« PreviousContinue »
THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.
ment of a debt of five pounds, to Sadler, a baker. From the celebrated passage in Twelfth Night, This depression of his circumstances is alluded concluding with to by Rowe, and attributed to the expenses in
• Then let thy love be younger than thyself, eidental to a large and increasing family ; but in
Or thy affection cannot hold the bent,' this statement, the real cause of his difficulties is mistaken. It has been ascertained, by the dili- we may suspect that Shakspeare, at the time of gence of Malone, that the family of Shakspeare's writing this
, which was probably his last, play, father was by no means numerous ; for of his had lived to repent his too early marriage, and eight children, five only attained to the years the indulgence of an affection so much "misof maturity.* The decay of his affairs was grafted in respect of years. 't Such is the conthe natural consequence of the decline of the jecture of Malone; but it is hardly fair to apply branch of trade in which he was engaged. As a personally to the poet the general maxims that poolstapler, Mr. John Shakspeare had flourished may be discovered in his works. His daughter as long as the business itself was prosperous ;
Susanna was born in the following year. The and with its failure, his fortunes had fallen into parish register of Stratford informs us that decay. He became involved in the gradual ruin within eighteen months afterwards his wife bore which fell on the principal trade of the place, twins, a son and daughter, who were baptized by and which, in 1590, drew from the bailiff and the names of Hamnet and Judith : and thus, burgesses of Stratford, a supplication to the Lord when little more than twenty, Shakspeare had Treasurer Burghley, lamenting the distresses of already a wife and three children dependant on the town; 'for want of such trade as heretofore his exertions for support. they had by clothinge, and making of yarne,
Malone supposes that our author was at this ymploying and mayntayninge a number of poore time employed in an attorney's office, and gives people by the same, which now live in great
a long list of quotations from his works, which penury and miserie, by reason they are not set
shew how familiarly he was acquainted with the at worke, as before they have been.'t
terms and the usages of the law, in support of In this unfavourable state of the affairs of his his conjecture. As there are no other grounds family, Shakspeare was withdrawn from school ; for entertaining such a supposition; as testimony *his assistance was wanted at home.' It was, I of the same nature, and equally strong, might be should imagine, at this juncture, that his father, adduced to prove that Shakspeare was a member zo longer able to secure a respectable subsis- of almost every other trade or profession, for he tence for his wife and children, by his original was ignorant of none; and as the legal knowtrade a3 a woolstapler, had recourse to the ledge which he displays might easily have been inferior occupation of a butcher; and, if the tale caught up in conversation, or indeed from expebe founded in fact, which Aubrey says he was
rience in the quirks and technicalities of the told heretofore by some of his neighbours,' then law, during the course of his own and his father's it must have been, that Shakspeare began to difficulties; I have little hesitation in classing exbibit his dramatic propensities, and when he this among the many ingenious but unsound killed a calfe, would do it in a high style, and conjectures of the learned editor, and adopting make a speech.'s
the tradition of Aubrey respecting the avocation The assistance, however, which the poet ren- of this portion of his life. To satisfy the claims dered bis father in his business, was not of long that were multiplying around him, Shakspeare duration. He had just attained the age of endeavoured to draw upon his talents and aceighteen, when he married. The object of this quirements as the source of his supplies, and tarls attachment was Anne, the daughter of undertook the instruction of children. Richard Hathaway, a substantial yeoman, in the
The portion of classical knowledge that he Deighbourhood of his native town. She was brought to the task, has given occasion for much tight years older than her husband; and Oldys, controversy, which it is now impossible to deterwithout stating his authority, in one of his MSS. mine. The school at which he was educated, Dentions her as beautiful. It may be feared produced several individuals, among the contemthat this marriage was not perfectly happy. poraries of our great poet, who were not deficient
* His family consisted of four sons and four daugh- and was buried in the church of that parish, on the ters. Joan, died in infancy : MARGARET, when only 31st of December, 1607.-SKOTTOWE's Life of Shaktar Donths old. William, was the poet : of Gil- speare, vol. i. p. 7, 8. Mut, nothing is known but the date of his baptism, † Supplication to Lord Treasurer Burghley, Nov. and that be lived till after the restoration of Charles 9, 1590, preserved in the chamber at Stratford. the Second : Joan, married William Hart, a hatter, Rowe's Life of Shakspeare. 2 Stratford; she died in 1646, leaving three sons : ý AU BREY’s MS. Ashmol. Oxon. ad in 1734, one of Shakspeare's two houses, in Hen. || BOSWELL's Shakspeare. Note to the 93d Sonnet. bey Street, was the property of Thomas Hart, a but- Boswell's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 112. ther, the sixth in descent from Joan. Ann, died in ** • He understood Latin pretty well, for he had mirzey. Richard, was buried in 1612-13. Edmund, been in his younger years a schoolmaster in the te a player at the Globe ; he lived in St. Saviour's, country.'-AUBREY.
