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was derived from the Blackfriars alone. His property in the Globe Theatre was in all likelihood quite equal. He would, besides, derive additional advantages as the author of new plays. With a professional income, then, of 4001. or 500l. per annum, which may be held to be equal to six times the amount in our present money, it is evident that Shakspere possessed the means not only of a liberal expenditure at his houses in London and at Stratford, but from the same source was enabled to realize considerable sums, which he invested in real property in his native place. We can trace his purchase of his “capital messuage” in 1597 ; of his hundred and seven acres of land and of a tenement of 1602 ; of another tenement in 1603 ; and of a moiety of the tithes of Stratford in 1605. He had previously invested capital in the building of the Globe and the repairs of the Blackfriars. His unprofessional purchases, during a period of ten years, establish the fact that he improved his worldly advantages with that rare good sense which formed so striking a feature in the whole character of his mind. That he acquired nothing by unfair dealings with his fellow-labourers, authors or actors, we may well believe, even without the testimony of Henry Chettle in the early period of his career, that “divers of worship have reported his uprightness of dealing," and of Hemings and Condell after his death, who speak in their Dedication with deep reverence of “so worthy a friend and fellow.” It would seem, however, that his prosperity was envied. Mr. Collier supposes that a passage in an anonymous tract called “Ratsey's Ghost,” applies to Shakspere : “When thou feelest thy purse well lined, buy thee some place of lordship in the country, that, growing weary of playing, thy money may there bring thee to high dignity and reputation. . . for, I have heard indeed of some that have gone to London very meanly, and have come in time to be exceedingly wealthy." If the application be correct, we still cannot hold with Mr. Collier that the “gone to London very meanly” of this writer implies that “Shakespeare came to London a penniless fugitive. Mr. Collier has shown that in 1589 Shakspere was a shareholder in the Blackfriars, taking precedence of the most popular actors, Kemp and Armin, and also of William Johnson, a shareholder of fifteen years' standing. If Shakspere won this position out of the depths of that poverty which it is the fashion to surround him with, absolutely without a tittle of evidence, the success of the first four or five years of his professional career must have been greater than that of any subsequent period. All the records of Shakspere's professional life, and the results of his success as exhibited in the accession of property, indicate, on the contrary, a steady and regular advance. They show us that perseverance and industry were as much the characteristics of the man as the greatness of his genius ; that he held with constancy to the course of life which he had early adopted ; that year by year it afforded him increased competence and wealth ; and that if he had the rare privilege of pursuing an occupation which called forth the highest exercise of his powers, rendering it in every essential a pleasurable occupation, he despised not the means by which he had risen ; he lived in a free and genial intercourse with his professional brethren, and to the last they were his friends and fellows.
Aubrey says of Shakspere, “ He was wont to go to his native country once a-year.” This statement, which there is no reason to disbelieve, has reference to the period when Shakspere was engaged as an actor. There is another account of Shakspere's mode of life, which does not contradict Aubrey, but brings down his information to a later period. In the “ Diary of the Rev. John Ward, Vicar of Stratford-uponAvon,” the manuscript of which was discovered in the library of the Medical Society of London, we find the following curious record of Shakspere's later years :-“I have heard that Mr. Shakspeare was a natural wit, without any art at all ; hee frequented
* "New Facts," p. 31.
the plays all his younger time, but in his elder days lived at Stratford, and supplied the stage with two plays every year, and for itt had an allowance so large, that hee spent att the rate of 1000l. a-year, as I have heard.” The Diary of John Ward extends from 1648 to 1679 ; and it is in many respects interesting, from the circumstance that he united the practice of medicine to the performance of his duties as a parish priest. Amidst the scanty rural population such a combination was not unusual, the bishop of the diocese granting a licence to an incumbent to practise medicine in the diocese where he dwelt. Upon the removal from the vicarage of Stratford-upon-Avon of Alexander Beane, who had held the living from 1648 to the Restoration, John Ward, A.M., was appointed his successor in 1662.* It is evident that, although forty-six years had elapsed since the death of Shakspere, his memory was the leading association with Stratford-upon-Avon. After noticing that Shakspere had two daughters, we find the entry presented above. It is just possible that the new vicar of Stratford might have seen Shakspere's younger daughter Judith, who was born in 1585, and, having married Thomas Quiney, in 1616, lived to the age of seventy-seven, having been buried on the 9th of February, 1662. The descendants of Shakspere's family and of his friends surrounded the worthy vicar on every side ; and he appears to have thought it absolutely necessary to acquire such a knowledge of the productions of the great poet as might qualify him to speak of them in general society :-“ Remember to peruse Shakespeare's plays, and bee much versed in them, that I may not bee ignorant in that matter.” The honest vicar was not quite certain whether the fame of Shakspere was only a provincial one, for he adds—“Whether Dr. Heylin does well, in reckoning up the dramatick poets which have been famous in England, to omit Shakespeare ?”+ The good man is not altogether to be blamed for having previously to 1662 been “ignorant” of Shakspere's plays. He was only thirty-three years of age ; and his youth had been passed in the stormy period when the Puritans had well nigh banished all literature, and especially dramatic literature, from the minds of the people, in their intolerant proscription of all pleasure and recreation. At any rate we may accept the statements of the good vicar as founded upon the recollections of those with whom he was associated in 1662. It is wholly consistent with what we otherwise know of Shakspere's life, that “He frequented the plays all his younger time.” It is equally consistent that he “in his elder days lived at Stratford.” There is nothing improbable in the belief that he “supplied the stage with two plays every year.” The last clause of the sentence is somewhat startling:-" And for it had an allowance so large, that he spent at the rate of 1000l. a-year, as I have heard.” And yet the assertion must not be considered wholly an exaggeration. “He spent at the rate of 10001. a-year,” must mean the rate of the time when Mr. Ward is writing. During the half century which had preceded the Restoration there had been a more important decrease in the value of money than had even taken place in the reign of Elizabeth. During that reign the prices of all commodities were constantly rising ; but after the reduction of the legal rate of interest from ten per cent. to eight in 1624, and from eight to six in 1651, the change was still more remarkable. Sir Josias Child, in 1688, says that five hundred pounds with a daughter, sixty years before, was esteemed a larger portion than two thousand pounds now. It would appear, therefore, that the thousand a-year in 1662 was not more than one-third of the amount in 1612; and this sum, from 3001. to 4001., was, as near as may be, the amount which Shakspere appears to have derived from his theatrical property. In all probability he held that property during the greater part of the period when he
* See the list of Incumbents in Wheler's “ History of Stratford-upon-Avon," p. 32.
† See“ Diary," &c., 1839, p. 183.
“supplied the stage with two plays every year ;” and this indirect remuneration for his poetical labours might readily have been mistaken, fifty years afterwards, as “ an allowance so large” for authorship that the good vicar records it as a memorable thing.
It is established that “Othello” was performed in 1602 ; “Hamlet,” greatly enlarged, was published in 1604 ; "Measure for Measure” was acted before the Court on St. Stephen's night in the same year. If we place Shakspere's partial retirement from his professional duties about this period, and regard the plays whose dates up to this point have not been fixed by any authentic record, or satisfactory combination of circumstances, we have abundant work in reserve for the great poet in the maturity of his intellect. “Lear,” “Macbeth,” “Timon of Athens,” “ Troilus and Cressida,” “Cymbeline,” “ The Winter's Tale,” “The Tempest,” “ Henry VIII.,” “Coriolanus,” “ Julius Cæsar,” “ Antony and Cleopatra,” eleven of the noblest productions of the human intellect, so varied in their character,—the deepest passion, the profoundest philosophy, the wildest romance, the most comprehensive history-what a glorious labour to fill the nine or ten remaining years of the life of the man who had left his native fields twenty years before to seek for advancement in doubtful and perilous paths,—in a profession which was denounced by some and despised by others, -amongst companions full of genius and learning, but who had perished early in their pride and their self-abandonment! And he returns wealthy and honoured to the bosom of those who are dearest to him— his wife and daughters, his mother, his sisters and brothers. The companions of his boyhood are all around him. They have been useful members of society in their native place. He has constantly kept up his intercourse with them. They have looked to him for assistance in their difficulties. He is come to be one of them, to dwell wholly amongst them, to take a deeper interest in their pleasures and in their cares, to receive their sympathy. He is come to walk amidst his own fields, to till them, to sell their produce. His labour will be his recreation. In the activity of his body will the energy of his intellect find its support and its rest. His nature is eminently fitted for action as well as contemplation. Were it otherwise, he would have “bad dreams,” like his own “Hamlet.” Morbid thoughts may have come over him “like a passing cloud ;” but from this time his mind will be eminently healthful. The imagination and the reason henceforth will be wonderfully balanced. Much of this belongs to the progressive character of his understanding ; something to his favourable position.
To a mind which habitually dwells amongst high thoughts,—-familiar with the greatness of the past, the littleness of the present, and the vastness of the future, the petty jealousies, the envies, the heart-burnings, that have ever belonged to provincial society can only present themselves under the aspect of the ludicrous. William Shakspere was no doubt pointed out by some of his neighbours as the rich player that had “ gone to London very meanly.” It appears to us that we can trace the workings of this jealousy in a small matter which has hitherto been viewed somewhat differently. The father and mother of Shakspere were of good family,—a circumstance more regarded in those days than wealth. We never have attempted to show that John Shakspere was a wealthy man ; but we have contended that the evidence by which it has been sought to prove that he was “steeped up to the very lips in poverty" did not support the allegation. On the grant of arms to John Shakspere made in 1596, which is preserved in the Heralds' College, there is a memorandum which appears to have been made as an explanation of the circumstances connected with the grant. It recites that John Shakspere showed a previous patent; that he had been chief officer of Stratford ; "that he hath lands and tenements, of good wealth and substance, five hundred pounds; that he married a daughter
and heir of Arden, a gentleman of worship.” Malone, who published this document, holds that the assertion that he was worth five hundred pounds is incompatible with the averment of a bill in Chancery, filed by John Shakspere and Mary his wife, against John Lamberte, who had foreclosed upon the estate of Asbies, mortgaged to his father in 1578. The concluding petition of this bill in Chancery says :for that also the said John Lamberte is of great wealth and ability, and well friended and allied amongst gentlemen and freeholders of the country in the said county of Warwick, where he dwelleth, and your said orators are of small wealth and very few friends and alliance in the said county." Malone calls this “the confession of our poet's father himself” of his poverty, and even of his insolvency. Others hold the same opinion. The averments of the petition and the replication afford a proof to the contrary ; for these documents state that the mortgagee wrongfully held possession of the premises, although the mortgage-money was tendered in 1580. The complainant says that he is a man of small wealth,—the man against whom he complains is one of great wealth. The possessor of five hundred pounds was not, even in those days, a man of great wealth ; but it was a reason, according to the heralds, for such a grant of arms as belonged to a gentleman. But he had “very few friends and alliance in the said county.” This was a motive probably for some one of higher wealth and greater friends making an attempt to disturb the honours which the heralds had confirmed to John Shakspere. It appears that some charges were made against Garter and Clarencieux, Kings at Arms (which offices were then held by Dethick and Camden), that they had wrongfully given arms to certain persons, twenty-three in number. The answer of Garter and Clarencieux, preserved in the Herald's College, was presented on the 10th of May, 1602; and it appears that John Shakspere was one of those named in the “libellous scroll,” as the heralds call it. Their answer as regards Shakspere is as follows: "Shakespere. — It may as well be said that Harely, who beareth gould a bend between two cotizes sables, and all other that [bear] or and argent a bend sables, usurpe the coat of the Lo. Mauley. As for the speare in bend, [it] is a patible difference; and the person to whom it was granted hath borne magestracy, and was justice of peace at Stratford-upon-Avon. He maried the daughter and heire of Arderne, and was able to maintain that estate." The information, or “libellous scroll,” was heard before Lord Howard and others on the 1st of May, 1602. At that time John Shakspere had been dead six months. The answer of the heralds points to the position of the person to whom the arms were granted in 1599, when the shield of Shakspere was impaled with the ancient arms of Arden of Wellingcote. In May, 1602, William Shakspere bore these joint arms of his father and mother by virtue of the grant of 1599 ; and against him, therefore, was the “libellous scroll” directed. He had bought a “place of lordship” in the county of Warwick ; he was written down in all indentures, gentleman and generosus ; he had a new coat of arms, it is true, but he claimed it through a gentle ancestry. Was there any one in his immediate neighbourhood, a rich and proud man, who looked upon the acquisition of lands and houses by the poor player with a self-important jealousy? Sir Thomas Lucy-- he who possessed Charlcote in the days of William Shakspere's youth-was dead. He died on the 6th of July, 1600; and it is probable that he who had looked with reverence upon the worthy knight when, as a boy, he was unfamiliar with greatness, might have dropped a tear upon his grave in the parish church of Charlcote. But another Sir Thomas Lucy, who had just succeeded to large possessions, might have thought it necessary to make an attempt to lower, in the eyes of his neighbours, the importance of the presumptuous man who, being nothing but an actor and a poet, had presumed to write himself gentleman. In the first copy of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” there is not a word about the dignities of Justice Shallow, his old coat, or his quarters.
Those passages first appeared in the folio of 1623. They probably existed when the play was acted before James in November, 1604 :
“ Shallow. Sir Hugh, persuade me not; I will make a Star-chamber matter of it: if he wer twenty Sir John Falstaffs, he shall not abuse Robert Shallow, esquire.
Slender. In the county of Gloster, justice of peace, and coram.
Slen. Ay, and ratolorum too; and a gentleman born, master parson ; who writes himself armigero; in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, armigero.
Shal. Ay, that I do; and have done any time these three hundred years.
Slen. All his successors, gone before him, have done't; and all his ancestors, that come after him, may: they may give the dozen white luces in their coat.
Shal. It is an old coat.
Evans. The dozen white louses do become an old coat well; it agrees well, passant: it is a familiar beast to man, and signifies love.
Shal. The luce is the fresh fish; the salt fish is an old coat."
The allusion of the dozen white luces cannot be mistaken. “Three luces hauriant, argent,” are the arms of the Lucys. The luce is a pike—“the fresh fish,”—but the pike of the Lucys, as shown in their arms in the church window of Charlcote,* are hauriant, springing the heraldic term applied to fish; saltant being the term applied to quadrupeds in the same attitude. This is the salt or saltant fish of Shallow. The whole passage is a playful satire upon the solemn pretensions of one with three hundred years of ancestry boasting of his “old coat.” The “dozen white louses” (the vulgarism covered by the Welshman's pronunciation) points the application of the satire with a personality which, coming from one whose habitual practice was never to ridicule classes or individuals, shows that it was a smart return for some insult or injury. The old coat, we believe, could not endure the
* See Dugdale's "Warwickshire," p. 401.