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As a philologist Malone is a much safer guide. His first principle was a rigid adherence to the elder copies, and when any intelligible meaning was to be extracted from those sources, he professed never to admit into his page a reading unauthorised by the earliest quarto extant, where the play had been published in quarto, or by the first folio, when the play had originally made its appearance there; and on no occasion whatever did he adopt a reading unsanctioned by authority without apprising his reader of the liberty he had taken.
Malone, like Steevens, was destitute of poetic feeling, and he had not the wit and taste of his rival. In knowledge they were equals. Steevens had his acquirements at his free and immediate command. He applies them on all occasions with perfect facility, unencumbered by their bulk, and unconfused by their desultoriness. His vivacity frolicks beneath the trammels of the most uninteresting minutiae, and his wit enlivens the reader's passage through the dreary paths of black letter quotation. But discretion did not always guide him in the exercise of his wit, and his love of minutiae was not always harmless. He often wrote notes as traps to entangle his fellow labourers in error, and insure himself a triumph in confuting them; and his illustrations of passages the most disgusting are remarkable for their elaborateness. It aggravates his crime that he shrunk from responsibility, and sought refuge from reprobation and disgrace, under the borrowed names of Collins and of Aumer. 1).
The hostility in which Steevens and Malone continually appear in their notes, forces them into comparison with each other. Malone, unlike Steevens, always appears oppressed by his acquisitions, and all he accomplished, he accomplished with effort. He wanted judgment to direct him in the distinction of great from little things; all matters were, in his estimation, equally important; he bestows as many words on a trivial subject as on one of real consequence. Steevens' intellectual powers were certainly superior to Malone's, but Steevens' unsound principles of criticism, and dubious honesty, weigh heavely against him. Malone's strict adherence to the dry canons of criticism is an admirable warrant for the integrity of the text he has printed; and the indisputable uprightness of his intentions forms a powerful counterpoise to the mental superiority of his less
1) Steevens has lately been completely unamsked by two writers;-Miss Hawkins, in her book of anecdotes; and more skilfully by D'Israeli in his paper on "Puck the Commentator," in the second series of the Curiosities of Literature.
END OF THE LIFE OF SHAKSPEARE.
No attempt was made to give an account of the life of Shakspeare till near a century after his decease. The name of Shakspeare, indeed, occurs in Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire, in Fuller's Worthies, and in Phillips' Theatrum Poetarum, but only in the way of incidental notice. Winstanley's Lives of the Poets, Langbaine, Blount, Gildon, and Antony Wood, added nothing new. It remained for Rowe, in 1709, to give the first connected life of Shakspeare. The materials from which he wrote were derived, as he himself informs us, from Thomas Betterton, the player, whose veneration of the memory of Shakspeare induced him to take a journey into Warwickshire to collect such information as remained respecting him.
All anecdotes relative to the poet's residence in Stratford, whether before or after his emigration to London, were in little danger of falsification in his native town. Very strong evidence existed of the occurrences of his early life up to 1646, when his sister Joan died. In a long continued intercourse with their aunt, the two daughters of Shakspeare could not fail to acquire a knowledge of all the facts of which she was mistress, and they possessed the advantage of correcting all they heard from her, and of learning a great variety of other particulars, from the conversation of their father aud their mother, and from their own observation, the youngest of these daughters being no less than thirty-two years of age when the poet died, and seven years older at the death of her mother. Shakspeare's daughters, therefore, may reasonably be supposed to have been acquainted with many particulars of his early days, the business, and circumstances of their father and grandfather, their mother's maiden name and condition, and, particularly, the occurrences that drove their father from Stratford to seek his fortune in the metropolis. Of the nature of his occupation in London they must have been well aware; but their notions of his customary habits of life there were, in all probability, general and confused. Every particular relative to his retirement at Stratford must have been as familiar to them as the occurrences of their own lives. The youngest of these ladies survived till 1662, the eldest till 1649, leaving behind her a daughter born in 1607-8.
Familiarised to her mind by personal recollection, aud endeared to her by an affectionate remembrance in his will, Elizabeth Hall had every inducement to listen with attention to the history and anecdotes of her illustrious grandfather, of which her relatives were the repositories. It is surely not too much to assume, that in the unusually prolonged intercourse of forty years with her mother, and of fifty-four years with her aunt, Judith Queeny, she became nearly as well informed upon the subject as themselves, and that, consequently, up to the year 1670, when Lady Barnard died, a history, not only of great credibility, but of undoubted authenticity, existed of a large portion of the poet's life.
