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of his life, and his fixeu liabitatson in the country, \fant offspring. The world was spread before him, than his strong and eager passion for all the plea- like a dark ocean, in which no fortunate isle could sures of the field. As a sportsman, in his rank of be seen to glitter amid the gloomy and sullen tide. life, he would naturally become a poacher; and But he was blessed with youth and health ; his then it is highly probable that he would fall into the conscience was unwounded, for the adventure for acquaintance of poachers; and, associating with which he suffered, was regarded, in the estimation them in his idler hours, would occasionally be one of his times, as a mere boy's frolick, of not greater of their fellow-marauders on the manors of their guilt than the robbing of an orchard; and his mind, rich neighbours. In one of these licentious excur- rich beyond example in the gold of heaven, could sions on the grounds of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charle- throw lustre over the black waste before him, and cote, in the immediate vicinity of Stratford, for the could people it with a beautiful creation of her own. purpose, as it is said, of stealing his deer, our We may imagine him, then, departing from his young bárd was detected; and, having farther irri- home, not indeed like the great Ronan captive as cated the knight by affixing a satirical ballad on him he is described by the poeta to the gates of Charlecote, he was compelled to fly before the enmity of his powerful adversary, and to
Fertur pudicæ conjugis osculum, geck an asylum in the capital. Malone, * who is
Parvosque natos, ut capitis minor,
Ab se removisse, et virilem pione to doubt, wishes to question the truth of this
Torvus humi posuisse, vultum, &c. whole narrative, and to ascribe the flight of young Shakspeare from his native country to the embar- but touched with some feelings of natural sorrow,
ous at his heart. It was impossible that he should ing rests upon the uniform tradition of Stratford, despair; and if he indulged in sanguine expectaand is confirmed by the character of
Sir T. Lucy; tion, the event proved him not to be a visionary; who is known to have been a rigid preserver of his In the course of a few years, the exile of Stratford game, by the enmity displayed against his memory became the associate of wits, the friend of nobles, by Shakspeare in his succeeding life ; and by a the favourite of monarchs; and in a period which part of the offensive balladt itself, preserved by a still left him not in sight of old age, he returned to Mr. Jones of Tarbick, a village near to Stratford, his birth-place in affluence, with honour, and with who obtained it from those who must have been the plaudits of the judicious and the noble resoundmuainted with the fact, and who could not be
ing in his ears. biased by any interest or passion to falsify or mis
His immediate refuge in the metropolis was the state it. Besides the objector, in this instance, stage ; to which his access, as it appears, was easy, . seems not to be aware that it was easier to escape Stratford was fond of theatrical representations, from the resentment of an offended proprietor of which it accommodated with its town or guildhall; game, than from the avarice of a creditor: that and had frequently been visited by companies of whilst the former might be satisfied with the removal of the delinquent to a situation where he players when our Poet was of an age, not only to could no longer infest his parks or his warrens, the enjoy their performances, but to form an acquain
tance with their members. Thomas Greene, who latter would pursue his debtor wherever bailiffs
was one of their distinguished actors, has been concould find and writs could attach him. On every sidered by some writers as a kinsman of our auaccount, therefore, I believe the tradition, recorded thor's; and though he, possibly, may have been by Rowe, that our Poet retired from Stratford before confounded by them with another Thomas Greene, the exasperated power of Sir T. Lucy, and found a refuge in London, not possibly beyond the reach of with the Shakspeares, tue was certainly a fellow
a barrister, who was ungaestionably connected but beyond the hostile purposes of his
pro- townsman of our fugitive bard's; whilst Heminge vincial antagonist.
