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The above is the last extant panegyric upon Shakespeare during his lifetime', and it exceeds, in point of fervour and zeal, as well as in judicious criticism, any that had gone before
, it; for Richard tells the reader, that the writer of the scenes in which he had figured on the stage had imped his fame with the quill of the historic muse, and that, by the magic of verse, he who had written so much and so finely, had raised him from oblivion. That C. B. (i.e. Christopher Brooke) was a writer of distinction, and well known to some of the greatest poets of the day, we have upon their own evidence, from the terms they use in their commendatory poems, subscribed by no less names than those of Ben Jonson’, George Chapman, William Browne, Robert Daborne, and George Wither. The author professes to follow no particular original, whether in prose or verse, narrative or dramatic, in “chronicles, plays, or poems,” but to adopt the incidents as they had been handed down on various authorities. As we have stated, his work is one of great excellence, but it would be going too much out of our way to enter here into any farther examination of it, especially since it has been made accessible by the Shakespeare Society.
misprinted for acts. A stanza, which follows the above at some distance, refers to another play, founded on a distinct portion of the same history, and relating especially to Jane Shore :
“And what a peece of justice did I shew
On Mistresse Shore, when (with a fained hate
Whose fate the women do commisserate,” &c. The allusion may here be to Heywood's historical drama of “ Edward IV." (reprinted by the Shakespeare Society in 1842), in which Shore's wife is introduced ; or it may be to a different drama upon the events of her life, which, it is known on various authorities, had been brought upon the stage.
1 The worthless lines by Thomas Freeman, in his collection of epigrams called “Rubbe and a Great Caste," printed in 1614, may have been written at about the same date, but probably earlier.
2 It appears from “ Henslowe's Diary," that in June, 1602, Ben Jonson was himself writing a historical play, called “ Richard Crook-back,” for the Lord Admiral's players at the Fortune : we have no evidence that it was ever completed or represented. Ben Jonson's testimony in favour of the poem of C. B. is compressed into eight lines.
3 The editor had the satisfaction of being the first to discover and call attention to this remarkable poem, and he subsequently superintended the reprint of it. The late Mr. Rodd originally suggested that it might be by Christopher Brooke.
Shakespeare's return to Stratford. Marriage of his daughter Judith to Thomas
Quiney in February, 1616. Shakespeare's will prepared in January, but dated in March, 1616. His last illness: attended by Dr. Hall, his son-in-law. Uncertainty as to the nature of Shakespeare's fatal malady. His birth-day and death-day said to be the same. Entry of his burial in the register at Stratford. His will, and circumstances to prove that it was prepared two months before it was executed. His bequest to his wife, and provision for her by dower.
The autumn seems to have been a very usual time for publishing new books, and Shakespeare having been in London in the middle of November, 1614, as we have remarked, he was perhaps there when “ The Ghost of Richard the Third” came out, and, like Ben Jonson, Chapman, and others, might be acquainted with the author. He probably returned home before the winter, and passed the rest of his days in tranquil retirement, and in the enjoyment of the society of his friends, whether residing in the country, or occasionally visiting him from the metropolis. “The latter part of his life,” says Rowe, “was spent, as all men of good sense will wish theirs may be, in ease, retirement, and the society of his friends ;” and he adds, what cannot be doubted, that "his pleasurable wit and good-nature engaged him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood.” He must have been of a lively and companionable disposition; and his long residence in London, amid the bustling and varied scenes connected with his public life, independently of his natural powers of conversation, could not fail to render his society most agreeable and desirable. We can readily believe that when any of his old associates of the stage, whether authors or actors, came to Stratford, they found a hearty welcome and free entertainment at his house; and that he would be the last man, in his prosperity, to treat with slight or indifference those with whom, in the earlier part of his career, he had been on terms of familiar intercourse. It could not be in Shakespeare's nature to disregard the claims of ancient friendship, especially if it approached him in a garb of comparative poverty.
4 “Some Account of the Life, &c. of Mr. William Shakespear,” 1709, p. xxxvi.
One of the very latest acts of his life was bestowing the hand of his daughter Judith upon Thomas Quiney, a vintner and wine-merchant of Stratford, the son of Richard Quiney. She must have been four years older than her husband, having, as already stated, been born on 2nd February, 1585, while he was not born until 26th February, 1589: he was consequently twenty-seven years old, and she thirty-one, at the time of their marriage in February, 1616 '; and Shakespeare
thus became father-in-law to the son of the friend who, eighteen years before, had borrowed of him 301., and who had died on 31st May, 1602, while he was bailiff of Stratford. As there was a difference of four years in the ages
of Judith Shakespeare and her husband, we ought perhaps to receive that fact as some testimony, that our great dramatist did not see sufficient evil, at all events, in such a disproportion, to induce him to oppose the union.
His will had been prepared as long before its actual date as 25th January, 1615-16, and this fact is apparent on the face of it: it originally began “ Vicesimo quinto die Januarij," (not Februarij, as Malone erroneously read it) but the word Januarij was subsequently struck through with a pen, and Martij substituted by interlineation. Possibly it was not thought necessary to alter vicesimo quinto, or the 25th March might be the very day the will was executed : if it were, the signatures of the testator, upon each of the three sheets of paper of which the will consists, bear evidence (from the want of firmness in the writing) that he was at that time suffering under sickness. It opens, it is true, by stating that he was “in perfect health and memory,'
" and such was doubtless the case when the instrument was prepared in January, but the execution of it might be deferred until he was attacked by serious indisposition, and then the date of the month only might be altered, leaving the assertion as to health and memory as it had originally stood. What was the nature of Shakespeare's fatal illness we have no satisfactory means of knowingo, but it was probably not of long duration; and if when he subscribed his will he had really been in health, we are persuaded that, at the age of only fiftytwo, he would have signed his name with greater steadiness and distinctness. All three signatures are more or less infirm and illegible, especially the two first, but he seems to have made an effort to write his best when he affixed both his names at length at the end, “By me William Shakspeare?.”
