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CHAPTER V.

Shakespeare's twins, Hamnet and Judith, born in 1585. His departure from

Stratford. The question of deer-stealing from Sir Thomas Lucy considered. Authorities for the story: Rowe; Betterton ; Fulman's MSS. ; Oldys. Ballad by Shakespeare against Sir Thomas Lucy. Proof, in opposition to Malone, that Sir Thomas Lucy had deer : his present of a buck to Lord Ellesmere. Other inducements to Shakespeare to quit Stratford. Companies of players encouraged by the Corporation. Several of Shakespeare's fellow-actors from Stratford and Warwickshire. The Princely Pleasures of Kenilworth.

In the beginning of 1585 Shakespeare's wife produced him twins-a boy and a girl-and they were baptized at Stratford Church on the 2nd Feb. in that year'. Malone supposed, and the supposition is very likely well founded, that Hamnet Sadler and his wife Judith stood sponsors for the infants, which were baptized by the Christian names of the godfather and godmother, Hamnet' and Judith.

It is a fact not altogether unimportant, with relation to the terms of affection between Shakespeare and his wife in the subsequent part of his career, that she brought him no more children, although in 1585 she was only thirty years old.

That Shakespeare quitted his home ånd his family not long afterwards has not been disputed, but no ground for this step has ever been derived from domestic disagreements. It has been alleged that he was obliged to leave Stratford on account of a scrape in which he had involved himself by stealing, or assisting in stealing, deer from the grounds of Charlcote, the property of Sir Thomas Lucy, about five miles from the borough. As Rowe is the oldest authority in print for this story, we give it in his own words :—"He had, by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company; and amongst them some, that made a frequent practice of deer-stealing, engaged him more than once in robbing the park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecot, near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, somewhat too severely; and, in order to revenge 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 ."

1 The registration is, of course, dated 2 Feb. 1584, as the year 1585 did not at that date begin until after 25th March : it runs thus :

1584. Feb. 2. Hamnet & Judeth sonne & daughter to Williā Shakspere.” 2 There was an actor called Hamnet (the name is sometimes spelt Hamlet, see “ Memoirs of Edward Alleyn," p. 127) in one of the London companies of actors at a subsequent date. It is not at all impossible that, like not a few players of that day, he came from Warwickshire.

We have said that Rowe is the oldest printed source of this anecdote, his account of Shakespeare having been published in 1709; but Malone produced a manuscript of uncertain date, anterior, however, to the publication of Rowe's statement, 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 “Account," 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 edition 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 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 confirmation 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 intelligence, but it reads as if it had been obtained from some source independent of Betterton, and perhaps even from inquiries made on the spot. The whole was obviously exaggerated and distorted, but whether by Davies, or by the person from whom he derived the story, we must remain in doubt. The reverend gentleman died, as we have said, 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.

3 Rowe's “ Some Account of the Life of Shakespeare,” 1709, p. v. 4 The terms used by the Rev. R. 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 arms." 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 play. See “ The Merry Wives of Windsor," Vol. i. p. 169.

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5 We may, perhaps, consider the oral 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 satirical 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,
At home a poor scare-crowe, at London an asse ;
If lowsie is Lucy, as some volke miscalle it,
Then Lucy is lowsie, whatever befall it :

He thinks himself great,

Yet an asse, in his state,
We allow by his ears but with asses to mate.

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 genuine.

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 o. 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 a feast, and not with

any view to sale or emolument. If Shakespeare ran into such an indiscretion, (and we own that we cannot discredit and reject 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'.

6 How common an offence deer-stealing was, about the very time when our poet quitted Stratford, may be seen from the ensuing letter of the Lord Mayor of London, dated 11th June, 1585, in answer to a communication to him from the Privy Council, respecting the consumption of venison at taverns and ordinaries. This new collateral piece of evidence is preserved in the State Paper Office :

“ Right honorable, where yesterday I receaved letters from her Mates most honorable privie councill, advertisinge me that her highnes was enformed that Venison ys as ordinarilie sould by the Cookes of London as other flesh, to the greate distruction of the game. Commaundinge me therby to take severall bondes of xlli the peece of all the Cookes in London not to buye or sell any venison hereafter, uppon payne of forfayture of the same bondes; neyther to receave any venison to bake without keepinge a note of theire names that shall deliver the same unto them. Whereuppon presentlie I called the Wardens of the Cookes before me, advertisinge them hereof, requiringe them to cause theire whole company to appeare before me, to thende I might take bondes accordinge to a condition hereinclosed sent to your Ho.; whoe answered that touchinge the first clause therof they were well pleased therewith, but for the latter clause they thought yt a greate in. convenience to theire companie, and therefore required they might be permitted to make theire answeres, and alledge theire reasons thereof before theire honors. Affirmed alsoe, that the Tablinge howses and Tavernes are greater receyvors and destroyers of stollen venison than all the rest of the Cittie : wherefore they craved that eyther they maye be likewise bounden, or els authoritie maye be geven to the Cookes to searche for the same hereafter. I have therefore taken bondes of the wardens for theire speedy appearance before theire honors to answere the same; and I am bolde to pray your Ho. to imparte the same unto theire Ho., and that I maye with speede receyve theire further direction herein. And soe I humbly take my leave. London, the xjth of June, 1585.

Your honors to commaunde,

“Thomas Pullyson, maior." 7 Dr. John Rainolds, in his “ Overthrow of Stage Playes," 4to, 1599. Some copies of the work (one of which is in the library of the Earl of Ellesmere) bear date in 1600, and purport to have been printed at Middleburgh : •they are, in fact,

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, 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 the 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,

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 stool-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.” P. 22, 4to, 1599, without imprint.

This work was published at the time when the building of the 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, however, is derived from a MS. note by Philip, Earl of Pembroke 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 living 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 menţion 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 Fletcher, 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 registered on the title-page of the volume, that the notes were made by Philip, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery.

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