[ The story so far: After a discussion of Shakespeare's involvement in the purchase of property both in London and Stratford, and the possible destruction of manuscripts in the Globe theatre fire of 1613 and in another fire in Warwick, it is recorded that little is known of Shakespeare's activities in retirement outside a reference to being a preacher and a reputation for epitaph writing." ]
Shakespear, whom you and ev'ry playhouse bill|
Style the divine, the matchless, what you will,
For gain, not glory, wing'd his roving flight,
And grew immortal in his own despight.—Pope, ed. 1770, ii. 264.
/ p.276 /
/ p.277 /
/ p.278 /
Most careful fac-similes of all of these, from the accurate pencil of Mr Fairholt, are given in the preceding pages, and the reader will thus be enabled to judge of the manner in which the dramatist signed his name. It is unnecessary to say that many alleged autographs of Shakespeare have been exhibited ; but forgeries of them are so numerous, and the continuity of design, which a fabricator could not produce in a long document, is so easy to obtain in a mere signature, that the only safe course is to adopt none as genuine on internal evidence. A signature in a / p.281 / copy of Florio's translation of Montaigne, 1609,* is open to this objection. The verbal evidence as to its existence only extends as far back as 1780, after the publication of Steevens's fac-simile of the last autograph in the will, of which it may be a copy with intentional variations. Even supposing we can find the same formed capitals elsewhere, and a contraction precisely similar to the very unusual one over the letter m, no evidence on such a subject which does not commence much earlier than 1780 can safely be relied upon. It is unnecessary to allude to the claims which have been produced in favour of other supposititious signatures of the poet, for none of them will bear investigation.
It will be observed that it is therefore a matter of great uncertainty whether Shakespeare was one of the few persons of the time who adopted an uniform orthography in his signature ; but, on the supposition that he always wrote his name Shakspere, it was contended as early as 1784† that it should be printed in this curtailed form.
The question is one of very small importance, and the only circumstance worth consideration in the matter is the tendency of this innovation to introduce the pronunciation of Shaxpere, a piece of affectation so far dangerous, inasmuch as it harmonizes not with the beautiful lines that have been consecrated to his memory by Ben Jonson and other eminent poets ; and those who have adopted it seem to have overlooked the fact, that in the orthography of proper names the printed literature of the day is the only safe criterion. In the case of Shakespeare, there are the poems of Lucrece, and Venus and / p.282 / Adonis, published under his own superintendence, in which the name occurs Shake-speare, and so it is found in almost every work printed in the lifetime of the poet. Shakespeare's son-in-law, in the earlier part of his life, signed his name Hawle, and afterwards Hall. In 1581 Sir Walter Raleigh signed his name Rauley ; five years afterwards we find it Ralegh. Henslowe sometimes wrote Heglowe ; and so in innumerable instances. There were doubtlessly exceptions, as the case of Lord Burghley and a few others, but there is no sufficient evidence to show that Shakespeare adhered to any uniform rule. Shakespeare's brother spelt his name Shakespere, so that if we adopted the system of guiding our orthography by autographs, we should, when speaking of the poet, write Shakspere or Shakspeare ; but when we have occasion to mention his relative, it must be Shakespere.
The only method of reconciling these inconsistencies is to adopt the name as it is bequeathed to us by his contemporaries, and there is a great additional reason for doing so when we reflect on the certainty that the poet was called Shake-speare* by his literary friends. I may add further
119. To the same.
Thou hast so us'd thy pen or shooke thy speare,
That poets startle, nor thy wit come neare.
Bancroft's Two Bookes of Epigrammes, 1639.
/ p.283 /
that Mr. Wheler of Stratford possesses what may be fairly considered as the only sentence known to exist, which can be supposed with any probability to be in the poet's handwriting. It is an endorsement on the indenture between Shakespeare and the Combes in 1602,* a document we know did belong to the dramatist ; and Mr. Wheler is of opinion that no scrivener or clerk would have described a deed in such a manner.
