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have annoyed him, by exposing, as they now appear in the eyes of some to do, the frailties of his nature, we do not for a moment believe. They would be received by his family and by the world as essentially fictitious, and ranked with the productions of the same class with which the age abounded.*
The year 1608 brought its domestic joys and calamities to Shakspere. In the same font where he had been baptized, forty-three years before, was baptized, on the 21st of February, his grand-daughter, "Elizabeth, daughter of John Hall." In the same grave where his father was laid in 1601, was buried his mother, "Mary Shakspere, widow," on the 9th of September, 1608.
was the youngest daughter of Robert Arden, who died in 1556. She was probably, therefore, about seventy years of age when her sons followed her to the "house of all living." Whatever had been the fortunes of her early married life, her last years must have been happy, eminently happy. Her eldest son, by the efforts of those talents which in their development might have filled her with apprehension, had won his way to fame and fortune. Though she had parted with him for a season, he was constant in his visits to the home of his childhood. His children were brought up under her care; his wife, in all likelihood, dwelt in affection with her under the same roof. And now he was
come to be seldom absent from her; to let her gaze as frequently as she might upon the face of the loved one whom all honoured and esteemed; whose fame she was told was greater than that of any other living man. And this was the child of her earliest cares, and of her humble hopes. He had won for himself a distinction, and a worldly recompense, far above even a mother's expectations. But in his deep affection and reverence he was unchangeably her son. In all love and honour did William Shakspere, in the autumn of 1608, lay the head of his venerable mother beneath the roof of the chancel of his beautiful parish church.*
Shakspere was at Stratford later in the autumn of 1609. In his will he makes a bequest to his godson, William Walker. The child to whom he was sponsor was baptized at Stratford, October 16, 1608.
NOTE ON THE COPY OF A LETTER SIGNED H. S., PRESERVED AT BRIDGEWATER HOUSE.
IN the valuable little volume, by Mr. Collier, entitled 'New Facts regarding the Life of Shakespeare,' published in 1835, the most interesting document that had ever been discovered in connection with the life of Shakspere was first given to the world. Mr. Collier thus describes it:"It is the copy of a letter signed H. S., and addressed, as we must conclude, to Lord Ellesmere, in order to induce him to exert himself on behalf of the players at Blackfriars, when assailed by the Corporation of London. It has no date, but the internal evidence it contains shows that, in all probability, it refers to the attempt at dislodgement made in the year 1608, and it was in the same bundle as the paper giving a detail of the particular claims of Burbage, Fletcher, Shakespeare, and the rest. The initials, H. S., at the end, I take to be those of Henry Southampton, who was the noble patron of Shakespeare, and who in this very letter calls the poet his especial friend.' It has no direction, and the copy was apparently made on half a sheet of paper; but there can be little doubt that the original was placed in the hands of Lord Ellesmere by Burbage or by Shakespeare, when they waited upon the Lord Chancellor in company." We can sympathize with the enthusiasm of Mr. Collier when he discovered this paper :"When I took up the copy of Lord Southampton's letter, and glanced over it hastily, I could scarcely believe my eyes, to see such names as Shakespeare and Burbage in connection in a manuscript of the time. There was a remarkable coincidence also in the discovery, for it happened on the anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and death. I will not attempt to describe my joy and surprise." But for some considerations to which we shall presently advert, we should scarcely feel justified in printing this letter at length; for the tract in which it was originally published was limited to a small number of copies, and Mr. Collier has the best claim to an extended publicity. The document is as follows:
"My verie honored Lord,-The manie good offices I haue received at your Lordships hands, which ought to make me backward in asking further favors, onely imbouldens me to require more in the same kinde. Your Lordship will be warned howe hereafter you graunt anie sute, seeing it draweth on more and greater demaunds. This which now presseth is to request your Lordship, in all you can, to be good to the poore players of the Black Fryers, who call them selues by authoritie the Seruaunts of his Majestie, and aske for the protection of their most graceous Maister and Sovereigne in this the tyme of their troble. They are threatened by the Lord Maior and Aldermen of London, never friendly to their calling, with the distruction of their meanes of livelihood, by the pulling downe of theire plaiehouse, which is a private Theatre, and hath neuer giuen ocasion of anger by anie disorders. These bearers are two of the chiefe of the companie; one of them by name Richard Burbidge, who humblie sueth for your Lordships kinde helpe, for that he is a man famous as our English Roscius, one who fitteth the action to the word, and the word to the action most admirably. By the exercise of his qualitye, industry and good behaviour, he hath be come possessed of the Black Fryers playhouse, which hath bene imployed for playes sithence it was builded by his Father now nere 50 yeres agone. The other is a man no whitt lesse deserving favor, and my especiall friende, till of late an actor of good account in the cumpanie, now a sharer in the same, and writer of some of our best English playes, which as your Lordship knoweth were most singularly liked of Queen Elizabeth, when the cumpanie was called uppon to performe before her Matie at Court at Christmas and Shrovetide. His most gracious Matie King James alsoe, since his coming to the crowne, hath extended his royall favour to the companie in divers waies and at sundrie tymes. This other hath to name William Shakespeare, and they are both of one countie, and indeede almost of one towne: both are right famous in their qualityes, though it
longeth not to your Lo. gravitie and wisedome to resort unto the places where they are wont to delight the publique eare. Their trust and sute nowe is not to be molested in their waye of life, whereby they maintaine themselves and their wives and families (being both maried and of good reputation) as well as the widowes and orphanes of some of their dead fellows. "Your Lo. most bounden at com.
An opinion has arisen, which we are bound to state, that the letter signed H. S. is not genuine. The objection was made to us a year and a half ago by a gentleman of great critical sagacity. Nothing can be more complete than the evidence connected with its discovery. The high character of the gentleman by whom it was discovered renders this evidence of its authenticity, as far as it goes, entirely unexceptionable. It is beyond all possibility of doubt that this was a "document preserved at Bridgewater House;" found amongst "large bundles of papers, ranging in point of date between 1581, when Lord Ellesmere was made Solicitor-General, and 1616, when he retired from the office of Lord Chancellor." This letter, Mr. Collier says, was in the same bundle as the paper giving a detail of the particular claims of Burbage, Fletcher, Shakespeare, and the rest." But he does not inform us whether this individual bundle was of the number of those which "remained unexplored"-whether it belonged to the class of bundles of which he says, "It was evident that many of them had never been opened from the time when, perhaps, his own hands [Lord Ellesmere's] tied them together." Some of the bundles had previously been examined for purposes of antiquarian research: "The Rev. H. J. Todd had been there before me," says Mr. Collier, "and had classed some of the documents and correspondence." It is beyond all doubt that if any addition were made to these papers, it must have been at a period quite distinct from that of the Rev. Mr. Todd's examination of them; and in all probability that gentleman did not open the bundle which contained the estimate of the property at the Blackfriars. Was there any previous antiquarian critic who had access to the papers preserved in Bridgewater House? One of the most elaborate forgeries of modern times, that of 'The English Mercurie,' of 1588, was insinuated into the manuscripts of Dr. Birch in the British Museum, which were purchased in 1766. For half a century, upon that authority alone, we went on proclaiming that to the wisdom of Elizabeth and the prudence of Burleigh we owed the first English newspaper. In 1840 it was discovered, through the sagacity of Mr. Watts of the Museum, that the first English newspaper was a palpable forgery. How did it get amongst the papers of Dr. Birch, himself above suspicion? The question has not been solved. But the circumstance is sufficient to justify any inquiry into the genuineness of a document in the slightest degree questionable, although it be found tied up amongst other undoubted documents. The external evidence relating to its discovery requires to be compared with the external evidence of the genuineness of the document; as well as with that portion of the external evidence which is necessary to complete the chain, but which is not supplied by the discoverer.
In the controversy respecting the Ireland Papers in 1796, a good deal of the argument turned upon a letter from Shakspere to the Earl of Southampton, and the Earl's answer. W. H. Ireland, in his Authentic Account of the Shakspere Manuscripts,' says, 'Having heard of the Lord Southampton's bounty to Shakspere I determined on writing the correspondence between them on that subject; but, on inquiry, could not learn that any signature of his Lordship's was in existence : I accordingly formed his mode of writing, merely from myself." The forger would have more readily got over the difficulty had he purported that the letter was a copy. The danger of detection would have been less; but the supposed authenticity of the document would have been impaired. It would have been said, these papers purport to have belonged to Shakspere; how is it that the original is not found? So may it be asked of the copia vera of the letter of H. S. That the document is a copy is the great defect in the external evidence of the genuineness. It could not be received in any legal inquiry, unless the date of the copy, the circumstances under which it was made, the proofs of its authenticity derived from the hand-writing, the ink, the paper, were exhibited. All these proofs are wanting in Mr. Collier's account of the discovery. But we cannot here adopt a legal precision. We receive the copy as evidence, however imperfect. But we have first to ask, did the copyist omit the date and the superscription? If so, it was not a copia vera. If they were omitted in the original, the omission, although not without a precedent, is an exception to the ordinary practice of those days. A letter from Southampton to the Lord Keeper Williams (preserved in the Harleian MSS. is superscribed "To the right honorable my very good lo: the lo: Keeper of the great Seale of England." It is subscribed, "Your Lo: most assured frend to do you service, H Southampton." But it was the more necessary that the super
scription should not have been omitted on the occasion of the letter of H. S., because the letter was for the purpose of introducing two persons to ask a favour of a nobleman high in office. Without such a superscription, the nobleman to whom it was presented might have doubted whether it was intended for his hands. It might have been a current letter of recommendation for the Lord Chamberlain or the Lord Chancellor. How do we know that the letter was addressed to Lord Ellesmere at all? It contains not the slightest allusion to his high legal office, unless the sentence "It longeth not to your Lo. gravitie and wisedom to resort unto the places where they are wont to delight the publique eare," may be especially meant for a Lord Chancellor. The letter is certainly of a very peculiar nature. Mr. Collier says, "I do not recollect any instances of letters of a precisely similar kind of so old a date, but they no doubt exist." If the letter were addressed to Lord Ellesmere in 1608, as Mr. Collier holds, it would appear from legal documents found at Bridgewater House that the question then before the Chancellor was the claim by the City of London to jurisdiction within the Blackfriars. A legal opinion in favour of the claim, and proofs against it, are amongst these papers. But the letter of H. S. deals with a very different question. It asks his very honoured Lord "to be good to the poor players of the Blackfriars,” who “are threatened by the Lord Maior and Aldermen of London, never friendly to their calling, with the distruction of their meanes of livelihood by the pulling downe of theire plaiehouse." If the Lord Mayor and Aldermen had even established their jurisdiction, it was utterly impossible that they could have pulled down the playhouse of the Servants of his Majesty. The players could have had no fear of such an issue. A quarter of a century before, the authorities of the City had pulled down the temporary scaffolds for theatrical performances erected in the yards of the Cross Keys, the Bull, and the Belle Savage; but even then, and much less in 1608, they could no more pull down the substantial private theatre of the Blackfriars Company, the fee of which we have seen was valued at a thousand pounds, than they could pull down Lord Ellesmere's own mansion. To avert this evil, the poor players "aske for the protection of their most graceous Maister and Sovereigne in this the tyme of their troble." They needed not that protection; they already had it. A patent was issued to them in 1603, in virtue of a writ of Privy Seal, directed to Lord Ellesmere himself, in which all justices, mayors, &c., were called upon in all places not to offer them hindrance; to aid and assist them; to render them favours. In the following year, this very theatre of the Blackfriars was expressly recognised in a patent for the performances of the Children of the Revels. But even if the protection of the King were needed by the King's servants, it would scarcely be asked through the Lord Chancellor. Pembroke and Southampton were immediately about the King's person; Pembroke was the Lord Chamberlain. H. S. sets out by acknowledging the good offices he has received at the hands of his very honoured Lord. These civilities presume a freedom of intercourse between two equals in rank, if it is Southamptan who writes the letter, and Lord Ellesmere to whom it is written. But how do we know that Southampton wrote the letter? The subscription is H. S. In the Ireland controversy Malone asserted that Southampton signed his name H. Southampton. Chalmers contended that he had written Southampton without the H. But no one pretended that he had ever signed a letter or a document, with his initials only. The formality of that age was entirely opposed to such a practice. "Your Lordship's most bounden at command," is not the way in which an Earl and a Knight of the Garter would subscribe himself to an equal and an intimate. "Affectionate friend," "assured friend," "loving friend," is the mode in which noblemen subscribe themselves in their familiar correspondence with each other. But "most bounden," "most obedient," "most humbly bounden," is the mode in which a commoner addresses a nobleman. "Most bounden at command" is a humility of which we scarcely find a precedent except in the letter of a servant. Such are the points of objection which first present themselves upon the face of the letter.
But there is a peculiarity in this letter which is very deserving of notice; and which would lead us to wish, especially, that no possible suspicion could rest upon its authenticity. It contains a great deal that is highly interesting to us at the present day, but which must have been considered somewhat impertinent by a great officer of state in his own times. Richard Burbage, according to the letter, is "our English Roscius, one who fitteth the action to the word and the word to the action most admirably." It is pleasant to believe that Lord Southampton was so familiar with Hamlet that he had the very words of the play at his tongue's end. Alleyn in his own day was called "Roscius for a tongue," and Fuller says "He was the Roscius of our age." But H. S. claims the honour for Burbage. This, however, is not a material point in the question about pulling down the playhouse. It is more pleasant to have Lord Southampton calling Shakspere "my especial friend." The description might startle the proud Chancellor; but, passing that, he would scarcely want to know that he was "of late an actor of good accompte in the company." The nobleman, who had himself sent for Shakspere's company to perform Othello before the Queen at Harefield,