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between children and their parents (aldermen or tradesmen of Stratford), and also between some of the tradesmen themselves, on matters of business, was occasionally carried on by Latin letters and communications. Is it in the least likely, that Shakspere, the son of the principal officer of the town, and the inheritor of a valuable estate, should be wanting in an equal amount of learning? Is it possible that, with the same opportunities, the author of "TROILUS AND CRESSIDA," of "ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA," of "JULIUS CESAR," of "CORIOLANUS," should have passed his youth in sloth and unlettered ignorance? To come to such an opinion, we must suppose that the eager aptitude of the man had never disclosed itself in the boy; and, in effect, that the great genius of Shakspere had never felt the restlessness or impulses which are an integral part of genius, but had slumbered in utter idleness throughout the whole interval of boyhood. Ben Jonson's reference to his "little Latin and less Greek," shews that he knew both Latin and Greek; and so far as it is disparaging, must be understood to speak by way of comparison, between the mere word-learning of Shakspere, and that of himself (Jonson) and other ripe scholars of the time. In all that was essential, whether it related to the people of Rome or Greece, Shakspere undoubtedly knew infinitely more than "rare Ben Jonson" himself, or probably any of his cotemporaries.
Leaving the question of our poet's education and learning to be canvassed by the more curious, I proceed, and find that, towards the close of the year 1582, being then about eighteen years and seven months old, he intermarried with Ann Hathaway, a "maiden of Stratford," who, if the inscription on her tomb be correct, was his elder by eight years. Soon after the marriage, namely, on the 26th of May, 1583, Susanna, their eldest child, was baptised; and on the 2nd of February, 1585, their son and daughter, Hamnet and Judith. It appears by the register that Hamnet was buried on the 11th of August, 1596, and thereupon Susanna and Judith, the poet's two daughters, became his co-heiresses.
Susanna, the eldest child of Shakspere, married John Hall, gentleman (who was a physician of Stratford), on the 5th of June, 1607, she being then thirty-four years of age; and Judith, the younger daughter, married Thomas Queeny on the 10th of February, 1616, about two months only before the death of her father. The wife of Shakspere, as it is supposed, survived him; for on the 6th of August, 1623, there appears on the register the burial of “Mrs. Shakspere, widow," who must then have been sixty-seven years old, her illustrious husband dying at the early age of fifty-two. His will, a copy of which follows this introductory essay, appears to have been made about a month after his daughter Judith's marriage, and to have preceded by a month only his own death; the approach of which, in all probability, then became visible to him.
It does not appear that the poet's youngest daughter left any issue; but there was one child of Susanna, named Elizabeth, who married Thomas Nash, Esq., and who herself had a daughter, afterwards the wife of Sir Reginald Forster; from which last-mentioned marriage there appears to have been a descent through two generations. The family of Shakspere, however, in the lineal direction, is now extinct.
Various conjectures have been formed as to the mode in which Shakspere was employed, previously and subsequently to his marriage; as to how he was enabled to maintain his wife and children; as to the motives that induced him to quit Stratford for London, and other circumstances very desirable to know; but all which have hitherto been diligently
sought for in vain. He may have been a schoolmaster or scrivener, as has been suggested; but I shall not add to the many ingenious hypotheses that have been started, by any idle speculations of my own. It is clear that it was his destiny. Whether impelled, outwardly or ostensibly, by the persecution of others, or by his own misfortunes or discontent, is an inquiry not very important. It was his destiny; the inner call of his genius, which bade him seek its proper development; which drew him, by its mysterious influence, from the solitudes where Nature is dumb, into the teeming city,-into those crowds and throngs of men from whom he learned so much; and to whom, and to whose posterity, he taught all that we see written down in that volume which has no likeness, called, "THE WORKS OF SHAKSPERE."
The story of the deer-stealing, and of the prosecution of our poet by Sir Thomas Lucy, rests on too uncertain a foundation to render it necessary to do more than simply advert to it. That he may have taken part in any of the ordinary frolics of the time, is likely enough; but whether that was the cause which "drove" him to London, or whether, in fact, he was driven there at all, is beyond the power of any one at present to certify. It is generally thought that Shakspere quitted Warwickshire for London about 1536 or 1587; but in 1589 he was one of the proprietors of the Blackfriars Theatre, a fact that seems to indicate an earlier arrival in the metropolis than is usually supposed. It is not very probable that a youth who left Stratford in 1587 (whether to evade the pursuit of justice or not, but at all events) with small or no pecuniary resources, and with the burthen of a wife and children upon him, should, in the space of about a couple of years, become a joint proprietor of one of the principal theatres in London.
His position at the theatre, as proprietor, in 1589, therefore, seems to indicate that he must then have been a considerable period in London; and not only this, but also that he must then have been, for a considerable time, a writer for the stage. What, in fact, could have renovated his fortunes, and raised him to the dignity of proprietor, but the aid that he had given to the drama? His earliest work, according to his own account "the first heir of his invention," was the poem of "VENUS AND ADONIS." That was printed for the first time in 1693: but he was then the friend of Lord Southampton, who was the friend of genius. How had he manifested his genius and acquired this friendship, which did both so much honour, before 1693, unless by the dramas which he had without doubt at that time created? The fact of there having been none of his plays in print at that period proves nothing. There is, according to the opinion of critics, an evident and a very invidious allusion to him, as actor and dramatist, in Robert Green's "GROATSWORTH OF WIT," written in or before the year 1592; so that he was then well known as a writer of plays. The omission of Shakspere's name in Harrington's "APOLOGIE FOR POETRY," published in 1590-1, proves, not that Shakspere had not then written, but simply that Harrington either preferred the plays of Lord Buckhurst and others, or that he was unaware of the dramas of Shakspere, or of their merit. If the plays of our author were not (as they appear not to have been) in print at that period, the fact of Harrington having omitted to speak of the excellence of works that he had had no opportunity of reading, seems to be sufficiently accounted for.
On the arrival of Shakspere in London, it is generally supposed that he resorted to the stage for employment; commencing, probably, as actor, for it is certain that he was an actor during part of his sojourn; and producing afterwards, from time to time, his marvellous plays.
It has been discovered that, in 1596, he lived near the Bear Garden, in Southwark, his residence being also in the neighbourhood of the theatre to which he was attached; and that in 1609 he occupied a good house within the liberty of the Clink. It would appear that he remained in London till about the year 1611: not longer, for in March, 1612, he is described as "of Stratford-upon-Avon, gentleman," in a deed by which a house in Blackfriars, which he had purchased, was conveyed to him by one Henry Walker. During his residence in London, however, he made occasional visits to Stratford, in the course of which he was accustomed to stop at the Crown Inn, at Oxford, at that time kept by one John Davenant; and it is tolerably certain that he became, in 1606, the godfather of Davenant's son, afterwards known as Sir William Davenant, the poet. Previously to this, he had acquired the friendship of Lord Southampton, and of Lord Pembroke; had, in 1598, been admitted to an intimacy with Ben Jonson; and had associated generally with the wits and writers of the age. It was at the Mermaid, then a tavern of note in Fleet Street, that Shakspere, Jonson, Beaumont, Fletcher, and other social men of genius, were wont to congregate; and there it was, that those lively interchanges of wit and vivacity, those "wit combats," which we are told of, occurred between Ben and Shakspere. Amongst other persons, he was acquainted with Alleyn, the founder of Dulwich College, and during that person's absence in the country, was in the habit of visiting his wife, who remained in London. In one of her letters to her absent husband, she informs him that a certain Mr. Francis Chaloner had endeavoured to borrow ten pounds; but that "Mr. Shakspere, of the Globe, who came said he knew him not, only he herd of him that he was a roge, so he was glad we did not lend him the money." This is the only real anecdote that we possess of Shakspere during his London residence. Amongst other acquisitions of this period, not to be forgotten, our poet obtained the approbation of Queen Elizabeth, before whom some of his plays were performed, and who is said to have "appreciated his genius." There is no evidence that
"She showered her bounties on him, like the Hours,"
or, in fact, that she rewarded him with anything more solid than her smiles; a cheap mode of remunerating genius, but which, to the credit of that age, was not then common with persons of illustrious rank.
That Shakspere was loved as well as admired by many of his cotemporaries, is well authenticated. Ben Jonson (a warm hearted man, as well as a sterling writer) declares, “I do love the man and honour his memory, on this side of idolatry, as much as any he was indeed honest, and of an open and free nature;" and the editors of the folio edition of the plays, say that they have collected them "to keep the memory of so worthy a friend and fellow alive, as was our Shakspere." Whether the poet was beloved by any one of the opposite sex, remains a mystery. From the tenor of some of his sonnets, there is reason to suppose that he attached himself to some female, and that he was ill requited.
A few years ago some papers were written on this obscure subject, entitled, if I remember rightly, "The Confessions of Shakspere." They were made out, with great ingenuity, from the "SONNETS" alone; combining and consolidating the several parts of each into one (as it were) authentic narrative. And, indeed, as one travels through these records of the great
* The following is Fuller's account of Shakspere, in his "WORTHIES OF ENGLAND:" "He was an eminent instance of the truth of that rule, 'poeta non fit, sed nascitur: one is not made but born a poet.' Many were the wit combats betwixt him and Ben Jonson, which two I behold like a Spanish great galleon and an English man of war. Master Jonson, like the former, was built far higher in learning; solid, but slow in his performances. Shakspere, like an English man of war, lesser in bulk but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about and take advantage of all winds, by the quickness of his wit and invention."
poet's feelings, a dim and shadowy History seems to rise and disclose itself before us: an intimation not to be neglected; seeing that such a man, however entangled amongst the conceits and fancies of his age, would hardly, in his own person, have wasted such sad and passionate verses on any subject that had no foundation in truth.
