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and from the letter to him, which has been preserved," it appears that he was apprised of the injury to be expected from the intended inclosure ; reminded of the damage that Stratford, then 'lying in the ashes of desolation,' had sustained from recent fires; and entreated to forbear the inclosure."* The letter to Shakspere has not been discovered. The fact of its having been written leaves no doubt of the importance which was attached to his opinion by his neighbours. Truly, in his later years he had
“Honour, love, obedience, troops of friends."
John Combe, the old companion of Shakspere, died at the very hour that the great fire was raging at Stratford. According to the inscription on his monument he died on the 10th of July, 1614. Upon his tomb is a fine recumbent figure, executed by the same sculptor who, a few years later, set up in the same Chancel a monument to one who,“ when that stone is rent," shall still be “fresh to all ages."
Shakspere was at this period fifty years old. He was in all probability healthful and vigorous. His life was a pure and simple one ; and its chances of endurance were the greater, that high intellectual occupation, not forced upon him by necessity, varied the even course of his tranquil existence. His retrospections of the past would, we believe, be eminently happy. His high talents had been employed not only profitably to himself, but for the advantage of his fellow-creatures. He had begun life obscurely, the member of a profession which was scarcely more than tolerated. He had found the stage brutal and licentious. There were worse faults belonging to the early drama than its ignorant coarseness. It was adapted only for a rude audience in its strong excitement and its low ribaldry. He saw that the drama was to be made a great teacher. He saw that the highest things in the region of poetry were akin to the natural feelings in the commonest natures.
* Wheler's “Guide to Stratford.”
He would make the noblest dramatic creations the most popular. He knew that the wit that was unintelligible to the multitude was not true wit,—that the passion which did not move them to tears or anger was not real passion. He had raised a despised branch of literature into the highest art. He must have felt that he had produced works which could never die. It was not the applause of princes, or even the breath of admiring crowds, that told him this. He would look upon his own great creations as works of art, no matter by whom produced, to be compared with the performances of other men,—to be measured by that high ideal standard which was a better test than any such comparisons. Shakspere could not have mistaken his own intellectual position ; for if ever there was a mind entirely free from that self-consciousness which substitutes individual feelings for general truths, it was Shakspere's mind. To one who is perfectly familiar with his works, they come more and more to appear as emanations of the pure intellect, totally disconnected from the personal relations of the being which has produced them. Whatever might have been the worldly trials of such a mind, it had within itself the power of rising superior to every calamity. Although the career of Shakspere was prosperous, he may have felt “the proud man's contumely," if not "the oppressor's wrong.” If we are to trust his Sonnets, he did feel these things. But he dwelt habitually in a region above these clouds of common life. He suffered family bereavements; yet he chronicled not his sorrows with that false sentimentality which calls upon the world to see how graceful it is to weep. In his impersonations of feeling he has looked at death under every aspect with which the human mind views the last great change. To the thoughtless and selfish Claudio,
“The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ach, penury, and imprisonment
To what we fear of death."
“That none but fools would keep.” To Hamlet, whose conscience (consciousness) “ puzzles the will,”
“The dread of something after death” “makes cowards of us all.” To Prospero the whole world is as perishable as the life of man :
“The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Shakspere, when he speaks in a tone approaching to that of personal feeling, looks upon death with the common eye of humanity :
“That time of year thou mayst in me behold
He dwells in the place of his birth, and when he asks, “the friends of my childhood where are they? an echo answers, where are they.” Some few remain ;—the hoaryheaded eld that he remembered fresh and full of hope. Ever and anon as he rambles
(Weston Church.) through the villages where he rambled in his boyhood, the head of some one is laid under the turf whose name he remembers as the foremost at barley-break or foot-ball.
“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
The way to dusty death.” The younger daughter of Shakspere was married on the 10th of February, 1616, to Thomas Quiney, as the register of Stratford shows. Thomas Quiney was the son of Richard Quiney of Stratford, whom we have seen in 1598 soliciting the kind offices of his loving countryman Shakspere. Thomas, who was born in 1588, was probably a well-educated man. At any rate he was a great master of calligraphy, as his signature attests,-a plain signature, that un-palæographic men may read :
The last will of Shakspere would appear to have been prepared in some degree with reference to this marriage. It is dated the 25th of March, 1616; but the word “Januarii " seems to have been first written and afterwards struck out, “Martii ” having been written above it. It is not unlikely, and indeed it appears most probable, that the document was prepared before the marriage of Judith ; for the elder daughter is mentioned as Susanna Hall,—the younger simply as Judith. To her, one hundred pounds is bequeathed, and fifty pounds conditionally. The lifeinterest of a further sum of one hundred and fifty pounds is also bequeathed to her, with remainder to her children ; but if she died without issue within three years after the date of the will, the hundred and fifty pounds was to be otherwise appropriated. We pass over the various legacies to relations and friends * to come to the bequest of the great bulk of the property. All the real estate is devised to his daughter Susanna Hall, for and during the term of her natural life. It is then entailed upon her first son and his heirs male ; and in default of such issue, to her second son and his heirs male ; and so on : in default of such issue, to his granddaughter Elizabeth Hall (called in the language of the time his “piece”): and in default of such issue, to his daughter Judith, and her heirs male. By this strict entailment it was manifestly the object of Shakspere to found a family. Like many other such purposes of short-sighted humanity the object was not accomplished. His elder daughter had no issue but Elizabeth, and she died childless. The heirs male of Judith died before her. The estates were scattered after the second generation; and the descendants of his sister were the only transmitters to posterity of his blood and lineage.t
