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so great, so wise, and so sublime a Being, to whom to render his audit.” *

The labours of Jonson closed with a species of dramatic poetry in which he had made no previous attempt, and we have only to regret that it was left in an unfinished state; for had the Sad Shepherd been completed in the style of excellence in which it was commenced, it would have been superior not only to the Faithful Shepherdess of Fletcher, but perhaps to any thing which he himself had written. When Jonson, in his noble and generous eulogium on Shakspeare, tells us, that

"He was not of an age, but for all time,"

he seized a characteristic of which the reverse, in some degree, applies to himself; for had he paid less attention to the minutia of his own age, and dedicated himself more to universal habits and feelings, his popularity would have nearly equalled that of the poet whom he loved and praised. Yet his fame rests on a broad and durable foundation, and we point, with pride and triumph, to that matchless constellation of dramatic merit, where burn, with inextinguishable glory, the mighty, names of SHAKSPEARE, JONSON, FLETCHER, MASSINGER.

* Gifford's Jonson, vol. i. p. cccvii.




VAR ARIOUS particulars relative to the personal history of Shakspeare, in addition to those which terminated his biography in the country, having been detailed in the chapters that record his commencement as an actor*, the composition of his poems †, and his first efforts as a dramatic writer t, we have now to collect the few circumstances of his life which time has spared to us, during the most active season of its duration, resuming our narrative at a period when the capital was under considerable alarm from the prevalence of the plague, and from the numerous conspiracies which were entered into against the life of the Queen. Shakspeare had been exposed, during the year of his birth, to great risk from the plague at Stratford, and its recurrence in 1593 seems to have made so deep an impression upon him, that he has alluded to it in more than one of his plays; particularly in his Romeo and Juliet written in this very year, where he mentions the practice of sealing up the doors of houses, in which "the infectious pestilence did reign." It is probable that the effect on his mind might have been rendered more powerful, by the recollected narrative of those who had tended his infancy, and who, no doubt, had often told him of the danger which threatened the dawn of his existence.

We have found that, on his arrival in London, his first employment was that of an actor, a profession which, we certainly know, he continued to exercise for, at least, seventeen years. That he was by

* Vide Part II. Chap. 1. + Part II. Chaps. 2. & 5. § Act v. sc. 2. Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx, p. 236. men of Verona, act ii. sc. 1.

Part II. Chap. 9. See also The Two Gentle

no means partial, however, to this occupation, nay that he bitterly regretted the necessity which compelled him to have recourse to it, as a mode of procuring subsistence, may be fairly deduced from the language of his ninety-first sonnet: -

"O for my sake do you with fortune chide,
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
That did not better for my life provide,

Than publick means, which publick manners breeds.
Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,
And almost thence my nature is subdu'd

To what it works in."

It appears strongly indeed, from the best of all evidence, that of his own words, that his early progress in life was thwarted by many obstacles, and accompanied by severe struggles, by poverty, contumely, and neglect. This he has emphatically told us, not only in one, but in several places, and in terms so expressive as to make us sympathize acutely with his sorrows. Yet we perceive him bearing up under his difficulties with a noble and independent spirit, and contrasting the world's oppression with the solace of private friendship. Thus, in that beautiful sonnet, the twenty-ninth, which has been noticed in another place, the transition from despair to hope is finely painted:

"When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,

I all alone beweep my out-cast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope.
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state
(Like to the lark at break of day arising

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From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate:"

and again, in sonnet the thirty-seventh,

"As a decrepit father takes delight

To see his active child do deeds of youth,

So, I made lame by fortune's dearest spite

Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth; —

So then I am not lame, poor, nor despis'd,

Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give,

That I in thy abundance am suffic'd,

And by a part of all thy glory live."

That, by the salutary though severe lessons of adversity, he had learnt to conquer his misfortunes, and to despise the shafts of vulgar scandal, will be evident from the two subsequent passages :

"Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now;

Now while the world is bent my deeds to cross,

Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow,

And do not drop in for an after-loss:

Ah! do not, when my heart hath scap'd this sorrow,
Come in the rearward of a conquer'd woe."

