« ПредишнаНапред »
case that I am now) be both of them at once forsaken? Yes, trust them not: for there is an upstart crow beautified with our feathers, that with his tyger's head, wrapt in a player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse, as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scenee in a country: Oh, that I might intreat your rare wits to be employed in more profitable courses: and let these apes imitate your past excellence, and never more acquaint them with your admired inventions. I know the best husband of you all will never prove an usurer, and the kindest of them all will never prove a kind nurse: yet,
• This passage so obviously alludes to Shakespeare, that I instantly, on reading it, turned to Malone's edition of that illustrious Dramatist, to see what use the Commentators have made of it. That industrious critic has, in his “ Essay on the Chronological Order of Shakespeare's Plays," amply dwelt on it, as fixing the earliest period at which Shakespeare was emerging into notice.
It seems from a scarce pamphlet, intitled “Kind Hart's Dream," written by Henry Chettle, himself a dramatic writer, that he was the editor of the “ Groatsworth of Wit,” though the preface is subscribed J. H. “ About three months since," says he, “died Robert Greene, leaving many papers in sundry booksellers' hands, among others his 'Groats-worth of Wit,' in which a letter written to diverse play-makers, is offensively by one or two of them taken; and, because on the dead they cannot be revenged, they wilfully forge a liring author; and, after tossing it to and fro, no remedy but it must light on me,” &c.
.......-" To be brief, I writ it over, and, as near as I could, followed the copy; only in that letter, I put something out, but in the whole book, not a word in; for I protest, it was Greene's, not mine, nor Master Nash's, as some unjustly have affirmed." In this pamphlet he thus retracts Greene's lash of Shakespeare.
“ The other, whom I did not spare so much, as since I wish I had, for that, as I have moderated the hate of living writers, and might have used my own discretion, (especially in such a case the author being dead), that I did not, I am as sorry as if the original fault had been my fault; because myself have seen his demeanour no less civil, than he excellent in the quality he possesses: besides diverse of worship have reported his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty and his facetious grace in writing that approves his art."
The reader may be here reminded, that Shakespeare is praised not long after this, for his “all-praise-worthy Lucrecia," in a scarce tract intitled “Polimanteia," reprinted in the “ British Bibliographer," i. 274, 284.
whilst you may, seek you better masters; for it is pity men of such rare wits should be subject to the pleasures of such rude grooms.
“In this I might insert two more, that both have writ against these buckram gentlemen: but let their own work serve to witness against their own wickedness, if they persevere to maintain any more such peasants. For other new comers, I leave them to the mercy of these painted monsters, who (I doubt not) will drive the best minded to despise them: for the rest, it skills not though they make a jest at them.
“But now return I again to you three, knowing my misery is to you no news; and let me heartily intreat you to be warned by my harms. Delight not (as I have done) in irreligious oaths, for from the blasphemer's house a curse shall not depart. Despise drunkenness, which wasteth the wit, and making men all equal unto beasts: fly lust, as the deathsman of the soul, and defile not the temple of the Holy Ghost. Abhor those epicures, whose loose life hath made Religion loathsome to your ears, and when they soothe you with terms of mastership, remember Robert Greene, whom they have so often flattered, perishes now for want of comfort. Remember, gentlemen, your lives are like so many light tapers, that are with care delivered to all of you to maintain: these, with wind-puft wrath, may be extinguished, which drunkenness put out, which negligence let fall: for man's time of itself is not so short, but it is more shortened by sin. The fire of my light is now at the last snuff, and the want of wherewith to sustain it, there is no substance for life to feed on. Trust not then, I beseech ye, left to such weak stays; for they are as changeable in mind, as in many attires. Well, my hand is tired, and I am forced to leave where I would begin: for a whole book cannot contain their wrongs, which I am forced to knit up in some few lines of words. “Desirous that you should live, though myself be dying,
« ROBERT GREENE."
“Now to all Men I bid Farewell in this sort, with this con
ceited Fable of the old Comedian Æsop. “An Ant and a Grashopper walking together on a green; the one carelessly skipping, the other carefully prying what winter's provision was scattered in the way: the Grashopper scorning (as wantons will) this needless thrift, (as he termed it) reproved him thus:
The greedy miser thirsteth still for gain,
“To this the Ant, perceiving the Grashopper's meaning, quickly replied:
The thrifty husband spares what unthrifts spends ;
“In short time these two parted, the one to his pleasure, the other to his labour. Anon harvest grew on, and reft from the Grashopper his wonted moisture. Then weakly skips he to the meadow's brinks, where till fell winter he abode. But storms continually pouring, he went for succour to the Ant, his old acquaintance, to whom he had scarce discovered his estate, but the little worm made this reply:
*Pack hence!' quoth he, “thou idle lazy worm;
Thou scorn'st to toil, and now thou feel'st the storm,
Use no intreats, I will relentless rest,
“ The Grashopper foodless, helpless, and strengthless, got into the next brook, and in the yielding sand digged himself a pit; by which likewise he engraved this epitaph:
When Spring's green prime arrayed me with delight,
When first I saw the sun the day begin,
And then, day lost, I mourn'd Spring past; I wailid,
Then too, too late, I prais'd the Emmet's pain,
My wretched end may warn green springing youth,
Then blest are they that, like the toiling Ant,
“With this the Grashopper, yielding to the weather's extremity, died comfortless without remedy. Like him myself: like me, shall all that trust to friends' or time's inconstancy, Now faint I of my last infirmity, beseeching them that shall bury my body, to publish this last farewell, written with my wretched hand.
Fælicem fuisse infaustum.
“ A Letter written to his Wife, found with this Book
after his Death. “The remembrance of many wrongs offered thee, and thy unreproved virtues, adds greater sorrow to my miserable state than I can utter, or thou conceive. Neither is it lessened by consideration of thy absence, (though shame would let me hardly behold thy face), but exceedingly aggravated; for that I cannot (as I ought) to thy own self reconcile myself, that thou mightest witness my inward woe at this instant, that have made thee a woeful wife for so long a time. But equal heaven hath denied that comfort, giving at my last need, like succour as I have sought all my life: being in this extremity as void of help, as thou hast been of hope. Reason would, that after so long waste, I should not send thee a child to bring thee greater charge: but consider he is the fruit of thy womb, in whose face regard not the father's so much, as thy own perfections. He is yet green, and may grow straight, if he be carefully tended : otherwise apt enough (I fear me) to follow his father's folly. That I have offended thee highly, I know; that thou canst forget my injuries, I hardly believe: yet, persuade I myself, if thou saw my wretched estate, thou couldest not but lament it: nay, certainly I know thou wouldest. All my wrongs muster themselves about me; every evil at once plagues me. For my contempt of God, I am contemned of men; for my swearing and forswearing, no man will believe me; for my gluttony, I suffer hunger; for my drunkenness, thirst; for my adultery, ulcerous sores. Thus God hath cast me down, that I
might be humbled, and punished for example of other sinners. ? And although he suffers me in this world to perish without
succour, yet trust I in the world to come to find mercy, by the merits of my Saviour, to whom I commend thee, and commit my soul.
“ Thy repentant husband for his disloyalty,
" ROBERT GREENE."