passages in the last in highly laudatory terms; and in a curious MS. volume of poems, written apparently about the period of the Revolution, the following lines occur, which are confidently ascribed to our poet:
her munificence is to be found, and the almost invari-
"Sweet swan of Avon, what a sight it were
And mark those flights upon the banks of Thames,
In James I. the stage found a warm and generous
"Shakspeare upon the King.
"Crownes have their compasse, length of dayes their date;
Though Elizabeth and James were particularly fond of dramatic representations, it does not appear that they ever visited the public theatres ; they gratified their taste by commanding the comedians to perform plays at court. These entertainment suited the actors, as the theatres were genements were usually given at night, which arrangerally open in the morning. The ordinary fee for such a performance in London was £6: 13s: 4d. and an additional £3: 6s: 8d. was sometimes bestowed by the bounty of royalty.
Shakspeare soon became important in the mathe emoluments of the company. It is imposnagement of the theatre, and participated in all we are ignorant into how many shares this thesible to estimate his income from this source: atrical property was divided; nor can we tell what proportion of them was enjoyed by our poet. If, however, he was equal with Heminges, who is joined with him in the license, we are authorized This worldly elevation induced by his partner to assert that it produced "a good yearly income." ment he speaks of in his Sonnets with disgust, and him to quit the drudgery of an actor, which employof his comprehensive mind to the improvement of henceforth he seems to have yielded all the powers dramatic literature. The affectionate wish which his brilliant career, to his native Stratford, and Shakspeare formed in early life, to return, after die at home, induced him to purchase New Place, in 1597. In the pleasure ground of that unassuming mansion, he planted with his own hand a mulwas regarded with reverence. To this favourite berry tree, which flourished for many years, and of his contemporaries and the bustle of the world, spot, in 1613 or 1614, he retired from the applauses to the genuine repose and unsophisticated pleasures of a country life. Aubrey informs us, that it was our bard's custom to visit Stratford yearly; but
previous to 1596, the place of his residence in London has not been discovered. He then lodged near the Bear Garden in Southwark, and it is not improbable that he remained there till his final retirement from the metropolis.
We shall now throw together such facts as we have gleaned in a careful course of reading, with reference to the subject, as may serve to illustrate the manners, habits, and individual character of Shakspeare.
The following abstract of his life is from Aubrey : "Mr.William Shakspeare was born at Stratford-upon Avon, in the county of Warwick; his father was a butcher, and I have been told heretofore by some of his neighbours, that when he was a boy he exercised his father's trade; but when he killed a calfe, he would doe it in a high style and make a speech. There was, at that time, another butcher's son in that towne, that was helde not at all inferior to him for a naturall witt, his acquaintance and coetanean, but died young. This Wm. being inclined naturally to poetry and acting, came to London, I guesse about eighteen, and was an actor at one of the playhouses, and did act exceedingly well. Now B. Jonson never was a good actor, but an excellent instructor. He began early to make essayes at dramatic poetry, which at that time was very lowe, and his playes tooke well. He was a handsome well shap't man, and of a verie readie and pleasant smooth witt: the humour of the constable in A Midsummer Night's Dreame, he happened to take at Grendon, in Bucks, which is the roade from London to Stratforde, and there was living that constable about 1642, when I first came to Oxon. Mr. Jos. Howe is of that parishe, and knew him. Ben Jonson and he did gather humours of men dayly, wherever they came. One time, as he was at a tavern at Stratford-upon-Avon, one Combes, an old rich usurer was to be buryed, he makes there this extemporary epitaph:
Ten in the hundred the devill allowes,
"He was wont to goe to his native countrie once a yeare. I think I have been told, that he left 2 or 300 lib. per annum, or thereabout, to a sister. I have heard sir Wm. Davenant and Mr. Thomas Shadwell (who is counted the best comedian we have now), say that he had a most prodigious witt; and did admire his naturall parts beyond all other dramaticall writers. He was wont to say, that he never blotted out a line in his life; sayd Ben Jonson, I wish he had blotted out a thousand. His comedies will remain witt as long as the English tongue is understood, for that he handles mores hominum: now our present writers reflect much upon particular persons and coxcombities, that twenty years hence they will not be understood."
