Изображения страниц

if we are to pin our faith on a short John Hall, who married Susanna, insulated paragraph in the diary of the poet's eldest, and judging by the the Rev. J. Ward, published in 1839, terms of his will, favourite daughter. was hastened or occasioned by a The title of the book is as follows :drinking bout with Ben Jonson and “ Select Observations on English two or three old London chums, who Bodies ; or, cures both empericall and visited him in his ease, not at his inn, historicall

, performed upon very emibut at his home in his native town, nent persons in_desperate diseases. after his retirement. But this is quite First written in Latine by Mr. John as likely to be mere local gossip as Hall, Physician, living at Stratfordtrustworthy tradition. The respect- upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, where able Vicar of Stratford wrote between he was very famous, and also in the February, 1661, and April, 1663, at counties adjacent, as appears by these least forty-five years after the poet's observations, drawn out of severall death. His diary bespeaks a common- hundreds of his, as choysest.-Now place mind, and a limited power of put into English for common benefit, observation. The paragraph alluded by James Cooke, Practitioner in to runs thus :-“Shakespeare, Dray- Physic and Chirurgery, London :ton, and Ben Jonson had a merry Printed for John Sherley, at the meeting, and it seems drank too hard; Golden Pelican, in Little Britain, for Shakespeare died of a feavour 1657." there contracted.” Assuredly no We can fancy the delight of a true court of law would consider this suf- worshipper, on obtaining possession ficient evidence of the fact assumed. of this little volume, and the avidity The inference implies, "potations with which he must have run over pottle deer;" but although we have its pages in the hope of finding someample testimony to Shakespeare's thing to bear upon the circumstances genial and social habits, we have no connected with the last illness and more reason to think he was habitu- death of the physician's illustrious ally a tippler, than that he was a tee- father-in-law, as it can scarcely be totaller. In the absence of all direct doubted that he attended him then knowledge of a man's acts and prac- and at other tinies. And we can also tice, it is fair be guided by his picture to ourselves the disappointthoughts and opinions as recorded in ment produced by not finding the his own words. Would a wine-bibber name of Shakespeare, or any allusion write thus contemptuously on the to him, in the one hundred and folly of table excess? “Drunk ; and eighty-three medical cases selected speak parrot ; and squabble, swagger, as the most remarkable out of one swear; and discourse fustian with thousand. The book, as it is, is one's own shadow! O thou invisible curious, and certainly genuine. Had spirit of wine, if thou hast no name the onnitted name been included in to be known by, let us call thee the list, it would have been a literary devil!” And again : “ To be now a koh-i-noor, of inestimable value. It sensible man, by-and-by a fool, and is fruitless now to inquire the why or presently a beast ! O strange! Every wherefore of this omission. The reinordinate cup is unblessed, and the corded cases are all cures, which may ingredient is a devil.” And again : account for Shakespeare's death not

A drunken man is like a drowned being alluded to. All physicians man, a fool, and a madman; one dwell with more complacency on the draught above heat makes him a fool; enumeration of the patients they the second mads him ; and the third carry through, than on that of those drowns him.” And finally : “Great who exhale under their hands. It is men should drink with haruess on difficult to persuade ourselves that their throats.”

Shakespeare never required medical In 1853, Mr. J. H. Fennell, an aid until his fatal attack, no matter indefatigable Shakespearean, edited how suddenly that may have ended four numbers of what he calls “The his earthly career ; or that if he did, Shakespeare Repository,” containing that he should have called in any one many curious anecdotes and extracts. but his son-in-law, whose reputation Amongst the latter are several from a stood so high, and with whom he posthumous publication, in his (Mr. lived on such good terms, that by his F.'s) possession, of a work by Dr. will, executed only one month before his death, he left him joint executor has supplied materials for a goodly and residuary legatee with his daugh- library, which, collected together, ter Susanna.

would cause the heart of a thoroughDr. John Hall outlived Shakes- going bibliomaniac to dance with joy, peare nineteen years and a half, dying and his eyes to twinkle with ecstasy. on the 25th of November, 1635, aged Many collections of "Ana" have sixty. It was probably a malignant been published in English and French, epidemic that carried him off, as he The practicedates back to the ancients; was buried in the chancel of Stratford as, for example, Dicta Collectanea, church on the following day. His or sayings of Julius Cæsar. But wife survived him fourteen years. “Shakespeareana” exceeds them all She died July 11th, 1649, aged sixty- in interest as in bulk. In 1827 and six; and her remains are deposited at 1841, lists of his early quartos and the side of those of her husband. collected editions, as also of illustraShakespeare, it is well known, died tive books, pamphlets, and annotaon his birth-day, April 23rd (1616). tions were published by Mr. J. Wilson So did Cromwell, on the 3rd of Sep- and Mr. J. 0. Halliwell