and Burbage, two of the leaders of the company in The time of this eventful flight of the great bard question, belonged either to Stratford or to its inof England cannot now be accurately determined: mediate neighbourhood. With the door of the the. but we may somewhat confidently place it between atre thus open to him, and under the impulse of
1585 and 1588; for in the former of these his own natural bias, (for however in after life he we may conclude him to have been present with
have lamented his degradation as a profeshis family at the baptism of his twins, Hamnet and sional actor, it must be concluded that he now felt Judith ; and than the latter of them we cannot well a strong attachment to the stage,) it is not wonderassign'a later date for his arrival in London, since ful that young Shakspeare should solicit this asylum we knows that before 1592 he had not only written in his distress; or that he should be kindly retwo long poems, the Venus and Adonis, and the ceived by men who knew him, and some of whom Rape of Lucrece, but had acquired no small degree
were connected, if not with his family, at least with of celebrity as an actor and as a dramatic writer. At this agitating crisis of his life, the situation of himself, was the Earl of Leicester's or the Queen's;
his native town. The company, to which he united young Shakspeare was certainly, in its obvious which had obtained the royal license in 1574. Thé aspect, severe and even terrific. Without friends to protect or assist him, he was driven, under the enrolled among its members, was the Globe on the frown of exasperated power, from his profession; Bankside; and its managers subsequently purfrom his native fields; from the companions of his chased the theatre of Blackfriars, (the oldest theachildhood and his youth ; from his wife and his in- tre in London,) which they had previously rented * Malone was much addicted to doubt., Knowing, first of which was open in the centre for summer
for some years; and at these two theatres, the perhaps, that, on all the chief topics of the Grecian schools of philosophy, the great mind of Cicero faltered representations, and the last covered for those of in doubt, our commentator and critic wished, possibly, winter, were acted all the dramatic productions of co establish his claim to a superiority of intellect by the Shakspeare. That he was at first received into the same academic withholding of assent. He ought, how company in a very subordinate situation, may be ever, to have been aware that scepticism, which is regarded not merely as probable, but as certain : sometimes the misfortune of wise men, is generally the that he ever carried a link to light the frequenters
† The first stanza of this ballad, which is admitted to of the theatre, or ever held their horses, must be be genuine, may properly be preserved as a curiosity. rejected as an absurd tale, fabricated, no doubt, by But as it is to be found in every life of our author, with the lovers of the marvellous, who were solicitous the exception of Rowe's, I shall refer my readers, to to obtain a contrast in the humility of his first to whom it could not be gratifying, to some other page for the pride of his subsequent fortures. The mean it than my own.
and servile occupation, thus assigned to nim, was | From Robert Greene's posthumous work, written in incompatible with his circumstances, even in their 1592, and Chettle's Kind Hart's Dream, published very present afflicted state: and his relations and connec
affectation of fods.
tions, though far from wealthy, were yet too remote departure from Stratford and his becoming the ob from absolute poverty, to permit him to act for a mo-ject of Greene's malignant attack, constituted a mentin such a degrading situation. He was certainly, busy and an important period of his life. Within therefore, immediately admitted within the theatre; this term he had conciliated the friendship of the but in what rank or character cannot now be known. young Thomas Wriothesly, the liberal, the high This fact, however, soon became of very little con- souled, the romantic Earl of Southampton: sequence; for he speedily raised himself into con- friendship which adhered to him throughout his life; sideration among his new fellows by the exertions and he had risen to that celebrity, as a poet and á of his pen, if not by his proficiency as an actor, dramatist, which placed him with the first wits of the When he began his career as a dramatic writer ; | age, and subsequently lifted him to the notice and or to what degree of excellence he attained in his the favour of Elizabeth and James, as they succes. personation of dramatic characters, are questions sively sate upon the throne of England. which have been frequently agitated without any At the point of time which our narrative has now satisfactory result. By two publications, which reached, we cannot accurately determine what appeared toward the end of 1592, we know, or at dramatic pieces had been composed by him: but least we are induced strongly to infer, that at that we are assured that they were of sufficient excelperiod, either as the corrector of old or as the writer lence to excite the envy and the consequent hostiof original dramas, he had supplied the stage with a lity of those who, before his rising, had been tho copiousness of materials. We learn also from the luminaries of the stage. It would be gratifying to same documents that, in his profession of actor, he curiosity if the feat were possible, to adjust with trod the boards not without the acquisition of ap- any precision the order in which his wonderful plause. The two publications, to which I allude, productions issued from his