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It is faid, our author spent fome years before his death in cafe, retirement, and the converfation of his friends, at his native Stratford. I could never pick up any certain intelligence, when he relinquished the flage. I know, it has been mistakenly thought by fome, that Spenfer's Thalia, in his Tears of his Mufes, where the laments the lofs of her Willy in the comick scene, has been applied to our author's quitting the flage. But Spenfer himself, it is well known, quitted the flage of life in the year 1598; and five years after this, we find Shakspeare's name among the actors in Ben Jonfon's Sejanus, which first made its appearance in the year 1603. Nor, furely, could he then have any thoughts of retiring, fince that very year a licence under the privy-feal was granted by King James I. to him and Fletcher, Burbage, Phillippes, Hemings, Condell, &c. authorizing them to exercise the art of playing comedies, tragedies, &c. as well at their ufual houfe called The Globe on the other fide of the water, as in any other parts of the kingdom, during his majesty's pleasure (a copy of which licence is preferved in Rymer's Fadera). Again, it is certain, that Shakspeare did not exhibit his Macbeth till after the Union was brought about, and till after King James I. had begun to touch for the evil: for it is plain, he has inferted compliments on both thofe accounts, upon his royal mafter in that tragedy. Nor, indeed, could the number of the dramatcik pieces, he produced, admit of his retiring near fo carly as that period. So that what Spenfer there fays, if it relate at all to Shakspeare, muft hint at fome occafional recefs he made for a time upon a difgufl taken: or the Willy, there mentioned, muft relate to fome
other favourite poet. I believe, we may fafely determine, that he had not quitted in the year 1610. For, in his Tempeft, our author makes mention of the Bermuda iflands, which were unknown to the English, till, in 1609, Sir John Summers made a voyage to North-America, and discovered them, and afterwards invited fome of his countrymen to fettle a plantation there. That he became the private gentleman at least three years before his deceafe, is pretty obvious from another circumftance à I mean, from that remarkable and well-known ftory, which Mr. Rowe has given us of our author's intimacy with Mr. John Combe, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and ufury; and upon whom Shakspeare made the following facetious epitaph:
Ten in the hundred lies here engrav'd,
Tis a hundred to ten his foul is not fav'd;
Oh! oh! quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe."
This farcaftical piece of wit was, at the gentle man's own requeft, thrown out extemporally in his company. And this Mr. John Combe I take to be the fame, who, by Dugdale in his Antiquities of Warwickshire, is faid to have died in the year 1614,9 and for whom, at the upper end of the quire of the Guild of the Holy Crofs at Stratford, a fair monument is erected, having a flatue thereon cut in alabaster, and in a gown, with this epitaph: Here lieth interred the body of John Combe, Efq; who died the 10th
By Mr. Combe's Will, which is now in the Prerogativeoffice in London, Shakfpeare had a legacy of five pounds bequeathed to him: The Will is without any date. REED.
of July, 1614, who bequeathed feveral annual charities to the parish of Stratford, and 100l. to be lent to fifteen poor tradefmen from three years three years, changing the parties every third year, at the rate of fifty fhillings per annum, the increase to be diftributed to the almes-poor there."-The donation has all the air of a rich and fagacious ufurer.
Shakspeare himself did not furvive Mr. Combe long, for he died in the year 1616, the 53d of his He lies buried on the north fide of the chancel in the great church at Stratford; where a monument, decent enough for the time, is erected to him and placed against the wall. He is reprefented under an arch in a fitting pofture, a cufhion fpread before him, with a pen in his right hand, and his left refted on a fcrowl of paper. The Latin diftich which is placed under the cushion, has been given us by Mr. Pope, or his graver, in this manner.
"INGENIO Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
I confefs, I do not conceive the difference betwixt ingenio and genio in the firft verie. They feem to me intirely fynonymous terms; nor was the Pylian fage Neflor celebrated for his ingenuity, but for an experience and judgment owing to his long age. Dugdale in his Antiquities of Warwickfhire, has copied this diflich with a diftinction which Mr. Rowe has followed, and which cer- ́ trinly reflores us the true meaning of this epitaph:
"JUDICIO Pylium, genio Socratem," &c.
In 1614, the greater part of the town of Stratford was confumed by fire; but our Shakspeare's house, among fome others, efcaped the flames. This houfe was firft built by Sir Hugh Clopton, a younger brother of an ancient family in that neighbourhood, who took their name from the manor of Clopton. Sir Hugh was Sheriff of London in the reign of Richard III. and Lord-Mayor in the reign of King Henry VII. To this gentleman the town of Stratford is indebted for the fine ftone bridge, consisting of fourteen arches, which, at an extraordinary expence, he built over the Avon, together with a caufeway running at the weft-end thereof; as alfo for rebuilding the chapel adjoining to his houfe, and the cross-aifle in the church there. It is remarkable of him, that, though he lived and died a bachelor, among the other extenfive charities which he left both to the city of London and town of Stratford, he bequeathed confiderable legacies for the marriage of poor maidens of good name and fame both in London and at Stratford. Notwithstanding which large donations in his life, and bequests at his death, as he had purchased the manor of Clopton and all the eftate of the family; fo he left the fame again to his elder brother's fon with a very great addition: (a proof how well beneficence and oeconomy may walk hand in hand in wife families): good part of which eftate is yet in the poffeffion of Edward Clopton, Efq. and Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt. lineally defcended from the elder brother of the firft Sir Hugh, who particularly bequeathed to his nephew, by his will, his houfe, by the name of his Great Houfe in Stratford,
The eflate had now been fold out of the Clopton family for above a century, at the time when Shakfpeare became the purchafer; who, having repaired and modelled it to his own mind, changed the name to New-place, which the manfion-house, fince erected upon the fame fpet, at this day retains. The house and lands, which attended it, continued in Shakspeare's defcendants to the time of the Refloration; when they were re-purchased by the Clopton family, and the manfion now belongs to Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt. To the favour of this worthy gentleman I owe the knowledge of one particular, in honour of our poet's once dwellinghouse, of which, I prefume, Mr. Rowe never was apprized. When the civil war raged in England, and King Charles the Firft's queen was driven by the neceffity of affairs to make a recefs in Warwickshire, the kept her court for three weeks in New-place. We may reasonably suppose it then the beft private houfe in the town; and her majesty preferred it to the college, which was in the poffeffion of the Combe family, who did not fo ftrongly favour the king's party.
How much our author employed himself in poetry, after his retirement from the ftage, does not fo evidently appear: very few pofthumous fketches of his pen have been recovered, to afcertain that point, We have been told, indeed, in print, but not till very lately, that two large chefts full of this great man's loofe papers and manufcripts, in the hands of an ignorant baker of Warwick, (who married one of the defcendants from
2 See an answer to Mr. Pope's Preface to Shakspeare, by a Strolling Player, 8vo. p. 45. REED.