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So much for the literary activity and recognition of this year ; and now for the signs of personal life. On 24th January, 1597-8, Abraham Sturley wrote from Stratford a letter to his brother-in-law, Mr. Richard Quiney (father of Thomas Quiney, who subsequently married Shakespere's youngest daughter), then in London soliciting Lord Treasurer Burleigh, on behalf of the town of Stratford, for exemption from subsidies and taxes, as well as for a grant of a portion of £36,000 set aside by parliament for the relief of decayed cities and towns, in consideration of two furious fires that had raged in Stratford-in which New Place had narrowly escaped-in the years 1594 and 1595. In this letter the following sentences occur: “It seemeth that our countriman, Mr. Shakespere, is willing to disburse some monei upon some od yarde land or other at Shottre, or near about us. He thinketh it a very fit patterne to move him to deal in the matter of our tithes. Bi the instructions u can geve him thearof and bi the frindes he can make thearfore, we think it a fair mark for him to shoot at, and not impossible to hitt. It obtained, would advance him indeede, and would do us much goode.”
It “has been [slanderously ?] reported” that Shakespere's matri. monial lot was infelicitous. Does the fact here stated not refute that fancy? Why, with the earliest aspirations of prosperity, did Shakespere single out, as the preferential spot on which he would “disburse some monei,” “some od yarde land or other at Shottre”? Were there no remembrances of early days, and Anne Hathaway, prompting his desires ? Did he not wish to gratify at once his love and his ambition by being able to call some spot of earth his own, which was rendered additionally beautiful and valuable by its associations with his “wedded wife”? Where he wooed and won Anne Hathaway he sought to perpetuate a connection. The fertile lands and pleasant meadows of Shottery would surely never have suggested themselves to one who felt that he had been “unequally yoked” to a loveless or an unloved wife. Is it of her, or of (to use the exceedingly periphrastic phrase of Mrs. Jameson), “one of a class of females who do not always, in losing all right to our respect, lose also their claim to the admiration of the sex that wronged them, or the compassion of the gentler part of their own, who have rejected them," that the following sonnet (105) was written P
“Let not my love be called Idolatry,
Nor my beloved as an Idol shuw,
Since all alike my songs and praises be,
Fair, kind, and true, have often lived alone,
Which three, till now ne'er kept their seat in one.” On 4th February, 1598, in an inventory of corn and malt in “Stratforde Borroughe Warwick,” taken in apprehension of a scarcity, William Shakespere is entered as possessing ten quarters, being the third largest holder in his ward, the other two having, respectively, seventeen and a half, and eleven quarters. In the town accounts of Stratford for this year, Halliwell says this entry occurs, viz. :—“Pd. to Mr. Shaxpere for on lod of stone, Xd.” Richard Quiney wrote on 25th October, 1598, to his “loving good friend and countreyman, Mr. William Shackespere," from the Bell, in Carter Lane, London, asking the loan of £30; and he wrote to Mr. Sturley on the same date to the import that “our countriman, Mr. Wm. Shak., would procure us money.” It may, therefore, be presumed that Shakespere was able to, and actually did, lend the money desired.
In “Poems in Divers Humours,” by Richard Barnefield, published in 1598, we read,
“And Shakespeare, thou whose honey-flowing veine
(Pleasing the world) thy praises doth obtaine,
Live ever you, at least, in Fame, live ever.
Well may the bodye dye; but Fame dies never.” In 1598, an amended copy of Ben Jonson's play, “Every Man in His Humour," was performed at Blackfriars Theatre (it is said) at Shakespere's interposition and suggestion; it had formerly been ·(1596) played at the Green Curtain. In this play Shakespere occu· pies the head place in a list of the “principal comedians” who represented the dramatis persona. It is supposed that he acted the character of Old Knowell. This is said to have been the occasion of a life-long friendship between “gentle Willy” and “rare Ben.”
In a subsidy roll of date 1st October, 1598, discovered by the Rev. J. Hunter, in the Carlton Ride Record Office, William Shakespere is assessed in the parish of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, at £5, and rated in the sum of 13s. 4d. The entry reads thus :-“ Affid. William Shakespeare, v li.-xiij s. iiij d.”
“The Merchant of Venice” was entered at Stationers' Hall, 1598.
1599. The “Historie of Henrie the Fourth,” which Andrew Wise issued in 1593, was re-issued in 1599, “newly corrected by William Shakespeare" being on the title-page. A second edition of “Romeo and Juliet” was published “ by Thomas Creede for Cuthbert Burbie;" and a small miscellany of poems—several not from Shakespere's pen, entitled, “The Passionate Pilgrim." By W. Shakespeare: at London, Printed for W. Jaggard, and are to be sold by W. Leake, at the Greyhound, in Paule's Churchyard,” were issued in 1599. The latter publication is good evidence of the worth of Shakespere's name on a title-page. It would not have been put to this piratical work unless it had been regarded as a taking one. Among Weever's “ Epigrams,” published in 1599, we find one
“AD GULIELMUM SHAKESPEARE.
