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unseemly manner, making him swear violently, and beat a gentleman for interfering with his known propensity for the chase. This course indicates a most extraordinary degree of boldness on the part of the players; but, nevertheless, they were not prohibited from acting, until M. Beaumont had directed the attention of the public authorities to the insult offered to the Queen of France: then, an order was issued putting a stop to the acting of all plays in London; but, according to the same authority, the companies had clubbed their money, and, attacking James I. on his weak side, had offered a large sum to be allowed to continue their performances. The French ambassador himself apprehended that the appeal to the King's pecuniary partialities would be effectual, and that permission, under certain restrictions, would not long be withheld '.
We are sorry to be obliged to admit, that at least two of our most distinguished dramatists do not seem to come off very creditably, in relation to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. We allude to Marston and Ben Jonson : of the latter we shall
. speak presently, but the former was in some way made privy to the conspiracy, and being imprisoned in the Gatehouse, at Westminster, he wrote to Lord Kimbolton the following letter, in which he volunteers to betray the whole scheme and its projectors : at least, such, as it seems to us, is the interpretation that must be put upon his language, which we copy literatim from the original'.
10 We derive these very curious and novel particulars from M. Von Raumer's “ History of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” translated by the late Earl of Ellesmere, Vol. ii. p. 219.
“ April 5, 1606. I caused certain players to be forbid from acting the History of the Duke of Biron : when, however, they saw that the whole court had left town, they persisted in acting it; nay, they brought upon the stage the Queen of France and Mademoiselle Verneuil. The former, having first accosted the latter with very hard words, gave her a box on the ear. At my suit three of them were arrested; but the principal person, the author, escaped.
“One or two days before, they had brought forward their own King and all his favorites in a very strange fashion : they made him curse and swear because he had been robbed of a bird, and beat a gentleman because he had called off the hounds from the scent. They represent him as drunk at least once a day, &c.
“ He has upon this made order, that no play shall be henceforth acted in Lon. don; for the repeal of which order they have already offered 100,000 livres. Perhaps the permission will be again granted, but upon condition that they represent no recent history, nor speak of the present time.”
1 With which I have been favoured by my zealous and accurately informed friend, Peter Cunningham, Esq., F.S.A., who saw at once what a novel and prominent feature it must form in the dramatic history of the time.
“To the Right Honorable the Lord Kimbolton these. “My Lord,
Though my owne miseries press me hard to sollicite your Honours Compassion, yet that you may be assured how much I am vnseduc't from my former temper, I shall now disserue my selfe (though my Condicon be very Calamitous) to serue your Honour, and ye Parliamt, in a matter of no meane Concernmt: The Errand I send this paper on to your Lordip is to offer to your Honour a discouery of no meane Consequence, wch I beseech your Honor not to slight before you know it ; for when you do, I am sure you will not: to wch purpose I humbly beg that your Honor will send som such trusty and rationall messinger to me, whose relacon to your Honour may be heere vnknowne, and yt the same messinger may bring me som assurance yt I shall be concealed in ye business : My Lord, I hope you will not delay, for I cannot tell how soone, it may be to late : For ye future I beseech your Honor to esteeme me a most faythfull seruant to your Honor and ye Parliamt, from wch nothing shall euer dissoblige
“ Your most humble servant,
“ John MARSTON. “ From the Gate Howse
this present Monday.”
The writer, in association with Ben Jonson and Chapman, had previously been imprisoned for his share in a comedy called “ Eastward Ho !” which they had jointly written, and which had given great offence at court for the ridicule (excluded from the printed copy of 1605) it had thrown upon the Scotch ; and unless he had been entrusted with the secret of the conspiracy against the King and Parliament, under a promise that he would not disclose it, he was fully justified in his endeavour to put threatened parties on their guard. What was the result, as respects Marston, we are not in a condition to show, but he afterwards pursued his dramatic and literary career without interruption, and with considerable success. His communication to Lord Kimbolton has no date excepting “this present Monday,” but looking at its contents, and being satisfied that they refer to something more generally calamitous than the mere imprisonment of a poet for having given umbrage to persons in power, we need not hesitate in fixing upon 1605 as the year when it was written: the day must have been shortly anterior to the explosion of the whole conspiracy, and the condign punishment of the offenders.
We have no reason whatever to suppose that Chapman (another party concerned in the objectionable comedy of “Eastward Ho!") was at all involved in the plot of the 5th Nov.; but it is quite certain that Ben Jonson was mixed up with it, and perhaps in a way much less creditable than Marston. A letter has been recently discovered in the State Paper Office, which, we regret to say, seems to show that he was employed by Sir Robert Cecill as a sort of spy upon certain suspected Roman Catholics. If Marston had himself discovered the intended treason, we cannot of course blame him for disclosing it; but if it had been entrusted to him under a bond of secrecy and, possibly, of co-operation, his conduct was, so far, treacherous and cowardly. Under what particular circumstances either he, or Ben Jonson stood with reference to the conspirators we know not; but the terms of the communication of the latter to the Secretary of State are, to say the least of them, equivocal, and many may be of opinion that they establish that the poet was engaged by the minister to obtain information, and that he was not very scrupulous as to the manner in which he procured it. That our readers may form their own judgment upon the matter we subjoin Ben Jonson's epistle in a note : like that of Marston to Lord Kimbolton, it has no date; but it does not seem that Ben Jonson, when he wrote it, was under any personal restraint.
We hear nothing of Shakespeare in the public transactions of this alarming and perturbed period, and our notion is that
2 We derived our first knowledge of its existence from a very interesting paper in the “ Athenæum ” of 15th Aug. 1857, and to it we are now indebted :
“My most honourable Lord,—May it please your Lordship to understand, there hath been no want in me, either of labour or sincerity, in the discharge of this business to the satisfaction of your Lordship or the State. And whereas, yesterday, upon the first mention of it, I took the most ready course (to my present thought) by the Venetian Ambassador's Chaplain, who not only apprehended it well, but was of mind with me, that no man of conscience or any indifferent lover to his country would deny to do it; and, withall, engaged bimself to find out one, absolute in all numbers, for the purpose ; which he willed me (before the gentleman of good credit, who is my testimony) to signify unto your Lordship in
It falls out since that that party will not be found (for so he returns answer), upon which I have made attempt in other places ; but can speak with no one in person (all being either removed or so concealed upon this present mischief), but by second means. I have received answers of doubts and difficulties, that they will make it a question to the Archpriest, with other such like suspensions. So that, to tell your Lordship plainly my heart, I think they are all so enweaved in it, as it will make five hundred gentlemen less of the Religion within this week, if they carry their understanding about them. For myself, if I had been a priest, I would have put on wings to such an occasion, and have thought it no adventure, where I might have done (besides His Majesty and my country) all Christianity so good service. And so much I have sent to some of them. If it shall please your Lordship, I shall yet make farther trial, and that you cannot in the meantime be provided. I do not only with all readiness offer my service, but will perform it with as much integrity as your particular favour, or His Majesty's right in any subject he hath, can exact. Your Honour's most perfect servant and lover
ss Ben Jonson."
