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quarian objections. A writer whose sagacity is only equalled by his wondrous imaginative power, says, “It has been asked — was Shakspeare ever in Scotland. Never. There is not one word in this Tragedy ("Macbeth"] leading a Scotchman to think so
- many showing he never had that happiness. Let him deal with our localities according to his own sovereign will and pleasure, as a prevailing poet. But let no man point out his dealings with our localities as proof of his having such knowledge of them as implies personal acquaintance with them gained by a longer or shorter visit in Scotland.”* But it cannot be denied, we apprehend, that Shakspere's company was at Aberdeen in the autumn of 1601. There is nothing that we have found which can be opposed to the fair and natural inferences that belong to the registers of the Town Council. The records of the Presbytery of Aberdeen are wholly silent upon the subject of this visit of a company of players to their city. These records, on the 25th of September, 1601, contain an entry regarding Lord Glamis--an entry respecting one of the many deeds of violence for which Scotland was remarkable, when the strong hand so constantly attempted to defy the law: Mr. Patrick Johnson, it seems, had been killed by Lord Glamis, and the fact is here brought under the cognizance of the Presbytery. An entry of the 9th of October deals with Alexander Ceath (Keith), on a charge of adultery. Another of the 23rd of October relates to John Innis. Beyond the 5th of November, when there is another record, it would be unnecessary to seek for any minute regarding the players who were rewarded and honoured by the Town Council. There is no entry whatever on the subject.t If Shakspere’s company were at Aberdeen—and to disprove it, it must be shown that Lawrence Fletcher who was the King of Scotland's comedian in 1601, was not the Lawrence Fletcher who was associated with Shakspere in the patent granted by James upon his accession in 1603—what absolute reason can there be for supposing that Shakspere was absent from his company upon so interesting an occasion as a visit to the Scottish King and Court ? The extraordinary merits of the dramas of Shakspere might have been familiar to the King through books. Previous to 1601, there had been nine undoubted plays of Shakspere's published, which might readily have reached Scotland. I Essex and Southampton were in the habit of correspondence with James; and at the very hour when James officially knew of his accession to the crown of England, he dispatched an order from Holyrood House to the Council of State for the release of Southampton from the Tower. It is not likely that the Lord Chamberlain's servants would have taken the long journey to Scotland upon the mere chance of being acceptable to the Court. If they were desired to come, it is not probable that Shakspere would have been absent. It was his usual season of repose from his professional pursuits in London. The last duties to his father's memory might have been performed on the 8th of September, leaving abundant time to reach the Court, whether at Holyrood, or Stirling, or Linlithgow, or Falkland; to be enrolled amongst the servants who performed before the King; and subsequently to have been amongst those his fellows who received rewards on the 9th of October for their comedies and stageplays at Aberdeen.
Christopher North, in “ Blackwood,” 1849. † We consulted these documents, which are preserved in the fine Library of the Advocates at Edinburgh. We were assisted by very kind friends-- Professor Spalding (who very early distinguished himself as a critic on Shakspere), and John Hill Burton, Esq. (who possesses the most complete knowledge of the treasures of that valuable library)--in searching for documents that could illustrate this question.
# There is a beautiful copy of the first edition of “Love's Labour's Lost,” 1598, amongst Drummond's books, preserved apart in the library of the University of Edinburgh.
$ This argument is very briefly given in Studies,” page 355.
ABOUT four years before the death of Elizabeth, there appeared a dramatic writer in London, who, though scarcely twenty-five years of age, had studied society under many aspects. He was a scholar, bred up by the most eminent teachers, amongst aristocratic companions ; but his home was that of poverty and obscurity, and he had to labour with his hands for his daily bread. He delighted in walking not only amidst the open fields of ancient poetry and eloquence, but in all the by-places of antiquity, gathering flowers amongst the weeds with infinite toil: but he possessed no merely contemplative spirit: he had high courage and ardent passions, and whether with the sword or the pen he was a dangerous antagonist. This humblyborn man, with the badge of the “hod and trowel” fixed on him by his enemies— twitted with ambling" by a play-waggon in the highway”—with a face held up to ridicule as being “like a rotten russet apple when it is bruised,” or “punched full of eyelet-holes, like the cover of a warming pan”_described by himself as remarkable for
“His mountain belly and his rocky face"
lower than t'other, and bigger," as Aubrey has it—and, according to the same authority, “wont to wear a coat like a coachman's coat, with slits under the arm-pits ;”—this uncouth being was for a quarter of a century the favourite poet of the Court,—one that wrote masques not only for two kings to witness, but for one to perform in,—the founder and chief ornament of clubs where the greatest of his age for wit, and learning, and rank, gathered round him as a common centre ; but, above all, he was the rigid moralist, who spared no vice, who was fearless in his denunciation of public or private profligacy, who crouched not to power or riches, but who stood up in the worst of days a real man. The pictures which Jonson has left of his time are more full, more diversified, and more amusing, than those of any contemporary writer,—Dekker not excepted, for his range is not so wide. He possessed a combination of the power of acute and accurate observation with unrivalled vigour in the delineation of what he saw. Aubrey, one of the shrewdest as well as the most credulous of biographers, has a very sensible remark upon the characteristics of Shakspere's comedy, as compared with the writers after the Restoration. “ His comedies will remain wit as long as the English tongue is understood, for that he handles mores hominum; now, our present writers reflect so much upon particular persons and coxcombeities, that twenty years hence they will not be understood.” This is precisely the case with Jonson as compared with Shakspere ; but he is on this account a far more valuable authority for what essentially belongs to periods and classes. Shakspere has purposely left this field uncultivated ; but it is Jonson's absolute domain. Studied with care, as he must be to be properly appreciated, he presents to us an almost inexhaustible series of Daguerreotypes,—forms copied from the life, with absolute certainty, of the manners of three reigns,—when there was freedom enough for men to abandon themselves without disguise to what they called their humours, and the conflicts of opinion had not yet become so violent as to preclude the public satirist from attacking sects and parties. There is a peculiar interest, too, about Jonson and his writings, if we regard him as the representative of the literary class of his own day. In his hands the stage was to teach what the Essayists of a century afterwards were to teach. The age was to be exhibited ; its vices denounced ; its follies laughed at. Gifford has remarked that there is a singular resemblance between Benjamin Jonson and Samuel Johnson. Nothing can be more true ; and the similarity is increased by the reflection that they are both of them essentially London men : for them there is no other social state. Of London they know all the strange resorts : they move about amongst the learned and the rich with a thorough independence and self-respect ; but they know that there are other aspects of life worthy to be seen, and they study them in obscure places where less robust writers are afraid to enter. As it is our duty to present a brief general view of the “Times” of Shakspere, we may best illustrate them, however imperfectly, from the writings of Jonson.
We have said that Ben Jonson is essentially of London. He did not, like his illustrious namesake, walk into the great city from the midland country, and throw his huge bulk upon the town as if it were a wave to bear up such a leviathan.