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as soon as it shall be delivered and loosened from the prison of this my body, to be entombed in the sweet and amorous coffin of the side of Jesus Christ; and that in this life-giving sepulcher it may rest and live, perpetually enclosed in that eternall habitation of repose, there to blesse for ever and ever that direful iron of the launce, which, like a charge in a censore, formes so sweet and pleasant a monument within the sacred breast of my Lord and Saviour.
14. Ilem, Lastly I John Shakspear doe protest, that I will willingly accept of death in what manner soever it may befall me, conforming my will unto the will of God; accepting of the same in satisfaction for my sinnes, and giving thanks unto his Divine Majesty for the life he hath bestowed upon me. And if it please him to prolong or shorten the same, blessed be he also a thousand thousand times; into whose most holy hands I commend my soul and body, my life and death and I beseech him above all things, that he never permit any change to be made by me John Shakspear of this my aforesaid will and testament. Amen.
"I John Shakspeare have made this present writing of protestation, confession, and charter, in presence of the blessed Virgin Mary, my angell guardian, and all the celestial court, as witnesses hereunto: the which my meaning is, that it be of full value now presently and for ever with the force and vertue of testament, codicill, and donation in course of death; confirming it anew, being in perfect health of soul and body, and signed with mine own hand; carrying also the same about me, and for the better declaration hereof, my will and intention is that it be finally buried with me after my death.
If the intention of the testator, as expressed in the close of this will, were carried into effect, then, of course, the manuscript which Mosely found, must necessarily have been a copy of that which was buried in the grave of John Shakspeare.
Mr. Malone, to whom, in his edition of Shakspeare, printed in 1790, we are indebted for this singular paper, and for the history attached to it, observes, tha he is unable to ascertain whether it was drawn up by John Shakspeare the father, or by John his supposed eldest son; but he says, I have taken some pains to ascertain the authenticity of this manuscript, and, after a very careful inquiry, am perfectly satisfied that it is genuine." In the "Inquiry," however, which he published in 1796, relative to the Ireland papers, he has given us, though without assigning any reasons for his change of opinion, a very different result: "In my conjecture," he remarks, "concerning the writer of that paper, I certainly was mistaken; for I have since obtained documents that clearly prove it could not have been the composition of any one of our poet's family." +
In the " Apology" of Mr. George Chalmers "for the Believers in the Shaks peare-Papers," which appeared in the year subsequent to Mr. Malone's "Inquiry," a new light is thrown upon the origin of this confession. "From the sentiment, and the language, this confession appears to be," says this gentleman, "the effusion of a Roman Catholic mind, and was probably drawn up by some Roman Catholic priest. S If these premises be granted, it will follow, as a fair deduction, that the family of Shakspeare were Roman Catholics; a circumstance this, which is wholly consistent with what Mr. Malone is now studious to inculcate, viz. that this confession could not have been the composition of any of our poet's family.' The thoughts, the language, the orthography, all demonstrate the truth of my conjecture, though Mr. Malone did not perceive this truth, when he first published this paper in 1790. But it was the performance of a clerke, the undoubted work of the family-priest. The conjecture, that Shakspeare's family were Roman Catholics, is strengthened by the fact, that his father declined to attend the corporation meetings, and was at last removed from the corporate body."
'Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 199 et seq. Malone's Inquiry, p. 198, 199.
+ Ibid. p. 197.
As a specimen, let us take the beginning of this declaration of faith, and see still stronger terms in the conclusion of this protestation, confession, and charter.
The place too, the roof of the house, where this confession was found, proves, that it had been therein concealed, during times of persecution for the holy Catholic religion." Apology, p. 198, 199.
This conjecture of Mr. Chalmers appears to us in its leading points very plausible; for that the father of our poet might be a Roman Catholic is, if we consider the very unsettled state of his times with regard to religion, not only a possible but a probable supposition in which case, it would undoubtedly have been the office of the spiritual director of the family to have drawn up such a paper as that which we have been perusing. It was the fashion also of the period, as Mr. Chalmers has subsequently observed, to draw up confessions of religious faith, a fashion honoured in the observance by the great names of Lord Bacon, Lord Burghley, and Archbishop Parker.* That he declined, however, attending the corporation meetings of Stratford from religious motives, and that his removal from that body was the result of non-attendance from such a cause, cannot readily be admitted; for we have clearly seen that his defection was owing to pecuniary difficulties; nor is it, in the least degree, probable that, after having honourably filled the highest offices in the corporation without scruple, he should at length, and in a reign too popularly protestant, incur expulsion from an avowed motive of this kind; especially as we have reason to suppose, from the mode in which this profession was concealed, that the tenets of the person whose faith it declares were cherished in secret,
From an accurate inspection of the hand-writing of this will, Mr. Malone infers that it cannot be attributed to an earlier period than the year 1600, † whence it follows that, if dictated by, or drawn up at the desire of, John Shakspeare, his death soon sealed the confession of his faith; for, according to the register, he was buried on September 8th, 1601.
