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That reach the map, and look
Will find a shallow brook,"*
" Avon, thy rural views, thy pastures wild,
And sternly shakes his sceptre, dropping blood." +
“Far from the sun and summer gale,
Or ope the sacred source of sympathetic tears.'"
* In Remembrance of Master William Shakspere. Ode. + Monody, written near Stratford-upon-Avon.
The Progress of Poesy.
Shottery, the prettiest of hamlets, is scarcely a mile from Stratford. Here, in all probability, dwelt one who was to have an important influence upon the destiny of the boy-poet. We cannot say, absolutely, that Anne Hathaway, the future wife of William Shakspere, was of Shottery ; but the prettiest of maidens (for the veracious antiquarian boldly says there is a tradition that she was eminently beautiful) would have fitly dwelt in the pleasantest of hamlets. Shakspere's marriage bond, which was discovered a few years since, has set at rest all doubt as to the name and residence of his wife. She is there described as Anne Hathwey, of Stratford, in the diocese of Worcester, maiden. Rowe, in his · Life,' says:—“Upon his leaving school, he seems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father proposed to him ; and in order to settle in the world, after a family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway, said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford.” At the hamlet of Shottery, which is in the parish of Stratford, the Hathaways had been settled forty years before the period of Shakspere's marriage; for in the Warwickshire Surveys, in the time of Philip and Mary, it is recited, that John Hathaway held property at Shottery, by copy of court-roll, dated 20th of April, 34th of Henry VIII. (1543.)* The Hathaway of Shakspere's time was named Richard; and the intimacy between him and John Shakspere is shown by a precept in an action against Richard Hathaway, dated 1579, in which John Shakspere is his bondman. Before the discovery of the marriage-bond, Malone had found a confirmation of the traditional account that the maiden name of Shakspere's wife was Hathaway; for Lady Barnard, the grand-daughter of Shakspere, makes bequests in her will to the children of Thomas Hathaway, “her kinsman.” But Malone doubts whether there were not other Hathaways than those of Shottery, residents in the town of Stratford, and not in the hamlet included in the parish. This is possible. But, on the other hand, the description in the marriage-bond of Anne Hathaway, as of Stratford, is no proof that she was not of Shottery; for such a document would necessarily have regard only to the parish of the person described. Tradition, always valuable when it is not opposed to evidence, has associated for many years the cottage of the Hathaways at Shottery with the wife of Shakspere. Garrick purchased relics out of it at the time of the Stratford Jubilee; Samuel Ireland afterwards carried off what was called Shakspere's courting chair ; and there is still in the house a very ancient carved bedstead, which has been handed down from descendant to descendant as an heir-loom. The house was, no doubt, once adequate to form a comfortable residence for a substantial and even wealthy yeoman. It is still a pretty cottage, embosomed by trees, and surrounded by pleasant pastures; and here the young poet might have surrendered his prudence to his affections :
" As in the sweetest buds The eating canker dwells, so eating love
Inhabits in the finest wits of all." + The very early marriage of the young man, with one more than seven years his elder, has been supposed to have been a rash and passionate proceeding. Upon the face of it, it appears an act that might at least be reproved in the words which follow those we have just quoted :
* The Shottery property, which was called Hewland, remained with the descendants of the Hathaways till 1838. Amongst the laudable objects proposed by the Shaksperian Club was the purchase and preservation of this property.
+ Two Gentlemen of Verona,' Act i. Scene 1.
" As the most forward bud
This is the common consequence of precocious marriages; but we are not therefore to conclude that " the young and tender wit” of our Shakspere was “ turned to folly”that “his forward bud” was “ eaten by the canker,” that “his verdure” was lost"even in the prime,” by his marriage with Anne Hathaway before he was nineteen. The influence which this marriage must have had upon his destinies was no doubt considerable; but it is too much to assume, as it has been assumed, that it was an unhappy influence. All that we really know of Shakspere's family life warrants the contrary supposition.
