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but of no less imperishable laurel than He exhibits, in their highest perfeche has gathered from any of his pre- tion, all the faculties of thinking, of eeding performances.
feeling, and of expression, which were (To be concluded in our next.) severally divided among the great
philosophers and poets of his country ; Shakspeare and his Times : includ- and he likewise affords us specimens ing' the Biography of the Poet; drivelling, which overflow the pages
of all the pedantry, buffoonery, and Criticisms on his Genius and Writ- of its minor writers. He possesses ings ; a new Chronology of his Pluys; a Disquisition on the Ob- the capacity, in short, of becoming ject of his Sonnets ; and a History whatever his humour inclines him to
at the moment; and he can either of the Manners, Customs, and Amusements, Superstitions, Poetry, the soundness and originality of Ba
make observations upon life with and Elegant Literature, of his Age.
con, or follow out into all their amazBy NATHAN DRAKE, M. D. Author of “Literary Hours," and of ing extent, his own peculiar powers
Essays on Periodical Literature." of tragic passion, or comic representa2 Vols. 4to. pp. 135—677. London, tion; or else give himself up to the Cadell and Davies. 1817.
trifling and absurdity of the lowest
and most despicable of his contemThe age of Shakespeare is, without poraries. It is this variety of exhidoubt, the most distinguished in Eng- bition, no less, perhaps, than his frelish literature. The genius of the quent unrivalled excellence, which nation then shot out in all its force has made this wonderful poet so uniand freedom, and if, in after times, versal a favourite ; and, in this view, its redundant branches were pruned we are really doubtful whether we away, and it assumed a character of should be inclined to part with any greater compactness and regularity, one line he has written, however preyet it has never since, in any depart- posterous and pitiful many parts of his ment, displayed equal vigour and fer- writings must be acknowledged to be. tility. This was, perhaps, the natu- Whatever they are, they are always ral effect of a sudden impulse to lite- pictures of his versatile and peculiar rary exertion in a state of society far genius; and, in another view, they advanced in the arts of life, and in are pictures of his age, so that, withthe powers of thought; but upon out' wading through the enormous which the gifts of composition seemed mass of writers whom Dr Drake has to descend by an unexpected inspira- enumerated in these volumes, we may tion. In such a conjuncture, almost almost find in Shakespeare himself a every one seems to think himself complete view of all the strength and qualified to write on any subject, and weakness of English literature in that in any manner, and is not deterred remarkable era. from making the attempt by the over- It is a very interesting inquiry, powering superiority or long acknow- however, what were the materials ledged models. Every one, too, who from which a genius of this chawrites, brings forward something from racter could be formed ; and we are his own stores, and the style of the much indebted to Dr Drake for the nation does not creep on in one cold fulness of detail with which he has and feeble strain of imitation. No entered upon this subject.
He one stands in awe of criticism, while has traced, in the manners and custhe writings of critics have not yet toms of the times, in the favourite acquired any higher authority than authors and branches of literature those of their contemporary authors; most in vogue, the description of the and, in the boldness of unshackled English mind at this period ; and we experiment, while inuch extravagance must return to the study of our faand bad taste will come into play, the vourite poet with much greater relish, best scope is likewise afforded for the when we see reflected from every page production of the highest efforts of of his writings the spirit and the pegenius.
culiarities of his nation. The facts This is pretty much the picture accumulated in this work are indeed of the age in which Shakespeare liv- too slightly connected, both with its ed; and he himself may be regard- great subject, and with one another. ed as the great epitome of his age. We feel the want of one pervading interest throughout. When we are world, under the heads of bibliography, brought into the presence of Shake- philology, criticism, history, romantic and speare, it is less to contemplate the miscellaneous literature, follows a view of character of his genius, than to listen the poetry of the same period, succeeded to a tedious special pleading concern- by a critique on the juvenile productions ing the probability or improbability of of Shakspeare, and including a biographi
cal sketch of Lord Southampton, and a some of the most unimportant events that are recorded of him; and when the sonnets. Of the immediately subse
new hypothesis on the origin and object of we quit him in pursuit of manners, quent description of diversions, &c. the usages, and contemporary writers, we
economy of the stage forms a leading feaforget the general design amidst a ture, as preparatory to a history of dramultiplicity of particulars. The work, matic poetry previous to the year 1590 ; in a word, is rather a dictionary to and this is again introductory to a discuswhich it is useful to refer than a book sion concerning the period when Shakto be read through in any continued speare commenced a writer for the theatre, method; and, although the author to a new chronology of his plays, and to a has divided its subjects under three criticism on each drama, a department heads of the biography of Shakespeare, the fairy mythology, the apparitions, the
which is interspersed with dissertations on it is little matter where we begin, or in what direction we proceed. It is portions of popular credulity, which had
