« PreviousContinue »
« TO THE READER.
It was for gentle Shakspeare cut;
Between the wretched engraving, thus undeservedly eulogised, and the monumental bust at Stratford, there is certainly such a resemblance as to prove, that the assertion of Jonson with regard to its likeness, was not altogether without foundation ; but, as Mr. Steevens has well remarked, “ Shakspeare's countenance deformed by Droeshout, resembles the sign of Sir Roger de Coverley, when it had been changed into a Saracen's head; on which occasion The Spectator observes, that the features of the gentle Knight were still apparent through the lineaments of the ferocious Mussulman.” *
There is, however, a much greater, nay, a very close and remarkable similitude, between the engraving, from the Felton Shakspeare, and the bust at Stratford. What basis Mr. Gilchrist
What basis Mr. Gilchrist may have had for his observation, that Mr. Steevens failed in communicating to the public his confidence in the integrity of Mr. Felton's picture, we know not †; but, if the most striking affinity to the monumental effigy, be deemed, as we think it ought to be, a proof of authenticity, this picture is entitled to our confidence; for whether we consider the general contour of the head, or the particular conformation of the forehead, eyes, nose, or mouth, the resemblance is complete; the only perceptible deviation being in the construction of the eye-brows, which, instead of forming nearly a perfect arch, as in the sculpture,
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i.
+ Gifford's Jonson, vol. i.
have an horizontal direction, and are somewhat elevated towards the temples.
We have now reached the termination of a work, of which, whatever shall be its reception with the public, even Diffidence itself may say, that it has been prosecuted with incessant labour and unwearied research ; with an ardent desire to give it a title to acceptance, and with an anxiety, which has proved injurious to health, that it should be deemed, not altogether unworthy of the bard whose name it bears.
It has also been a labour of love, and, though much indisposition has accompanied several of the years devoted to its construction, it is closed with a mingled sensation of gratitude, regret, and hope; of gratitude, for what of health and strength has been spared to its author; of regret, in relinquishing, what, with all its concomitant anxieties, has been often productive of rational delight; and of hope, that, in the inevitable hour which is fast approaching, no portion of its pages shall suggest a thought, which can add poignancy to suffering, or bitterness to recollection.
* These observations are founded upon the fidelity of the engraving prefixed to Reed's edition of Shakspeare, 1803.
(From the Original, in the Office of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.)
Vicesimo quinto die Martii, Anno Regni Domini nostri Jacobi nunc Regis
. Anno Domini, 1616.
In the name of God, Amen. I WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE of Stratford-uponAvon, in the county of Warwick, gent. in perfect health and memory*, (God be praised !) do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form following ; that is to say:
First, I commend my soul into the hands of God my Creator, hoping, and assuredly believing, through the only merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour, to be made partaker of life everlasting; and my body to the earth whereof it is made.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my daughter Judith, one hundred and fifty pounds of lawful English money, to be paid unto her in manner and form following ; that is to say, one hundred pounds in discharge of her marriage-portion within one year after my decease, with consideration after the rate of two shillings in the pound + for so long time as the same shall be unpaid unto her after my decease; and the fifty pounds residue thereof, upon her surrendering of, or giving of such sufficient security as the overseers of this my will shall like of, to surrender or grant, all her estate and right that shall descend or come unto her after my decease, or that she now hath, of,
* From the short period which elapsed between the date of this Will and the death of the poet, we must infer, that the “ malady which at so early a period of life deprived England of its brightest ornament,” was sudden in its attack, and rapid in its progress.
+ Ten per cent., we find from this passage, was the usual interest of money in our author's days; and in the epitaph on Mr. Combe, as preserved by Aubrey, this old gentleman is censured for taking twelve per cent. : “ But Combes will have twelve, he sweares and he vowes."