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To one that marks the quick and certain round
Unsure, the bright and ever-visible hand
Of pride that perishes; and leads the eye
A sympathy for all things born to die,
• These two sonnets are from a Correspondent, who describes himself as “ young.". They are very clever. There is a turn in some of the lines, that reminds us of the late Mr Keats. The enthusiasm of our Correspondent has a look with it, that, unfortunately for the world, is thought to belong peculiarly' to youth; but we cannot wish him a greater wisdom, than to hope he may always retain it. The preservation of this sacred fire, for life, among a small number of men would suffice to produce a blaze of warmth and truth, that should make this earth of ows . a golden planet.-We shall be happy to hear from the writer again, and to accept
the favours he speaks of.
LONDON: Published by Hunt and CLARKE, York street, Covent garden: and sold by all
Booksellers and Newsvenders in town and country.-Price 4d.
PRINTID BY C.H. REYNELL, BROAD STREET, GOLDEN SQUARE,
No. XIV. WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9, 1828.
“ Something alone yet not alone, to be wished, and only to be found, in a friend.”—Sir WILLIAM TEMPLE.
SIR WILLIAM DAVENANT. It is among the objects of the Companion, from time to time, to look into the more curious particulars in the lives of celebrated poets and wits, especially where a settlement of them appears to be wanting. It is remarkable, on turning over biographies even of the greatest repute (Dr Johnson's for one), to see how contented the authors are to repeat what has been told before them, searching for little or nothing in addition, and only giving some new turn of words to the style. We do not mean to undervalue the criticism of Johnson, up to a certain pitch. His remarks on the town poets and all beneath them are as masterly, as those upon the higher ones are now understood to be defective and uninformed. But like other biographers, he avoids trouble. He errs also, as Hume did, in his History, in omitting anecdotes and characteristics, some of them of the most interesting description, as if he thought them too trifling to mention ;-a mistake, more surprising even in Johnson than Hume; for the former was a good table companion; whereas we know of nothing to that effect about the philosopher, except the good round stomach which he condescended to have.
If the reader took up Johnson's Lives, and compared them with what might have been added to the stock of amusement, by a dili
gent perusal of the works of the poets, he would be surprised to find how much the latter process can bring forth. Let him compare Gray for instance, or even Akenside. Pursuits, connexions, pieces of auto-biography, or helps to it, are all overlooked. In these two cases, political prejudice interposed to encourage the Doctor's indolence. In others, the want of relish for the finest poetry enabled him to omit some of the greatest names altogether; as his want of animal spirits did some of the most delightful, and his politics others. We have no Chaucer, no Spenser, no Suckling, no Andrew Marvell; but on the other hand we have Sprat. Sprat, though a minnow among the Tritons, was a bishop on dry land. There is also the Reverend Mr Stepney, and the Reverend Mr Harte, and the Reverend Mr Pitt, and the Reverend Mr Broome, and the Reverend Dr Yalden, and the Reverend Dr Watts,--all clergymen; and there is Mr Hughes, who though no clergyman, ought to have been one; and Blackmore, who preached the town deaf with bad poetry.
But we are wandering out of the record. We begin with some passages in the life of Davenant, of whom a curious question hasi been raised, whether or not he was a son of Shakspeare's. By the way, what havoc would be made with people's proper names, if all whose lives were noticed, had their family pretensions inquired into! What plebeianizing of peers! What abdicating of monarchs ! How many Tomkinses and Jenkinses would suddenly be found figuring among Dukes and Marquisses! How many poor wits patronized by their brothers! And alas ! how many footmen ore dering about theirs ! Perhaps there is not a dynasty in Europe (one, of course, excepted) which has any right to the throne. A prince may be like bis predecessor; but what of grandfathers and great-grandfathers? And what of the good old times of Jesuits, and Confessors, and Petits- Maitres, and Carpet-Knights, and Chamber-Musicians? Somebody, speaking to Henry IV of France, called our James the First a Solomon. “ Aye,” returned Henry ; “ Solomon, the son of David.” “ Was your mother ever at Rome ?" inquired Augustus of a young man who resembled him.“ No, Sir; but my father was.” Many poets, it is presumed, would be found to have a's little pretension to their own names, as a multitude of
other lively people ; .except that they generally come out of middle life, where the manners are staider. Davenant's case is certainly not made out, as he wished it to be.
