Графични страници
PDF файл






HEREVER any extraordinary display of hu- | tory outline, we must have recourse to the vaguo W or curiosity, at one period or the other, be busy to ob- more shadowy inferences of lawless and vagabond tain some personal acquaintance with the distin- conjecture. Of this remarkable ignorance of one guished mortal whom Heaven had been pleased to of the most richly endowed with intellect of the endow with a larger portion of its own ethereal human species, who ran his inortal race in our own energy. If the favoured man walked on the high country, and who stands separated from us by no places of the world; if he were conversant with very great intervention of time, the causes may not courts; if he directed the movements of armies or be difficult to be ascertained. William Shakspeare of states, and thus held in his hand the fortunes and was an actor and a writer of plays; in peither of the lives of multitudes of his fellow-creatures, the which characters, however he inight excel in them, interest, which he excites, will be iminediate and could he be lifted high in the estimation of his constrong : he stands on an eminence where he is the temporaries. He was honoured, indeed, with the mark of many eyes; and dark and unlettered in- friendship of nobles, and the patronage of monarchs : deed must be the age in which the incidents of his his theatre was frequented by the wits of the mee eventful life will not be noted, and the record of tropolis ; and he associated with the most intellecthem be preserved for the instruction or the enter- tual of his times. But the spirit of the age was tainment of unborn generations. But if his course against him; and, in opposition to it, he could not were through the vale of life: if he were unmingled become the subject of any general or comprehenwith the factions and the contests of the great: if sive interest. The nation, in short, knew little and the powers of his mind were devoted to the silent cared less about him. During his life, and for some pursuits of literature-to the converse of philo- years after his death, inferior dramatists outran him sophy and the Muse, the possessor of the ethereal in the race of popularity; and then the flood of treasure may excite little of the attention of his puritan fanaticism swept him and the stage together contemporaries; may walk quietly, with a veil into temporary oblivion. On the restoration of the over his glories, to the grave; and, in other times, monarchy and the theatre, the school of France when the expansion of his intellectual greatness perverted our taste, and it was not till the last cenhas filled the eyes of the world, it may be too late iury was somewhat advanced that William Shakto inquire for his history as a man. The bright speare arose again, as it were, from the tomb, in all track of his genius indelibly remains; but the trace his proper majesty of light. He then became tho of his mortal footstep is soon obliterated for ever. subject of solicitous and learned inquiry: but inHomer is now only a namema solitary name, which quiry was then too late ; and all that it could recoassures us, that, at some unascertained period in ver, from the ravage of time, were only a few huthe annals of mankind, a mighty mind was indulged man fragments, which could scarcely be united into to a human being, and gave its wonderful produc- a man. To these causes of our personal ignorance Lions to the perpetual admiration of men, as they of the great bard of England, must be added his spring in succession in the path of time. Of Homer own strange indifference to the celebrity of genius. himself we actually know nothing; and we see only when he had produced his admirable works, ignoan arm of immense power thrust forth from a mass rant or heedless of their value, he abandoned them of impenetrable darkness, and holding up the hero with perfect indifference to oblivion or to fame. It of his song to the applauses of never-dying fame. surpassed his thought that he could grow into the But it may be supposed that the revolution of, per- admiration of the world; and, without any refer. haps, thirty centuries has collected the cloud which ence to the curiosity of future ages, in which he thus withdraws the father of poesy from our sight. could not conceive himself to possess an interest, Little more than two centuries has elapsed since he was contented to die in the arms of obscurity, William Shakspeare conversed with our tongue, as an unlaurelled burgher of a provincial town. and trod the selssame soil with ourselves; and if itTo this combination of causes are we to attribute were not for the records kept by our Church in its the scantiness of our materials for the Life of registers of births, marriages, and burials, we William Shakspeare. His works are in myriads of should at this moment be as personally ignorant of hands: he constitutes the delight of myriads of the “sweet swan of Avon” as we are of the old readers : his renown is coextensive with the civiminstrel and rhapsodist of Meles. That William lization of man; and, striding across the ocean Shakspeare was born in Stratford upon Avon ; that from Europe, it occupies the wide region of transhe married and had three children; that he wrote atlantic empire : but he is himself only a shadow a certain number of dramas; that he died before which disappoints our grasp; an undefined form he had attained to old age, and was buried in his which is rather intimated than discovered to the native town, are positively the only facts, in the keenest searchings of our eye. Of the little howpersonal history of this extraordinary man, of which ever, questionable or certain, which can be told of we are certainly possessed; and, if we should be him, we must now proceed to make the best use in solicitous to fill up this bare and most unsatisfac- l our power, to write what by courtesy may be called