I sware Apollo got them, and no other;
Some heaven-born goddess said to be their mother.
Faire fire-hot Venus charming him to love her;
Proud lust-stung Tarquine seeking still to prove her:
Their sugred tongues and power-attractive beauty
For thousand vowes to them subjective dutie,
Go, woo thy muse! More nymphish brood, beget them.”
“ His spirit, by spirits taught to write
Above a mortal pitch," he alludes to Spenser, who died in 1599, whose funeral, near Chaucer's grave, in Westminster Abbey, it is likely he attended, as one of the numerous poets who held the pall, or followed the remains of “the bard of Mulla's shore.”
1600. At this turning-point of time the contemporary recognitions of Shakespere became unusually numerous.
In this year fourth editions of “ Venus and Adonis” and “Lucrece” were issued by John Harrison.
“ Titus Andronicus” (if Shakespere's) was républished, but with. out his name, by “J. R. for Edward White,” at “the sign of the Gun.” Two editions (apparently rival ones) of "A Midsummer Night's Dream” (named), one “printed by Thomas Fisher," and another “printed by James Roberts,” belong to this year; as do also two editions of “The Merchant of Venice,” one “printed by J. R. for Thomas Heyes,” and another printed by James Roberts.”
On the 23rd August, 1600, “Much Adoe about Nothinge," and “ The Second Parte of the History of King Henry the IIIIth,” are entered in the books of the Stationers' Company. They were printed by V. S., for Andrew Wise and William Apsley, and published by them, 1600. “Henry IV.," in two editions. “The Chronicle History of Henry the Fift” was "printed by Thomas Creede for Tho: Millington and John Busby," and was sold by the printer in Carter Lane in 1600. “Henry VI.,” part 2 (twice), and “Henry VI.,” part 3 (once), belong to the re-issues of the year 1600.
Robert Allot, a literary bookseller in London, published a work called “England's Parnassus : or, the Choysest Flowers of our Modern Poets,” &c. Allot “had picked these flowers of learning from their stem” himself. Extracts (arranged under distinct heads, like a modern Dictionary of Quotations) are given from forty-four different poets; and Shakespere furnishes ninety excerpts (of which eighteen are upon Love).
In "Bel-vedere, or the Garden of the Muses," a somewhat similar work, several quotations are made from Shakespere; and in “England's Helicon,” three pieces, attributed to Shakespere, are inserted.
That Shakespere's had become a popular name with the public by this time, is clearly indicated by the bookseller's use of it in printing the following title-page in 1600:-“ The First Part of the True and Honourable History of the Life of Sir John Oldcastle, &c., written by William Shakespeare.” We do know, from Dr. Richard James' Dedication of his “Legend and Defence of the Noble Knight and Martyr Sir Jhon Oldcastel,” an unpublished manuscript in the Bodleian Library, of date 1625 or so, “ that in Shakespeare's first shewe of Harrie the Fift, the person with which he undertook to playe a buffone was not Falstaffe, but Sir Jhon Oldcastel.” This is corroborated by the play, “ Amends for Ladies,” by Nathaniel Field, published in 1639, in which one of the characters asks—
"Did you never see
Did tell you truely what his 'honour' was?” A reference clearly made to the redoubted Shakesperean creationthe merry, sack-full Falstaff,-whose definition of honour is so palpable a hit. Then we also know that in an epilogue to “Henry IV.,” part 2, Shakespere subsequently takes the opportunity of saying, “Oldcastle died a martyr, and this (Falstaff) is not the man.” The above facts give a seeming proof of the honesty of the above title, and may have, in some sort, suggested it; but we are also aware of the fact expressed in the following excerpt from “The Diary of Philip Henslowe,” viz., “ This 16 of October,  '99, Receved by me, Thomas Downton, of Philip Henslowe, to pay Mr. Munday, Mr. Drayton, and Mr. Wilson, and Hathway, for the first pte of the Lyfe of Sir Jhon Ouldcastell, and in earnest of the second pte, for the use of the company, ten pownd, I say receved 10 li.” This disposes of the imputed authorship, and refutes the title-page, unless we suppose that through Hathaway [Shakespere's brother-in-law ?] some portions of his handywork had been got hold of, and been furbished up for a hurried occasion; which is unlikely.
1601. Attached to Robert Chester's “Love's Martyr; or Rosalin's Complaint”-“the first essay of a new British poet”-there are a few poems “done by the best and chiefest of our modern writers, with their names subscribed to their particular works, never before extant.” These are, among others, by Ben Jonson, Marston, Chapman, and Shakespere, to whose pen one piece is ascribed.