Was Davenant the Natural Son of Shakspeare? - This poet, who united in a more than ordinary degree the active with the contemplative life, and went through a greater number of adventures than falls to the lot of most of his brethren, was born at Oxford, in February 1605, and was the son of John Davenant, a citizen of repute, who kept an inn or tavern in that city. The biographers have not noticed the deduction; but as he had a brother who became chaplain to Bishop Davenant, it is not unlikely that the family were of the same ancient stock of the Davenants of Sible Heningham and Davenants-lands in Essex. Wit and scandal, however, have interfered to give him a profaner genealogy.
Shakspeare, it seems, used to put up at Mr Davenant's house in his journies between Stratford and London; and Mr Davenant being a very grave personage, though fond of the drama, and Mrs Davenant on the other hand being equally lively and beautiful, and a woman of good wit and conversation, it has been conjectured, that Sir William had more reasons for the talents that were in him than the honest yintner had warrant for laying claim to. A story is related of little Davenant's being met in the streets of Oxford by an acquaintance, who, asking him where he was going in such a hurry, was told, “ To see my godfather Shakspeare;"? upon which the other advised him to be cautious how he took the name of God in vain. '
Biographers have very properly called for proofs of this illustrious piece of gossip. Some, with not so much reason, have found a. refutation of it in the manners of the time, and the opinions of the great poet of nature himself. What the manners of the time: were, at least in those quarters where licence is usually to be found, the memoirs both of court and stage sufficiently inform us; and without entering any deeper into the question as to Shakspeare's opinions, there is no reason to conclude, from what. he has left us of them, that such a circumstance would have been absolutely impossible. Thomas Warton was inclined to believe it.
Steevens treated the report with contempt, and alleged that Davenaut's face was unworthy of such a father: a strange argument! especially as Sir William, before a misadventure that happened to him, is stated to have been very handsome. Aubrey, who was conversant with him, says of his son Charles Davenant, that he inherited « his father's beauty."
On the other hand, the beauty (to'say nothing of our ignorance whether Shakspeare was handsome or not), may have come from the mother: the sage Mr John Davenant might have supplied the graver part of his son's genius; or he might have been as dull as Sir John Suckling's father is said to have been, and the boy have been clever nevertheless. Besides, wit must begin with šomebody. We are not to suppose that a race has been facetious ever since the Decline and Fall.
The truth seems to be, that all the surmises on this subject originated with Davenant himself. Wood, who first published them, had them from Aubrey; and Aubrey had them from Davenant. “ Sir William," says he, “would sometimes, when he was pleasant over a glass of wine with his most intimate friends,e. g. Sam. Butler (author of Hudibras) &c.-say, that it seemed to him that he writt with the very spirit that Shakspeare (did), and seemed contented enough to be thought his son." ! Sir William hit upon the best argument to be found. It is certainly a curious coincidence, that the cast of his genius resembles a good deal what we might conceive of a minor Shakspeare. There'is the same propensity to be dramatic; the same incessant activity of thought ; and, consequent upon both, the same unfitness for narrative. Gondibert looks quite as much the son of Venus" and Adonis, as Davenant himself might have been of Shakspeare'and his Oxford beauty. His disposition too resembled Shakspeare's, in its romantic turn for friendship. ' He had the same wish to see fair play between things of good and ill report in this world, as "may be observed by what he says in Gondibert of the art of war; he evinced the same sympathy with human nature in the individual, mixed with contempt for the populace as a body politic;' and though he was liberal'in matters of religion to a degree of scepticism' (of more than which Shakspeare and his fellows were