his life ; and we have only to lament that the result | gious faith, has recently been made the subject of of our labour must greatly disappoint the curiosity controversy. According to the testimony of Rowe, which has been excited by the grandeur of his repu- grounded on the tradition of Stratford, the father of tation. The slight narrative of Rowe, founded on our Poet was a dealer in wool, or, in the provincial the information obtained, in the beginning of the vocabulary of his country, a wool-driver; and such last century, by the inquiries of Betterton, the he has been deemed by all the biographers of his famous actor, will necessarily supply us with the son, till the fact was thrown into doubt by the result greater part of the materials with which we are to of the inquisitiveness of Malone. Finding, in an work.

old and obscure MS. purporting to record the pro

ceedings of the bailiff's court in Stratford, our WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, or ShakspERE, (for John Shakspeare designated as a glover, Malone the floating orthography of the name is properly exults over the ignorance of poor Rowe, and asattached to the one or the other of these varieties,) sumes no small degree of merit to himself as the was baptized in the church of Stratford upon Avon, discoverer of a long sought and a most important as is ascertained by the parish register, on the 26th historic truth. If he had recollected the remark of of April, 1564 ; and he is said to have been born on the clown in the Twelfth Night,* that “a sentence the 23d of the same month, the day consecrated to is but a cheverel glove to a good wit. How quickly the tutelar saint of England. His parents, John the wrong side may be turned outwards !! he would, and Mary Shakspeare, were not of equal ranks in doubtless, have pressed the observation into his serthe community; for the former was only a respect- vice, and brought it as an irresistible attestation of able tradesman, whose ancestors cannot be traced the veracity of his old MS! into gentility, whilst the latter belonged to an an Whatever may have been the trade of John cient and opulent house in the county of Warwick, Shakspeare, whether that of wool-merchant or of being the youngest daughter of Robert Arden of glover, it seems, with the little fortune of his wife, Wilmecote. The family of the Ardens (or Arder- io have placed him in a state of easy competence. nos, as it is written in all the old deeds,) was of In 1569 or 1570, in consequence partiy of his alliconsiderable antiquity and importance, some of ance with the Ardens, and partly of his attainment them having served as high sheriffs of their county, of the prime municipal honours of his town, he and two of them (Sir John Arden and his nephew, obtained a concession of arms from the herald's the grandfather of Mrs. Shakspeare,) having en-office, a grant, which placed him and his family on joyed each a station of honour in the personal esta- the file of the gentry of England; and, in 1574, he blishment of Henry VII. The younger of these purchased two houses, with gardens and orchards Ardens was made, by his sovereign, keeper of the annexed to them, in Henley Street, in Stratford. park of Aldercar, and bailiff of the lordship of Cod- But before the year 1578, his prosperity, from nore. He obtained, also, from the crown, a valu- causes not now ascertainable, had certainly deable grant in the lease of the manor of Yoxsal, in clined; for in that year, as we find from the records Staffordshire, consisting of more than 4,600 acres, of his borough, he was excused, in condescension at a rent of 421. Mary Arden did not come dower to his poverty, from the moiety of a very moderate less to her plebeian husband, for she brought to him assessment of six shillings and eight pence, made a small freehold estate called Asbies, and the sum by the members of the corporation on themselves of 6l. 138. 44. in money. The freehold

