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tragedy of Macbeth, but more especially the scene where the King is murdered, in the second Act, as well as this play, is a noble proof of that manly spirit with which he writ; and both show how powerful he was, in giving the strongest motions to our souls that they are capable of. I cannot leave Hamlet, without taking notice of the advantage with which we have seen this master-piece of Shakspeare distinguish itself upon the stage, by Mr. Betterton's fine performance of that part. A man, who, though he had no other good qualities, as he has a great many, must have made his way into the esteem of all men of letters, by this only excellency. No man is better acquainted with Shakspeare's manner of expression, and indeed he has studied him so well, and is so much a master of him, that whatever part of his he performs, he does it as if it had been written on purpose for him, and that the author had exactly conceived it as he plays it. I must own a particular obligation to him, for the most considerable part of the passages relating to this life, which I have here transmitted to the publick; his veneration for the memory of Shakspeare having engaged him to make at journey into Warwickshire on purpose to gather up what remains he could, of a name for which he had so great a veneration.2
of a name for which he had so great a veneration.] Mr. Betterton was born in 1635, and had many opportunities of collecting information relative to Shakspeare, but unfortunately the age in which he lived was not an age of curiosity. Had either he or Dryden or Sir William D'Avenant taken the trouble to visit our poet's youngest daughter, who lived till 1662, or his grand-daughter, who did not die till 1670, many particulars might have been preserved which are now irrecoverably lost. Shakspeare's sister, Joan Hart, who was only five years younger than him, died at Stratford in Nov. 1646, at the age of seventy
To the foregoing Accounts of SHAKSPEARE'S LIFE, I have only one Passage to add, which Mr. Pope. related, as communicated to him by Mr. Rowe.
IN the time of Elizabeth, coaches being yet uncommon, and hired coaches not at all in use, those who were too proud, too tender, or too idle to walk, went on horseback to any distant business or diversion. Many came on horseback to the play, and when Shakspeare fled to London from the terror of a criminal prosecution, his first expedient was to wait at the door of the playhouse, and hold the horses of those that had no servants, that they might be ready again after the performance. In this office he became so conspicuous for his care
six; and from her undoubtedly his two daughters, and his granddaughter Lady Barnard, had learned several circumstances of his early history antecedent to the year 1600. MALONE.
This Account of the Life of Shakspeare is printed from Mr. Rowe's second edition, in which it had been abridged and altered by himself after its appearance in 1709. STEEVENS.
Many came on horseback to the play,] Plays were at this time performed in the afternoon. "The pollicie of plaies is very necessary, howsoever some shallow-brained censurers (not the deepest searchers into the secrets of government) mightily oppugne them. For whereas the afternoon being the idlest time of the day wherein men that are their own masters (as gentlemen of the court, the innes of the court, and a number of captains and soldiers about London) do wholly bestow themselves upon pleasure, and that pleasure they divide (how vertuously it skills not) either in gaming, following of harlots, drinking, or seeing a play, is it not better (since of four extreames all the world cannot keepe them but they will choose one) that they should betake them to the least, which is plaies?" Nash's Pierce Pennilesse his Supplication to the Devil, 1592. STEEVENS.
and readiness, that in a short time every man as he alighted called for Will. Shakspeare, and scarcely any other waiter was trusted with a horse while Will. Shakspeare could be had. This was the first dawn of better fortune. Shakspeare, finding more horses put into his hand than he could hold, hired boys to wait under his inspection, who, when Will. Shakspeare was summoned, were immediately to present themselves, I am Shakspeare's boy, Sir. In time, Shakspeare found higher employment: but as long as the practice of riding to the playhouse continued, the waiters that held the horses retained the appellation of, Shakspeare's boys.* JOHNSON.
the waiters that held the horses retained the appellation of Shakspeare's boys.] I cannot dismiss this anecdote without observing that it seems to want every mark of probability. Though Shakspeare quitted Stratford on account of a juvenile irregularity, we have no reason to suppose that he had forfeited the protection of his father who was engaged in a lucrative business, or the love of his wife who had already brought him two children, and was herself the daughter of a substantial yeoman. It is unlikely therefore, when he was beyond the reach of his prosecutor, that he should conceal his plan of life, or place of residence, from those who, if he found himself distressed, could not fail to afford him such supplies as would have set him above the necessity of holding horses for subsistence. Mr. Malone has remarked in his Attempt to ascertain the Order in which the Plays of Shakspeare were written, that he might have found an easy introduction to the stage; for Thomas Green, a celebrated comedian of that period, was his townsman, and perhaps his relation. The genius of our author prompted him to write poetry; his connection with a player might have given his productions a dramatick turn; or his own sagacity might have taught him that fame was not incompatible with profit, and that the theatre was an avenue to both. That it was once the general custom to ride on horse-back to the play, I am likewise yet to learn. The most popular of the theatres were on the Bankside; and we are told by the satirical pamphleteers of that time, that the usual mode of conveyance to these places of amusement, was by water, but
Mr. Rowe has told us, that he derived the principal anecdotes in his account of Shakspeare, from Betterton the player, whose zeal had induced him to visit Stratford, for the sake of procuring all possible intelligence concerning a poet to whose works he might justly think himself under the strongest
not a single writer so much as hints at the custom of riding to
The foregoing anecdote relative to Cibber's Lives, &c. I received from Dr. Johnson. See, however, The Monthly Review, for December, 1781, p. 409. STEEVENS.
Mr. Steevens in one particular is certainly mistaken. To the theatre in Blackfriars I have no doubt that many gentlemen rode in the time of Queen Elizabeth and King James I. From the Strand, Holborn, Bishopsgate Street, &c. where many of the nobility lived, they could indeed go no other way than on foot, or on horseback, or in coaches; and coaches till after the death of Elizabeth were extremely rare. Many of the gentry, therefore, certainly went to that playhouse on horseback. See the proofs, in the Essay above referred to.
This, however, will not establish the tradition relative to our author's first employment at the playhouse, which stands on a very slender foundation. Malone.
obligations. Notwithstanding this assertion, in the manuscript papers of the late Mr. Oldys it is said, that one Bowman (according to Chetwood, p. 143, "an actor more than half an age on the London theatres") was unwilling to allow that his associate and contemporary Betterton had ever undertaken such a journey. Be this matter as it will, the following particulars, which I shall give in the words of Oldys, are, for aught we know to the contrary, as well authenticated as any of the anecdotes delivered down to us by Rowe.
Mr. Oldys had covered several quires of paper with laborious collections for a regular life of our author. From these I have made the following extracts, which (however trivial) contain the only
it is said, that one Bowman-was unwilling to allow that his associate and contemporary Betterton had ever undertaken such a journey.] This assertion of Mr. Oldys is altogether unworthy of credit. Why any doubt should be entertained concerning Mr. Betterton's having visited Stratford, after Rowe's positive assertion that he did so, it is not easy to conceive. Mr. Rowe did not go there himself; and how could he have collected the few circumstances relative to Shakspeare and his family, which he has told, if he had not obtained information from some friend who examined the Register of the parish of Stratford, and made personal inquiries on the subject?
"Bowman," we are told," was unwilling to believe," &c. But the fact disputed did not require any exercise of his belief. Mr. Bowman was married to the daughter of Sir Francis Watson, Bart. the gentleman with whom Betterton joined in an adventure to the East Indies, whose name the writer of Betterton's Life in Biographia Britannica has so studiously concealed. By that unfortunate scheme Betterton lost above 2000l. Dr. Ratcliffe 6000l. and Sir Francis Watson his whole fortune. On his death soon after the year 1692, Betterton generously took his daughter under his protection, and educated her in his house. Here Bowman married her; from which period he continued to live in the most friendly correspondence with Mr. Betterton, and must have known whether he went to Stratford or not. MALONE.