« PředchozíPokračovat »
be juftly founded or not, every reader is left to his own imagination, on which will depend his censure or applause. I have not therefore the vanity to hope that all these obfervations will be generally approved of; fome of them, I confess, are not thoroughly satisfactory even to myself, and are hazarded, rather than relied on :—But there are others which I offer with some degree of confidence, and I flatter myself that they will meet, upon the whole, with a favour. able reception from the admirers of Shakspeare, as tending to elucidate a number of passages which have hitherto been misprinted or misunderstood.
In forming these comments, I have confined myself solely to the particular edition which is the object of them, with out comparing it with any other, even with that of Johnson: not doubting but the editors had faithfully stated the various readings of the first editions, I resolved to avoid the labour of collating ; but had I been inclined to undertake that task, it would not have been in my power, as few, if any, of the ancient copies can be had in the country where I reside.
I have selected from the Supplement, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, because it is supposed by some of the commentators to have been the work of Shakspeare, and is at least as faulty as any of the rest. The remainder of the plays which Malone has published are neither, in my opinion, the production of our poet, or fufficiently incorrect to require any comment.
ACCOUNT OF THE LIFE, &c.
WRITTEN BY MR. ROWE.
It feems to be a kind of respect due to the memory of excellent men, especially of those whom their wit and learning have made famous, to deliver some account of them. selves, as well as their works, to pofterity. For this reason, how fond do we see some people of discovering any little personal story of the great men of antiquity! their familiei, the common accidents of their lives, and even their hape, make, and features, have been the subject of critical inquiries, How trifling foever this curiosity may seem to be, it is certainly very natural; and we are hardly satisfied with an account of any remarkable person, till we have heard him described even to the very cloaths he wears. As for what relates to men of letters, the knowledge of an author may fometimes conduce to the better understanding his book; and though the works of Mr. Shakspeare may seem to many not to want a comment, yet I fancy fome little account of
I the man himself may not be thought improper to go along with them.
He was the son of Mr. John Shakspeare, and was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, in April 1564. His family, as appears by the register and publick writings relating to that town, were of good figure and fashion there, and are mentioned as gentlemen. His father, who was a considerable dealer in wool,2 had so large a family, ten children in all, that though he was his eldest son, he could give him no better education than his own employment. He had bred him, it is true, for some time at a free-school,3 where, it is probable, he acquired what Latin he was master of: but the narrowness of his circumstances, and the want of his assistance at home, forced his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that language. It is without controversy, that in his works we scarce find any traces of any thing that looks like an imitation of the ancients. The delicacy of his taste, and the natural bent of his own great genius, (equal, if not superior, to some of the best of theirs) would certainly have led him to read and study them with so much pleasure, that some of their fine images would naturally have insinuated themselves into, and been mixed with his own writings ; so that his not copying at least something from them, may be an argument of his never having read them. Whether his ignorance of the ancients were a disadvantage to him or no, may admit of a dispute : for though the knowledge of them might have made him more correct, yet it is not im. probable but that the regularity and deference for them, which would have attended that correctness, might have restrained some of that fire, impetuosity, and even beautiful
children 2 It appears that he had been officer and bailiff of Stratford-uponVol. I.
Avon; and that he enjoyed some hereditary lands and tenements, the reward of his grandfather's faithful and approved services to King Henry VII. THEOBALD.
The chief magistrate of the Body Corporate of Stratford, now diftinguished by the title Mayor, was in the early charters called the High Bailiff. This office Mr. John Shakspeare filled in 1569.
It appears from a note to W. Dothick's Grant of Arms to him in 1596, now in the College of Arms, Vincent, Vol. 157, p. 24, that he was a jurtice of the peace, and poflefied of lands and tenements to the amount of 5001.
