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and connected with a commentary rendered popular by the text to which it was appended, had totally poisoned the public mind, when Mr. Gilchrist, and, still more amply, Mr. Gifford, by hunting these gentlemen through all their windings and doublings,* through all the channels to which they had recourse for defamation, have produced a refutation of their charges, and a detection of their practices, more complete, perhaps, than any other instance of the kind on literary record.*
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 gist, 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 fisth of June of this year, 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 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* One of these refutations, as including a complete detection of the fallacious grounols on which a wellknown anecdote relative to Shakspeare and Jonson has been founded, it will be useful as well as entertaining to transcribe.
" Hales of Eaton,” observes Mr. Gifford, “was reported to have said (though the matter was not much in Hales of Eaton's way); that there was no subject of which any person ever writ, but he would produce it much better done by Shakspeare,' p. 16. --Shakspeare, vol. i. edit. 1593. This is told by Dryden, 1667. The next version is by Tate, 1650. "Our learned Dales was wont to assert, that since the time of Orpheus no common place has been touched upon, where Shakspeare has not performed as well.' Next comes the illustrious Gildon (of Dunciad memory), and he models the story thus, from Dryden, as he says, with a salvo for the accuracy of his recollection ! 'Mr. Hales of Eaton afiirmed, that he would shew all the poets of antiquity outdone by Shakspeare.— The enemies of Shakspeare would by no means yield to this ; so that it came to a trial of shill. The place agreed on for the dispute was Mr. Hales's chamber at Eton. A great many books were sent down by the enemies of this poet, and on the appointed day my lord Falkland, sir John Suckling, and all the persons of quality that had wit and learning, met there, and upon a thorough disquisition of the point, the judges chosen out of this assembly unanimously gave the preference to Shakspeare, and the Greek and Roman poets were adjudged to vail at least their glory in that to the English poet.' P. 17.
“The story now reached Rowe; and as it was discovered about this time, that the praise of Shakspeare was worth nothing unless coupled with the abuse of Jonson, it puts on this form. • Mr. Hales, who had sate still some time, hearing Ben reproach Shakspeare with the want of learning, and ignorance of the ancients, told him, at last.' &c. Thus it stood in the first edition : but Mr. Rowe was an honest man, and having found occasion to change his mind before the appearance of the second edition, he struck the passage ont, and inserted in its stead, sir John Suckling, who was a professed admirer of Shakspeare, had undertaken, wlth some warmth, his defence against Ben Jonson, when Mr. Hales,' &c. &c.
“ 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 Elon,' 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 passions 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.
# Vide Wheler's Guide, p. 27.
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 granddaughter Elizabeth, daughter of Dr. Hall, was baptized; 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."
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 authenticated as any thing of that nature can be. The Rev. Mr. Davenport informs me, that Ms. Hugh Taylor (the father of his clerk), who is now eighly-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 banging over his father's garden), was planted by Shakspeare; and that till this was planted, there was no mulberry-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 Clopion family, as well as in his own."
That it was planted in the year 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 inferred, 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 Chancery. He is entitled to this notice, as being not only the relation, 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 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, he agreed to give one lleory 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 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 inser, 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, that his literary career was terminated by the production of The Twelfth 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.
* Gildon says that Shakspeare left behind him an estate of 3001. per annum, equal to at least 10001. per ann, at this day ; but Mr. Malone doubts “ whether all his property, real and personal, amounted to much more than 2001. per anu. 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 liis house, &c. in the Blackfriars, (for which he paid 1401.) 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 500l., money then bearing an interest of 101. per cent. Shakspeare's total income was 2001. per ann."
SHAKSPEARE IN RETIREMENT.
Anecdotes relative to Shakspeare during his Retirement at Stratford.
Yes, high in reputation as a poet, favoured by the great and accomplished, and beloved by all who knew him, Shakspeare, after a long residence in the capital, to the rational pleasures of which he had contributed more than any other individual of his age, at length sought for leisure and repose on the banks of his native stream: perhaps wisely considering, that, as he had acquired a competency adequate to the gratifications of a well-regulated mind, life had other duties to perform, to the discharge of which, while health and vigour should remain, he was now called upon to dedicate a larger portion of his time.
The Genius of dramatic poetry may sigh over a determination thus early taken ! but who shall blame what, from our knowledge of the man, we may justly conceive to have been his predominating motive, the hope that in the bosom of rural peace, aloof from the dissipations and seductions of the stage, he might the better prepare for that event which awaits us all, and which talents, such as his were, can only, from the magnitude of the trust, render more awfully responsible.
