Page images

forthcoming, the suit was afterwards prosecuted against Thomas Horneby, the defendant's bail; but with what result is not shown.

At the beginning of 1613, died Richard Shakespeare, the brother to the dramatist, in his fortieth year; of his history we know even less than of the other brother's, Gilbert, whom we have seen effecting a purchase for the poet, and whose signature as witness to a deed is still extant.

In the month of March, 1612-13, Shakespeare bought a house with ground attached, near to the Blackfriars Theatre, "abutting upon a streete leading downe to Pudle Wharffe on the east part, right against the Kinges Majesties Wardrobe." The indenture of conveyance dated the 10th of March, is "Betweene Henry Walker citizein and Minstrel of London, on thone partie, and William Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon in the countie of Warwick, gentleman, William Johnson citizein and vintener of London, John Jackson and John Hemmyng of London gentlemen, on thother partie."

Local patronage of the drama we find was neither a cause nor a consequence of Shakespeare's retirement to Stratford; on the contrary, theatrical entertainments had for some years been discouraged by the municipal authorities of that borough. So early as 1602, it was ordered 'that there shall be no pleys or enterlewedes played in the chamber, the guildhalle, nor in any parte of the howsse or courte, ffrom hensforward upon payne that whosooever of the baylief, aldermen, and burgesses of this boroughe shall gyve leave or licence thereunto, shall forfeyt for everie offence xs." But this penalty does not seem to have been efficacious, for, on the 7th of February, 1612, the corporation made the following stringent order :

"The inconvenience of plaies being verie seriouslie considered of, with the unlawfullnes, and howe contrarie the sufferance of them is againste the orders hearetofore made, and againste the examples of other well-governed citties and burrowes, the companie heare are contented and theie conclude that the penalty of xs. imposed in Mr. Bakers yeare for breakinge the order, shall from henceforth be xli. upon the breakers of that order, and this to holde untill the nexte commen councell, and from thencforth for ever, excepted, that be then finalli revokd and made voide."

One of the best known though least authentic anecdotes of Shakespeare, is that relating to his epitaph on a gentleman named Combe. This story has been variously told; Rowe's version is as follows:-"The latter part of his life was spent, as all men of good sense will wish theirs may be, in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends. He had the good fortune to gather an estate equal to his occasion, and, in that, to his wish; and is said to have spent some years before his death at his native Stratford. His pleasurable wit and good nature engaged him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship, of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. Amongst them it is a story almost still remembered in that country, that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and usury. It happened that in a pleasant conversation amongst their common friends, Mr. Combe told Shakespear in a laughing manner, that he fancied he intended to write his epitaph, if he happened to outlive him; and since he could not know what might be said of him when dead, he desired it might be done immediately. Upon which, Shakespear gave him these four verses :

Ten in the hundred lies here ingrav'd,
'Tis a hundred to ten, his soul is not sav'd!
If any man ask, Who lies in this tomb?

Oh, ho, quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe.' 84

84 These lines, variously modified, are found in miscellanies long before Shakespeare's time.

"Ten in the hundred lies under this stone,
And a hundred to ten to the divil his gone."
Addit. MS. 15,227. p. 18.

But the sharpness of the satire is said to have stung the man so severely, that he never forgave it."

That the tale is not altogether destitute of foundation we may believe; but Rowe's version is certainly inaccurate. So far from Shakespeare having done what Combe "never forgave," we have the conclusive evidence of Doctors' Commons that Combe testified his cordial feelings towards the poet by a legacy in his will, and that the latter reciprocated the kindness by bequeathing his sword to Thomas Combe, the nephew of John.85 As an act of justice to the memory of John Combe, it should be mentioned that in his will he bequeathed one hundred pounds (equal to five hundred in present money) to be lent to poor tradesmen of Stratford, and in addition, as an immediate legacy, twenty pounds to the poor of that place, together with legacies of five pounds each to the poor of Warwick and of Alcester.

About this period, we find the poet engaged in the unenviable proceedings of a Chancery suit. The action grew out of the share he had purchased of the tithes payable by the land of Stratford, and some other places. The draft of a bill presented by him, Lane, and Greene, is still in existence, but nothing further is known of the litigation. The bill alleges that these three plaintiffs had a joint interest with William Combe and various other persons in the tithes, &c. the whole being held for a term of 87 years, at a reserved rent of £27 13s. 4d. a year, but that the other parties refused to pay their proportion of this annual sum, to the injury of Shakespeare and his fellow-suitors. The draft bill is of interest in one respect; it recites that Shakespeare's income from this portion of his property was "threescore pounds" (equivalent to three hundred in our time) a year.

The same year, 1613, is memorable from the destruction of the Globe Theatre, which was burnt down on the 29th of June.8 86 Whether Shakespeare was a loser by the calamity is not known; but it is conjectured that when he finally retired to his native home, he parted with all his interest in theatrical property.

During the next year, Shakespeare was concerned with the corporation of Stratford in opposing a projected enclosure of some common lands. A memorandum relating to this subject, dated 5th Sept. 1614, and headed "Auncient ffreholders in the ffields of old Stratford and Welcombe," contains, among sundry entries, the following item :-"Mr. Shakspeare 4 yard land, noe common nor grownd beyond Gospell-bushe, nor grownd in Sandfield, nor none in Slow-hill

"Here lyes 10 with 100, under this stone,
And 100 to one but to th' divel hees gone."
MS. Sloane, 1489, f. 11.
"Who is this lyes under this hearse?
Ho, ho, quoth the divel, tis my Dr. Pearce."
Ms. Sloane, 14. 89, f. 11.

A double epitaph, said to have been his composition, is
preserved in Dugdale's Visitation of Salop, a MS. in the
Heralds' College. Describing a monument in Tong Church
to the memory of Sir Thomas Stanley, Knight, Dugdale
states that "these following verses were made by William
Shakespeare, the late famous tragedian :

Written upon the east end of this tombe.

"Aske who lyes here, but do not weepe; He is not dead, he doth but sleepe.

This stony register is for his bones,

His fame is more perpetuall than these stones;
And his own goodness, with himself being gone,
Shall live when earthly monument is none."

Written upon the west end thereof.

"Not monumentall stone preserves our fame, Nor skye-aspiring piramids cur name.

The memory of him for whom this stands
Shall outlive marble and defacers' hands:
When all to time's consumption shall be given,
Stanley, for whom this stands, shall stand in heaven."

85 Another tradition, of perhaps equal veracity with that of John Combe's epitaph, was communicated to Malone by a native of Stratford, Life of Shakespeare, p. 500 sqq. to the effect that Shakespeare and some of his companions having accepted the challenge of a party calling themselves the Bedford topers and sippers, to a bout of ale-bibbing, whereat the Stratfordians were overcome, Shakespeare on the occasion composed these lines:

"Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston,
Haunted Hillborough, and Hungry Grafton,
With Dadging Exhall, Papist Wixford,
Beggarly Broom, and Drunken Bidford."

86 According to some MS. notes in a copy of Stow's Annales (formerly in the possession of Mr. Pickering the bookseller): "The Globe play house on the Bank side in Southwarke was burnt downe to the ground in the yeare 1612 [1613]; and newe built up againe in the year 1013 [1614], at the great charge of King James and many noble men and others." For an account of this accident, see p. 643, Vol. II.

field beyond Bishopton, nor none in the enclosures beyond Bishopton." The landowners, it appears, were desirous of effecting certain enclosures as a means of improving their property, but their scheme was opposed by the corporation, on the plea that the inhabitants of the place had recently suffered from a disastrous fire,87 and would be still further endamaged by the consummation of this measure, A petition was consequently addressed to the Privy Council, and the effect was an order, not only prohibiting the enclosures, but requiring William Combe, who was a chief promoter of the plan, to undo certain work which, in respect of his own property, he had begun.88 On this business, Thomas Greene, the clerk of the corporation, and a relative of Shakespeare, was sent to London, and some memoranda made by him on the occasion are still preserved. Under date of Nov. 17th, 1614, he notes, "my cosen Shakspear 89 comyng yesterdy to Town, I went to see him how he did. He told me that they assured him they ment to inclose no further than to Gospell Bush, and so upp straight (leavying out part of the Dyngles to the ffield) to the gate in Clopton hedg, and take in Salisburyes peece; and that they mean in Aprill to survey the land, and then to gyve satisfaccion, and not before; and he and Mr. Hall say they think ther will be nothyng done at all."

