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is nowhere asserted, that Every Man in his Humour was the play which thus attracted the attention of Shakspeare; all arguments therefore deduced from the situation held by Jonson in the literary world, at the time that comedy was first acted, are perfectly invalid. The performance which recommended him to Shakspeare, was most probably a boyish effort, full of talent and inexperience, which soon passed from the public mind, but not sooner than the author wished it to be forgotten; which he had the good sense to omit in the collection of his works published inversation which he has printed in his Discoveries, 1616, and which, perhaps, he only remembered that many times Shakspeare fell into those with pleasure from its having been the means of things which could not escape laughter,' and introducing him to the friendship of his great arguing, that a deeper knowledge of the classic contemporary. writers would have improved his genius, and taught him to lop away all such unseemly exuberances of style. It shews the most learned poet of his time, or, perhaps, of any time, honestly asserting the advantages that a poet may derive from variety of learning; but this is all; and it supposes no undue or unfriendly attempt in Jonson to depreciate the fame of Shakspeare. Indeed no hint of the existence of any difference or unkindness between those celebrated individuals is to be found in any contemporary author. Dryden thought Jonson's Verses to Shakspeare sparing and invidious; but to this opinion Pope very justly recorded his dissent; and wondered that Dryden should have held it. Rowe in the first edition of his Life of Shakspeare, insinuates a doubt of the sincerity of Jonson's friendship; before the publication of his second edition he found cause to reject a suspicion so injurious to the reputation of Jonson, and had the honesty to erase the passage from his work. The words, however, did not escape the vigilance of Malone : they were re-printed, and the sentiment readopted; and, as if it were more valuable to the commentators, from having been condemned by its author, their united labours and ingenuity have been indefatigably employed in inventing and straining evidence to support an insinuation, which was too carelessly disseminated, and too silently withdrawn. Rowe should have made such an explicit recantation of his error, as might have repaired the ill he had occasioned, and guarded the good name of one of our greatest poets against the revival of the calumny: this he unfortunately omitted; and he thus left the character of Jonson bare to the senseless and gratuitous malignity of every puny spirit, that chose to amuse its spleen by insulting the memory of the mighty dead. For years, the friend and eulogist of Shakspeare was aspersed as envious and ungrateful, in almost every second note of every edition of our author's works; and it is only lately that the judicious exertions of Gilchrist and of Gifford have exposed the fallacy of such unwarranted
But whatever cause might have originated the mutual kindness which subsisted between these two excellent and distinguished men, it is certain that an intimacy the most sincere and affectionate really did subsist between them. On the part of Jonson, indeed, the memorial of their attachment has been handed down to us in expressions as strong and unequivocal as any which the power of language can combine. He speaks of Shakspeare, not indeed as one blinded to the many defects by which the beauty of his productions was impaired, but with such candour and tenderness, as every reasonable man would desire at the hands of his friends, and in terms which secured a credit to his commendations, by shewing that they were not the vain effects of a blind and ridiculous partiality. Jonson writes, I love the man, and do honour his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as any.' And it is from his Elegy, To the Memory of his beloved Master William Shakspeare, that we have derived the two most endearing appellations, the 'Gentle Shakspeare,' and Sweet Swan of Avon;' by which our poet has been known and characterized for nearly two centuries.*
It must appear extraordinary, that in opposition to such decisive proofs of the kindness entertained by Jonson for our author, his memory should have been persecuted for the last century by the most unfounded calumnies, as if he had been the insidious and persevering enemy of his reputation. The rise and progress of this slander, which has been propagated through every modern edition of Shakspeare's works, is not wholly undeserving of our attention. Rowe, indeed, has the following anecdote, which he relates, perhaps, on the authority of Dryden, that '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 sat still for
GIFFORD'S Ben Jonson, vol. viii. p. 332, note.
some time, told them, that, if Mr. Shakspeare had not read the ancients, neither had he stolen any thing from them; and that if he would produce any one topic finely treated by any one of them, he would undertake to shew something upon the same subject at least as well written by Shakspeare.' This anecdote was written nearly a hundred years after the death of our author, and more than seventy after the death of Jonson. Even supposing all the circumstances to be correct, it only represents Jonson as maintaining an opinion in con
+ Which is very doubtful. Sec GIFFORD'S Ben Jonson, vol. i. p. cclix.
THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.
But courted, praised, and rewarded as he was,
imputations, and demonstrated beyond the possi-, mentioned as a performer. As a writer for the
It was in one of his periodical journeys from London to Stratford, that one midsummer night' he met at Crendon, in Bucks, with the original of Dogberry. Aubrey says, that the constable was still alive about 1642. He and Ben Jonson did gather humours of men wherever they came;' and as the constable of Crendon sat for the picture of Dogberry, so we are told, on the authority of Bowman the player, that part of Sir John Falstaff's character was drawn from a townsman of Stratford, who either faithlessly broke a contract, or spitefully refused to part with some land for a valuable consideration, adjoining to Shakspeare's house.'¶ Oldys has
'Alas, 'tis true I have gone here and there,
And again, in the hundred and eleventh; with
* GIFFORD'S Ben Jonson, vol. i. p. ccli. in which
+ Mr Boswell doubts whether we are justified in
- but twilight of such day, As after sun-set fadeth in the west,'
as a poet would naturally be inclined to give. But
* BOSWELL'S Shakspeare, vol. xx. 220.
where is the man who has not offences to repent of? Why are we to suppose Shakspeare alone immaculate? And would it not be continually urged as a reproach by the calumnious voice of Envy against the favoured friend of Southampton, that he had been obliged to fly his country in poverty and disgrace?
Motley, i. e. a fool, a buffoon.
§ The house at Stratford that Shakspeare had consecrated by his residence, exists no longer. New Place descended from his daughter Susanna, to his
grand-daughter, Mrs. Nash, afterwards Lady Barnard; and there, during the civil wars, that lady and her husband, in 1643, received Henrietta Maria, the queen of Charles the First, who sojourned with them for three weeks. After passing through the hands of several intervening proprietors, it fell into the possession of Sir Hugh Clopton, who pulled down the ancient house, and built one more elegant on the same spot. This was in its turn destroyed by the Rev. Mr. Gastrell, because he conceived himself assessed too highly; and it was by the same barbarous hands, that the celebrated mulberry-tree, which Shakspeare himself had planted, was cut down, because he found himself inconvenienced by the visitors, who were drawn by admiration of the poet, to visit the classic ground on which it stood.
AUBREY. MS. Mus. Ashmol.
¶ REED's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 130.
recorded in his MS. another anecdote connected with these journeys of our poet to Stratford, which I shall give in his own words. If tradi- A story, preserved by the tradition of Strattion may be trusted, Shakspeare often baited at ford, and which, according to Malone, 'was rethe Crown Inn or Tavern in Oxford, in his jour-lated fifty years ago to a gentleman of that place, by a person upwards of eighty years of age, whose father was contemporary with Shakspeare,' may not improperly be attributed to this portion of his life. It is said, that as Shakspeare was leaning over the hatch of a mercer's door at Stratford, a drunken blacksmith, with a carbuncled face, reeled up to him and demanded,
ney to and from London. The landlady was a woman of great beauty and sprightly wit, and her husband, Mr. John Davenant (afterwards mayor of that city), a grave, melancholy 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 observing the boy running homeward, almost out of breath, asked him whither he was posting in that heat and hurry. He answered, to see his god-father Shakspeare. There's a good boy, said the other, but have a care that you don't take God's name in vain. 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; and he quoted Mr. Betterton, the player, for his authority.'* This tale is also mentioned by Anthony Wood; and certain it is, that the traditionary scandal of Oxford, has always spoken of Shakspeare as the father of D'Avenant but it imputes a crime to our author, of which we may, without much stretch of charity, acquit him. It originated in the wicked vanity of D'Avenant himself, who disdaining his honest but mean descent from the vintner, had the shameless impiety to deny his father, and reproach the memory of his mother, by claiming consanguinity with Shakspeare.
We are informed by a constant tradition, that a few years previous to his death, our author retired from the theatre, and spent his time at Stratford, 'in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends.' This event appears to have taken place about the close of 1613. He had his wife and family about him; he was surrounded by familiar scenes and faces; and he was in possession of a property of about 3001. a-year, equal to much more than 1000l. at present; and which must have been fully adequate to his modest views of happiness.
The anecdotes that are in circulation respecting this portion of his life, are few, trivial, and very probably unfounded in fact; but, such as they are, I have collected them, rather that nothing connected with the name of Shakspeare
*REED's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 124, 125.
I take Gildon's estimate of his fortune rather than Malone's, as it agrees with Aubrey's.
should be omitted in this edition, than from any regard for their intrinsic value.
'Now, Mr. Shakspeare, tell me if you can,
to which our poet instantly rejoined:
Thou son of fire, with thy face like a maple,
'A part of the wit,' says Dr. Drake, 'turns upon the comparison between the blacksmith's face, and a species of maple, the bark of which is uncommonly rough, and the grain undulated and crisped into a variety of curls.'§
Rowe relates, that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and usury: it happened, that in a pleasant conversation amongst their common friends, 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:
THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.
left him 51. as a token of kind remembrance in
In addition to the above ludicrous verses, two epitaphs of a serious character have been ascribed to Shakspeare by Sir William Dugdale, which are preserved in a collection of epitaphs at the end of the Visitation of Salop. Among the monuments in Tongue Church, in the county of Salop, is one erected in remembrance of Sir Thomas Stanly, knight, whom Malone supposes to have died about 1600. The tomb stands on the north side of the chancel, supported with Corinthian columns. It hath two figures of men in armour lying on it, one below the arches and columns, the other above them; and besides a prose inscription in front, the monument is enriched by the following verses of Shakspeare.
Written on the east end of the tomb :
Written on the west end thereof:
When God was pleas'd, the world unwilling yet,
On the second day after his decease, the remains of Shakspeare were interred on the north side of the chancel of the great church of Stratford. Here a monument, containing a bust of the poet, was erected to his memory. He is represented under an arch, in a sitting posture, a cushion spread before him, with a pen in his
Besides these inscriptions for the monument of
the greater part of his life in that county, for at-right hand, and his left rested on a scroll of
He lived a godly life, and dyde as well.
There was a family of the surname of James, formerly resident at Stratford, to some one of whom the above verses were probably inscribed.
The life of our poet was now drawing towards its close; and he was soon to require from the hands of others those last honours to the dead, which, while alive, he had shewn himself so ready to contribute. His eldest and favourite daughter, Susanna, had been married as early as 1607, to Dr. Hall, a physician of considerable skill and reputation in his profession, who resided at Stratford; and early in 1616, his youngest daughter, Judith, married Mr. Thomas Quiney, a vintner of the same place. This ceremony took place on February the 10th. On the twentyfifth of the following month, her father made his will-being, according to his own account, in perfect health and memory-and a second month had not elapsed before Shakspeare was no more. He died on the twenty-third of April, 1616, and on his birth-day, having completed his fiftysecond year. 'It is remarkable,' says Dr. Drake, 'that on the same day expired, in Spain, his great and amiable contemporary Cervantes; and the world was thus deprived, nearly at the same moment, of the two most original writers which modern Europe has produced.'
Of the disease by which the life of our poet was thus suddenly terminated, we are left in ignorance. His son-in-law, Dr. Hall, left for publication a manuscript collection of cases, selected from not less than a thousand diseases; but the earliest case recorded is dated 1617, and thus all mention is omitted of the only one which could have secured to his work any permanent interest or value.
* DRAKE'S Shakspeare and his Times, vol. ii. p. 611.
