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them for a particular thealre, sold them to the Shakspeare died in 1616, and seven years managers when only an actor, reserved them afterwards appeared the first edition of his in manuscript when himself a manager, and plays, published at the charge of four bookwhen he disposed of his property in the theatre, sellers ; a circumstance from which Mr. they were still preserved in manuscript to Malone insers, “that no single publisher was prevent their being acted by the rival houses. “ at that time willing to risk his money on a Copies of some of them appear to have been complete collection of our author's plays." surreptitiously obtained, and published in a This edition was printed from the copies in the very incorrect state ; but we may suppose that hands of his fellow-managers Heminge and it was wiser in the author or managers to over- Condell, which bad been in a series of years look this fraud, than to publish a correct edi- frequently altered through convenience, caprice, tion, and so destroy the exclusive properly they or ignorance. Heminge and Condell had now enjoyed. It is clear therefore that any publi- retired from the stage, and, we may suppose, calion of his plays by bimself would have in-thought they were guilty of no injury to their terfered, at first with his own interest, and successors, in printing what their own interest afterwards with the interest of those to whom only had formerly withheld. Or this, although be made over his share in them. But even we have no documents amounting to demonstrahad this obstacle been removed, we are not lion, we may be convinced, by adverting to a sure that he would have gained much by publi- circumstance, which will, in our days, appear cation. If he had no other copies but those very extraordinary, namely, the declension of belonging to the theatre, the business of correc- Shakspeare's popularity. We have seen that lion for the press must have been a loil which the publication of his works was accounted a we are afraid the taste of the public at that doubtful speculation; and it is yet more certain, time would have very poorly rewarded. We so much bad the public laste turned from him know not the exact portion of fame he enjoyed ; | in quest of variety, that for several years after it might be the bighest which dramalic genius his death the plays of Fletcher were more frecould confer, but dramatic genius was a new quently acted than his, and during the whole excellence, and not well understood. His of the seventeenth century they were made lo daims were, probably, not heard beyond the give place to performances, the greater part of jurisdiction of the master of the revels, certainly wbich cannot now be endured. During the not much beyond the metropolis. When he same period only four editions of his works died, the English public was approaching to a were published, all in folio; and perhaps this period in wbich mallers of higher moment were unwieldy size of volume may be an additional to engage attention, and in which his works were proof that they were not popular; nor is it nearly buried in oblivion, and not for more than thought that the impressions were numerous. a century afterwards, ranked among the produc- These circumstances, which attach to our tions of which the nation had reason to be proud. author and to his works, must be allowed a
Such, however, was Shakspeare's reputation, plausible weight in accounting for our defithat we are told his name was put to pieces ciencies in his biography and literary career, shich he never wrote, and that he felt him- but there were circumstances enough in the sell too confident of popular favour to unde- history of the times to suspend the progress of ceive the public. This was a singular reso- that more regular drama of which he had set lution in a man who wrote so unequally, that the example, and may be considered as the even at this day, the lest of internal evidence founder. If we wonder why we know so much must be applied to bis doubtful productions less of Shakspeare than of his contemporaries, with the greatest caution. But still how far let us recollect that his genius, however highiy his character would have been elevaled by an and justly we now rate it, took a direction examination of his plays in the closet, in an which was not calculated for permanent admi. age wben the refinements of criticism were not ration either in the age in which he lived, or understood, and the sympathies of taste were sel- in that which followed. Shakspeare was a dom selt, may admit of a question. “His lan-writer of plays, a promoter of an amusement guage,” says Dr. Johnson, “not being designed just emerging from barbarism; and an amuse"for the reader's desk, was all that he desired ment which, although it has been classed "it to be, if it conveyed his meaning to the au- among the schools of morality, has ever had “dience."
such a strong tendency to deviate from moral purposes, that the force of law has in all ages In fifty years after his death, Dryden menbeen called in to preserve it within the bounds lions, that he was then become "a little obof common decency. The church has ever 'solete.” In the beginning of the last cenbeen unfriendly to the stage. A part of the lury, Lord Shaftesbury complains of his "rude injunctions of queen Elizabeth is particularly unpolished style, and his antiquated phrase directed against the printing of plays; and," and wit." It is certain that, for nearly a according to an entry in the books of the hundred years after his death, partly owing to Slationers' Company, in the 41st year of her the immediate revolution and rebellion, and reign, it is ordered, that no plays be printed partly to the licentious taste encouraged in except allowed by persons in authority. Dr. Charles the Second's time, and perhaps partly Farmer also remarks, that in that age poetry to the incorrect state of his works, he was aland novels were destroyed publicly by the most entirely neglected. Mr. Malone has bishops, and privately by the Purilans. The justly remarked, “that if he had been read, main transactions, indeed, of that period could “ admired, studied, and imitated, in the same not admit of much attention to matters of “ degree as he is now, the enthusiasm of some amusement. The Reformation required all one or other of his admirers, in the last age, the circumspection and policy of a long reign “ would have induced him to make some inlo render it so firmly established in popular " quiries concerning the history of his theatrical favour as to brave the caprice of any succeed- career, and the anecdotes of his private life."** ing sovereign. This was effected in a great His admirers, however, if he had admirers measure by the diffusion of religious contro- in that age, possessed no portion of such enthuversy, which was encouraged by the church, siasm. That curiosity, which in our days bas and especially by ihe Puritans, who were the raised biography to the rank of an independent immediate teachers of the lower classes, were sludy, was scarcely known, and where known, listened to with veneration, and usually in- was confined principally to the public transacveighed against all public amusements, as in- tions of eminent characters, principally divines, consistent with the Christian profession. These of whom a few brief notices were prefixed 10 controversies continued during the reign of their works; but we are not sure that any of James I. and were in a considerable degree these are of an older dale than 1616. And if, promoted by him, although he, like Elizabeth, in addition to the circumstances already stated, was a favourer of the stage, as an appendage to we consider how liule is known of the personal the grandeur and pleasures of the court. But history of Shakspeare's contemporaries, we may the commotions which followed in the unhappy easily resolve the question, wby, of all men who reign of king Charles I. when the stage was have ever claimed admiration by genius, wisdom, totally abolished, are alone sufficient to account or valour, who have eminently contributed to for the oblivion thrown on the history and enlarge the taste, promote the happiness, or works of our great bard.
increase the reputation of their counlry, we From this time no inquiry was made, until know the least of Shakspeare; and why, of the it was too late to obtain any information more few particulars which seem entitled to credit, satisfactory than the few bearsay scraps and when simply related, and in which there is no contested traditions above detailed. “How manisest violation of probability or promise of Jitlle," says Mr. Steevens, “Shakspeare was importance, there is scarcely one which has not “ once read, may be understood from Tate, swelled into a controversy. After a careful “ who, in his dedication to the altered play of examination of all that modern research has
King Lear, speaks of the original as an discovered, we know not how to trust our cu“ obscure piece, recominended to his notice riosity beyond the limits of those barren dates
by a friend : and the author of the Tatler which afford no personal history. The na
having occasion to quote a few lines out of ture of Shakspeare's writings prevents that “ Macbeth, was content to receive them from appeal to internal evidence, which in other “ D'Avenant's alteration of that celebrated cases has been found to throw light on character. “ drama, in which almost every original beauty The purity of his morals, for example, if sought " is either awkwardly disguised, or arbitrarily in his plays, must be measured against the " omitted." *
licentiousness of his language, and the question Mr. Steevens's Advertisement to the Reader, first printed in 1973.
* Mr. Malone's Preface to his edition, 1790.
will then be, how much did he write from in- | with these two statesmen which he ought Girst to clination, and how much to gratify the taste of have proved. Shakspeare might have enjoyed his hearers ? How much did he add to the age, the confidence of their social hour, but it is and how much did he borrow from it? Pope mere conjecture that they admitted him into says, “ he was obliged to please the lowest of the confidence of their state affairs. Mr. " the people, and to keep the worst of com- Malone, the most frequent conjecturer of all
pany:” lhis must have been Pope's conjec Shakspeare's admirers, but whose opinions are ture. Managers are sometimes obliged to please entitled to a higher degree of credit than those the lowest of the people : and, in our days, they of Mr. Capell, thinks that our author's prose have not infrequently yielded to or created a compositions, if they should be discovered, corrupt tasle ; but we know not that writers are would exhibit the same perspicuity, the same under a similar obligation ; and of Shakspeare's cadence, the same elegance and vigour, which keeping the worst of company, we have no we find in his plays. existing proof. With regard to the amusements Il is unfortunate, however, for all wishes of his leisure hours, we have many allusions in and all conjectures, that not a line of Shakhis works to the sports of the field, and falconry speare's manuscripts is known to exist, and his appears to have been a particular favourite. prose writings are no where hinted at. We Generally speaking, there is every reason to are in possession of printed copies only of his think, that he soon acquired and maintained a plays and poems, and those so depraved by respectable character. He came to London carelessness or ignorance, that all the labour of poor and unknown, and he left it with a high all his commentators has not yet been able to reputation, and took his seat with the men of restore them to more than a probable purity. raok and opulence in his native county. Many of the difficulties which originally attended
The only life which has been prefixed to all the perusal of them yet remain, and will require, the editions of Shakspeare of the eighteenth cen- what it is now scarcely possible to expect, lury, is that drawn up by Mr. Rowe, and greater sagacity and more happy conjecture than which he modestly calls, “Sorne Account, &c.” bave hitherto been employed. lo this we bave, what Rowe could collect when Or Shakspeare's Poems, it is perhaps necesevery legitimate source of information was sary that some notice should be taken in an closed, a few traditions that were floating nearly account of his life, although they have never a century after the author's death. Some inac- | been favourites with the public, and have seldom curacies in his account have been detected in been reprinted with his plays. Shortly after the valuable notes of Mr. Steevens, and in that his death, Mr. Malone informs us, a very inpart of a new but imperfect life of Shakspeare, correct impression of them was issued out, published in Mr. Malone's last edition. In which in every subsequent reprint was imother parts also of their respective editions, they plicitly followed, until he published a correct have scattered a few brief notices which we have edition, or what he supposed to be such, in incorporated in the present sketch. The whole, 1780, with illustrations. But the peremptory however, is unsatisfactory. Shakspeare, in his decision of his compeer, Mr. Steevens, on the private character, in his friendships, in bis merits of these poems, must be our apology for amusements, in his closet, in his family, is no omitting them in the present abridgment of the wbere before us : and such was the nature of labours of these critics. « We have not rethe writings on which his fame depends, and of “printed the Sonnets, &c. of Shakspeare, bethat employment in which he was engaged, that cause the strongest act of parliament that being in no important respect connected with " could be framed would fail to compel readers the history of his age, it is in vain to look into " into their service. Had Shakspeare prothe latter for any information concerning him. “ duced no other works than these, his name
M. Capell is of opinion that he wrote some “ would have reached us with as little celebrity prose works, because " it can hardly be sup- " as time has conferred on that of Thomas * posed that he, who had so considerable a share “ Watson, an older and much more elegant “ in the confidence of the Earls of Essex and“ sonnetteer." " Southampton, could be a mute spectator only The elegant preface of Dr. Johnson gives " of controversies in which they were so much an account of the attempts made in the early " interested.” This editor, however, appears part of the last century lo revive the memory !o have taken for granted a degree of confidence and reputation of our poel, by Rowe, Pope,
Theobald, Hanmer, and Warburton, whose to hold, he became the promising object of respective merils he has characterised with fraud and imposture. This, we have already candour, and with singular felicity of expression. observed, he did not wholly escape in his own Sbakspeare's works may be overloaded with time, and he bad the spirit or policy to despise criticism, for what writer bas excited so much it. * It was reserved for modern impostors, curiosity, and so many opinions? but Johnson's however, to avail themselves of the obscurity in preface is an accompaniment worthy of the which his history is involved. In 1751 a book genius it celebrates.—His own edition followed was published, entitled, “ A Compendious or in 1765, and a second, in conjunction with “ briefe examination of certayne ordinary Mr. Steevens, 1773. The third edition of the “Complaints of dioers of our Countrymen in joint editors appeared in 1785, the fourth in “ those our days : which although they are in 1793, in 15 vols., and the last and most com- some Part unjust and frivolous, yet are they plele, in 1803, in 21 volumes octavo. Mr. “ all by way of dialogue throughly debated and Malone's edition was published in 1790, in “ discussed by William Shakspeare, Gentle10 vols. crown octavo, and soon became scarce. “ man.” This had been originally published His original notes and improvements were, in 1581, but Dr. Farmer bas clearly proved bowever, incorporaled in the editions of 1793 that W. S. gent. the only authority for attriand 1803, by Mr. Steevens. Mr. Malone's buting it to Sbakspeare in the reprinted edition, last edition, a posthumous work, which ap- meant William Stafford, gent.—Theobald, the peared in 1821, was edited by Mr. James Boswell, same accurate critic, informs us, was desirous the second son of the biographer of Johnson, of palming upon the world a play called “ Douwho appears to bave been fully in the confidence ble Falsehood," for a posthumous one of Shakof Mr. Malone. To this is prefixed a new life speare. In 1770 was reprinted at Feversham, of Shakspeare, which, although extending 10 an old play called “ The Tragedy of Arden of more than five hundred pages, conducts Shak. Feversbam, and Black Will,” with a preface speare only to London, without giving us any attributing it to Shakspeare, without the more information of his subsequent progress smallest foundation. But these were trifles than we bad before in the notes which Stee- compared to the atrocious attempt made in vens and Malone had formerly contributed to 1795-6, when, besides a vast mass of prose Rowe's life. Mr. Malone, after more than and verse, letters, &c., pretendedly in the twenty years' labour, had not advanced fartber, bandwriting of Shakspeare and his corresponnor did he leave any materials from wbich bis dents, an entire play, entitled Vortigern, was editor could attempt a coplinuation.
