Page images

Mrs. Page. Well, I will muse no further :- Mafter

Heaven give you many, many merry days!
Good husband, let as every one go home,
And laugh this sport o'er by a country fire;
Sir John and all.

Ford. Let it be fo:-Sir John,
To master Brook you yet shall hold your word ;
For he, to night, fhall lie with iniftress Ford.? (Exeunt.

I have availed myself of Mr. M. Mason's very judicious remark, which had also been made by Mr. Malone, who observes that Evans's speech * I will dance,” &c. was restored from the firft quarto by Mr. Pope.

STEEVENS. ? Of this play there is a tradition preserved by Mr. Rowe, that it was written at the command of queen Elizabeth, who was so delighted with the character of Falstaff, that she wilhed it to be diffused through more plays; but suspecting that it might pall by continued uniformity, directed the poet to diversify his manner, by Thewing him in love. No talk is harder than that of writing to the ideas of another. Shakfpeare knew what the queen, if the story be true, seems not to have known, that by any real passion of tenderness, the selfish craft, the careless jollity, and the Jazy luxury of Falstaff must have suffered so much abatement, that little of his former cast would have remained. Falftaff could not love, but by ceasing to be Falstaff. He could only counterfeit love, and his professions could be prompted, not by the hope of pleasure, but of money. Thus the poet approached as near as he could to the work enjoined him ; yei having perhaps in the former plays completed his own idea, feems not to have been able to give Fajitaff all his furmer power of entertainment.

This comedy is remarkable for the variety and number of the personages, who exhibit more characters appropriated and discriminated, than perhaps can be found in any other play.

Whether Shakspeare was the first that produced upon the English stage the effect of language distorted and depraved by provincial or foreign pronunciation, I cannot certainly decide * This mode of formning ridiculous characters can confer praise only on him who originally discovered it, for it requires not much of either wit or judgement : its success must be derived almost wholly from the player, but its power in a skilful mouth, even he that despises it, is unable to refift. se The conduct of this drama is deficient; the action begins and ends often, before the conclufion, and the different parts might change places

without * In Tbe Three Ladies of London, 1584, is the character of an Italian merchant, very Arongly marked by foreign pronunciation. Dr. Dodypoll, in the comedy which bears his name, is, like Caius, a French physcian. This piece appeared at least a year before Tbe Merry Wives of Windsor. The hero of it speaks such a other jargon as the antagonift of Sir Hugh, and like him is cheated of his miftsels. in several other pieces, more ancient than the earlieft of shakspeare's, provincial charaâers are introduced. Steevens.

without inconvenience; but its general power, that power by which all works of genius shall finally be tried, is such, tha: perhaps it never yet had reader or spectator who did not think it too soon at the end.

JOHNSON The story of The Two Lovers of Pisa, from which (as Dr. Farmer has observed) Falstaff's adventures in this play seem to have been taken, is printed in Tarleton's Newes out of Purgatorie, bl. 1. no date. [Entered in the Stationers' Books, June 16, 1590.)

It is observable, however, that in this novel (which, I believe, Shak. speare had read,) there is no trace of the buck-basket. In the first tale of The Fortunate, the Deceived, and Unfortunate Lovers, (of which I have an edition printed in 1684, but the novels it contains had probably appeared in English in our author's time,) a young student of Bologne is taught by an old doctor how to make love; and his first esiay is practised on his inftructor's wife. The jealous husband having tracked his pupil to his house, enters unexpectedly, fully persuaded that he should detect the lady and her lover together ; but the gallant is toncealed under a beap of linen balf-dried; and afterwards informs him, (not knowing that his tutor was likewise his mistress's hulband,) what a lucky escape he had. It is, therefore, I think, highly probable that Shakspeare had read both stories.

MALONE. Sir Hugb Evans.] See p. 171 and 172.

The question whether priests were formerly knights in consequence of their being called Sir, still remains to be decided. Examples that those of the lower class were fo called are very numerous; and hence it may be fairly inferred that they at least were not knights, nor is there perhaps a fingle instance of the order of knighthood being conferred upon ecclefiaftics of any degree.

Having casually, however, met with a note in Dyer's Reports, which seems at first view not only to contain some authority for the custom of knigbting priests by Abbots, in consequence of a charter granted to the Abbot of Reading for that purpose, but likewise the opinion of two learned judges, founded thereupon, that priests were anciently knights, I have been induced to enter a little more fully upon this discuilion, and to examine the validity of those opinions. The extract from Dyer is a marginal note in p. 216. B. in the following words : “ Trin. 3 Jac. Banc le Roy Hol. craft and Gibbons, cas Popham dit que il ad view un ancient charter grant

al Abbot de Reading per Roy d' Angliterre, a fair knight, sur que son conceit fuit que l'Abbot fait, ecclesiastical perfons, knights,

d'illonque come a luy be nomes de Sir John and Sir Will. que eft done al ascun Clerks a cest jour fuit derive quel opinion Coke Attorney-General applaud disont que fueront milites cæleftes & milites terrestres.It is proper to mention here that all the reports have been diligently searched for this case of Holcraft and Gibbons, in hopes of finding some further illustration, but without saccess.

The charter then above-mentioned appears upon further enquiry to have been the foundation charter of Reading Abbey, and to have been granted by Henry I. in 1125. The words of it referred to by Chief Justice Popham, and upon which he founded his opinion, are as follow : 04

" Nec

[ocr errors]

Nec faciat milites nifi in facra veste Chrifti, in qua parvulos Sufcipere moe deste caveat. Maturos autem feu discretos tam clericos quam laicos provide fufcipiat.This pafilage is likewise cited by Selden in his notes upon Eadmer, p. 206, and to illustrate the word “ clericos" he refers to Mathew Paris for an account of a priest called John Gatesdene, who was created a knight by Henry III. but not until after he had resigned all his benė. fices, “as he ought to have done,” says the historian, who in another place relating the disgrace of Peter de Rivallis, Treasurer to Henry III. (See p. 405, edit. 1640,) has clearly shown how incompatible it was that the clergy should bear arms, as the profession of a knight required; and as a further proof may be added the well known story, related by the same historian, of Richard I. and the warlike Bishop of Beauvais. I conceive then that the word “clericosrefers to such of the clergy who should apply for the order of knighthood under the usual restriction of quitting their former profeflion; and from Selden's note upon the passage it may be collected that this was his own opinion; or it may possibly allude to thofe - Particular knights who were considered as religious or ecclefiaftical, such as the knights of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, &c. concerning whom fee Ashmole's Order of the Garter, p. 49. 51.

With respect to the custom of ecclefiaftics conferring the order of knight. hood, it certainly prevailed in this country before the conqueft, as appears from Ingulphus, and was extremely disliked by the Normans; and therefore at a Council held at Westminiter in the third year of Henry I. it was ordained, “ Ne Abbates faciart milites.” See Eadmeri Hift. 68. and Selden's note, p. 207. However it appears that notwithstanding this prohibition, which may at the same time serve to show the great improbability that the order of knighthood was conferred upon ecclefiaftics, some of the ceremonies at the creation of knights still continued to be performed by Abe bots, as the taking the sword from the altar, &c. which may be seen at large in Selden's Titles of Honour, Part II. chap. v. and Dugd. Warw. 531, and accordingly this charter, which is dated twenty-three years after the Council at Westminster, amongst other things directs the Abbot, “ Nec faciat milites nisi in sacra veste Chrifti," &c. Lord Coke's acquiescence in Popham's opinion is founded upon a similar misconception, and his quaint remark 16 que fueront milites cæleftes & milites terrestres," can only excite a sinile. The marginal quotation from Fuller's Church History, B. VI. P. 352 “ Moe Sirs than knights" referred to in a former note by Sir J. Hawkins, certainly means that these Sirs were not knights," and Fuller accounts for the title supposing them ungraduated Priests.

Before I dism' Is this comment upon the opinions of the learned Judges, I am bound to observe that Popham's opinion is also referred to, but in a very careless manner, in Godbolt's Reports, p. 399, in these words : « Popham once Chief Justice of this court said that he had seen a commission directed unto a bishop to knight all the parsons within his diocese, and that was ih; cause that they were called Sir John, Sir Thomas, and so they continued to be called until the reign of Elizabeth." The idea of knighting all the par fons in a diocese is too ludicrous to need a serious refu. tacion; and the inaccuracy of the allertion, that the title of Sir lasted till


the reign of Elizabeth, thereby implying that it then ceafed, is sufficiently obvious, not only from the words of Popham in the other quotation so que eft done al ascuns clerks cest jour," but from the proof given by Sir John Hawkins of its existence at a much later period.

Having thus, I trust, refuted the opinion that the title of Sir was given to priests in consequence of their being knights, I lhall venture to account for it in another manner.

This custom then was most probably borrowed from the French, among whom the title Domnus is often appropriated to ecclefiaftics, more particularly to the Benedictines, Carthulians, and Cistercians. It appears to have been originally a title of honour and respect, and was perhaps at first, in this kingdom as in France, applied to particular orders, and became afterwards general as well among the secular as the regular clergy. The reason of preferring Domnus, to Dominus was, that the latter belonged to the fupreme Being, and the other was considered as a subordinate title, according to an old verse :

Cæleftem Dominum, terreftrem dicito Domnum." Hence, Dom, Damp, Dan, Sire, and, lastly Sir ; for authorities are not wanting to show that all the fe titles were given to ecclefiaftics: but I shall förbear to produce them, having, I fear, already trespalled too fas upon the reader's patience with this long note. Douce.

[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »