« PreviousContinue »
On his grave-ftone underneath
in the wall. 2
"Good friend,' for Jefus' fake forbear
itances that attended the death of our great poet.-From the 34th page of this book, which contains an account of a disorder under which his daughter Elizabeth laboured (about the year 1624,) and of the method of cure, it appears, that he was his only daughter; [Elizabeth Hall, filia mea unica, tortura oris defædata.] In the beginning of April in that year the visited London, and returned to Stratford on the 22d; an enterprise at that time" of great pith and moment."
While we lament that our incomparable poet was snatched from the world at a time when his faculties were in their full vigour, and before he was " declined into the vale of years," let us be thankful that " this sweetest child of Fancy" did not perish while he yet lay in the cradle. He was born at Stratford-uponAvon in April 1564; and I have this moment learned from the Regifter of that town that the plague broke out there on the 30th of the following June, and raged with fuch violence between that day and the last day of December, that two hundred and thirty-eight perfons were in that period carried to the grave, of which number probably 216 died of that malignant diftemper; and one only of the whole number refided, not in Stratford, but in the neighbouring town of Welcombe. From the 237 inhabitants of Stratford, whofe names appear in the Register, twentyone are to be fubducted, who, it may be presumed, would have died in fix 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 25, 1564, two hundred and twenty one-persons were buried at Stratford, of whom 210 were townfmen: that is, of these latter 42 died each year, at an average. Suppofing one in thirty-five to have died annually, the total number of the inhabitants of Stratford at that period was 1470; and confequently the plague in the last fix months of the year 1564 carried off more than a feventh 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 lift.-May we fuppofe, that, like Horace, he lay fecure and fearless in the midst of contagion and death, protected by the
Mufes to whom his future life was to be devoted, and covered
"Non fine Diis animofus infans." MALONE.
·where a monument is placed in the wall.] He is reprefented under an arch, in a fitting pofture, a cushion spread before him, with a pen in his right hand, and his left rested on a fcroll of paper. The following Latin distich is engraved under the cushion:
Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
The first fyllable in Socratem is here made fhort, which cannot be allowed. Perhaps we fhould read Sophoclem. Shakspeare is then appofitely compared with a dramatick author among the ancients: but till it fhould be remembered that the elogium is leffened while the metre is reformed; and it is well known that fome of our early writers of Latin poetry were uncommonly negligent in their profody, efpecially in proper names. The thought of this diftich, as Mr. Tollet obferves, might have been taken from The Faery Queene of Spenfer, B. II. c. ix. ft. 48, and c. x. ft. 3.
To this Latin infcription on Shakspeare should be added the lines which are found underneath it on his monument :
Stay, paffenger, why doft thou go so faft?
"Read, if thou canft, whom envious death hath plac'd
æt. 53, die 23 Apri. STEEVENS.
It appears from the Verfes of Leonard Digges, that our author's monument was erected before the year 1623. It has been engraved by Vertue, and done in mezzotinto by Miller.
A writer in The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. XXIX. p. 267, fays, there is as ftrong a resemblance between the buft at Stratford, and the portrait of our author prefixed to the first folio edition of his plays, "as can well be between a statue and a picture." To me (and I have viewed it several times with a good deal of attention) it appeared in a very different light. When I went laft to Stratford, I carried with me the only genuine prints of Shakspeare that were then extant, and I could not trace any refemblance between them and this figure. There is a pertnefs
n the countenance of the latter totally differing from that placid Compofure and thoughtful gravity, so perceptible in his original Portrait and his beft prints. Our poet's monument having been erected by his fon-in-law, Dr. Hall, the ftatuary probably had the affiftance of fome picture, and failed only from want of skill to copy it.
Mr. Granger obferves, (Biog. Hift. Vol. I. p. 259,) that "it has been faid there never was an original portrait of Shakspeare, but that Sir Thomas Clarges after his death caufed a portrait to be drawn for him from a person who nearly resembled him." This entertaining writer was a great collector of anecdotes, but not always very fcrupulous in inquiring into the authenticity of the information which he procured; for this improbable tale, I find, on examination, ftands only on the infertion of an anonymous writer in The Gentleman's Magazine, for Auguft, 1759, who boldly" affirmed it as an abfolute fact;" but being afterwards publickly called upon to produce his authority, never produced any. There is the strongest reason therefore to prefume it a forgery.
"Mr. Walpole (adds Mr. Granger) informs me, that the only original picture of Shakspeare is that which belonged to Mr. Keck, from whom it paffed to Mr. Nicoll, whofe only daughter married the Marquis of Caernarvon" [now Duke of Chandos].
From this picture, his Grace, at my requeft, very obligingly permitted a drawing to be made by that excellent artift Mr. Ozias Humphry; and from that drawing the print prefixed to the prefent edition has been engraved.
In the manufcript notes of the late Mr. Oldys, this portrait is faid to have been " painted by old Cornelius Janfen." "Others," he adds, "fay, that it was done by Richard Burbage the player;" and in another place he afcribes it to " John Taylor, the player." This Taylor, it is faid in The Critical Review for 1770, left it by will to Sir William D'Avenant. luckily there was no player of the chriftian and furname of John Taylor, contemporary with Shakfpeare. The player who performed in Shakspeare's company, was Jofeph Taylor. There was, however, a painter of the name of John Taylor, to whom in his early youth it is barely poffible that we may have been indebted for the only original portrait of our author; for in the Picture-Gallery at Oxford are two portraits of Taylor the WaterPoet, and on each of them" John Taylor pinx. 1655." There appears fome resemblance of manner between thefe portraits and the picture of Shakspeare in the Duke of Chandos's collection. That picture (I exprefs the opinion of Sir Joshua Reynolds) has not the leaft air of Cornelius Janfen's performances.
That this picture was once in the poffeffion of Sir Wm. D'Ave,
nant is highly probable; but it is much more likely to have been purchafed by him from fome of the players after the theatres were thut up by authority, and the veterans of the stage were reduced to great diftrefs, than to have been bequeathed to him by the person who painted it; in whofe cuftody it is improbable that it should have remained. Sir William D'Avenant appears to have died infolvent. There is no Will of his in the Prerogative-Office; but administration of his effects was granted to John Otway, his principal creditor, in May 1668. After his death, Betterton the actor bought it, probably at a publick fale of his effects. While it was in Betterton's poffeffion, it was engraved by Vandergucht, for Mr. Rowe's edition of Shakspeare, in 1709. Betterton made no will, and died very indigent. He had a large collection of portraits of actors in crayons, which were bought at the fale of his goods, by Bullfinch the Printseller, who fold them to one Mr. Sykes. The portrait of Shakspeare was purchafed by Mrs. Barry the actress, who fold it afterwards for 40 guineas to Mr. Robert Keck. In 1719, while it was in Mr. Keck's poffeffion, an engraving was made from it by Vertue: a large half-fheet. Mr. Nicoll of Colney-Hatch, Middlefex, marrying the heirefs of the Keck family, this picture devolved to him; and while in his poffeffion, it was, in 1747, engraved by Houbraken for Birch's Illuftrious Heads. By the marriage of the Duke of Chandos with the daughter of Mr. Nicoll, it be came his Grace's property.
Sir Godfrey Kneller painted a picture of our author, which he presented to Dryden, but from what picture he copied, I am unable to ascertain, as I have never feen Kneller's picture. The poet repaid him by an elegant copy of Verfes.-See his Poems, Vol. II. p. 231, edit. 1743:
Shakspeare, thy gift, I place before my fight,
"Bids thee, through me, be bold; with dauntless breast
"Like his, thy criticks in the attempt are loft,
"When most they rail, know then, they envy most." It appears from a circumftance mentioned by Dryden, that these verses were written after the year 1683: probably after Rymer's book had appeared in 1693. Dryden having made no will, and his wife Lady Elizabeth renouncing, administration was granted on the 10th of June, 1700, to his fon Charles, who was drowned in the Thames near Windsor in 1704. His younger
brother, Erafmus, fucceeded to the title of Baronet, and died without iffue in 1711; but I know not what became of his effects, or where this picture is now to be found.
About the year 1725 a mezzotinto of Shakspeare was scraped by Simon, faid to be done from an original picture painted by Zouft or Soeft, then in the poffeffion of T. Wright, painter, in Covent Garden. The earliest known picture painted by Zouft in England, was done in 1657; fo that if he ever painted a picture of Shakspeare, it must have been a copy. It could not however have been made from D'Avenant's picture, (unless the painter took very great liberties,) for the whole air, drefs, difpofition of the hair, &c. are different. I have lately feen a picture in the poffeffion of Douglas, Efq. at Teddington near Twickenham, which is, I believe, the very picture from which Simon's mezzotinto was made. It is on canvas, (about 24 inches by 20,) and fomewhat smaller than the life.
The earliest print of our poet that appeared, is that in the titlepage of the first folio edition of his works, 1623, engraved by Martin Droefhout. On this print the following lines, addreffed TO THE READER, were written by Ben Jonfon:
"This figure that thou here feest put,
O, could he but have drawn his wit
"His face, the print would then surpass
All that was ever writ in brass;
"But fince he cannot, reader, look
"Not on his picture, but his book."
Droefhout engraved also the heads of John Fox the martyrolog gift, Montjoy Blount, fon of Charles Blount Earl of Devonshire, William Fairfax, who fell at the fiege of Frankendale in 1621, and John Howfon, Bishop of Durham. The portrait of Bifhop Howfon is at Chrift Church, Oxford. By comparing any of these prints (the two latter of which are well executed) with the original pictures from whence the engravings were made, a better judgment might be formed of the fidelity of our author's portrait, as exhibited by this engraver, than from Jonfon's affertion, that “in this figure
66 the graver had a ftrife
a compliment which in the books of that age was paid to fo