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Yet, by those who allow to possibilities the influence of facts, it may be said that this picture was probably the ornament of a club-room in Eastcheap, round which other resemblances of contemporary poets and players might have been arranged:-that the Boar's Head, the scene of Falstaff's jollity, might also have been the favourite tavern of Shakspeare:-that, when our author returned over London Bridge from the Globe theatre, this was a convenient house of entertainment; and that for many years after wards (as the tradition of the neighbourhood reports) it was understood to have been a place where the wits and wags of a former age were assembled, and their portraits reposited. To such suppositions it may be replied, that Mr. Sloman, who quitted this celebrated publick house in 1767, (when all its furniture, which had devolved to him from his two immediate predecessors, was sold off,) declared his utter ignorance of any picture on the premises, except a course daubing of the Gadshill robbery From hence the following probabilities may be suggested: first, that if Shakspeare's portrait was ever at the Boar's Head, it had been alienated before the fire of London in
pursued their art in England from the time of Hans Holbein to that of Queen Elizabeth.
* Philip Jones of Barnard's Inn, the auctioneer who sold off Mr. Sloman's effects, has been sought for; but he died a few years ago. Otherwise, as the knights of the hammer are said to preserve the catalogue of every auction, it might have been known whether pictures constituted any part of the Boar's Head furniture; for Mr. Sloman himself could not affirm that there were no small or obscure paintings above stairs in apartments which he had seldom or ever occasion to visit.
Mrs. Brinn, the widow of Mr. Sloman's predecessor, after her husband's decease quitted Eastcheap, took up the trade of a wire-worker, and lived in Crooked Lane. She died about ten years ago. One, who had been her apprentice (no youth,) declares she was a very particular woman, was circumstantial in her narratives, and so often repeated them, that he could not possibly forget any article she had communicated relative to the plate, furniture, &c. of the Boar's Head:-that she often spoke of the painting that represented the robbery at Gadshill, but never so much as hinted at any other pictures in the house; and had there been any, he is sure she would not have failed to describe them in her accounts of her former business and place of abode, which supplied her with materials for conversation to the very end of a long life.
1666, when the original house was burnt; and, secondly, that the path through which the same picture has travelled since, is as little to be determined as the course of a subterraneous stream.
It may also be remarked, that if such a Portrait had existed in Eastcheap during the life of the industrious Vertue*, he would most certainly have procured it, instead of having submitted to take his first engraving of our author from a juvenile likeness of James I. and his last from Mr. Keck's unauthenticated purchase out of the dressing-room of a modern actress.
It is obvious, therefore, from the joint depositions of Mr. Wilson and Mr. Sloman, that an inference disadvantageous to the authenticity of the Boar's Head story must be drawn; for if the portrait in question arrived after a silent progress through obscurity, at the shop of a broker, who, being ignorant of its value, sold it for a few shillings, it must necessarily have been unattended by any history whatever. And if it was purchased at a sale of goods at the Boar's Head, as neither the master of the house, or his two predecessors, had the least idea of having possessed such a curiosity, no intelligence could be sent abroad with it from that quarter. In either case then we may suppose, that the legend relative to the name of its paintert, and the place where it was found, (notwithstanding both these particulars might be true,) were at hazard appended to the portrait under consideration, as soon as its similitude to Shakspeare had been acknowledged, and his name discovered on the back of it. This circumstance, however, cannot affect the credit of the picture; for (as the late Lord Mansfield observed in the Douglas controversy) "there are instances in which falsehood has been employed in support of a real fact, and that it is no uncommon thing for a man to defend a true cause by fabulous pretences.'
That Shakspeare's family possessed no resemblance of him, there is sufficient reason to believe. Where then was this fashionable and therefore necessary adjunct to
*The four last publicans who kept this tavern are said to have filled the whole period, from the time of Vertue's inquiries, to the year 1788, when the Boar's Head, having been untenanted for five years, was converted into two dwellings for shopkeepers, + The tradition that Burbage painted a likeness of Shakspeare,
his works to be sought for? If any where, in London, the theatre of his fame and fortune, and the only place where painters, at that period, could have expected to thrive by their profession. We may suppose too, that the booksellers who employed Droeshout, discovered the object of their research by the direction of Ben Jonson*, who in the following lines has borne the most ample testimony to the verisimilitude of a portrait which will now be recommended, by a more accurate and finished engraving, to the publick notice:
"The figure, that thou here seest put,
That the legitimate resemblance of such a man has been indebted to chance for its preservation, would excite greater astonishment, where it not recollected, that a portrait of him has lately become an object of far higher consequence and estimation than it was during the period he flourished in, and the twenty years succeeding it; for the profession of a player was scarcely then allowed to be reputable. This remark, however, ought not to stand unsupported by a passage in The Microcosmos of John
has been current in the world ever since the appearance of Mr. Granger's Biographical History.