brain. But the atare Robert Greene's “Groatsworth of Wit bought tempt has more than once been made, and never with a Million of Repentance," and Henry Chet- yet with entire success. We know only that his tle's Kind Hart's Dream." In the former of connection with the stage continued for about twenthese works, which was published by Chettle sub- ty years, (though the duration even of this term sequently to the unhappy author's decease, the cannot be settled with precision,) and that, within writer, addressing his fellow dramatists, Marlowe, this period he composed either partially, as workPeele, and Lodge, says, “Yes! trust them not,” ing on the ground of others, or educing them alto(the managers of the theatre ;) "for there is an gether from his own fertility, thirty-five or (if that upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that, wretched thing, Pericles, in consequence of Drywith his tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide, den's testimony in favour of its authenticity, and supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank of a few touches of THE GOLDEN PEN being discoverse as the best of you; and, being an absolute verable in its last scenes, must be added to the Johannes Factotum, is in his own conceit the only number) thirty-six dramas ; and that of these it is Shake-scene in a country." As it could not be probable that such as were founded on the works doubtful against whom this attack was directed, we of preceding authors were the first essays of his cannot wonder that Shakspeare should be hurt by dramatic talent; and such as were more perfectly it: or that he should expostulate on the occasion his own, and are of the first sparkle of excellence, rather warmly with Chettle as the editor of the of- were among the last. While I should not hesitate, fensive matter. In consequence, as it is probable, therefore, to station “ Pericles,” the three parts of of this expression of resentment on the part of " Henry VI.,” (for I cannot see any reason for Shakspeare, a pamphlet from the pen of Chettle throwing the first of these parts from the protection called “ Kind Hart's Dream" issued from the press of our author's name,) " Love's Labour Lost," before the close of the same year (1592,) which had “The Comedy of Errors," “ The Taming of the witnessed the publication of Greene's posthumous Shrew,” “King John,” and “Richard II.,
among work. In this pamphlet, Chettle acknowledges his his earliest productions, I should, with equal conficoncern for having edited any thing which had given dence, arrange “Macheth,” “ Lear," "c pain to Shakspeare, of whose character and accom- “ Twelfth Night,” and “ The Tempest," with his plishments he avows a very favourable opinion. | latest, assigning them to that season of his life, Marlowe, as well as Shakspeare, appears to have when his mind exulted in the conscious plenitude been offended by some passages in this production of power. Whatever might be the order of succesof poor Greene's: and to both of these great drama- sion in which this illustrious family of genius sprang tic poets Chettle refers in the short citation which into existence, they soon attracted notice, and we shall now make from his page: "With neither speedily compelled the homage of respect from of them that take offence was I acquainted, and with those who were the most eminent for their learnone of them” (concluded to be Marlowe, whose ing, their talents, or their rank. Jenson, Selden, , moral character was unhappily not good) “I care Beaumont, Fletcher, and Donne, were the associnot if I never be. The other," (who must neces- ates and the intimates of our Poet: the Earl o. sarily be Shakspeare,)." whom at that time I did Southampton was his especial friend : the Earls not so much spare as since I wish I had; for that, of Pembroke and of Montgomery were avowedly as I have moderated the hate of living authors, and his admirers and patrons : Queen Elizabeth dismight have used my own discretion, (especially in tinguished him with her favour; and her successor, such a case, the author being dead,) that I did not James, with his own hand, honoured the great draI am as sorry as if the original fault had been my matist with a letter of thanks for the compliment fault: because myself have seen his demeanor no paid in Macbeth to the royal family of the Stuarts. * less civil than he is excellent in the quality he pro- The circumstance which first brought the two fesses. Besides divers of worship have reported lords of the stage, Shakspeare and Jonson, into his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty; that embrace of friendship which continued indis and his facetious grace in writing, that approves soluble, as there is reason to believe, during the his art.” Shakspeare was now twenty-eight years permission of mortality, is reported to have been of age ; and this testimony of a contemporary, who the kind assistance given by the former to the latwas acquainted with him, and was himself an actor, ter, when he was offering one of his plays (Every in favour of his moral and his professional excel Man in his Humour) for the benefit of representa lence, must be admitted as of considerable value. tion. The manuscript, as it is said, was on the It is evident that he had now written for the stage; point of being rejected and returned with a rude and before he entered upon dramatic composition, answer, when Shakspeare, fortunately glancing we are certain that he had completed, though he his eye over its pages, immediately discovered its had not published his two long and laboured poems of Venus and Adonis, and the Rape of Lucrece. We serted on the authority of Sheffield Duke of Bucking.
* The existence of this l'oyal letter of thanks is as. cannot, therefore, date his arrival in the capital ham, who saw it in the possession of Davenant. The uter than 1588, or, perhaps, than 1587; and the cause of th: thanks is assigned on the most pro zahle four or five years which interposed between his I coniecture
merui , and, with his influence, obtained its intro- | land to a mere actor, of ten times the nominal and duction on the stage. To this story some specious twice the effective value of this proud bounty o! objections have been raised; and there cannot be the great Earl of Southampton's* to one of the any necessity for contending for it, as no lucky ac- master spirits of the human race? cident can be required to account for the induce- Of the degree of patronage and kindness extendment of amity between two men of high genius, eached to Shakspeare by the Earls of Pembroke and treading the same broad path to fame and fortune, Montgomery, we are altogether ignorant: but we yet each with a character so peculiarly his own, know, from the dedication of his works to them by that he might attain his object without wounding the Heminge and Condell, that they had distinguished pride or invading the interests of the other. It has themselves as his admirers and friends. That he been generally believed that the intellectual superi- numbered many more of the nobility of his day ority of Shakspeare excited the envy and the con: among the homagers of his transcendent genius, sequent enmity of Jonson. It is well that of these we may consider as a specious probability. But asserted facts no evidences can be adduced. The we must not indulge in conjectures, when we can friendship of these great men seems to have been gratify ourselves with the reports of tradition, apanbroken during the life of Shakspeare; and, on proaching very nearly to certainties. Elizabeth, as his death, Jonson made an offering to his memory it is confidently said, honoured our illustrious draof high, just, and appropriate panegyric. He places matist with her especial notice and regard. She him above not only the modern but the Greek dra- was unquestionably fond of theatric exhibitions ; matists; and he professes for him admiration short and, with her literary mind and her discriminating only of idolatry. They who can discover any pe- eye, it is impossible that she should overlook; and nuriousness of praise in the surviving poet must be that, not overlooking, she should not appreciate the gifted with a very peculiar vision of mind. With man, whose genius formed the prime glory of her the flowers, which he strewed upon the grave of reign. It is affirmed that, delighted with the chahis friend, there certainly was not blended one racter of Falstaff as drawn in the two parts“f Henry poisonous or bitter leaf. If, therefore, he was, as IV., she expressed a wish to see the and dishe is represented to have been by an impartial and solute knight under the influence of love; and that able judge, (Drummond of Hawthornden,)“ a great the result of our Poet's compliance, with the desire lover and praiser of himself; a contemner“ and of his royal mistress, was “ The Merry Wives os scorner of others; jealous of every word and ac- Windsor.”I Favoured, however, as tion of those about him," &c. &c., how can we seems to have been by Elizabeth, and notwithotherwise account for the uninterrupted harmony of standing the fine incense which he offered to her his intercourse with our bard than by supposing vanity, it does not appear that he profited in any that the frailties of his nature were overruled by degree by her bounty. She could distinguish and that pre-eminence of mental power in his friend could smile upon genius: but unless it were imme which precluded competition ; and by his friend's diately serviceable to her personal or her political sweetness of temper and gentleness of manners, interests, she had not the soul to reward it. How which repressed every feeling of hostility. Be- ever inferior to her in the arts of government and tween Shakspeare and Thomas Wriothesly, the in some of the great characters of mind might be munificent and the noble Earl of Southampton, dis- her Scottish successor, he resembled her in his love tinguished in history by his inviolable attachment of letters, and in his own cultivation of learning, to the rash and the unfortunate Essex, the friendship He was a scholar, and even a poet: his attachwas permanent and ardent. At its commencement, ment to the general cause of literature was strong; in 1593, when Shakspeare was twenty-nine years and his love of the drama and the theatre was par of age, Southampton was not more thăn nineteen; ticularly warm. Before his accession to the Eng. and, with the love of general literature, he was lish throne he had written, as we have before no particularly attached to the exhibitions of the thea- ticed, a letter, with his own hand, to Shakspeare,