consisted of at the same time that he was a.together exempted a house and fifty-four acres of land; and, as far as from his contribution to the relief of the poor. it appears, it was the first piece of landed property During the remaining years of his life, his fortunes which was ever possessed by the Shakspeares. appear not to have recovered themselves ; for he of this marriage the offspring was four sons and ceased to attend the meetings of the corporation four daughters ; of whom Joan (or, according to hall, where he had once presided ; and, in 1586, the orthography of that time, Jone,) and Margaret, another person was substituted as alderman in' his the eldest of the children died, one in infancy and place, in consequence of his magisterial inefficiency. one at a somewhat more advanced age ; and Gil- He died in the September of 1601, when his illushert, whose birth immediately succeeded to that of trious son had already attained to high celebrity; our Poet, is supposed by some not to have reached and his wife, Mary Shakspeare, surviving him for his maturity, and by others, to have attained to con- seven years, deceased in the September of 1608, siderable longevity. Joan, the eldest of the four the bụrial of the former being registered on the remaining children, and named atter her deceased eighth and that of the latter on the ninth of this sister, married William Hari, a hatter in her native month, in each of these respective years. town; and Edmund, the youngest of the family, On the 30th of June, 1564, when our Poet had adopting the profession of an actor, resided in St. not yet been three months in this breathing world, Saviour's parish in London; and was buried in St. his native Stratford was visited by the plague; and, Saviour's Church, on the last day of December, during the six succeeding months, the ravaging dis1607, in his twenty-eighth year. Of Anne and ease is calculated to have swept to the grave more Richard, whose births intervened between those of than a seventh part of the whole population of the Joan and Edmund, the parish register tells the place. But the favoured infant reposed in socurity whole history, when it records that the former was in his cradle, and breathed health amid an atmosburied on the 4th of April, 1579, in the eighth year phere of pestilence. The Genius of England may of her age, and the latter on the 4th of February, be supposed to have held the arm of the destroyer, 1612-13, when he had nearly completed his thirty- and not to have permitted it to fall on the conseninth.

crated dwelling of his and Nature's darling: The In consequence of a document, discovered in the disease, indeed, did not overstep his charmed thresyear 1770, in the house in which, if tradition is to hold; for the name of Shakspeare is not to be found be trusted, our Poet was born, some persons having in the register of deaths throughout that period of concluded that John Shakspeare was a Roman accelerated mortality. That he survived this desoCatholic, though he had risen, by the regular gra- lating calamity of his townsmen, is all that we know dation of office, to the chief dignity of the corpora- of William Shakspeare from the day of his birth tion of Stratford, that of high bailiff'; and, during till he was sent, as we are informed by Rowe, to the the whole of this period, had unquestionably con- free-school of Stratford ; and was stationed there formed to the rites of the Church of England. The in the course of his education, till, in consequence asserted fact seemed not to be very probable ; and of the straitened circumstances of his father, he tho document in question, which, drawn up in a was recalled to the paternal roof. As we are not testamentary form and regularly attested, zealously told at what age he was sent to school, we cannot prosesses the Roman faith of him in whose name it form any estimate of the time dormg which he respuaks, having been subjected to a rigid examina- mained there. But if he was placed under his tion by Malone, has been pronounced to be spurious. The trade of John Shakspeare, as well as his reli-1