Stratford and its neighbourhood are not less associated with the Shakspere of middle and later life. He left Stratford, as we believe, about 1585 or 1586. If he were absent alone during a portion of the year from his native place, his family probably lived under the roof of his father and mother. His visits to them would not necessarily be of rare occurrence, and of short duration. The latter part of the summer and autumn seems to have been at his disposal, as far as theatrical performances were concerned, during the first seven or eight years of his career. In 1597, he bought "all that capital messuage or tenement in Stratford, called the New Place." In 1602, he made a large addition to his property at Stratford, by the purchase of 170 acres of arable land, and also a house in Stratford, situated in Walker-street. In 1603, he purchased another messuage in Stratford, Barne's gardens and orchards. In 1605, he accomplished a large purchase of the moiety of the lease of the great and small tithes of Stratford. There could be no doubt, from these circumstances, and from documents that show that he dealt in corn, that he was a cultivator of his own land in his native place. At what period he entirely gave up his profession of an actor it is difficult to say. We believe it was earlier in the seventeenth century than is commonly imagined. There can be no doubt that, for several years previous to his death, he had returned, wealthy and honoured, to the bosom of those who were dearest to him—his wife and daughters, his mother, his sisters and brothers. The companions of his boyhood are all around him. They have been useful members of society in their native place. He has constantly kept up his intercourse with them. They have looked to him for assistance in their difficulties. He is come to be one of them, to dwell wholly amongst them, to take a deeper interest in their pleasures and in their cares, to receive their sympathy. He is come to walk amidst his own fields, to till them, to sell their produce. His labour will be his recreation. In the activity of his body will the energy of his intellect find its support and rest. A pleasanter residence than Stratford, independent of all the early associations which endeared it to the heart of Shakspere, would have been difficult to find as a poet's resting-place. It was a town, as most old English towns were, of houses amidst gardens. Built of timber, it had been repeatedly devastated by fires. In 1594 and 1595, a vast number of houses had been thus destroyed; but they were probably small tenements and hovels.' New houses arose of a better order; and one still exists, bearing the date on its front of 1596, which indicates something of the picturesque beauty of an old English country town. Shakspere's own house was no doubt one of those quaint buildings which were pulled down in the last generation, to set up four walls of plain brick, with equi-distant holes called doors and windows. His garden
was a spacious one. The Avon washed its banks; and within its enclosures it had its sunny terraces and green lawns, its pleached alleys and honeysuckle bowers. If the poet walked forth, a few steps brought him into the country-near the pretty hamlet of Shottery, by his own grounds of Bishopton, then part of the great common field of Stratford. Not far from the ancient chapel of Bishopton, of which Dugdale has preserved a representation, and the walls of which still remain, would he watch the operation of seed-time and harvest. If he passed the church and the mill
, he was in the pleasant meadows that skirted the Avon on the pathway to Ludington. If he desired to cross the river, he might now do so without going round by the great bridge; for in 1599, soon after he bought New Place, the pretty foot bridge was erected, which still bears that date. His walks and his farm labours were his recreation. We believe that his higher labours continued till the end.
It would be something if we could now form an exact notion of the house in which Shakspere lived—of its external appearance, its domestic arrangements. Dugdale, speaking of Hugh Clopton, who built the bridge at Stratford and repaired the chapel, says :-"On the north side of this chapel was a fair house, built of brick and timber, by the said Hugh, wherein he lived in his later days, and died." This was nearly a century before Shakspere bought the “ fair house," which, in the will of Sir Hugh Clopton, is called the "great house.” Theobald says that Shakspere, “having re paired and modelled it to his own mind, changed the name to New Place." Malone holds that this is an error :-"I find from ancient documents that it was called New Place as early at least as 1565.” The great house, having been sold out of the Clopton family, was purchased by Shakspere of William Underhill, Esq. Shakspere by his will left it to his daughter, Mrs. Hall, with remainder to her heirs male, or, in default, to her daughter Elizabeth and her heirs male, or the heirs male of his daughter Judith. Mrs. Hall died in 1646, surviving her husband fourteen years. There is little doubt that she occupied the house when Queen Henrietta Maria, in 1643, coming to Stratford in royal state with a large army, resided for three weeks under this roof. The property descended to her daughter Elizabeth, first married to Mr. Thomas Nash, and afterwards to Sir Thomas Barnard. She dying without issue, New Place was sold in 1675, and was ultimately re-purchased by the Clopton family, Sir Hugh Clopton, in the middle of the eighteenth century, resided there. The learned knight thoroughly repaired and beautified the place, as the local historians say, and built a modern front to it. This was the first stage of its desecration. After the death of Sir Hugh, in 1751, it was sold to the Rev. Francis Gastrell, in 1753.
