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grand character he could so well appreciate-smiled on him, and deigned to direct and call forth his genius ; while England's most chivalrous nobles were his friends. “Probably," says Lord Lytton, in his delightful “ Caxtoniana,” “his (Shakspeare's) personal intimacies assisted to the perfection of his delineations of the manners and mind of the being we call gentleman-of a Bassanio, a Gratiano, a Benedick, an Orlando, a Mercutio, &c., not to speak of the incomparable art with which he retains to Falstaff, in despite of all the fat knight's rogueries, the character of the wit who has equality with princes.”
The date at which Shakspeare's first drama appeared is uncertain. That he was a renowned dramatist in 1591, Spenser's praise of him, published in that year, proves.
Rowe was not able to discover any character in which he was remembered, as an actor, except that of the Ghost in “ Hamlet ;” nevertheless, the instructions to the players in that tragedy show, how perfect was his knowledge of the histrionic art, and how perfect the taste which would have guided his own performance---probably too good for such rude spectators as those who assembled at the Globe, and who had hitherto been used to tragedies in King Cambyses' vein-all rant, murder, and horrors. In 1596 a great sorrow fell upon the poet ; his only son Hamnet died, at the age of eleven years ;-a bitter grief must it have been to one whose tenderness and warmth of affection appear from the concurrent testimony of his age to have been equal to his genius. Shakspeare was a good son, as well as a genial and generous friend. His parents shared his prosperity. He helped them with his influence and his purse ; redeemed his mother's mortgaged property in “Green Arden," andpurchasing a large and pleasant dwelling in his native place—brought his parents home to dwell there.
He did not yet, however, retire from the stage. He had a house in Southwark, which was his London home; his visits to Stratford were periods of rest and recreation, probably also of quiet literary labour. He continued purchasing property near his country home; manifesting prudence and common sense in affairs of the world ; and a sound discretion in all things.
It is supposed that Shakspeare quitted the stage finally in 1604, as his name Joes not appear on the list of players after the production of Ben Jonson's
Sejanus," in 1603. He had made a comfortable fortune, estimated by Gildon (in his Letters and Essays) at 300l. a year, equal to rather more than a thousand a year at the present day, and had then only attained the age of forty years.
And now, happy in cherishing the age of his parents, in seeing his daughter Susanna a happy wife and mother, and in entertaining his friends, Shakspeare passed twelve years of well-earned repose ; the darling alike of Nature and of Fortune.
He cultivated his land, planted the famous mulberry tree, and at this time published his exquisite Sonnets, which had, probably, been written in his youth. Such, at least, was the opinion of Coleridge, who says :-“These extraordinary sonnets form, in fact, a poem of fourteen lines each ; and, like the passion which inspired them, the sonnets are always the same, with a variety of expression,-continuous, if you regard the lover's soul,-distinct, if you listen to them, as he heaves them sigh after sigh. These sonnets, like the 'Venus and Adonis,' and the ‘Rape of Lucrece,' are characterised by boundless fertility and laboured condensation of thought, with perfection of sweetness in rhythm and metre. These are the essentials in the budding of a great poet. Afterwards habit and consciousness of power teach more ease.” He returned occasionally, however, to London, and was never forgotten by the noble friends his genius had secured. Lord Southampton-great from his personal qualities--styles him in a letter “my especial friend." Queen Elizabeth had honoured him with personal notice and favour ; James I. " was pleased with his own hand to. write an amicable letter to Master Shakspeare," and the testimony of his fellow-actors,-of his rivals, -and of the poets of the age, all tell how worthy Shakspeare was of love as well as of renown.
He who was “for all Time” did not fail, as we have seen, of winning the golden opinions of his own; and at the distance of nearly three hundred years from that grand period of our national story, we can still find no better words to eulogize him than his own :
“His life was gentle; and the elements
And say to all the world—This was a man!” There is a tradition that Shakspeare's death was hastened by the hospitable entertainment he bestowed on Ben Jonson and Drayton, who visited him shortly before his last illness; but it seems probable that he had been ill for some short time previously, as in the January of the year in which he “rested from his labours” his will was prepared; it was signed by him in the March preceding his death. He expired on his birth-day, April 23rd, 1616, aged 52, having secured, during his comparatively short life, an eternity of fame.
“ He was,” says Aubrey, who lived only twenty-six years after his death, "a handsome, well-shaped man, verie good company, and of a verie ready, pleasant, and smooth wit."
Shakspeare was buried with his ancestors on the north side of the chancel in the great Church of Stratford, and a monument was erected to his memory bearing the following Latin distich :
" Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
Terra tegit, populus maret, Olympus habet." On the gravestone in the pavement is the well-known inscription which appears (in conjunction with certain modern notions of making a show of all belonging to the poet) to have been a prophetic injunction
“Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear
And curst be he that moves my buues." In the year 1741 another monument was crected to his memory in Westminster Abbey (near the south door in Poets' Corner), under the direction of Pope, Lord Burlington, Dr. Mead, and Mr. Martyn. It was the work of Scheemaker after a design of Kent's.
The actors at each of the London theatres gave a benefit to help defray the expenses of it, (which were paid by the public,) and the Dean and Chapter of Westminster gave the ground.
“Anne Hathaway” survived her husband eight years. His favourite daughter, Susanna, married a physician, Dr. Hall, and left an only child, Elizabeth, who was married first to Mr. Nashe, and afterwards to Sir John Barnard, of Abingdon, Northamptonshire; she died childless. His younger daughter, Judith, married a Mr. Quiney, and had three children, all of whom died before they had reached the age of twenty. Consequently, with Lady Barnard expired the last descendant of Shakspeare.