• Act iii. sc. A

master when he was six years old, he might have he continued in this situation whilst he remained in continued in a state of instruction for seven or even bis single state, has not been told to us, and cannot for eight years; a term sufficiently long for any therefore at this period he known. But in the abboy, not an absolute blockhead, to acquire some sence of information, conjecture will be busy; and thing more than the mere elements of the classical will soon cover the bare desert with unprofitable languages. We are too ignorant, however, of dates vegetation. Whilst Malone surmises that the young in these instances to speak with any confidence on Poet passed the interval, till his marriage, or å the subject; and we can only assert that seven or large portion of it, in the office of an attorney, eight of the fourteen years, which intervened be- Aubrey stations him during the same term at the tween the birth of our Poet in 1564 and the known head of a country school. But the surmises of period of his father's diminished fortune in 1578, Malone are not universally happy; and to the might very properly have been given to the advan- assertions of Aubrey* I am not disposed to attach tages of the free-school. But now the important more credit than was attached to them by Anthony question is to be asked-What were the attainments Wood, who knew the old gossip and was compeof our young Shakspeare at this seat of youthful tent to appreciate his character. It is more proba. instruction ? Did he return to his father's house in ble that the necessity, which brought young Shaka state of utter ignorance of classic literature ? or speare from his school, retained him with his was he as far advanced in his school-studies as father's occupation at home, till the acquisition of a boys of his age (which I take to be thirteen or four- wife made it convenient for him to remove to a teen) usually are in the common progress of our separate habitation. It is reasonable to conclude public and more reputable schools ? " That his scho-that a mind like his, ardent, excursive, and " all lastic attainments did not rise to the point of learn-compact of imagination,” would not be satisfied ing, seems to have been the general opinion of his with entire inactivity ; but would obtain knowledge contemporaries; and to this opinion I am willing where it could, if not from the stores of the anto assent. But I cannot persuade myself that he cients, from those at least which were supplied to was entirely unacquainted with the classic tongues; him by the writers of his own country. or that, as Farmer and his followers labour to con In 1582, before he had completed his eighteenth vince us, he could receive the instructions, even for year, he married Anne Hathaway, the daughter, as three or four years, of a school of any character, Rowe informs us, of a substantial yeoman in the and could then depart without any knowledge be- neighbourhood of Stratford. We are unacquainted yond that of the Latin accidence. The most ac- with the precise period of their marriage, and with complished scholar may read with pleasure the the church in which it was solemnized, for in the poetic versions of the classic poets; and the less register of Stratford there is no record of the event; advanced proficient may consult bis indolence by and we are made certain of the year, in which it applying to the page of a translation of a prose occurred, only by the baptism of Susanna, the first classic, when accuracy of quotation may not be produce of the union, on the 26th of May, 1583. required: and on evidences of this nature is sup- As young Shakspeare neither increased his fortuno ported the charge which has been brought, and by this match, though he probably received some which is now generally admitted, against our im- money with his wife, nor raised himself by it in the mortal bard, of more than school-boy ignorance. community, we may conclude that he was induced Ho might, indeed, from necessity apply to North to it by inclination, and the impulse of love. But for tho interpretation of Plutarch; but he read the youthful poet's dream of happiness does not Golding's Ovid only, as I am satisfied, for the en seem to have been realized by the result. The tertainment of its English poetry. Ben Jonson, bride was eight years older than the bridegroom; who must have been intimately conversant with his and whatever charms she might possess to fascinate friend's classic acquisitions, tells us expressly that, the eyes of her boy-lover, she probably was defiHe had small Latin and less Greek.” But, cient in those powers which are requisire to imposo according to the usual plan of instruction in our a durable fetter on the heart, and to hold“ in sweet schools, he must have traversed a considerable ex- captivity” a mind of the very highest order. No tent of the language of Rome, before he could charge is intimated against the lady: but she is left touch even the confines of that of Greece. He in Stratford by her husband during his long resimust in short have read Ovid's Metamorphoses, dence in the metropolis ; and on his death, she is and a part at least of Virgil, before he could open found to be only slightly, and, as it were, casually the grammar of the more ancient, and copious, and remembered in his will. Her second pregnancy, complex dialect. This I conceive to be a fair stato which was productive of twins, (Hamnet and Jument of the case in the question respecting Shak-dith, baptized on the 2d of February, 1584–5,) terspeare's learning. Beyond controversy he was not minated her pride as a mother; and we know noa scholar; but he had not profited so little by the thing more respecting her than that, surviving her hours, which he had passud in school, as not to be illustrious consort by rather more than seven years, able to understand the more easy Roman authors she was buried on the 8th of August, 1623, being, without the assistance of a translation. If he him- as we are told by the inscription on her tomb, of self had been asked, on the subject, he might have the age of sixty-seven. Respecting the habits of parodicd his own Falstaff and have answered, “In-life, or the occupation of our young Poet by which deed I am not a Scaliger or a Budæus, but yet no he obtained his subsistence, or even the place of his blockhead, friend." I believe also that he was not residence, subsequently to his marriage, not a floatwholly unacquainted with the popular languages of ing syllable has been wafted to us by tradition for France and Italy. He had abundant leisure to ac- the gratification of our curiosity; and the history quire them; and the activity and the curiosity of of this great man is a perfect blank till the occur. his mind were sufficiently strong to urge him to rence of an event, which drove him from his nativo their acquisition. But to discuss this much agita- town, and gave his wonderful intellect to break out ted question would lead me beyond the limits which in its full lustre on the world. From the frequent are prescribed to me; and, contenting myself with allusions in his writings to the elegant sport of faldeclaring that, in my opinion, both parties are conry, it has been suggested that this, possibly, wrong, both they who contend for our Poet's learn- might be one of his favourite amusements: and noing, and they who place his illiteracy on a level thing can be more probable, from the active season with that of John Taylor, the celebrated waterpoet, I must resume my humble and most deficient * What credit can be due to this Mr. Aubrey, who narrative. The classical studies of William Shak-picked up information on the highway and scauered it speare, whatever progress he may or may not have every where as authentic? who whipped Milton at Cammade in them, were now suspended; and he was making our young Shakepeare a butcher's boy, could replaced in his father's house, when he had attained embrue his hands in the blood of calves, and represent his thirteenth or fourteenth year, to assist with his bim as exuluing in poetry over the convulsions of the hand in the maintenance of the family. Whether | dying animals

