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the son died in August, 1596 ; the two daughters survived their father. It has been conjectured that the union was not a happy one, principally on the ground that the wife was eight years older than the husband; but as Mr. Halliwell emphatically puts the matter,
for this opinion, not a fragment of direct evidence has been produced.” Shakspeare seems to have lived at Stratford, somehow or other, for several years after his marriage. When it was that, being naturally addicted to poetry and acting, he came up to London,” as Aubrey sets forth, remains to be ascertained; but it seems probable that his emigration was hastened by a scrape in which some deer-poaching exploit involved him." "He had," says Mr. Rowe, "by å misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company, and amongst them some that made a frequent practice of deer-stealing, 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-usage, he made a ballad upon him. And though this, probably the first essay of his poetry, be lost, yet is said to have been so very bitter that it redoubled the persecution 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.” Mr. Charles Knight won't hear of any deer-stealing at all, but the simple case is that deer-poaching was at that time thought little more of, even among the respectable classes, than hare-poach. ing now by the country fellows. Sir Thomas Lucy is supposed to be the Justice Shallow of the comedies. It is unknown whether Shakspeare, in his journey to London was accompanied by his wife and children. Mr. De Quincy's theory is, that “after four years' conjugal discord,” Shakspeare adopted the plan of solitary emi. gration to the metropolis, “ in order to release himself from the humiliation of domestic feuds,” a proposition altogether denounced by Mr. Charles Knight, who considers that Shakspeare had, of course, his family around him in London as well as in the country, and that his London life was not that of the ordinary and the tavern. Mr. De Quincy's theory certainly appears a merely gratuitous assumption; but on the other hand the probabilities are that when Shakspeare found himself impelled by adverse
circumstances to quit Stratford in search of better fortune, he would not charge himself on the way with the heavy burden of a family, however beloved, who could meanwhile remain much more commodiously and economically where they were, especially at a time when the journey to London from Stratford was a matter of some duration and considerable expense. It seems evident, as Mr. Halliwell observes, that the poet was always intimately associated with his native town, and never made a removal from it of a permanent character. As to the locality in London honoured by his residence, he is identified, in 1596, with a house in Southwark, near the Bear Garden. Shakspeare's debut in the metropolis is stated by several biographers to have been in the humble capacity of horseholder: “I cannot forbear relating a story which Sir William Davenant told Mr. Betterton, who communicated it to Mr. Rowe; Rowe told it to Mr. Pope, and Mr. Pope told it to Dr. Newton, the late editor of Milton, and from a gentleman who heard it from him, 'tis here related.” The story, floated in upon this tide of authority, runs
Concerning Shakspeare's first appearance in the play-house, when he came to London, he was without money and friends, and being a stranger, he knew not to whom to apply, nor by what means to support himself. At that time, coaches not being in use, and as gentlemen were accustomed to ride to the play-house, Shakspeare, driven to the last extremity, went to the play-house door, and picked up a little money by taking care of gentlemen's horses who came to the play; he became eminent even in that profession, and was taken notice of for diligence and skill in it. He had soon more business than he himself could manage ; and at last hired boys under him, who were known by the name of Shakspeare's boys. Some of the players, accidentally conversing with him, found him so acute and master of so fine a conversation, that, struck therewith, they introduced him and recommended him to the house, in which he was first admitted in a very low station, but he did not long remain so, for he soon distinguished himself, if not as an extraordinary actor, at least as a fine writer.” The horse-holding portion of this tale may probably be dismissed with a passing smile ; the introduction into the Blackfriars theatre is readily explained by the fact that the manager of that theatre, Richard Burbidge, was, as we are told by Lord South
ampton, of one county with Shakspeare, and indeed almost of one town.” The position in which Shakspeare was received was probably that of servitor or apprentice, the nature of which may at once be seen from the following memorandum in Henslow's Manuscript Register, in which he states that he “hired as a covenant servant William Kendall, for two years, after the statute of Win. chester, with two single pence, and he to give him for his said services every week of his playing in London, ten shillings, and in the country five shillings, for the which he covenanteth for the space of those two years to be ready at all times to play in the house (theatre) of the said Philip, and in no other, during the said term.” William Shakspeare was not likely to remain very long a mere servitor, and in point of fact, Mr. Collier's researches among the Ellesmere papers, have furnished documentary proof that in November, 1589, he was already (it does not appear for how long before) a sharer in the theatre, that is, a person sharing in the daily profits of the representations. As to Shakspeare's histrionic powers, Aubrey reports that he“ did act exceedingly well ;” and the balance of evidence bears out the statement.