I certainly agree with him in considering it to be in the autograph of Shakespeare, or of one of the family ; and there are similarities to be traced between this and some of the poet's acknowledged signatures.
Here we have another orthography Shackspeare, and the latter part eare, the a appearing like u, is so similar to that portion of the name in the two last signatures in the will, that it is at once an argument in favour of the appropriation of the above to Shakespeare, and of the correctness of reading Shakspeare in those two autographs.
The exact nature of the malady which deprived the world of Shakespeare has not been correctly ascertained. The only direct evidence on the subject is contained in a MS. miscellany by John Ward, vicar of Stratford, preserved in the library of the Medical Society of London ; but it was not penned till forty years after the death of Shakespeare. / p.284 / According to a note at the end of the volume, "this booke was begunne ffeb. 14, 1661, and finished April the 25, 1663, att Mr. Brooks his house in Stratford uppon Avon in Warwickeshire." Several manuscripts by Ward are in the same collection, but this is the only one which contains any notice of Shakespeare of much worth.
––– we did sit---------------------------
Sometimes five acts out in pure spightfull wit,
Which flow'd in such true salt, that we did doubt
In which scene we laught most two shillings out.
Shakespeare to thee was dull, whose best jest lies
I’ th’ ladies questions and the fools replies,
Old fashion'd wit, which walk'd from town to town
In turn'd hose, which our fathers call'd the clown ;
Whose wit our nice times would obsceaness call,
And which made bawdry pass for comicall.
Nature was all his art ; thy vein was free
As his, but without his scurility.
It may be said in favour of this traditionary account of the poet's last illness, that it is perfectly reasonable and in- / p.285 / telligible, and comes to us on very fair authority. A festive meeting might have accelerated fever, and the bad drainage of Stratford fostered epidemics. The good people of that town were not very careful in such matters ;* and the removement of filth without injury to health was not understood in those days. Even in Garrick's time Stratford is mentioned by that great actor as "the most dirty, unseemly, ill pav'd, wretched looking town in all Britain."† We may be quite sure the streets, however classic now as the paths of Shakespeare, were in the days of the poet equally amenable to a similar criticism. Whatever degree of credit, then, we may be disposed to give to the account of the "merry meeting," the probabilities are greatly in favour of the other part of Ward's history being correct.‡ Shakespeare was probably attended in his last illness by his son-in-law, Dr. John Hall. Malone, in a letter dated May 1st, 1790, says, "I find, from Dr. Hall's pocket-book, which was once in my possession, that a Mr. Nason was Shakspeare's apothe-
Item, for Paulle the dier for leavinge mucke before his doore.
Wyddoe Roggers att the Bullringe for leavinge mucke in Swyenne streitt.
Goodmane Sannes for leavinge mucke in Swyenne streytte.
For Mr. Abraham Sturlie nott makinge cleane his soylle before his barne in Rather markett and mud waull in Henlie streytte.
Richard Burman for makinge a muckhill before his doore.
Edward Cottrill for makinge a muckhill in Rather markett.
Edward Bromlie for nott makinge cleane the churche waye before his barne by the water side.
Nicholis James for makinge a muckhill att the sheip streytts end.
Roger Marshalle for nott makinge cleane his soille before his door in the Sheip streytte.
Hamnett Sadler and George Warrane for nott makinge cleane the soille in Sheip streytte.
Henrye Smythe for nott makinge cleane the water couarsse before his barne in Chapple laine.
Johne Perrie for a muckhill in the Chapple laine.
Henrye Smythe for keipinge his swynne and duckes in the Chapple yarde.
† Autograph letter in the possession of W. O. Hunt, Esq.
‡ Perhaps it could be ascertained whether Drayton and Ben Jonson could have been at Stratford shortly before the death of Shakespeare. Drayton, it is / p.286 / well known, was a Warwickshire man, and he and Shakespeare are mentioned together in the following epigram on Dugdale,—
Now, Stratford upon Avon, we would choose---------------------------
Thy gentle and ingenuous Shakespeare muse,
Were he among the living yet, to raise
T’our antiquaries merit some just praise :
And sweet-tongu'd Drayton, that hath given renown
Unto a poor (before) and obscure town,
Harsull, were he not fal'n into his tombe,
Would crown this work with an encomium.
Our Warwickshire the heart of England is,
As you most evidently have prov'd by this ;
Having it with more spirit dignifi'd
Then all our English counties are beside.
Cokain's Small Poems, 1658, pp. 111-112.
cary." This name is corrected to Court in a subsequent note, but I suspect he merely drew this conclusion from the circumstance of there being an apothecary of that name at Stratford in 1616, not from an actual statement that he had attended the poet.
Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of Stratford church, a few paces from that part of the wall against which the charnel-house was erected. A flat stone covers his remains, with the following inscription,—
but the poet's name does not appear. No reasonable doubt, however, can be raised as to the fact of this being his last resting-place. It is parallel with the graves of the other members of the family, and Dugdale, in 1656, expressly states that "his body is buried" underneath this stone. The letter quoted at p. 88, asserts that this epitaph was " made by himselfe a little before his death," a late belief, / p.287 / unnoticed earlier than 1693. It is unnecessary to say that such wretched doggrel never could have proceeded from Shakespeare's pen, yet those have not been wanting who have told us that they did so, and that his horror of the charnel-house, so near this spot, was the occasion of them. The Gothic doorway, within a few steps of Shakespeare's grave, opened into this building, which, says Ireland, "contains the greatest assemblage of human bones I ever saw." It is now pulled down, but Captain Saunders has fortunately preserved a very careful drawing of its interior, the most curious record of this charnel-house that has been preserved,—
Or shut me nightly in a charnel house,|
O'er cover'd quite with dead men's rattling bones,
With reaky shanks, and yellow chapless sculls,
Things that to hear them told have made me tremble.
On the north wall of the chancel, elevated about five feet from the floor, is erected a monument to Shakespeare. He is represented with a cushion before him, a pen in his right hand, his left resting upon a scroll. This bust, says Wivell, / p.288 / "is fixed under an arch, between two Corinthian columns of black marble, with gilded bases and capitals, supporting the entablature ; above which, and surmounted by a death's head, are carved his arms ; and on each side is a small figure in a sitting posture, one holding in his left hand a spade, and the other, whose eyes are closed, with an inverted torch in his left hand, the right resting upon a skull, as symbols of mortality." The monument was erected before 1623, for it is mentioned by Leonard Digges in some verses prefixed to the first folio ; and it was executed by Gerard Johnson,* an eminent sculptor of that period. It was originally coloured, the eyes being represented as light hazel, the hair and beard auburn, the dress a scarlet doublet, over which was a loose black gown without sleeves. In 1748, it was repainted, the old colours being faithfully imitated ; but in 1793, Malone caused it to be painted white, not delicately and artistically, but by a common house-painter, It is to be feared that this injudicious act has irretrievably lost to us some of the more characteristic features of the bust, and the regret is the greater, because no representation of the bard is so authentic. The portrait in the first folio, 1623, although it receives the tribute of rare Ben, written, it may be, before he saw the engraving, is not a creditable work of art, but it ranks next to the bust in point of authority, and a general resemblance is to be traced between them. †
Several paintings of Shakespeare have been produced, but the genuineness of most of them may be doubted, for fabrication has been as industrious with the poet's likeness as with his autograph. The Chandos portrait, in the posses- / p.289 / sion of the Duke of Buckingham, is said to have been traced back to a former owner, Sir William Davenant, and as this can, I am told, be substantiated by evidence, the picture bears greater authenticity than any others that have been asserted to be original likenesses of the great bard. Kneller painted a picture of Shakespeare which he gave to Dryden, but no portrait which cannot be traced much nearer Shakespear's time can be regarded as an original authority, and so little critical judgment was formerly displayed in such matters, that a painting of James I. was palmed upon Pope as a representation of the poet. The bust in the chancel of Stratford Church is beyond the reach of any such doubt, and is in no way assailable to hesitating criticism. It is at once the most interesting memorial of the dramatist that remains, and the only one that brings him before us in form and substance. There is a living and a mental likeness in this monument, one that grows upon us by contemplation, and makes us unwilling to accept any other resemblance.* Let us repeat the lines that are inscribed beneath this memorial (p. 87), and implore the reflective observer to pause before it,—
I have elsewhere noticed a popular belief that Shakespeare's union was not productive of much social happiness, and an interlined clause in the will has unnecessarily tended to perpetuate this notion,—" Item, I gyve unto my wief my second best bed with the furniture." So far from this bequest being one of slight importance, and exhibiting small esteem, it was the usual mode of expressing a mark of great affection. The first bequest in the will of Joyce Hobday,* of Stratford, dated March 28th, 1602, is, " I geve and bequeth to my brother Rychard Ward of Warwycke my best fether bed, one boulster, a pillowe, and the best coveryng for a bed."
Henry Harte, of Andover, whose will (in the Prerogative office) was proved in 1586, gives " unto John Harte one bedde one the right hande comminge in at the doore in the Starr Chamber with all the furniture, and twoe other beddes, with twoe coverletts, and twoe bolsters, and twoe blanketts; item, I give to William Harte one bedd with all the furniture in the chamber called the Hallffe Moone." William Underhill, in his will dated 1595, proved in 1599, in the same office, bequeaths two similar legacies of beds with their furniture to near relatives ; and John Sadler, whose will is dated in 1625, gives and bequeaths " to my sone John Sadler of London the bed and whole furniture therunto belonging in the parlour where I lye." These instances might be multiplied, but what is here before us is quite sufficient to show that the ordinary opinion concerning this often-quoted bequest of Shakespeare to his wife is / p.291 / altogether erroneous. On equally uncertain grounds, it was alleged that the poet left his partner no provision for her life, and it was reserved for Mr. Knight to point out that she was provided for by dower. Thus each allegation on which the above-mentioned belief is founded has been dissipated. It has also been supposed that the poet in some respect neglected part of his family to found an inheritance of great magnitude for a favorite daughter, but it must be recollected no proof has yet been adduced of the manner in which he employed the very large sum he received for his shares in the Globe and Blackfriars theatres, and, in the absence of any direct evidence on the subject, it is not unreasonable to assume that it was expended for the benefit of his family.
None of the Hathaways are mentioned in Shakespeare's will, not even by the small remembrances with which the poet has honoured so many not related or connected with him ; yet we cannot on this negative evidence conclude he was not on good terms with his wife's relatives. The only notice of any intercourse between Anne Shakespeare and the friends of her youth at Shottery is contained in the will of Thomas Whittington of that hamlet, who was shepherd to Anne's father, Richard Hathaway, in 1581. Whittington died in April, 1601,*
and in his will, made a few days previously, and proved on April 29th, occurs the following :
A judicious bequest, not implying any want of friendship for the Shakespeares, but most likely considering that the owners of New Place were too wealthy to require such an / p.292 / addition to their substance. It is worthy of remark that when Anne's father died, in 1582, he owed this person £4 6s. 8d, and it is most probable that the £5 was merely placed for security in the hands of Anne Shakespeare, as a person in whom Whittington had confidence. The principal value of the information this bequest affords is the glimpse it gives us of transactions between Shakespeare's wife and her early friends. Whittington also left twelve-pence to "Thomas Hathaway sonne to the late Margret Hathway," who may have been one of Anne Shakespeare's nephews ; but the will of Richard Hathaway, her father, a very important document, which I have discovered in the Prerogative Office since my account of the family in the former part of this volume was printed, does not enable us to decide that question. I take the opportunity of introducing it in this place, merely remarking there is nothing unusual in the circumstance of all the members of the family not being mentioned, however much it is to be regretted that no notice of Anne Hathaway is there to be found. His daughter Joan, born in 1566, is also not alluded to.
[ Probatum &c. nono die mensis Julii, 1582.]