. Both are tember (1658). So also did Raphael, industriously compiled, valuable and and John Sobieski, the heroic King instructive in their kind. Much of Poland. It has been considered a information may also be drawn from remarkable coincidence that Napoleon Lowndes's “Bibliographer's Manual," and Wellington should both have been the Prolegomena to the Variorum born in 1769 ; and that Robert Burns Edition, with the sale catalogues of and James Hogg, the Ettrick Shep- Malone's, Stevens's, Isaac Reed's, herd, who aped Burns with something Farmer's, Sabine's, Rhodes's, and of his humour and inspiration, both Field's libraries ; and above all, from first saw the light on a 25th of Janu- the second part of that unparalleled ary. But it is even more singular congeries, the “ Bibliotheca Heberithat the two greatest contemporary ana.

But none of these are suffiand dramatic poets of modern Europe ciently comprehensive, and a complete - Shakespeare and Cervantes classified series, a catalogue raisonné, should have died on the same day including original authorities consultin the same year.

ed by Shakespeare, sources from But the unsettled questions, recapi- whence he may have derived his tulated a page or two back. Ay, they plots, and various authors in poetry are questions indeed, and is it not and prose, whose works he may have wonderful that they should be asked read or possessed, is still a bibliograin this year of grace 1863, by one of phical desideratum. The subject is his own countrymen, with reference rich and tempting to the ardent votary to England's poetic' idol, of whose who rejoices in time and materials for plays one hundred and fifty editions its pursuit

. Meantime the marvel have been printed, without counting increases that the questions even now translations into foreign tongues; and repeated should have been put for to whom, and his works, more than more than two centuries, and have a thousand volumes have been devot- received as yet no conclusive answer. ed, combining every possible phase of Doubts and darkness gather round biography, emendation, elucidation, as gleams of information flare up and and obfuscation ; of expounding and evaporate. We know more of Plato confounding; of critical inquiry and and Socrates, of Horace and Virgil, amendments of text, arbitrary and than we can affirm with positive cerauthentic, probable and improbable, tainty of Shakespeare. He is as great conjectural, æsthetical, ideographical, a mystery as Homer, who has been phonetical, and wildly fantastical ? called a myth, a man, and a multiple. The succession seems as interminable The bard of Avon has been lately as the shadowy line of Banquo's pro- dualized ; for not many years since, a geny, for even while we write, “the daring attempt was made to confound cry is still, they come.” Two more his dramatic identity with the person tomes of " Shakespeare Commenta- of Francis Bacon, Lord High Chancelries” are threatened, by a Professor lor of England.' This eminent sage Gervinus, whose name we do not and legist is commonly, but erroneously recollect to have met with before. called, and by scholars who ought to The subject with all its ramifications know better, Lord Bacon--a title he never bore or was recognised by. From would he have merited in their fullest Francis Bacon, Gentleman, he became extent the superlatives applied to successively Sir Francis Bacon, Knight, him by Pope as “the greatest” and Baron Verulam, and Viscount Saint "wisest” of mankind, but he must be Albans.

pronounced in addition, in words In 1856, a pamphlet of fifteen pages which would then become his own, appeared, addressed to the late Lord “Infinite in faculties-in apprehenEllesmeré, by Mr. William Henry sion like a God! the beauty of the Smith, bearing the startling title of world! the paragon of animals !" “ Was Lord Bacon the Author of Such a combination exists not Shakespeare's Plays ?” This was within the analogies of nature, nor followed, in 1857, by a small volume in the organized scheme of the masin 12mo, by the same author, called ter-hand which made every thing. “Bacon and Shakespeare.” The first Another recent writer, quoted by may be considered the overture, the the author of the Bacon and Shakelatter the performance; the object of speare heresy, says, that Shakespeare both being to prove that the “gentle” had engaged some starving poet to Shakespeare, of whom Ben Jonson, supply him with plays to order, and his dramatic contemporary and inti- thence draws this notable conclusion : mate associate, wrote, “I loved “One thing at least is certain and not the man, on this side idolatry, as disputed; the plays apparently rise, much as any,

and to whom he if we may use the expression, as the yielded the palm, eulogizing him as series goes on; all at once Shakespeare

