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tionate patronage of the Earl of Southampton, to whom he dedicated his poems of “Venus and Adonis,” and his “Rape of Lucrece.” On Sir William Davenant's authority, it has been asserted that this nobleman at one time gave him a thousand pounds to enable him to compleat a purchase. At the conclusion of the advertisement prefixed to Lintot's edition of Shakspeare's poems, it is said, “That most learned prince and great “ patron of learning, King James the First, was “ pleased with his own hand to write an amicable “ letter to Mr. Shakspeare; which letter, though “ now lost, remained long in the hands of Sir “William D'Avenant, as a credible person now “ living can testify.” Dr. Farmer with great probability supposes, that this letter was written by King James in return for the compliment paid to him in Macbeth. The relator of this anecdote was Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham.* These brief notices, meagre as they are, may show that our author enjoyed high favour in his day. Whatever we may think of King James as a “learned “ prince,” his patronage, as well as that of his predecessor, was sufficient to give celebrity to the founder of a new stage. It may be added that his uncommon merit, his candour, and good
* Note by Mr. Malone to “Additional Anecdotes of Wil
liam Shakspeare.” o
nature are supposed to have procured him the admiration and acquaintance of every person distinguished for such qualities. It is not difficult indeed, to suppose that Shakspeare was a man of humour and a social companion, and probably excelled in that species of minor wit notill adapted to conversation, of which it could have been wished he had been more sparing in his writings.
How long he acted has not been discovered, but he continued to write till the year 1614. During his dramatic career he acquired a property in the theatre,” which he must have disposed of when he retired, as no mention of it occurs in his will. His connexion with Ben Jonson has been variously related. It is said that when Jonson was unknown to the world, he offered a play to the theatre, which was rejected after a very careless perusal, but that Shakspeare having accidentally cast his eye on it, conceived a favourable opinion of it, and afterwards recommended Jonson and his writings to the publick. For this candour he was repaid by Jonson, when the latter became a poet of note, with an envious disrespect. Jonson acquired reputation by the variety of his pieces, and endeavoured to arrogate the supremacy in dramatic genius. Like a French critick, he insinuated Shakspeare's incorrectness, his careless manner of writing, and his want of judgment, and, as he was a remarkable slow writer himself, he could not endure the praise frequently bestowed on Shakspeare of seldom altering or blotting out what he had written. Mr. Malone says, that “ not long after the year “ 1600, a coolness arose between Shakspeare and “ him, which, however he may talk of his almost “ idolatrous affection, produced on his part, from “ that time to the death of our author, and for “ many years afterwards, much clumsy sarcasm “ and many malevolent reflections.” But from these, which are the commonly received opinions on this subject, Dr. Farmer is inclined to depart, and to think Jonson's hostility to Shakspeare absolutely groundless; so uncertain is every circumstance we attempt to recover of our great poet's life. Jonson had only one advantage over Shakspeare, that of superior learning, which might in certain situations give him a superior rank, but could never promote his rivalship with a man who attained the highest excellence without it. Nor will Shakspeare suffer by its being known that all the dramatic poets before he appeared were scholars. Greene, Lodge, Peele, Marlowe, Nashe, Lily, and Kyd had all, says Mr. Malone, a regu
* In 1603 he and several others obtained a licence from King James to exhibit comedies, tragedies, histories, &c. at the Globe Theatre and elsewhere. 12
lar university education, and, as scholars in our universities, frequently composed and acted plays on historical subjects.” The latter part of Shakspeare's life was spent in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends. He had accumulated considerable property, which Gildon (in his “Letters and Essays” 1694) stated to amount to £300 per annum, a sum at least equal to £1000 in our days, but Mr. Malone doubts whether all his property amounted to much more than £200 per ann. which yet was a considerable fortune in those times, and it is supposed that he might have derived £200 per ann. from the theatre while he continued on the stage. He retired some years before his death, to a house in Stratford, of which it has been thought important to give the history. It was built by Sir Hugh Clopton, a younger brother of an ancient family in that neighbourhood. Sir Hugh was Sheriff of London in the reign of Richard III. and Lord Mayor in the reign of Henry VII. By his will he bequeathed to his elder brother's son his manor of Clopton, &c. and his house by the
* This was the practice in Milton's days. “One of his objections to academical education, as it was then conducted, is, that men designed for orders in the church were permitted to act plays, &c.” Johnson's Life of Milton.
name of the Great House in Stratford. A good part of the estate was in possession of Edward Clopton, Esq. and Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt. in 1733. The principal estate had been sold out of the Clopton family for above a century, at the time when Shakspeare became the purchaser; who having repaired and modelled it to his own mind, changed the name to New Place, which the mansion-house afterwards erected, in the room of the poet's house, retained for many years. The house and lands belonging to it continued in the possession of Shakspeare's descendants to the time of the restoration, when they were re-purchased by the Clopton family. Here in May 1742, when Mr. Garrick, Mr. Macklin, and Mr. Delane, visited Stratford, they were hospitably entertained under Shakspeare's mulberrytree by Sir Hugh Clopton. He was a barrister at law, was knighted by King George I. and died in the 80th year of his age, in Dec. 1751. His executor, about the year 1752, sold New Place to the Rev. Mr. Gastrell, a man of large fortune, who resided in it but a few years in consequence of a disagreement with the inhabitants of Stratford. As he resided part of the year at Lichfield, he thought he was assessed too highly in the monthly rate towards the maintenance of the poor; but being very properly compelled by