Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

is said that 'the people of those parts pronounce lowsie like Lucy. They do so to this day in Scotland. Mr. Wilkes, grandson of the gentleman to whom Mr. Jones repeated the stanza, appears to have been the person who gave a copy of it to Mr. Oldys and Mr. Capell.

In a manuscript History of the Stage, written between the years 1727 and 1730, in which are contained forgeries and falshoods of various kinds, we meet with the following passage, on which although we are unable to repose an equal degree of confidence, still the internal evidence is such, as to render its genuineness far from improbable :

Here we shall observe that the learned Mr. Joshua Barnes, late Greek professor at Cambridge, baiting, about 40 years ago, at an inn in Stratford, and hearing an old woman singing part of the above song, such was his respect for Shakspeare's genius, that he gave her a new gown for the two following stanzas in it; and, could she have said it all, he would (as he often said in company when

any

discourse casually arose about him) have given her ten guineas :

Sir Thomas was too covetous

To covet so much deer,
When horns enougb upon his head

Most plainly did appear.
Had not his worship one deer left?

What then? He had a wife
Took pains enough to find him horns

Should last him during life'

Mr. Malone has endeavored to prove that the whole story of the deer-stealing is unworthy of credit, that the verses are altogether spurious, and that Sir T. Lucy never was in possession of a park at Charlecote; and thinks it much more probable that Shakspeare's own lively disposition made him acquainted with some of the principal performers who visited 'Stratford, and that there he first determined to engage in the profession of a player. The arrival of our author in London is generally supposed to have taken place in 1586, when he was 22 years

of age.

Mr. Rowe has affirmed, on a tradition which we have no claim to dispute, that he was obliged to leave his family for some time;' a fact in the highest degree probable, from the causes which led to his removal; for it is not to be supposed, situated as he then was, that he would be willing to render his wife and children the partakers and companions of the disasters and disappointments which it was probable he had to encounter. Tradition farther says, as preserved in the manuscripts of Aubrey, that he was wont to go to his native country once a yeare;' and Mr. Oldys, in his collections for a life of our author, repeats this report with an additional circumstance, remarking, if tradition may be trusted, Shakspeare often baited at the Crown Inn, at Oxford, in his journey to and from London.' The testimony of these statements will be strongly corroborated, if we consult the parish register of Stratford; for it appears on that record, that, merely including his children, there is a succession of baptisms, marriages, and deaths in his family at Stratford, from 1583 to 1616. In addition to this evidence, it may be remarked, that the poet, in a mortgage, dated the 10th of March, 1612-13, is described as William Shakspeare, of Stratford-on-Avon, gentleman; and that by his contemporaries he was frequently styled the sweet swan of Avon;' designations, which must be considered as implying the family residence of our author. These circumstances induced Mr. Chalmers, after much research, conclude that Shakspeare

had no fixed residence in the metropolis, nor ever considered London as his home; but had resolved that his wife and family should remain through life at Stratford, though he himself made frequent excursions to London, the scene of his profit, and the theatre of his fame.'

Much controversy has been excited respecting the nature of our author's early employment at the London theatre, to which he appears to have been introduced by Thomas Greene, a celebrated comedian of the day, a native of Stratford, and, probably, a relative of Shakspeare. We are informed by Rowe, that he was received into the company then in being, at first, in a very mean rank.' It has been related that his first office was that of call-bor, or attendant on the prompter, and that his business was to give notice to the performers when their different entries on the stage were required. We may,

however, reasonably conclude that Mr. Rowe only meant to imply that his engagement as an actor was, at first, in the performance of characters of the lowest class, and that his rising talents afterwards recommended him to the personation of a more elevated range of parts. John Aubrey, a student at Oxford, only 26 years after the poet's death, strongly substantiates this view of the case, when he tells us, that being inclined naturally to poetry and acting, he came to London, and was an actor at one of the playhouses, and did act exceedingly well.'

Another tradition, which places him in a still meaner occupation, is said to have been transmitted through the medium of Sir W. Davenant to Mr. Betterton, who communicated it to Mr. Rowe, and this gentleman to Mr. Pope, by whom, according to Dr. Johnson, it was related in the following terms : - In the time of Elizabeth, coaches being yet uncommon, and hired coaches not at all in use, those who were too proud, too tender, or too idle to walk, went on horseback to any distant business or diversion. Many came on horseback to the play; ara when Shakspeare fled to London from the terror of a criminal prosecution, his first expedient was to

wait at the door of the playhouse, and hold the horses of those who had no servants, that they might be ready again after the performance. In this office he became so conspicuous for his care and readiness, that, in a short time, every man, as he alighted, called for Will Shakspeare, and scarcely any other waiter was trusted with a horse while Will Shakspeare could be had. This was the first dawn of better fortune. Shakspeare, finding more horses put into his hand than he could hold, hired boys to wait under his inspection, who, when Will Shakspeare was summoned, were immediately to present themselves, “I am Shakspeare's boy, sir.' In time, Shakspeare found higher employment: but as long as the practice of riding to the playhouse continued, the waiters that held the horses retained the appellation of Shakspeare's boys.'

The authenticity of this tradition appears very questionable. It should be remembered that this anecdote first appeared in Cibber's Lives of the Poets; and that if it were known to Mr. Rowe, it is evident he thought it so little intitled to credit, that he chose not to risk its insertion in his life of our poet. In short, if we reflect for a moment, that Shakspeare, though he fled from Stratford to avoid the severity of a prosecution, could not be destitute of money or friends, as the necessity for that flight was occasioned by an imprudent ebullition of wit,

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »