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that ill-usage, he made a ballad upon him. And though this, probably the first essay of his poetry, be lost, yet it is said to have been so very bitter, that it redoubled the prosecution against him to that degree, that he was obliged to leave his business and family in Warwickshire for some time, and shelter himself in London."
We have said that Rowe is the oldest printed source of this anecdote, his “ Life of Shakespeare ” having been published in 1709; but Malone produced a manuscript of uncertain date, anterior, however, to the publication of Rowe's “ Life," which gives the incident some confirmation. Had this manuscript authority been of the same, or even of more recent date, and derived from an independent quarter, unconnected with Rowe or his informant, it would on this account have deserved attention; but it was older than the publication of Rowe's “ Life," because the Rev. R. Davies, who added it to the papers of Fulman, (now in the library of Corpus Christi College) died in 1707. Rowe (as he distinctly admits) obtained 'not a few of his materials from Betterton, the actor, who died the year after Rowe's “ Life.” came out, and who, it has been repeatedly asserted, paid a visit to Stratford expressly to glean such particulars as could be obtained regarding Shakespeare. In what year he paid that visit is not known, but Malone was of opinion that it was late in life : on the contrary, we think that it must have been comparatively early in Betterton's career, when he would naturally be more enthusiastic in a pursuit of the kind, and when he had not been afflicted by that disorder from which he suffered so severely in his later years, and to which, in fact, he owed his death. Betterton was born in 1635, and became an actor before 1660 ; and we should not be disposed to place his journey to Stratford later than 1670 or 1675, when he was thirty-five or forty years old. He was at that period in the height of his popularity, and being in the frequent habit of playing such parts as Hamlet, Lear, and Othello, we may readily believe that he would be anxious to collect any information regarding the author of those tragedies that then existed in his native town. We therefore apprehend, that Betterton must have
1 The terms used by the Rev. Mr. Davies are these :
"He [Shakespeare) was much given to all unluckiness in stealing venison and rabbits, particularly from Sir Lucy, who had him oft whipped and sometimes imprisoned, and at last made him fly his native country, to his great advancement. But his revenge was so great that he is his Justice Clodpate; and calls him a great man, and that, in allusion to his name, bore three louses rampant for his
Fulman's MSS. vol. xv. Here we see that Davies calls Sir Thomas Lucy only “Sir Lucy," as if he did not know his Christian name, and he was ignorant that such a character as Justice Clodpate is not to be found in any of Shakespeare's plays.
gone to Stratford many years before the Rev. Richard Davies made his additions to Fulman's brief account of Shakespeare, for Fulman's papers did not devolve into his hands until 1688. The conclusion at which we arrive is, that Rowe's printed account is in truth older, as far as regards its origin in Betterton's inquiries, than the manuscript authority produced by Malone; and certainly the latter does not come much recommended to us on any other ground. Davies must have been ignorant both of persons and plays; but this very circumstance may possibly be looked upon as in favour of the originality and genuineness of what he furnishes. He does not tell us from whence, nor from whom, he procured his information, but it reads as if it had been obtained from some source independent of Betterton, and perhaps even from inquiries on the spot. The whole was obviously exaggerated and distorted, but whether by Davies, or by the person from whom lie derived the story, we must remain in doubt. The reverend gentleman died three years before Betterton, and both may certainly have been indebted for the information to the same parties; but most likely Davies simply recorded what he had heard.
