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New Place, the residence of Shakspeare, was occupied after his death by Mr. and Mrs. Hall, the latter of whom survived her husband several years. During her residence in it in her widowhood, it was honoured by the temporary abode of Henrietta Maria, queen to Charles the First. On the decease of Mrs. Hall, it became the property of her daughter, Lady Barnard, and was sold by her surviving executor, to Edward Nash, Esq. who bequeathed it to his daughter Mary, wife of Sir Reginald Forster. By that gentleman it was sold to Sir John Clopton, a descendant from the original proprietor and founder. Here, under a mulberry tree planted by Shakspeare's own hand, Garrick, Macklin, and Delany, were hospitably entertained, when they visited Stratford, in 1742, by Sir Hugh Clopton, barrister at law, who repaired and beautified the house, instead of (as Malone asserts) pulling it down, and building another on its site. On his death it was sold, in 1752, by his son-in-law, Henry Talbot, Esq. to the Rev. Francis Gastrell, who cut down the mulberry-tree to save himself the trouble of showing it to visitors.
Many Portraits have been engraved, and published as likenesses of our bard; but it is a lamentable and extraordinary fact, that there is no authority attached to one of them. The pedigree of each is defective, and even that in the title of the first folio edition of the author's works, and so poetically extolled by Jonson, is so badly drawn and executed, that it cannot be a good likeness. Not so, the monumental bust in Stratford church; for this appeals to our eyes and understandings, with all the force of truth. It is indeed the most authentic and probable portrait of the poet. It was executed soon after his decease, and according to the creditable tradition of the town, was copied from a cast after nature. We also know that Leonard Digges mentions the “ Stratford monument,” in his lines prefixed to the folio edition of Shakspeare's plays of 1623; whence it is certain that the bust was executed within seven years of the poet's death. The common practice in that age of executing monumental busts of il-' lustrious and eminent persons, is also in favour of this at Stratford: but we have a still better criterion, and a more forcible argument in its behalf: one that “ flashes conviction” to the eye of the intelligent artist and anatomist, This is the truth of drawing with the accuracy of muscular forms, and shape of the skull which distingnishes the bast
now referred to, and which are evidences of a faithful sculptor. The head is cut out of a block of stone, and was formerly coloured in imitation of nature: but Mr. Malone prevailed on the respectable clergyman of Stratford, to have it re-painted all over with white-lead, &c. By this absurd and tasteless operation, the character and expression of the features are much injured. It was the practice of the time to paint busts to imitate nature; and had this been left in its original state and colour, some useful information would have been imparted. Provoked at this act of Malone, a visitor to Stratford Church left the following lines in a book kept near this tomb.
Stranger, to whom this monument is shown,
And smeurs his tomb-stone as he marr'd his plays. Mr. Malone characterises the bust for its "pertness of countenance; and therefore totally differing from that placid composure and thoughtful gravity, so perceptible in his original portrait, and his best prints. Our poet's monument, having been erected by his son-in-law, Dr. Hall, the statuary (sculptor) probably had the assistance of some picture, and failed from want of skill to copy it.” Thus prepossession and prejudice will always pervert facts, and resort to sophistry. In spite of all that has been advanced by Mr. Malone, by Jonson, and by other writers, in behalf of different pictures and prints professing to be likenesses of Shakspeare, they are to me unsatisfactory, and indeed futile: for a bad artist can never produce a good portrait, nor can we place any reliance on the execution of an unskilful engraver, or a worn-out picture. Whatever comes in “ a questionable shape,” should be severely and fastidiously investigated; if not authenticated by proof, or supported by powerful probability, should be banished from the page of history, and from the receptacles of belief.
From wbat has already been stated, it is evident that the writings of Shakspeare have progressively acquired considerable publicity; and that they now rank as chief, or in the first list of British classics. This high celebrity is to be attributed to various secondary causes, as well as to their own intrinsic merits. To players, critics, biographers, and artists, a large portion of this celebrity is to be
ascribed; for had the plays been represented by Garrick, Kemble, &c. as originally published by Condell and Hemynge, or reprinted verbatim from that text, the spectators to the one, and the readers of the other, would have been comparatively limited. It is talent only that can properly represent and appreciate talent. The birth and productions of one man of brilliant genius will stimulate the emulation, and call into action the full powers of a correlative mind. Hence the British theatrical hemisphere has been repeatedly illumined by the corruscations of Garrick, Henderson, Pritchard, Kemble, Siddons, Cooke, Young, and Kean: and those performers have derived no small portion of their justly acquired fame, from the exquisite and powerful writings of the bard of Avon. Whilst the one may be considered as the creator of thought and inventor of character, the others have personified and given “ local habitation” and existence to the poetical vision. The painter has also been usefully and honourably employed in delineating incidents, and portraying characters and scenes from the poet: whilst the engraver, by his attractive art, has given them extensive circulation and permanent record. It may thus be said that the works of Sbakspeare have conferred a literary and dramatic immortality on Great Britain, which nothing less than annihilation can destroy.