That he was greatly honoured and respected at Stratford we are induced to credit, not only from tradition, but from the tone and disposition of heart and intellect which his works everywhere evince; and accordingly, Rowe has told us, that "his pleasurable wit and good-nature engaged him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood."
He had scarcely, however, settled in the place, when his property, and that of all his neighbours, was threatened with utter extinction; for, on the 9th of July, 1614, a fire broke out in the town, which according to a brief shortly afterwards granted for its relief, “ within the space of lesse than two houres consumed and burnt fisty and fowre Dwelling Howses, many of them being very faire Houses, besides Barnes, Stables, and other Howses of Office, together with great Store of Corne, Hay, Straw, Wood and Timber therein, amounting to the value of Eight Thowsand Pounds and upwards: the force of which fier was so great the Wind sitting full upon the Towne) that it dispersed into so many places thereof, whereby the whole Towne was in very great danger to have been utterly consumed."* Shakspeare's house fortunately escaped.
On the 10th of July, 1614, our author was deprived of his neighbour and acquaintance, Mr. John Combe, a character whose celebrity is altogether founded on the epitaph which Shakspeare is said to have written upon him. The story, however, as related by Rowe, is injurious to the memory of its supposed author, by representing him as wantonly inflicting pain at the moment when his friendship and forbearance were most required. “In a pleasant conversation amongst their common friends," relates Rowe, “Mr. Combe told Shakspeare, in a laughing manner, that he fancied he intended to write his epitaph, if he happened to outlive him; and since he could not know what might be said of him when he was dead, he desired it might be done immediately; upon which Shakspeare gave him these four verses :
* Wheler's History and Antiquities of Stratford, p 15.
· Ten in the hundred lies here engrav'd ;
Oh! ho! quoth the Devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe.' But the sharpness of the satire is said to have stung the man so severely, that he never forgave it."
That Shakspeare, the gentle and unoflending Shakspeare, as he is always represented, should have violated the hour of confidential gaiety by this sarcastic and condemnatory sally, is of itself sufliciently improbable; but we are happily released from weighing the inconsistencies accompanying such an anecdote, by the discovery of a prior and more authentic statement, which completely exonerates the bard, as it proves that the epitaph in question was written after the death of its object :
*One time as he (Shakspeare) was at the taverne at Stratford,” narrates Aubrey, “Mr. Combes, an old usurer, was to be buried ; he makes then this extemporary epitaph upon him :
Ten in the hundred the devill allowes,
Hola ! quoth the devill, 'tis my John-a-Combe.” * Mr. Combe, who, it appears, was buried two days after his disease, t was by no means a popular character, having amassed considerable wealth, through the medium of usury, a term then uniformly applied to the practice of all who took any interest or usance for money. The custom, though now honourable and familiar, was then deemed so odious, and even criminal, that to be a moneylender, on such a plan, was considered as an indelible reproach.
That Shakspeare, therefore, though intimate with the family, should, after the death of Mr. Combe, have uttered this impromptu (which the reader will observe is in Aubrey, without the condemnatory clause) as a censure on his well-known rapacity, may, without any charge of undue severity on his part, or even any breach of his customary suavity of temper, readily be granted.
It is certain that he continued on good terms with the relatives of the deceased, as in his Will he bequeaths to Mr. Thomas Combe, the nephew of the usurer, his sword, as a token of remembrance.
Nor is this the only epitaph which Shakspeare is said to have written; two others have been ascribed to him, one of which, as being given on the authority of Sir William Dugdale, “ a testimony,” observes Mr. Malone, “ sufficient to ascertain its authenticity," and possessing besides strong internal marks of being genuine, requires admission into our text.
It is written in commemoration of Sir Thomas Stanley, Knight, who died some time after the year 1600, and is thus described by Sir William :
“On the north side of the chancell (or Tongue church, in the county of Salop) stands a very stately lombe, supported with Corinthian columnes. Il hath two figures of men in armour, thereon lying, lhe one below the arches and columnes, and the other above them, and this epitaph
upon it :
“ • Thomas Stanley, Knight, second son of Edward Earle of Derby, Lord Stanley and Strange, descended from the famielie of the Stanleys, married Margaret Vernon of Nether-Hadden, in the counly of Derby, Knight, by whom he bad issue two sons, Henry and Edward. Henry died an infant; Edward survived, to whom those lordships descended ; and married the lady Lucie Percie, second daughter of the Earle of Northumberland : by her he had issue seaven daughters.
She and her foure daughters, Arabella, Marie, Alice, and Priscilla, are interred under a monument in
* Letters by Eininent Persons, &c. 1813, vol. iii. p. 307.
+ On the 12th of July, 1614.