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that dedication of a higher sort of intercourse between the two minds than consists with any forced adulation of any kind, and especially with any extravagant compliments to the learning and to the abilities of a superior in rank. Such testimonies are always suspicious; and probably honest old Florio, when he dedicated his “World of Words” to the Earl in 1598, shows pretty correctly what the race of panegyrists expected in return for their compliments : "In truth, I acknowledge an entire debt, not only of my best knowledge, but of all ; yea of more than I know, or can, to your bounteous lordship, in whose pay and patronage I have lived some years; to whom I owe and vow the years I have to live. But, as to me, and many more, the glorious and gracious sunshine of your honour hath infused light and life.” There is an extraordinary anecdote told by Rowe of Lord Southampton's munificence to Shakspere, which seems to bring the poet somewhat near to Florio's plain-speaking association of pay and patronage :-“What grace soever the Queen conferred upon him, it was not to her only he owed the fortune which the reputation of his wit made. He had the honour to meet with many great and uncommon marks of favour and friendship from the Earl of Southampton, famous in the histories of that time for his friendship to the unfortunate Earl of Essex. It was to that noble lord that he dedicated his poem of Venus and Adonis.' There is one instance so singular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakspeare's, that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William D'Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted ; that my Lord Southampton at one time gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to. A bounty very great, and very rare at any time, and almost equal to that profuse generosity the present age has shown to French dancers and Italian singers.” * This is one of the many instances in which we are not warranted in rejecting a tradition, however we may look suspiciously upon the accuracy of its details. D'Avenant could scarcely be very well acquainted with Shakspere's affairs, for he was only ten years old when Shakspere died. The sum mentioned as the gift of the young nobleman to the poet is so large, looking at the value of money in those days, that it could scarcely consist with the independence of a generous spirit to bear the load of such a prodigality of bounty. The notions of those days were, however, different from ours. Examples will readily suggest themselves of the most lavish rewards bestowed by princes and nobles upon great painters. They received such gifts without any compromise of their intellectual dignity. It was the same then with poets. The public, now the best patron, was then but a sorry paymaster; and the great stepped in to give the price for a dedication as they would purchase any other gratification of individual vanity. According to the habits of the time Shakspere might have received a large gift from Lord Southampton, without any forfeiture of his self-respect. Nevertheless, Rowe's story must still appear sufficiently apocryphal : “ My Lord Southampton at one time gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to.” It is not necessary to account for the gradual acquisition of property by Shakspere that we should yield our assent to this tradition, without some qualification. In 1589, when Lord Southampton was a lad at College, Shakspere had already acquired that property which was to be the foundation of his future fortune. He was then a shareholder in the Blackfriars Theatre. That the adventure was a prosperous one, not only to himself but to his brother shareholders, may be inferred from the fact that four years afterwards they began the building of another theatre. The Globe was commenced in December, 1593; and being constructed for the most part of wood, was ready to be opened, we should imagine, in the summer of 1594. In 1596 the same prosperous company were prepared to
* Rowe's “ Life of Shakspeare."
