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tree, and pull down his house, being totally insensible to the feeling that he was doing any injury to any person but himself, and holding that the wood and the stone were his own, to be dealt with at his own good pleasure.
It is a singular fact that no drawings or prints exist of New Place as Shakspere left it, or at any period before the alterations by Sir Hugh Clopton. It is a more singular fact that although Garrick had been there only fourteen years before the destruction, visiting the place with a feeling of veneration that might have led him and others to preserve some memorial of it, there is no trace whatever existing of what New Place was before 1757. The representation of “New Place” given in some variorum editions of Shakspere, is unquestionably a forgery. A modern house is now built upon the spot. Part of the site is still a pleasant place of garden and bowling-green.
The register of marriages at Stratford-upon-Avon, for the year 1607, contains the following entry :
“John Hall, gentleman, and Susanna Shaxspere.” Susanna, the eldest daughter of William Shakspere, was now twenty-four years of age. John Hall, gentleman, a physician settled at Stratford, was in his thirty-second year. This appears in every respect to have been a propitious alliance. Shakspere received into his family a man of learning and talent. Dr. Hall lived at a period when medicine was throwing off the empirical rules by which it bad been too long directed ; and a school of zealous practitioners were beginning to rise up who founded their success upon careful observation. It was the age which produced the great discoveries of Harvey. Shakspere's son-in-law belonged to this school of patient and accurate observers. He kept a record of the cases which came under his care; and his notes, commencing in the year 1617, still exist in manuscript. The minutes of his earlier practice are probably lost. The more remarkable of the cases were published more than twenty years after his death, being translated from the original Latin by James Cooke, and given to the world under the title of “ Select Observations on English Bodies, or Cures in desperate Diseases." This work went through three editions.
(Signature of Dr. Hall.]
The season at which the marriage of Shakspere's elder daughter took place would appear to give some corroboration to the belief that, at this period, he had wholly ceased to be an actor. It is not likely that an event to him so deeply interesting would have taken place during his absence from Stratford. It was the season of performances at the Globe ; when the eager multitude who crowded the pit might look up through the open roof upon a brilliant sky; and when the poet, whose productions were the chief attraction of that stage, might rejoice that he could wander in the free woods, and the fresh fields, from the spring time,
“When proud-pied April, dress'd in all his trim,
s, up through
to the last days of autumn, when he saw
“The summer's green all girded up in sheaves,
Born on the bier with white and bristly beard."
A pleasanter residence than Stratford, independent of all the early associations which endeared it to the heart of Shakspere, would have been difficult to find as a poet's resting-place. It was a town, as most old English towns were, of houses amidst gardens. Built of timber, it had been repeatedly devastated by fires. In 1594 and 1595 a vast number of houses had been thus destroyed; but they were probably small tenements and hovels. New houses arose of a better order ; and one still exists, bearing the date on its front of 1596, which indicates something of the picturesque beauty of an old country town before the days arrived which, by one accord, were to be called elegant and refined—their elegance and refinement chiefly consisting in sweeping away our national architecture, and our national poetry, to substitute buildings and books which, to vindicate their own exclusive pretensions to utility, rejected every grace that invention could bestow, and in labouring for a
dull uniformity lost even the character of proportion. Shakspere's own house was no doubt one of those quaint buildings which were pulled down in the last generation, to set up four walls of plain brick, with equi-distant holes called doors and windows. His garden was a spacious one. The Avon washed its banks : and within its enclosures it had its sunny terraces and green lawns, its pleached alleys and honeysuckle bowers. If the poet walked forth, a few steps brought him into the country. Near the pretty hamlet of Shottery lay his own grounds of Bishopton, then part of the great common field of Stratford. Not far from the ancient chapel of Bishopton, of which Dugdale has preserved a representation, and the walls of which still
remain, would he watch the operation of seed-time and harvest. If he passed the church and the mill, he was in the pleasant meadows that skirted the Avon on the pathway to Ludington. If he desired to cross the river, he might now do so without going round by the great bridge ; for in 1599, soon after he bought New Place, the pretty foot-bridge was erected which still bears that date. His walks and his farm-labours were his recreations. But they were not his only pleasures. It is at this period that we can fix the date of “Lear.” That wonderful tragedy was first published in 1608; and the title-page recites that “It was plaid before the King's Majesty at White-Hall, uppon S. Stephen's Night ; in Christmas Hollidaies.” This most extraordinary production might well have been the first fruits of a period of comparative leisure ; when the creative faculty was wholly untrammelled by petty cares, and the judgment might be employed in working again and again upon the first conceptions, so as to produce such a masterpiece of consummate art without after labour. The next season of repose, gave birth to an effort of genius wholly different in character ; but almost as wonderful in its profound sagacity and knowledge of the world, as “Lear" is unequalled for its depth of individual passion. “Troilus and Cressida” was published in 1609. Both these publications were probably made without the consent of the author ; but it would seem that these plays were first produced before
the Court, and there might have been circumstances which would have rendered it difficult or impossible to prevent their publication, in the same way that the publication was prevented of any other plays after 1603, and during the author's life-time. We may well believe that the Sonnets were published in 1609, without the consent of their author. That the appearance of those remarkable lyrics should have annoyed him, by exposing, as they now appear in the eyes of some to do, the frailties of his nature, we do not for a moment believe. They would be received by his family and by the world as essentially fictitious; and ranked with the productions of the same class with which the age abounded.
The year 1608 brought its domestic joys and calamities to Shakspere. In the same font where he had been baptized, forty-three years before, was baptized, on the 21st of February, his grand-daughter, “Elizabeth, daughter of John Hall.” In the same grave where his father was laid in 1601, was buried his mother, "Mary Shakspere, widow," on the 9th of September, 1608. She was the youngest daughter of Robert Arden, who died in 1556. She was probably, therefore, about seventy years of age when her sons followed her to the house of all living." Whatever had been the fortunes of her early married life, her last years must have been eminently happy. Her eldest son, by the efforts of those talents which in their development might have filled her with apprehension, had won his way to fame and fortune. Though she had parted with him for a season, he was constant in his visits to the home of his childhood. His children were brought up under her care ; his wife, in all likelihood, dwelt in affection with her under the same roof. And now he was come to be seldom absent from her ; to let her gaze as frequently as she might upon the face of the loved one whom all honoured and esteemed; whose fame she was told was greater than that of any other living man. And this was the child of her earliest cares, and of her humble hopes. He had won for himself a distinction, and a
worldly recompense, far above even a mother's expectations. But in his deep affection and reverence he was unchangeably her son. In all love and honour did William Shakspere, in the autumn of 1608, lay the head of his venerable mother beneath the roof of the chancel of his beautiful parish church.*
* Shakspere was at Stratford later in the autumn of 1608. In his will he makes a bequest to his godson, William Walker. The child to whom he was sponsor was baptized at Stratford, October 16, 1608.