surpassing all that insolent Greece leaves London, and the supply ceases. or haughty Rome sent forth,” was a Is this compatible with such a genius mere ordinary impostor, incapable of thus culminating, on any other supwriting the plays he allowed to be position than the death of the poet, called his ;—that the unfettered imagi- and the survival of the employer ?” nation, the boundless fancy which Yes, we answer, on a much more created Oberon and Titania, Puck, simple one: that Shakespeare, having Ariel, and Caliban-which conceived lived by the hard labour of his wits the madness of Lear, the frenzied for many years, retired in the vigour jealousy of Othello, the ambition and of life to enjoy without further toil remorse of Macbeth, the unctuous the independence he had achieved. wit of Falstaff, and the graceful Whether he intended at his leisure to melancholy of Hamlet, were contain- revise and prepare his plays for pubed and blended within the same lication, is a question on which we philosophical, logical, and argumen- have no evidence, positive or negative. tative cerebrum, the same disciplined But, says Mr. W. H. Smith, “ Lord and severely scholastic store-house, Chancellor Bacon was disgraced in the same magazine of legal analysis 1621, and immediately set himself to which digested and arranged the argu- collect and revise his literary works. ments on perpetuities and courts of He died in 1626. In 1623, a folio of equity, the “Novum Organum,” the thirty-six plays, including some, and

Sapientia Veteruin," and the "De excluding others which had always Augmentis Scientiarum.” Specula- been reputed Shakespeare's was pubtion in its maddest flights never con- lished. Who but the author himceived antithesis so utterly irrecon- self could have exercised this power cilable as this.

of discrimination ?". It is no disparagement to Shake- A direct answer to and denial of speare to parallel himn with Bacon, this inference is contained in the prewho was also an intellectual giant, face of Shakespeare's professional and whose wit, in a dry caustic vein, associates and intimates, Heminge was equal to his power of analytical and Condell, who edited the first research. But could he have written folio of 1623, and write thus in their the works we devoutly believe to have address to the reader, proving beyond been Shakespeare's, in addition to all doubt that their publication was his own, and all within a life which made, as they assert, according, to reached only to sixty-six years, and a the "true originall copies.” “ It had great portion of which was exhausted bene a thing, we confesse, worthy to in the most laborious and time-ex- have bene wished, that the author acting of all professions, not only himselfe had lived to have set forth, and overseen his owne writings; but monwealth. By Francis Meres, since it hath bin ordained otherwise, Maister of Artes of both Universiand he by death departed from that ties; 12mo, London, 1598.” This is right, we pray you do not envie his the most specific and valuable evifriends the office of their care and dence we possess of the estimation in paine to have collected and published which Shakespeare was held at that them: and so to have published them, date, and of the chronological order as where you were abused with diverse of his plays, as far as the list extends : stolne and surreptitiouscopies,maimed “As the soule of Euphorbus was and deformed by the fraudes and thought to live in Pythagoras, so stealthes of injurious impostors, that the sweet wittie soule of Ovid lives exposed them : even those are now in mellifluous and honey-tongued offered to your view cured and per- Shakespeare; witness his ' Venus and fect of their limbs; and all the rest, Adonis,' his ‘Lucrece,' his sugred 'Sonabsolute in their numbers, as he con- nets' among his private friends, &c. ceived them. Who, as he was a as Plautus and Seneca are accounted happie imitator of nature, was a most the best for comedy and tragedy gentle expresser of it. His mind and among the Latines, so Shakespeare hand went together; and what he among the English is the most excelthought, he uttered with that easi- lent in both kinds for the stage; for nesse that we have scarce received comedy, witness his 'Gentlemen of from him a blot in his papers. But Verona,' his 'Errors,' his ‘Love it is not our province, who only Labours Lost, his Love Labours gather his workes and give them Wonne,' his 'Midsummer's Night you, to praise him. And there we Dreame, and his Merchant of hope, to your diverse capacities, you Venice; for tragedy, his . Richard will find enough both to draw and the II.' 'Richard the III.,' 'Henry hold you, for his art can no more be the IV.,' 'King John,' 'Titus An. hid than it could be lost. Read him dronicus,' and his 'Romeo and Juliet.' therefore, and again and again; and “As Épius Stolo said, that the then if you do not like him, surelie Muses would speake with Plautus his you are in some manifest danger not tongue, if they would speake Latin, to understand him.”

so I say that the Muses would speake : It Shakespeare had been ajay,struts with Shakespeare's fine-filed phrase, ting in borrowed plumes, if he had if they would speake English. allowed his name to be put to plays Let us take next what the quaint infinitely beyond what his own genius and loyal divine, Thomas Fuller, says, could have compassed, as he un- in his“Worthies of England,"publishdoubtedly did to some incalculably ed in 1662, after his death, though writbelow that lofty mark, and to which ten long before. Fuller was born in he could have given nothing beyond 1608, only eight years previous to a few embellishing touches, he would Shakespeare's exit, so that he can have been found out by his contem- hardly be said to speak from personal poraries and companions. His in- knowledge, though some of his extellectual mediocrity must have be- pressions may bear that construction. trayed itself by social dulness or But he might often have conversed. silence. He never could have been with those who were of Shakespeare's considered a wit amongst wits, or bosom council, and have thus colcommémorated for brilliant powers, lected his table-talk almost from the as we find distinctly stated by early living source. Fuller's leading authopanegyrists. He was the man he rity may have been Ben Jonson, who assumed to be, and such as his plays lived up to 1637, and associated with bespoke him. We have dwelt more all the literary men of his day, espeon this question than it deserves, but cially after his appointment as Poet that it should ever have been started Laureate to James I. Fuller writes is a curiosity of literature.

thus : The following passage has fre- “William Shakespeare was born quently been referred to by commen- at Stratford-upon-Avon in this county tators. It is an extract from an (Warwickshire), in whom three emiextremely scarce little tract, entitled nent poets may seem, in some sort, “Palladis Tamia; Wit's Treasury, to be compounded. I. Martial, in being the second part of Wit's Com- the warlike sound of his surname, whence some may conjecture him of rate of currency. The amount of the a military extraction, Hasti vibrans, impression was 250 ; of which nearly or Shakespeare. II. Ovid, the most one hundred are supposed to be stiil natural and witty of all poets; and forthcoming. In 1848, the late Mr. him it was that Queen Elizabeth, Thomas Rodd had nearly completed coming into a grammar school, made a collected list, in which above eighty thisextraordinary verse upon-Persi- were identified ; twenty-five of which us, a crabstaffe; baudie Martial; Ovid, are in public libraries. The Soane a fine wag.' III. Plautus, who was Museum, Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, has an excellent comedian, yet never any the four folios of 1623, 1632, 1665, scholar, as our Shakespeare, if alive, and 1685, which belonged to John would 'confess himself. Add to all Kemble. They are also at Althorp, these that though his genius gene- and were in Bishop Butler's library, rally was jocular, and inclining him at Shrewsbury: Capell's of 1623, is to festivity, yet he could, when so dis- at Trinity College, Cambridge; and posed, be solemn and serious, as ap- Malone's in the Bodleian at Oxford. pears by his tragedies; so that Hera- The British Museum has the four first clitus himself-I mean, if secret and folios :-Steevens's, King George the unseen-might afford to smile at his Third's--a poor copy; the Reverend comedies, they were so merry; and Mordaunt Cracherode's, and the Democritus scarce forbear to sigh Right Hon. Thomas Grenville's. The at his tragedies, they were so mourn- last, said to be the finest in existence, ful. He was an eminent instance cost that extensive and munificent of the truth of the rule, Poeta collector, £121 168. ; a large sum for not fit, sed nascitur-one is not a single volume without illustrations. made but born a poet. Indeed his But what is this to the price of the learning was very little. So that, as Valdarfer Boccaccio of 1471, for Cornish diamonds are not polished which the late Duke of Marlborough by any lapidary, but are pointed and gave £2,260, in 1812, at the Duke of smoothed even as they are taken out Roxburgh's sale. In 1851, the newsof the earth, so nature herself was papers informed us that a first folio all the art that was used upon him. Shakespeare, belonging to the Right Many are the wit-combattes betwixt Hon. C. Wynne, produced £146. And him and Ben Jonson, which two I in 1860, a similar paragraph stated that beheld, like a Spanish great galleon there was then a copy floating in the and an English man-of-war. Dlaister market, matchless in condition, for Jonson, like the former, was built far which £336 was asked. Mr. R. P. Gilhigher in learning ; solid, but slow in lies, who wrote “Memoirs of a Literary his performances. Shakespeare, with Veteran,” in 1851, tells of yet another the English man-of-war, lesser in exemplar, rooted out from the lumbulk, but lighter in sailing, could bered shelves of an old Laird of turn all tides, tacke about, and take Bonnymune, which sold for the advantage of all winds, by the quick- enormous sum of £500,"flanked," ness of his wit and invention.” however, “ by the second and third

Fuller, by the way, although a editions." What has since become parson and grave historian, was an of this costly investment? Who has inveterate punster, and, withal, as seen it, and what happy living colfat as Falstaff; a conjunction of at lector holds it in his keeping ? tributes which caused him sometimes All to whom this section of our to verify practically the truth of the subject is interesting will find a long adage, which says: “They who play and interesting note entirely devoted at bowls must expect rubbers.” Once to the history of the first Shakespearattempting to play off a joke upon a ean folio in Dr. Dibdin's “Library gentleman named Sparrowhawk; Companion;" and to that we refer

What,” said the Doctor, “is the them. The book is not attractive in difference between an owl and a spar- appearance, abounds in the grossest rowhawk ?" "The owl," replied the typographical blunders, and is printed other, “is fuller in the head, fuller in a coarse style, on inferior paper. in the body, and fuller all over.” It commonly lay on hall or kitchen

The price of the first folio of Shake- tables in old country mansions, with speare's collected works, 1623, was Fox's “Martyrs,” and Baker's "Chro£1, equal to about £4 at our present nicle," exposed to the contact of

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »