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Truly delightful must it be to every lover of Shakspeare and of human nature, to find that the affectionate confidence of our bard was not thrown away, was not placed on a man worthless and insensible of the gift, but was returned by honest Ben, however occasionally rough in his manner and temper, with an attachment amounting to enthusiasm, with a steadiness which neither years nor infirmities could shake. *
On the last day of the year 1607, our poet buried at the church of St. Saviour's, Southwark, his brother Edmond, who, with singular precision, is entered in the register of that parish as “ Edmond Shakspeare, a player,” so that, as Mr. Chalmers has observed, “ there were two Shakspeares on the stage during the same period." + He had likewise married, on the fifth of June of this
his favourite daughter Susanna, to Dr. John Hall, a physician of considerable skill and reputation in his profession, which he exercised at Stratford, residing during his father-in-law's life-time in the old
“ Thus we have the Fable of the Three Black Crows ! and thus a simple observation of Mr. Hales (which in all probability he never made), is dramatised, at length, into a scene of obloquy against our author! A tissue of mere dotage scarcely deserves unravelling; but it may be just observed, that when Jonson was seized with his last illness, (after which he certainly never went to Mr. Hales's chamber, at Eton,' or elsewhere), the two grave judges, Suckling and Falkland, who sat on the merits of all the Greek and Roman poets, and decided with such convincing effect, were, the first in the twelfth, and the second in the fifteenth year of their ages ! - But the chief mistake lies with Dryden, whose memory was always subservient to the passion of the day; the words which he has put into the mouth of Mr. Hales being, in fact, the property of Jonson. Long before Suckling and Falkland were out of leading-strings, he had told the world, that Shakspeare surpassed not only all his contemporary poets, but even those of Greece and Rome : - and if Mr. Hales used these words, without giving the credit of them to Jonson, he was, to say the least of it, a bold plagiarist.”—Vol. i. p. cclxii.
* “ It is my fixed persuasion,” says Mr. Gifford,” (not lightly adopted, but deduced from a wide examination of the subject,) that they (Jonson and Shakspeare) were friends and associates till the latter finally retired - that no feud, no jealousy ever disturbed their connection — that Shakspeare was pleased with Jonson, and that Jonson loved and admired Shakspeare."-Vol. i. p. ccli.
+ This fact, relative to Edmond Shakspeare, has been mentioned before, at some length; but the chronological form of the present detail required its brief re-admission here.
town, but, on his death, removing to New Place, which, with the chief part of his property, had been left by the poet to Mrs. Hall. Susanna was, on her nuptials with Dr. Hall, twenty-five years of age, and there can be little doubt but that her father was present at the celebration of an event so materially affecting the happiness of his child. *
It is highly probable, that, independent of his regular annual visit, family-occurrences frequently drew Shakspeare from London to the purer atmosphere of his native fields ; for, in the year succeeding the marriage of his daughter, two events of this kind took place, of which one required his personal attendance. On the 21st of February, 1608, his grandaughter Elizabeth, daughter of Dr. Hall, was baptized t; and, on the 16th of the October following, he stood godfather for William Walker, the son of Henry Walker of Stratford, remembering the child in his will, with twenty shillings in gold, under the title of his “ godson William Walker." I
The year 1609 is sufficiently commemorated by the general opinion, that, at this period, Shakspeare planted the Mulberry Tree, whose premature fate has been recorded in a preceding note.
“ That Shakspeare planted this tree,” observes Mr. Malone, “ is as well aụthenticated as any thing of that nature can be. The Rev. Mr. Davenport informs me, that Mr. Hugh Taylor, (the father of his clerk,) who is now eighty-five years old, and an alderman of Warwick, where he at present resides, says, he lived, when a boy, at the next house to New Place; that his family had inhabited the house for almost three hundred years ; that it was transmitted from father to son during the last and the present century; that this tree (of the fruit of which he had often eaten in his younger days, some of its branches hanging over his father's garden,) was planted by Shakspeare; and that till this was planted, there was no
* Vide Wheler's Guide, p. 27.