The first incontestable notice of Shakspeare by a con. temporary writer is assigned by Mr. Halliwell to a tract published at the close of the year 1592, and the author of which is supposed by Mr. Collier to have been Henry Chettle, who, however, published it as Greene's Groat'sworth of Wit, bought with a Million of Repentance. In this lucubration, the author denounces to some brother dramatists an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that, with his tiger's heart, wrapt in a player's bide, supposes
he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you, and, being an absolute Johannes factotum, is, in his own conceit, the only Shake-scene in a coun. try.” Mr. Chettle being called over the coals for this and some other pleasantries of the like nature in the Groat's. worth of Wit, took occasion, after Greene's death, to publish an apology, the portion of which relating to Shakspeare runs thus : “The other, whom I did not at the time so much spare as since I wish I had, -that I did not, I am as sorry as if the original fault had been my fault, because myself have seen his demeanour, no less civil than he excellent in the quality he professes. Besides, divers of worship have reported his uprightness of
dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writing, which approves his art." These allusions to Shakspeare prove how active he had been as early as 1592, and to what practical purpose, both as regards reputation and as regards commercial progress. What were the precise operations by which he laid the foundation of his worldly fortunes does not very clearly appear. There is no doubt, however, that one very large stone consisted of a munificent donation presented to him by Lord Southampton, in return for the dedication to that nobleman of Venus and Adonis. The donation assumes in Rowe's narrative the absurdly exaggerated form of a thousand pounds ; but the amount may fairly be assumed to have been liberal, and, according to the statement of Sir William Davenant (who claimed to be Shakspeare's son, and to know all about him), it was given to the poet “in order to enable him to go through with a purchase which he (Lord Southampton) heard he had a mind to.” The purchase so contemplated Mr. Collier considers to have been a share in the new playhouse, The Globe, then (1593) about to be erected as a summer theatre for the Lord Chamberlain's servants, the Blackfriars Theatre being their winter arena. In 1596, we find Shakspeare, in the capacity of part owner of the Blackfriars Theatre, putting down a sum of money towards the repairing of that theatre; and in the same year, Mr. Collier's research exhibits him, as occupant of a house in Southwark, signing, somewhat invidiously, a complaint to the authorities against Alleyn's Bear Garden. In 1597, the thriving actor, dramatist, and speculator, made his first investment in his native town, by purchasing New Place, one of the best houses in Stratford, “with two barns and two gardens, and their appurtenances,” for £60, the exact date of the purchase, as produced by Mr. Halliwell, being in the Easter Term, 13 Eliz. 1597. In one of the two gardens set forth grew the mulberry-tree, planted by Shakspeare, and a scion of which now flourishes on the site of the parent stock. A mulberry-tree, planted by the hand of Shakspeare's royal Mistress, in the garden of a mansion in Cheyne-walk, Chelsea, now occupied by my friends the Handfords, has been more fortunate than Shakspeare's tree, for it remains in full and productive vigour. New Place, as occupied by Shakspeare, was demolished by a wretched man, one Rev. Francis Gastrell, who unhappily came into the property somewhere about 1,51. It was the same reverend iniquity who destroyed the mulberry-tree. In New Place, Shakspeare's family chiefly resided from 1597 to the time of his death; and Mr. Halliwell adduces, from the local records, various pass ages which exhibit Shakspeare himself as much there, and engaged, if not actually in agriculture, at least in negotiations of a kindred character. In fact, he appears to have omitte no honourable means of increasing his store. A subsidy roll of 1598, for example, quoted by Mr. Hunter, shows him to have been the holder of a house in the parish of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate ; and as there are no indications that he ever lived in that locality, the probability is, that he had bought the lease of the premises as a speculation. The place was altogether out of the way of his occupation as actor, which he continued certainly up to 1603, in which year he was one of the principal performers in Ben Jonson's Sejanus. It is probable that, upon the whole, the year 1604 may be assigned as the period at which he finally retired from the stage as actor, though his connection with it as owner and comanager* continued some years longer. Old Aubrey tells us that “ he was wont to go to his native country once a year;" it is likely that his journeys were more frequent, but whenever they occurred, we are informed by Anthony à Wood he always lodged at the sign of the Crown, in the Corn-market at Oxford,
,-a hostelry of which considerable portions still remain, and which at the time was kept by John Davenant, a very grave and discreet citizen, who had to wife a very beautiful woman, and of a very good wit, and of conversation extremely agreeable.” The son of this couple, Sir William Davenant, who was born March 1605-6, used, “when he was pleasant over a glass of wine with his most intimate friends, e.g. Sam Butler (author of Hudibras), &c., to say that it seemed to him that he wrote with the very spirit that Shakspeare wrote, and was contented enough to be thought his son.” If there be no better basis for this pleasantry than the poetlaureate's conceit that he wrote like Shakspeare, the fair fame of Mrs. Davenant, and the morality of William Shakspeare, in the particular case, have been needlessly vindicated. Chirping old Aubrey, however, who is always
* It was probably in the capacity of manager that he found occasion to bring Ben Jonson forward.