And here reposeth: as he lived, he dyde;
The saying in him strongly verifide,—
Such life, such death: then, the known truth to the eulogium is lessened while the metre is re
formed; and it is well known, that some of our early writers of Latin poetry were uncommonly negligent in their prosody, especially in proper names. The thought of this distich, as Mr. Tollet observes, might have been taken from The Faery Queene of Spenser.†
Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
The first syllable in Socratem is here made short, which cannot be allowed. Perhaps we should read Sophoclem. Shakspeare is then appositely compared with a dramatic author among the ancients: but still it should be remembered, that
+ Book 2. c. 9. st. 48, and c. 10. st. 3.
To this Latin inscription on Shakspeare, | bined with such talents, should be the object of should be added the lines which are found under- sincere and ardent friendship, can excite no surneath it on his monument: prise. "I loved the man," says Jonson, with a noble burst of enthusiasm, "and do honour his
'Stay passenger, why dost thou go so fast?
Within this monument; Shakspeare, with whom Quick nature dy'd; whose name doth deck the tomb
Read, if thou canst, whom envious death hath plac'd memory on this side idolatry, as much as any. He was, indeed, honest; and of an open and free nature;" and Rowe, repeating the uncontradicted rumour of times past, has told us,-" that every one, who had a true taste of merit, and could distinguish men, had generally a just value and esteem for him ;" adding, "that his exceeding candour and good-nature must certainly have
Far more than cost; since all that he hath writ
Obiit Ano. Dni. 1616.
And on his grave-stone underneath, is inscribed: inclined all the gentler part of the world to love
Good friend, for Jesus' sake, forbear
To dig the dust inclosed here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
The tomb at Stratford is not the only monumental tribute that has been raised to the honour of Shakspeare. A cenotaph was subsequently erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey, by the direction of the Earl of Burlington, Pope,
Dr. Mead, and Mr. Martyn.
'Another very fascinating feature in the character of Shakspeare, was the almost constant cheerfulness and serenity of his mind: he was
verie good company," says Aubrey," and of a very ready, and pleasant, and smooth witt." In this, as Mr. Godwin has justly observed, he bore markable for the placidity and cheerfulness of a striking resemblance to Chaucer, who was rehis disposition; nor can there, probably, be a surer indication of that peace and sunshine of the soul which surpasses all other gifts, than this habitual tone of mind.
Of the genius of Shakspeare it were in this place superfluous to write: that task has been performed by others; and is sufficiently discussed in the discourses of Rowe, and Pope, and Johnson; but of his disposition and moral character, it may not be uninteresting to give the following passage from Dr. Drake :- To these
tradition has ever borne the most uniform and favourable testimony. And, indeed, had she been silent on the subject, his own works would have whispered to us the truth; would have told us, in almost every page, of the gentleness, the benevolence, and the goodness, of his heart. For, though no one has exceeded him in painting the stronger passions of the human breast, it is evident that he delighted most in the expression of
loveliness and simplicity, and was ever willing to descend from the loftiest soarings of imagination, to sport with innocence and beauty. Though "the world of spirits and of nature," says the admirable Schlegel, "had laid all their treasures at his feet: in strength a demi-god, in profundity
'That Shakspeare was entitled to its possession from his moral virtues, we have already seen; and that, in a religious point of view, he had a claim to the enjoyment, the numerous pasgratitude and devotional rapture, will sufficiently sages in his works, which breathe a spirit of pious declare. In fact, upon the topic of religious, as upon that of ethic wisdom, no profane poet can furnish us with a greater number of just and the heart, and reach the soul; for they have luminous aphorisms; passages which dwell upon
of view a prophet, in all-seeing wisdom a pro-issued from lips of re, from conceptions worthy tecting spirit of a higher order, he yet lowered himself to mortals, as if unconscious of his superiority, and was as open and unassuming as a child."
of a superior nature, from feelings solemn and unearthly.'
That a temper of this description, and com
• DRAKE'S Shakspeare and his Times, vol. ii. p. 614