of his life, and his fixed habitation in the country, fant offspring. The world was spread before him, than his strong and eager passion for all the plea- like a dark ocean, in which no fortunate isle could sures of the field. As a sportsman, in his rank of be seen to glitter amid the gloomy and sullen tide. life, he would naturally become a poacher; and But he was blessed with youth and health ; his then it is highly probable that he would fall into the conscience was unwounded, for the adventure for acquaintance of poachers; and, associating with which he suffered, was regarded, in the estimation them in his idler hours, would occasionally be one of his times, as a mere boy's frolick, of not greater of their fellow-marauders on the manors of their guilt than the robbing of an orchard; and his mind, rich neighbours. In one of these licentious excur rich beyond example in the gold of heaven, could sions on the grounds of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charle-throw lustre over the black waste before him, and cote, in the immediate vicinity of Stratford, for the could people it with a beautiful creation of her own. purpose, as it is said, of stealing his deer, our We may imagine him, then, departing from ht young bard was detected ; and, having farther irri- home, not indeed like the great Roman captive as tated the knight by affixing a satirical ballad on him he is described by the poet to the gates of Charlecote, he was compelled to fly before the enmity of his powerful adversary, and to Fertur pndicæ conjugis osculum, seek an asylum in the capital. Malone, * who is

Parvosque natos, ut capitis minor, prone to doubt, wishes to question the truth of this

Ab se removisse, et virilem

Torvus humi posuisse, vultum, &c. whole narrative, and to ascribe the flight of young Shakspeare from his native country to the embar- but touched with some feelings of natural sorrow, rassment of his cireumstances, and the persecution of his creditors. But the story of the deer-steal- yet with an unfaltering step, and with hope vigouring rests upon the uniform tradition of Stratford, despair; and if he indulged in sanguine expecta

ous at his heart. It was impossible that he should and is confirmed by the character of Sir T. Lucy, tion, the event proved him not to be a visionary, who is known to have been a rigid preserver of his In the course of a few years, the exile of Stratford game, by the enmity displayed

against his memory became the associate of wits, the friend of nobles, by Shakspeare in his succeeding life ; and, by a the favourite of monarchs; and in a period which part of the offensive balladt itself, preserved by a still left him not in sight of old age, he returned to Mr. Jones of Tarbick, a village near to Stratford, his birth-place in affluence, with honour, and with who obtained it from those who must have been the plaudits of the judicious and the noble resoundnequainted with the fact, and who could not being in his ears. biased by any interest or passion to falsify or misstate it. Besides the objector, in this instance, stage; to which his access, as it appears, was easy.

His immediate refuge in the metropolis was the seems not to be aware that it was easier to escape Stratford was fond of theatrical representations, from the resentment of an offended proprietor of which it accommodated with its town or guildhall; game, than from the avarice of a creditor: that and had frequently

been visited by companies of moval of the

delinquent to a situation where he players when our "Poet was of an age, not only to could no longer infest his parks or his warrens, the enjoy their performances, but to form an acquainlatter would pursue his debtor wherever bailiffs was one of their distinguished actors, has been conmould find and writs could attach him. On every sidered by some writers as a kinsman of our auaccount, therefore, I believe the tradition, recorded thor's; and though he, possibly, may have been by Rowe, that our Poet retired from Stratford before confounded by them with another Thomas Greene, the exasperated power of Sir T. Lucy, and found a a barrister, who was unquestionably connected refuge in London, not possibly beyond the reach of with the Sbakspeares, he was certainly a fellow the arm, but beyond the hostile purposes of his pro- townsman of our fugitive

bard's; whilst Heminge vincial antagonist. The time of this eventful flight of the great bard question, belonged either to Stratford or to its im

and Burbage, two of the leaders of the company in of England cannot now be accurately determined : mediate neighbourhood. With the door of the thebut we may somewhat confidently place it between atre thus open to him, and under the impulse of the years 1585 and 1588; for in the former of these his own natural bias, (for however in after life he we may conclude him to have been present with his family at the baptism of his twins, Hamnet and sional actor, it must be concluded that he now felt

may have lamented his degradation as a profesJudith ; and than the latter of them we cannot well a strong attachment to the stage,) it is not wonderassign a later date for his arrival in London, since ful that young Shakspeare

