« ZurückWeiter »
have no sufficient reason for believing it was the fact as regards Shakespeare: he is evidently speaking metaphorically in both places, where “lame" and "lameness” occur.
His social qualities, his good temper, bilarity, vivacity, and what Aubrey calls his “very ready, and pleasant, and smooth wit,” (in our author's own words,“ pleasant without scurrility, witty without affectation,") cannot be doubted, since, besides what may be gathered from his works, wo have it from various quarters; and although nothing very good of this kind may have descended to us, we have sufficient to show that he must have been a most welcome visitor in all companies. The epithet “gentle” has been frequently applied to him, twice by Ben Jonson, (in his lines before the engraving, and in his laudatory verses prefixed to the plays in the folio of 1623) and if it be not to be understood precisely in its modern acceptation, we may be sure that one distinguishing feature in his character was general kindliness : he may have been “sharp and sententious," but never needlessly bitter or ill-natured: his wit had no malice for an ingredient. Fuller speaks of the “wit-combats.” between Shakespeare and Ben Jonson at the convivial meetings at the Mermaid club, established by Sir Walter Raleigh"; and he adds,“ which two I behold like a Spanish great galleon and an English man-of-war: Master Jonson, like the former, was built far higher in learning; solid, but slow in his performances: Shakespeare, with the English man-of-war, Tesser in bulk, but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about, and take advantage of all winds by the quickness of his wit and invention?." The simile is well chosen, and it came from a writer who seldom said
cumstance, had he known it, would materially have aided the modern sceptick, who argued that Shakespeare and Marlowe were one and the same.
i Gifford (Ben Jonson's Works, vol. I. p. lxv.) fixes the date of the establishment of this club, at the Mermaid in Friday Street, about 1603, and he adds that “here for many years Ben Jonson repaired with Shakespeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Selden, Cotton, Carew, Martin, Donne, and many others, whose names, even at this distant period, call up a mingled feeling of reverence and respect.” Of what passed at these many assemblies Beaumont thus speaks, addressing Ben Jonson :
"What things have we seen
The Mitre, in Fleet Street, seems to have been another tavern where
anything ill?. Connected with Ben Jonson's solidity and slowness is a witticism between him and Shakespeare, said to have passed at a tavern. One of the Ashmolean manuscripts (No. 38) contains the following :
“ Mr. Ben Johnson and Mr. Wm. Shakespeare being merrie at a tavern, Mr. Jonson begins this for his epitaph,
Here lies Ben Jonson
Who was once one: be gives it to Mr. Shakespeare to make up, who presently writt
That, while he liv'd, was a slow thing,
And now, being dead, is no-thing." It is certainly not of much value, but there is a great difference between the estimate of an extempore joke at the moment of delivery, and the opinion we may form of it long afterwards, when it has been put upon paper, and transmitted to posterity under such names as those of Shakespeare and Jonson. The same excuse, if required, may be made for two other pieces of unpretending pleasantry between the same parties, which we subjoin in a note, because they relate to such men, and have been handed down to us upon something like authority.
1 Fuller has another simile, on the same page, respecting Shakespeare and his acquirements, which is worth quoting. “He was an eminent instance of the truth of that rule, Poeta non fit, sed nascitur ; one is not made, but born a poet. Indeed his learning was very little, so that as Cornish diamonds are not polished by any lapidary, but are pointed and smooth even as they are taken out of the earth, so nature itself was all the art which was used upon him." Of course Fuller is here only referring to Shakespeare's classical acquirements: his " learning” of a different kind, perhaps, exceeded that of all the ancients put together.
2 “ Shakespeare was god-father to one of Ben Jonson's, children, and after the christening, being in a deepe study, Jonson came to cheere him up, and askt him why he was so melancholy ?-No, faith, Ben, (sayes he) not I; but I have been considering a great while what should be the fittest gift for me to bestow upon my god. child, and I have resolv'd at last. — I proythee what?' says he.
I 'faith, Ben, I'll e'en give him a douzen of Latten spoones, and thou shalt translate them.'"
Of course the joke depends upon the pun between Latin, and the mixed metal called latten. The above is from a MS. of Sir R. L'Estrange, who quotes the authority of Dr. Donne. It is inserted in Mr. Thoms's amusing volume, printed for the Camden Society, under the title of “ Anecdotes and Traditions," p. 2. The next is from a MS. called “Poetical Characteristics," formerly in the Harleian Collection :
“ Verses by Ben Jonson and Shakespeare, occasioned by the motto to the Globe theatre-Totus mundus agit histrionem. "Jonson. If but stage-actors all the world displays,
Where shall we find spectators of their plays? re. Little, or much of what we see, we do;
We are both actors and spectators too." VOL. I.-R
Of a different character is a production preserved by Dugdale, at the end of his Visitation of Salop, in the Heralds' College: it is an epitaph inscribed upon the tomb of Sir Thomas Stanley, in Tongue church; and Dugdale, whose testimony is unimpeachable, distinctly states that “ the following verses were made by William Shakespeare, the late famous tragedian.”
“ Written upon the east end of the tomb. " Ask who lies here, but do not weep; He is not dead, he doth but sleep. This stony register is for his bones ; His fame is more perpetual than these stones : And his own goodness, with himself being gone, Shall live when earthly monument is none.
" Written on the west end thereof. "Not monumental stone preserves our fame, Nor sky-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." With Malone and others, who have quoted them, we feel satisfied of the authenticity of these verses, though we may not perhaps think, as he did, that the last line bears such“ strong marks of the hand of Shakespeare'.” The coincidence between the line
“Nor sky-aspiring pyramids our name,” and the passage in Milton's Epitaph upon Shakespeare, prefixed to the folio of 1632,
" Or that his hallow'd relics should be hid
Under a star-ypointing pyramid," seems, as far as we recollect, to have escaped notice.
We have thus brought into a consecutive narrative (with as little interruption of its thread as, under the circumstances, and with such disjointed materials, seemed to us
1 The following reaches us in a more questionable shape : it is from a MS. of the time of Charles I., preserved in the Bodleian Library, which contains also poems by Herrick and others.
Vicesimo Quinto Die Martija Anno Regni Domini
nostri Jacobi nunc Rex Anglie &c. Decimo quarto
& Scotie xlixo Annoq; Domini 1616. T. Wmj Shackspeare
In the name of god Amen I. William Shackspeare of Stratford vpon Avon in the countie of warr gent in perfect health & memorie god be praysed doe make & Ordayne this my last will & testament in manner & forme followeing That ys to saye First I Comend my Soule into the handes of god my Creator hoping & assuredlie beleeving through thonelie merites of Jesus Christe my Saviour to be made partaker of lyfe everlastinge And my bodye to the Earth whereof yt ys made Item I Gyve & bequeath vnto my Daughters Judyth One hundred & Fyftie poundes of lawfull English money to be paied vnto her in manner & forme followeing That ys to saye One hundred pounds in discharge of her marriage porcion within one yeare after my deceas with consideracion after the Rate of twoe Shillinges in the pound for soe long tyme as the same shalbe vopaied vnto her after my deceas & the Fyftie poundes Residewe thereof vpon her Surrendring of or gyving of such sufficient Securitie as the overseers of this my Will shall like of to Sur render or graunte All her estate & Right that shall discend or come vnto her after my deceas or that shee nowe hath of in or to one Copiehold tenemente with thappurtenances lyeing & being in Stratford vpon Avon aforesaied in the saied countie of warr being parcell or holden of the mannour of Rowington vnto my Daughter Susanna Hall & her heires for ever Item I Gyve & bequeath ynto my saied Daughter Judith One hundred and Fyftie Poundes more if shee or Anie issue of her bodie be Lyvinge att thend of
1 The following is from an exact transcript of the original Will deposited in the Prerogative office, London, the only difference being that we have not thought it necessary to give the legal contractions of the scrivener: in all other respects, even to the misemployment of capital letters, and the omission of points our copy is most faithful.
2 The word "Martij" is interlined above "Januasaj," which is struck through with the pen. Malone (Shaksp. by Boswell, vol. 1. p. 601.) states that the word struck through is Februarij, but this is a mistake.
3 Before " Daughter” sonne and was originally written, but struck through with the pen.
• The words "in discharge of her marriage porcion" are interlined. 6 The word "of” is interlined. 6 The words that shee" are interlined.