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ton, Ray, &c.; that he made it a practice to collect and write down anecdotes of his friends and of public characters; that D'Avenant knew Shakspeare; that there was frequent communication between Stratford and Oxford; and that, although there are some variations in the accounts of Rowe and Aubrey, the latter is most entitled to credit. He states that
"Mr. William Shakespear was borne at Stratford-uponAvon, in the county of Warwick: his father was a butcher, and I have been told heretofore by some of the neighbours, that when he was a boy he exercised his father's trade, but when he kill'd a calfe he would doe it in a high style and make a speech. There was at that time another butcher's son in this towne, that was helde not at all inferior to him for a naturall witt, his acquaintance and coetanean, but died young. This Wm. being inclined naturally to poetry and acting came to London, I guesse about 18, and was an actor at one of the play-houses, and did acte exceedingly well. Now B. Jonson never was a good actor, but an excellent instructor. He began early to make essayes at dramatique poetry, which at that time was very lowe, and his playes tooke well. He was a handsome well shap't man, very good company, and of a very readie and pleasant smooth witt: the humour of ----, the constable in a Midsummer Night's Dreame, he happened to take at Grendon, in Bucks, which is the roade from London to Stratford; and there was living that constable about 1642, when I first came to Oxon. Mr. Jos. Howe is of that parish, and knew him. Ben. Jonson and he did gather humours of men dayly, wherever they came. One time, as he was at the tavern, at Stratford-upon-Avon, one Combes, an old rich usurer, was to be buryed, he makes there this extemporary epitaph:
"Ten in the hundred the devill allowes,
But Combes will have twelve he sweares and vowes:
'Hoh,' quoth the devill, 'tis my John o' Combe.'
"He was wont to goe to his native country once a yeare. I think I have been told, that he left 2 or 300 lib. per annum, there and therabout, to a sister. I have heard Sir Wm. D'Avenant, and Mr. Thomas Shadwell (who is counted the best comedian we have now), say that he had a most prodigious witt; and did admire his naturall parts
beyond all other dramaticall writers. He was wont to say that he never blotted out a line in his life: say'd Ben Jonson, I wish he had blotted out a thousand.' His comodies will remain witt as long as the English tongue is understood, for that he handles mores hominum; now our present writers reflect so much upon particular persons and coxcombeities that twenty years hence they will not be understood.
66 Though, as Ben Jonson sayes of him, that he had but little Latine and lesse Greek, he understood Latine pretty well, for he had been in his younger years a schoolmaster in the country." See Letters from the Bodleian Library, &c. Vol. iii. p. 307.
The above account, though apparently sanctioned by good authority, and probably written about thirty years after Shakspeare's death, is treated by some of his biographers as wholly incredible. Of this opinion is Malone, in his notes upon the Life of our poet by Rowe; but in his own 66 Historical Account of the English Stage," he seems at a loss whether to argue for or against the proba bility of Aubrey's statement. The same wavering and inconsistency, on dubious points, are visible in other parts of the writings of that commentator. Thus in one place he is positive that Shakspeare's father was thrice married; and in another, he is equally confident that he had not more than two wives. In his chronology, he states 1591 to be the year in which our author commenced writer for the stage, and argues throughout the whole essay on that presumption; but in his remarks relative to the passage above quoted, he says, "We have no proof that he did not woo the dramatic muse even so early as 1587 or 1588; and therefore till such proof shall be produced, Mr. Aubrey's assertion, founded apparently on the information of those who lived very near the time, is entitled to some weight."
The Monument erected to his memory is constructed partly of marble and partly of stone, and consists of a half-length bust of the deceased, with a cushion before him, placed under an ornamental canopy, between two columns of the corinthian order, supporting an entablature. Attached to the latter are the Arden arms and crest, sculptured in relief. Beneath the bust are the following lines: probably by B. Jonson.
Judicio Pylivm, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
Obiit Ano. Doi. 1616, ætatis 53, die 23 Ap.
On a flat stone which covers the poet's grave is this curious but vulgar inscription:
Good frend for Jesvs' sake forbeare
The common tradition is, that the last four lines were written by Shakspeare himself; but this notion has perhaps originated solely from the use of the word " my," in the last line. The imprecation, says Malone, was probably 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." It is not very likely that Shakspeare ever wrote these silly lines.
Mrs. Shakspeare, who survived her husband eight years, was buried between his grave and the north wall of the chancel, under a stone inlaid with brass, and inscribed thus:
"Heere lyeth interred the bodye of Anne, wife of Mr. William Shakespeare, who depted. this life the 6th day of Avgvst, 1623, being of the age of 67 yeares.
Vbera, tv Mater, tv lac vitamq. dedisti,
Væ mihi; pro tanto mvnere saxa dabo!
