Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the daughter of one Hathaway,' said to have been a substantial, yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford. In this kind of settlement he continued for fome time, till an extravagance that he was guilty of forced him both out of his country, and that way of living which he had taken up; and though it seemed at first to be a blemish upon his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily proved the occasion of exerting one of the greatest geniuses that ever was known in dramatick poetry. He had by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company, and amongst them, fome that made a frequent practice of deerstealing, engaged him more than once in robbing a park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote, near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, somewhat too severely, and in order to revenge that ill ufage, he made a ballad upon him. And though this, pro

Theobald was mistaken in fuppofing that a monument was erected to her in the church of Stratford. There is no memorial there in honour of either our poet's wife or daughter, except flat tombftones, by which, however, the time of their respective deaths is ascertained. His daughter, Susanna, died, not on the second, but the eleventh of July, 1649. Theobald was led into this error by Dugdale. Malone.

9 His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway,] She was eight years older than her hulband, and died in 1623, at the age of 67 years. TheOBALD.

The following is the inscription on her tomb-stone in the church of Stratford :

- Here lyeth interred the body of Anne, wife of William Shakespeare, who departed this life the 6th day of Auguft, 1623, being of the age of 67 yeares." . After this inscription follow fix Latin verses, not worth preserving. MALONE.

1_ in order to revenge that ill usage, he made a ballad upon him.] Mr. William Oldys, (Norroy King at Arms, and

bably the first essay of his poetry, be loft, yet it is said to have been so very bitter, that it redoubled

well known from the share he had in compiling the Biographia Britannica) among the collections which he left for a Life of Shakspeare, observes, that“ —there was a very aged gentleman living in the neighbourhood of Stratford, (where he died fifty years since) who had not only heard, from several old people in that town, of Shakspeare's transgreflion, but could remember the first stanza of that bitter ballad, which, repeating to one of his acquaintance, he preserved it in writing; and here it is neither better nor worse, but faithfully transcribed from the copy which his relation very courteoully communicated to me :"

“ A parliemente member, a justice of peace,
" At home a poor scare-crowe, at London an affe,
“ If lowsie is Lucy, as some volke miscalle it,
« Then Lucy is lowfie whatever befall it :

“ He thinks himself greate,

" Yet an afse in his state
• We allowe by his ears but with affes to mate.
" If Lucy is lowsie, as some volke miscalle it,

“ Sing lowlie Lucy, whatever befall it." Contemptible as this performance must now appear, at the time when it was written it might have had sufficient power to irritate a vain, weak, and vindi&tive magistrate ; especially as it was affixed to several of his park-gates, and consequently published among his neighbours.-It may be remarked likewise, that the jingle on which it turns, occurs in the first scene of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

I may add, that the veracity of the late Mr. Oldys has never yet been impeached; and it is not very probable that a ballad should be forged, from which an undiscovered wag could derive no triumph over antiquarian credulity. STEEVENS.

According to Mr. Capell, this ballad came originally from Mr. Thomas Jones, who lived at Tarbick, a village in WorcesterThire, about 18 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, and died in 1703, aged upwards of ninety. " He remembered to have heard from several old people at Stratford the ftory of Shakspeare's robbing Sir Thomas Lucy's park; and their account of it agreed with Mr. Rowe's, with this addition, that the ballad written against Sir Thomas Lucy by Shakspeare was stuck upon his park-gate, which exasperated the knight to apply to a lawyer at Warwick to proceed against him. Mr. Jones (it is added) put down in writing the first stanza of this ballad, which was all he

the prosecution against him to that degree, that he was obliged to leave his business and family in Warwickshire, for some time, and shelter himself in London.

It is at this time, and upon this accident, that he is said to have made his first acquaintance in the playhouse. He was received into the company then in being, at first in a very mean rank, but

remembered of it.” In a note on the transcript with which Mr. Capell was furnished, it is said, that “ the people of those parts pronounce low he like Lucy." They do so to this day in Scotland, Mr. Wilkes, grandson of the gentleman to whom Mr. Jones repeated the stanza, appears to have been the person who gave'a copy of it to Mr. Oldys, and Mr. Capell. · In a manuscript History of the Stage, full of forgeries and falsehoods of various kinds written (I suspect by William Chet. wood the prompter) some time between April 1727 and October 1730, is the following paffage, to which the reader will give just as much credit as he thinks fit :

" Here we shall observe, that the learned Mr. Joshua Barnes, late Greek Professor of the University of Cambridge, baiting about forty years ago at an inn in Stratford, and hearing an old woman singing part of the above-faid song, such was his respect for Mr. Shakspeare's genius, that he gave her a new gown for the two following stanzas in it; and, could she have said it all, he would (as he often said in company, when any discourse has casually arose about him) have given her ten guineas :

« Sir Thomas was too covetous,

" To covet so much deer,
« When horns enough upon his head,

Most plainly did appear.
“ Had not his worship one deer left?

“ What then? He had a wife
« Took pains enough to find him horns

* Should last him during life.” Malone. ? He was received into the companyat first in a very mean rank ;] There is a stage tradition, that his first office in the theatre was that of Call-boy, or prompter's attendant; whose employment it is to give the performers notice to be ready to enter, as often as the business of the play requires their appearance on the stage. MALONE.

his admirable wit, and the natural turn of it to the stage, foon distinguished him, if not as an extraordinary actor, yet as an excellent writer. His name is printed, as the custom was in those times, amongst thofe of the other players, before some old plays, but without any particular account of what sort of parts he used to play; and though I have inquired, I could never meet with any further account of him this way, than that the top of his performance was the Ghost in his own Hamlet.3 I Îhould have been much more pleased, to have learned from certain authority, which was the first play he wrote;4 it would be without doubt a pleasure to any man, curious in things of this kind, to see and know what was the first essay of a fancy like Shakspeare's. Perhaps we are not to look for his beginnings, like those of other authors, among their least perfect writings; art had so little, and nature fo large a share in what he did, that, for aught I know, the performances of his youth, as they were the moft vigorous, and had the moft fire and strength of imagination in them, were the best. I would not

3- than that the top of his performance was the Ghost in his own Hamlet.] See such notices as I have been able to collect on this subject, in the List of old English actors, post.

MALONE. 4 to have learned from certain authority, which was the first play he wrote ;] The highest date of any I can yet find, is Romeo and Juliet in 1597, when the author was 33 years old ; and Richard the Second, and Third, in the next year, viz. the 34th of his age. Pope.

Richard II. and III. were both printed in 1597.-On the order of time in which Shakspeare's plays were written, see the Ellay in the next volume. Malone.

s---for aŭght I know, the performances of his youth'were the best.] See this notion controverted in An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays.. MALONE.'

be thought by this to mean, that his fancy was so loose and extravagant, as to be independent on the rule and government of judgment; but that what he thought was commonly so great, so justly and rightly conceived in itself, that it wanted little or no correction, and was immediately approved by an impartial judgment at the first sight. But though the order of time in which the several pieces were written be generally uncertain, yet there are palfages in some few of them which seem to fix their dates. So the Chorus at the end of the fourth act of Henry the Fifth, by a compliment very handsomely turned to the Earl of Effex, shows the play to have been written when that lord was general for the Queen in Ireland; and his elogy upon Queen Elizabeth, and her successor King James, in the latter end of his Henry the Eighth, is a proof of that play's being written after, the accession of the latter of these two princes to the crown of England. Whatever the particular times of his writing were, the people of his age, who began to grow wonderfully fond of diversions of this kind, could not but be highly pleased to see a genius arise amongst them of fo pleasurable, fo rich a vein, and so plentifully capable of furnishing their favourite entertainments. Besides the advantages of his wit, he was in himself å good-natured man, of great sweetness in his manners, and a most agreeable companion ; so that it is no wonder, if, with so many good qualities, he made himself acquainted with the best conversations of those times. Queen Elizabeth had several of his plays acted before her, and without doubt gave him many gracious marks of her favour : it is that maiden princess plainly, whom he intends by "- a fair vestal, throned by the west.”

A Midsummer-Night's Dream, Vol. I.

« AnteriorContinuar »