expend considerable sums upon the repair and extension of their original theatre, the Blackfriars. The name of Shakspere occupies a prominent position in the document from which we collect this fact : it is a petition to the Lords of the Privy Council from “ Thomas Pope, Richard Burbadge, John Hemings, Augustine Philips, William Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Slye, Nicholas Tooley, and others, servants to the Right Honorable the Lord Chamberlain to her Majesty ;” and it sets forth that they are “the owners and players of the private theatre in the Blackfriars; that it hath fallen into decay ; and that it has been found necessary to make the same more convenient for the entertainment of auditories coming thereto." It then states what is important to the present question :-“To this end your petitioners have all and each of them put down sums of money according to their shares in the said theatre, and which they have justly and honestly gained by the exercise of their quality of stage-players.” It then alleges that certain inhabitants of the precinct had besought the Council not to allow the said private house to remain open, “ but hereafter to be shut up and closed, to the manifest and great injury of your petitioners, who have no other means whereby to maintain their wives and families, but by the exercise of their quality as they have heretofore done." The common proprietorship of the company in the Globe and Blackfriars is also noticed :—“In the summer season your petitioners are able to play at their new-built house on the Bankside, called the Globe, but in the winter they are compelled to come to the Blackfriars.” If the winter theatre be shut up, they say they will be "unable to practise themselves in any plays or interludes when called upon to perform for the recreation and solace of her Majesty and her honourable Court, as they have been heretofore accustomed.” Though the Registers of the Council and the Office-books of the Treasurer of the Chamber are wanting for this exact period, we have here the distinct evidence of the intimate relation between Shakspere's company and the Court. The petitioners, in concluding by the prayer that their “honourable Lordships will grant permission to finish the reparations and alterations they have begun," add as a reason for this favour that they “have hitherto been well ordered in their behaviour, and just in their dealings.”* The performances at the Blackfriars went on without interruption. Shakspere, in 1597, bought "all that capital messuage or tenement in Stratford called the New Place." This appears to have been his first investment in property distinct from his theatrical speculations. The purchase of the best house in his native town, at a period of his life when his professional occupations could have allowed him little leisure to reside in it, would appear to have had in view an early retirement from a pursuit which probably was little agreeable to him. His powers as a dramatic writer might be profitably exercised without being associated with the actor's vocation. We know from other circumstances that at this period Stratford was nearest to his heart. On the 24th of January, 1598, Mr. Abraham Sturley, an Alderman of Stratford, writes to his brother-in-law, Richard Quiney, then in London :-“I would write nothing unto you now—but come home. I pray God send you comfortably home. This is one special remembrance, from our father's motion. It seemeth by him that our countryman Mr. Shakspere is willing to disburse some money upon some odd yard land or other at Shottery, or near about us. He thinketh it a very fit pattern to move him to deal in the matter of our tithes. By the instructions you can give him thereof, and by the friends he can make therefore, we think it a fair mark for him to shoot at, and not impossible to hit. It obtained, would advance him indeed, and would do us much good.” We thus see that in a year after the purchase of New Place, Shakspere's accumulation of money was going on. The worthy alderman and his connections appear to look confidently to their countryman, Mr. Shakspere, to assist them in their needs. On
* The petition is printed in Mr. Collier's “ Annals of the Stage," vol. i., p. 298.
the 4th of November, in the same year, Sturley again writes a very long letter “to his most loving brother Mr. Richard Quiney, at the Bell, in Carter Lane, in London," | in which he says of a letter written by Quiney to him on the 21st of October, that it imported, amongst other matters, “that our countryman Mr. W. Shakspere would procure us money, which I well like of, as I shall hear when, and where, and how ; and I pray let not go that occasion, if it may sort to any indifferent conditions." Quiney himself at this very time writes the following characteristic letter to his “ loving good friend and countryman, Mr. William Shakspere : "_"Loving countryman, I am bold of you as of a friend, craving your help with thirty pounds upon Mr. Bushell and my security, or Mr. Myttens with me. Mr. Rosswell is not come to London as yet, and I have especial cause. You shall friend me much in helping me out of all the debts I owe in London, I thank God, and much quiet to my mind which would not be indebted. I am now towards the Court in hope your answer for the dispatch of my business. You shall neither lose credit nor money by me, the Lord willing; and now but persuade yourself so as I hope, and you shall not need to fear but with all hearty thankfulness I will hold my time, and content your friend, and if we bargain farther, you shall be the paymaster yourself. My time bids me to hasten to an end, and so I commit this to your care and hope of your help. I fear I shall not be back this night from the Court. Haste. The Lord be with you and with us all. Amen. From the Bell in Carter Lane, the 25th October, 1598. Yours in all kindness, Ryc. Quiney.” The anxious dependence which these honest men appear to have upon the good offices of their townsman is more satisfactory even than the evidence which their letters afford of his worldly condition.
In the midst of this prosperity the registers of the parish of Stratford-upon-Avon present to us an event which must have thrown a shade over the brightest prospects.