* It is not improbable that Ben Jonson furnished the Dedica tion and Introduction to the first folio, as well as the Commendatory Verses prefixed to it.
as he hath hit
His face ;] It should seem from these words, that the plate prefixed to the folio 1623 exhibited such a likeness of Shakspeare as satisfied the eye of his contemporary, Ben Jonson, who, on an occasion like this, would hardly have ventured to assert what it was in the power of many of his readers to contradict. When will evidence half so conclusive be produced in favour of the Davenantico-Bettertonian - Barryan - Keckian-Nicolsian-Chandosan canvas, which bears not the slightest resemblance to the original of Droeshout's and Marshall's engraving?
Davies of Hereford, 4to. 1605, p. 215, where, after have ing indulged himself in a long and severe strain of satire on the vanity and affectation of the actors of his age, he subjoins
"Players, I loue yee and your qualitie,
* "W. S. R. B."
"Wit, courage, good shape, good partes, are all good,
The reader will observe from the initials in the margin of the third of these wretched lines, that W. Shakspeare was here alluded to as the poet, and R. Burbage as the painter.
Yet notwithstanding this compliment to the higher excellencies of our author, it is almost certain that his resemblance owes its present safety to the shelter of a series of garrets and lumber-rooms, in which it had sculked till it found its way into the broker's shop, from whence the discernment of a modern connoisseur so luckily redeemed it.
It may also be observed, that an excellent original of Ben Jonson was lately bought at an obscure auction by Mr. Ritson of Gray's Inn, and might once have been companion to the portrait of Shakspeare thus fortunately restored, after having been lost to the publick for a century and a half. They are, nevertheless, performances by very different artists. The face of Shakspeare was imitated by a delicate pencil, that of Jonson by a bolder hand. It is not designed, however, to appretiate the distinct value of these pictures; though it must be allowed (as several undoubted originals of old Ben are extant) that an authentick head of Shakspeare is the greater desideratum.
To conclude those who assume the liberty of despising prints when moderately executed, may be taught by this
are all good,
As long as all these goods are no worse us'd;] So, in our author's Othello:
"Where virtue is, these are most virtuous."
example the use and value of them; since to a coarse engraving by a second-rate artist, the publick is indebted for the recovery of the only genuine portrait of its favourite Shakspeare.
Proposals by William Richardson, Printseller, Castle Street, Leicester Square, for the Publication of two Plates, from the Picture already described.
THESE plates are to be engraved of an octavo size, and in the most finished style, by T. Trotter. A fac-simile of the hand-writing, date, &c. at the back of the picture, will be given at the bottom of one of them.
They will be impressed both on octavo and quarto paper, so as to suit the best editions of the plays of Shakspeare.
Price of the pair to Subscribers 7s. 6d. No proofs will be taken off. Non-subscribers 10s. 6d.
The money to be paid at the time of subscribing, or at the delivery of the prints, which will be ready on December 1st, 1794.
Such portions of the hair, ruff, and drapery, as are wanting in the original picture, will be supplied from Droeshout's and Marshall's copies of it, in which the inanimate part of the composition may be safely followed. The mere outline in half of the plate that accompanies the finished one, will serve to ascertain how far these supplements have been adopted. To such scrupulous fidelity the publick (which has long been amused by inadequate or ideal likenesses of Shakspeare) has an undoubted claim; and should any fine ladies and gentlemen of the present age be disgusted at the stiff garb of our author, they may readily turn their eyes aside, and feast them on the more
* There is reason to believe that Shakspeare's is the earliest known portrait of Droeshout's engraving. No wonder then that his performances twenty years after, are found to be executed with a somewhat superior degree of skill and accuracy. Yet still he was a poor engraver, and his productions are sought for more on account of their scarcity than their beauty, He seems indeed to have pleased so little in this country, that there are not above six or seven heads of his workmanship to be found,