Qvam Mallem, amoveat lapidem, bonvs angel'ore'
Sed nil vota valent, venias cito Christe resvrget,
The family of Shakspeare, as already mentioned, consisted only of one son and two daughters. The son died in 1592; but both the daughters survived their father. The eldest, Susanna, married Dr. John Hall, a physician of Stratford, who is said to have obtained much reputation and practice. She brought her husband an only child, Elizabeth, who was married, first, to Thomas Nashe, Esq. and afterwards to Sir John Barnard of Abingdon in
Northamptonshire; but had no issue by either of them. Judith, Shakspeare's second daughter, married Thomas Quiney, a vintner of Stratford, by whom she had three children; but as none of them reached their twentieth year, they left no posterity. Hence our poet's last lineal descendant was Lady Barnard, who was buried at Abingdon, Feb. 17, 1669-70. Dr. Hall, her father, died Nov. 25, 1635, and her mother, July 11, 1649: and both were interred in Stratford church under flat stones, bearing inscriptions to their respective memories.
Shakspeare, by his Will, still preserved in the office of the Prerogative Court, London, and bearing date the 25th day of March, 1616, made the following bequests:
To his daughter Judith he gave 150l. of lawful English money; one hundred to be paid in discharge of her marriage portion, within one year after his decease, and the remaining fifty upon her giving up, in favour of her elder sister, Susanna Hall, all her right in a copyhold tenement and appurtenances, parcel of the manor of Rowington. To the said Judith he also bequeathed 150%. more, if she or any of her issue were living three years after the date of his will; but in the contrary event, then he directed that 1007. of the sum should be paid to his niece, Elizabeth Hall, and the proceeds of the fifty to his sister, Joan, or Jone Hart, for life, with residue to her children. He further gave to the said Judith," his broad silver gilt bowl."
To his sister Joan, besides the contingent bequest above mentioned, he gave twenty pounds and all his wearing apparel; also the house in Stratford, in which she was to reside for her natural life, under the yearly rent of twelvepence.
To her three sons, William Hart, Hart, and Michael Hart, he gave five pounds a-piece; to be paid within one year after his decease.
To his grand-daughter, Elizabeth Hall, he bequeathed all his plate, the silver bowl above excepted.
To the poor of Stratford he bequeathed ten pounds; to Mr. Thomas Combe, his sword; to Thomas Russel, five pounds; to Francis Collins, esq. thirteen pounds six shillings and eight-pence; to Hamlet (Hamnet) Sadler, twenty-six shillings and eight-pence to buy a ring; and a like sum, for the same purpose, to William Reynolds, gent.
Anthony Nash, gent. John Hemynge, Richard Burbage, and Henry Cundell, his "fellows:" also twenty shillings in gold to his godson, William Walker.
To his daughter, Susanna Hall, he bequeathed New-place, with its appurtenances; two messuages or tenements, with their appurtenances, situated in Henley-street; also all his "barns, stables, orchards, gardens, lands, tenements, and hereditaments whatsoever, situate, lying, and being, or to be had, received, perceived, or taken, within the towns, hamlets, villages, fields, and grounds of Stratford-uponAvon, Old Stratford, Bishopton, and Welcombe, or in any of them, in the said county of Warwick; and also all that messuage or tenement, with the appurtenances, wherein one John Robinson dwelleth, situated, lying, and being in the Blackfriars, London, near the Wardrobe; and all my other lands, tenements, and hereditaments whatsoever: to, have and to hold all and singular the said premises, with their appurtenances, unto the said Susanna Hall, for and during the term of her natural life; and after her decease, to the first son of her body law fully issuing, and to the heirs males of the body of the said first son, lawfully issuing; and for default of such issue, to the second son of her body lawfully issuing, and to the heirs males of the body of the said second son law fully issuing;" and so forth, as to the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh sons of her body and their male heirs: " and for default of such issue, the said premises to be and remain to my said niece Hall, and the heirs males of her body lawfully issuing; and for default of such issue, to my daughter Judith, and the heirs males of her body law fully issuing; and for default of such issue, to the right heirs of me the said William Shakspeare."
To the said Susanna Hall, and her husband, whom he appointed executors of his will, under the direction of Francis Collins and Thomas Russel, esqrs. he further bequeathed all the rest of his "goods, chattels, leases, plate, jewels, and household stuff whatsoever," after the payment of his debts, legacies, and funeral expenses; with the exception of his "second best bed with the furniture," which constituted the only bequest he made to his wife, and that by insertion after the will was written out.
The houses mentioned above, as being situated in Henley-street, according to tradition, originally constituted a single mansion, the residence of our poet's father, and the immediate scene of his own birth.