should solicit this asylum we know that before 1592 he had not only written in his distress; or that he should be kindly retwo long poems, the Venus and Adonis, and the ceived by men who knew him, and some of whom Rape of Lucrece, but had acquired no small degree of celebrity as an actor and as a dramatic writer. This native town. The company, to which he united

were connected, if not with his family, at least with At this agitating crisis of his life, the situation of himself, was the Earl of Leicester's or the Queen's; young Shakspeare was certainly, in its obvious which had obtained the royal license in 1574. The aspect, severe and even terrific. Without friends place of its performances, when our Poet became to protect or assist him, he was driven, under the enrolled among its members, was the Globe on the frown of exasperated power, from his profession; Bankside; and its managers subsequently purfrom his native fields; from the companions of his chased the theatre of Blackfriars, (the oldest theachildhood and his youth; from his wife and his in- tre in London, which they had previously rented • Malone was much addicted to doubt.. Knowing, first of which was open in the centre for summer

for some years; and at these two theatres, the perhaps, that, on all the chief topics of the Grecian schools of philosophy, the great mind of Cicero faltered representations, and the last covered for those of in doubt, our commentator and critic wished, possibly, winter, were acted all the dramatic productions of to establish his claim to a superiority of intellect by the Shakspeare. That he was at first received into the same academic withholding of assent. He ought, how company in a very subordinate situation, may be ever, to have been aware that scepticism, which is regarded not merely as probable, but as certain : sometimes the misfortune of wise men, is generally the that he ever carried a link to light the frequenters affectation of fools.

+ The first stanza of this ballad, which is admitted to of the theatre, or ever held their horses, must be be genuine, may properly be preserved as a curiosity. rejected as an absurd tale, fabricated, no doubt, by But as it is to be found in every life of our author, with the lovers of the marvellous, who were solicitous the exception of Rowe's, I shall refer my readers, to to obtain a contrast in the humility of his first to whom it could not be gratifying, to some other page for the pride of his subsequent fortunes. The mean it than my own. From Robert Greene's posthumous work, written in /incompatible

with his circumstances, even in their

and servile occupation, thus assigned to him, was 1592, and Chettle's Kind Ham's Dream, published very present afflicted state: and his relations and connecsoon afterwards