Shortly after the date of this memorandum, Greene returned to Stratford, leaving the poet in London. Other notes of his prove Shakespeare's uneasiness at the projected encroachments. And that he took precautions to guard himself from loss, we have remarkable evidence in certain articles of agreement between him and William Replingham, of Great Harborough, dated the 28th of October, 1614. These articles provide that the latter shall, "uppon reasonable request, satisfie, content, and make recompense unto him the said William Shackespeare or his assignes, for all such losse, detriment, and hinderance as he the said William Shackespeare, his heires and assignes, and one Thomas Greene gent. shall or maye be thought in the viewe and judgement of foure indifferent persons, to be indifferentlie elected by the said William and William and their heires, and in default of the said William Replingham, by the said William Shackespeare or his heires onely, to survey and judge the same to sustayne or incurre for or in respecte of the increasinge of the yearlie value of the tythes they the said William Shackespeare and Thomas doe joyntlie or severallie hold and enjoy in the said fieldes or anie of them, by reason of anie inclosure or decaye of tyllage there ment and intended by the said William Replingham; and that the said William Replingham and his heires shall procure such sufficient securitie unto the said William Shackespeare and his heires for the performance of theis covenauntes, as shall bee devised by learned counsell, In witnes whereof the parties abovsaid to theis presentes interchangeablie their handes and seales have put, the daye and yeare first above wrytten.

"Sealed and delivered in the presence of us, Tho. Lucas, Jo. Rogers, Anthonie Nasshe, Mich. Olney."

In the Chamberlain's Accounts for Stratford, in 1614, there is an entry :-"Item, for on quart of sack and on quart of clarrett winne, geven to a precher at the New Place, xxd,” which is supposed to show that Shakespeare was entertaining a preacher at the time. This is not improbable, as the custom of refreshing eminent expense was not uncommon in Stratford formerly.

87 It appears from a brief granted for the relief of the town shortly afterwards, that this fire, "within the space of lesse than two houres consumed and burnt fifty and fowre Dwelling Howses, many of them being very faire Houses, besides Barnes, Stables, and other Howses of Office, together with great Store of Corne, Hay, Straw, Wood and Timber therein, amounting to the value of Eight Thousand Pounds and upwards; the force of which fier was so great (the Wind sitting full upon the, Towne), that it dispersed into so many places thereof, whereby

visitors with sack and claret at the general At the same time it is quite possible that the

the whole Towne was in very great danger to have beene utterly consumed."

88 But the poet did not live to see the issue of the contest; the prohibition and order in question not being made before 1618.

89 Greene terms Shakespeare his cousin, i.e. kinsman, but their exact relationship is unknown. In the burial register of Stratford there is an entry, "1589 [90], March 6, Thomas Greene, alias Shakspere," and the town clerk is thought to have been his son.

words "New Place," may have been intended to signify, the Chapel of the Holy Cross, contiguous to the poet's dwelling. The same year saw the publication of a poem entitled The Ghost of Richard the Third, by C. B. in which Richard is made to utter what Mr. Dyce pronounces "perhaps the happiest encomium that Shakespeare had yet received as a dramatist":—

"To him that impt my fame with Clio's quill,

Whose magicke rais'd me from Oblivion's den,
That writ my storie on the Muses' hill,
And with my actions dignified his pen;

He that from Helicon sends many a rill

Whose nectared veines are drunke by thirstie men;
Crown'd be his stile with fame, his head with bayes,
And none detract, but gratulate his praise."

Early in 1616, the poet's youngest daughter, Judith, was married to Thomas Quiney, vintner and wine merchant of Stratford. The ceremony took place on the 10th of February, 1615-16, the bride being then thirty-one years of age, and her husband twenty-seven.

[ocr errors]

On the 25th of the next month, Shakespeare executed his will, which had evidently been prepared two months before: the date,-" Vicesimo quinto die Martii,”—having originally been "Vicesimo quinto die Januarii." It declares the testator to be "in perfect health and memory; which might be true at the time when the instrument was first drawn, but his signatures on the three sheets of paper which the will occupies, are thought to indicate much physical debility. This was his last recorded act. A few weeks later, on the 23d of April, 1616, William Shakespeare died.

Of the particular malady which deprived the world of this incomparable genius, we have no authentic information. The Rev. John Ward, who was vicar of Stratford in the seventeenth century, has left behind him a Diary, now in the library of the Medical Society of London, wherein is the following passage :-"I have heard that Mr. Shakespeare was a natural wit, without any art at all; he frequented 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. Shakespear, Drayton, and Ben Jhonson, had a merie meeting, and itt seems drank too hard, for Shakespear died of a feavour there contracted." 90 The statement that subsequent to his retirement from London, Shakespeare supplied the stage with two plays a-year, and lived at the rate of a thousand pounds a-year, is no doubt an exaggeration; but the carousal is not at all improbable. As Mr. Dyce remarks," Drayton, a native of Warwickshire, and frequently in the neighbourhood of Stratford, may fairly be presumed to have partaken at times of Shakespeare's hospitality; and Jonson, who, about two years after, wandered on foot into Scotland and back again, would think little of a journey to Stratford for the sake of visiting so dear a friend.—"

It is remarkable that the poet's son-in-law, Dr. Hall, who doubtless attended him in his last illness, and who has left observations on various medical cases within his own experience,91 should have preserved no memorandum concerning this, the most interesting case of all.

A note at the end of the volume says, "this booke was begunne ffeb. 14. 1661, and finished April the 25th, 1663, att Mr. Brooks his house, in Stratford uppon Avon, in Warwickshire."

91 They were written in Latin, and published with the following title in 1657: Select Observations on English Bodies: Or, Cures both Empericall and Historicall, performed upon very eminent Persons in desperate Diseases.

First written in Latine by Mr. John Hall Physician, living at Stratford upon Avon in Warwick-shire, where he was very famous, as also in the Counties adjacent, as appeares by these Observations drawn out of severall hundreds of his as choycest. Now put into English for common benefit by James Cooke Practitioner in Physick and Chirurgery."

On the 25th of April,92 all of Shakespeare that could perish was buried on the north side of the chancel of Stratford Church. A flat stone covering his grave bears the following

inscription :

The monument erected to the great dramatist's memory against the north wall of the chancel, is too well known to require description. It is said to have been executed by Gerard Johnson soon after the poet's death, and is mentioned by Leonard Digges, in his verses prefixed to the folio edition of Shakespeare's plays published in 1623. The bust which forms part of the monument must therefore be regarded as the most authentic likeness of Shakespeare we possess. 94 The inscription below it is as follows::

"Good frend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To digg the dust encloased heare:
Bleste be ye man yt spares thes stones
And curst be he yt moves my bones."93

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

The first folio is illustrated with a portrait, engraved by Martin Droeshout, which, though inferior as a work of art, bears a general resemblance to the bust at Stratford.95 Unless it were a copy therefrom, the similarity would indicate a certain fidelity in both. Accompanying this print are some verses by Ben Jonson, which of themselves attest in some degree the truthfulness of the portrait:

"This figure, that thou here seest put,
It was for gentle Shakespeare cut;
Wherein the graver had a strife
With Nature, to out-doo the life.

O, could he but have drawne his wit

As well in brasse as he hath hit
His face, the print would then surpasse
All that was ever writ in brasse;

But since he cannot, reader, looke
Not on his picture, but his booke.”

The bequests of the poet's will have been often criticized. The interlineation, by which he leaves to his wife only the "second-best bed," has occasioned especial speculation.


[blocks in formation]

and the tassels were gilt. These colours were renewed in 1749; but Malone caused the whole to be covered over with one or more coats of white paint in 1793."-DYCE.

95 For particulars respecting the other portraits of Shakespeare, the reader is referred to,-An Inquiry into the Authenticity of various Pictures and Prints, which, from the decease of the Poet to our own times, have been offered to the Public as Portraits of Shakespeare, &c., by James Boaden, 1824 and to An Inquiry into the History, Authenticity, and Characteristics of the Shakespeare Portraits, &c., by Abraham Wivell, 1827.

« PreviousContinue »