/ p.294 /
The names of Sandells and Richardson, the bondsmen on the occasion of Shakespeare's marriage, occur in this document, and it will be seen that Anne's father was no more learned than her husband's, for he signs with a mark. It seems to be very doubtful whether Anne herself could write, for no evidence of her calligraphy has been produced, and we know that one of her brothers was not versed in that science. She survived Shakespeare several years, and was buried near him in the chancel of Stratford church, on August 8th, 1623.*
A brass plate on the stone which covers her remains thus pays tribute to her religious worth :
The gravestones of the Shakespeare family are in a row with this, facing the rail of the altar. That of Anne Shakespeare is immediately beneath the poet's monument ; next comes the stone with the verses, " Good friend," &c., and next to that are inscriptions to the memory of Thomas Nash, who married the only daughter of Susanna Hall ; Dr. John Hall, son-in-law to the dramatist ; and Susanna Hall, Shakespeare's favorite daughter, in the following order:
/ p.295 /
The verses on the tombstone of Mrs. Hall were obliterated many years ago to make room for an inscription on some one else, but they had fortunately been preserved by Dugdale, and have recently been judiciously restored. For this welcome service we are indebted to the taste and liberality of the Rev. W. Harness. Mrs. Hall was buried on July 16th, 1649, "July 16, Mrs. Susanna Hall widow." At Shakespeare's death, in 1616, his family consisted of his wife, his daughter Susanna, married to Dr. Hall, his daughter Judith, married to Thomas Quiny, and Elizabeth Hall, a grand-daughter. Judith Quiny had several children, who were all dead in 1639 (p. 31), she herself living till 1662. The poet's grand-daughter, Elizabeth Hall, was married in 1626 to Thomas Nash, who died in 1647, without issue ; and secondly, in 1649, to John Barnard, of Abington, co. Northampton, by whom she had no family. She died in 1670, and with her the lineal descent from Shakespeare perished. The persons who now claim to be the poet's descendants belong to the Hart family, into which Joan, Shakespeare's sister, married.
/ p.296 /
Susanna Hall was only tenant for life of the freehold estates under her father's will, which were strictly entailed on her male issue, with several remainders. Before many years had elapsed this property suffered the infliction of many legal fictions, the entail was barred, and the estates dispersed. The whole history of it will be correctly gathered from the documents inserted in the Appendix.
The preceding pages furnish the reader with all evidence of any importance respecting the personal history of Shakespeare that has yet been discovered, and, considering how deficient the lives of authors generally are in those striking events which most attract the notice and commemoration of contemporaries, it would not have been surprising had even less information regarding him been preserved. It has, however, been asserted we know so little of the poet's life, that his past existence is scarcely more determined than that of Homer ; and this opinion has been repeated by the latest biographers. Perhaps the collection of facts here brought together will at least tend to modify this prevalent belief. The character of Shakespeare is even better substantiated than his history. We have direct and undeniable proofs that he was prudent and active in the business of life, judicious and honest, possessing great conversational talent,* universally esteemed as gentle and amiable ;† yet
If Pride ascende the stage, O base ascent,|
Al men may see her, for nought comes thereon
But to be seene, and where Vice should be shent,
Yea, made most odious to ev'ry one
In blazing her by demonstration,
/ p.298 /
Then Pride, that is more then most vicious,|
Should there endure open damnation,
And so shee doth, for shee's most odious,
In men most base that are ambitious.
Davies' Microcosmos, 4to. 1603, p. 215.
more desirous of accumulating property than increasing his reputation, and occasionally indulging in courses " irregular and wild," but not incompatible with this generic summary. It is unnecessary to repeat the various statements of early writers on this subject, for all of them have been already quoted and specially pointed out to the reader's attention. Still less requisite is it to pronounce any eulogy on the writer to whose history these pages refer, for his place in the temple of Fame is irrevocably fixed, and his works are no longer affected by praise or censure. May the shadow of that name protect the minute detail the memory of no other author would deserve !