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have heard this story in Stratford; but considering the date of his death, 1708, and that of Betterton's visit to Warwickshire, 1675, and Rowe's publication of his edition of Shakespeare's Works, 1709, it is not at all improbable, to say the least, that the story had reached the Archdeacon directly or indirectly through the actor.* But Capell tells us that a Mr. Thomas Jones, who lived at Tarbick, a few miles from Stratford, and who died there in 1703, more than ninety years of age, remembered having heard from old people at Stratford the story of Shakespeare's robbing Sir Thomas Lucy's park.† According to Mr. Jones their story agreed with that told by Rowe, with this addition, — that the lampoon was stuck upon the park gate, and that this insult, added to the injury of the deer-stealing, provoked the prosecution. Mr. Jones had written down the first stanza of
* Betterton was born in 1635, and went upon the stage in 1656 or 1657. The veneration for Shakespeare with which he was im. bued by the study of his plays was the motive of his pilgrimage to Stratford. We may be quite sure that the journey was undertaken after 1670, for in that year Shakespeare's granddaughter, who must have known much that Betterton did not discover, died in Shakespeare's house; and it could hardly have been after 1675, for at that time the great actor was grievously afflicted with a disease, - the gout, — which compelled him to retire from the stage, and from which he suffered until it caused his in 1710. Betterton had been taught to play some of Shakespeare's principal characters by Sir William Davenant, who had seen them performed by actors of the Black-friars Theatre, who had been instructed by the poet himself. See Downes's Roscius Anglicanus.
· Notes and Various Readings, &c., Vol. 11: p. 75.
this ballad, and it reached Capell through his own grandfather, a contemporary of Jones. A similar account of a very old man living near Stratford, and remembering the deer-stealing story and the ballad, is given by Oldys, the antiquarian, in his manuscript notes. Oldys and Capell plainly derived their information from the same source, though possibly through different channels; and the stanza of the ballad is given by both of them in the same words, with the exception of a single syllable. These are the lines according to Oldys, with the addition of “O" in the last line, which appears in Capell's copy, and which plainly belongs there :
“A parliemente member, a justice of peace,
He thinks himself greate,
Yet an asse in his state
The phrase "Parliament member," if we must accept it as having been originally written in the first line of this lampoon, is inconsistent with its genuineness; for in Shakespeare's time, and long after, the phrase was Parliament man. But as the verses were handed down orally, a conformity to the more recent custom in this respect would creep in easily and unnoticed.
This story enriches with a rare touch of real life our faint and meagre memorials of Shakespeare.
Not sufficiently well established to be beyond the assaults of those who think it scorn that the author of King Lear and Hamlet should have stolen deer and written coarse lampoons, it yet may well be cherished, and its credibility maintained, by those who prize a trait of character and a glimpse of personal experience above all question of propriety. In Queen Bess's time deerstealing did not rank with sheep-stealing; and he who wrote, and was praised for writing, The Comedy of Errors and Troilus and Cressida when he was a man, may well be believed, without any abatement of his dignity, to have written the Lucy ballad in his boyhood. Malone thought that he had exploded the tradition by showing that Sir Thomas Lucy had no park, and therefore could have no deer to be stolen ; and the lampoon has been set aside as a fabrication by some writers, and regarded by all with suspicion. But it appears that, whether the knight had an enclosure with formal park privileges or not, the family certainly had deer on their estate, which fulfils the only condition requisite for the truth of the story in that regard ; for Sir Thomas Lucy, son of Shakespeare's victim, sent a buck as a present to Harehill when Sir Thomas Egerton entertained Queen Elizabeth there in August, 1602.* I think that there is a
* Egerton Papers, pp. 350, 355.
solution to the question somewhat different from any that has yet been brought forward, and much more probable.
The first scene of The Merry Wives of Windsor certainly gives strong support to the tradition ; so strong, in fact, that it has been supposed, with some reason, to have been its origin. In that scene Shakespeare makes Justice Shallow (who, in the words of Davies, is his clodpate, or, as we should say, his clownish or loutish, justice) bear a dozen white luces, or pikes, in his coat of arms, which bearing gives the Welsh parson the opportunity for his punning jest that “the dozen white louses do become an old coat well.” * The Lucys bore punning coat-armor, three luces, hariant ; and the allusion is unmistakable. In that scene, too, the country gentleman who is so proud of the luces in his old coat bursts upon the stage furious at Falstaff for having killed his deer. Now, in Shakespeare's day, as well as long before, killing a gentleman's deer was almost as common among wild young men as robbing a farmer's orchard
* Some critics have attributed the transformation of luces to louses to Sir Hugh's incapacity of English speech; but this is to rob the Welshman of his wit. The pronunciation of u as ow is no trick of a Welsh tongue, or of any other, I believe ; but "louse” was pronounced like “luce” or “loose” by many people. So the ballad tells us that “lousy is Lucy as some volke miscall it.” There is a similar variation as to the name Toucey, which some pronounce Toosey, giving the first syllable the vowel sound of too and you, others Towsey, with the sound of how, thou.
among boys. Indeed, it was looked upon as a sign of that poor semblance of manliness sometimes called spirit, and was rather a gentleman's misdemeanor than a yeoman's; one which a peasant would not have presumed to commit, except, indeed, at risk of his ears, for poaching at once upon the game- and the sin-preserves of his betters. Noblemen engaged in it; and in days gone by the very first Prince of Wales had been a deerstealer. Among multitudinous passages illustrative of this trait of manners, a story preserved by Wood in his Athena Oxonienses fixes unmistakably the grade of the offence. It is there told, on the authority of Simon Forman, that his patrons, Robert Pinkney and John Thornborough, the latter of whom was admitted a member of Magdalen College in 1570, and became Bishop of Bristol and Worcester, “seldom studied or gave themselves to their books, but spent their time in fencing-schools and dancing-schools, in stealing deer and conies, in hunting the hare and wooing girls." * In fact, deer-stealing then supplied to the young members of the privileged classes in Old England an excitement of a higher kind than that afforded by beating watchmen and tearing off knockers and bellpulls to the generation but just passed away. A passage of Titus Andronicus, written soon after Shakespeare reached London, is here in point. Prince Demetrius exclaims :
* Vol. I. p. 371.