in learning;* and, though he was prematurely perhaps, very fairly estimated the real extent of withdrawn from their companionship, it would Shakspeare's literary acquirements : He had be difficult to believe, that with his quickness of what would now be considered a very reasonable apprehension, he could have mingled for any proportion of Latin; he was not wholly ignorant considerable time in their course of study, without of Greek; he had a knowledge of the French so attaining a proportionate share of their informa- as to read it with ease; and I believe not less of tion. 'He understood Latin pretty well,' says the Italian. He was habitually conversant in Aubrey; and this account corresponds exactly the chronicles of his country. He had deeply with the description of his friend Ben Jonson, imbibed the Scriptures.'— And again, in speaking who speaks of him as one possessed ‘of little of his Venus and Adonis and the Rape of Lucrece, Latin and less Greek.' Dr. Farmer, indeed, has which were the first published efforts of Shakproved, that translations of all the classics to speare's genius, Mr. Lofft continues : • I think it which Shakspeare has referred, were already in not easy, with due attention to these poems, to circulation before he wrote; and that in most of doubt of his having acquired, when a boy, no his allusions to Greek and Latin authors, evident ordinary facility in the classic language of Rome; traces are discoverable of his having consulted and, when Jonson said he had “ less Greek,” had the translation instead of the original. But this it been true that he had none, it would have been fact establishes very little: it might have pro- as easy for the verse as for the sentiment, to have ceeded from indolence, or from the haste of com- said " no Greek.”' position, urging him to the readiest sources of With these qualifications for the task, Shak. information, rather than from any incapacity of speare applied himself to the labour of tuition. availing himself of those which were more pure,
But both the time and the habits of his life, renbut less accessible. That he should appear un- dered him peculiarly unfit for the situation. The learned in the judgment of Jonson, who, perhaps, gaiety of his disposition naturally inclined him to measured him by the scale of his own enormous society; and the thoughtlessness of youth preerudition, is no imputation on his classical attain- vented his being sufficiently scrupulous about the ments. A man may have made great advances conduct and the characters of his associates. ·He in the knowledge of the dead languages, and yet had by a misfortune, common enough to young be esteemed as having 'little Latin and less fellows, fallen into ill company,' says Rowe ;8 Greek,' by one who had reached those heights of and the excesses into which they seduced him, scholarship, which the friend and companion of were by no means consistent with that seriousShakspeare had achieved. It is a proof that his ness of deportment and behaviour which is exacquirements in the classic languages were con- pected to accompany the occupation that he had siderable, or Jonson would scarcely have deemed adopted. The following anecdote of these days them of sufficient value to be at all numbered of his riot, is still current at Stratford, and the among his qualifications. As to French, it is cer- neighbouring village of Bidford. I give it in tain that he did not deal with translations only; the words of the author from whom it is taken. for the last line of one of his most celebrated Speaking of Bidford, he says, 'there were anspeeches, the Seven Ages of Man, in As you like ciently two societies of village-yeomanry in this it, is imitated from a poem called the Henriade, place, who frequently met under the appellation which was first published in 1594, in France, and of Bidford topers. It was a custom of these never translated. Garnier, the author of it, is heroes to challenge any of their neighbours, describing the appearance of the ghost of Admi- famed for the love of good ale, to a drunken ral Coligny, on the night after his murder, at combat :
: among others, the people of Stratford the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and introduces were called out to a trial of strength, and in the the following passage :
number of their champions, as the traditional Sans pieds, sans mains, sans nex, sans oreilles, sans story runs, our Shakspeare, who forswore all thin yeur,
potations, and addicted himself to ale as lustily Meurtri de toutes parts.
as Falstaff to his sack, is said to have entered the The verse of Shakspeare,
lists. In confirmation of this tradition, we find Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing, an epigram written by Sir Aston Cockayn, and scarcely exceeds the rules of legitimate transla- published in his poems in 1658, p. 124 ; it runs
thus :tion; and the introduction and repetition of the French preposition, indicates that the coinci. dence was intentional, and stands as an acknow- Shakspeure, your Wincot ale hath much renown'd, ledgment of the imitation. Mr. Capel Lofft has, | That fox'd a beggar so (by chance was found
TO MR. CLEMENT FISHER, OP WINCOT.
• Malone shews that the Quineys, Stratford men, and educated at the same school, were familiarly conversant with Latin, and even corresponded in that language. BOSWELL's edition of Malone's Shukspeurt, vol. ii. 182.
+ Censura Litteraria, vol. ix. p. 288.
1 Aphorisms from Shakspeare. Introd. p. 12, 13, 24.
Life of Shakspeare.
THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.
with faculties so exalted, competing the bad Twill make a lord as drunk as any beggar.
pre-eminence in such abominable contests. It Bad Norton brew such ale as Shakspeare fancies is some relief to know that, though he erred in Did put Kit Sly into such lordly trances :
uniting himself with such gross associations, he And let us meet there (for a fit of gladness),
was the first to retreat from them in disgust. And drink ourselves merry in sober sadness.
We can scarcely, at the present day, form a “When the Stratford lads went over to Bid-correct and impartial judgment of a subsequent ford, they found the topers were gone to Eves- offence, in which these mischievous connexions ham fair; but were told, if they wished to try involved him as a party. The transgression, their strength with the sippers, they were ready weighty as it would now be considered, appears for the contest. This being acceded to, our to admit of great extenuation, on account of the bard and his companions were staggered at the manners and sentiments that prevailed at the irst outset, when they thought it advisable to time; and when we contemplate the consesound a retreat, while the means of retreat were quences to which it led, we find it difficult to practicable; and then had scarce marched half a condemn with much severity of censure the ocmile, before they were all forced to lay down casion by which Shakspeare was removed from more than their arms, and encamp in a very the intercourse of such unworthy companions, disorderly and unmilitary form, under no better and by which those powerful energies of intelcovering than a large crab-tree; and there they lect were awakened in one, who might otherwise, rested till morning.
perhaps, have been degraded in the course of *This tree is yet standing by the side of the vulgar sensualities, to an equality with his road. If, as it has been observed by the late associates, or have attained to no higher disMr. T. Warton, the meanest hovel to which tinction than the applauses of a country town. Shakspeare has an allusion interests curiosity, One of the favourite amusements of the wild and acquires an importance, surely the tree companions with whom Shakspeare had conshich has spread its shade over him, and shel- nected himself, was the stealing of 'deer and tered him from the dews of the night, has a conies.' This violation of the rights of property, daim to our attention.
must not, however, be estimated with the rigour * In the moruing, when the company awaken- which would at the present day attach to a simied our bard, the story says, they entreated him to lar offence. In those ruder ages, the spirit of return to Bidford, and renew the charge; but Robin Hood was yet abroad, and deer and coney. this be declined, and looking round upon the ad stealing classed, with robbing orchards, among the joining villages, exclaimed, “No! I have had more adventurous but ordinary levities of youth. enough; I have drank with
It was considered in the light of an indiscretion, Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston,
rather than of a criminal offence; and in this Haunted Hillbro', Hungry Gralton,
particular, the young men of Stratford were Dudging Exhall, Papist Wicksford,
countenanced by the practice of the students of Besgarly Broom, and Drunken Bidford."
