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It is certainly not of much value; but there is a great difference between the estimate of an extempore joke at the moment of delivery, and the opinion we may form of it long afterwards, when it has been put upon paper, and transmitted to posterity under such names as those of Shakespeare and Jonson. The same excuse, if required, may be made for two other pieces of unpretending pleasantry between the same parties, which we subjoin in a note, because they relate to such men, and have been handed down to us upon something like authority.
Of a different character is a production preserved by Dugdale, at the end of his Visitation of Salop, a MS. in the Heralds' College : it is an epitaph inscribed upon the tomb of Sir Thomas Stanley, in Tong church; and Dugdale, whose testimony is unimpeachable, distinctly states that “these following verses were made by William Shakespeare, the late famous tragedian.'
“ Written upon the east end of this tomb.
He is not dead, he doth but sleep.
“ Written upon the west end thereof.
Nor sky-aspiring pyramids our name.
4 “ Shakespeare was god-father to one of Ben Jonson's children, and after the christening, being in a deepe study, Jonson came to cheere him up, and askt him why he was so melancholy? – No, faith, Ben (says he), not I; but I have been considering a great while what should be the fittest gift for me to bestow upon my god-child, and I have resolv'd at last.'— I pr’ythee what?' says he. “I'faith, Ben, I'll e'en give him a douzen of Latten spoones, and thou shalt translate them.'
Of course the joke depends upon the pun between Latin, and the mixed metal called latten. The above is from a MS. of Sir R. L'Estrange, who quotes the authority of Dr. Donne. It is inserted in Mr. Thoms's amusing volume, printed for the Camden Society, under the title of “ Anecdotes and Traditions,” p. 2. The next is from a MS. called “ Poetical Characteristics,” formerly in the Harleian Collection :
“ Verses by Ben Jonson and Shakespeare, occasioned by the motto to the Globe theatre - Totus mundus agit histrionem. " Jonson. If but stage-actors all the world displays,
Where shall we find spectators of their plays ? " Shakespeare. Little, or much of what we see, we do;
We are both actors and spectators too."
The memory of him for whom this stands
Stanley, for whom this stands, shall stand in heaven." With Malone and others, who have quoted them, we feel sufficiently satisfied of the authenticity of these verses, though we may not perhaps think, as he did, that the last line bears such “strong marks of the hand of Shakespeare •.” The coincidence between the line
“ Nor sky-aspiring pyramids our name,” and the passage in Milton's Epitaph upon Shakespeare, prefixed to the folio of 1632,
“ Or that his hallow'd relics should be hid
Under a star-ypointing pyramid," seems to have escaped notice.
We have thus brought into a consecutive narrative (with as little interruption of its thread as, under the circumstances, and with such disjointed materials, seemed to us possible) the particulars respecting the life of the “myriad-minded Shakespeare ,” with which our predecessors were acquainted, or which, from various sources, we have been able, during a long series of years, to collect. Yet, after all, comparing what we really know of our great dramatist with what we might possibly have known, we cannot but be aware how little has been accomplished. “Of William Shakespeare, says one of our greatest living authors of our greatest dead one, “whom, through the mouths of those whom he has inspired to body forth the modifications of his immense mind, we seem to know better than any human writer, it may
be truly said that we scarcely know anything. We see him, so
5 The following reaches us in a more questionable shape: it is from a MS. of the time of Charles I., preserved in the Bodleian Library, which contains also poems by Herrick and others.
“When God was pleas'd, the world unwilling yet,
Elias James to nature paid his debt,
“ Wm. Shakespeare." 6 “ Coleridge's Table Talk,” Vol. ii. p. 301.—Mr. Hallam in his “ Introduction to the Literature of Europe,” Vol. iii. p. 89, edit. 1843, translates the Greek epithet, uoplovovs, " thousand-souled.”
230] THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. [CHAP. XXI. far as we do see him, not in himself, but in a reflex image from the objectivity in which he is manifested : he is Falstaff, and Mercutio, and Malvolio, and Jaques, and Portia, and Imogen, and Lear, and Othello; but to us he is scarcely a determined person, a substantial reality of past time, the man Shakespeare?.” We cannot flatter ourselves that we have done much to bring the reader better acquainted with “ the man Shakespeare,” but if we have done anything we shall be content; and, instead of attempting any character of our own, we will subjoin one, in the words of the distinguished writer we have above quotedo, as brief in its form as it is comprehensive in its matter :-"The name of Shakespeare is the greatest in our literature,—it is the greatest in all literature. No man ever came near to him in the creative powers
of the mind; no man had ever such strength at once, and such variety of imagination.”