witchcraft, and the magic of Shakspeare ; but just, however, that Dr Drake been, in reference to this distribution, should explain his own method: oiritted in detailing the superstitions of the “. With a view to distinctness and perspic country. The second part is then termicuity of elucidation,” he says in his pre-matic character,—by a brief view of dra
nated by a summary of Shakspeare's draface, " the whole has been distributed into three parts, or pictures, entitled, Shak. matic poetry during his connection with speare in Stratford ;-Shakspeare in Lon. the stage, and by the biography of the don ;—Shakspeare in Retirement : which, poet to the close of his residence in Lon. though inseparably united, as forming but don. The third and last of these delineaportions of the same story, and harmoniz- tions is unfortunately but too short, beed by the same means, have yet, both in ing altogether occupied with the few cirsubject and execution, a peculiar character cumstances which distinguish the last to support. The first represents our poet three years of the life of our bard, with in the days of his youth, on the banks of a review of his disposition and moral chahis native Avon, in the midst of rural racter, and with some notice of the first imagery, occupations, and amusements ;
tributes paid to his memory." in the second we behold him in the capital of his carintry, in the centre of rivalry and
Our readers will easily perceive that competition, and in the active pursuit of it is scarcely possible to give a short reputation and glory; and in the third, we precis of what Dr Drake has performaccompany the venerated bard to the shades ed in the course of his voyage over of retirement,—to the bosom of domestic this mare magnum ; and we will inpeace,-to the enjoyment of unsullied deed own, that we have not yet been fame. It has, therefore, been the business able to follow him through all his of the author, in accordancy with his plan, course. We have rather left the line of to connect these delineations with their his track altogether, and have hitherto relative accompaniments,—to incorporate, done little more than trace the biofor instance, with the first, what he had to graphy of the poet, where it can be relate of the country, as it existed in the age picked out from the vast mass of matof Shakspeare; its manners, customs, and characters; its festivals, diversions, and
ter with which it is encircled. That many of its superstitions ; opening and biography is, no doubt, most exclosing the subject with the biography of tremely meagre, and we do not think the poet, and binding the intermediate our author possesses the art of making parts, not only by a perpetual reference to it at all interesting, such as it is. The his drama, but by their own constant and example of conjectural history, origidirect tendency towards the developement nally set by Shakespeare's learned of the one object in view. With the se
commentators, and since carried to cond, which commences with Shakspeares such a pitch by Mr Godwin in his introduction to the stage as an actor, is Life of Chaucer, has woefully infected combined the poetic, dramatic, and gene- Dr Drake ; and we have long details ral literature of the times, together with an account of metropolitan manners and di. about the inspection of parish regisversions, and a full and continued criti. ters, and conjectures founded upou cism on the poems and plays of our bard. bits of painted glass, or manuscripts After a survey, therefore, of the literary discovered between the rafters and tiling of old houses, which would be seems at last to have fallen into reextremely tedious, if they were not duced circumstances, for it appears ludicrous from their absurdity. The (and we have this circumstance repostulate with which this class of peated over four or five times) that ten writers sets out is, that there is no- years after he had served the office of thing, however trifling, which can be high bailiff, he was excused the weekdiscovered concerning a remarkable ly payment of 4d. imposed upon the genius, which will not fully reward allermen, and was at last, upon the the pains of the discovery; but we plea of nonattendonce, dismissed the confess, that we are quite of a differ- corporation. So far we seem to be ent opinion. It is interesting, no proceeding on solid ground, when, bedoubt, to have any fact related, how- hod, it turns out, that one of the leadever unimportant it may be in itself, ing reasons for supposing Mr John concerning these great lights of the Shakespeare to have been a woolstapworld, and when we find a contem- ler, was the discovery of a bit of paintporary author telling us of the cut of ed glass in the house in which Shaketheir clothes, there is no doubt some- speare was born, with the arins of the thing delighttul in it. The lively woolstaple merchants upon it. Dr description given by old Fuller of the Drake is triumphant on this grand disdifference of the style of Shakespeare's covery, when, after recording it in the conversation from that of Ben Jon- text, he is obliged to confess in a note, son's, is almost the only thing that that this bit of glass had, it was now has been preserved concerning our known, been once in one of the church great poet, which gives us a picture of windows, from which it was purloinhim, -and that is charming, --but to ed by a glazier, who had come into be set running through all the parish possession of Shakespeare's dwelling!! registers of Stratford, to discover some There is another story, that John obscure name of some of his rela- Shakespeare was a butcher,-and our tions, or to have tedious conjectures author thinks it likely enough, that, concerning his early occupations, when in the decline of his fortune, he might there is not one distinct fact upon re- take not only to shcaring sheep, but to cord to bear them out, is, we must say, killing them. He was a mighty Roabout one of the lowest kinds of li- man Catholic, if a story be true of a terary trifling.
