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ferior to her in the arts of government and in some of the great characters of mind might be her Scottish successor, he resembled her in his love of letters, and in his own cultivation of learning. He was a scholar, and even a poet: his attachment to the general cause of literature was strong; and his love of the drama and the theatre was particularly warm. Before his accession to the English throne he bad written, as we have before noticed, a letter, with his own hand, to Shakspeare, acknowledging, as it is supposed, the compliment paid to him in the noble scenes of Macbeth ; and scarcely bad the crown of England fallen upon his head, when he granted his royal patent to our Poet and his company of the Globe; and thus raised them from being the Lord Chamberlain's servants to be the servants of the King. The patent is dated on the 19th of May 1603, and the name of William Shakspeare stands second on the list of the patentees. As the demise of Elizabeth bad occurred on the 24th of the preceding March, this early attention of James to the company of the Globe may be regarded as bigbly complimentary to Shakspeare's theatre, and as strongly demonstrative of the new sovereign's partiality for the drama. But James's patronage of our Poet was not in any other way beneficial to his fortunes. If Elizabeth were too parsimonious for an effective patron, by his profusion on his pleasures and his favorites, James soon became too needy to possess the means of bounty for the reward of talents and of learning. Honour, in short, was all that Shakspeare gained by the favour of two successive sovereigns, each of them versed in literature, each of them fond of the drama, and each of them capable of appreciating the transcendency of his genius.
It would be especially gratifying to us to exhibit to our readers some portion at least of the personal bistory of this illustrious man during his long residence in the capital;—to announce the names and characters of his associates, a few of which only we can obtain from Fuller; to delineate his habits of life; to reoord his convivial wit; to commemorate the books which he read;
and to number his compositions as they dropped in succession from his pen. But no power of this nature is indulged to us. All that active and efficient portion of his mortal existence, which constituted considerably more than a third part of it, is an unknown region, not to be penetrated by our most zealous and intelligent researches. It may be regarded by us as a kind of central Africa, which our reason assures us to be glowing with fertility and alive with population; but which is abandoned in our maps, from the ignorance of our geographers, to the death of barrenness, and the silence of sandy desolation. By the Stratford register we can ascertain that his only son, Hamnet, was buried, in the twelfth year of his age, on the 11th of August 1596; and that, after an interval of nearly eleven years, bis eldest daughter, Susanna, was married to Jobn Hall, a physician, on the 5th of June 1607. With the exception of two or three purchases made by him at Stratford, one of them being that of New Place, which he repaired and ornamented for his future residence, the two entries which we have now extracted from the register, are positively all that we can relate with confidence of our great Poet and his family, during the long term of bis connexion with the theatre and the metropolis. We may fairly conclude, indeed, that he was present at each of the domestic events, recorded by the register: that he attended his son to the grave, and his daughter to the altar. We may believe also, from its great probability, even on the testimony of Aubrey, that he paid an annual visit to his native town; whence his family were never removed, and which he seems always to have contemplated as the resting place of his declining age. He probably had nothing more than a lodging in London, and this he might occasionally change: but in 1596 he is said to have lived somewhere near to the Bear-Garden in Southwark.
In 1606, James procured from the continent a large importation of mulberry trees, with a view to the establishment of the silk manufactory in his dominions; and, either in this year or in the following, Shakspeare enriched his garden at New Place with one of these exotic, and at that time, very rare trees. This plant of bis hand took root, and flourished till the year 1752, when it was destroyed by the barbarous axe of one Francis Gastrell, a clergyman, into whose worse than Gothic hands New Place had most unfortunately fallen.
As we are not told the precise time, when Shakspeare retired from the stage and the metropolis to enjoy the tranquillity of life in bis native town, we cannot pretend to determine it. As he is said, however, to have passed some years in his establishment at New Place, we may conclude that his removal took place either in 1612 or in 1613, when he was yet in the vigour of life, being not more than forty-eight or forty-nine years old. He bad ceased, as it is probable, to tread the stage as an actor at an earlier period; for in the list of actors, prefixed to the Volpone of B. Jonson, performed at the Globe theatre, and published in 1605, the name of W. Shakspeare is not to be found. However versed he might be in the science of acting, (and that he was versed in it we are assured by his directions to the players in Hamlet) and, however well he might acquit himself in some of the subordinate characters of the drama, it does not appear that he ever rose to the higher honours of his profession. But if they were above his attainment, they seem not to have been the objects of bis ambition; for by one of his sonnets * we find that he lamented the fortune which had devoted him to the stage, and that he considered himself as degraded by such a public exhibition. The time was not yet come when actors were to be the companions of princes: when their lives, as of illustrious men, were to be written; and when statues were to be erected to them by public contribution ! · The amount of the fortune, on wbich Shakspeare retired from the busy world, has been the subject of some discussion. By Gildon, who forbears to state his authority, this fortune is valued at 300l. a year; and by Malone, who, calculating our Poet's real property from authentic documents, assigns a random value to his
* See Sonnet cxi.
personal, it is reduced to 2001. Of these two valuations of Shakspeare's property, we conceive that Gildon's approaches the more nearly to the truth : for if to Malone's conjectural estimate of the personal property, of which he professes to be wholly ignorant, be added the thousand pounds, given by Southampton, (an act of munificence of which we entertain not a doubt) the precise total, as money then bore an interest of 10l. per cent., of the three hundred pounds a year will be made up. On the smallest of these incomes, however, when money was at least of five times its present value, might our Poet possess the comforts and the liberalities of life: and in the society of his family, and of the neighbouring gentry, conciliated by the amiableness of his manners and the pleasantness of his conversation, he seems to have passed his few remaining days in the enjoyment of tranquillity and respect. So exquisite, indeed, appears to have been his relish of the quiet, which was his portion within the walls of New. Place, that it induced a complete oblivion of all that had engaged his attention, and had aggrandized his name in the preceding scenes of his life. Without any regard to his literary fame, either present or to come, he saw.with perfect unconcern some of his immortal works brought, mutilated and deformed, in surreptitious copies, before the world; and others of them, with an equal indifference to their fate, he permitted to remain in their unrevised or interpolated MSS. in the hands of the theatric prompter. There is not, probably, in the whole compass of literary history, such another instance of a proud superiority to what has been called by a rival genius,
“ The last infirmity of noble minds," as that which was now exhibited by our illustrious dramatist and poet. He seemed
" As if he could not or he would not find,
How much his worth transcended all his kind *.” With a privilege, rarely indulged even to the sons of
* Epitaph on a Fair Maiden Lady, by Dryden.
genius, he had produced his admirable works without any throes or labour of the mind: they had obtained for him all that he had asked from them,—the patronage of the great, the applause of the witty, and a competency of fortune adequate to the moderation of his desires. Having fulfilled or, possibly, exceeded his expectations, they had discharged their duty; and he threw them altogether from his thought; and whether it were their destiny to emerge into renown, or to perish in the drawer of a manager; to be brought to light in a state of integrity, or to revisit the glimpses of the moon with a thousand mortal murders on their head, engaged no part of his solicitüde or interest. They had given to him the means of easy life, and he sought from them nothing more. This insensibility in our Author to the offspring of his brain may be the subject of our wonder or admiration : but its consequences have been calamitous to those who in after times have hung with delight over his pages. On the intellect and the temper of these ill-fated mortals it has inflicted a heavy load of punishment in the dulness and the arrogance of commentators and illustrators. in the conceit and petulance of Theobald ; the imbecillity of Capell; the pert and tasteless dogmatism of Steevens; the ponderous littleness of Malone and of Drake. Some superior men, it is true, have enlisted themselves in the cause of Shakspeare. Rowe, Pope, Warburton, Hanmer, and Johnson have successively been bis editors; and have professed to give his scenes in their original purity to the world. But from some cause or other, wbich it is not our present business to explore, each of these editors, in his turn, has disappointed the just expectations of the public; and, with an inversion of Nature's general rule, the little men have finally prevailed against the great. The blockheads have hooted the wits from the field; and, attaching themselves to the mighty body of Sbakspeare, like barnacles to the bull of a proud man of war, they are prepared to plough with him the vast ocean of time; and thus, by the only means in their power, to snatch themselves from that oblivion to which Nature had de