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very handsomely turned to the Earl of Essex, shows the play to have been written when that lord was general for the queen in Ireland; and his eulogy 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 these two princes to the crown of England. Whatever the particular times of his writings 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, 80 rich a vein, and so plentifully capable of furnishing their favourite entertainments. Besides the advantages of his wit, he was in himself a good natured man, of great sweetness in his manners, and a most 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 a 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 passage is a compliment very properly brought in, and very handsomely applied to her. She was so well pleased with the admirable character of Falstaff, in the Two Parts of Henry the Fourth, that she 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 Windsor. How well she was obeyed, the play itself is an admirable proof. Upon this occasion, it may not be improper 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 lieutenant-general, was a name of distinguished 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 in the histories of that time for his friendship to the unfortunate Earl of Essex. It was to that noble lord that he dedicated his poem of Venus and Adonis. There is one instance so singular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakespeare's, that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William D'Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have asserted it; 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 almost equal to that profuse generosity the present age has shown to French dancers and Italian singers.
“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 distinguish 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 nature: 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 superciliously over, were just about returning it to him with an innatured answer, that it would be of no use to their company; when Shakespeare luckily cast his eye on 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 public. Jonson was certainly a very good scholar, and in that had the advantage of Shakespeare; 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 Shakespeare, had undertaken his defence against Ben Jonson with some warmth; Mr. Hales, who
had sat still for some time, told them, That if Mr. Shakespeare had not read the ancients, he had likewise not stolen anything from them; and that, if he would produce any one topic finely treated by any one of them, he would undertake to show something upon the same subject at least as well written by Shakespeare."
The latter part of his life was spent, as all men of good sense will wish theirs may be, in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends. His pleasurable wit and good nature engaged him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship, of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. Amongst them, it is a story, still remembered in that country, that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his-wealth and his usury: it happened, that in a pleasant conversation amongst their common friends, Mr. Combe told Shakespeare, 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 Shakespeare gave him these four verses :
“ Ten in the hundred lies here ingraved,
For some years before his death, he resided at Stratford, in a house which he bought from the Clopton family, and which continued in the possession of his descendants until the Restoration, when it was repurchased by a member of the same family, the representative of which, Sir Hugh Clopton, entertained Garrick, Macklin, and others, in 1742, under the mulberry tree, planted by Bhakespeare. His executor sold the house to a clergyman of the name of Gastrel, who being rated for the poor higher than ho conceived he had a right to pay, peevishly declared that the house should never pay again; and in spite to the inhabitants of Stratford, who were benefitted by the company it brought to the town, he pulled it down, and sold the materials. He had previously cut down the mulberry tree for fuel, but an honest silversmith purchased the whole of it, which he profitably manufactured into memorials of the poet. Such was the fate of a residence in which Shakespeare exhibited so little solicitude for fame, or consciousness of his own merits, that a similar example of modesty is scarcely to be found.
He died on his birth-day, April 23, 1616, having exactly completed his fifty-second year. He was interred on the north side of the chancel of the great church of Stratford, where a monument is placed on the wall, in which he is represented under an arch in a sitting posture, a cushion spread before him, with a pen in his right hand, and his left resting on a scroll of paper. The following Latin distich is engraved under the cushion :
" Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
To this Latin inscription may be added the lines to be found underneath it:
“Stay, passenger, why dost thou go so fast?
Read, if thou canst, what envious death hath placed
This monument was erected within seven years of his death ; but on his grave-stone beneath are written the following lines, which seem to have been engraven in an uncouth mixture of large and small letters, at the time of his interment:
« Good Friend for Iesus SAKE forbeare
It is uncertain whether this request and imprecation were written by Shakespeare, or by one of his friends. They probably allude to the custom of removing skeletons after a certain time, and depositing them in charnel houses; and similar execrations are found in many Latin epitaphs. Shakespeare's remains, however, have been ever carefully protected from injury.
His family consisted of two daughters, and a son named Hamnet, who died in his twelfth year. Susannah, the eldest daughter, and her father's favourite, was married June 5, 1607, to Dr. John Hall, & physician, who died November, 1635, aged 60. Mrs. Hall died July 11, 1649, aged 66. They left only one child, Elizabeth, born
1607–8, and married April 22, 1626, to Thomas Nashe, Esq., who died in 1647, and afterwards to Sir John Barnard, of Abington, in Northamptonshire; but died without issue by either husband. Judith, Shakespeare's youngest daughter, was married, February 10, 1615–16, to a Mr. Thomas Quiney, and died, February, 1661–62, in her 77th year. By Mr. Quiney she had three sons, Shakespeare, Richard and Thomas, who all died unmarried, and here the descendants of our poet became extinct.
In the year 1741, a monument was erected to the memory of the “immortal bard” in Westminster Abbey, by the direction of the Earl of Burlington, Dr. Mead, Mr. Pope, and Mr. Martyn. It was the work of Schoemaker, (who received £300 for it,) after a design of Kent, and was opened in January of that year, one hundred and twenty-five years after the death of him whom it commemorates, and whose genius appears to have been forgotten during almost the whole of that long period. The performers of each of the London theatres gave a benefit to defray the expenses, and the Dean and Chapter of Westminster took nothing for the ground. The money received by the performance at Drury-lane theatre amounted to above £200, but the receipts at Covent-garden did not exceed £100.
From these imperfect notices, which are all we have been able to collect from the labours of his biographers and commentators, the reader will perceive that less is known of Shakespeare than of almost any writer who has been considered as an object of laudable curiosity. Nothing could be more highly gratifying than an account of the early studies of this wonderful man, the progress of his pen, his moral and social qualities, his friendships, his failings, and whatever else constitutes personal history. But on all these topics his contemporaries and his immediate successors have been equally silent, and if aught can be hereafter discovered, it must be by exploring sources which have hitherto escaped the anxious researches of those who have devoted their whole lives, and their most vigorous talents, to revive his memory, and illustrate his writings.
Dr. Johnson, in his elaborate and just review of Shakespeare, observes, “He has scenes of undoubted and perpetual excellence, but perhaps not one play, which, if it were now exhibited as the work of a contemporary writer, would be heard to the conclusion. I am indeed, (says he,) far from thinking that his works were wrought to his own ideas of perfection; when they were such as