ePub 版

here: I can but observe that in these plays, as mig expected from one who was modest and wished to we have much of imitation as distinguished from cha though of imitation surpassing its models. And it to me that no fair view can be had of the Poet's mi justice done to his art, but by carefully discriminat his work what grew from imitation, and what from c ter. For he evidently wrote very much like others time, before he learned to write like himself; that was some time before he found, by practice and exper his own strength; and meanwhile he relied more or 1 the strength of custom and example. Nor was it had surpassed others in their way, that he hit upor more excellent way in which none could walk but he.

It has been quite too common to speak of Shakes as a miracle of spontaneous genius, who did his best by force of instinct, not of art; and that, consequent was nowise indebted to time and experience for the and power which his dramas display. This is an "old paradox" which seems to have originated with thos could not conceive how any man could acquire intell skill without scholastic advantages; forgetting, appar that several things, if not more, may be learned i school of Nature, provided one have an eye to rea "open secrets" without "the spectacles of books." notion has vitiated a good deal of Shakespearian crit Rowe had something of it. "Art," says he, "had so and Nature so large a share in what Shakespeare did, for aught I know, the performances of his youth we best." I think decidedly otherwise; and have groun doing so which Rowe had not, in what has since been towards ascertaining the chronology of the Poet's play

It would seem from Chettle's apology, that Shakes was already beginning to attract liberal notice from circle of brave and accomplished gentlemen which ad the state of Queen Elisabeth. Among the "divers of ship," first and foremost stood, no doubt, the high-so


hese plays, as might st and wished to lear. nguished from characte models. And it seems of the Poet's mind, efully discriminating and what from chara

[ocr errors]

the generous Southampton, then in his twentieth year.
Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton, was
but eight years old when his father died: the Southamp-
ton estates were large; during the young Earl's minority
his interests were in good hands, and the revenues accumu-
lated; so that on coming of age he had means answerable
to his dispositions. Moreover, he was a young man of good
parts, of studious habits, of cultivated tastes, and withal of
a highly chivalrous and romantic spirit: to all which he
added the honour of being the early and munificent patron
of Shakespeare. In 1593, the Poet published his Venus
and Adonis, with a modest and manly dedication to this
nobleman, very different from the usual high-flown style
of literary adulation then in vogue; telling him, "If your
Honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised,
and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have
honoured you with some graver labour." In the dedication,
he calls the poem "the first heir of my invention." Whether
he dated its birth from the writing or the publishing, does
not appear: probably it had been written some time; pos-
sibly before he left Stratford. This was followed, the next
year, by his Lucrece, dedicated to the same nobleman in a
strain of more open and assured friendship: "The warrant
I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my
untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I
have done is yours, what I have to do is yours."

much like others of
ke himself; that is,
practice and experienc
e relied more or less
le. Nor was it till h
that he hit upon
ould walk but he.
o speak of Shakespea
who did his best thing
I that, consequently, b
xperience for the reac
This is an "old fon
inated with those wh
ild acquire intellectu
forgetting, apparently.
ay be learned in the
e an eye to read he
icles of books." This
akespearian criticism
says he, "had so little
Shakespeare did, that
of his youth were th
and have grounds f
t has since been done
f the Poet's plays.
gy, that Shakespear!
ral notice from tha
lemen which adorned
the "divers of wor
abt, the high-souled

It was probably about this time that the event took place which Rowe heard of through Sir William Davenant, that Southampton at one time gave the Poet a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchase which he knew him to be desirous of making. Rowe might well scruple, as he did, the story of so large a gift,-equal to nearly $30,000 in our time; but the fact of his scruples being overruled shows that he had strong grounds for the statement. The sum may indeed have been exaggerated; but all we know of the Earl assures us that he could not but wish to make a handsome return for the Venus and



Adonis; and that whatever of the kind he did was bo to be something rich and rare; while it was but of a p with his approved nobleness of character, to feel more honour he was receiving than that he was conferring by an act of generosity. Might not this be what Shakesp meant by "the warrant I have of your honourable disp tion"? That the Earl was both able and disposed to amount alleged, need not be scrupled: the only doubt reference to the Poet's occasions. Let us see, then, w these may have been.

In December, 1593, Richard Burbadge, who, his fat having died or retired, was then the leader of the Bla friars company, signed a contract for the building of Globe theatre, in which Shakespeare is known to h been a large owner. The Blackfriars was not accom dation enough for the company's uses, but was entir covered-in, and furnished suitably for the Winter. T Globe, made larger, and designed for Summer use, was round wooden building, open to the sky, with the sta protected by an overhanging roof. All things consider then, it is not incredible that the munificent Earl may ha bestowed even as large a sum as a thousand pounds, enable the Poet to do what he wished towards the n enterprise.

The next authentic notice we have of Shakespeare is public tribute of admiration from the highest source t could have yielded any thing of the sort at that time. 1594, Edmund Spenser published his Colin Clout's Co Home again, which has these lines:

"And there, though last not least, is Ætion:
A gentler Shepherd may nowhere be found;
Whose Muse, full of high thought's invention,
Doth, like himself, heroically sound."

This was Spenser's delicate way of suggesting the Po Ben Jonson has a like allusion in his lines,- 66 the Memory of my beloved Mr. William Shakespeare"


kind he did was bound e it was but of a piece acter, to feel more the was conferring by such be what Shakespeare ur honourable disposi le and disposed to the 1: the only doubt has et us see, then, what dge, who, his father leader of the Blackthe building of the is known to have was not accommos, but was entirely - the Winter. The Summer use, was a sky, with the stage 1 things considered, cent Earl

have may ousand pounds, to I towards the new

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

There can be little doubt, though we have no certain knowledge on the point, that by this time the Poet's genius had sweetened itself into the good graces of Queen Elisabeth; as the irresistible compliment paid her in a A Midsummer-Night's Dream could hardly have been of a later date. It would be gratifying to know by what play he made his first conquest of the Queen. That he did captivate her, is told us in Ben Jonson's poem just quoted:

"Sweet swan of Avon, what a sight it were

To see thee in our waters yet appear;

And make those flights upon the banks of Thames
That so did take Eliza and our James!"

King John, King Richard the Second, King Richard the
Third, A Midsummer-Night's Dream, and the original form
of All's Well that Ends Well, were, no doubt, all written
before the Spring of 1596. So that these five plays, and
perhaps one or two others, in addition to the ten men-
tioned before, may by that time have been performed in
her Majesty's hearing, "as well for the recreation of our
loving subjects as for our solace and pleasure."

Aubrey tells us that Shakespeare "was wont to go to his native country once a year." We now have better authority than Aubrey for believing that the Poet's heart was in "his native country" all the while. No sooner is he well established at London, and in receipt of funds to spare from the demands of business, than we find him making liberal investments amidst the scenes of his youth. Some years ago, Mr. Halliwell discovered in the Chapter-House, Westminster, a document which ascertains that in the Spring of 1597 Shakespeare bought of William Underhill, for the sum of £60, the establishment called "New Place," described as consisting of "one messuage, two barns, and two gardens, with their appurtenances." This was one of the best dwelling-houses in Stratford, and was situate in one of the best parts of the town. Early in the sixteenth century it was owned by the Cloptons, and called "the great house." It was in one of the gardens belonging to this house that the



Poet was believed to have planted a mulberry-tree. N Place remained in the hands of Shakespeare and his h till the Restoration, when it was repurchased by the C ton family. In the Spring of 1742, Garrick, Macklin, Delane were entertained there by Sir Hugh Clopton, un the Poet's mulberry-tree. About 1752, the place was sol the Rev. Francis Gastrell, who, falling out with the Stratf authorities in some matter of rates, demolished the ho and cut down the tree; for which his memory has b visited with exemplary retribution.

We have other tokens of the Poet's thrift about t time. One of these is a curious letter, dated January 1598, and written by Abraham Sturley, an alderman Stratford, to his brother-in-law, Richard Quiney, who w then in London on business for himself and others. St ley, it seems, had learned that "our countryman, Mr. Sha speare," had money to invest, and so was for having h urged to buy up certain tithes at Stratford, on the grou that such a purchase "would advance him indeed, a would do us much good"; the meaning of which is, th the Stratford people were in want of money, and were lo ing to Shakespeare for a supply.

Another token of like import is a letter written by t same Richard Quiney, whose son Thomas afterwards marri the Poet's youngest daughter. The letter was dated, "Fro the Bell, in Carter-lane, the 25th October, 1598," and a dressed, "To my loving good friend and countryman, M Wm. Shakespeare." The purpose of the letter was solicit a loan of £30 from the Poet on good security. N private letter written by Shakespeare has been found; an this is the only one written to him that has come to ligh How the writer's request was answered we have no certa information; but we may fairly conclude the answer have been satisfactory, because on the same day Quiney wro to Sturley, and in Sturley's reply, dated November 4, 159 which is also extant, the writer expresses himself muc comforted at learning that "our countryman, Mr. W Shak., would procure us money."

« 上一頁繼續 »