« FöregåendeFortsätt »
But the fharpness of the fatire is faid to have fung the man fo feverely, that he never forgave it.'
Combe's will, that his brother Thomas was dead in 1614. John devised the greater part of his real and perfonal estate to his nephew Thomas Combe, with whom Shakspeare was certainly on good terms, having bequeathed him his sword.
Since I wrote the above, I find from the Register of Stratford, that Mr. Thomas Combe (the brother of John) was buried there, Jan. 22, 1609-10. MALONE.
9 the Sharpness of the fatire is faid to have stung the man fo feverely, that he never forgave it.] I take this opporturnity to avow my disbelief that Shakspeare was the author of Mr. Combe's Epitaph, or that it was written by any other perfon at the request of that gentleman. If Betterton the player did really vifit Warwickshire for the fake of collecting anecdotes relative to our author, perhaps he was too easily satisfied with such as fell in his way, without making any rigid search into their authenticity. It appears alfo from a following copy of this infcription, that it was not afcribed to Shakspeare fo early as two years after his death. Mr. Reed of Staple-Inn obligingly pointed it out to me in the Remains, &c. of Richard Braithwaite, 1618; and as his edition of our epitaph varies in fome measure from the latter one published by Mr. Rowe, I shall not hesitate to transcribe it :
"Upon one John Combe of Stratford upon Avon, a notable Ufurer, faftened upon a Tombe that he had caused to be built in his Life-Time:
"Ten in the hundred must lie in his grave,
"But a hundred to ten whether God will him have:
Here it may be observed that, ftrictly speaking, this is no jocular epitaph, but a malevolent prediction; and Braithwaite's copy is furely more to be depended on (being procured in or before the year 1618) than that delivered to Betterton or Rowe, almoft a century afterwards. It has been already remarked, that two of the lines faid to have been printed on this occafion, were printed as an epigram in 1608, by H. P. Gent. and are likewise found in Camden's Remains, 1614. I may add, that a usurer's folicitude to know what would be reported of him when he was dead, is not a very probable circumftance; neither was Shakfpeare of a difpofition to compose an invective, at once fo bitter and uncharitable, during a pleasant converfation among the com
He died in the 53d year of his age,' and was bu
mon friends of himself and a gentleman, with whofe family he lived in fuch friendship, that at his death he bequeathed his fword to Mr. Thomas Combe as a legacy. A mifer's monument indeed, conftructed during his life-time, might be regarded as a challenge to fatire; and we cannot wonder that anonymous lampoons should have been affixed to the marble defigned to convey the character of such a being to pofterity.-I hope I may be excused for this attempt to vindicate Shakspeare from the imputation of having poisoned the hour of confidence and feftivity, by producing the fevereft of all cenfures on one of his company. I am, unwilling, in fhort, to think he could fo wantonly and fo publickly have expreffed his doubts concerning the falvation of one of his fellow-creatures. STEEVENS.
Since the above observations first appeared, (in a note to the edition of our author's Poems which I published in 1780,) I have obtained an additional proof of what has been advanced, in vindication of Shakspeare on this fubject. It occurred to me that the will of John Combe might poffibly throw fome light on this matter, and an examination of it fome years ago furnished me with fuch evidence as renders the story recorded in Braithwaite's Remains very doubtful and ftill more ftrongly proves that, whoever was the author of this epitaph, it is highly improbable that it should have been written by Shakspeare.
The very first direction given by Mr. Combe in his will is, concerning a tomb to be erected to him after his death. My will is, that a convenient tomb of the value of threefcore pounds fhall by my executors hereafter named, out of my goods and chattels first rayfed, within one year after my decease, be fet over me." So much for Braithwaite's account of his having erected his own tomb in his life time. That he had any quarrel with our author, or that Shakspeare had by any a&t stung him fo feverely that Mr. Combe never forgave him, appears equally void of foundation; for by his will he bequeaths" to Mr. William Shakfpere Five Pounds." It is probable that they lived in intimacy, and that Mr. Combe had made fome purchase from our poet; for he devifes to his brother George, "the clofe or grounds known by the name of Parfon's Clofe, alias Shakfpere's Clofe." It must be owned that Mr. Combe's will is dated Jan. 28, 1612-13, about eighteen months before his death; and therefore the evidence now produced is not abfolutely decifive, as he might have erected a tomb, and a rupture might have happened between bim and Shakspeare, after the making of this will: but it is very G
ried on the north fide of the chancel, in the great
improbable that any fuch rupture fhould have taken place; for if the fuppofed caufe of offence had happened fubfequently to the execution of the inftrument, it is to be prefumed that he would have revoked the legacy to Shakspeare: and the fame argument may be urged with respect to the direction concerning
Mr. Combe by his will bequeaths to Mr. Francis Collins, the elder, of the borough of Warwick, (who appears as a legatee and fubfcribing witnefs to Shakspeare's will, and therefore may be prefumed a common friend,) ten pounds; to his godfon John Collins, (the fon of Francis,) ten pounds; to Mrs. Sufanna Collins (probably godmother to our poet's eldest daughter) fix pounds, thirteen thillings, and four-pence; to Mr. Henry Walker, (father to Shakspeare's godfon,) twenty fhillings; to the poor of Stratford twenty pounds; and to his fervants, in various legacies, one hundred and ten pounds. He was buried at Stratford, July 12, 1614, and his will was proved, Nov. 10, 1615.
