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that held the horses retained the appellation of, Shakspeare's boys.* JOHNSON.
Mr. ? I cannot dismiss this anecdute with cut obferving that it seems to want every mark of probability. Though Shakspeare quitted Stratford on account of a juvenile irregularity, we have no reafon to suppose that he had forfeited the protection of his father who was engaged in a lucrative business, or the love of his wife who had already brought him two children, and was herfelf the daughter of a fubftantial yeoman. It is unlikely therefore, when he was beyond the reach of his profecutor, that he should conceal his plan of life, or place of residence, from those who, if he found himself distressed, could not fail to afford him such Tupplies as would have set him above the necesity of bolding borses for fubaftence. Mr. Malone has remarked in his Attempt to ofertain ibe Order in whicb obe Plays of Sbakspeare were written, that he might have found an easy introduction to the stage ; for Thomas Green, a celebrated comedian of that period, was his townfman, and perhaps his mi bacion, The genius of our author prompted him to write poetry, his cynnection with a player might have given his productions a dramatick turn; or his own fagacity might have taughe him that fame was not incompatible with profit, and that the tbeatre was an avenue to both. That it was once the general cuíton to ride on horse-back to the play, I am likewise yet to learn. The most popular of the theatr:s were on the Banklide ; and we are told by the satirical pamphleteers, of the time, that the usual mode of conveyances to these places of amusement, was by water: but not a fingle writer so much as hints at the custom of riding to them, 6* at the practice of having hosfes held during the hours of exhibition. Some ale lu Gon to this usage (if ic had exitted) muxt, I think, bave been discovered in the courfe of our refearches after contemporary fashions. Let it bc remembered too, that we receive this tale on no higher authority than tDat of Cibber's tives of the Poet's, Vol. I. p. 130. 6. Sir William Davenant told it to Mr. Betterton, wbo communicated it to Mr. Rowe," who (according to Dr. Johnson) related it to Mr. Pope. Mr. Rowe (if this intelligence be authentick) seems to have concurred with me in opinion, as he forebore to introduce a circumstance to incredible into his life of Shakspeare. As to the book which furnishes the anecdote, not the smallest part of it was the composition of Mr. Cibber, being entirely written by a Mr. Shie.ls, amanuensis to Dr. Juhnfon, when his Dictionary was preparing for the press.' T. Cibber was in the King's Binch, and accepted of cen guineas from the bookseller for leave to prefix his name to the work; and it was purposely fu prefixed as to leave the reader in doubt whether himfit or his tither was the perfon designed.
The foregoirig anecdote relative to Cibbei's Lives, &c. I received from Dr. Johnson. See, however, The Monthly Review fur December 1781, p. 409. STEEVENS.
Mr. Steevens in one particular is certainly mistaken. To the theatre in Blackfriars I have no doubt that many gentlemen rode in the time of Queen Elizabeth and King James I. From the Strand, Holborn, Bishops
Mr. Rowe has told us that he derived the principal anec. dotes in his account of Shakspeare, from Betterton the player, whose zeal had induced him to visit Stratford for the fake of procuring all possible intelligence concerning a poet to whose works he might justly think himself under the trongest obligations. Notwithstanding this assertion, in the manuscript papers of the late Mr. Oldys it is said, that one Boman (according to Cherwood, p. 143, “ an actor more than half an age on the London theatres") was unwilling to allow that his associate and contemporary Betterton had ever undertaken such a journey. Be this matter as it will, the following particulars, which I shall give in the words of Oldys, are, for aught we know to the contrary, as well authenticated as any of the anecdotes delivered down to us by Rowe.
Mr. Oldys had covered several quires of paper with laborious collections for a regular life of our author. From these I have made the following extracts, which (however trivial) contain the only circumstances that wear the least appearance of novelty or information.
“ If tradition may be trusted, Shakspeare often baited at the Crown Inn or Tavern in Oxford, in his journey to and from London. The landlady was a woman of great beauty and sprightly wit; and her husband, Mr. John Davenant, (afterwards inayor of that city,) a grave melancholy man ; who, as well as his wife, used much to delight in Shakspeare's pleasant company. Their fon 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 towns. man observing the boy running homeward almost out of breath, asked him whither he was posting in that heat and
hurry. gate-street, &c. where many of the nobility lived, they could indeed go no other way than on foot, or on horseback, or in coaches; and coaches till after the dath of Elzabeth were extremely rare. Many of the gentry therefore certainly went to that playhouse on horseback. See the proofs, in the Ebay above referred to.
This however will not establish the tradition relative to our author's first employment at the playhouse, which stands on a very flender foundation.
hurry. He answered, to see his god-father Shakspear There's a good boy, said the other, but have a care that you don't take God's name in vain. This story Mr. Pope told me at the Earl of Oxford's table, upon occasion of some discourse which arose about Shakspeare's monument then newly erealed in Westminfter Abbey; and he quoted Mr. Betterton the player for his authority. I answered, that I thought such a story might have enriched the variety of those choice fruits of observation he has presented us in his preface to the edition he had published of our poet's works. He replied—“ There might be in the garden of mankind such plants as would seem to pride themselves more in a regular production of their own native fruits, than in having the repute of bearing a richer kind by grafting; and this was the reason he omitted it."
The same story, without the names of the persons, is printed among the jests of John Taylor the Water poet, in his works, folio, 1630, p. 184, No 39: and, with some variations, may be found in one of Hearne's pocket books.
« One of Shakspeare's younger brothers, who lived to a good old age, even some years, as I compute, after the restoration of King Charles II. would in his younger day's come to London to visit his brother Will, as he called him, and be a spectator of him as an actor in some of his own plays. This custom, as his brother's fame enlarged, and his dramatick entertainments grew the greatest support of our principal, if not of all our theatres, he continued it seems so long after his brother's death, as even to the latter end of his
The curiosity at this time of the most noted actors [exciting them) to learn something from him of his brother, &c. they juftly held him in the highest veneration, And it may be well believed, as there was besides a kinsman and descendant of the family, who was then a celebrated actor among them, [Charles Hart 8] this opportunity made them greedily inquisitive into every little circumstance, more especially in his dramatick character, which his brother could relate of him. But he, it seems,
was Born, I believe, about 1630, died in or about 1682. If he was a grandson of Shakspeare's fifter, he was probably the son of Michacl Hart, her youngest son, of whose marriage or death there is no account in the parish Register of Stratford, and therefore I suspect he ettled in London, MALONE.
was fo ftricken in years, and possibly his memory so weakened with infirmities, (which might make him the cafier pafs for a man of weak intellects,) that he could give them but little light into their enquiries; and all that could be recol. lected from him of his brother Will in that station was, the faint, general, and almost lost ideas he had of having once seen him act a part in one of his own comedies, wherein being to perfonate a decrepit old man, he wore a long beard, and appeared so weak and drooping and unable to walk, that he was forced to be supported and carried by another person to a table, at which he was seated among some company, who were eating, and one of them sung a song.” See the character of Adam, in As you Like it, Act II. sc. ult.
“ Verses by Ben Jonson and Shakspeare, occasioned by the motto to the Globe Theatre—Totus mundus agit histrionem.
We are all both axiors and spectators too.'
“ Old Mr. Boman the player reported from Sir William Bishop, that some part of Sir John Falstaff's character was drawn from a townsman of Stratford, who either faithlessly broke a contract, or spitefully refused to part with some land for a valuable consideration, adjoining to Shakspeare's, in or near that town."
To these anecdotes I can only add the following.
At the conclusion of the advertisement prefixed to Lintot's edition of Shakspeare's Poems, it is said " That most learned prince and great patron of learning, King James the First, was pleased with his own hand to write an amicable letter to Mr. Shakspeare; which letter, though now loft, remained long in the hands of Sir William D'Avenant, as a credible person now living can testify.”
Mr. Oldys in a MS. note to his copy of Fuller's Worthiess observes, that " the story came from the Duke of Buckingham, who had it from Sir William D'Avenant."
It appears from Rofcius Anglicanus, (commonly called Downes the prompter's book,) 1708, that Shakspeare took the pains to instruct Joseph Taylor in the character of Hamlet, and John Lowine in that of King Henry VIII. STEEVENS.
The late Mr. Thomas Osborne, bookseller, (whose exploits are celebrated by the author of the Dunciad) being ignorant in what form or language our Paradise Lost was written, employed one of his garretteers to render it from a French tranflation into English prose. Left, hereafter, the compofitions of Shakspeare should be brought back into their native tongue from the version of Monsieur le Comte de Catuelan, le Tourneur, &c. it may be necessary to observe, that all the following particulars, extracted from the preface of these gentlemen, are as little founded in truth as their description of the ridiculous Jubilee at Stratford, which they have been taught to represent as an affair of general approbation and national concern.
They say, that Shakspeare came to London without a plan, and finding himself at the door of a theatre, instinctively stopped there, and offered himself to be a holder of horses:--that he was remarkable for his excellent performance of the Ghost in Hamlet :- that he borrowed nothing from preceding writers :--that all on a sudden he left the stage, and returned without eclat into his native country :that his monument at Stratford is of copper :-that the courtiers of James I. paid several compliments to him which are still preserved : that he relieved a widow, who, together with her numerous family, was involved in a ruinous lawfuit:--that his editors have restored many passages in his plays, by the aliftance of the manuscripts he left behind him, &c. &c.
Let me not however forget the justice due to these ingenious Frenchmen, whose skill and fidelity in the execution of their very difficult undertaking, is only exceeded by such a display of candour as would serve to cover the imper. fections of much less-elegant and judicious writers.