tions, though far from wealthy, were yet too remote departure from Stratford and his bécommg tho ob from absolute poverty, to perinit him to act for a mo-ject of Greene's malignant attack, constituted a ment in such a degrading situation. He was certainly, busy and an important period of his life. Within therefore, imediately admitted within the theatre; this term he had conciliated the friendship of the but in what rank or character cannot now be known. young Thomas Wriothesly, the liberal, the high This fact, however, soon became of very little con- sonled, the romantic Earl of Southampton: a sequence'; for he speedily raised himself into con- friendship which adhered to him throughout his life ; sideration among his new fellows by the exertions and he had risen to that celebrity, as a poet and á of his pen, if not by his proficiency as an actor. dramatist, which placed him with ihe first wits of the When he began his career as a dramatie writer ; age, and subsequently lifted him to the notice and or to what degree of excellence he attained in his the favour of Elizabeih and James, as they succespersonation of dramatic characters, are questions sively sate upon the throne of England. which have been frequently agitated without any At the point of time which our narrative has now satisfactory result. By two publications, which reached, we cannot accurately determine what appeared toward the end of 1592, we know, or at dramatic pieces had been composed by him: but least we are induced strongly to infor, that at that we are assured that they were of suficient excelperiod, either as the corrector of old or as the writer lence to excite the envy and the consequent hostiof original dramas, he had supplied the stage with a lity of those who, before his rising, had been tho copiousness of materials. We learn also from the luminaries of the stage. It would be gratifying to same documents that, in his profession of actor, he curiosity if the feat were possible, to adjust with trod the boards not without the acquisition of ap- any precision the order in which his wonderful -plause. The two publications, to which I allude, productions issued from his brain. But the atare Robert Greene's “Groatsworth of Wit bought iempt has more than once been made, and never with a Million of Repentance,” and Henry Chei- yet with entire success. We know only that his tle's “ Kind Hart's Dream.” In the former of connection with the stage continued for about twenthese works, which was published by Chettle sub-ty years, (though the duration even of this term sequently to the unhappy anthor's deceaso, the cannot be settled with precision,) and that, within writer, addressing his fellow dramatists, Marlowe, this period he composed either partially, as workPeele, and Lodge, says, “Yos! trust them not,' ing on the ground of others, or educing them alto(the managers of the theatre ;) "for there is an gether from his own fertility, thirty-five or (if that upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that, wretched thing, Pericles, in consoquence of Drywith his tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide, den's testimony in favour of its authenticity, and supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank of a few touches of THE GOLDEN PEN being discoverse as the best of you; and, being an absolute verable in its last scenes, must be added to the Johannes actotum, is in his own conceit the only number) thirty-six dramas; and that of these it is Shake-scene in a country.” As it could not be probable that such as were founded on the works doubtful against whom this attack was directed, we of preceding authors were the first essays of his cannot wonder that Shakspeare should be hurt by dramatic talent; and such as were more perfectly it : or that he should expostulate on the occasion his own, and are of the first sparkle of excellence, rather warmly with Chettle as the editor of the of- were among the last. While I should not hesitate, fensive matter. In consequence, as it is probable, therefore, to station “ Pericles," the three parts of of this expression of resentment on the part of " Henry VI," (for ! cannot see any reason for Shakspeare, a pamphlet from the pen of Chettle throwing the first of these parts from the protection called Kind Hart's Dream” issued from the press of our author's name;) Love's Labour Lost, before the close of the same year (1592,) which had “The Comedy of Errors," “ The Taming of the witnessed the publication of Greene's posthumous Shrew," " King John," and "Richard'Il.;" among work. In this pamphlet, Chettle acknowledges his his earliest productions, I should, with ernal conh. concern for having edited any thing which had given denice, arrange "Macheth," " Lear," "Othello, pain to Shakspeare, of whose character and accom-“ Twelfth Night," and " The Tempest," with his plishments he avows a very favourable opinion. latest, assigning them to that season of his life, Marlowe, as well as Shakspeare, appears to have when his mind exulted in the conscious plenitudo been offended by some passages in this production of power. Whatever might be the order of succezof poor Greene's: and to both of these great drama- sion in which this illustrious family of genius sprang tic poets Chettle refers in the short citation which into existence, they soon attracted notice, and we shall now make from his page: "With neither speedily compelled the homage of respect from of them that take offence was I acquainted, and with those who were the most eminent for their learnone of them” (concluded to be Marlowe, whose ing, their talints, or their rank. Jenson, Selden, 'moral character was unhappily not good) “I care Beaumont, Fletcher, and Donne, were the associnot if I never be. The other," (who must neces- ates and ihe intimates of our Port: the Earl of sarily be Shakspeare,)." whom at that time I did Southampton was his especial friend: the Earls not so much spare as since I wish I had; for that, of Pembroke and of Montgomery wrto avowedly as I have moderated the hate of living authors, and his admirers and patrons : Queen Elizabeth dis. might have used my own discretion, (especially in tinguished him with her favonr; and her successor, such a case, the author being dead, that I did not James, with his own handd, hononred the great draI am as sorry as if the original fault had been my matist with a letter of thanks for the compliment fault: because myself have seen his demeanor no paid in Macbeth to the roval family of the Siuarts. * less civil than he is excellent in the quality he pro The circumstance which first brought the two fosses. Besides divers of worship have reported lords of the stage, Shakspeare and Jonson, into - his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty: that embrace of friendship which continued indisand his facetious grane in writing, that approves soluble, as there is reason to believe, during the his art.” Shakspeare was now twenty-eight years permission of moriality, is reported to have been of age ; and this testimony of a contemporary, who the kind assistance given by the former to the latwa: acquainted with him, and was himself an actor, ter, when he was offering one of his plays (Every in favour of his moral and his professional excel. Man in his Humour) for the benefit of representa lonce, must be admitted as of considerable value. tion. The manuscript, as it is said, was on the It is evident that he had now written for the stage ; point of being rejected and returned with a rudo and before he entered upon dramatic composition, answer, when Shakspeare, fortunately glancing we are certain that he had completed, though he his eye over its pages, immediately discovered its 'haci not published his lwo long and laboured

poems of Venus and Adonis, and tho Rape of Lucrece. We serted on the anhority of Sheffield Duike of Bucking:

* The existence of this royal letter of thanks is as. cannot, therefore, date his arrival in the capital lain, who giw it in the possession of Davenant. The later than 1588, or, perhaps, than 1587; and the cause of the thanks to assigned on the most probablo Hour or five your which interposod betweon his conjecture

« ПредишнаНапред »