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and a moft agreeable companion; fo that it is no wonder if with fo many good qualities he made himself acquainted with the beft converfations of those times. Queen Elizabeth had feveral of his Plays acted before her: And without doubt gave him many gracious marks of her favour: it is that maiden Princefs plainly, whom he intends, by

A fair Veftal, Throned by the Weft.
Midfummer-Night's Dream.

And that whole paffage is a compliment very properly
brought in, and very handfomely applied to her. She
was fo well pleas'd with that admirable character of
Falstaff, in the two parts of Henry the fourth, that
the commanded him to continue it for one Play more,
and to fhow him in love. This is faid to be the occa-
fion of his writing The Merry Wives of Windfor. How
well the was obeyed, the play itself is an admirable
proof. Upon this occafion it may not be improper to
obferve, that this part of Falstaff is faid to have been
written originally under the name of * Oldcastle; fome
of that family being then remaining, the Queen was
pleafed to command him to alter it; upon which he
made ufe of Falstaff. The prefent offence was indeed
avoided; but I don't know whether the Author may
not have been fomewhat to blame in his fecond choice,
fince it is certain that Sir John Falstaff, who was a
Knight of the garter, and a Lieutenant-general, was a
name of diftinguished merit in the wars in France in
Henry the fifth's and Henry the fixth's times.
grace foever the Queen conferred upon him, it was
not to her only he owed the fortune which the reputa-
tion of his wit made. He had the honour to meet
with many great and uncommon marks of favour and
friendship from the Earl of Southampton, famous in the
hiftories of that time for his friendship to the unfortu-
nate Earl of Effex. It was to that noble Lord that he
dedicated his Poem of Venus and Adonis. There is one

*See the Epilogue to Henry IV.
£ 4

What

inftance

inftance fo fingular in the magnificence of this Patron of Shakespeare's, that if I had not been affured that the story was handed down by Sir William D'Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I fhould not have ventured to have inferted, that my Lord Southampton at one time gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to. A bounty very great, and very rare at any time, and almoft equal to that profufe generofity the prefent age has fhewn to French Dancers and Italian Singers.

What particular habitude or friendships he contracted with private men, I have not been able to learn, more than that every one who had a true taste of merit, and could diftinguifh men, had generally a juft value and esteem for him. His exceeding candor and good-nature muft certainly have inclined all the gentler part of the world to love him, as the power of his wit obliged the men of the moft delicate knowledge and polite learning to admire him.

His acquaintance with Ben Johnson began with a remarkable piece of humanity and good-nature; Mr. Fobnfon, who was at that time altogether unknown to the world, had offered one of his Plays to the Players, in order to have it acted; and the perfons into whose hands it was put, after having turned it carelefly and fupercilioufly over, were juft upon returning it to him with an ill-natured anfwer, that it would be of no fervice to their Company; when Shakespeare luckily caft his eye upon it, and found fomething fo well in it as to engage him firft to read it through, and afterwards to recommend Mr. Johnfon and his writings to the publick. Johnson was certainly a very good fcholar, and in that had the advantage of Shakespeare; though at the fame time I believe it must be allowed, that what Nature gave the latter, was more than a balance for what Books had given the former; and the judgment of a great man upon this occafion was, I think, very juft and proper. In a converfation between Sir John Suckling, Sir William D'Avenant, Endymion Porter, Mr. Hales of Eaton, and Ben Jobnfon; Sir Fahn

John Suckling, who was a profeffed admirer of ShakeSpeare, had undertaken his defence against Ben Johnson with fome warmth; Mr. Hales, who had fat still for fome time, told 'em, That if Mr. Shakespeare bad not read the Ancients, he had likewife not ftolen any thing from 'em; and that if he would produce any one Topick. finely treated by any of them, he would undertake to fhew fomething upon the fame fubject at least as well written by Shakespeare.

