« AnteriorContinuar »
Walker, Kt., Garter King at Arms; by whom it was left to his only child, Barbara, married to Sir John Clopton, Kt., of Clopton in the parish of Stratford. On his demise, it became the property of a younger son of his, Sir Hugh Clopton, Kt., (this family of the Cloptons seems to have been peculiarly prolific in the breed of knights,) by whom it was repaired and decorated at a very large expense. Malone affirms that it was pulled down by him, and its place supplied by a more sumptuous edifice. If this statement were correct, the crime of its subsequent destroyer would be greatly extenuated; and the hand which had wielded the axe against the hallowed mulberry-tree, would be absolved from the second act, imputed to it, of sacrilegious violence. But Malone's account is, unquestionably, erroneous. In the May of 1742, Sir Hugh entertained Garrick, Macklin, and Delany, under the shade of the Shakspearian mulberry. On the demise of Sir Hugh,* in the December of 1751, New Place was sold by his son-in-law and executor, Henry Talbot, the Lord Chancellor Talbot's brother, to the Rev. Francis Gastrell, vicar of Frodsham in Cheshire: by whom, on some quarrel with the magistrates, on the subject of the parochial assessments, it was razed to the ground, and its site abandoned to vacancy. On this completion of his outrages † against the memory of Shakspeare, which his unlucky possession of wealth enabled him to commit, Francis Gastrell departed from Stratford, hooted out of the town, and pursued by the execrations of its inhabitants. The fate of New Place has been rather remarkable. After the demolition of the house by Gastrell, the ground, which it had occupied, was thrown into the contiguous garden, and was sold by the widow of the clerical barbarian. Having remained, during a certain period, as a portion of a garden, a house was again erected on it; and, in consequence also of some dispute about the parish assessments, that house, like its predecessor, was pulled down; and its site was finally abandoned to Nature, for the production of her fruits and har flowers: and thither may we imagine the little Elves and Fairies frequently to resort, to trace the footsteps of their beloved Poet, now obliterated from the vision of man; to throw a finer perfume on the violet; to unfold the first rose of the year, and to tinge its cheek with a richer blush ; and, in their dances beneath the fullor bed moon, to chant their harmonies, too subtle for the gross ear of mortality, to the fondly-cherished memory of their darling, THE SWEET SWAN OF Avon.
deed to his youngest son, Sir Hugh. But the deed which conveyed New Place to Sir Edward Walker, is still in existence; and has been published by R. B. Wheler, the his. torian of Stratford.
* Sir Hugh Clopton was knighted by George I. He was a barrister at law; and died in the December of 1751, at the advanced age of eighty.-Malone.
| Our days, also, have witnessed a similar profanation of the relics of genius; not, indeed, of genius equally hallowed with that of which we have been speaking, for Nature has not yet produced a second Shakspeare ; but of genius which had conversed with the immortal Muses, which had once been the delight of the good and the terror of the bad. I allude to the violation of Pope's charming retreat, on the banks of the Thames, by a capricious and tasteless woman, who has endeavored to blot out every memorial of the great and moral poct from that spot, which his occupation had made classic, and dear to the hearts of his countrymen. In the mutability of all human things, and the inevitable shiftings of property, “ From you to me, from me to Peter Walter,” these lamentable desecrations, which mortify our pride and wound our sensibilities, will of necessity sometimes occur. The site of the Tusculan of Cicero may become the haunt of banditti, or be disgraced with the walls of a monastery. The residences of a Shakspeare and a Pope may be devastated and defiled by a Parson Gastrell and a Baroness Howe. We can only sigh over the ruin when its deformity strikes upon our eyes, and execrate the hands by which it has been savagely accomplished.
Of the personal history of William Shakspeare, as far as it can be drawn, even in shadowy existence, from the obscurity which invests it, and of whatever stands in immediate connection with it, we have now exhibited all that we can collect; and we are not conscious of having omitted a single circumstance of any moment, or worthy of the attention of our readers. We might, indeed, with old Fuller, speak of our Poet's wit-combats, as Fuller calls them, at the Mermaid, with Ben Jonson : but then we have not one anecdote on record, of either of these intellectual gladiators, to produce; for not a sparkle of our Shakspeare's convivial wit has travelled down to our eyes; and it would be neither instructive nor pleasant to see him represented as a light skiff, skirmishing with a huge galleon, and either evading or pressing attack, as prudence suggested, or the alertness of his movements emboldened him to attempt
. The lover of heraldry may, perhaps, censure us for neglecting to give
blazon of Shakspeare's arms, for which, as it appears, two Patents were issued from the herald's office, one in 1569 or 1570, and one in 1599; and by him who will insist on the transcription of every word which has been imputed, on any authority, to the pen of Shakspeare, we may be blamed for passing over in silence two very indifferent epitaphs, which have been charged on him. We
now, therefore, give the arms which were accorded to him; and
we will, also, copy the two epitaphs in question. We may then, without any further impediment, proceed to the more agreeable portion of our labors,—the notice of our Author's works.