the performances at theatres having been suspended, or possibly being less profitable during the excitement on the discovery of the plot, he had retired into Warwickshire, and in his native town had, perhaps, actually enrolled himself in a body of trained soldiers, who were, if necessary, to be called upon for the defence of the state. Our speculation upon this point depends upon the identification of the William Shakespeare, returned by Sir Fulk Greville and others, on the 23rd Sept. 1605, as under arms and ready for service, with our poet'. The document subscribed by Greville and T. Spencer, applies to the hundred of Barlichway, in Warwickshire; and it is not an unimportant circumstance that Stratford-upon-Avon, where we suppose Shakespeare to have been actually then resident, is in that hundred. Shakespeares were unquestionably numerous in Warwickshire and in some of the adjoining counties; but we have intelligence regarding no other William Shakespeare, at that date, in that part of the kingdom. As we may readily suppose that our great dramatist had taken this opportunity of visiting his family, it is not very unreasonable to imagine also that he had joined others, and had armed and trained himself in obedience to instructions from the metropolis. The fact is all that we can communicate ‘, and we confess ourselves unable to afford our readers the means of arriving at any satisfactory conclusion. That Shakespeare was in Stratford in the summer of 1605 will appear immediately: the purchase of additional property, and the settlement of his domestic affairs seem to have required his presence in Warwickshire, and for aught we know to the contrary, having just quitted the profession of the stage as an actor, he may have extended his stay in Stratford until late in the autumn.
Whatever emoluments Shakespeare had derived from the Blackfriars or Globe theatres, merely as an actor, we may be tolerably certain he relinquished them when he ceased to perform. He would thus be able to devote more of his time to dramatic composition, and, as he continued a sharer in the two undertakings, perhaps his income on the whole was not much lessened. Certain it is, that in 1605 he was in possession of a considerable sum, which he was anxious to invest advan
3 Our main difficulty arises out of the date, since the return was made considerably more than a month before the discovery of the great plot. It is to be observed that Roman Catholics abounded in Warwickshire at this date.
4 See the “ Athenæum,” 15th August, 1857.
tageously in property in or near the place of his birth. Whatever may have been the circumstances under which he quitted Stratford, he always seems to have contemplated a permanent settlement there, and kept his eyes constantly turned in the direction of his birth-place. As long before as January, 1598, he had been advised to deal in the matter of tithes of Stratford ' ; but perhaps at that date, having recently purchased New Place, he was not in sufficient funds for the purpose, or possibly the party in possession of the lease of the tithes, though not unwilling to dispose of it, required more than it was deemed worth. At all events, nothing was done on the subject for more than six years; but on 24th July, 1605, we find William Shakespeare, who is described as of “Stratford-upon-Avon, gentleman,” executing an indenture for the purchase of the unexpired term of a long lease of the great tithes of “corn, grain, blade, and hay,” and of the small tithes of “wool, lamb, and other small and privy tithes, herbage, oblations,” &c., in Stratford, Old Stratford, Bishopton, and Welcombe, in the county of Warwick. The vendor was Raphe Huband, of Ippesley, Esquire; and from the draft of the deed", we learn that the original lease, dated as far back as 1539, was “ for four score and twelve years ;" so that in 1605 it had still twenty-six years to run, and for this our great dramatist agreed to give 4401. : by the receipt, contained in the same deed, it appears that he paid the whole of the money before it was executed by the parties. He might very fitly be described as of Stratford-upon-Avon, because he had there, not only a substantial settled residence for his family, but he was the owner of considerable property, both in land and houses, in the town and neighbourhood;
5 This appears by a letter from a resident in Stratford of the name of Abraham Sturley. It was originally published by Boswell (Vol. ii. p. 566) at length, but the only part which relates to Shakespeare runs thus : we have not thought it necessary to preserve the uncouth abbreviations of the original.
“ This is one special remembrance of your father's motion. It seemeth by him that our countriman, Mr. Shakespeare, is willing to disburse some money upon some od yardeland or other at Shottery, or near about us : he thinketh it a very fitt patterne to move him to deale in the matter of our tithes. By the instructions you can give him theareof, and by the frendes he can make therefore, we thinke it a faire marke for him to shoote at, and not unpossible to hitt. It obtained would advance him in deede, and would do us much good.” The terms of this letter prove that Shakespeare's townsmen were of opinion, that he was desirous of advancing himself among the inhabitants of Stratford.
6 It was formerly intended by the Shakespeare Society to print it entire, but it was afterwards reclaimed and returned.