Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

in the wall. 2 On his grave-stone underneath is,

" Good friend,} for Jesus' sake forbear
To dig the dust inclosed here.
“ Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curft be he that moves my bones."4

stances that attended the death of our great poet. From the 34th page of this book, which contains an account of a disorder under which his daughter Elizabeth laboured (about the year 1624,) and of the method of cure, it appears, that she was his only daughter'; [Elizabeth Hall, filia mea unica, tortura oris defædata.] In the beginning of April in that year the visited London, and returned to Stratford on the 22d ; an enterprise at that time “ of great pith and moment."

While we lament that our incomparable poet was snatched from the world at a time when his faculties were in their full vigour, and before he was “ declined into the vale of years," let us be thankful that “ this sweetest child of Fancy" did not perish while he yet lay in the cradle. He was born at Stratford-uponAvon in April 1564 ; and I have this moment learned from the Register of that town that the plague broke out there on the 30th of the following June, and raged with such violence between that day and the last day of December, that two hundred and thirty-eight persons were in that period carried to the grave, of which number probably 216 died of that malignant diftemper; and one only of the whole number resided, not in Stratford, but in the neighbouring town of Welcombe. From the 237 inhabitants of Stratford, whose names appear in the Register, twentyone are to be fubducted, who, it may be presumed, would have died in fix months, in the ordinary course of nature ; for in the five preceding years, reckoning, according to the style of that time, from March 25, 1559, to March 25, 1564, two hundred and twenty one persons were buried at Stratford, of whom 210 were townfmen : that is, of these latter 42 died each year, at an average. Supposing one in thirty-five to have died arnually, the total number of the inhabitants of Stratford at that period was 1470; and consequently the plague in the last six months of the year 1564 carried off more than a seventh part of them Fortunately for mankind it did not reach the house in which the infant Shakspeare lay ; for not one of that name appears in the dead lift.-May we suppofe, that, like Horace, he lay secure and fearless in the midst of contagion and death, protected by the

Mures to whom his future life was to be devoted, and covered
over-
.

facra
Lauroque, collataque myrto,

“ Non fine Diis animosus infans." Malone. ? where a monument is placed in the wall.] He is represented under an arch, in a fitting posture, a cuthion spread before him, with a pen in his right hand, and his left rested on a soroll of paper. The following Latin diftich is engraved under the cushion :

Judicio Pyliuin, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
Terra tegit, populus meret, Olympus habet.

THEOBALD. The first syllable in Socratem is here made short, which cannot be allowed. Perhaps we should read Sophoclem. Shakspeare is then appositely compared with a dramatick author among the ancients : but itill it should be remembered that the elogium is lessened while the metre is reformed; and it is well known that fome of our early writers of Latin poetry were uncommonly negligent in their prosody, especially in proper names. The thought of this diftich, as Mr. Tollet observes, might have been taken from The Faëry Queene of Spenser, B. II. c. ix. ft. 48, and c. x. ft. 3.

To this Latin inscription on Shakspeare should be added the lines which are found underneath it on his monument :

“ Stay, paffenger, why dost thou go so fast ?
“ Read, if thou canst, whom envious death hath plac'd
“ Within this monument; Shakspeare, with whom
16 Quick nature dy'd; whose name doth deck the tomb
“ Far more than coft; fince all that he hath writ
“ Leaves living art but page to serve his wit."

« Obiit Ano. Dni. 1616.

æt. 53, die 23 Apri. STEVENS. It appears from the Verses of Leonard Digges, that our author's monument was erected before the year 1623. It has been engraved by Vertue, and done in mezzotinto by Miller.

A writer in The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. XXIX. p. 267, fays, there is as strong a resemblance between the bust at Stratford, and the portrait of our author prefixed to the first folio edition of his plays, “as can well be between a statue and a pi&ure." To me (and I have viewed it several times with a good deal of attention) it appeared in a very different light. When I went last to Stratford, I carried with me the only genuine prints of Shakspeare that were then extant, and I could not trace any . resemblance between them and this figure. There is a pertness

in the countenance of the latter totally differing from that placid Composure and thoughtful gravity, so perceptible in his original Portrait and his beft prints. Our poet's monument having been erected by his son-in-law, Dr. Hall, the statuary probably had the assistance of fome picture, and failed only from want of skill to copy it.

Mr. Granger observes, (Biog. Hift. Vol. I. p. 259,) that “ it has been said there never was an original portrait of Shakspeare, but that Sir Thomas Clarges after his death caused a portrait to be drawn for him from a person who nearly resembled him." This entertaining writer was a great collector of anecdotes, but not always very scrupulous in inquiring into the authenticity of the information which he procured; for this improbable tale, I find, on examination, stands only on the insertion of an anonymous writer in The Gentleman's Magazine, for Auguft, 1759, who boldly “ affirmed it as an absolute fact;" but being afterwards publickly called upon to produce his authority, never produced any. There is the strongest reason therefore to presume it a forgery.

Mr. Walpole (adds Mr. Granger) informs me, that the only original picture of Shakspeare is that which belonged to Mr. Keck, from whom it passed to Mr. Nicoll, whose only daughter married the Marquis of Caernarvon" (now Duke of Chandos).

From this picture, his Grace, at my request, very obligingly permitted a drawing to be made by that excellent artist Mr. Ozias Humphry; and from that drawing the print prefixed to the present edition has been engraved.

In the manuscript notes of the late Mr. Oldys, this portrait is said to have been “ painted by old Cornelius Jansen." “ Others," he adds, “ say, that it was done by Richard Burbage the player ;” and in another place he ascribes it to “ John Taylor, the player." This Taylor, it is said in The Critical Review for 1770, left it by will to Sir William D'Avenant. But unluckily there was no player of the christian and surname of John Taylor, contemporary with Shakspeare. The player who performed in Shakspeare's company, was Jofeph Taylor. There was, however, a painter of the name of John Taylor, to whom in his early youth it is barely possible that we may have been indebted for the only original portrait of our author ; for in the Picture-Gallery at Oxford are two portraits of Taylor the WaterPoet, and on each of them John Taylor pinx. 1655.” There appears some resemblance of manner between these portraits and the picture of Shakspeare in the Duke of Chandos's collection. That pi&ture (I express the opinion of Sir Joshua Reynolds) has not the least air of Cornelius Jansen's performances.

That this picture was once in the poffeffion of Sir Wm. D'Ave, nant is highly probable ; but it is much more likely to have been purchased by him from some of the players after the theatres were shut up by authority, and the veterans of the stage were reduced to great distress, than to have been bequeathed to him by the person who painted it; in whose custody it is improbable that it should have remained. Sir William D'Avenant appears to bave died insolvent. There is no Will of his in the Prerogative-Office ; but administration of his effects was granted to John Oiway, his principal creditor, in May 1668. After his death, Betterton the actor boughtit, probably at a publick sale of his effects. While it was in Betterton's possession, it was engraved by Vandergucht, for Mr. Rowe's edition of Shakspeare, in 1709. Betterton made no will, and died very indigent. He had a large collection of portraits of actors in crayons, which were bought at the sale of his goods, by Bullfinch the Printseller, who sold them to one Mr. Sykes. The portrait of Shakspeare was purchased by Mrs. Barry the actress, who fold it afterwards for 40 guineas to Mr. Robert Keck. In 1719, while it was in Mr. Keck's poffeffion, an engraving was made from it by Vertue : a large half-sheet. Mr. Nicoll of Colney-Hatch, Middlesex, marrying the heiress of the Keck family, this picture devolved to him; and while in his poffeffion, it was, in 1747, engraved by Houbraken for Birch's Illustrious Heads. By the marriage of the Duke of Chandos with the daughter of Mr. Nicoll, it be. came his Grace's property.

Sir Godfrey Kneller painted a pi&ture of our author, which he presented to Dryden, but from what pi&ure he copied, I am unable to ascertain, as I have never seen Kneller's picture. The poet repaid him by an elegant copy of Verses.-See his Poems, Vol. II. p. 231, edit, 1743 :

“ Shakspeare, thy gift, I place before my fight,
" With awe I ask his blessing as I write;
" With reverence look on his majestick face,
« Proud to be less, but of his godlike race.
His soul inspires me, while thy praise I write,
And I like Teucer under Ajax fight:
“ Bids thee, through me, be bold ; with dauntless breast
Contemn the bad, and emulate the best :
" Like his, thy criticks in the attempt are loft,

" When most they rail, know then, they enyy moft." · It appears from a circumstance mentioned by Dryden, that these verses were written after the year 1683 : probably after Rymer's book had appeared in 1693. Dryden having made no will, and his wife Lady Elizabeth renouncing, administration was granted on the 10th of June, 1700, to his son Charles, who was drowned in the Thames near Windsor in 1704. His younger brother, Erasmus, succeeded to the title of Baronet, and died without iffue in 1711; but I know not what became of his effeets, or where this picture is now to be found.

About the year 1725 a mezzotinto of Shakspeare was scraped by Simon, said to be done from an original picture painted by Zoust or Soest, then in the poffeffion of T. Wright, painter, in Covent Garden. The earliest known picture painted by Zoust in England, was done in 1657; so that if he ever painted a pice, ture of Shakspeare, it must have been a copy. It could not however have been made from D'Avenant's picture, (unless the painter took very great liberties,) for the whole air, dress, dispoSition of the hair, &c. are different. I have lately seen a picture in the possession of Douglas, Esq. at Teddington near Twickenham, which is, I believe, the very picture from which Simon's mezzotinto was made. It is on canvas, (about 24 inches by 20,) and somewhat smaller than the life.

The earliest print of our' poet that appeared, is that in the titlepage of the first folio edition of his works, 1623, engraved by Martin Droeshout. On this print the following lines, addressed TO THE READER, were written by Ben Jonson :

“ This figure that thou here seest put,
“ It was for gentle Shakspeare cut;
si Wherein the graver had a strife
" With nature, to out-do the life.
" O, could he but have drawn his wit
" As well in brass, as he hath hit
“ His face, the print would then surpass
" All that was ever writ in brass ;
" But since he cannot, reader, look

“ Not on his picture, but his book.” Droelhout engraved also the heads of John Fox the martyrologift, Montjoy Blount, son of Charles Blount Earl of Devonshire, William Fairfax, who fell at the fiege of Frankendale in 1621, and John Howson, Bishop of Durham. The portrait of Bifhop Howson is at Christ Church, Oxford. By comparing any of these prints (the two latter of which are well executed) with the original pi&tures from whence the engravings were made, a better judgment might be formed of the fidelity of our author's portrait, as exhibited by this engraver, than from Jonson's assertion, that “ in this figure

" the graver had a strife

" With nature to out-do the life;". a compliment which in the books of that age was paid to fo many engravers, that nothing decisive can be inferred from it. It does not appear from what pi&ure this engraving was made : but from the dress, and the fingular disposition of the hair, &c.

« AnteriorContinuar »