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was the purchase in which he is said to have been so materially assisted by Lord Southampton, cannot positively be affirmed; but as he had not long emerged from his difficulties, it is highly probable that on this, as well as on subsequent occasions, he was indebted to the bounty of his patron.


To the year 1598 has been commonly assigned the commencement of the intimacy between our author and Ben Jonson. This epoch rests upon the authority of Mr. Rowe, who informs us, that "Shakspeare's acquaintance with Ben Jonson began with a remarkable piece of humanity and good-nature. Mr. Jonson, who was at that time altogether unknown to the world, had offered one of his plays to the players to have it acted; and the persons into whose hands it was put, after having turned it carelessly and superciliously over, was just upon the point of returning it to him with an ill-natured answer, that it would be of no service to their company, when Shakspeare luckily cast his eye upon it, and found something so well in it, as to engage

monthly assessments towards the maintenance of the poor, (some of which he expected to avoid, because he resided part of the year at Lichfield, though his servants continued in the house at Stratford during his absence,) in the heat of his anger declared, that house should never be assessed again; and to give his imprecation due effect, and wishing, as it seems, to be "damned to everlasting fame," the demolition of New Place soon followed; for, in 1759, he rased the building to the ground, disposed of the materials, and left Stratford amidst the rage and curses of its inhabitants. Thus was the town deprived of one of its principal ornaments, and most valued relics, by a man, who, had he been possessed of a true sense, and a veneration for the memory of our bard, would have rather preserved whatever particularly concerned their great and immortal owner, than ignorantly have trodden the ground which had been cultivated by the greatest genius in the world, without feeling those emotions which naturally arise in the breast of the generous enthusiast.

"The site of New Place was afterwards added to the adjoining garden, by its illiberal proprietor; under whose Will, made on the 2d of October, 1768, it came to his widow, Mrs. Jane Gastrell; who, in 1775, sold it to William Hunt, Esq. late of this town; from whose family it was purchased by Messrs. Battersbee and Morris, bankers, of Stratford." -Wheler's History of Stratford, p. 135.; and Guide to Stratford, pp. 45. 47.

*It is more probable that he was assisted on various occasions by His Lordship, than that the large sum, mentioned by tradition, was bestowed at once, and at a period, too, when it was less required.

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him first to read it through, and afterwards to recommend Mr. Jonson and his writings to the public. *


That this kind office was in perfect unison with the general character of Shakspeare, will readily be admitted, yet there is much reason to believe that the whole account is without foundation; for, as we have related, in the last chapter, Every Man in his Humour, which is supposed by all the editors and commentators to be the play alluded to by Rowe, was first performed at the Rose theatre; and "that Jonson was altogether unknown to the world,'" remarks Mr. Gifford," is a palpable untruth. At this period," (1598) he continues, "Jonson was as well known as Shakspeare, and perhaps better. He was poor indeed, and very poor, and a mere retainer of the theatres ; but he was intimately acquainted with Henslowe and Alleyn, and with all the performers at their houses. He was familiar with Drayton and Chapman, and Rowley, and Middleton, and Fletcher; he had been writing for three years, in conjunction with Marston, and Decker, and Chettle, and Porter, and Bird, and with most of the poets of the day he was celebrated by Meres as one of the principal writers of tragedy; and he had long been rising in reputation as a scholar and a poet among the most distinguished characters of the age. At this moment he was employed on Every Man out of his Humour, which was acted in 1599, and, in the elegant dedication of that comedy to the Gentlemen of the Inns of Court,' he says, • When I wrote this poem, I had friendship with divers in your Societies, who, as they were great names in learning, so were they no less examples of living. Of them and then, that I say no more, it was not despised.' -And yet, Jonson was, at this time, altogether unknown to the world!' and offered a virgin comedy (which had already been three years on the stage) to a player in the humble hope that it might be accepted." +

* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. pp. 67, 68.

+ Gifford's Jonson, vol. i. Memoirs, pp. xliii. xliv. xlv.-Shakspeare, whose name stands at the head of the principal performers in Every Man in his Humour, is supposed to have acted the part of Knowell.