“ Item, I give unto my wife my second-best bed, with the furniture.” This is the clause of the will upon which, for half a century, all inen believed that Shakspere recollected his wife only to mark how little he esteemed her,—to “cut her off, not indeed with a shilling, but with an old bed.” We had the satisfaction of first showing the utter groundlessness of this opinion, and it is pleasant to know, that the statement which we originally published, some ten years ago, is now fully acquiesced in by all writers on Shakspere. But it was once very different. To show the universality of the former belief in such a charge, we will first exhibit it in the words of one, himself a poet, who cannot be suspected of any desire to depreciate the greatest master of his art. Mr. Moore, in his “Life of Byron,” speaking of unhappy marriages with reference to the domestic misfortune of his noble friend, thus expresses himself :
“ By whatever austerity of temper, or habits, the poets Dante and Milton may have drawn upon themselves such a fate, it might be expected that, at least, the
gentle Shakspere' would have stood exempt from the common calamity of his brethren. But, among the very few facts of his life that have been transmitted to us, there is none more clearly proved than the unhappiness of his marriage. The dates of the births of his children, compared with that of his removal from Stratford,—the total omission of his wife's name in the first draft of his will, and the bitter sarcasm of the bequest by which he remembers her afterwards, all prove beyond a doubt both his separation from the lady early in life, and his unfriendly feeling towards her at the close of it.
“ In endeavouring to argue against the conclusion naturally to be deduced from this will, Boswell, with a strange ignorance of human nature, remarks,- If he had taken offence at any part of his wife's conduct, I cannot believe he would have taken this petty mode of expressing it.' ”. Stevens, amongst many faults of taste, has the good sense and the good feeling
* See the Will in the Appendix.
to deny the inferences of Malone in this matter of the “old bed.” He considers this bequest “a mark of peculiar tenderness ;” and he assumes that she was provided for by settlement. Stevens was a conveyancer by profession. Malone, who was also at the bar, says, “what provision was made for her by settlement does not appear.” A writer in “Lardner's Cyclopædia” doubts the legal view of the matter which Stevens charitably takes :-“Had he already provided for her ? If so, he would surely have alluded to the fact ; and if he had left her the interest of a specific sum, or the rent of some messuage, there would, we think, have been a stipulation for the reversion of the property to his children after her decease.” Boswell, a third legal editor, thus writes upon the same subject ;-“ If we may suppose that some provision had been made for her during his lifetime, the bequest of his second-best bed was probably considered in those days neither as uncommon or reproachful.” As a somewhat parallel example Boswell cites the will of Sir Thomas Lucy, in 1600, who gives his son his second-best horse, but no land, because his father-in-law had promised to provide for him. We will present our readers with a case in which the parallel is much closer. In the will of David Cecil, Esq., grandfather to the great Lord Burleigh, we find the following bequest to his wife :
" Item, I will that my wife have all the plate that was hers before I married her; and twenty kye and a bull.” * Our readers will recollect the query of the Cyclopædist,—“Had he already provided for her ? If so, he would surely have alluded to the fact.” Poor Dame Cecil, according to this interpretation, had no resource but that of milking her twenty kye, kept upon the common, and eating sour curds out of a silver bowl.
The “forgetfulness” and the “neglect" by Shakspere of the partner of his fortunes for more than thirty years is good-naturedly imputed by Stevens to "the indisposed and sickly fit." Malone will not have it so :-“The various regulations and provisions of our author's will show that at the time of making it he had the entire use of his faculties." We thoroughly agree with Malone in this particular. Shakspere bequeaths to his second daughter three hundred pounds under certain conditions ; to his sister money, wearing apparel, and a life interest in the house where she lives ; to his nephews five pounds each ; to his grand-daughter his plate ; to the poor ten pounds; to various friends, money, rings, his sword. The chief bequest, that of his real property, is as follows:
"Item-I give, will, bequeath, and devise, unto my daughter, Susanna Hall, for better enabling of her to perform this my will, and towards the performance thereof, all that capital messuage or tenement, with the appurtenances, in Stratford aforesaid, called the New Place, wherein I now dwell, and two messuages or tenements, - with the appurtenances, situate, lying, and being in Henley Street, within the borough of Stratford aforesaid ; and all my barns, stables, orchards, gardens, lands, tenements, and hereditaments whatsoever, situate, lying, and being, or to be had, received, perceived, or taken, within the towns, hamlets, villages, fields, and grounds of Stratfordupon-Avon, Old Stratford, Bishopton, and Welcombe, or in any of them, in the said county of Warwick ; and also that messuage or tenement, with the appurtenances, wherein one John Robinson dwelleth, situate, lying, and being in the Blackfriars in London, near the Wardrobe ; and all other my lands, tenements, and hereditaments whatsoever : to have and to hold all and singular the said premises, with their appurtenances, unto the said Susanna Hall, for and during the term of her natural life ; and after her decease to the first son of her body lawfully issuing,” &c.
Immediately after this clause, by which all the real property is bequeathed to
* Peck's “Desiderata Curiosa,” lib. iii., No 2.