DL.berry-tree in that neighbourhood. Mr. Taylor adds, that he was frequently, when a boy, at New Place, and that this tradition was preserved in the Clopton family, as well as in his own.” *
That it was planted in the rear above-mentioned, seems established by the facts, that, previous to the epoch in question, mulberry-trees, though not absolutely unknown in this country, were extremely scarce; and that, in 1609, King James, with a view to the encouragement of the silk manufacture, imported many hundred thousand of these trees from France, dispersing them all over England, accompanied by circular letters, written to induce the inhabitants to cultivate so useful, and at the same time so ornamental a production of the vegetable world.
It may safely be interred, therefore, that our poet, on his visit this year to Stratford, had, in deference to the recommendation of his sovereign, as well as from his own taste and inclination, embellished his garden with this elegant tree.
With the exception of a Writ, issued out of the Stratford Court of Record, in June, 1610, for a small debt due to our author, scarcely a vestige of his existence, apart from his works, can be found for the next three years. This writ, and another issued the preceding year for a similar purpose, have the subjoined signature of Greene, being that of Thomas Greene, Esq., a cousin of the poet's; who, though resident in Stratford, and clerk to its corporation, had at the same time chambers in the Middle Temple, and was a barrister in Chan
He is entitled to this notice, as being not only the relation, cery. but the intimate friend of Shakspeare. +
We now approach the last year of Shakspeare's abode in London, which, there is every reason to suppose, continued to be in that part of it where we found him in 1596; where he assuredly was, according to Malone, in 1608, and where he no doubt remained, until, as
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 77.
a resident, he quitted the capital for ever. Before he took this step, however, he became the purchaser of a tenement in Blackfriars, for which, according to a deed still extant t, he agreed to give one Henry Walker the sum of 1401., of which he paid 801. down, and mortgaged the premises for the remainder. The property acquired by this transaction, which took place on the 10th of March, 1613, is in his will bequeathed to his daughter Susanna, and being there described as “ that messuage or tenement, with the appurtenances, wherein one John Robinson dwelleth, situate, lying, and being, in the Blackfriars in London, near the Wardrobe," was probably let to this tenant soon after the purchase.
Among the arrangements which such a change of situation would almost necessarily require, it is reasonable to imagine, that his
property in the Globe theatre would not be forgotten; but as this is neither mentioned in his will, nor he himself once noticed in the transactions of the theatre for 1613, we are entitled to infer, that he disposed of his interest in the concern previous to his leaving London.
That this event took place before the close of 1613, in all probability during the summer of the year, not only this circumstance relative to the theatre, and the general tradition, that a few years anterior to his death, he had left the metropolis for “ ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends” at Stratford, but two other circumstances of importance, will lead us to conclude. For, in the first place, it has been calculated that, at this period, his income from real and personal property was such, as to enable him to live handsomely in the country, independent of any profit from the stage † ; and secondly, we have found sufficient data for believing,
* Malone's Inquiry, p. 216.
Gildon says that Shakspeare left behind him an estate of 3001. per annum, equal to at least 1000l. per ann. at this day; but Mr. Malone doubts “whether all his property, real and personal, amounted to much more than 2001. per ann. which yet was a considerable fortune in those days.” “ If,” he adds, “ we rate the New Place with the appurtenances, and our poet's other houses in Stratford, at 601. a year, and his house, &c. in the VOL. II.
that his literary career was terminated by the production of The Itoelfth Night, and that this play was written in 1613.
These considerations, when united, impress us with a perfect conviction, that when Shakspeare bade adieu to London, he left it predetermined to devote the residue of his days exclusively to the cultivation of social and domestic happiness in the shades of retirement.
Blackfriars, for which he paid 1 407.) at 201. a year, we have a rent-roll of 1501. per ann. Of his personal property it is not now possible to form any accurate estimate; but if we rate it at 5001, money then bearing an interest of 101. per cent. Shakspeare's total income was 2007. per ann." – Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. pp. 73, 74,