Although the full contents of the cornucopia of panegyric have been poured out on the merits of Shakspeare;although some writers have given an unbridled licence to their pens in praising his works; we rarely find such encomiums extravagant; the language of flattery is simple approbation when thus applied; and I presume it has often occurred to others, as it has to myself, that no strains of praise ever have satisfied, or ever will fully satisfy our own conception of his merits. We continually recur to his works with unceasing and renewed delight. We turn over his pages with confidence of finding novelties-beauties--bursts of intellect, to awaken and gratify the best propensities. Whether our purpose be to amuse the idle hour-lo inform the understanding-to stimulate the senses to generous action-or to ardent enterprise: whether we seek to know the history of man as he has been, is, and ought to be, we shall be amply instructed by the profound writings of this unrivalled author. Justly might Milton exclaim, “ Dear son of memory, great heir of fame!" for he must be inestimably dear to every human being who cherishes and appreciates memory; and he may with great propriety be pronounced the truly legitimate heir of fame.
“ An overstrained enthusiasm,” says Hazlitt, “is more pardonable, with respect to Shakspeare, than the want of it; for our admiration cannot easily surpass bis genius." Again, Pope remarks, Shakspeare's “ characters are so much nature herself, that it is a sort of injury to call them by so distant a name as copies of her. Those of other poets have a constant resemblance, which shows that they received them from one another, and were but inultipliers of the same image: each picture, like a mock rainbow, is but the reflection of a reflection. Put every single character in Shakspeare is as much an individual, as those of life itself; it is as impossible to find any two alike; and such as from their relation or affinity in any respect appear most to be twins, will, upon comparison, be found remarkably distinct.” Preface.
Among the many wreaths that have been formed to decorate his brows, I believe there is no one more apposite and eloquent than the following, from that genuine English poet, Dr. Wolcott, in his “ Ode to my Candle."
Thus while I wond'ring pause o'er Shakspeare's page,
High o'er the wrecks of man, who stands sublime;
Majestic mid the solitude of time. Schlegel, a German author, in his eloquent and discriminating Lectures on the Drama, has some admirable and judicious remarks on Shakspeare and his plays. Never," says he, as rendered into English, hy Black,“ perhaps was there so comprehensive a talent for characterization as Shakspeare. It not only grasps the diversities of rank, sex, and age, down to the dawnings of infancy; not only do the king and the beggar, the hero and the pick pocket, the sage and the idiot speak and act with equal truth: not only does he transport himself to distant ages and foreign nations, and portray in the most accurate manner, with only a few apparent violations of costume, the spirit of the ancient Romans, of the French in their wars with
the English, of the English themselves during a great part of their history, of the southern Europeans (in the serious part of many comedies) the cultivated society of that time, and the former rude and barbarous state of the north; his human characters have not only such depth and precision that they cannot be arranged under classes, and are inexhaustible, even in conception :- no, this Prometheus not merely forms men, he opens the gates of the magical world of spirits; calls up the midnight ghost; exhibits before us his witches amidst their unhallowed mysteries; peoples the air with sportive fairies and sylphs:and these beings existing only in imagination, possess such truth and consistency, that even when deformed monsters like Caliban, he extorts the assenting conviction, if there should be such beings they would so conduct themselves. In a word, as he carries with him the most fruitful and daring fancy into the kingdom of nature on the other hand, he carries nature into the regions of fancy, lying heyond the confines of reality. We are lost in astonishment at seeing the extraordinary, the wonderful, and the unheard of, in such intimate nearness.” Vol. ii. 131.
If Shakspeare deserves our adıniration for his characters, he is equally deserving of it for the exhibition of passion, taking this word in its widest signification, as including every mental condition, every tone of indifference, or familiar mirth to the wildest rage and despair. He gives us the history of minds; he lays open to us, in a single word, a whole series of preceding conditions. His passions do not at first stand displayed to us in all their height, as is the case with so many tragic poets, who, in the language of Lessing, are thorough masters of the legal style of love. He paints in a most inimitable manner the gradual progress from the first origin.
“ He gives,” as Lessing says, a living picture of all the most minute and secret artifices by which a feeling steals into our souls; of all the imperceptible advantages which it there gains; of all the stratagems by which every other passion is made subservient to it, till it becomes the sole tyrant of our desires and our aversions.” Of all poets, perhaps, he alone has portrayed the mental diseases, melancholy, delirium, lunacy, with such inexpressible, and in every respect definite truth, that the physician may eurich bis observations from them in the same manner as from real cases.