Our author, at the time of making his will, had it not in his power to fhow any teftimony of his regard for Mr. Combe, that gentleman being then dead; but that he continued a friendly correfpondence with his family to the laft, appears evidently (as Mr. Steevens has obferved) from his leaving his fword to Mr. Thomas Combe, the nephew, refiduary legatee, and one of the executors of John.
On the whole we may conclude, that the lines preserved by Rowe, and inferted with fome variation in Braithwaite's Remains, which the latter has mentioned to have been affixed to Mr. Combe's tomb in his life-time, were not written till after Shakfpeare's death; for the executors, who did not prove the will till Nov. 1615, could not well have erected" a fair monument" of confiderable expence for those times, till the middle or perhaps the end of the year 1616, in the April of which year our poet died. Between that time and the year 1618, when Braithwaite's book appeared, fome one of thofe perfons (we may prefume) who had fuffered by Mr. Combe's feverity, gave vent to his feelings in the fatirical compofition preferved by Rowe; part of which, we have seen, was borrowed from epitaphs that had already been printed.-That Mr. Combe was a money-lender, may be inferred from a clause in his will, in which he mentions his "good and just debtors ;" to every one of whom he remits,
twenty fhillings for every twenty pounds, and fo after this rate
church at Stratford, where a monument is placed
for a greater or leffer debt," on their paying in to his executors what they owe.
Mr. Combe married Mrs. Rofe Clopton, Auguft 27, 1560; and therefore was probably, when he died, eighty years old. His property, from the description of it, appears to have been confiderable.
In justice to this gentleman it should be remembered, that in the language of Shakspeare's age an usurer did not mean one who took exorbitant, but any, intereft or ufance for money; which many then confidered as criminal. The opprobious terms by which fuch a perfon was diftinguifhed, Ten in the hundred, proves this; for ten per cent, was the ordinary interest of money. See Shakspeare's will.-Sir Philip Sidney directs by his will, made in 1586, that Sir Francis Walfingham fhall put four thou fand pounds which the teftator bequeathed to his daughter, "to the best behoofe either by purchase of land or leafe, or some other good and godly use, but in no cafe to let it out for any usury at all." MALONE.
1 He died in the 53d year of his age,] He died on his birthday, April 23, 1616, and had exactly completed his fifty-second year. From Du Cange's Perpetual Almanack, Glofs. in v. Annus, (making allowance for the different style which then prevailed in England from that on which Du Cange's calculation was formed,) it appears, that the 23d of April in that year was a Tuesday.
No account has been transmitted to us of the malady which at fo early a period of life deprived England of its brightest ornament. The private note-book of his fon-in-law Dr. Hall,* containing a fhort ftate of the cafes of his patients, was a few years ago put into my hands by my friend, the late Dr. Wright; and as Dr. Hall married our poet's daughter in the year 1607, and undoubtedly attended Shakspeare in his laft illness, being then forty years old, I had hopes this book might have enabled me to gratify the publick curiofity on this fubject. But unluckily the earliest cafe recorded by Hall, is dated in 1617. He had probably filled fome other book with memorandums of his prac tice in preceding years; which by fome contingency may hereafter be found, and inform pofterity of the particular circum
Dr. Hall's pocket-book after his death fell into the hands of a furgeon of Warwick, who published a tranflation of it, (with some additions of his own} under the title of Select Observations on the English Bodies of eminent Persons, in desperate Diseases, &c. The third edition was printed in 1653.
On his grave-ftone underneath
in the wall. 2 is,
"Good friend,' for Jefus' fake forbear
"Bleft be the man that spares these ftones,
ftances that attended the death of our great poet.-From the 34th page of this book, which contains an account of a disorder under which his daughter Elizabeth laboured (about the year 1624,) and of the method of cure, it appears, that he was his only daughter; [Elizabeth Hall, filia mea unica, tortura oris defædata.] In the beginning of April in that year fhe vifited London, and returned to Stratford on the 22d; an enterprise at that time" of great pith and moment."
While we lament that our incomparable poet was fnatched from the world at a time when his faculties were in their full vigour, and before he was " declined into the vale of years," let us be thankful that "this sweetest child of Fancy" did not perish while he yet lay in the cradle. He was born at Stratford-uponAvon in April 1564; and I have this moment learned from the Register of that town that the plague broke out there on the 30th of the following June, and raged with fuch violence between that day and the laft day of December, that two hundred and thirty-eight perfons were in that period carried to the grave, of which number probably 216 died of that malignant diftemper; and one only of the whole number resided, not in Stratford, but in the neighbouring town of Welcombe. From the 237 inhabitants of Stratford, whofe names appear in the Register, twentyone are to be fubducted, who, it may be prefumed, would have died in fix months, in the ordinary course of nature; for in the five preceding years, reckoning, according to the style of that time, from March 25, 1559, to March 25, 1564, two hundred and twenty one-perfons were buried at Stratford, of whom 210 were townfmen: that is, of these latter 42 died each year, at an average. Suppofing one in thirty-five to have died annually, the total number of the inhabitants of Stratford at that period was 1470; and confequently the plague in the last fix months of the year 1564 carried off more than a seventh part of them. Fortunately for mankind it did not reach the house in which the infant Shakspeare lay; for not one of that name appears in the dead lift.-May we fuppofe, that, like Horace, he lay fecure and fearlefs in the midft of contagion and death, protected by the