"Your love and pity doth the impression fill
Which vulgar scandal stamp'd upon my brow;
For what care I who calls me well or ill,
So you o'er-green my bad, my good allow? -
In so profound abysm I throw all care
Of other's voices, that my adders sense

To critick and to flatterer stopped are."

Sonnet 90.

Sonnet 112.

These complaints and consolations were, no doubt, written during the first ten years of his residence in London, while his reputation, as a poet, was yet assailable, and while the patronage of Lord Southampton was his only shield against the jealousy and traduction of illiberal competitors, whether off or on the stage. But the fame arising from his poems, and from the dramas of Romeo and Juliet, and King Richard the Third, had, in 1596, most assuredly secured him from any apprehensions of permanent injury; more especially as, soon after this period, the encouragement and support of William, Earl of Pembroke, and Philip, Earl of Montgomery, who, as the players tell us, in their dedication of the first folio, had prosecuted our poet's plays, and their author living, with so much favour*, were added to the protecting influence of Southampton.

* Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 164.; and Chalmers's Apology, p. 599.

It was in this year, namely 1596, that Shakspeare's feelings as a father were put to a severe trial, by the loss of his only son Hamnet, who died in the month of August, at the age of twelve-a deprivation which, however sustained with fortitude, must have been long deplored.

He was now residing, it would appear from evidence referred to by Mr. Malone *, near the Bear-Garden in Southwark, and in the following year (1597) purchased of William Underhill Esquire, one of the best houses in his native town of Stratford, which, having repaired and improved, he denominated New Place. † Whether this

*See his "Inquiry," p. 215.

+ Of this mansion, which Dugdale informs us was originally built by Sir Hugh Clopton in the time of Henry the Seventh, and was then "a fair-house, built of brick and timber,” and continued in the Clopton family until 1563, when it was purchased by William Bott, and resold in 1570 to William Underhill, Esq., Mr. Wheler has given us the following account, subsequent to the decease of our poet: "On Shakspeare's death, it came to his daughter Mrs. Hall, for her life; and then to her only child Elizabeth, afterwards Lady Barnard; after whose death New Place was sold, in 1675, to Sir Edward Walker, Knt. Garter, King at Arms, who died the 20th of February, 1676-7; and under his Will, dated the 29th of June, 1676, it came to his only child, Barbara, the wife of Sir John Clopton, Knt. of Clopton, in this parish. Their younger son, Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt. a barrister at law, and one of the heralds at arms, afterwards became possessed of New Place, which he modernised by internal and external alterations; and in 1742, entertained Macklin, Garrick, and Dr. Delany, under Shakspeare's mulberry tree. By Sir Hugh's son-in-law and executor, Henry Talbot, Esq. brother to the Lord Chancellor Talbot, it was sold to the Rev. Francis Gastrell, vicar of Frodsham in Cheshire; who, if we may judge by his actions, felt no sort of pride or pleasure in this charming retirement, no consciousness of his being possessed of the sacred ground which the muses had consecrated to the memory of their favourite poet. The celebrated mulberry-tree planted by Shakspeare's hand became first an object of his dislike, because it subjected him to answer the frequent importunities of travellers, whose zeal might prompt them to visit it, and to hope that they might meet inspiration under its shade. In an evil hour, the sacrilegious priest ordered the tree, then remarkably large, and at its full growth, to be cut down; which was no sooner done, than it was cleft to pieces for fire-wood: this took place in 1756, to the great regret and vexation, not only of the inhabitants, but of every admirer of our bard. The greater part of it was, however, soon after purchased by Mr. Thomas Sharp, watch-maker, of Stratford; who, well acquainted with the value set upon it by the world, turned it much to his advantage, by converting every fragment into small boxes, goblets, tooth-pick cases, tobacco-stoppers, and numerous other articles. Nor did New Place long escape the destructive hand of Mr. Gastrell; who, being compelled to pay the

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