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thought by this to mean, that his fancy was so loose and extravagant, as to be independent on the rule and government of judgment; but that what he thought, was commonly so great, so justly and rightly conceived in itself, that it wanted little or no correction, and was immediately approved by an impartial judgment at the first sight. But though the order of time in which the several pieces were written be generally uncertain, yet there are passages in some few of them which seem to fix their dates. So the Chorus at the end of the fourth act of Henry the Fifth, by a compliment very handsomely turned to the earl of Effex, shows the play to have been written when that lord was general for the queen in Ireland; and his elogy upon queen Elizabeth, and her successor king James, in the latter end of his Henry the Eighth, is a proof of that play's being written after the accession of the latter of those two princes to the crown of England. Whatever the particular times of his writing were, the people of his age, who began to grow wonderfully fond of diversions of this kind, could not but be highly pleased to see a genius arise amongst them of so pleasurable, so rich a vein, and so plentifully capable of furnishing their favourite entertainments. Besides the advantages of his wit, he was in himself a goodnatured man, of great sweetness in his manners, and. a moft agreeable companion; so that it is no wonder, if, with so many good qualities, he made himself acquainted with the best conversations of those times, Queen Elizabeth had several of his plays acted before her, and without doubt gave him many gracious marks

of her favour: it is that maiden princess plainly, whom he intends by

-- a fair vestal, throned by the west.

A Midsummer-Night's Dream.

and that whole paffage is a compliment very properly .brought in, and very handsomely applied to her. She was so well pleased with that admirable character of Falitaff, in The Two Parts of Henry the Fourth, that the commanded him to continue it for one play more, and to show him in love. This is said to be the occasion of his writing The Merry Wives of Windfor. How well she was obeyed, the play itself is an admirable proof. Upon this occasion it may not be im. proper to observe, that this part of Falstaff is said to have been written originally under the name of Oldcastle : some of that family being then remaining, the queen was pleased to command him to alter it; upon which he made use of Falstaff. The present offence was indeed avoided; but I do not know whether the author may not have been somewhat to blame in his second choice, since it is certain that Sir John Falstaff, who was a knight of the garter, and a lieutenantgeneral, was a name of diftinguished merit in the wars in France in Henry the Fifth's and Henry the Sixth's times. What grace soever the queen conferred upon him, it was not to her only he owed the fortune which the reputation of his wit made. He had the honour to meet with many great and uncommon marks of favour and friendship from the earl of Southampton,

famous

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famous in the histories of that time for his friendship to the unfortunate earl of Eflex. It was to that noble lord that he dedicated his poem of Venus and Adonis. There is one instance fo fingular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakspeare's, that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir WilJiam D'Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted, that my lord Southampton at one time

gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to. A bounty very great, and very rare at any time, and almoft equal to that profuse generosity the present age has shewn' to French dancers and Italian fingers.

What particular habitude or friendships he contracted with private men, I have not been able to learn, more than that every one, who had a true taste of merit, and could diftinguish men, had generally a just value and esteem for him. His exceeding candour and good-nature must certainly have inclined all the gentler part of the world to love him, as the power of his wit obliged the men of the most delicate knowledge and polite learning to admire him.

His acquaintance with Ben Jonson began with a remarkable piece of humanity and good-Hature; Mr. Jonson, who was at that time altogether unknown to the world, had offered one of his plays to the players, in order to have it acted, and the persons into whose hands it was put, after having turned it carelessly and fupercilioufly over, were juft upon returning it to him

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with an ill natured answer, that it would be of no service to their company; when Shakspeare luckily cast bis eye upon it, and found something so well in it, as to engage him first to read it through, and afterwards to recommend Mr. Jonson and his writings to the publick. Jonson was certainly a very good scholar, and in that had the advantage of Shakspeare; though at the same time I believe it must be allowed, that what nature gave the latter, was more than a balance for what books had given the former; and the judgment of a great man upon this occasion was, I think, very just and proper. In a conversation between Sir John Suckling, Sir William D'Avenant, Endymion Porter, Mr. Hales of Eton, and Ben Jonson, Sir John Suckling, who was a professed admirer of Shakspeare, had undertaken his defence against Ben Jonson with some warmth; Mr. Hales, who had fat still for some time, told them, That if Mr. Shakspeare had not read the ancients, he had likewise not stolen any thing from them; and that if he would produce any one topick finely treated by any one of them, he would undertake to thew something upon the same subject at least as well written by Shakspeare.

The latter part of his life was spent, as all men of good sense will with theirs may be, in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends. He had the good fortune to gather an estate equal to his occafion, and, in that, to his with; and iş said to have spent some years before his death at his native Stratford. His pleasurable wit and good-nature engaged him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the

friendship

friendship, of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. Amongft them, it is a story almost fill remembered in that country that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for bis wealth and ufury: it happened, that in a pleasant conversation among their common friends, Mr Combe told Shakspeare in a laughing manner, that he fancied he intended to write his epitaph, if he happened to out-live him; and fince he could not know what might be faid of him when he was dead, he desired it might be done immediately; upon which Shakspeare gave him these four verses :

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Ten in the hundred lies here ingrav'd ;
'Tis a hundred to ten his soul is not sav'd:
If any man alk, Who lies in this tomb?
Oh! ho! quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe.

But the sharpness of the satire is said to have ftung the man so severely, that he never forgave it.

He died in the 53d year of his age, and was buried on the north side of the chancel, in the great church at Stratford, where a monument is placed in the wall. On his grave-stone underneath is,

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear
To dig the dust inclosed here.
Blest be the man that fpares these stones,
And curft be he that moves my bones.

He had three daughters, of which two lived to be married; Judith, the elder, to one Mr. Thomas Quipey,

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