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"Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear
us be thankful that "this sweetest child of Fancy" did not perish while he yet lay in the cradle. He was born at Stratfordupon-Avon in April, 1564; And I have this moment learned from the register of that town that the plague broke out there on the 30th of the following June, and raged with such violence between that day and the last day of December, that two hundred and thirty-eight persons were in that period carried to the grave, of which number probably 216 died of that malignant distemper; and one only of the whole number resided, not in Stratford, but in the neighbouring town of Welcombe. From the 237 inhabitants of Stratford, whose names appear in the register, twenty-one are to be subducted, who, it may be presumed, would have died in six months, in the ordinary course of nature; for in the five preceding years, reckoning, according to the style of that time, from March 25, 1559, to March 25, 1564, two hun. dred and twenty-one persons were buried at Stratford, of whom 210 were townsmen: that is, of these latter 42 died each year, at an average. Supposing one in thirty-five to have died annually, the total number of the inhabitants of Stratford at that period was 1470; and consequently the plague in the last six months of the year 1564 carried off more than a seventh part of them. Fortunately for mankind it did not reach the house in which the infant Shakspeare lay; for not one of that name appears in the dead list.-May we suppose, that, like Horace, he lay secure and fearless in the midst of contagion and death, protected by the Muses to whom his future life was to be devoted, and covered over
"Lauroque, collataque myrto,
"Non sine Diis animosus infans." Malone.
+ where a monument is placed in the wall.] He is represented under an arch, in a sitting posture, a cushion spread before him, with a pen in his right-hand, and his left rested on a scroll of paper. The following Latin distich is engraved under the cush.
Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
Terra tegit, populus mæret, Olympus habet. Theobald.
The first syllable in Socratem is here made short, which can. not be allowed. Perhaps we should read Sophoclem. Shakspeare is then appositely compared with a dramatick author among the ancients: but still it should be remembered that the elogium is lessened while the metre is reformed; and it is well known that some of our early writers of Latin poetry were uncommonly neg. ligent in their prosody, especially in proper names. The thought of this distich, as Mr. Tollet observes, might have been taken from The Faery Queene of Spenser, B. II, c. ix, st. 48, and c. x, St. 3.
He had three daughters,† of which two lived to be married;
To this Latin inscription on Shakspeare should be added the lines which are found underneath it on his monument:
Stay, passenger, why dost thou go so fast?
"Read, if thou canst, whom envious death hath plac'd
æt. 53, die 23. Apri. Steevens.
→ And curst be he that moves my bones.] It is uncertain whether this epitaph was written by Shakspeare himself, or by one of his friends after his death. The imprecation contained in this last line, was perhaps suggested by an apprehension that our author's remains might share the same fate with those of the rest of his countrymen, and be added to the immense pile of human bones deposited in the charnel-house at Stratford. This, however, is mere conjecture; for similar execrations are found in many ancient Latin epitaphs.
Mr. Steevens has justly mentioned it as a singular circumstance, that Shakspeare does not appear to have written any verses on his contemporaries, either in praise of the living, or in honour of the dead. I once imagined that he had mentioned Spenser with kindness in one of his Sonnets; but have lately discovered that the Sonnet to which I allude, was written by Richard Barnefield. If, however, the following epitaphs be genuine, (and indeed the latter is much in Shakspeare's manner) he in two instances overcame that modest diffidence, which seems to have supposed the elogium of his humble muse of no value.
In a manuscript volume of poems by William Herrick and others, in the hand-writing of the time of Charles I, which is among Rawlinson's Collections in the Bodleian Library, is the following epitaph, ascribed to our poet:
66 AN EPITAPH.
"When God was pleas'd the world unwilling yet,
"Such life, such death: then, the known truth to tell,
WM. SHAKSPEARE." There was formerly a family of the surname of James at Stratford. Anne, the wife of Richard James, was buried there on the same day with our poet's widow; and Margaret, the daughter of John James, died there in April, 1616.
A monumental inscription "of a better leer," and said to be written by our author, is preserved in a collection of Epitaphs,
Judith, the elder, to one Mr. Thomas Quiney, by whom she
at the end of the Visitation of Salop, taken by Sir William Dugdale in the year 1664, now remaining in the College of Arms, C. 35, fol. 20; a transcript of which Sir Isaac Heard, Garter, principal King at Arms, has obligingly transmitted to me.
Among the monuments in Tongue church, in the county of Salop, is one erected in remembrance of Sir Thomas Stanley, Knight, who died, as I imagine, about the year 1600. In the Visitation-book it is thus described by Sir William Dugdale:
"On the north side of the chancell stands a very stately tombe, supported with Corinthian columnes. It hath two figures of men in armour, thereon lying, the one below the arches and columnes, and the other above them, and this epitaph upon it.
"Thomas Stanley, Knight, second son of Edward Earle of Derby, Lord Stanley and Strange, descended from the famielie of the Stanleys, married Margaret Vernon, one of the daughters and co-heires of Sir George Vernon of Nether-Haddon, in the county of Derby, Knight, by whom he had issue two sons, Henry and Edward. Henry died an infant; Edward survived, to whom those lordships descended; and married the lady Lucie Percie, second daughter of the Earle of Northumberland: by her he had issue seaven daughters. She and her foure daughters, Arabella, Marie, Alice, and Priscilla, are interred under a monument in the church of Waltham in the county of Essex. Thomas, her son, died in his infancy, and is buried in the parish church of Winwich in the county of Lancaster. The other three, Petronilla, Frances, and Venesia, are yet living.
These following verses were made by WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, the late famous tragedian:
"Written upon the east end of this tombe.
"Written upon the west end thereof. "Not monumental stone preserves our fame, "Nor skye-aspiring pyramids our name. "The memory of him for whom this stands, "Shall out-live marble, and defacers' hands. "When all to time's consumption shall be given, "Stanley, for whom this stands, shall stand in heaven."
The last line of this epitaph, though the worst, bears very strong morks of the hand of Shakspeare. The beginning of the first line, "Aske who lyes here," reminds us of that which we have been just examining: "If any man ask, who lies in this tomb," &c.-And in the fifth line we find a thought which our poet has also introduced in King Henry VIII:
had three sons, who all died without children; and Susanna,
"Ever belov'd and loving may his rule be!
"And, when old time shall lead him to his grave,
This epitaph must have been writen after the year 1600, for Venetia Stanley, who afterwards was the wife of Sir Kenelm Digby, was born in that year. With a view to ascertain its date more precisely, the churches of Great and Little Waltham have been examined for the monument said to have been erected to Lady Lucy Stanley and her four daughters, but in vain; for no trace of it remains: nor could the time of their respective deaths be ascertained, the registers of those parishes being lost. -Sir William Dugdale was born in Warwickshire, was bred at the free-school of Coventry, and in the year 1625 purchased the manor of Blythe in that county, where he then settled and afterwards spent a great part of his life: so that his testimony respecting this epitaph is sufficient to ascertain its authenticity. Malone.
He had three daughters,] In this circumstance Mr. Rowe must have been mis-informed. In the register of Stratford, no mention is made of any daughter of our author's but Susanna and Judith. He had indeed three children; the two already mentioned, and a son, named Hamnet, of whom Mr. Rowe takes no notice. He was a twin child, born at the same time with Judith. Hence probably the mistake. He died in the twelfth year of his age, in 1596. Malone.
Judith, the elder, to one Mr. Thomas Quiney,] This also is a mistake. Judith was Shakspeare's youngest daughter. She died at Stratford-upon-Avon a few days after she had completed her seventy-seventh year, and was buried there, Feb. 9, 1661-62. She was married to Mr. Quiney, who was four years younger than herself, on the 10th of February, 1615-16, and not as Mr. West supposed, in the year 1616-17. He was led into the mistake by the figures 1616 standing nearly opposite to the entry concerning her marriage; but those figures relate to the first entry in the subsequent month of April. The register appears thus:
3. Francis Bushill to Isabel Whood. 5. Rich. Sandells to Joan Ballamy. 10. Tho. Queeny to Judith Shakspere.
14. Will. Borowes to Margaret Davies.
and all the following entries in that and a part of the ensuing page are of 1616; the year then beginning on the 25th of March. Whether the above 10 relates to the month of February or April, Judith was certainly married before her father's death: if it relates to February, she was married on February 10, 1615-16; if to April, on the 10th of April, 1616. From Shakspeare's will
who was his favourite, to Dr. John Hall, a physician of good reputation in that country.* She left one child only, a daughter,
it appears that this match was a stolen one; for he speaks of such future "husband as she shall be married to." It is strange that the ceremony should have been publickly celebrated in the church of Stratford without his knowledge; and the improbability of such a circumstance might lead us to suppose that she was married on the 10th of April, about a fortnight after the execution of her father's will. But the entry of the baptism of her first child, (Nov. 23, 1616,) as well as the entry of the marriage, ascertain it to have taken place in February.
Mr. West, without intending it, has impeached the character of this lady; for her first child, according to his representation, must be supposed to have been born some months before her marriage; since among the baptisms I find this entry of the christening of her eldest son: "1616, Nov. 23. Shakspeare, filius Thomas Quiney, Gent." and according to Mr. West she was not married till the following February. This Shakspeare Quiney died in his infancy at Stratford, and was buried May 8th, 1617. Judith's second son, Richard, was baptized on February 9th, 1617-18. He died at Stratford in Feb. 1638-9, in the 21st year of his age, and was buried there on the 26th of that month. Her third son, Thomas, was baptized August 29, 1619, and was buried also at Stratford, January 28, 1638-9. There had been a plague in the town in the preceding summer, that carried off about fifty persons. Malone.
* Dr. John Hall, a physician of good reputation in that country.] Susanna's husband, Dr. John Hall, died in Nov. 1635, and is interred in the chancel of the church of Stratford near his wife. He was buried on the 26th of November, as appears from the register of burials at Stratford:
"November 26, 1635, Johannes Hall, medicus peritissimus." The following is a transcript of his will, extracted from the registry of the prerogative court of Canterbury:
"The last will and testament nuncupative of John Hall of Stratford-upon-Avon in the county of Warwick, Gent. made and declared the five and twentieth of November, 1635. Imprimis, I give unto my wife my house in London. Item, I give unto my daughter Nash my house in Acton. Item, I give unto my daughter Nash my meadow. Item, I give my goods and money unto my wife and my daughter Nash, to be equally divided betwixt them. Item, concerning my study of books, I leave them, said he, to you my son Nash, to dispose of them as you see good. As for my manuscripts, I would have given them to Mr. Boles, if he had been here; but forasmuch as he is not here present, you may, son Nash, burn them, or do with them what you please. Witnesses hereunto, Thomas Nash. Simon Trapp."
The testator not having appointed any executor, adminstration was granted to his widow, Nov. 23, 1636.