To his country has descended the rich inheritance of his fame ; we should rather say, to the world; for wherever the tongue of England shall hereafter be spoken, the works of him who enriched and preserved it will descend, a fount of wisdom, wit, and poetry, of teaching and of pleasure, for all ages.
No writer ever so perfectly represented the entire genius of his country; hence probably he is so especially the idol of the people ; so completely identified with their modes of thought and feeling. He is an authority in all circumstances and events of life ; and they are fond of believing that things old and new, from the discoveries of his own day to those of the present, were dreamed of in the “ philosophy” of Shakspeare. The national pride in its great dramatist is well expressed in the sonorous and not inelegant compliment of Dr. Johnson :-
“When Learning's triumph o'er his barb'rous foes,
FROM THE ORIGINAL IN THE OFFICE OF THE PREROGATIVE COURT
Vicesimo quinto die Martii, Anno Regni Domini nostri Jacobi, nunc Regis Anglica, &c.,
decimo quarto, et Scotia quadragesimo nono. Anno Domini 1616.
In the name of God, Amen. I, William Shakspeare, of Stratford-upon-Avon in the county of Warwick, Gent., in perfect health and memory, (God be praised,) do make and ordain this my last will and testament, in manner and form following ;—that is to say:
First, I commend my soul into the hands of God my Creator, hoping, and assuredly believing, through the only merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour, to be made partaker of life everlasting; and my body to the earth, whereof it is made.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my daughter Judith one hundred and fifty pounds of lawful English money, to be paid unto her in manner and form following : that is to say, one hundred pounds in discharge of her marriage portion, within one year after my decease, with consideration after the rate of two shillings in the pound for so long time as the same shall be unpaid to her after my decease; and the fifty pounds residue thereof, upon her surrendering of, or giving of such sufficient security as the overseers of this my will shall like of, to surrender or grant all her estate and right that shall descend or come unto her after my decease, or that she now hath of, in, or to, one copyhold tenement, with the appurtenances, lying and being in Stratford-upon-Avon aforesaid, in the said county of Warwick, being parcel or holden of the manor of Rowington, unto my daughter Susannah Hall, and her heirs for ever.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my said daughter Judith one hundred and fifty pounds more, if she, or any issue of her body, be living at the end of three years next ensuing the day of the date of this my will, during which time my executors to pay her consideration from my decease according to the rate aforesaid : and, if she die within the said term, without issue of her body, then my will is, and I do give and bequeath one hundred pounds thereof to my niece, Elizabeth Hall; and the fifty pounds to be set forth by my executors during the life of my sister, Joan Hart, and the use and profit thereof coming, shall be paid to my said sister Joan, and after her decease the said fifty pounds shall remain amongst the children of my said sister, equally to be divided amongst them;
but if my said daughter Judith be living at the end of the said three years, or any issue of her body, then my will is, and so I devise and bequeath the said hundred and fifty pounds to be set out by my executors and overseers for the best benefit of her and her issue, and the stock not to be paid unto her so long as she shall be married and covert baron; but my will is, that she shall have the consideration yearly paid unto her during her life; and after her decease the said stock and consideration to be paid to her children, if she have any, and if not, to her executors or assigns, she living the said term after my decease; provided that if such husband as she shall at the end of the said three years be married unto, or at any [time] after, do sufficiently assure unto her, and the issue of her body, lands answerable to the portion by this my will given unto her, and to be adjudged so by my executors and overseers, then my will is, that the said hundred and fifty pounds shall be paid to such husband as shall make such assurance, to his own use.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my said sister Joan twenty pounds, and all my wearing apparel, to be paid and delivered within one year after my decease; and I do will and devise unto her the house, with the appurtenances, in Stratford, wherein she dwelleth, for her natural life, under the yearly rent of twelve pence.
Item, I give and bequeath unto her three sons, William Hart, Hart, and Michael Hart, five pounds a-piece, to be paid within one year after
decease. Item, I give and bequeath unto the said Elizabeth Hall, all my plate that I now have (except my broad silver and gilt bowl), at the date of this my will.
Item, I give and bequeath unto the poor of Stratford, aforesaid, ten pounds; to Mr. Thomas Combe, my sword; to Thomas Russell, Esq., five pounds; and to Francis Collins, of the borough of Warwick, in the county of Warwick, Gent., thirteen pounds six shillings and eightpence, to be paid within one year after my decease.
Item, I give and bequeath to Hamlet (Hamnet] Sadler twenty-six shillings eightpence, to buy him a ring; to William Reynolds, Gent., twenty-six shillings eightpence, to buy him a ring; to my godson William Walker, twenty shillings in gold; to Anthony Nash, Gent., twenty-six shillings eightpence; and to Mr. John Nash, twenty-six shillings eightpence; and to my fellows, John Hemynge, Richard Burbage, and Henry Cundell, twenty-six shillings eightpence a-piece, to buy them rings.
Item, I give, will, bequeath, and devise unto my daughter Susanna Hall, for the better enabling her to perform this my will, and towards the performance thereof, all that capital messuage or tenement, with the appurtenances, in Stratford aforesaid, called the New Place, wherein I now dwell, and two messuages or tenements with the appurtenances, situate, lying, and being in Henley Street, within the borough of Stratford aforesaid; and all my barns, stables, orchards, gardens, lands, tenements, and hereditaments whatsoever, situate, lying, and being, or to be had, received, perceived, or taken within the towns, hamlets, villages, fields, and grounds of Stratford-upon-Avon, Old Stratford, Bishopton, and Welcome, or in any of them, in the said county of Warwick; and also all that messuage or tenement, with the appurtenances, wherein one John Robinson dwelleth, situate, lying, and being in the Blackfriars in London, near the Wardrobe; and all other my lands, tenements, and hereditaments whatsoever;