This is the register of the burial of the only son of the poet in 1596. Hamnet was
born on the 2nd of February, 1585 ; so that at his death he was eleven years and six months old. He was a twin child ; and it is not unlikely that he was constitutionally weak. Some such cause interfered probably with the education of the twinsister Judith; for whilst Susannah, the elder, is recorded to have been witty above her sex," and wrote a firm and vigorous hand, as we may judge from her signature to a deed in 1639 (see p. 227), the mark of Judith appears as an attesting witness to a conveyance in 1611.
Espai ke pearo
Shakspore himself has given us a most exquisite picture of a boy, who, like his own Hamnet, died young, in whom the imaginative faculty was all-predominant. Was this a picture of his own precocious child ?
“ Her. Take the boy to you: he so troubles me,
i Lady. Come, my gracious lord,
No, I'll none of you.
Mam. You ’li kiss me hard ; and speak to me as if
2 Lady. And why so, my lord ?
Not for because
Who taught you this ?
Blue, my lord.
With the exception of this inevitable calamity, the present period may probably be regarded as a happy, epoch in Shakspere's life. He had conquered any adverse circumstances by which his earlier career might have been impeded. He had taken his rank among the first minds of his age ; and, above all, his pursuits were so engrossing as to demand a constant exercise of his faculties, but to demand that exercise in the cultivation of the highest and the most pleasurable thoughts. This was the period to which belong the great histories of “Richard II.,” “ Richard III.,” and “ Henry IV.," and the delicious comedies of the “Merchant of Venice,” “Much Ado about Nothing,” and “ Twelfth Night." These productions afford the most abundant evidence that the greatest of intellects was in the most healthful possession of its powers. These were not hasty adaptations for the popular appetite, as we may well believe some of the earlier plays were in their first shape; but highlywrought performances, to which all the method of his cultivated art had been
* “ Winter's Tale,” Act II., Scene I.
strenuously applied. It was at this period that the dramatic poet appears not to have been satisfied with the applause of the Globe or the Blackfriars, or even with the gracious encouragements of a refined Court. During three years he gave to the world careful editions of some of these plays, as if to vindicate the drama from the pedantic notion that the Muses of tragedy and comedy did not meet their sisters upon equal ground. “Richard II.” and “Richard III.” were published in 1597 ; “Love's Labour's Lost,” and “Henry IV.," Part I., in 1598 ; “Romeo and Juliet,” corrected and augmented, in 1599 ; “Henry IV.,” Part II., the “ Merchant of Venice,” “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” and “Much Ado about Nothing,” in 1600. The system of publication then ceased. It no doubt interfered with the interests of his fellows; and Shakspere was not likely to assert an exclusive interest, or to gratify an exclusive pride, at the expense of his associates. But his reputation was higher than that of any other man, when only four of his plays were accessible to the readers of poetry. In 1598 it was proclaimed, not timidly or questionably, that “as Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for tragedy and comedy among the Latins, so Shakespeare, among the English, is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage :” and “As the soul of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras, so the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare.” * It was certainly not at this period of Shakspere's life that he wrote with reference to himself, unlocking his heart to some nameless friend:
“When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings,
Sonnets of Shakspere were in existence in 1598, when Meres tells us of “his sugared sonnets among his private friends.” We have entered so fully into the question, whether these poems are to be considered autobiographical, that it would be useless for us here to repeat an argument not hastily entered upon, or carelessly set forth. We believe that the order in which they were printed is an arbitrary one; that some form a continuous poem or poems, that others are isolated in their subjects and the persons to whom they are addressed ; that some may express the poet's personal feelings, that others are wholly fictitious, dealing with imaginary loves and jealousies, and not attempting to separate the personal identity of the artist from the sentiments which he expressed, and the situations which he delineated. “We believe that, taken as works of art, having a certain degree of continuity, the Sonnets of Spenser, of Daniel, of Drayton, of Shakspere, although in many instances they might shadow forth real feelings and be outpourings of the inmost heart, were presented to the world as exercises of fancy, and were received by the world as such.”+ Even of those portions of these remarkable lyrics which appear to have an obvious reference to the poet's feelings and circumstances, we cannot avoid rejecting the principle of continuity ; for they clearly belong to different periods of life, if they * Francis Meres.
† “Studies.” p. 484.