manuscript discovered in the roof of In the true style of this species of his house, called a spiritual will, in writing, the author gives us a long which he recommends himself to the set of conjectures about Mr John Virgin Mary and St Winifred, no less Shakespeare, the father of our poet- than to higher Beings. It is wonderwho, it appears, was a woolstapler in ful that Shakespeare's commentators Stratford upon Avon,-"and there is have not discovered in this religious reason to supposc, in a large way, for he relic the first idea of the ghost of was early chosen a member of the core Hamlet's father. Mr John there poration of his town, a situation usual- speaks of being cut off in the blosly connected with respectable circum- som of his sins,” and gives a hint at stances, and soon after he filled the purgatory, so much in the style of the office of high bailiff, or chief magis- ghost, that the coincidence can scarcetrate of the body.” This gentleman ly be quite accidental. We suspect, married the daughter and heir of Ro- however, that “ the fellow in the bert Arden of Wellingcote, in the cellarage” must take the precedence county of Warwick, and from this in point of time to the manuscript in union sprung our poet, on the 23d of the garret. Our author brings many April 1564. There is some uncer- other reasons to shew, that very protainty whether or no he was the eld- bably Mr John Shakespeare was a est son,-for in the parish register Roman Catholic,—and these, he adds, there is another John Shakespeare “are the very few circumstances which hinted at ; but truly it seems uncer- reiterated research has hitherto gleaned tain whether this second John is not relative to the father of our poet,-cirone and the same with the first,-if cumstances which, as being intimatethere was only one John (the father), ly connected with the history and then William Shakespeare is the eldest character of the son, have acquired an son (there are two daughters before interest of no common nature.” For him) of the family, consisting in all our part, we have so little sensibility of eleven. The excellent woolstapler as to see no interest in them whatever,
-nor do we care one farthing for the killed a ck, he would do it in a high next point to which our author pro- style, and make a speech.” Truly, ceeds, the long-contested question con- we are inclined to think this is the cerning the right spelling of the poet's true bill, and wonder at the dulness name, whether it is Shakespeare of the commentators, who do not see Shakespere, --Shakspeare,—Shaksper, it confirmed in Hamlet's answer to -or Shackspere. The poet, it seems, Polonius, when that great minister spells it in three or four different ways says, “I did enact Julius Cæsar: I in the course of his last will and tes- was killed i' the Capitol ; Brutus killtament; but the final signature seems ed me.”—“It was a brute part of him to be (for it is not very legible) Shak- to kill so capital a calf there.” Shakespeare; and, therefore, as this was the speare's plays shew likewise, it seems, after thought, we are rather to sup.. so minute a knowledge of the techpose it was the spelling he most ap- nicalities of the law, that nothing less proved of.
will satisfy Mr Malone, than he must Shakespeare's house, we admit, is also make an attorney of our poet; a more interesting subject of contem- and in order to get rid of an assertion plation than all these; and even of Aubrey's, that “ he had been in although it was despoiled of its old his younger years a schoolmaster in cak-chair by the Princess Czarto- the country,” that learned commentaryska, who visited it in 1790, and tor shews, that if he taught any thing bought this relic for 20 guineas, and it must have been the mysteries of carried it off we suppose to Russia, scrivening. Could Pope be so wickwhere it will be much like a fish out ed as to have an eye to our poet, of water, or the Elgin marbles at a when he says, “ Will sneaks a scridistance from Athens,--we should vener, an exceeding knave?” If, still enter under the lowly roof, with however, we are to go to Shakespeare's no slight emotion of reverence. Two dramas for proof of the profession years after Shakespeare was born, one which he followed, there is none un, half of his native town was depopu- der the sun which might not be aslated by the plague, but the disease cribed to him. Why not say he was did not reach the house in which his a great general, or a pious bishop, or infant genius was enshrinel, protect- a king, or a buffoon,-for in all these ed, as our author happily applies from characters, and in their phraseology, Horace,
and in a hundred more, he is equally
at home? Lauroque, collataque myrto,
Shakespeare married when he was Non sine Diis animosus infans.”