The presumption is, that our poet and Jonson were acquainted anterior to 1598, probably as early as 1595, and that the dramatic reputation of Ben was the chief motive which induced the company at the Black Friars to procure the alterations in, and to secure the property of, Every Man in his Humour. Such even is the opinion of Mr. Malone himself, when he has once forgotten the preposterous charge of ingratitude, on the part of Jonson, for this imaginary introduction to the stage by Shakspeare; for in a note, on an entry of Mr. Henslowe's, which runs thus:-"11 of Maye 1597, at the comedy of umers (humours) 11," that is, acted eleven times since November, 1596, he observes, -"Perhaps Ben Jonson's Every Man in his Humour." It will appear hereafter, that he had money dealings with Mr. Henslowe, the manager of this theatre, and that he wrote for him. The play might have been afterwards purchased from this company by the Lord Chamberlain's Servants (that is, by Shakspeare, Burbage, Heminge, &c.) by whom it was acted in 1598*; an inconsistency which has been keenly and justly animadverted upon by Mr. Gifford. †

Two domestic circumstances mark the next year of our author's life; for in 1599, his father obtained from the Heralds' Office a confirmation of his Coat of Arms, and his sister Joan married Mr. William Hart, a hatter in Stratford, occurrences which, in the great dearth of events unfortunately incident to our subject, are of some importance.

If an inference, however, made by Sir John Sinclair, could be considered as legitimately drawn, this year might be esteemed one of the most important in the poet's life; for, in the twentieth volume of his Statistical Account of Scotland, when speaking of the local traditions respecting Macbeth's castle at Dunsinnan, he infers, from their coincidence with the drama, that Shakspeare, "in his capacity of actor, travelled to Scotland in 1599, and collected on the spot mate

*Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 365.
+ Gifford's Jonson, vol. i. p. cclxxix.

rials for the exercise of his imagination." "Every attempt," remarks Mr. Stoddart, who has introduced this anecdote into his interesting Tour," to illustrate the slightest circumstance, concerning such a mind, deserves our gratitude; but in this instance, conjecture seems to have gone its full length, if not to have overstepped the modesty of nature. The probability of Shakspeare's ever having been in Scotland, is very remote. It should seem, by his uniformly accenting the name of this spot Dunsinane, that he could not possibly have taken it from the mouths of the country-people, who as uniformly accent it Dunsínnan. Every one knows, with what ease local tradition is so modified, as to suit public history; and it is probable, that what Sir John heard in 1772, was a superstructure raised upon the drama itself. Amid the blaze of Shakspeare's genius, small praise is lost; but it is, perhaps, more honourable to his intellectual energies to suppose, that so much minute information was collected from books, or from conversation, than from an actual acquaintance with the place." *

Though we by no means contend for the validity of the inference, yet we must observe, that one of the principal objections of Mr. Stoddart is unfounded; for Shakspeare certainly was familiar with both modes of pronunciation, and has given us a specimen of the popular accent in the following well-known passage:

" Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be, until
Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill

Shall come against him.”

Neither do we think, that his genius would have suffered any deterioration, nor his drama any loss of interest, had he actually painted from local observation. †

* Remarks on Local Scenery and Manners in Scotland, 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 197, 198. + It is a remarkable circumstance, however, that James is said, during this very year (1599), to have solicited Queen Elizabeth to send a company of English comedians to Edinburgh.-Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 51.

If we be correct in attributing Much Ado about Nothing to the year 1599, it is here that some notice should be taken of an anecdote recorded by Aubrey, who, meaning to allude to the character of Dogberry in this play, though by mistake he refers to the MidsummerNight's Dream, says, that "the humour of the constable he (Shakspeare) happened to take at Grendon, in Bucks, which is the roade from London to Stratford, and there was living that constable about 1642, when I first came to Oxon. Mr. Jos. Howe is of that parish, and knew him. Ben Jonson and he did gather humours of men dayly, wherever they came.'

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That Shakspeare was accustomed to visit Stratford annually, has been already noticed †; and we learn from Antony Wood, that in performing these journeys, he used to bait at the Crown-Inn, in Oxford, which was then kept by John Davenant, the father of the poet. Antony represents Mrs. Davenant as both beautiful and accomplished, and her husband as a lover of plays, and a great admirer of Shakspeare. The frequent visits of the bard, and the charms of his landlady, appear to have given birth to some scandalous surmises; for Oldys, repeating Wood's story, adds, on the authority of Betterton and Pope, that "their son, young Will. Davenant, (afterwards Sir William,) was then a little school-boy in the town, of about seven or eight years old, and so fond also of Shakspeare, that whenever he heard of his arrival, he would fly from school to see him. One day, an old townsman observing the boy running homeward almost out of breath, asked him whither he was posting in that heat and hurry. He answered, to see his god-father Shakspeare. There's a good boy, said the other, but have a care that you don't take God's name in vain." § It has also been said, that Sir William had the weakness to feel gratified by the publicity of the supposition. ||

*Bodleian Letters, vol. iii. p. 307.

Athenæ Oxon. vol. ii. p. 292. edit. 1692. § Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p.124.

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+ Vide Part II. Chapter 1.

Ibid. vol. iii. p. 209.

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