The latter part of his life was fpent, as all men of good fenfe will with theirs may be, in eafe, retirement, and the converfation of his friends. He had the good fortune to gather an eftate equal to his occafion, and, in that, to his wifh; and is faid to have spent some years before his death at his native Stratford. His pleasurable wit, and good-nature, engag'd him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. Amongst them, it is a story almoft ftill remember'd in that country, that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and ufury: It happen'd that in a pleafant converfation amongst their common friends, Mr. Combe told Shakespeare in a laughing manner, that he fancy'd he intended to write his Epitaph, if he happen'd to out-live him; and fince he could not know what might be said of him when he was dead, he defir'd it might be done immediately Upon which Shakespaere gave him thefe four verfes.

Ten in the hundred lies bere engrav'd,

'Tis a hundred to ten his foul is not fav'd:
If any man afk, Who lies in this tomb?
Ob! ob! quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe.

But the sharpness of the Satire is faid to have ftung the man fo feverely, that he never forgave it.

Hey'd in the 53d year of his age, and was bury'd on the north fide of the chancel, in the great Church at Stratford, where a monument, remains to his

f. 5,

memory

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Good friend, for Jefus' fake forbear
To dig the dust inclofed bere.

Bleft be the man that fpares thefe ftones,
And curft be be that moves my bones.

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He had three daughters, of which two liv'd to be marry'd; Judith, the elder, to one Mr. Thomas Quiney, by whom he had three Sons, who all died without children; and Sufannah, who was his favourite, to Dr. John Hall, a phyfician of good reputation in that country. She left one child only, a daughter, who was marry'd first to Thomas Nafb, Efq; and afterwards to Sir John Bernard of Abington, but dy'd likewife without iffue.

This is what I could learn of any note, either relating to himself or family: The character of the man is best seen in his writings. But fince Ben Johnson has made a fort of an effay towards it in his Difcoveries, I will give it in his words.

6.6

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"I remember the Players have often mention'd it as an honour to Shakespeare, that in writing (what"foever he penn'd) he never blotted out a line. My anfwer hath been, Would be had blotted a thousand! which they thought a malevolent fpeech. I had "not told pofterity this, but for their ignorance, who "chofe that circumftance to commend their friend by, "wherein he moft faulted: and to juftifie mine own "candour, for I lov'd the man, and do honour his memory, on this fide idolatry, as much as any. He was, indeed, honeft, and of an open and free nature, had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle expreffions; wherein he flow'd with that facility, that fometimes it was neceffary he should be ftopp'd: Sufflaminandus erat, as Auguftus faid of "Haterius. His wit was in his own power, would "the rule of it had been fo too. Many times he fell

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into thofe things which could not efcape laughter;

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"as when he said in the perfon of Cæfar, one fpeak→ ❝ing to him,

"Cæfar thou doft me wrong.

"He reply'd:

"Cæfar did never wrong, but with just cause.

"and fuch like, which were ridiculous. But he re "deem'd his vices with his virtues: There was ever more in him to be prais'd than to be pardon'd."

As for the paffage which he mentions out of ShakeSpeare, there is fomewhat like it in Julius Cæfar, but without the abfurdity; nor did I ever meet with it in any edition that I have feen, as quoted by Mr. Johnfon. Befides his plays in this edition, there are two or three afcribed to him by Mr. Langbain, which I have never seen, and know nothing of. He writ likewise Venus and Adonis, and Tarquin and Lucrece, in ftanza's, which have been printed in a late collection of Poems. As to the character given of him by Ben Johnson, there is a good deal true in it: But I believe may be as well exprefs'd by what Horace fays of the firft Romans, who wrote Tragedy upon the Greek models, (or indeed tranflated 'em) in his epiftle to Auguftus.

it

-Naturâ fublimis & acer,

Nam fpirat Tragicum fatis & feliciter audet,
Sed turpem putat in Chartis metuitque Lituram.

As I have not propos'd to myself to enter into a large and compleat collection uponShakespeare's Works, fo I will only take the liberty, with all due fubmiffion to the judgment of others, to obferve fome of those things I have been pleas'd with in looking him over.

His plays are properly to be distinguish'd only into Comedies and Tragedies. Thofe which are call'd Hiftories, and even fome of his Comedies are really Tragedies, with a run or mixture of Comedy amongft 'em. That way of Tragi-comedy was the common mistake of that age, and is indeed become so agreeable

to:

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