Much has been said of the rivalship and dissention between Ben Jonson and Shakspeare: we shall give a few particulars, from which we think it will appear that they both were entirely free from personal ill-will. Pope says, that Jonson "loved Shakspeare as well as honoured his memory, celebrates the honesty, openness and frankness of his temper, and only distinguishes, as he reasonably ought, between the real merit of the author, and the silly and derogatory applauses of the players." Gilchrist, a very clever critic, published a pamphlet to prove that Jonson was never a harsh or envious rival of Shakspeare, and that the popular opinion on that subject is altogether erroneous. Rowe gives us the subjoined anecdote, which has been thought worthy of credit: " Mr. Jonson, who was at that time altogether unknown to the world, had offered one of his plays to the players, in order to have it acted; and the persons into whose hands it was put, after having turned it carelessly and superciliously over, were just upon returning it to hin with an ill-natured answer, that it would be of no service to their company, when Shakspeare luckily cast his eye upon it, and found something so wel in it as to engage him first to read it through, and afterwards to recommend Mr. Jonson and his writ ings to the public." It is not a little remarkable that Jonson seems to have held a higher place in public estimation than our poet, for more than century after the death of the latter. Within tha period, Ben's works went through numerous edi tions, and were read with eagerness, while Shak speare's remained in comparative neglect till the time of Rowe: of this fact, abundant evidence might be given; not only was Jonson preferred but even Beaumont and Fletcher, with many dra matic writers infinitely below them in merit, wer exalted above him. The following passages ar curious, and will satisfactorily shew the little esti mation our bard's works were held in by the mil lion of that day.
................ You see
To Shakspeare comes; whose mirth did once beguile
"Shakspeare to thee was dull, whose best jest lies
There is no such character in the Midsummer Night's Dream as a constable. Aubrey most probably referred to the sagacious Dogberry in Much Ado about Nothing. This account, though seemingly sanctioned by good authority, and written most probably within thirty years of Shakspeare's death, is treated by his biographers as incredible; yet it is well worth preservation, for we cannot find any reasonable grounds on which Aubrey's testimony should be rejected. The story of the epitaph is variously told. In the following version the wit is certainly heightened: "Mr. John Combe had amassed considerable wealth by the practice of usury; he was Shakspeare's intimate friend. In the gaiety of conversation he 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 it might be written forthwith.speare's genius; but it is evident from the quota
Verses on Fletcher, by William Cartwright, 164
Satire, published in 168 In the Spectator, Addison has several papers, which a very high character is given of Shak
being asked for his opinion, wrote on a scrap of
"Little or much of what we see, we do,
tions introduced, that the elegant critic had no ac-
Queen Elizabeth used sometimes to sit be
death, Jonson wrote an elegy in his honour, in-hind the scenes, while her favourite plays were
Faller's comparative view of these illustrious writers is highly interesting: "Shakspeare was an eminent instance of the truth of that rale: Poeta non fit sed nascitur, (one is not made, but born a poet.) Indeed his learning was but very little; so that as Cornish diamonds are not polished by any lapidary, but are pointed and smoothed even as they are taken out of the earth, so nature itself was all the art which was used upon him. Many were the wit combats betwixt him and Ben Jonson, which two I beheld, 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, with the English man of war, lesser in bulk, but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, and take advantage of all winds, by the quickness of his wit and invention."
The following anecdote, preserved by Malone, will serve to shew the habits of close intimacy in which these great and amiable men lived. In the serious business of life, rivals, and even enemies, are often obliged to associate; but when we find men seeking each other in the season of relaxation, and mingling thoughts in their sportive humours, we may safely pronounce them to be friends. An amicable dispute arose concerning the motto of the Globe theatre, "Totus mundus agit histrionem;" (all the world acts a play;) some condemned it as unmeaning, others declared it to be a fine piece of sententious wisdom; Jonson,
All this may be called trifling; but even trifles become interesting, when connected with a Jonson and a Shakspeare.
Mr. Gifford has triumphantly proved, that the once generally received opinion of Jonson's malignant feelings towards his friend and benefactor, is void of the slightest foundation in fact; on the contrary, we are justified in believing that the author of Sejanus was, on all occasions, ready to admit the wonderful merit of his less learned, but more highlygifted, contemporary. His lines under Shakspeare's effigy breathe the warmest spirit of reverence and
"The figure that thou here seest put,
O, could he but have drawne his wit
But since he cannot, reader, looke
The anecdotes subjoined rest, perhaps, on slight authority; but every particular relative to our un rivalled dramatist has such powerful attraction, that we should not feel justified in withholding
"And though now bent on this high embassy, Yet stoop we to take up our cousin's glove." He then withdrew from the stage, and presented the glove to the queen, who was much pleased with his behaviour, and complimented him on its propriety.
One evening, Burbage performed Richard III. and while behind the scenes, Shakspeare overheard him making an assignation with a lady of considerable beauty. Burbage was to knock at her chamber-door; she was to say, "Who comes there?" and on receiving for answer, "'Tis I, Richard the Third," the favoured tragedian was to be admitted. Shakspeare instantly determined to keep the appointment himself. Tapping at the lady's door, he made the expected response to her interrogatory, and gained admittance. The poet's eloquence soon converted the fair one's anger into satisfaction; but the real Simon Pure quickly arrived; he rapped loudly, and to the expected query replied, ""Tis I, Richard the Third." "Then," quoth Shakspeare,
go thy ways, Burby, for thou knowest that William the Conqueror reigned before Richard the Third.”
Shakspeare's associates, during his residence in London, were the great spirits who were engaged, like him, in the pursuit of literary distinction: with Fletcher he was particularly intimate, and it is believed he assisted him largely in the composition of The Two Noble Kinsmen. Rowley, Forde, Massinger, and Decker were also indebted to his liberal muse: indeed, there is scarcely any dramatist of his age to whom the light of his genius was not extended.
A tradition exists of a literary club, of which Shakspeare was a member, and which included the following illustrious names: Jonson, Fletcher, Selden, Cotton, Carew, Martin, Beaumont, and Donne. The meetings of such a phalanx of talent must necessarily have been attended with "the feast of reason and the flow of soul."
Of Shakspeare's convivial disposition, the following legendary story, told by John Jordan, a native of Stratford, might be given as evidence; though, certainly, it does not redound much to his credit. Shakspeare, says the tradition, loved hearty draughts of English beer or ale, and there were two clubs of persons who met at a village called Bidford, about seven miles below Stratford, who distinguished themselves by the designation of topers and sippers, the former of whom could drink the most without being intoxicated; the latter, however, were superior to most other drinkers in the country. These lovers of John Barleycorn challenged all England to drink with them, to try the strength of their heads; the Stratford bard and his companions accepted it, and went to Bidford, on a Whit-Monday, to encounter the topers; but they were gone to Evesham fair upon a like expedition, so that Shakspeare and his Stratford friends were forced to sit down with the sippers; upon trial, they found themselves inferior to their opponents; the poet and his companions became so intoxicated that they were forced to decline further trial. Leaving Bidford, they proceeded homeward, but poor William, when he had gone about half a mile, faid himself down on the turf, under the boughs of a crab-tree, where he reposed for the night. Awaking with the lark, he was invited to return to Bidford and renew the contest, but he refused, telling them, that he had drunk with
"Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston, Haunted Hillborough, and Hungry Grafton,
With Dadging Exhall, Papist Wixford, Beggarly Broom, and Drunken Bidford." These epithets we are told, are still given to thes adjoining villages; and the reader will, accordin to his degree of faith, credit or reject a tale, th particulars of which correspond so ill with th bard's character.
There is a tradition in Stratford, of our poet likening the carbuncled face of a drunken black smith to a maple. The smith addressed him as leant over a mercer's door, thus:
"Now, Mr. Shakspeare, tell me if you can,
"Thou son of fire, with thy face like a maple,
This story was told, upwards of fifty years since, a gentleman at Stratford, by a person who was th have been a contemporary of Shakspeare. Perha more than eighty years old, whose father mig however, it was only a version of the story told Tarleton, the clown. (See p. l.)
We come now to speak of some traditional lantries of our poet; they may not deserve ent credence, but it would not be satisfactory to or them altogether. In his journeyings betwe Stratford and London, Shakspeare often put up the Crown Inn, Oxford; the hostess was beauti and witty; the host, a discreet citizen, of a sat nine complexion, but a lover of plays and pl wrights, and more particularly, of his visitor. I bard's frequent calls, and the loveliness of landlady, gave occasion to the following stor Young William Davenant, afterwards sir Willia was then a slip of a school-boy, of about eight ye that whenever he heard of his arrival he would q old: this lad was so much attached to Shakspea the school to see him. One day, an old townsm observing the boy hastening homewards w breathless impatience, demanded of him whither was running in that eager manner. "To see god-father Shakspeare," was the reply. "The a good boy," said the citizen; "but have a c you don't take God's name in vain."
that he had formed an unhappy attachment, From the Sonnets of our author we may conclu while he celebrates the charms of his fair ensla in the most hyperbolical terms, he is at no less pa
to proclaim the utter worthlessness of her character. He
"Swore her fair, and thought her bright,
With the perverseness so common in affairs of gallantry, the lady neglected the poet, and placed her love on a youth of remarkable beauty, the dear friend and associate of the dramatist himself. The young man's participation in this violation of affection and friendship is uncertain, as appears from several passages, and, in particular, from the 144th Sonnet, which we quote, as it epitomises the whole
of the tale :
"Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
I guess one angel in another's hell:
Yet this shall I ne'er know, but live in doubt, Till my bad angel fire my good one out."
A breach, however, did ensue between the bard and his good spirit; yet the pangs of separation soon proved intolerable; and, in defiance of his jealousies and doubts, Shakspeare took back his friend to his bosom, with an affection which seemed more powerful for this short interruption.
It has often been mentioned as singular, that Shakspeare does not appear to have written any commendatory verses on his literary companions, to which his great good-nature, it might have been supposed, would have inclined him; it was not known that he had composed even a solitary stanza to applaud the living or eulogize the dead. The annexed epitaphs, if they be authentic, and they have much of Shakspeare's manner about them, will prove, that in two instances at least, he laid aside that diffidence of his own merits, which made him undervalue the plaudits of a muse, the slightest breath of whose praise would have conferred immortality. In a MS. volume of poems, by Herrick and others, in the handwriting of Charles I. preserved in the Bodleian library, is the following epitaph, ascribed to our poet :
"When God was pleas'd, the world unwilling yet,
"WM. SHAKSPEARE." Sir William Dugdale, in his Visitation Book, describes a monument in Tongue church, Salop, erected in memory of sir Thomas Stanley, who died about the year 1600. After a long prose inscription, the frail marble was charged with the following
"These following Verses were made by WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, the late famous Tragedian : "Written upon the east end of this tombe. "Aske who lyes here, but do not weepe; He is not dead, he doth but sleepe. This stony register is for his bones, His fame is more perpetual than these stones: And his own goodness, with himself being gone, Shall live, when earthly monument is uone."
"Written upon the west end thereof. "Not monumental stone preserves our fame, Nor skye-aspiring pyramids our name. The memory of him for whom this stands, Shall out-live marble, and defacers' hands. When all to time's consumption shall be given, Stanley, for whom this stands, shall standin heaven."
Shakspeare seems to have had no personal connexion with the theatre for about three years previously to his death, and this scanty remnant of his days was passed in peace and comfort. Rowe says: "The latter part of his life was spent, as all men of good sense would wish theirs' may be, in
ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends. His pleasurable wit and good-nature engaged him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship, of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood." And tation as a poet, favoured by the great and accomin the words of Dr. Drake, "He was high in repuplished, and beloved by all who knew him." this wonderful man, in the vigour of his age, and Nothing can be more delightful than to contemplate in the full possession of his amazing faculties, retiring from the scene of his well-earned triumphs, to find, in the comparative seclusion of his native town, that repose and quietude both of mind and body, which is not to be looked for in the bustle of the world. And if he, whose glory was to fill the universe, and whose pursuits (if anything connected with time can be,) were worthy of an immortal soul, could pant for retirement in the meridian of his days, what excuse have they, who, in senectude and feebleness, continue to toil among the mole-hills of earth for a little perishable gold, for which they have no use when they have obtained it?
Shakspeare retired from the metropolis at a period little past the prime of life. We meet with no hint of any failure in his constitution; and the execution of his will, in "perfect health and memory," on the 25th of March, 1616, warrants no immediate expectation of his decease. The curtain was now to fall, however, on his earthly stage of existence. He died on the 23d of April, the anniversary of his birth, having exactly completed his fifty-second year. On the 25th, two days after his death, his body was laid in its original dust, being buried under the north side of the chancel of the great church at Stratford; a flat stone, protecting all that was perishable of the remains of Shakpeare, bears this inscription:
"Good frend, for Jesus' sake forbeare, To digg the dust enclosed here!
Bless'd be the man that spares these stones, And curst be he that moves my bones."
The common opinion is, that these lines were written by the poet himself; but this notion has, perhaps, originated solely from the use of the word "my" in the closing line. "The imprecation," says Malone, was probably suggested by an apprehension "that our author's remains might share the same fate with those of the rest of his countrymen, and be added to the immense pile of human bones deposited in Stratford charnel-house."
We shall now give a brief abstract of Shakspeare's will, which is yet extant in the Prerogative Office. It bears date, March 25, 1616, and commences with the following paragraphs:
"In the name of God, amen. I, William Shakspeare, at Stratford-upon-Avon, in the county of Warwick, gent. in perfect health and memory, (God be praised!) do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form following; that is to say:
"First, I commend my soul into the hands of God my Creator, hoping, and assuredly believing, through the only merits of Jesus Christ, my Saviour, to be made partaker of life everlasting; and my body to the earth, whereof it is made.'
It then proceeds to make the bequests enu
To his daughter Judith he gave £150 of lawful English money; £100 to be paid in discharge of her marriage-portion within one year after his decease, and the remaining £50 upon her giving up to her elder sister, Susanna Hall, all her right in a copyhold tenement and appurtenances, parcel of the manor of Rowington. To the said Judith he also bequeathed £150 more, if she or any of her issue were living three years from the date of his will; but, in the contrary event, then he directed that £100 of the sum should be paid to his niece,