Such are the very few circumstances which reiterated research has hitherto gleaned relative to the father of our poet; circumstances which, as being intimately connected with the history and character of his son, have acquired an interest of no common nature. Scanty as they must be pronounced, they lead to the conclusion that he was a moral and industrious man; that when fortune favoured him, he was not indolent, but performed the duties of a magistrate with respectability and effect, and that in the hour of adversity he exerted every nerve to support with decency a numerous family.
Before we close this chapter, it may be necessary to state, that the very orthography of the name of Shakspeare has occasioned much dispute. Of Shakspeare the father, no autograph exists; but the poet has left us several, and from these, and from the monumental inscriptions of his family, must the question be decided; the latter, as being of the least authority, we shall briefly mention, as exhibiting, in Dugdale, three varieties,-Shakespeare, Shakespere, and Shakspeare. The former present us with five specimens which, singular as it may appear, all vary, either in the mode of writing or mode of spelling. The first is annexed to a mortgage executed by the poet in 1613, and appears thus, Wm Shakspea the second is from a deed of bargain and sale, relative to the same transaction, and of the same period, and signed, William Shaksper: the third, fourth and fifth are taken from the Will of Shakspeare executed in March, 1616, consisting of three briefs or sheets, to each of which his name is subscribed. These signatures, it is remarkable, differ considerably, especially in the surnames; for in the first brief we find William Shackspere; in the second, Willm Shakspe re, and in the third, William Shakspeare. It has been supposed, however, that, according to the practice in Shakspeare's time, the name in the first sheet was written by the scrivener who drew the will.
In the year 1790, Mr. Malone, from an inspection of the mortgage, pronounced the genuine orthography to be Shakspeare; in 1796, from consulting the deed of sale, he altered his opinion, and declared that the poet's own mode of spelling his name-was, beyond a possibility of doubt, that of Shakspere, though for reasons
Chalmer's Apology, p. 200. + Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 149.
Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 198.
which he should assign in a subsequent publication, he should still continue to write the name Shakspeare.*
To this decision, relative to the genuine orthography, Mr. Chalmers cannot accede; and for this reason, that, "when the testator subscribed his name, for the last time, he plainly wrote Shakspeare."+
It is obvious, therefore, that the controversy turns upon, whether there be, or be not, an a introduced in the second syllable of the last signature of the poet. Mr. Malone, on the suggestion cf an anonymous correspondent, thinks that there is not, this gentleman having clearly shown him, "that though there was a superfluous stroke when the poet came to write the letter r in his last signature, probably from the tremor of his hand, there was no a discoverable in that syllable; and that this name, like both the other, was written Shakspere." ‡
From the plate of autographs, which is to be found in Mr. Chalmer's Apology, and which presents us with very perfect fac-similes of the signatures, it is at once evident, that the assertion of the anonymous correspondent, that the last signature, "like both the other, was written Shakspere," cannot be correct; for the surname in the first brief is written Shackspere, and, in the second, Shakspe re. Now the hiatus in this second signature is unaccounted for in the fac-simile given by Mr. Malone S; but in the plate of Mr. Chalmers it is found to have been occasioned by the intrusion of the word the of the preceding line, a circumstance which, very probably, might prevent the introduction of the controverted letter. It is likewise, we think, very evident that something more than a superfluous stroke exists between the e and r of the last signature, and that the variation is, indeed, too material to have originated from any supposed tremor of the hand.
Upon the whole, it may, we imagine, be safely reposed on as a fact, that Shakspeare was not uniform in the orthography of his own name; that he sometimes spelt it Shakspere and sometimes Shakspeare; but that no other variation is extant which can claim a similar authority.** It is, therefore, nearly a matter of
Malone's Inquiry, p. 120.