not only brought forward to the astonishment of To follow Mr. Malone in enumerating the the public, but actually performed on Drurycopies of Sbakspeare dispersed through England lane stage. It would be unnecessary to exwould now be impossible. In one form or patiate on the merits of this play, which Mr. other his plays have been, for the last twenty Steevens has very happily characterized as years, almost continually in the press. Nor the performance of a madman, without a lucid among the honours paid to his genius, ought interval,” or to enter more at large into the we to forget the very magnificent edition un- history of a fraud so recent, and so soon dertaken by Messrs. Boydell and Nicol. Still acknowledged by the authors of it. It produced, less ought it to be forgotten how much the re- bowever, an interesting controversy between putation of Shakspeare was revived by the Mr. Malone and Mr. George Chalmers, which, unrivalled excellence of Garrick's performance. although mixed with some unpleasant asperities, His share in directing the public tasle towards was extended to inquiries into the history and the study of Shakspeare, was perhaps greater antiquities of the stage, from which future tban that of any individual in his time, and historians and critics may derive considerable such was his zeal, and such his success in this information. laudable attempt, that he may be forgiven for his injudicious alterations of some of the plays,
* Mr. Malone has given a list of 14 plays ascribed as well as for the foolish mummery of the Strat- to Shakspeare, either by the editors of the two ford jubilee.
later folios, or by the compilers of ancient cataWhen public opinion had begun to assign to logues. Of these Pericles has found advocates Shakspeare the very high rank he was destined for its admission into his works.
Piccsimo quinto die Martü,* Anno Regni Do- said county of Warwick, being parcel or holden mini Jacobi nunc Regis Angliæ, etc, decimo of the manor of Rowinglon, unto my daughter quarlo, et Scotiæ quadragesimo nono. Anno Susanna Hall, and her heirs for ever.** Domini 1616.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my said In the name of God, Amen. I William daughter Judith one hundred and fifty pounds Sbakspeare, of Stratford-upon-Avon, in the more, if she, or any issue of her body, be living county of Warwick, gent., in perfect health at the end of three years next ensuing the day and memory (God be praised !) do make and
of the date of this my will, during which time ordain this my last will and testament in my executors to pay her consideralion from my
decease according to the rate aforesaid : and it manner and form following; that is to say:
she die within the said term without issue of First, I commend my soul into the hands of her body, then my will is, and I do give and God my Creator, hoping, and assuredly be- bequeath one hundred pounds thereof to my lieving through the only merits of Jesus Christ niece + Elizabeth Hall, and the fifty pounds 10 my Saviour, to be made partaker of life ever
be set forth by my executors during the life of lasting; and my body to the earth whereof it my sister Joan Hart, and the use and profit is made.
thereof coming, shall be paid to my said sister Item, I give and bequeath unlo my daughter Joan, and after her decease the said fifty pounds Judith, one hundred and fifty pounds of lawful shall remain amongst the children of my said English money, to be paid unto her in manner sister, equally to be divided amongst them; but and form following; Ibat is to say, one hundred if my said daughter Judith be living at the end pounds in discharge of her marriage portion, of the said three years, or any issue of her within one year after my decease, with consi- body, then my will is, and so I devise and deration after the rate of two shillings in the bequeath the said hundred and Gifty pounds to pound for so long time as the same shall be be set out by my executors and overseers for unpaid unto her after my decease; and the fifly the best benefit of her and her issue, and the pounds residue thereof, upon her surrendering stock not to be paid unto her so long as she of, or giving of such sufficient security as the shall be married and covert baron ; but my will overseers of this my will shall like of, to surren- is, that she shall have the consideration yearly der or grant, all her estates and right that shall paid unto her during her life, and after her descend or come unto her after my decease, or that she now hath, of, in, or to, one copyhold This was found to be unnecessary, as it was tenement, with the appartenances, lying and ascertained that the copyhold descended to the
MAbeing in Stralsord-upon-Avon aforesaid, in the eldest daughter by the custom of the manor.
LONE, edit. 1821.
t to my niece) Elizabeth Hall was our *Our poet's will appears to have been drawn up in poet's granddaughter. So, in Othello, Act I. sc. i. Pepruary, though not executed till the following | lago says to Brabantio: “You'll have your nemonth; for February was first written, and after- | phews neigh to you ;” meaning his grandchildren. Hards struck out, and Marchwritten over it. MALONE. MALONE.