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Henry the Fifth's and Henry the Sixth's times. What grace foever the queen conferred upon him, it was not to her only he owed the fortune which the reputation of his wit made. He had the honour to meet with many great and uncommon marks of favour and friendihip from the earl of Southampton, famous in the histories of that time for his friendthip to the unfortunate earl of Essex. It was to that noble Iord that he dedicated his poem of Venus and Adonis. There is one instance fo fingular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakespeare's, that, if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William D'Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted, that my lord Southampton at one time gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to; a bounty very great and very rare at any time, and almoft equal to that profuse generosity the present age hath shewn to French dancers and Italian singers.
What particular habitude or friendships he contracted with private men, I have not been able to learn, more than that every one, who had a true taste of merit, and could distinguish men, had generally a just value and esteem for him. His ex ceeding candour and good-nature must certainly have inclined all the gentler part of the world to love him, as the power of his wit obliged the men of the most delicate knowledge and polite learning to admire him.
His acquaintance with Ben Jonson began with a remarkable piece of humanity and good-nature. Mr Jonson, who was at that time altogether unknown to the world, had offered one of his play's to the players, in order to have it acted; and the persons in whose hands it was put, after having turned it carelessly and supercilioufly over, were just upon returning it to him with an ill-natured answer, that it would be of no service to their company; when Shakespeare luckily cast his eye upon it, and found fomething fo well in its as to engage him first to read it through, and afterwards to recommend Mr Jonson and his writings to the publick. Jonson was certainly a very good fcholar, and in that had the advantage of Shakespeare; though at the fame time, I believe, it must be allowed, that what nature gave the latter was more than a balance for what books hath given the former; and the judgment of a great man upon this occasion was, I think, very just and proper. In a conversation between Sir John Suckling, Sir Wils liam D'Avenant, Endymion Porter, Mr Hales of Eton, and Ben Jonfon; Sir John Sückling, who was a profeffed admirer of Shakespeare, had undertaken his' defence against Ben Jonson with some warmth ; Mr Halés, who had lat still for some time, told them, That if Mr Shakespeare had not read the ancients, he had likewise not stolen any thing from them; and that if he would produce any one topick finely treated by any one of them, he would undertake to thew fomething upon the same subject, at leas as well written, by Shakespeare.
The latter part of lvis life was spent, as all men of good fence will with theirs may be, in cafe, re: tirement, and the convertation of his friends. He had the good fortune to gather an estate equal to his occation, and, in that, to his wish; and is said
to have spent fome years before his death at his native Stratford. His pleasurable wit and goodnature engaged him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship, of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. Amongst them, it is a story almost still remembered in that country, that he had a particular intimacy with Mr Combe, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and usury: it happened, that in a pleasant conversation amongst their common friends, Mr Combe told Shakespeare, in a laughing manner, that he fancied he intended to write his epitaph, if he happened to out-live him; and since he could not know what i might be said of him when he was dead, he desired it might be done immediately: upon which Shake
him these four verses : Ten in the hundred lies here engravid, 'Tis a hundred to ten his soul is not favéd: If any man ask, Who lies in this tomb ? Oh! oh! quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe. *
The Rev. Francis Peck, in bis Memoirs of the Life and Poetical Works of Mr Yohn Milton; 4to. 1740, P. 223. has introduced another epitaph imputed (on what authority is unknown) to Shakespeare. It is on Toma-Combe, alias Thin beard, brother to this John, who is mentioned by Mr Rowe :
“ Thin in beard, and thick in purse;
Ten in the hundred lies here engrav’d
In But the sharpness of the fatire is said to have ftung the man fo feverely, that he never forgave it.
In The more the Merrier, containing Threescore and odde headlesse Epigramis, fhot (like the Fooles bolts, among you, light where they will. By H. P. Gent. &c. 1608. I find likewise the following couplet, which is almost the fame as the two beginning lines of Shakespeare's Epitaph on youn a Comibe.
“ And a hundred to ten to the Devil he's gone." I take the same opportunity to avow my disbelief that Shakespeare was the author of Mr Combe's Epitaph, or that it was written by any other person at the request of that gentleman. If Betterton the player did really visit 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 inaking any rigid search into their authenticity. It appears al, so 'from a following copy of this inscription, that it was not ascribed to Shakespeare fo early as two years after his death. Mr Reed of Staple-lon obligingly pointed it out to me in the Remains, &c. of Richard Braithwaite, 1618; and, as his edition of our epitaph varies in some measure from the later one published by Mr Rowe, I shall not hesitate to transcribe it : do Upon one Join Combe of Stratford upon Avon, a not.
able Usurer, fastened upon a Tombe that he had caused to be built in his Life Time.
“ Ten in the hundred must lie in his grave, dó But a hundred to ten whether God will him have:
He died in the 53d year
“ Who then must be interi'd in this tombe?
“ Oh (quoth the divell) my john a Combe.” Here it may be observed that, Atrictly speaking, this is no jocular epitaph, but a malevolent prediction; and Braithwaite's copy is surely more to be depended on (being procured in or before the year 1618) than that delivered to Beiterton or Rowe, almost a century afterwards. It has been already remarked, that two of the lines, said to bayė been produced on this occasion, were printed as an epigram in 1608, by H. P. Gent, and are likewise found in Cambılen'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 circumstance; neither was Shakespeare of a difposition to compose an invective, at once so bitter anil uncharitable, during a pleasant conversation among the friends of himself and a gentleman with whole family he lived in such friend niip, that at his death he bei queathed his livord to Mr Thomas Combe as a legacy. A mifer's monument indeed, constructed during his lifetime, might be regarded as a challenge to fatire ; and we cannot wonder that anonymous lampoons should have been affixed to the marble designed to convey the character of such a being to pofterity.--I hope I may be excused for this attempt to vindicate Shakespeare from the imputation of having poisoned the hour of confidence and festivity by producing the severest of all cenfures on one of his company. I am unwilling, in short, to think he could so wantonly and fo publickly have expressed his doubts concerning the salvation of one of his fellow.creatures. STEEVENS. So in Camden's Remains, 1614. “ Here lies ten in the hundred * In the ground fast ramm’d,