Ibid. pp. 117, 118.
+ Chalmers's Apology, p. 235.
A want of uniformity in the spelling of names, was a species of negligence very common in the time of Shakspeare, and may be observed, remarks Mr. Chalmers, with regard to the principal poets of that age; as we may see in England's Parnassus, a collection of poetry which was published in 1600: thus,
Yet, it is remarkable, that in this collection of diversities, our dramatist's name is uniformly spelt Shakspeare: in whatever manner this celebrated name may have been pronounced in Warwickshire, it certainly was spoken in London, with the e soft, thus, Shakespeare: in the registers of the Stationers' Company, it is written, Shakespere, and Shakespeare." Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, pp. 129, 130.
A curious proof of the uncertain orthography of the poet's surname among his contemporaries and immediate successors, may be drawn from a pamphlet, entitled, "The great Assizes holden in Parnassus by Apollo and his Assessours: at which Sessions are arraigned, Mercurius Britannicus, etc. etc. London: Printed by Richard Cotes for Edward Husbands, and are to be sold at his shop in the Middle Temple. 1645. gto. 25 leaves.
In this rare tract, among the list of the jurors is found the name of our bard, written William Shakespeere; and in the body of the poem, it is given Shakespeare, and Shakespear. Vide British Bibliographer vol. i. p. 513.
indifference which of these two modes of spelling we adopt; yet, as his last signature appears to have included the letter a, it may, for the sake of consistency, be proper silently to acquiesce in its admission.
The House in which Shakspeare was born-Plague at Stratford, June 1564-Shakspeare educated at the Free-school of Stratford-State of Education, and of Juvenile Literature in the Country at this period-Extent of Shakspeare's acquirements as a Scholar.
THE experience of the last half century has fully proved, that every thing relative to the history of our immortal dramatist has been received, and received justly too, by the public with an avidity proportional to his increasing fame. What, if recorded of a less celebrated character, might be deemed very uninteresting, immediately acquires, when attached to the mighty name of Shakspeare, an importance nearly unparaleled. No apology, therefore, can be necessary for the introduction of any fact or circumstance, however minute, which is, in the slightest degree, connected with his biography; tradition, indeed, has been so sparing of her communications on this subject, that every addition to her little store has been hitherto welcomed with the most lively sensation of pleasure, nor will the attempt to collect and embody these scattered fragments be unattended with its reward. The birth-place of our poet, the spot where he drew the first breath of life, where Fancy
fed the little prattler, and with songs
Oft sooth'd his wond'ring ears,
has been the object of laudable curiosity to thousands, and happily the very roof that sheltered his infant innocence can still be pointed out. It stands in Henleystreet, and, though at present forming two separate tenements, was originally but one house. The premises are still in possession of the Hart family, now the seventh descendants, in a direct line, from Jone the sister of the poet. From the plate in Reed's Shakspeare, which is a correct representation of the existing state of this humble but interesting dwelling, it will appear, that one portion of it is occupied by the Swan and Maidenhead public-house, and the other by a butcher's shop, in which the son of old Mr. Thomas Hart, mentioned in the last chapter, still carries on his father's trade.† "The kitchen of this house," says Mr. Samuel
It is with some apprehension of imposition that I quote the following passage from Mr. Samuel Ireland's Picturesque Views on the River Avon. This gentleman, the father of the youth who endeavoured so grossly to deceive the public by the fabrication of a large mass of MSS which he attributed to Shakspeare, was undoubtedly, at the time he wrote this book, the complete dupe of his son; and though, as a man of veracity and integrity, to be depended upon with regard to what originated from himself, it is possible, that the settlement which he quotes may have been derived from the same ample store-house of forgery which produced the folio volume of miscellaneous papers, &c. This settlement, in the possession of Mr. Ireland, is brought forward as a proof that the premises in Henley-street were certainly in the occupation of John Shakspeare, the father of the poet; it is dated August 14th, third of Elizabeth, 1591, and Mr. Ireland professes to give the substance of it in the subseqent terms:-" "That George Badger, senior, of Stratford upon Avon, conveys to John and William Court, yeoman, and their heirs, in trust, &c. a messuage or tenement, with the appurtenances in Stratford upon Avon in a certain streete called Henley-streete, between the house of Robert Johnson on the one part, and the house of John Shakspeare on the other; and also two selions (i. e. ridges, or ground between furrows) of land lying between the land of Tomas Combe, Gent. on the one hand, and Thomas Reynolde, Gent, on the other. It is regularly executed, and livery of seisin on the 29th of the same month and year indorsed". P. 195, 196. See the title page of the first volume of Baudry's edition of Shakspeare's Complete Works. "In a lower room of this public-house." says Mr. Samuel Ireland, “which is part of the premises wherein Shakspeare was born, is a curious antient ornament over the chimney, relieved in plaister, which from the date, 1606, that was originally marked on it, was probably put up at the time, aud possibly by the