the Universities. In these hazardous exploits, “Of the truth of this story, I have very little Shakspeare was not backward in accompanying doubt; it is certain, that the crab-tree is known his comrades. The person in whose neighbourall round the country by the name of Shak-hood, perhaps on whose property, these enspeare's crab; and that the villages to which the croachments were made, was of all others the z'lusion is made, all bear the epithets here given individual from whose hands they were least them: the people of Pebworth are still famed likely to escape with impunity in case of detecfor their skill on the pipe and tabor: Hillborough tion. Sir Thomas Lucy was a Puritan; and the is now called Haunted Hillborough; and Grafton severity of manners which has always characis notorious for the.poverty of its soil.'*
terized this sect, would teach him to extend very The above relation, if it be true, presents us little indulgence to the excesses of Shakspeare with a most unfavourable picture of the manners and his wilful companions. He was besides a ud morals prevalent among the youth of War- game preserver: in his place as a member of sekshire, in the early years of Shakspeare; and parliament, he had been an active instrument in • TALLAND's Picturesque Views, p. 229–-233. offenders. Nothing, however, can be more uniforin • Wod, speaking of Dr. John Thornborough, than the tradition that deer and conies' were really ***Up of Worcester, and his kinsman, Robert Pin- stolen from some one, by Shakspeare and his friends, ky, says, they seldom gave themselves to their Mr. Jones, who died in 1703, aged upwards of ninety, reks, but spent their time in the fencing-schools and who lived at Turbich, a village about eighteen and dancing schools, in stealing deer, and conies, miles from Stratford, related the story to Mr. Thomas Athen. Oron. i. 371.
Wilks, and remembered to have heard it from se. : Malone disputes the deer's having been stolen veral old people.'-Betterton was told it at Stratford, trom Sir Thomas Lucy. Possibly the 'deer and and communicated it to Rowe.-Oldys has the same Panic* were not stolen from him; and, he was only story,-so bas Davies, whose additions to Fulman's te magistrate that committed and punished the Notes for a Life of Shakspeare were made in 1690.
COPY OF THE VERSES ON SIR THOMAS LUCY.
the formation of the game laws:* and the tres- | gown for the two following stanzas in it; and passes of our poet, whether committed on the could she have said it all, he would (as he often demesne of himself or others, were as offensive said in company, when any discourse has casuto his predilections as to his principles. Shak- ally arose about him) have given her ten speare and his compeers were discovered, and guineas. fell under the rigid lash of Sir Thomas Lucy's
• Sir Thomas was too covetous, authority and resentment. The knight attacked
To covet so much deer; the poet with the penalties of the law; and the When horns enough upon his head poet revenged himself by sticking the following
Most plainly did appear. satirical copy of verses on the gate of the
Had not his worship one deer left?
What then? He had a wife, knight's park.
Took pains enough to find bim horns,
Should last him during life.'
The volume in which this anecdote is found, • A parliement member, a justice of peace,
is not much to be relied upon; for the author At home a poore scarecrowe, in London an asse;
has been, in several instances, detected as too If Lucy is Lowsie, as some volke misscall it, Synge Lowsie Lucy whatever befall it.
credulous in receiving the reports of others, or as He thinks hymself greate, yet an asse in hys state,
actually criminal, in giving the reins to his imaWe allowe bye his eares but with asses to mate ;
gination, and supplying the want of facts by the If Lucy is Lowsie, as some volke misscall it,
resources of his invention. The verses, however, Synge Lowsie Lucy whatever befall it.
which prove not to have been, as was originally He's a haughty proud insolent knighte of the shire, supposed, part of the first satirical effusion, but At home nobodye loves, yet theres many him feare; the fragment of another jeu d'esprit of the same k Lucy is Lowsie, as some volke misscall it,
kind, and on the same subject, sufficiently auSynge Lowsie Lucy whatever befall it.
thenticate themselves. The quibble on the word To the sessions he went, and dyd sorely complain,
deer, is one that was familiar with our author;f His parke had been rob'd, and his deer they were slain;
and, says Whiter, 'the lines may be readily conThis Lucy is Lowsie, as some volke misscall it, ceived to have proceeded from our young bard, Synge Lowsie Lucy whatever befall it.
before he was removed from the little circle of He sayd 'twas a ryot, his men bad been beat, his native place.'ll Besides, the author of the His venson was stole, and clandestinely eat; book in which they were first published must Soe Lucy is Lowsie, as some volke unisscall it,
have possessed an intrepidity of falsehood unpaSynge Lowsie Lucy whatever befall it.
ralleled in the history of literary forgeries, if he Soe haughty was he when the fact was confess'd,
had dared, so soon after the death of Joshua He said 'twas a crime that could not bee redress'd;
Barnes, to advance a story of this kind as a noSoe Lucy is Lowsie, as some volke misscall it, Synge Lowsie Lucy whatever befall it.
torious fact, when, had it been a fiction, any of
the professor's friends would have had an opporThough Lucies a dozen he paints in his coat, His name it shall Lowsie for Lucy bee wrote ;
tunity of contradicting him. Malone considers For Lucy is Lowsie, as some volke misscall it, these verses, as well as the first, a forgery; and Synge Lowsie Lucy whatever befall it.
cites the epitaph erected by Sir Thomas Lucy, If a iuvenile frolick he cannot forgive,
in praise of his wife, as evidence of their spuWe'll synge Lowsie Lucy as long as we live; riousness. Exaggerated censure is the very And Lucy the Lowsie a libel may call it,
essence of a satire: exaggerated praise is the We'll synge Lowsie Lucy whatever befall it.
universal characteristic of the epitaph. Each is It would appear that the above song, the first equally wide of the truth: it is probable, that effort we have received of our author's poetical the real character of Lady Lucy neither warranted talents, was not his only attempt at this kind of the panegyric of her husband, nor the severity of retaliation. It is said, in a book called a Manu- Shakspeare. But it would, at the present day, script History of the Stage, which is supposed by puzzle the ingenuity of an Edipus, to determine Malone to have been written between 1727 and which was most likely to afford the fairest esti1730, ‘that the learned Mr. Joshua Barnes, late mate of her worth. Greek professor of the University of Cambridge, The contest between Shakspeare and Sir baiting about forty years ago at an inn in Strat- Thomas Lucy was unequal; and the result was ford, and hearing an old woman singing part of such as might have been anticipated, from the the abovesaid song, such was his respect for Mr. disproportion that existed between the strength Shakspeare's genius, that he gave her a new and weapons of the opposing parties. The poet
• D'Ewes's Journal, p. 363.
died in 1778, at the age of eighty. Malone considery + One verse of this pasquinade was retained by the whole a forgery. The last stanza is indeed of a memory, and transmitted by Mr. Jones, to Oldys very suspicious appearance. and Capel. The entire song was recently discovered Henry VI. part 1, act IV. scene 2, and Henry in a chest of drawers, that formerly belonged to IV. part 1, act V. scene 4. Mrs. Dorothy Tyler, of Shottery, ncar Stratford, who || Specimen of a Commentary on Shakspeare, p. 94. THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.
