Page images

"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

"To diGG T-E Dust EncloAsed HERe
"Blese be T-E Man spares T-Es Stones
"And curst be He moves my Bones."

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.

We have no account of the malady which at no very advanced age closed the life and labours of this unrivalled and incomparable genius.

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 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, b 2

born 1607-8, and married April 22, 1626, to Thomas Nashe, Esq. who died in 1647, and afterwards to Sir John Barnard, of Abington, in Northamptonshire, but died without issue by either husband. Judith, Shakspeare's youngest daughter, was married to a Mr. Thomas Quiney, and died Feb. 1661-62, in her 77th year. By Mr. Quiney she had three sons, Shakspeare, Richard and Thomas, who all died unmarried. 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 thinks 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 remain. To this account of Shakspeare's family we have now to add, that among Oldys's papers is another traditional gossip's story of his having been the father of Sir Wm. Davenant. Oldys's relation is thus given.

"If tradition may be trusted, Shakspeare often "baited at the Crown Inn or Tavern in Oxford, "in his journey to and from London. The land

lady was a woman of great beauty and sprightly

« wit, and her husband, Mr. John Davenant, " (afterwards mayor of that city,) a grave melan"choly 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 posting ❝in that heat and hurry. He answered, to see. f his god-father Shakspeare. There's a good "boy, said the other, but have "don't take Gad's name in vain.

a care that you

This story Mr.

"Pope told me at the Earl of Oxford's table, ❝ upon occasion of some discourse which arose. "about Shakspeare'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 careful 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 £300 for it,) after a design of Kent, and was opened in January of that year. The performers of each of the London theatres gave a benefit to defray the expences, 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 £200, but the receipts at Govent-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, 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 ought 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 than that of any other man who has lived in retirement; but if, as is generally the case with writers of great celebrity, he has acquired a pre-eminence 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 publick character. But whatever weight may be allowed to this remark, the decision will not be of much consequence in the case of Shak

« PreviousContinue »