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voted them. It would be unjust, however, to defraud these gentlemen of their proper praise. They have read for men of talents; and, by their gross labour in the mine, they have accumulated materials to be arranged and polished by the hand of the finer artist. · Some apology may be necessary for this short digression from the more immediate subject of my biography. But the three or four years, which were passed by Sbakspeare in the peaceful retirement of New Place are not distinguished by any traditionary anecdote deserving of our record; and the chasm may not improperly be supplied with whatever stands in contiguity with it. I should pass in silence, as too trifling for notice, the story of our Poet's extempore and jocular epitaph on John Combe, a rich townsman of Stratford, and a noted money-lender, if my readers would not object to me that I had omitted an anecdote which had been honoured with a place in every preceding biography of my author. As the circumstance is related by Rowe, “ In a pleasant conversation among their common friends, Mr. Combe told Shakspeare, in a laughing manner, that he fancied he intended to write his epitaph if he happened to outlive him; and, since he could not know what might be said of him when he was dead, he desired it might be done immediately: upon which Shakspeare gave him these four verses :
Ten in the hundred lies here ingraved :
But the sharpness of the satire is said to have stung the man so severely that he never forgave it." By Aubrey the story is differently told; and the lines in question, with some alterations, which evidently make them worse, are said to have been written after Combe's death. Steevens and Malone discredit the whole tale. The two first lines, as given to us by Rowe, are unquestionably not Shakspeare's; and that any lasting enmity subsisted between these two burghers of Stratford is
disproved by the respective wills of the parties, John *Combe bequeathing five pounds to our Poet, and our Poet leaving his sword to John Combe's nephew and residuary legatee, John Combe bimself being at that time deceased. With the two commentators abovementioned, I am inclined, therefore, on the whole, to reject the story as a fabrication; though I cannot, with Steevens, convict the lines of malignity; or think, with him and with Malone, that the character of Shakspeare, on the supposition of his being their author, could require any laboured vindication to clear it from stain. In the anecdote, as related by Rowe, I can see nothing but a whimsical sally, breaking from the mind of one friend, and of a nature to excite a good-humoured smile on the cheek of the other. In Aubrey's hands, the transaction assumes a somewhat darker complexion; and the worse verses, as written after the death of their subject, may justly be branded as malevolent, and as discovering enmity in the heart of their writer. But I have dwelt too long upon a topic which, in truth, is undeserving of a syllable; and if I were to linger on it any longer, for the purpose of exhibiting Malone's reasons for his preference of Aubrey's copy of the epitaph to Rowe's, and his discovery of the propriety and beauty of the single Ho in the last line of Aubrey's, as Ho is the abbreviation of Hobgoblin, one of the names of Robin Good-fellow, the fairy servant of Oberon, my readers would have just cause to complain of me as sporting with their time and their patience.
On the 9th of July 1614, Stratford was ravaged by a fire, which destroyed fifty-four dwelling-houses besides barns and out-offices. It abstained, however, from the property of Shakspeare; and he had only to commiserate the losses of his neighbours.
With bis various powers of pleasing; his wit and his humour; the gentleness of his manners; the flow of bis spirits and his fancy; the variety of anecdote with which his mind must have been stored; his knowledge of the world, and bis intimacy with man, in every gradation of the society, from the prompter of a playhouse to the
peer and the sovereign, Shakspeare must have been a delightful-nay, a fascinating companion; and his ac- . quaintance must necessarily have been courted by all the prime inhabitants of Stratford and its vicinity. But over this, as over the preceding periods of his life, brood silence and oblivion; and in our total ignorance of his intimacies and friendships, we must apply to our imagination to furnish out his convivial board where intellect presided, and delight, with admiration, gave the applause.
On the 2d of February 1615-16, he married his. youngest daughter, Judith, then in the thirty-first year of her age, to Thomas Quiney, a vintner in Stratford ; and on the 25th of the succeeding month he executed his will. He was then, as it would appear, in the full vigour and enjoyment of life; and we are not informed that his constitution had been previously weakened by the attack of any malady. But his days, or rather his hours, were now all numbered; for he breathed his last on the 23d of the ensuing April, on that anniversary of his birth which completed his fifty-second year. It would be gratifying to our curiosity to know something of the disease, which thus prematurely terminated the life of this illustrious man: but the secret is withheld from us; and it would be idle to endeavour to obtain it. We may be certain that Dr. Hall, wbo was a physician of considerable eminence, attended his father-in-law in bis last illness; and Dr. Hall kept a register of all the remarkable cases, with their symptoms and treatment, which in the course of his practice had fallen under bis observation. This curious MS., which had escaped the enmity of time, was obtained by Malone: but the recorded cases in it most unfortunately began with the year 1617; and the preceding part of the register, which most probably had been in existence, could nowhere be found. The mortal complaint, therefore, of William Shakspeare is likely to remain for ever unknown; and, as darkness had closed upon his path through life, so darkness now gathered round his bed of death, awfully to cover it from the eyes of succeeding generations.
On the 25th of April 1616, two days after his decease, he was buried in the chancel of the church of Stratford; and at some period within the seven subsequent years (for in 1623 it is noticed in the verses of Leonard Digges) a monument was raised to his memory either by the respect of his townsmen, or by the piety of his relations. It represents the Poet with a countenance of thought, resting on a cushion and in the act of writing. It is placed under an arch, between two Corinthian columns of black marble, the capitals and bases of which are gilt. The face is said, but, as far as I can find, not on any adequate authority, to have been modelled from the face of the deceased; and the whole was painted to bring the imitation nearer to nature. The face and the hands wore the carnation of life: the eyes were light bazel; the hair and beard were auburn: a black gown, without sleeves, hung loosely over a scarlet doublet. The cushion in its upper part was green: in its lower, crimson; and the tassels were of gold colour. This certainly was not in the bigh classical taste; though we may learn from Pausanias that statues in Greece were sometimes, coloured after life; but as it was the work of contemporary hands, and was intended, by those wbo knew the Poet, to convey to posterity some resemblance of his lineaments and dress, it was a monument of rare value; and the tastelessness of Malone, who caused all its tints to be obliterated with a daubing of white lead, cannot be sufficiently ridiculed and condemned. Its material is a species of free-stone; and as the chisel of the sculptor was most probably under the guidance of Doctor Hall, it bore some promise of likeness to the mighty dead. Immediately below the cushion is the following distich:
Judicio Pylium; genio Socratem ; arte Maronem
Terra tegit ; populus mæret; Olympus habet. On a tablet underneath are inscribed these lines :
Stay, passenger, why dost thou go so fast?
Within this monument-Shakspeare; with whom
Leaves living art but page to serve his wit : and the flat stone, covering the grave, holds out, in very irregular characters, a supplication to the reader, with the promise of a blessing and the menace of a curse :
Good Friend ! for Jesus' sake forbear
And cursed be be that moves my bones. The last of these inscriptions may have been written by Shakspeare himself under the apprehension of his bones being tumbled, with those of many of his townsmen, into the charnel-house of the parish. But bis dust has continued unviolated, and is likely to remain in its holy repose till the last awful scene of our perishable globe. It were to be wished that the two preceding inscriptions were more worthy, than they are, of the tomb to which they are attached. It would be gratifying if we could give any faith to the tradition, which asserts that the bust of this monument was sculptured from a cast moulded on the face of the departed poet; for then we might assure ourselves that we possess one authentic resemblance of this preeminently intellectual mortal. But the cast, if taken, must have been taken immediately after his death; and we know neither at whose expense the monument was constructed; nor by whose hand it was executed; nor at what precise time it was erected. It may have been wrought by the artist, acting under the recollections of the Shakspeare family, into some likeness of the great townsman of Stratford; and on this probability, we may contemplate it with no inconsiderable interest. I cannot, however, persuade myself that the likeness could have been strong. The forehead, indeed, is sufficiently spacious and intellectual: but there is a disproportionate length in the under part of the face: the mouth is weak; and the whole countenance is heavy and inert. Not having seen the monument