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but that what he thought, was commonly fo great, fo juftly and rightly conceiv'd in it felf, that it wanted little or no correction, and was immediately approv'd by an impartial judgment at the firft fight. But tho' the order of time in which the feveral pieces were written be generally uncertain, yet there are paffages in fome few of them which feem to fix their dates. So the Chorus in the beginning of the fifth Act of Henry V. by a compliment very handfomely turn'd to the Earl of Effex, fhews the Play to have been written when that lord was General for the Queen in Ireland: And his Elogy upon Queen Elizabeth, and her fucceffor King James, in the latter end of his Henry VIII. is a proof of that Play's being written after the acceffion of the latter of those two Princes to the crown of England. Whatever the particular times of his writing were, the people of his age, who began to grow wonderfully fond of diverfions of this kind, could not but be highly pleas'd to fee a Genius arife amongst 'em of fo pleasurable, fo rich a vein, and fo plentifully capable of furnifhing their favourite entertainments. Befides the advantages of his wit, he was in himself a goodnatur'd man, of great fweetnefs in his manners, and a moft agreeable companion; fo that it is no wonder if with fo many good qualities he made himfelf acquainted with the best converfations of thofe times. Queen Elizabeth had feveral of his Plays acted before her, and without doubt gave him many gracious marks of her favour: It is that maiden Princefs plainly, whom he intends by

A fair Veftal, Throned by the Weft,

Midfummer Night's Dream.



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And that whole paffage is a compliment very pro-
perly brought in, and very handfomly apply'd to
her. She was fo well pleas'd with that admirable
character of Falstaff, in the two parts of Henry the
fourth, that the commanded him to continue it for
one Play more, and to thew him in love. This is
faid to be the occafion of his writing The Merry
Wives of Windfor. How well the was obey'd,
the play it felf is an admirable proof. Upon this
occafion it may not be improper to obferve, that
this part of Falstaff is faid to have been written
originally under the name of* Oldcastle; fome of
that family being then remaining, the Queen was
pleas'd to command him to alter it; upon which
He made ufe of Falstaff. The prefent offence was
indeed avoided; but I don't know whether the
Author may not have been fomewhat to blame in
his fecond choice, fince it is certain that Sir John
Falstaff, who was Knight of the garter, and a
Lieutenant-general, was a name of diftinguith'd
merit in the wars in France in Henry the fifth's and
Henry the fixth's times.
What grace foever the
Queen conferr'd upon him, it was not to her only
he ow'd the fortune which the reputation of his
wit made. He had the honour to meet with many
great and uncommon marks of favour and friend-
Thip from the Earl of Southampton, famous in the
hiftories of that time for his friendship to the un-
fortunate Earl of Effe It was to that noble
Lord that he dedicated his Poem of Venus and
Adonis. There is one inftance fo fingular in the
magnificence of this Patron of Shakespear's, that
if I had not been affur'd that the story was handed
down by Sir William D'Avenant, who was pro-
bably very well acquainted with his affairs, I fhould
not have ventur'd to have inferted, that my lord

* See the Epilogue to Henry 4th,

Southampton at one time gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchafe which he heard he had a mind to. A bounty very great, and very rare at any time, and almoft equal to that profufe generofity the prefent age has fhewn to French Dancers and Italian Singers.

What particular habitude or friendships he contracted with private men, I have not been able to learn, more than that every one who had a true tafte of merit, and could diftinguifh men, had generally a juft value and efteem for him. His exceeding candor and good-nature muft certainly have inclin'd all the gentler part of the world to love him, as the power of his wit oblig'd the men of the most delicate knowledge and polite learning to admire him.

His acquaintance with Ben Johnson began with a remarkable piece of humanity and good-nature; Mr. Johnson, who was at that time altogether unknown to the world, had offer'd one of his Plays to the Players, in order to have it acted; and the perfons into whofe hands it was put, after having turn'd it carelefly and fupercilioufly over, were just upon returning it to him with an ill-natur'd anfwer, that it would be of no fervice to their Company; when Shakespear luckily caft his eye upon it, and found fomething fo well in it as to engage him first to read it through, and afterwards. to recommend Mr. Johnfon and his writings to the publick. Johnfon was certainly a very good fcholar, and in that had the advantage of Shakespear; tho' at the fame time I believe it must be allow'd, that what Nature gave the latter, was more than a ballance for what Books had given the former; and the judgment of a great man upon this occafion was, I think, very juft and proper. In a conVerfation between Sir John Suckling, Sir William D'Avenant,




D'Avenant, Endymion Porter, Mr. Hales of Eaton, and Ben Johnson; Sir John Suckling, who was a profefs'd admirer of Shakespear, had undertaken his defence against Ben Johnson with fome warmth; Mr. Hales, who had fat ftill for fome time,told 'em, That if Mr. Shakespear had not read the Ancients, be bad likewife not tollen any thing from 'em; and that if he would produce any one Topick finely treated by any of them, he would undertake to fhew Something upon the fame fubject at least as well written by Shakespear.

The latter part of his life was fpent, as all men of good fenfe will with theirs may be, in cafe, retirement, and the converfation of his friends. He had the good fortune to gather an eftate equal to his occafion, and, in that, to his wifh; and is faid to have spent fome years before his death at his native Stratford. His pleafurable wit, and good nature, engag'd him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendfhip of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. Amongst them, it is a story almoft ftill remember'd in that country, that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and ufury; It happen'd, that in a pleafant converfation amongst their common friends, Mr. Combe told Shakespear in a laughing manner, that he fancy'd he intended to write his Epitaph, if he happen'd to out-live him; and fince he could not know what might be faid of him when he was dead, he defir'd it might be done immediately: Upon which ShakeSpear gave him these four verses.

Ten in the hundred lies here ingrav'd,

'Tis a hundred to ten his foul is not fav'd: If any man ask, Who lies in this tomb? Qb! bo! quath the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe.



But the fharpnefs of the Satire is faid to have ftung the man fo feverely, that he never forgave it.

He dy'd in the 53d year of his age, and was bury'd on the north fide of the chancel, in the great church at Stratford, where a monument, as engrav'd in the plate, is plac'd in the wall. On his Graveftone underneath is,

Good friend, for Jefus fake, forbear
To dig the dust inclofed here.

Bleft be the man that fpares thefe ftones,
And curft be he that moves my bones.

He had three daughters, of which two liv'd to be marry'd; Judith, the elder, to one Mr. Thomas Quiney, by whom the had three Sons, who all dy'd without children; and Sufannah, who was his favourite, to Dr. John Hall, a phyfician of good reputation in that country. She left one child only, a daughter, who was marry'd firft to Thomas Nafh, Efq; and afterwards to Sir John Bernard of Abbington, but dy'd likewife without illue.

This is what I could learn of any note, either relating to himfelf or family: The character of the man is beft feen in his writings. But fince Ben Johnson has made a fort of an effay towards it in his Difcoveries, I will give it in his words. "I remember the Players have often mention'd

it as an honour to Shakespear, that in writing "(whatsoever he penn'd) he never blotted out "a line. My anfwer hath been, Would be. "bad blotted out a thousand! which they thought a "malevolent fpeech. I had not told pofterity "this, but for their ignorance, who chofe that "circumstance to commend their friend by,

wherein he most faulted. And to juftifie mine

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