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circumstance well known in those times, which must have induced him to give this motley garb to his language-but what that circumstance was I could not discover until I accidentally, in a foreign literary journal, met with a review of a republication of that poem of Garnier at Paris, in which were inserted, as a specimen of the poem, a description of the appearance of the ghost of Admiral Coligny on the night after his murder at the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and in the following lines :
'Sans pieds, sans mains, sans nez, sans oreilles, sans yeux,
Tant cette vision étoit triste et horrible!'
"Here it immediately appeared to what author Shakspeare had gone for the archetype of his own description of the last stage of old age, which, by a parody on the above lines, he meant to represent like to that mutilated ghost; and this seems to indicate that he had read that poem in the original; for we even find the meurtri de toutes parts imitated by sans every thing. A friend of mine formerly mentioned this to Mr. Steevens, and he has briefly noticed this parody, if I recollect rightly, in his joint edition along with Johnson, but he did not copy the original lines of Garnier; nor so far as I know any editor since; which however are too remarkable to be altogether consigned to oblivion; and it is not very likely, that any Englishman will ever read through that long dull poem; neither should I myself have known of those lines, if they had not been quoted as a specimen. Steevens's note is so very brief as to be quite obscure in regard to what consequence he thought deducible from the imitation: he seems to suggest as if there might have been some English translation of the poem published, though now unknown; this is the constant refuge for Shakspeare's knowledge of any thing written originally in another language. But even if the fact were true, yet no translator would have preserved the repetition of that word sans; for this he must have gone to the French poem itself, therefore must at least have been able to read that line in French, if not also the whole description of the ghost; and if that, why not able also to read other French books? It may, indeed, be supposed, that some friend may have shown him the above description, and explained to him the meaning of the French lines, but this is only to make a second supposition in order to support a former one made without sufficient foundation: we may just as well make a single supposition at once, that he was himself able to read and understand it, since he has evidently derived from it his own description of the decrepitude of old age. Upon the whole, if his copy of a single word from Holinshed, viz. ' on this side Tiber,' is a proof of his having read that historian, why also is not his copy of the repetition of sans, and his parody of Coligny's ghost, an equally good proof of his having read the poem of Garnier in the original French language? To reason otherwise is to say, that when he gives us bad French, this proves him not to understand it; and that when he gives us good French, applied with propriety and even with ingenuity, yet this again equally proves that he neither understood what he wrote, nor was so much as able to read the French lines, which he has thus so wittily imitated." †
Dr. Farmer has himself granted that Shakspeare began to learn Latin: why then not allow, from premises still more copious and convincing, that he began likewise to learn French and Italian? That he wanted not inclination for the attempt, the frequent use of these languages in his works will sufficiently evince; that he had some leisure at the period which we have appropriated to these acquisitions, namely, between the years 1576 and 1582, few will be disposed to deny; and that he had books which might enable him to make some progress in these studies, the following list will ascertain :
1. A Treatyse English and French right necessary and profitable for all young Children. 1560. 2. Principal Rules of the Italian Grammar, &c. Newly corrected and imprinted by Wykes : 1560, reprinted 1567.
3. The Italian Grammar and Dictionary: By W. Thomas.
4. Lentulo's Italian Grammar, put into English: By Henry Grenthem. 1578.
5. Ploiche, Peter, Introduction to the French Tongue: 1578.
6. An Alvearie, or Quadruple Dictionarie, containing foure sundrie tongues : namelie,
English, Latine, Greeke, and French: By 1. Baret. 1580.
• This notice does not appear in the Variorum edition of I803.
Censura Literaria, vol. ix. p. 287, et seq.
Vide Chalmers's Apology, p. 549, and Bibliotheca Reediana p. 9.
In short, with regard to the literature of Shakspeare, the nearest approximation to the truth will be found to arise from taking a medium course between the conclusions of Dr. Farmer, and of those who have gone into a contrary extreme. That he had made some and that the usual progress in the Latin language during the short period of his school-education, it is, we think, in vain to deny; but that he ever attained the power of reading a Roman classic with facility, cannot with any probability be affirmed; it will be likewise, we are disposed to believe, equally rational and correct, if we conclude, from the evidence which his genius and his works afford, that his acquaintance with the French and Italian languages was not merely confined to the picking up a familiar phrase or two from the conversation or writings of others, but that he had actually commenced, and at an early period too, the study of these languages, though, from his situation, and the circumstances of his life, he had neither the means nor the opportunity of cultivating them to any considerable extent.
Since these observations were written, a work has fallen into my hands under the title of "A Tour in Quest of Genealogy, through several parts of Wales, Somersetshire, and Wiltshire, in a Series of Letters to a Friend in Dublin; interspersed with a description of Stourhead and Stonehenge; together with various Anecdotes and curious Fragments from a Manuscript Collection ascribed to Shakspeare. By a Barrister." London, 1811.
These manuscripts ascribed to Shakspeare, which, from the language and sentiment of almost every line, are manifestly a mere fiction, are said to have been purchased at an auction at Carmaerthen, consisting of verses and letters that passed between Shakspeare and his mistress Anne Hatheway, together with letters to and from him and others, a journal of Shakspeare, an account of many of his plays, memoirs of his life by himself, &c. I have mentioned the publication in this place, as it is worthy of remark, that the fabricator of these MSS., whoever he is, appears to have entertained an idea similar to my own, with regard to the period when our poet attempted the acquisition of the modern languages; for of the supposed memoirs said to be written by Shakspeare himself, the following, among others, is given as a specimen :
"Having an ernest desier to lerne forraine tonges, it was mie good happ to have in mie fathere's howse an Italian, one Girolama Albergi, tho he went bye the name of Francesco Manzini, a dier of woole; but he was not what he wished to passe for; he had the breedinge of a gentilman, and was a righte sounde scholer. It was he taught me the littel Italian I know, and rubbed up my Latten; we redd Bandello's Novells together, from the which I gatherid some delliceous flowres to stick in mie dramattick poseys. He was nevew to Battisto Tibaldi, who made a translacion of the Greek poete, Homar, into Italian; he showed me a coppy of it given him by his kinsman, Ercole Tibaldi " P. 202.
I must do the author of this literary forgery, however, the justice to say, that in taste and genius he is immeasurably beyond his youthful predecessor, and that some of the verses ascribed to Anna Hatheway, as he terms her, possess no inconsiderable beauties. It is most extraordinary, however, that any individual should venture to bring forward the following lines, which are exquisitely modern in their structure, as the production of a cottage girl of the sixteenth century.
Shakspeare married to Anue Hathaway-Account of the Hathaways-Cottage at Shottery-Birth of his eldest Child, Susanna-Hamnet and Judith baptized-Anecdote of Shakspeare-Shakspeare apparently settled in the Country.
SHAKSPEARE married and became the father of a family at a very early period; at a period, indeed, when most young men, even in his own days, had only completed their school-education. He had probably been attached also to the object of his affections, who resided very near to him, for a year or two previous to the nuptial connection, which took place in 1582; and Mr. Malone is inclined to believe that the ceremony was performed either at Hampton-Lacy, or at Billesley, in the August of that year,* when consequently the poet had not attained the age of eighteen and a half!
The maiden name of the lady who had induced her lover to enter thus early on the world, with little more than his passion to console, and his genius to support them, was Anne Hathaway, the daughter of Richard Hathaway, a substantial yeoman, residing at Shottery, a village about a mile distant from Stratford. It appears also from the tomb-stone of his mistress + in the church of Stratford, that she must have been born in 1556, and was therefore eight years older than himself.
Of the family of the Hathaways, little now, except the record of a few deaths and baptisms, can be ascertained with precison: in the register-books of the parish of Stratford, the following entry, in all probability, refers to the father of the poet's wife: Johanna, daughter of Richard Hathaway, otherwise Gardiner, of Shottery, was baptized May 9, 1596." ‡
As the register does not commence before 1558, the baptism of Anne could not of course be included; but it appears that the family of this Richard was pretty numerous, for Thomas his son was baptized at Stratford, April 12, 1569; John, another son, Feb. 3. 1574; and William, another son, Nov. 39, 1578. § Thomas died at Stratford in 1654-5, at the advanced age of eighty-five. That the Hathaways have continued resident at Shottery and the neighbourhood, down to the present age, will be evident from the note below, which records their deaths to the year 1785, as inscribed on the floor, in the nave and aisle of Stratford church. ++
The cottage at Shottery, in which Anne and her parents dwelt, is said to be yet standing, and is still pointed out to strangers as a subject of curiosity. It is now impossible to substantiate the truth of the tradition; but Mr. Ireland, who has given a sketch of this cottage in his Picturesque Views on the Avon, observes,
"It is still occupied by the descendants of her family, who are poor and numerous. same humble cottage I was referred when pursuing the same inquiry, by the late Mr. Harte, of
*Reed's Shakspeare, vol i. p. 139, note 4.
Heere Lyeth Interrid The Bodye of Anne, Wife of Mr. William Shakspeare, Who Depted. This Life The 6th Day of Avgvst, 1623, Being of The Age of 67 Yeares."-Wheler's Stratford, p. 76. § Ibid. p. 134. Note by Malone.
Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 133.
** Ibid. p. 128. ++"Richard Hathaway, of Shottery, died 15th April, 1692. Robert Hathaway died 4th March, 1728, aged 64. Edmund Hathaway died 14th June, 1729, aged 57. Jane his wife died 12th Dec. 1729, aged 64. John Hathaway died 11th Oct. 1731, aged 39. Abigail, wife of John Hathaway, jun. of Luddington, died 5th of May, 1735, aged 29. Mary her daughter died 13th July, 1735, aged 10 weeks. Robert Hathaway, son of Robert and Sarah Hathaway, died the 1st of March, 1723, aged 21. Ursula, wife of John Hathaway, died the 23d of Janry, 1731, aged 50. John Hathaway, sen. died the 5th of Sept. 1753, aged 73. John Hathaway, of Haddington, died the 23d of June, 1775, aged 67. S. H. 1756. S. H. 1785.”—Wheler's History and Antiquities of Stratford-upon-Avon, p 55.
Stratford, before-mentioned. He told me there was an old oak chair, that had always in his remembrance been called Shakspeare's courting chair, with a purse that had been likewise his, and handed down from him to his grand-daughter Lady Bernard, and from her through the Hathaway family to those of the present day. From the best information I was able to collect at the time, I was induced to consider this account as authentic, and from a wish to obtain the smallest trifle appertaining to our Shakspeare, 1 became a purchaser of these relics. Of the chair I have here given a sketch: it is of a date sufficiently ancient to justify the credibility of its history; and as to farther proof, it must rest on the traditional opinion and the character of this poor family. The purse is about four inches square, and is curiously wrought with small black and white bugles and beads; the tassels are of the same materials. The bed and other furniture in the room where the chair stood, have the appearance of so high antiquity, as to leave no doubt but that they might all have been the furniture of this house long before the time of Shakspeare.
"The proprietor of this furniture, an old woman upwards of seventy, had slept in the bed from her childhood, and was always told it had been there since the house was built. Her absolute refusal to part with this bed at any price was one of the circumstances which led to a persuasion that I had not listened with too easy credulity to the tale she told me respecting the articles I had purchased. By the same person I was informed, that at the time of the Jubilee, the late George Garrick obtained from her a small inkstand, and a pair of fringed gloves, said to have been worn by Shakspeare.'
Of the personal charms of the poet's mistress nothing has been transmitted to us by which we can form the smallest estimate, nor can we positively ascertain whether convenience, or the attraction of a beautiful form, was the chief promoter of this early connection. Mr. Rowe merely observes, that, "in order to settle in the world after a family-manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very † young" language which seems to imply that prudence was the prime motive with the youthful bard. Theobald proceeds still further, and declares "it is probable, a view of interest might partly sway his conduct in this point for he married the daughter of a substantial yeoman in his neighbourhood, and she had the start of him in age no less than eight years." Capell, on the contrary, thinks that the marriage was contracted against the wishes of his father, whose displeasure was the consequence of their union. S
A moment's consideration of the character of Shakspeare will induce us to conclude that interest could not be his leading object in forming the matrimonial tie.
In no stage of his subsequent life does a motive of this kind appear strongly to have influenced him; and it is well known, from facts which we shall have occasion shortly to record, that his juvenility at Stratford was marked rather by carelessness and dissipation, than by the cool calculations of pecuniary wisdom. In short, to adopt, with slight variation, a line of his own, we may confidently assert that at this period,
"Love and Liberty crept in the mind and marrow of his youth."
Timon of Athens.
Neither can we agree with Mr. Capell in supposing that the father of our bard was averse to the connection; a supposition which he has built on the idea of old Mr. Shakspeare being "a man of no little substance," and that by this marriage of his son he was disappointed in a design which he had formed of sending him to a University! ** Now it has been proved that John Shakspeare was, at this period, if not in distressed yet in embarrassed circumstances, and that neither the school-education of his son, nor his subsequent employment at home, could be such as was calculated in any degree to prepare him for an academical life.
We conclude, therefore, and certainly with every probability on our side, that the young poet's attachment to Anne Hathaway was not only perfectly disinterested, but had met likewise with the approbation of his parents. This will appear
* Ireland's Views, p. 206–209. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 193. Ibid. vol. i. . 193
Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. P 60.
with more verisimilitude if we consider, in the first place, that though his bride were eight years older than himself, still she could be but in her twenty-sixth year, an age compatible with youth, and with the most alluring beauty; secondly, it does not appear that the finances of young Shakspeare were in the least improved by the connection; and thirdly, we know that he remained some years at Stratford after his marriage, which it is not likely that he would have done, had he been at variance with his father.
It is to be regretted, and it is indeed somewhat extraordinary, that not a fragment of the bard's poetry, addressed to his Warwickshire beauty, has been rescued from oblivion; for that the muse of Shakspeare did not lie dormant on an occasion so propitious to her inspiration we must believe, both from the custom of the times, and from his own amatory disposition. He has himself told us that "Never durst poet touch a pen to write,
Until his ink were temper'd with love's sighs."
Love's Labour's Lost. Act iv. sc. 3.
and we have seen that an opportunity for qualification was very early placed within his power. That he availed himself of it, there can be no doubt; and had his effusions, on this occasion, descended to posterity, we should, in all probability, have been made acquainted with several interesting particulars relative to his early life and character, and to the person and disposition of his mistress.
Our ignorance on this subject, however, would have been compensated, had any authentic documents been preserved relative to his establishment at Stratford, in consequence of his marriage; but of his business, or professional employment, no information, or tradition to be depended upon, has reached us. We can only infer, from the evidence produced in the preceding chapter, and from the necessity, which must now have occurred, of providing for a family-establishment, that if, as we have reason to conclude, he had entered on the exercise of a branch of the manorial law, previous to his marriage, and with a view towards that event, he would, of course, be compelled, from prudential motives, to continue that occupation, after he had become a householder, and most probably to combine with it the business of a woolstapler, either on his own separate interest, or in concert with his father.
If any further incitement were wanting to his industry, it was soon imparted; for, to the claims upon him as a husband, were added, during the following year, those which attach to the name of a parent; his eldest child, Susanna, being born in May, 1538, and baptized on the 26th of the same month. Thus, scarcely had our poet completed his nineteenth year, when the most serious duties of life were imperiously forced upon his attention, under circumstances perhaps of narrow fortune not altogether calculated to render their performance easy and pleasant; a situation which, on a superficial view, would not appear adapted to afford that Jeisure, that free and unencumbered state of intellect, so necessary to mental exertion; but with Shakspeare the pressure of these and of pecuniary difficulties served only to awaken that energy and elasticity of mind, which, ultimately directing his talents into their proper channel, called forth the brightest and most successful emanations of a genius nearly universal.
The family of the youthful bard gathered round him with rapidity; for, in 1584-5, it was increased by the birth of twins, a son and daughter, named Hamnet and Judith, who were baptized on February the 2d, of the same year.
The boy was christened by the name of Hamnet in compliment to his godfather Mr. Hamnet Sadler, and the girl was called Judith, from a similar deference to his wife, Mrs. Judith Sadler, who acted as her sponsor. Mr. Hamnet or
* Building on the high credibility of Shakspeare having employed his poetical talents, at this period, on the subject nearest to his heart, two ingenious gentlemen have been so obliging as not only to furnish him with words on this occasion, but to offer these to the world as the genuine product of his genius. It is scarcely necessary to add, that I ́allude to the Shakspeare Papers of young Ireland; and to a Tour in Quest of Genealogy, by a Barrister.