5 The registration in the books of Stratford church is this :
“ 1615-16 Feabruary 10. Tho Queeny tow Judith Shakspere." The fruits of this marriage were three sons; viz. Shakespeare, baptized 23rd November, 1616, and buried May 8th, 1617; Richard, baptized 9th February, 1617-18, and buried 26th February, 1638-9; and Thomas, baptized 23rd January, 1619-20, and buried 28th January, 1638-9. Judith Quiney, their motter, did not die until after the Restoration, and was buried 9th February, 1661-2. The Stratford registers contain no entry of the burial of Thomas Quiney, her husband, and it is very possible, therefore, that he died and was buried in London.
We hardly need entertain a doubt that he was attended in his last illness by his son-in-law, Dr. Hall, who had then been married to Susanna Shakespeare more than eight years: we have expressed our opinion that Dr. and Mrs. Hall lived in the same house with our poet, and it is to be recollected that in his will he leaves New Place to his daughter Susanna. Hall must have been a man of considerable science for the time at which he practised, and he has left behind him proofs of his knowledge and skill in a number of cases which had come under his own eye, and which he described in Latin : these were afterwards translated from his manuscript, and published in 1657 by James Cooke, with the title of Select Observations on English Bodies,” but the case of Dr. Hall's father-in-law is not found there, because most unfortunately the “observations” only begin in 1617. One of the earliest of them shows that an epidemic, called “the new fever,” then
6 The Rev. John Ward's Diary, printed in 1839, to which we have before referred, contains (p. 183) the following updated paragraph :
Shakespeare, Drayton, and Ben Jonson, had a merie meeting, and, itt seems, drank too hard, for Shakespear died of a fevour there (then ?] contracted.”
What credit may be due to this statement, preceded as it is by the words "it seems,” implying a doubt on the subject in the writer's mind, we must leave the reader to determine. That Shakespeare was of sober, though of companionable habits, we are thoroughly convinced : he could not have written seven-and-thirty plays (not reckoning alterations and additions now lost) in five-and-twenty years had he been otherwise; and we are sure also, that if Drayton and Ben Jonson visited him at Stratford, he would give them a generous welcome. We have no reason to think that Drayton was at all given to intoxication, although it is certain that Ben Jonson was a bountiful liver. We quote the following from the accounts of the Chamberlain of Stratford in 1614:-
“ Item, for a quart of sack and a quart of clarret wine, given to the preacher at the New Place xxd.”
The sermon had probably been delivered at Shakespeare's house, but the wine was paid for out of the corporate funds.
7 The Rev. R. Davies, who made the additions to Fulman's MSS. already mentioned on p. 69], asserts, without qualification, that Shakespeare “ died a papist," a statement entirely inconsistent with what we know of the life and works of our great dramatist.
prevailed in Stratford and “invaded many." Possibly Shakespeare was one of these; though, had such been the fact, it is not unlikely that, when speaking of “the Lady Beaufoy” who suffered under it on July 1st, 1617, Dr. Hall would have referred back to the earlier instance of his fatherin-law. He does advert to a tertian ague of which, at a period not mentioned, he had cured Michael Drayton, (“ an excellent poet," as Hall terms him) when he was, perhaps, on a visit to Shakespeare. However, Drayton, as formerly remarked, was a native of Warwickshire ', and Dr. Hall may have been called in to attend him at Hartshill.
We are left, therefore, in utter uncertainty as to the immediate cause of the death of Shakespeare, at an age when he would be in full possession of his faculties, and when, in the ordinary course of nature, he might have lived many years in the enjoyment of the society of his family and friends, in that grateful and easy retirement, which had been earned by his genius and industry, and to obtain which had
8 He several times speaks of sicknesses in his own family, and of the manner in which he had removed them : a case of his own, in which he mentions his age, accords with the statement in his inscription, and ascertains that he was thirty-two when he married Susanna Shakespeare in 1607. “Mrs. Hall, of Stratford, my wife,” is more than once introduced in the course of the volume, as well as “ Elizabeth Hall, my only daughter.” Mrs. Susanna Hall died in 1649, aged 66, and was buried at Stratford. Elizabeth Hall, her daughter by Dr. Hall (baptized on the 21st Feb. 1607-8), and granddaughter to our poet, was married on the 22nd April, 1626, to Mr. Thomas Nash (who died in 1647), and on 5th June, 1649, to Mr. John Bernard, of Abingdon, who was knighted after the Restoration. Lady Bernard died childless in 1670, and was buried, not at Stratford, with her own family, but at Abingdon with that of her second husband. She was the last of the lineal descendants of William Shakespeare.
1 Sir Aston Cokayne in his volume of “ Small Poems," 12mo, 1658, thus speaks of Shakespeare and Drayton as renowned natives of Warwickshire :
“Now, Stratford upon Avon, we would chuse,
Thy gentle and ingenious Shakespeare muse,
Than all our English counties are beside.”' In Song xiii. of his “Polyolbion ” Drayton claims Warwickshire as his native county. He was one year older than Shakespeare, and was born at Hartshill, a hamlet in the parish of Mancetter.