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intimacy with Mr. John Combe, an old Gentleman noted
Ten in the bundred lies bere ingravid,
Ob! ob ! quotb. tbe Devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe,
« of John Combe, esg; who dy'd the roth of July, 1614.
Shakespeare himself did not survive Mr. Combe long, for he dy'd in the year 1616; the 534 of his age. He lies buried on the north fide of the chancel in the great church at Stratford ; where a monument, decent enough for the time, is erected to him, and plac'd against the wall. He is represented under an arch in a fitting pofture, a cushion spread before him, with a pen in his right hand, and his left rested on a ferowl of paper. The Latin diftich, which is placed under the cushion, has been given us by Mr. Pope, or his graver, in this manner.
INGENIO Pylium, Genio Socratem, Arte Maronem,
I confess, I don't conceive the difference between Ingenio and Genio in the first verse. They seem to me intirely lynonymous terms ; nor was the Pylian Sage Neftor celebrated for his ingenuity, but for an experience and judgment owing to his long age. Dugdale, in his antiquities of WarwickAhire, has copied this distich with a distinction which Mr. Rowe has follow'd, and which certainly restores us the true meaning of the epitaph.
JUDICIO Pylium, Genio Socratem, &c. In 1614, the greater part of the town of Stratford was consumed by fire; but our Shakespeare's house, among fome others, escap'd the flames. This house was first built by Sir Hugh Clopton, a younger brother of an ancient family in that neighbourhood, who took their name from the manor of Clopton. Sir Hugh was Sheriff of London in the reign of Richard III. and Lord Mayor in the reign of king, Henry VII. To this Gentleman the town of Stratford is 'indebted for the fine ftone-bridge, consisting of fourteen. arches, which at an extraordinary expence he built over the. Avon, together with a caufe-way running at the west-end thereof; as alfo for rebuilding the chapel adjoining to his house, and the cross-ise in the church there. It is remark. able of him, that, tho' ħe liv’d and dy'd a bachelor; among: the other extensive charities which he left both to the city of London and town of Stratford, he bequeath'd confiderable tegacies for the marrriage of poor maidens of goodi name and fame both in London and at Stratford. Notwithstanding which large donations in his life, and bequests at his death, as be bad purchased the manor of Clopton, and all the estate
of the family, fo he left the same again to his elder brother's son with a very great addition : (A proof, how well beneficence and economy may walk hand in hand in wise famj. lies :) Good part of which eftate is yet in the possession of Edward Clopton, efq; and Sir Hugh Clopton, knt. lineally descended from the elder brother of the first Sir Hugh : Who particularly bequeathed to his nephew, by his will, his house, by the name of his Great-House in Stratford.
The estate had now been sold out of the Clopton family for above à century, at the time when Shakespeare becarre the purchaser : Who, having repair'd and modell’d it to his own mind, chang'd the name to New-place; which the manfion-house, since erected upon the same spot, at this day retains. The house and lands, which -attended it, continued in Shakespeare's descendants to the time of the Restoration : When they were repurchased by the Clopton family, and the mansion now belongs to Sir Hugh Clopton, knt. To the favour of this worthy Gentleman I owe the knowledge of one particular, in honour of our poet's once dwel. ling-house, of which, I presume, Mr. Rowė never was appriz’d. When the civil war raged in England, and K. Charles the First's queen was driven by the necessity of af. fairs to make a recess in Warwickshire, the kept her court for three weeks in New-place. We may reasonably suppose it then the best private house in the town; and her Majesty preferr’d it to the College, which was in the poffeffion of the Combe-family, who did not so strongly favour the King's party.
How much our author employ'd himself in poetry, after his retirement from the stage, does not so evidently appear : Very few posthumous sketches of his pen have been recover'd to ascertain that print. We have been told, indeed, in print, but not till very lately that iwo large chefs
full of this great man's loose papers and manuscripts, in the hands of an ignorant baker of Warwick, (who married one of the descendants from our Shakespeare) were carelesly scatter'd and thrown about, as garret-lumber, and litter, to the particular knowledge of the late Sir William Bishop, till they were all consumed in the general fire and destruction of that town. I cannot help being a little apt to distrust the authority of this tradition ; because his wife surviv'd him seven years, and as his favourite daughter Susanna furviv'd her twenty-fix years, 'tis very improbable, they should suffer such a treasure to be remov'd, and translated into a remoter branch of the family, without a scrutiny first made into the value of it. This, I say, inclines me to distrust the authority of the relation : Bút, notwithstanding such an apparent improbabiliry, if we really lost such a treasure, by whatever fatality or caprice of fortune they came into such ignorant and neglectful hands, I agree with the relater, the misfor, tune is wholly irreparable.
To these particulars, which regard his person and private life, some few more are to be glean’d from Mr. Rowe's account of his life and writings : Let us now take a short view of him in his publick capacity, as a writer : And, from thence, the transition will be easy to the state in which his writings have been handed down to us.
No age perhaps, can produce an author more various from himself, than Shakespeare has been universally acknowledged to be. The diversity in file, and other parts of composition, so obvious in him, is as variously to be accounted for. His education, we find, was at best but begun: And he started early into a science from the force of genius, unequally affifted by acquir'd improvements. His fire, fpirit, and exuberance of imagination gave an impetuosity to his pen : His ideas fow'd fro... him in a stream rapid, but not
turbulent; copious, but not ever over-bearing its fhores.