little more than eighteen. The lady It is known that he was sent to the was Anne Hathaway, daughter of free school of Stratford, where it is Richard Hathaway, a substantial supposed he acquired the small Latin yeoman residing at Shottery, a village and less Greek which Ben Jonson has about a mile distant from Stratford. attributed to him; and though never an Another chase is made through paadept in any of these languages, it rish registers, to find every thing aseems to be the reasonable conclusion bout her family, and with about as which our author has adopted, that much success as that sort of inquiry is he never entirely forgot them.-- What generally attended with. In her cotprofession did he follow? Here is tage, too, there were not long ago old another fine subject of conjecture. chairs and bedsteads. Mr Ireland His plays are ransacked to shew that bought Shakespeare's courting chair, he was well acquainted with the wool but the good old woman who then trade,--and even very tolerably with possessed the house would not part the butcher's business; and Dr Drake with her antique bed for love or accordingly concludes, that he was money. Another controversy follows, certainly engaged with his father in Whether this marriage was for love the first of these trades, and must or money? The lady, it seems, was at least have seen cattle killed ; but he eight years older than the poet,-and will not admit it as probable, that the Mr Theobald is, therefore, clear it poet, with his own hands, stuck a could not be a love match on his side. knife into the throats of sheep, or Mr Capel is of another opinion ; struck down oxen. Aubrey, however, and Dr Drake cannot bring himself to has left upon record, that, when Shake think that interest could sway Shake speare “ was a boy, he exercised his speare in so unpoetical a manner. father' trade," and that “ when he None of his verses to his sweet Anne
Page remain, and very possibly he heir of his invention." His earliest never wrote any; or, if they were drama, supposed to be Pericles, apno better than the little epigrams pearer in 1590 ; so that the Venus and satiric songs said to be written by and Adonis must have been written him at this time, they are quite as some years before it was published. well sunk in oblivion. One of these His last play, supposed the Twelfth precious relics is as follows :—“A Night, was written in 1613; and our drunken blacksmith, with a carbuncled poet soon after retired to his native face, reeling up to Shakespeare as he town, and resided in the bosom of his was leaning over a mercer's door, ex- family, seemingly quite satisfied with claimed, with much vociferation, the career of fame which he had run, “ Now, Mr Shakespeare, tell me, if you and, in the tower of his years, look
ing forward to no higher object than The difference between a youth and a the enjoyment of domestic happiness, young man;"
and the well-earned fruits of his inA question which immediately drew dustryHe lived in Stratford much from our poet the following reply:
respected ; and Mr Rowe tells us,
that “ his pleasurable wit and good“ Thou son of fire, with thy face like a nature engaged him in the acquaintmaple,
ance, and entitled him to the friend. The same difference as hetween a scalded ship, of the gentlemen of the neighand a coddled apple.”
bourhood.” A foolish story is told Shakespeare remained a few years of an ill-natured epigram made by at Stratford after his marriage, and him at this time on an old gentleman, begot sons and daughters,—when his Mr Combe, which we hope is not true quarrel with Sir Thomas Lucy occur- and, if it is, it is only one proof ared, in consequence of his stealing deer inong many, what silly things are refrom the baronet's park. A stanza of collected, if they happen to be put in his lampoon upon Sir Thomas is hand- rhyme, and repeated from mouth to ed down, in which the point turns on mouth, while, at the same time, the a play of words between Lucy and most interesting particulars of great lousy. He is supposed to have the men are totally lost and forgotten. baronet in his eye again in a similar There is a little memoranduin prestrain of wit in the beginning of the served in the notes of one Green, a Merry Wives of Windsor. It is be- relation of Shakespeare, respecting an lieved that this adventure hurried our inclosure, in which the poet had an poet's departure for London, where he interest, which is infinitely more to went about the year 1587, and entered the purpose, though, after all, it upon that mighty career which has contains nothing, except a proof that thrown so much glory upon his name the worthy poet did not neglect and country. He left his wife and common business; but any little anfamily behind bim, and seems, in- ecdote coming from the fountaindeed, never to have taken them to re- head, and not traced in the idle cirside with him in town ; but he paid cuitous way of Shakespeare's commenannual visits to Stratford, and an in- tators and biographers, has a freshcrease of his family was the common ness and vivacity about it that cannot consequence. This great and import- but delight, even although it is noant division of Shakespeare's life is, if thing superior to the following :possible, still barer of incident than “ Jovis 17. No. (1614.) My cosen the preceding. He was first employ- Shakspeare comyng yesterday to town, ed, some say, in the lowest offices a- I went to see him how he did. He bout the theatre ; he afterwards play- told me, that they (the parties wished in insignificant characters; and he ing to inclose) assured him they ment appears never to have reached any high- to inclose no further than to Gospel er than the Ghost in his own Hamlet. bush, and so upp straight (leaving out The common story is, that he was a p' of the Dyngles to the field) to the very indiiferent performer, though Dr gate in Clopton hedg, and take in SaDrake brings forward some laborious lisbury's peece, and that they mean in proots to the contrary. His first com- Aprill to støy, the land, and then to position was not dramatic. The Ve- gyve satisfaccion, and not before ; and nus and Adonis, though not published he and Mr Hall (Shakespeare's sontill 1593, he himself terms " the first in-law, probably present) say they