His attention was first drawn to Shakspeare by the poet's dedication to him of the “Venus and * As the patron and the friend of Shakspeare, Thomas Adonis," that "first heir," as the dedicator calls it, Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton, is entitled to our es “of his invention;" and the acquaintance, once pecial attention and respect. But I cannot admit hi: begun between characters and hearts like theirs, eventful history into the text, without breaking the uni. would soon mature into intimacy and friendship? ty of my biographical narrative ; and to speak of hini In the following year (1594) Shakspeare's second readers, that he was born on the 6th of October, 1573
“The Rape of Lucrece," was addressed by that he was engaged in the mad attempts of his friend, him to his noble patron in a strain of less distant | the Earl of Essex, against the government of Eliza timidity; and we may infer from it that the poet beth: that, in consequence, he was confined during hie) had then obtained a portion of the favour which he life by that Queen, who was so lenient as to be satisfies sought. That his fortunes were essentially pro- with the blood of one of the friends : that, immediately moted by the munificent patronage of Southampton disposed to adopt the enmities of the murderess of his
on her death, he was liberated by her successor, not cannot reasonably be doubted. We are told by mother: that he was promoted to honours by the new Sir William Davenant, who surely possessed the sovereign; and that, finally, being sent with a military means of knowing the fact, that the peer gave at command to the Low Countries, he caught a fever fron. one time to his favoured dramatist the magnificent his son, Lord Wriothesly; and, surviving him only five present of a thousand pounds. This is rejected by days, concluded his active and honourable career of life Malone as an extravagant exaggeration; and be- at Bergen-op-zoom, on the 10th of November, 1624. It cause the donation is said to have been made for left his widow in such circumstances as to call for the
purpose of enabling the poet to complete a pur- assistance of the crown. chase which he had then in contemplation; and + The late Duke of Northumberland made a present because no purchase of an adequate magnitude to John Kemble of 10,0001. seems to have been accomplished by him, the cri- | Animated as this comedy is with much distinct de tic treats the whole story with contempt'; and is lineation of character, it cannot be pronounced to be desirous of substituting a dedication fee of one hun- unworthy of its great author. But it evinces the diffi dred pounds for the more princely liberality which culty of writing upon a prescribed subject, and of werk is attested by Davenant. But surely a purchase le sported in the scenes of Henry IV., Falstaff was in.
with As might be within the view of Shakspeare, and even- susceptible of love: and the egregious dupe of Windsor, tually not be effected; and then of 'course the ducked anu cuagciled as he was, cannot be the wit of thousand pounds in question would be added to his Eastcheap, or the guest of Shallow, or the military. personal property.;, where it would just complete commander on the field of Shrewsbury. But even the the income on which he is reported to have retired He did what he could to revive his own Falstaff: bui
genius of Shakspeare could not escct impossibilities. from the stage. As to the incredibility of the gift the life which he reinfused into his creature was not the in consequence of its value, have we not witnessed vigorous vitality of Nature; and he place: him in a a gift, marle in the present day, by a noble of the scene where he could not subsisi
acknowledging, as it is supposed, the compliment rell, a clergyman, into whose worse than lic.hu paid to him in the noble scenes of Macbeth ; and hands New Place had most unfortunately fallen. scarcely had the crown of England fallen upon his As we are not told the precise time, when Shakhead, when he granted his royal patent to our Poet speare retired from the stage and the metropolis to and his company of the Globe; and thus raised enjoy the tranquillity of life in his native town, we them from being the Lord Chamberlain's servants cannot pretend to determine it. As he is said, to be the servants of the King. The patent is dated however, to have passed some years in his estabon the 19th of May, 1603, and the name of William (lishment at New Place, we may conclude that his Shakspeare stands second on the list of the patentees. removal took place either in 1612 or in 1613, when As the demise of Elizabeth had occurred on the he was yet in the vigour of life, being not more 24th of the preceding March, this early attention of than forty-cight or forty-nine years old. He had James to the company of the Globe may be regard- ceased, as it is probable, to tread the stage as an ed as highly complimentary to Shakspearc's thea- actor at an earlier period; for in the list of actors, tre, and as strongly demonstrative of the new sov- prefixed to the Volpone of B. Jonson, performed at ereign's partiality for the drama. But James' the Globe theatre, and published in 1605, the name patronage of our Poet was not in any other way 01 William Shakspeare is not to be found. However beneficial to his fortunes. If Elizabeth were too versed he might be in the science of acting, (and parsimonious for an effective patron, by his profu- that he was versed in it we are assured by his dision on his pleasures and his favourites, James soon rections to the players in Hamlet,) and, however became too needy to possess the means of bounty well he might acquit himself in some of the suborfor the reward of talents and of learning. Honour, dinate characters of the drama, it does not appear in short, was all that Shakspeare gained by the fa- that he ever rose to the higher honours of his provour of two successive sovereigns, each of them fession. But if they were above his attainment, versed in literature, each of them fond of the dra- they seem not to have been the objects of his amma, and each of them capable of appreciating the bition; for by one of his sonnets* we find that he transcendency of his genius.