Our poet's mother was the daughter and heir of Robert Arden of Wellingcote, in the county of Warwick, who, in the MS. above reftried to, is calied “ a gentleman of worship.” The family of Arden is a very ancient ove; Robert A'den of Bromwich, esq. being in the list of the gentry of this county, returned by the commillioners in the twelfth year of King Herry VI. A. D. 1433. Edward Arden was Sheriff of the county in 1568.-The woodland part of this county was anciently called Alden; afterwards softened to Arden. Hence the name. MALONE.
3 The free-Ichool, I presume, founded at Stratford. THEOBALD.
extravagance, which we admire in Shakspeare: and I helieve we are better pleased with those thouglıts, altogether new and uncommon, which his own imagination supplied him fo abundantly with, than if he had given us the inoft beautiful passages out of the Greek and Latin poets, and that in the most agreeable manner that it was polible for a malter of the English language to deliver them.
Upon his leaving school, he seems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father proposed to him ; 4 and in order to settle in the world after a family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway,' said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford. In this kind of settlement he continued for some time, till an extravagance that he was guilty of forced him both out of his country, and that way of living which he had taken up; and though it seemed at first to be a blemish upon his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily proved the occasion of exerting one of the greatest geniuses
that 4 I believe, that on leaving school Shakspeare was placed in the office of some country attorney, or the seneschal of fɔme manor court. See the Ejay on the order of his plays, Article, Hamlet. MALONE.
s It is certain he did fo; for by the monument in Stratford church erected to the memory of his daughter, Susanna, the wife of John Hail, gentleman, it appears, that she died on the 2d of July, 1649, aged 66: so that the was born in 1983, when her father could not be full 19 years old. THEOBALD.
Susanna, who was our poet's eldest child, was baptized, May 26, 1583. Shakspeare therefore, baving been born in April 1564, was nineteen tre month preceding her birth. Mr. Theobald was mistaken in supposing that a monument was erected to her in the church of Stratford. There is no memorial there in honour of either our poet’s wife or daughter, excep flat tomb-Itones, by which, however, the time of their respective deaths is ascertained. His daughter Susanna died, not on the second, but the eleventh of July 1649. Theobald was led into this error by Dugdale. MALONE.
6 She was eight years older than her husband, and died in 1623, at the age of 67 years. THEOBALD.
The following is the inscription on her tomb-stone in the church of Stratford :
“ Here lyeth interred the body of ANNE, wife of William Shakespeare, who departed this life the 6th day of August, 1623, being of the age of 67 years. MALONE.
that ever was known in dramatick poetry. He had by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into illo company : and amongst them, some that made a frequent practice of deer-Itealing, engaged him more than once in robbing a park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote, near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, fomewhat too feverely; and in order to revenge that ill usage, he made a ballad upon him. And though this, probably the first essay of his poetry, be loft, yet it is said to have been so very bitter, that it redoubled the prosecution against himn to that degree, that he was obliged to leave his business and family in WarwickThire, for some time, and shelter himself in London.
It is at this time, and upon this accident, that he is said to have made his first acquaintance in the play house. He was received into the company then in being, at first in a very mean rank, but his admirable wit, and the natural turn of it to the stage, foon distinguished him, if not as an extraordinary actor, yet as an excellent writer. His name is printed, as the custom was in those times, amongst those of the other players, before some old plays, but without any particular account of what fort of parts he ofed to play and though I have inquired, I could never meet with any further account of him this way, than that the top of his performance was the Ghost in his own Hamlet. I should have been much more pleased, to have learned from certain authority, which was the first play he wrote; it would be without doubt a pleasure to any man, curious in things of this kind, to see and know what was the first essay of a fancy like Shakspeare's. Perhaps we are not to look for his bé. ginnings, like those of other authors, among their leaft perfect writings; art had so little, and nature so large a thare in what he did, that, for aught I know, the performances of his youth, as they were the most vigorous, and had the moft fire and strength of imagination in them, were the telt. I would not be thought by this to mean, that his
fancy 7 There is a stage tradition, that his first office in the theatre was that of Call-buy, or prompter's attendant; whose employment it is to give the performers notice to be ready to enter, as often as the businors of the play requires the ir appearance on the itage. MALONI.