If the details of his life be imperfect, the history of his mind is complete; and we leave the reader to turn from the contemplation of “the man" to the study of THE POET.
" Hallam's “Introduction to the Literature of Europe,” Vol. ii. p. 175.
Vicesimo Quinto Die Martij? Anno Regni Domini nostri
Jacobi nunc Rex Anglie &c. Decimo quarto & Scotie xlixo Annoq; Domini 1616.
T. Wmj Shackspeare
In the name of god Amen I William Shackspeare of Stratford vpon Avon in the countie of warr gent in perfect health & memorie god be praysed doe make & Ordayne this my last will & testament in manner & forme followeing That ys
First I Comend my Soule into the handes of god my Creator hoping & assuredlie beleeving through thonelie merites of Jesus Christe my Saviour to be made partaker of lyfe everlastinge And my bodye to the Earth whereof yt ys made Item I Gyve and bequeath vnto my Daughter 3 Judyth One hundred & Fyftie poundes of lawfull English money to be paied vnto her in manner & forme followeing That ys to saye One hundred pounds in discharge of her marriage porcion * within one yeare
deceas with consideracion after the Rate of twoe Shillinges in the pound for soe long tyme as the same shalbe vnpaied vnto her after my deceas & the Fyftie poundes Residewe thereof vpon her Surrendring of' or gyving of such
1 The following is from an exact transcript of the original Will deposited in the Prerogative Office, London, the only difference being that we have not thought it necessary to give the legal contractions of the scrivener : in all other respects, even to the misemployment of capital letters, and the omission of points, our copy is faithful.
2 The word “ Martij” is interlined above “ Januarij,” which last is struck through with the pen. Malone (“Shakspeare, by Boswell,” Vol. i. p. 601) states that the word struck through is Februarij, but this is a mistake.
3 Before “Daughter” sonne and was originally written, but struck through with the pen.
4 The words “in discharge of her marriage porcion" are interlined. 5 The word “ of” is interlined.
sufficient Securitie as the overseers of this my Will shall like of to Surrender or graunte All her estate & Right that shall discend or come vnto her after my deceas or that shee nowe hath of in or to one Copiebold tenemente with thappurtenances lyeing & being in Stratford vpon Avon aforesaied in the saied countie of warr being parcell or holden of the mannour of Rowington vnto my Daughter Susanna Hall & her heires for ever Item I Gyve & bequeath vnto my saied Daughter Judith One hundred & Fyftie Poundes more if shee or Anie issue of her bodie be Lyvinge att thend of three yeares next ensueing the Daie of the Date of this my Will during which tyme my executours to paie her consideracion from my deceas according to the Rate aforesaied And if she dye within the saied terme without issue of her bodye then my will ys & I Doe gyve & bequeath One Hundred Poundes thereof to my Neece Elizabeth Hall & the Fiftie Poundes to be sett fourth by my executours during the lief of my Sister Johane Harte & the vse and proflitt thereof Cominge shalbe payed to my saied Sister Ione & after her deceas the saied lli shall Remaine Amongst the children of my saied Sister Equallie to be Devided Amongst them But if my saied Daughter Judith be lyving att thend of the saied three Yeares or anie yssue of her bodye then my
will soe I Devise & bequeath the saied Hundred and Fyftie Poundes to be sett out by my executours & overseers for the best benefitt of her & her issue & the stock not to be paied vnto her soe long as she shalbe marryed & Covert Baron' but my will ys that she shall have the consideracion yearelie paied vnto her during her lief & after her deceas the saied stock and consideracion to bee paied to her children if she have Anie & if not to her executours or assignes she lyving the saied terme after my deceas Provided that yf such husbond as she shall att thend of the saied three yeares be marryed vnto or attaine after doe sufficientlie Assure vnto her & thissue of her bodie landes Awnswereable to the porcion by this my will gyven vnto her & to be adiudged soe by my executours & overseers then
ys that the saied Clli shalbe paied to such husbond as shall make such assurance to his owne vse Item I gyve & bequeath vnto my saied sister Ione xxli & all my wearing Apparrell to be paied and deliuered within one yeare after my Deceas And I doe will & devise ynto her the house with thappur
6 The words that shee are interlined.
are erased with
2 The words “ the house