On quitting London, Shakspere retired to his native town of Stratford. He had previously purchased one of the best houses there, called "New Place," and in this house he lived and died. He was buried on the 25th of April, 1616, on the north side of the chancel of the great church of Stratford. A monument was shortly afterwards-certainly before the year 1623-erected to his memory. The artist has represented him in a sitting posture, with a pen in his right hand, and his left resting on a scroll of paper; and on the cushion which appears spread out before him, are engraved the following lines:
"Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
Not much can be said of this monument as a work of art: it is poor enough. And yet to this tomb, and to the house wherein he (is supposed to have) lived and died, how many thousand pilgrims have since come! Here, people of all ages and all nations have repaired, for upwards of two hundred years. Walls covered with inscriptions (each man eager to write down his admiration) attest the worth and influence of a great poet. It would have been creditable to this country, or to its government, if some fit memorial, in bronze or marble, had been built up in his honour. For, although (as Milton sings)
"What, needs my Shakspere for his honoured bones,
The labour of an age in piléd stones?
Or that his hallowed reliques should be hid
yet that does not exonerate us from paying the tribute due to his memory; however it may account for the abundance of statues which we have erected, in the vain hope of immortalising people who have shed neither glory nor light of any sort upon the English
As part of the biography of Shakspere, it would have been very desirable to have ascertained the order in which his plays were written. It would have exhibited the gradations, and, perhaps, fluctuations, of his intellect, and have cast light on many questions of great interest relating to the works themselves; but, unfortunately, this must still remain doubtful. The subject has been frequently discussed; and trifling facts have from time to time arisen, proving that certain plays had been actually performed when, as was once supposed, they existed only in the imagination of the author. But nothing like satisfactory evidence has been produced to shew at what precise time any one play was written. We know that some plays were printed, and that others were represented, in certain years. But we do not know how long before those years these dramas were actually composed, nor whether other plays, which were made public at a later date, were not then in existence.
For my own part, I think that, in determining the chronology as well as the authenticity of Shakspere's plays, there is, after all, no evidence like the internal evidence; no proof like the plays themselves. Other proofs may be, and have, in similar cases,
repeatedly been found fallacious.
But there is no retrograding in point of style; no going back from the style of vigorous manhood, or even the neatness and fastidiousness of later life, to the loose, unsettled character which invariably betrays the youthful writer. A date may be incorrectly given; a report may be without foundation; a second edition may be mistaken for a first; and the work which is published to-day, may, in manuscript, have many predecessors. In Shakspere's case, the doubts are so strong and numerous, that we are thrown back altogether upon conjecture. Had the great author, indeed, left anything which could have enabled us to unravel the mystery, the question might have assumed another aspect; but, in the absence of all information from himself, we cannot do better, as I have said, than consult his works.
The principal point of interest is as to those plays with which he commenced his labours; for we have his own acknowledgment, that "the first fruit of his invention" was the poem of "VENUS AND ADONIS." If it could be satisfactorily ascertained that "TITUS ANDRONICUS" and the First Part of "HENRY THE SIXTH" were written by him, I should be disposed to place them at the commencement of the list. But I doubt their authenticity; and I altogether disbelieve all reports and dissent from all opinions which aim at fathering upon him "SIR JOHN OLDCASTLE," "THOMAS, LORD CROMWELL," and "THE YORKSHIRE TRAGEDY." They are decidedly spurious: and the circumstance of Schlegel having pronounced his deliberate conviction that those wretched performances "unquestionably" belonged to Shakspere,-nay, that they "are amongst his best and maturest works,”—is almost enough to beget a doubt as to the originality of some of his own critical opinions.
"TITUS ANDRONICUS," the First Part of "HENRY THE SIXTH," and "PERICLES," are said to contain passages which shew, beyond all question, that Shakspere was their author. But short passages, having the stamp of Shakspere, prove no more than that he occasionally retouched and invigorated the dramas that came before him; a circumstance which is by no means improbable. In respect to "PERICLES," I think, from a careful reading of the play, that the three last acts were undoubtedly written by Shakspere. No other man could write in the same style, or in a style so good. The two first acts are, indeed, very unlike his composition; and there is something in the early part of the plot that, I suspect, never originated in his invention. "TITUS ANDRONICUS" and the First Part of "HENRY THE SIXTH," are in a different predicament. In the more material qualities of a play,-in character, in plot, in spirited intelligent dialogue, these two dramas are deficient. Talbot (in the latter play) is a bold sketch, and the scene between him and the Countess of Auvergne, is striking and dramatic; but, in the main, the dramatis personæ differ but little from each other, whilst the level style of the verse, and the brutal treatment of the Maid of Orleans at the close, betray, as it seems to me, the hand of an inferior dramatist. However Shakspere may have yielded to the national prejudices of his age, he was too noble and humane to have attempted to justify upon the stage that most atrocious tragedy, in which the English barbarians of the time consummated their renown, by burning to death an enemy who was at once a woman and their prisoner. Amongst the ineradicable stains upon the arms of England (small and few in number, I trust), this diabolical act of the murder of the Maid of Orleans stands out blackest and unparalleled.
In regard to "TITUS ANDRONICUS," it has always appeared to me to have issued from the same mint, and to bear the same stamp as "LUST'S DOMINION," which is known to have been produced by Marlowe. With the exception of one beautiful passage, there is the same style of verse (totally unlike that adopted in Shakspere's