Nor were Shakspeare's immediate descendants the only channels through which his history would be transmitted. His sister Joan left three sons, all remembered by legacies in their uncle's will. The second of these sous, Thomas, was the father of George Hart, whose family was remarkably numerous, filling the parish-register of Stratford with an uninterrupted succession of births, marriages, and deaths, through the whole of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
In his retirement at Stratford, Shakspeare connected himself with a small circle of intimates, among whom, in the ordinary course of things, detailed portions of his life would from time to time be scattered. Of the various persons not of his own family, to whom he bequeathed legacies, two, Mr. Thomas Coomb, and Shakspeare's godson, William Walker, survived to advanced ages; Mr. Coomb died in 1657, leaving an elder brother, who lived ten years later. William Walker lived till 1679-80.
Up to a late period, therefore, in the seventeenth century, there was undoubtedly much authentic information iu Stratford respecting Shakspeare. Some facts, of course, sunk every year into oblivion, and some were perverted by misrepresentation; but when the accumulated and extraordinary means which existed for the propagation and preservation of the truth are reflected upon, it is very difficult to conclude that when Betterton instituted his inquiries, little more than twenty years after the death of Shakspeare's grand-daughter, fables only remained for him to collect. The facts adduced by Betterton are indeed few; but this leads to the inference that he was scrupulous, not careless, in his inquiries. The "Picturesque Tourist" to Stratford shewed, nearly a century later, how successful Betterton might have been, had he opened his ears to every idle tale. With respect to the authority of Rowe, I am completely at issue with Malone: I think Rowe's account substantially correct, and, consequently, that the modern biographer has not fulfilled his boast, that he would prove to be false eight out of the ten facts which Rowe advances.
The anecdotes related of Shakspeare by Mr. Jones and Mr. Taylor are of the same class of traditionary evidence. Mr. Jones died at Tarbick, a village in Worcestershire, in 1703, upwards of
ninety years old, and is the relator of an anecdote which he remembered to have heard from many old people at Stratford. Mr. Taylor, an alderman of Warwick, was eighty-five years old in 1790. When a boy he lived at the next house to New Place, which his family had occupied almost three hundred years.
About 1680, Mr. Aubrey was engaged in the collection of anecdotes respecting the most eminent English writers. His work was never completed, but his manuscripts are now reposited in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. Aubrey was on terms of intimacy with most literary men of his day, and acquainted with many of the players. His opportunities, therefore, for the collection of anecdotes were great; but, unhappily, all he heard he believed, and all he believed he committed to paper. As an authority for any thing relative to Shakspeare, he is by no means to be placed on a footing with Rowe. Rowe and Betterton, apparently, consulted their judgment, before they recorded the result of their enquiries: Aubrey had no judgment to consult.
Mr. William Oldys, Norry King at Arms, well known for the share he had in the compilation of the Biographia Britannia, left several quires of paper covered with collections for a regular life of Shakspeare; but they present few circumstances either of novelty or information; and even these must be received with caution. Oldys was a very careful writer, and his insertion of any of these materials in a life of Shakspeare by him, would have stamped them with the character of authenticity, for he would not so have used them without examination. At present they can only be received as evidence unwarranted by any opinion of his own upon their merits; that is, merely as indications of the belief or tradition of the time in which they were collected..
MANY more varieties might be quoted; for the name of Shakspeare is an extremely apposite instance of the singular forms which sirnames assumed under the loose orthography of our ancestors, who appeared to have followed no guide but sound in their spelling. Shakspeare himself wrote his name variously there are, altogether, five signatures, which some writers presume to be genuine autographs: three are indisputably so:- one to a mortgage deed executed in 1613,- Wm. Shakspe"; a second to a conveyance from Henry Walker to the poet, William Shaksper; and one upon each of the three briefs of his will, William Shackspere, William Shakspere, William Shakspeare. The contractions exhibited by the two first signatures neutralize their evidence, as it is with respect to the last syllable only that any doubt exists; and, in regard to the signaturcs to the will, a sort of doubt has been cast on the first and second, by the suggestion that they might be the handwriting of the notary employed on the occasion: the third signature to the will is clear and decisive; in deference to which, the poet's name will, throughout the pages of these volumes, be written Shakspeare.
THE instrument which first assigned arms to John Shakspeare is no where to be found; but in a note at the bottom of the grant made in 1596 it is stated, that he then produced "a patent thereof under Clarence Cook's hand;" and, in the exemplification made in 1599, that he produced his ancient coat of arms assigned to him while he was bailiff of Stratford. The arms are thus described in the last document: "In a field of gould upon a bend sables a speare of the first, the point upward, bedded argent; and for his crest or cognizance, a falcon with his wyngs displayed, standing on a wrethe of his coullers, supporting a speare armed hedded, or steeled sylver, fyxed uppon a helmet with mantell and tassels." In the same document (1599) the christian name of Mrs, Shakspeare is omitted, and her father erroneously designated ef Wellingcote. The instrument of 1596, calls her “Mary, daughter and heyress of Robert Arden of Wilmecote."
Some explanation is necessary of the apparent neglect of the authorities of these grants or confirmations of arms, in the account which has been given of the Shakspeare family. The assertion of these instruments is, that the ancestors of John Shakspeare were advanced and rewarded for their services to Henry the Seventh, by a grant of lands in those parts of Warwickshire, where they had continued for some descents, in good reputation and credit. The grant of 1596 reads "whose parent and late antecessors," which is corrected in another copy, by an interlineation, into "whose grandfather:" the confirmation of 1599 says, "whose parent and great-grandfather." I pass over the contradictions of the heralds as immaterial, and not at all affecting the question as to the persons meant by the "antecessors" of John Shakspeare. I do not think that the actual father, grandfather, great-grandfather, or any actual ancestor of John Shakspeare was at all in the contemplation of the heralds; Ist, because there is no trace whatever of a grant to any of the lineal ancestors of John Shakspeare, in 'the chapel ef the rolls, during the whole reign of Henry the Seventh; 2dly, because there is no trace of any person of the name of Shakspeare ever having been in possession of lands or tenements, said to have been granted by royal bounty; but, on the contrary, the whole family, wherever they appear, present an uniform appearance of respectability without wealth; Sdly, because that which is quite irreconcileable, when interpreted of the lineal ancestor of John Shakspeare, is almost literally true of the ancestors of his wife, whose grandfather, Robert Arden, was groom of the bed-chamber to Henry VII, keeper of the royal park called Aldercar, bailiff of the lordship of Codnore, and keeper of the park there. In 1507, he obtained a lease from the crown of the manor of Yoxsall, in Stafford, of above 4600 acres for twenty-oue years, at the low annual rent of forty-two pounds. I have no hesitation, therefore, to believe, that the Arden's, and not the Shakspeare's, were in the contemplation of the heralds when they spoke of the "antecessors" of the poet's father. Nor is any difficulty involved in this belief, it being usual in, and long after, the sixteenth century, for a husband to speak of the relatives of his wife in the same terms as he did of his own. Edward Alleyn, the player, constantly styles Philip
Henslow his father, though he was only his wife's step-father. Thomas Nash, who married the poet's grand-daughter, Elizabeth Hall, calls Mrs. Hall in his will, his mother. Malone has produced a variety of instances of the lax application of the terms of relationship. (Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 29. 31-2. note.) The inaccuracy and confusion of the heralds in these instruments, is a proof that they were not masters of the subject before them, which renders it little surprising that the grant of lands which they say was in Warwick, should turn out to have been in Stafford. To those who believe them incapable of the commission of such an error, the foregoing reasoning will be inconclusive, and consequently, in their estimation, fatal to the account given of John Shakspeare in the text.
CONSIDERABLE obscurity has, from the days of Rowe, hung over the accounts of John Shakspeare's family, originating in the unhesitating application to the father of the poet of every circumstance recorded in the parish register of John Shakspeare. After having eight children ascribed to him between 1558 and 1580, John Shakspeare is said, in 1584, to have married Margery Roberts, who died 1587. The register, however, goes on to record the birth of three children of John Shakspeare between March 1588-9, and September 1591. Whence it was inferred, that the poet's mother, Mary, though the register is silent, died shortly after 1580: that his father re-married in 1584, and that, on the death of his second wife, was still so enamoured of the matrimonial yoke as a third time to subject himself to its endurance, and became the father of the three children born from 1588 to 1591, he himself dying in 1601, and his third wife surviving him till 1608, when the death of Mary Shakspeare, widow, occurs. As there were no positive contradictions in this account, it was generally acquiesced in, though not as perfectly satisfactory. Malone has cleared the way for a much more natural statement, by observing, that throughout the register the father of the poet is invariably called John Shakspeare, without any distinction whatever, previous to his filling the office of high bailiff; but subsequently, wherever the baptisms or deaths of his children are recorded, he is denominated Mr. John Shakspeare (filius aut filia Magistri Shakspeare), a distinction ever afterwards conferred upon him, as upon every other bailiff, in all the records of the proceedings of the corporation. Now the person who married Margery Roberts fifteen years after the poet's father had been chief magistrate of Stratford, is simply called John Shakspeare, and the three children, Ursula, Humphrey, and Philip, born between 1588 and 1591, are described as the children of John Shakspeare, without any distinction or addition to the name whatever. It admits not, therefore, of the slightest doubt, that the husband of Margery Roberts, and the father of the three children, was not the quondam bailiff of the borough. In answer to the question, who then was he? it is replied, in all probability, John Shakspeare, a shoe-maker, who, not being a native of the town, paid, in 1585-6, thirty shillings for his freedom in the Shoe-makers' Company: served as constable in 1586 and 1587: who had money advanced him by the corporation in 1590; was accepted in two cases as a security for the re-payment of money advanced by them in other individuals, and who was master of the Shoemakers' Company 1592. (Regist. Burg. Strat.)
THE ingenuity of commentators will be tasked anew by the discovery that Shakspeare's father was a glover. The scenes of the dramatist must be ransacked for allusions to that indispensable feature in a gentleman's apparel, a pair of gloves. Passages must now be tortured to furnish evidence of the poet's intimate knowledge of the details of the business of a glove-maker. How much his own works countenance the tradition that he was a wool-dealer, may be seen in the notes on "Let me see:- Every 'leven wether-tods; every tod yields-pound and odd shilling; fifteen hundred shorn, — What comes the wool to?" (Winter's Tale, Act IV. sc. 2.) The reader may consult also, though he would hardly have guessed it, the notes on.
"There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Hamlet, Act V. sc. 2.
Shakspeare is reported to have been a butcher-"Pat, like the catastrophe of the old comedy."
"And as the butcher takes away the calf
Henry VI. part 2. Act III. sc. 1. In these cases, however, there is a matter of reliance the voice of tradition. But it is straining for consequences to argue from the dramatist's technical accuracy in the use of legal phrases, that he was a clerk in the office of a country attorney; and Malone is more than usually reprehensible in endeavouring to support so bold a conjecture, by the suggestion that the schoolmaster story of Aubrey is a mere adumbration of the truth. Aubrey's evidence is positive," he understood Latin pretty well, for he had been iu his younger years a school-master in the country;" and is entitled to as much credit as any other tradition he has preserved, neither involving in itself improbability, nor standing in opposition to any recorded fact.
SHAKSPEARE'S wife was not of "Shottery," as has been affirmed by the author of the "Picturesque Tour to the Banks of the Avon," and his blundering followers. What then becomes of the
cottage at Shottery, where the wife of the poet and her parents dwelt, and in which their descendants, who are poor and numerous, still continue to reside? Here the credulous have been gratified by the display of undoubted relics of the poet. Very particular mention is made of a bed, which an old woman of seventy had slept in from her childhood, and had always been told it had been there since the house was built. Her absolute refusal to part with this treasure, is adduced as a proof that the purchasers of the Shakspearian relics had not listened with a too easy credulity to whatever they had been told. At the time of the Jubilee, George, the brother of David Garrick, purchased an ink-stand, and a pair of fringed gloves, said to have been worn by Shakspeare; but David's enthusiasm for Shakspeare was tempered by judgment, and he purchased nothing.
MALONE has laboured to refute the whole of this account. His arguments may be reduced to two: Ist, the Sir Thomas Lucy alleged to have been Shakespeare's prosecutor, never had a park, it being universally acknowledged that there was none at Charlecote, and Fulbroke was not purchased by the family till the reign of James I.: no theft of deer, therefore, could have been made from Sir Thomas Lucy, it not being possible to produce an example of the keeping of deer in grounds not recognised as parks, in the legal meaning of that word; 2dly, such grounds only were protected by the common law, and by the fifth of Elizabeth, cap. 21.
Without the latter part of the first objection be as incontrovertibly true as the former, the argument avails nothing; for it is alleged that Shakspeare stole deer from Sir Thomas Lucy, not that he stole it either from Chalecote or Fulbroke. That no deer were ever kept in private grounds, because the practice was not so universal as to have forced itself into notice, is what cannot, in contradiction to probability, be conceded. Gentlemen of the 16th century would derive as much pleasure from the preservation of a few head of deer in grounds contiguous to their dwellings, as we know they do in the present day. The passage quoted from Blackstone might have engendered a suspicion, even in the mind of Malone, that the practice was no novelty many years ago. "It is not every field or common which a gentleman chooses to surround with a wall or paling, and stock with a herd of deer, that is thereby constituted a legal park." As it is admitted that Sir Thomas Lucy had no park, in its legal sense, we will just review our authorities for believing, that he at least had deer, and, if that be proved, I care not where he kept them. The first evidence, in point of date, is that furnished by Malone himself, who quotes some notes made by Archdeacon Davies, to the manuscript notices of Mr. William Fulman, on the most eminent English poets. Davies died in 1707, and the papers of himself and Fulman are preserved in Corpus College, Oxon. Davies relates, that Shakspeare stole venison and rabbits from the knight. (Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 121-3.) Rowe's account has been given in the text. We next come to Jones of Tarbick, whose facts are nearly the same as Rowe's, with the added particular, that the offensive ballad was fixed on Sir Thomas' park gate, and such confirmation of the whole story as the repetition of the first stanza of the ballad alleged to have been written afforded. The value of Jones' evidence has been already estimated; it is only necessary here to show, that the stanza repeated by Jones has descended in an uncorrupted state. Jones recited the lines to an acquaintance, who committed them to writing, and a relative of Jones' acquaintance communicated them to Oldys: from him the lines in the text are copied. Capel's account is this: Jones himself wrote down the stanza; this stanza was repeated from memory, by Capel's maternal grandfather, Mr. Thomas Wilkes, to Capel's father, who committed it to writing. The two copies of the stanza derived from the same source, but transmitted through different channels, agree precisely with each other. The story, thus authenticated, is surely conclusive as to Sir Thomas Lucy having had deer, and as to some of those deer having been purloined by Shakspeare. I have forborne to cite Chetwood, because his authority is suspicious; the stanzas he produces are not in the discovered song, with which, moreover, they are at variance in the mode of attack upon Sir Thomas Lucy, and the measure of verse in which they are constructed. It is not too much to believe of Chetwood, that presuming on the irrecoverable loss of all but the first stanza of the ballad, he forged what he thought an appropriate continuation of it. As to Malone's second objection, he partly answers it himself, admitting that Shakspeare might have been proceeded against by an action of trespass. He dismisses the supposition, however, of such having been the case, because it has never been alleged that any civil suit was instituted against Shakspeare on this ground. Rowe's account is much too loose and general to warrant a decision respecting the nature of the proceeding against Shakspeare, but he states positively enough, that the poet was prosecuted in consequence of his depredation on Sir Thomas Lucy's property; and, from all that appears, he might as well have been prosecuted for the trespass as any thing else. But even allowing Malone to have succeeded in the interposition of a legal impossibility against the prosecution of the poet, does the whole story necessarily fall to the ground? Was prosecution the only evil to be apprehended from the anger of so powerful an enemy as Sir Thomas? certainly not; and this Malone well knew when he said, a few pages before, "if our author was so unfortunate as to offend him, he certainly could afterwards find no safe or comfortable abiding in his native town, where he could not escape the constant notice of his prosecutor. (Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 132.) The story then, on Malone's own statement, will stand well enough without the prosecution. And here let me ask, why the same licence of interpretation is not allowed to the words prosecuted and prosecution, in Rowe's narrative, as we are compelled to give to that of prosecutor in the sentence quoted from Malone? The word there can only be understood to mean persecutor, and no difficulty remains to contend with, if we read persecuted and persecution in Rowe's sentence.
The collateral proofs of the tradition are, that Sir Thomas Lucy was very active in the preservation of game, consequently an extremely likely man to act with severity against a depredator on his manor. It has always been believed that Sir Thomas Lucy was ridiculed under the portrait of Justice Shallow, who complains of Falstaff for beating his men, killing his deer, and breaking open his