In reflecting upon the general probability or improbability of this important incident in Shakespeare's life, it is not to be forgotten, as Malone remarks, that deer-stealing, at the period referred to, was by no means an uncommon offence; that it is referred to by several authors, and punished by more than one statute. Neither was it considered to include any moral stain, but was often committed by young men, by way of frolic, for the purpose of furnishing
1 We may, perhaps, consider the authority for the story obtained by Oldys prior in point of date to any other. According to him, a gentleman of the name of Jones, of Turbich in Worcestershire, died in 1703, at the age of ninety, and he remembered to have heard from several old people of Stratford, the story of Shakespeare's robbing Sir Thomas Lucy's park; and they added that the ballad of which Rowe makes mention, had been affixed on the park-gate, as an additional exasperation to the knight. Oldys preserved a stanza of this satıri. cal effusion, which he had received from a person of the name of Wilkes, a relation of Mr. Jones : it runs thus :
"A parliament member, a justice of peace,
He thinks himself great,
Yet an asse in his state
If Lucy is lowsie, as some volke miscall it,
Sing lowsie Lucy, whatever befall it." What is called a complete copy of the verses,"contained in “Malone's Shakspeare, by Boswell," vol. ii. p. 565, is evidently not gennine,
a feast, and not with any view to sale or emolument. If Shakespeare ever ran into such an indiscretion, (and we own that we cannot entirely discredit the story) he did no more than many of his contemporaries; and one of the ablest, most learned, and bitterest enemies of theatrical performances, who wrote just before the close of the sixteenth century, expressly mentions deer-stealing as a venial crime of which unruly and misguided youth was sometimes guilty, and he couples it merely with carousing in taverns and robbing orchards?.
It is very possible, therefore, that the main offence against Sir Thomas Lucy was, not stealing his deer, but writing the ballad, and sticking it on his gate; and for this Shakespeare may have been so “severely prosecuted” by Sir Thomas Lucy, as to render it expedient for him to abandon Stratford“ for some time.” Sir Thomas Lucy died in 1600,
i Dr. John Rainolds, in his “Overthrow of Stage Playes,” 4to, 1599, p. 22. Some copies of the work (one of which is in the library of Lord Francis Egerton) bear date in 1600, and purport to have been printed at Middleburgh: they are, in fact, the same edition, and there is little doubt that they were printed in London, although no name is found at the bottom of any of the title-pages. His words on the point to which we are now referring, are these :- Time of recreation is necessary, I grant; and think as necessary for scholars, that are scholars indeed, I mean good students, as it is for any : yet in my opinion it were not fit for them to play at stuol-ball among wenches, nor at mum-chance or maw with idle loose companions, nor at trunks in guild-halls, nor to dance about may-poles, nor to rifle in ale-houses, nor to carouse in taverns, nor to steal deer, nor to rob orchards."
This work was published at the time when the building of a new theatre, called the Fortune, belonging to Henslowe and Alleyn, was exciting a great deal of general attention, and particular animosity on the part of the Puritans. To precisely the same import as the above quotation we might produce a passage from Forman's Diary, referred to by Malone, and cited by Mr. Halliwell, in a note to "The First Part of the Contention between the Houses, York and Lancaster," printed for the Shakespeare Society, p. 106. One of the most curious illustrations of this point is derived from a MS. note by Philip, Earl of Pein broke and Montgomery, in a copy of Roper's Life of Sir Thomas More, edit. 1642, sold among the books of Horace Walpole. Speaking of Aurelian Townshend, who, he says, was a poor poet liv. ing in Barbican, near the Earl of Bridgewater's, he adds that he had “a fine fair daughter, mistress to the Palgrave first, and then afterwards to the noble Count of Dorset, a Privy Councillor, and a Knight of the Garter, and a deer-stealer," &c. It was to William Earl of Pembroke, and Philip Earl of Montgomery, that the player-editors dedicated the folio Shakespeare of 1623; and one of Earl Philip's MS. notes, in the volume from which we have already quoted, contains the following mention of seven dramatic poets, including Shakespeare :-" The full and heightended style of Master Chapman ; the laboured and understanding works of Mr. Jhonson; Mr. Beaumont, Mr. Fletcher, (brother to Nat Fetcher, Mrs. White's servant, sons to Bishop Fletcher of London, and great tobacconist, and married to my Lady Baker)-Mr. Shakespear, Mr. Deckar, Mr. Heywood." Horace Walpole registers on the title-page of the volume that the notes were made by Philip: Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery.
and the mention of deer-stealing, and of the “dozen white luces" by Slender, and of the dozen white lowses” by Sir Hugh Evans in the opening of “The Merry Wives of Windsor," seems too obvious to be mistaken, and leads us to the conviction that the comedy was written before the demise of Sir Thomas Lucy, whose indignation Shakespeare had incurred. True it is, that the coat of arms of Sir Thomas Lucy contained only " three luces (pike-fishes) hariant, argent;" but it is easy to imagine, that while Shakespeare would wish the ridicule to be understood and felt by the knight and his friends, he might not desire that it should be too generally intelligible, and therefore multiplied the luces to "a dozen," instead of stating the true number. We believe that “The Merry Wives of Windsor” was written before 1600, among other reasons, because we are convinced that Shakespeare was too generous in his nature to have carried his resentment beyond the grave, and to have cast ridicule upon a dead adversary, whatever might have been his sufferings while he was a living one.
Malone has attacked the story of deer-stealing on the ground that Sir Thomas Lucy never had any park at Charlcote or elsewhere, but it admits of an easy and immediate answer; for, although Sir Thomas Lucy had no park, he may have had deer, and that his successor had deer, though no park, can be proved, we think, satisfactorily. Malone has remarked that Sir Thomas Lucy never seems to have sent the corporation of Stratford a buck, a not unusual present to a body of the kind from persons of rank and wealth in the vicinity. This may be so, and the fact may be accounted for on several grounds; but that the Sir Thomas Lucy, who succeeded his father in 1600, made such gifts, though not perhaps to the corporation of Stratford, is very certain. When Lord Keeper Egerton entertained Queen Elizabeth at Harefield, in August 1602, many of the nobility and gentry, in nearly all parts of the kingdom, sent him an abundance of presents to be used or consumed in the entertainment, and on that occasion Sir Thomas Lucy contributed "a buck," for which a reward of 6s. 8d. was given to the bringer?. This single circumstance shows that if he had no park, he had deer, and it is most likely that he inherited them from his father. Thus we may pretty safely conclude that Sir Thomas Lucy who resided at Charlcote when Shakespeare was in his youth, bad venison to be stolen, although it does not at all necessarily follow that Shakespeare was ever concerned in stealing it.
The question whether he did or did not quit Stratford for the metropolis on this account, is one of much importance in the poet's history, but it is one also upon which we shall, in all probability, never arrive at certainty. Our opinion is that the traditions related by Rowe, and mentioned in Fulman's and in Oldys' MSS. (which do not seem to have originated in the same source) may be founded upon an actual occurrence; but, at the same time, it is very possible that that alone did not determine Shakespeare's line of conduct. His residence in Stratford may have been rendered inconvenient by the near neighbourhood of such a hostile and powerful magistrate, but perhaps he would nevertheless not have quitted the town, had not other circumstances combined to produce such a decision. What those circumstances might be it is our business now to inquire.
Aubrey, who was a very curious and minute investigator, although“ undoubtedly too credulous, says nothing about deer-stealing, but he tells us that Shakespeare was “ inclined naturally to poetry and acting, and to this inclination he attributes his journey to London at an early age. That this youthful propensity existed there can be no dispute, and it is easy to trace how it may have been promoted and strengihened. The corporation of Stratford seem to have given great encouragement to companies of players arriving there. We kuow from various authorities that when itinerant actors came to any considerable town, it was their custom to wait upon the mayor, bailiff, or other head of the corporation, in order to ask permission to perform, either in the town-hall, if that could be granted to them, or elsewhere. It so happens that the earliest record of the representation of any plays in Stratford-upon-Avon, is dated in the year when John Shakespeare was bailiff: the precise season is not stated, but it was in 1569, when “ the Queen's Players ” (meaning probably, at this date, one company of her “ Interlude Players," retained under that name by her father and grandfather) received 95. out of the corporate in 1602." He gave 6 a buck,” because he had bred it himself, and because it was perhaps well known that he kept deer; and he would hardly have exposed himself to ridicule by buying a buck for a present, under the estentatious pretence that it was' of his own rearing. Malone thought that he had triumphantly overthrown the deer-steal. ing story, but his refutation amounts to little or nothing. Whether it is nevertheless true is quite a difierent question.