The armorial bearings of the Shakspeare family are, or rather were,-Or, on a bend sable, a tilting spear of the first, point upwards, headed argent. Crest, A falcon displayed, argent, supporting a spear in pale, or.
In a MS. volume of poems, by William Herrick and others, preserved in the Bodleian, is the following epitaph, attributed, certainly not on its internal evidence, to our Poet. Its subject was, probably, the member of a family with the surname of James, which once existed in Stratford.
When God was pleased, the world unwilling yet,
Among the monuments in Tonge Church, in the county of Salop, is one raised to the memory of Sir Thomas Stanley, Knt., who is thought by Malone to have died about the year 1600. With the prose inscription on this tomb, transcribed by Sir W. Dugdale, are the verses which I am about to copy, said by Dugdale to have been made by William Shakspeare, the late famous tragedian.
ON THE EAST END OF THE TOMB.
Ask who lies here, but do not weep:
ON THE WEST END.
Not monumental stone preserves our fame,
As the great works of Shakspeare have engaged the attention of an active and a learned century, since they were edited by Rowe, little that is new on the subject of them can be expected from a pen of the present day. It is necessary, however, that we should notice them, lest our readers should be compelled to seek in another page than ours for the common information which they might conceive themselves to entitled to expect from us.
Fourteen of his plays were published separately, in quarto copies, during our Poet's life; and, seven years after his death, a complete ed i tion of them was given to the public, in folio, by his theatric fellow s, Heminge and Condell. Of those productions of his which were circulated by the press while he was yet living, and were all surreptitious, our great Author seems to have been as utterly regardless as he necessarily was of those which appeared when he was mouldering in his grave.* We have already observed on the extraordinary indifference of this illustrious man toward the offspring of his fancy; and we make it again the subject of our remark, solely for the purpose of illustrating the cause of those numerous and pernicious errors which deform all the early editions of his plays.
The copies of the plays published antecedently to his death, were transcribed either by memory from their recitation on the stage; or from the separate parts, written out for the study of the particular actors, and to be pieced together by the skill of the editor; or, lastly, if stolen or bribed access could be obtained to it, from the prompter's book itself. From any of these sources of acquisition the copy would necessarily be polluted with very flagrant
In his essay on the chronological order of Shakspeare's plays, Malone concludes very properly from the title-page of the earliest edition of Hamlet, which he believed then to be extant, that this edition (published in 1604) had been preceded by another of a less correct and less perfect character. A copy of the elder edition, in question, has lately been discovered, and is, indeed, far more remote from perfection than its successor, which was collated by Malone. It obviously appears to have been printed from the rude draught of
as it was sketched by the Poet from the first suggestions of his mind. But how this rude and imperfect draught could fall into the hands of its publisher, is a question not easily to be answered. Such, however, is the authority to be attached to all the early quartos. They were obtained by every indirect mean; and the first incorrect MS., blotted again and again by the pens of ignorant transcribers, and multiplied by the press, was suffered, by the apathy of its illustrious Author, to be circulated, without check, among the multitude. The variations of the copy of Hamlet immediately before us, which was pub
lished in 1603, from the perfect drama, as it subsequently issued from the press, are far too numerous to be noticed in this place, if indeed this place could properly be assigned to such
errors; and from every edition through which it ran, it would naturally contract more pollution and a deeper stain. Such of the first copies as were fortunately transcribed from the prompter's book, would probably be in a state of greater relative correctness : but they are all, in different degrees, deformed with inaccuracies; and not one of them can claim the right to be followed as authority.
In 1623, the first complete edition of our Author's dramatic works was published in folio by his comrades of the theatre, Heminge and Condell; and in this we might expect a text tolerably incorrupt, if not perfectly pure. The editors denounced the copies which had preceded their edition as "stolen and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealths of injurious impostors, that exposed them : even those are now offered to your view cured and perfect of their limbs; and all the rest absolute in their numbers as he conceived them." But, notwithstanding these professions, and their honest resentment against impostors and surreptitious copies, the labors of these sole possessors of Shakspeare's MSS. did not obtain the credit which they arrogated; and they are charged with printing from those very quartos on which they had heaped so much well-merited abuse. They printed, as there cannot be a doubt, from their prompter's book, (for by what temptation could they be enticed beyond it?) but then, from the same book were transcribed many, perhaps, of the surreptitious quartos; and it is not wonderful that transcripts of the same page should be precisely alike. These editors, however, of the first folio, have incurred the heavy displeasure of some of our modern critics, who are zealous on all occasions to depreciate their work. Wherever they differ from the first quartos, which, for the reason that I have assigned, they must in general very closely resemble, Malone is ready to decide against them, and to defer to the earlier edition. But it is against the editor of the second folio, published in 1632, that he points the full storm of his indignation. He charges this luckless wight, whoever he may be, with utter ignorance of the language of Shakspeare's time, and of the fabric of Shakspeare's verse; and he considers him and Pope as the grand corrupters of Shakspeare's text. -I am far from assuming to vindicate this editor from the commis. sion of many flagrant errors : but he is frequently right, and was