lamented the fortune which had devoted him to tho It would be especially gratifying to us to exhibit stage, and that he considered himself as degraded to our readers some portion at least of the per- by such a public exhibition. The time was not yet sonal history of this illustrious man during his long come when actors were to be the companions of residence in the capital;—to announce the names princes: when their lives, as of illustrious men, and characters of his associates, a few of which were to be written; and when statues were to be oniy we can obtain from Fuller; to delineate his erected to them by public contribution ! nabits of life; to record his convivial wit; to com- The amount of the fortune, on which Shakspeare memorate the books which he read; and to number retired from the busy world, has been the subject his compositions as they dropped in succession of some discussion. By Gildon, who forbears to from his pen.
But no power of this nature is in- state his authority, this fortune is valued at 3001. & dulged to us. All that active and efficient portion year; and by Malone, who, calculating our Poet's of his mortal existence; which constituted conside- real property from authentic documents, assigns a rably more than a third part of it, is an unknown random value to his personal, it is reduced to 2001. region, not to be penetrated by our most zealous of these two valuations of Shakspeare's property, and intelligent researches. It may be regarded by we conceive that Gildon's approachos the more us as a kind of central Africa, which our reason nearly to the truth: for if to Malone's conjectural assures us to be glowing with fertility and alive with estimate of the personal property, of which he prvo population ; but which is abandoned in our maps, fesses to be wholly ignorant, be added the thousand from the ignorance of our geographers, to the death pounds, given hy Sonthampton, (an act of munifiof barrenness, and the silence of sandy desolation. (cence of which we entertain not a doubt,) the preBy the Stratford register we can ascertain that his cise total, as money then bore an interest of 101. only son, Hamnet, was buried, in the twelfth year per cent., of the three hundred pounds a year will of his age, on the 11th of August, 1596; and that, be made up. On the smallest of these incomes, after an interval of nearly eleven years, his eldest however, when monev was at least five times its daughter, Susanna, was married to John Hall, present value, might our Poet possess the comforts a physician, on the 5th of June, 1607. With the ex- and the liberalities of life: and in the society of ception of two or three purchases made by him at his family, and of the neighbouring gentry, conciliaStratford, one of them being that of New Place, ted by the amiableness of his manners and the which he repaired and ornamented for his future re- pleasantness of his conversation, he seems to have sidence, the two entries which we have now ex- passed his few remaining days in the enjoyment of tracted from the register, are positively all that we tranquillity and respect. So exquisite, indeed, apcan relate with confidence of our great poet and his pears to have been his relish of the quiet, which family, during the long term of his connection with was his portion within the walls of New Place, that the theatre and the metropolis. We may fairly it induced a complete oblivion of all that had enconclude, indeed, that he was present at each of the gaged his attention, and had aggrandized his name domestic events, recorded by the register: that he in the preceding scenes of his life. Without any attended his son to the grave, and his daughter to regard to his literary fame, either present or to the altar. We may believe also, from its great come, he saw with perfect unconcern some of his probability, even to the testimony of Aubrey, that immortal works brought, mutilated and deformed, he paid an annual visit to his native town; whence in surreptitious copies, before the world ; and others his family were never removed, and which he seems of them, with an equal indifference to their fate, always to have contemplated as the resting place he permitted to remain in their unrevised or interof his declining age. He probably had nothing more polated MSS. in the hands of the theatric prompthan a lodging in London, and this he might occa- ter. There is not, probably, in the whole compass sionally change : but in 1596 he is said to have of literary history, such another instance of a proud lived somewhere near to the Bear-Garden, in South- superiority to what has been called by a rival wark.
genius, In 1605, James procured from the continent a large importation of mulberry trees, with a view to
"Tne last infirmity of noble minds," the establishment of the silk manufactory in his as that which was now exhibited by our illustrious dominions; and, either in this year or in the fol- dramatist and poet. He seemed lowing, Shakspeare enriched his garden at New Place with one of these exotic, and at that time,
"As if he could not or he would not find,
How much his worth transcended all his kind." very rare trees. This plant of his hand took root, and flourished till the year 1752, when it was destroyed by the barbarous axe of one Francis Gast
t Epitaph on a Fair Maiden Lady, by Drydon
* See Sonnet cxi.
With a privilege, rarely indulged even to the sons make them worse, are said to have been written of genius, he had produced his admirable works after Combe's death. Steevens and Malone dis
throes or labour of the mind : they had credit the whole tale. The two first lines, as given obtained för him all that he had asked from them, to us by Rowe, are unquestionably not Shakthe patronage of the great, the applause of the speare's; and that any lasting enmity subsisted witty, and a competency of fortune adequate to between these two burghers of Stratford is disprothe moderation of his desires. Having fulfilled, or, ved by the respective wills of the parties, Joha? possibly, exceeded his expectations, they had dis- Combe bequeathing five pounds to our Poet, and charged their duty; and he threw them altogether our Poet leaving his sword to John Combe's nefrom his thought; and whether it were their des- phew and residuary legatee, John Combe himself tiny to emerge into renown, or to perish in the being at that time deceased. With the two comdrawer of a manager; to be brought to light in a mentators above mentioned, I am inclined, therefore, state of integrity, or to revisit the glimpses of the on the whole, to reject the story as a fabrication; moon with a thousand mortal murders on their head, though I cannot, with Steevens, convict the lines of engaged no part of his solicitude or interest. They malignity; or think, with him and with Malone, that jad given to him the means of easy life, and he the character of Shakspeare, on the supposition of soht from them nothing more. This' insensi- his being their author, could require any laboured bility in our Author to the offspring of his brain vindication to clear it from stain. In the anecdote,
be the subject of our wonder or admira- as related by Rowe, I can see nothing but a whimtion : but its consequences have been calamitous sical sally, breaking from the mind of one friend, 10 those who in after times have hung with delights and of a nature to excite a good-humoured smile on over his pages.