Ireland, "has an appearance sufficiently interesting, abstracted from its claim to notice as relative to the Bard. It is a subject very similar to those that so frequently employed the rare talents of Ostade, and therefore cannot be deemed unworthy the pencil of an inferior artist, In the corner of the chimney stood an old oak-chair, which had for a number of years received nearly as many adorers as the celebrated shrine of the Lady of Loretto. This relic was purchased, in July, 1790, by the Princess Czartoryska, who made a journey to this place, in order to obtain intelligence relative to Shakspeare; and being told he had often sat in this chair, she placed herself in it, and expressed an ardent wish to become a purchaser; but being informed that it was not to be sold at any price, she left a handsome gratuity to old Mrs. Hart, and left the place with apparent regret. About four months after, the anxiety of the Princess could no longer be withheld, and her secretary was dispatched express, as the fit agent, to purchase this treasure at any rate: the sum of twenty guineas was the price fixed on, and the secretary and chair, with a proper certificate of its authenticity on stamped paper, set off in a chaise for London." The elder Mr. Hart, who died about the year 1794, aged sixty-seven, informed Mr. Samuel Ireland, that he well remembered, when a boy, having dressed himself, with some of his playfellows, as Scaramouches (such was his phrase), in the wearing-apparel of Shakspeare; an anecdote of which, if we consider the lapse of time, it may be allowed us to doubt the credibility, and to conclude that the recollection of Mr. Hart had deceived him.
Little more than two months had passed over the head of the infant Shakspeare, when he became exposed to danger of such an imminent kind, that we have reason to rejoice he was not snatched from us even while he lay in the cradle. He was born, as we have already recorded, on the 23d of April, 1564; and on the 30th of the June following, the plague broke out at Stratford, the ravages of which dreadful disease were so violent, that between this last date and the close of December, not less than two hundred and thirty-eight persons perished;
"Of which number," remarks Mr. Malone, "probably two hundred and sixteen died of that malignant distemper; and one only of the whole number resided, not in Stratford, but in the neighbouring town of Welcombe. From the two hundred and thirty-seven inhabitants of Stratford, whose names appear in the Register, twenty-one are to be subducted, who, it may be presumed, would have died in six months, in the ordinary course of nature; for in the five preceding years, reckoning, according to the style of that time, from March 25, 1559, to March 26, 1564, two hundred and twenty-one persons were buried at Stratford, of whom two hundred and ten were townsmen; that is, of these latter, forty-two died each year at an average. Supposing one in thirty-five to have died annually, the total number of the inhabitants of Stratford at that period was one thousand four hundred and seventy; and consequently the plague, in the last six months of the year 1564, carried off more than a seventh part of them. Fortunately for mankind it did not reach the house in which the infant Shakspeare lay; for not one of that name appears in the dead list. May we suppose, that, like Horace, he lay secure and fearless in the
poet himself: although a rude attempt at historic presentation, I have yet thought it worth copying, as it has, I believe, passed unnoticed by the multitude of visitors that have been on this spot, or at least has never been made public and to me it was enough that it held a conspicuous place in the dwelling-house of one who is himself the ornament and pride of the island he inhabited. In 1759, it was repaired and painted in a variety of colours by the old Mr. Thomas Harte before-mentioned, who assured me the motto then round it had been in the old black letter, and dated 1606. The motto runs thus:
Golith comes with sword and spear,
Although Golith rage and sweare,
Down David doth him bring.”
Picturesque Views, p. 192, 193.
Picturesque Views, p. 189, 190. It is probable that Mr. Ireland, though, it appears, unconnected with the forgeries of his son, might, during his tour, be too eager in crediting the tales which were told him. One Jordan, a native of Alverton near Stratford, was for many years the usual cicerone to enquirers after Shakspeare, and was esteemed not very accurate in weighing the authenticity of the anecdotes which he related.