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been written originally under the name of Oldcastle; some of that family being then remaining, the queen was pleased to command him to alter it; upon which he made use of Falstaff. The prelent offence was, indeed, avoided; but I don't know whether the author may not have been somewhat to blame in his second choice, fince it is certain that fir John Falstaff, who was a knight of the garter, and a lieutenant-general, was a name of distinguished merit in the wars in France in Henry the fifth’s and Henry the sixth's times. What grace soever the queen conferred upon him, it was not to her only he owed the fortune which the reputation of his wit made. He had the honour to meet with many great and uncommon marks of favour and friendship from the earl of Southampton, famous.in the histories of that time for his friendship to the unfortunate earl of Essex. It was to that noble lord that he dedicated his poem of Venus and Adonis. There is one instance so singular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakespear's, that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by fir William D'Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted, that my
lord Southampton at one time gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to.
A bounty very great, and very rare at any time, and almost equal to that profuse generosity the present age has shown to French dancers and Italian singers.
What particular habitude or friendships he contracted with private men, I have not been able to learn, more than that every one, who had a true taste of merit, and could distinguish men, had generally a just value and esteem for him. His exceeding candor and good-nature must certainly have inclined all the gentler part of the world to love him, as the power of his wit obliged the men of the most delicate knowledge and polite learning to admire him.
His acquaintance with Ben. Jonson began with a remarkable piece of humanity and good-nature: Mr. Fonson, who was at that
time * See the epilogue to Henry 4th,
time altogether unknown to the world, had offered one of his plays to the players, in order to have it acted; and the persons into whose hands it was put, after having turned it carelesly and supercilioudly over, were just upon returning it to him with an ill-natur’d answer, that it would be of no service to their company; when Shakespear luckily cast his eye upon it, and found something so well in it as to engage him firit to read it through, and afterwards to recommend Mr.Jonson and his writings to the publick. Jonson was certainly a very good fcholar, and in that had the advantage of Shakespear; though at the same time, I believe, it must be allowed, that what nature gave the latter, was more than a balance for what books had given the former: and the judgment of a great man upon this occasion was, I think, very just and proper. In a conversation between fir John Suckling, fir William D'Avenant, Endymion Porter, Mr. Hales of Eaton, and Ben. Jonson ; fir John Suckling, who was a professed admirer of Shakespear, had undertaken his defence against Ben. Fonfor with some warmth; Mr. Hales, who had fat still for fume time, told them, That if Mr. Shakespear had not read the ancients, he had likewise not solen any thing from them; and that if he would produce any one topick finely treated by any of them, he would undertake to show something upon the same subječt at least as well written by Shakespear.
The latter part of his life was spent, as all men of good sense will wish theirs may be, in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends. He had the good fortune to gather an estate equal to his occasion, and, in that, to his wish; and is said to have spent some years before his death at his native Siratford. His pleasurable wit, and good-nature, engaged him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. Amongst them, it is a story almost still remembered in that country, that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and usury: it happened, that in a pleasant conversation amongst their common friends, Mr. Combe told Shakespear in a laughing
manner, that he fancy'd be intended to write his epitaph, if he happened to outlive him; and since he could not know what might be laid of him when he was dead, he desired it might be done immediately: upon which Shakespear gave him these four verses,
Ten in the hundred lies bere ingravid,
But the sharpness of the satire is said to have ftung the man so severely, that he never forgave it.
He dyed in the 53d year of his age, and was bury'd on the north side of the chancel, in the great church at Stratford, where a monument, as engraved in the plate, is placed in the wall. On his grave-stone underneath is,
Good friend, for Jesus' sake, forbear
He had three daughters, of which two lived to be married ; Judith, the elder, to one Mr. Thomas Quiney, by whom she had three sons, who all dyed without children; and Susannah, who was his favourite, to Dr. John Hall, a physician of good reputation in that country. She left one child only, a daughter, who was married first to Thomas Nash, esq; and afterwards to fir John Bernard of Abbington, but dyed likewise without issue.
This is what I could learn of any note, either relating to himself or family: the character of the man is best seen in his writings. But since Ben. Jonson has made a sort of an essay towards it in his Discoveries, I will give it in his words:
“ I REMEMBER the players have often mentioned it as an honour “ to Shakespear, that in writing (whatsoever he penn'd) he never "blotted out a line. My answer hath been, 'Would, he had “blotted a thousand! which they thought a malevolent speech. “I had not told posterity this, but for their ignorance, who chose “that circumstance to commend their friend by, wherein he most “faulted: and to justify mine own candor, (for I loved the man, "and do honour his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as “any.) He was, indeed, honest, and of an open and free nature, “had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle expressions; “wherein he flowed with that facility, that sometimes it was “necessary he should be stopped: Jufflaminandus erat, as Augustus “faid of Haterius. His wit was in his own power; 'would, the “ rule of it had been so too! Many times he fell into those things “which could not escape laughter; as when he said in the person “of Cæfar, one speaking to him,
“Cæsar thou doft me wrong.
“He reply'd :
“Cæsar did never wrong, but with just cause. and such like, which were ridiculous. But he redeemed his “vices with his virtues: there was ever more in him to be praised “than to be pardoned.
As for the passage which he mentions out of Shakespear, there is somewhat like it in Julius Cæsar, but without the absurdity; nor did I ever meet with it in any edition that I have feen, as quoted by Mr. Fönson. Besides his plays in this edition, there are two or three ascribed to him by Mr. Langbain, which I have never seen, and know nothing of. He writ likewise Venus and Adonis, and Tarquin and Lucrece, in ftanzas, which
have been printed in a late collection of poems. As to the character given of him by Ben. Jonson, there is a good deal true in it: but, I believe, it may be as well expressed by what Horace says of the firft Romans, who wrote tragedy upon the Greek models, (or, indeed, translated them) in his epistle to Augustus :
Naturâ fublimis 8 9 ccer,
As I have not proposed to myself to enter into a large and complete collection upon Shakespear's works, so I will only take the liberty, with all due submission to the judgments of others, to observe some of those things I have been pleased with in looking him over.
His plays are properly to be distinguished only into comedies and tragedies. Those which are called histories, and even some of his comedies, are really tragedies, with a run or mixture of comedy amongst them. That way of tragi-comedy was the common mistake of that age, and is, indeed, become so agreeable to the English taste, that though the severer critics among us cannot bear it, yet the generality of our audience seem to be better pleased with it than with an exact tragedy. The Merry Wives of Windsor, the Comedy of Errors, and the Taming of the Shrew, are all pure comedy ; the rest, however they are called, have something of both kinds. 'Tis not very easy to determine which way of writing he was most excellent in. There is certainly a great deal of entertainment in his comical humours; and though they did not then strike at all ranks of people, as the fatire of the present age has taken the liberty to do, yet there is a pleafing and a well-distinguished variety in those characters which he thought fit to meddle with. Falstaff is allowed by every body to be a masterpiece; the character is always well sustained, though