pages. On the intellect and the temper of the cheek of the other. In Aubrey's hands, tho these ill-fated mortals it has inflicted a heavy load transaction assumes a somewhat darker comof punishment in the dullness and the arrogance of plexion; and the worse verses, as written after the commentators and illustrators in the conceit and death of their subject, may justly be branded as petulance of Theobald ; the imbecility of Capell; malevolent, and as discovering enmity in the heart the pert and tasteless dogmatism of Steevens; the of their writer. ponderous littleness of Malone and of Drake. Some | topic which, in truth, is undeserving of a syllable;
s have dwelt too long upon a superior men, it is true, have enlisted themselves and if I were to linger on it any longer, for the purpose in the cause of Shakspeare. Rowe, Pope, War- of exhibiting Malone's reasons for his preference of burton, Hanmer, and Johnson have successively Aubrey's copy of the epitaph to Rowe's, and his been his editors'; and have professed to give his discovery of the propriety and beauty of the single scenes in their original purity to the world. But Ho in the last line of Aubrey's, as Ho is the abbrefrom some cause or other, which it is not our pre-viation of Hobgoblin, one of the names of Robin sent business to explore, each of these editors, in Good-fellow, the fairy servant of Oberon, my readhis turn, has disappainted the just expectations of ers would have just cause to complain of
me, as the public; and, with an inversion of Nature's sporting with their time and their patience. general rule, the little men have finally prevailed On the 9th of July, 1614, Stratford was ravaged against the great. The blockheads have hooted | by a fire, which destroyed fifty-four dwelling-houses the wits from the field ; and, attaching themselves besides barns and out-offices. It abstained, howto the mighty body of Shakspeare, like barnacles to ever, from the property of Shakspeare; and he had the hull of a proud man of war, they are prepared to only to commiserate the losses of his neighbours. plough with him the vast ocean of time; and thus, With his various powers of pleasing; his wit and by the only means in their power, to snatch them- his humour ; the gentleness of his manners; the flow selves from that oblivion to which Nature had devo- of his spirits and his fancy; the variety of anected them. It would be unjust, however, to defraud | dote with which his mind must have been stored ; these gentlemen of their proper praise. They have his knowledge of the world, and his intimacy read for men of talents; and, by their gross labour with man, in every gradation of the society, from in the mine, they have accumulated materials to the prompter of a playhouse to the peer and the be arranged and polished by the hand of the finer sovereign, Shakspeare must have been a delightful artist
. Some apology may be necessary for this —nay, a fascinating companion; and his acquainshort digression from the more immediate subject tance must necessarily have been courted by all of my biography., But the three or four years, the prime inhabitants of Stratford and its vicinity. which were passed by Shakspeare in the peaceful But over this, as over the preceding periods of his retirement of New Place are not distinguished by life, brood silence and oblivion; and in our total igany traditionary anecdote deserving of our record; norance of his intimacies and friendships, we must and the chasm may not improperly be supplied with apply to our imagination to furnish out his conwhatever stands in contiguity with it." I should vivial board where intellect presided, and delight, pass in silence, as too trifling for notice, the story with admiration, gave the applause. of our Poet's extempore and jocular epitaph on On the 2d of February, 1615-16, he married his John Combe, a rich townsman of Stratford, and a youngest daughter, Judith, then in the thirtynoted money-lender, if my readers would not object first year of her age, to Thomas Quiney, a vintner to me that I had omitted an anecdote which had in Stratford ; and on the 25th of the succeeding been honoured with a place in every preceding bio-month he executed his will. He was then, as it graphy of my author. “As the circumstance is re- would appear, in the full vigour and enjoyment of lated by Rowe, “In a pleasant conversation among life; and we are not informed that his constitution their common friends, Mr. Combe told Shakspeare, had been previously weakened by the attack of any in a laughing manner, that he fancied he intended malady. But his days, or rather his hours, were
now to write his epitaph if he happened to outlive him: all numbered; for he breathed his last on the 23d of and, since he could not know what might be said of the ensuing April, on that anniversary of his birth him when he was dead, he desired it might be done which completed his fifty-second year. It would be immediately: upon which Shakspeare gave him gratifying to our curiosity to know something of the these four verses :
disease, which thus prernaturely termmated the life
of this illustrious man : but the secret is withheld Ten in the hundred lies here ingraved :
from us ; and it would be idle,to endeavour to ob'Tis a hundred to ten his soul is not saved. tain it. We may be certain that Dr. Hall, who was If any man ask, who lies in this tomb : Ho! Ho! quoth the devil, 'tis my John a Combe. father-in-law in his last illness; and Dr. Hall kept
a physician of considerable eminence, attended his
a register of all the remarkable cases, with their But the sharpness of the satire is said to have stung symptoms and treatment, which in the course of the man so severely that he never forgave it.”. By his practice had fallen under his observation. This
ubrey the story is differently told; and the lines curious MS., which had escaped the enmity of time, mquestion, with some alterations, which evidently was obtained by Malone : but the recorded cases in