xi might irritate by his wit ; but the magistrate quaintance with some of the performers, during could wound by his authority. It is recorded the occasional visits which they had made to by Mr. Davies, that the knight 'had him oft Stratford. Heminge and Burbage, distinguished skipt, and sometimes imprisoned, and at last performers of the time, were both Warwickshire made him fly his native country."* That the men, and born in the vicinity of Stratford. severity was undue, there can be little room for Greene, another celebrated comedian of the day, doubting. Every contemporary who has spoken was the townsman, and he is thought to have of our author, has been lavish in the praise of been the relation, of Shakspeare. On arriving bis temper and disposition. The gentle Shak- in the metropolis, these were perhaps his only speare' seems to have been his distinguishing ap- acquaintance, and they secured his introduction pellation. No slight portion of our enthusiasm to the theatre. It seems however agreed, that for bis writings, may be traced to the fair picture his first occupation there was of the very lowest which they present of our author's character : order. One tradition relates, that his original we love the tenderness of heart—the candour and office was that of call-boy, or prompter's attendopenness, and singleness of mind—the largeness ant; whose employment it is, to give the perof sentiment—the liberality of opinion, which formers notice to be ready to enter, as often as the whole tenor of his works prove him to have the business of the play requires their appearance possessed: his faults seem to have been the tran- on the stage:| while another account, which has sient aberrations of a thoughtless moment, which descended in a very regular line from Sir William reflection never failed to correct. The ebulli. D'Avenant to Dr. Johnson, states, that Shaktions of high spirits might mislead him; but the speare's first expedient was to wait at the door of principles and the affections never swerved from the playhouse, and hold the horses of those who a but was right. Against such a person, the rode to the theatre, and had no servants to take extreme severity of the magistrate should not charge of them during the hours of performance. bave been exerted, His youth—his genius—his It is said, 'that he became so conspicuous in this accomplishments_his wife and children, should office, for his care and readiness, that in a short bare mitigated the rigour of the authority that time, every man as he alighted called for Will was armed against him. The powerful enemy Shakspeare ; and scarcely any other waiter was of Shakspeare was not to be appeased: the heart trusted with a horse, while Will Shakspeare of the Puritan or the game-preserver is very could be had. This was the first dawn of better rarely ‘framed of penetrable stuff.' Our author fortune. Shakspeare finding more horses put fled from the inflexible persecutions of his oppo- into his hand than he could hold, hired boys to neat, to seek a shelter in the metropolis; and he wait under his inspection, who, when Will Shakfound friends, and honour, and wealth, and fame ; speare was summoned, were immediately to prewhere he had only hoped for an asylum. Sir sent themselves, I am Shakspeare's boy, sir. In Thomas Lucy remained to enjoy the triumph of time, Shakspeare found higher employment, but bis victory; and he yet survives in the character as long as the practice of riding to the playhouse of Justice Shallow, as the laughing-stock of continued, the waiters that held the horses pasterity, and as another specimen of the exqui- retained the appellation of Shakspeare's boys. site skill, with which the victim of his magiste- That the above anecdote was really communirial authority was capable of painting the pecu- cated by Pope, there is no room to doubt. This harities of the weak and the vain, the arrogant fact Dr. Johnson states upon his own authority, and the servile. +
and coming from such a source, the story is cerAbout the year 1587, in the twenty-third of tainly deserving of more respect than the comhis age, Shakspeare arrived in London. It is mentators have been inclined to attach to it. It not possible to discover the inducements which was originally related by D'Avenant, who, if the led our poet, after his flight from Stratford, to frequenters of the theatre had ever been in the set his home and his subsistence in the neigh- habit of riding to the play, must have remembered bourhood of a theatre. Probably, in the course the time; and if at that time, the lads who took of their travels, he might have formed an ac- charge of the horses were, as he afirmed, called
* Palman's MSS. vol. XV., art. Shakspeare. having appeared first in Cibber's Lives of the Poets, + There can be no doubt, that Justice Shallow was a book of no authority. But the general inaccuracy designed as the representative of the knight. If the of that work, ought not, in the present instance, to traditional authority of this fact were not quite satis- be considered as impugning the credibility of its factory, the description of his coat of arms, in the narration. The book was, in fact, written by Shiells, are scene of The Merry Wives of Windsor, which the amanuensis of Dr. Johnson, and he, most probais, with very slight deviation, that of the Lucies, bly, picked up from his employer this piece of origi. would be sufficient to direct us to the original of the nal information. Johnson, in his edition of Shak purtrait.
speare, repeated it, without any allusion to Shiells's : MALOSE. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 63. work, as having come to him immediately from - JOHNsox. Reed's Shakspeure, vol. i. P- 120. One Pope, and in apparent ignorance of its ever having Feason alleged for diserediting this account, is, its been printed before.