The total destruction of New Place in 1757, by its new possessor, is difficult to account for upon any ordinary principles of action. Malone thus relates the story“ The Rey. Mr. Gastrell, a man of large fortune, resided in it but a few years, in consequence of a disagreement with the inhabitants of Stratford. Every house in that town, that is let or valued at more than 408. a year, is assessed by the orerseers, according to its worth and the ability of the occupier, to pay a monthly rate toward the maintenance of the poor. As Mr. Gastrell resided part of the year at Lichfield, he thought he was assessed too highly; but being very properly compelled by the magistrates of Stratford to pay the whole of what was levied upon him, on the principle that his house was occupied by his servants in his absence, he peevishly declared, that that house should never be assessed again ; and soon afterwards pulled it down, sold the materials, and left the town. Wishing, as it should seem, to be damn'd to everlasting fame,' he had some time before cut down Shakspere's celebrated mulberrytree, to save himself the trouble of showing it to those whose admiration of our great poet led them to visit the poetic ground on which it stood.” The cutting down of the
mulberry-tree seems to have been regarded as the chief offence in Mr. Gastrell's own generation. His wife was a sister of Johnson's correspondent, Mrs. Aston. After the death of Mr. Gastrell, his widow resided at Lichfield ; and in 1776, Boswell, in company with Johnson, dined with the sisters. Boswell on this occasion says—“I was not informed till afterwards, that Mrs. Gastrell's husband was the clergyman who, while he lived at Stratford-upon-Avon, with Gothic barbarity cut down Shakspere's mulberry-tree, and, as Dr. Johnson told me, did it to vex his neighbours. His lady, I have reason to believe, on the same authority, participated in the guilt of what the enthusiasts of our immortal bard deem almost a species of sacrilege.” The mulberry-tree was cut down in 1756, was sold for firewood, and the bulk of it was purchased by a Mr. Thomas Sharpe, of Stratford-upon-Avon, clock and watchmaker, who made a solemn affidavit some years afterwards, that out of a sincere veneration for the memory of its celebrated planter he had the greater part of it conveyed to his own premises, and worked it into curious toys and useful articles. The destruction of the mulberry-tree, which the previous possessor of New Place used to show with pride and veneration, enraged the people of Stratford; and Mr. Wheler tells us that he remembers to have heard his father say that, when a boy, he assisted in the revenge of breaking the reverend destroyer's windows. The hostilities were put an end to by the Rev. Mr. Gastrell quitting Stratford in 1757, and, upon the principle of doing what he liked with his own, pulling the house to the ground in which Shakspere and his children had lived and died.
There is no good end to be served in execrating the memory of the man who deprived the world of the pleasure of looking upon the rooms in which the author of some of the greatest productions of human intellect had lived, in the common round of humanity-of treading reverentially upon the spot hallowed by his presence and by his labours. It appears to us that this person intended no insult to the memory of Shakspere; and, indeed, thought nothing of Shakspere in the whole course of his proceedings. He bought a house, and paid for it. He wished to enjoy it in quiet. People with whom he could not sympathize intruded upon him to see the gardens and the house. In the gardens was a noble mulberry-tree. Tradition said it was planted by Shakspere ; and the professional enthusiasts of Shakspere, the Garricks and the Macklins, had sat under its shade, during the occupation of one who felt that there was a real honour in the ownership of such a place. The Rev. Mr. Gastrell wanted the house and the gardens to himself. He had that strong notion of the exclusive rights of property which belongs to most Englishmen, and especially to ignorant Englishmen. Mr. Gastrell was an ignorant man, though a clergyman. We have seen his diary, written upon a visit to Scotland three years after the pulling down of New Place. His journey was connected with some electioneering intrigues in the Scotch boroaghs. He is a stranger in Scotland, and he goes into some of its most romantic districts. The scenery makes no impression upon him, as may be imagined; but he is scandalized beyond measure when he meets with a bad dinner and a rough lodging. He has just literature enough to know the name of Shakspere; but in passing through Forres and Glamis, he has not the slightest association with Shakspere's Macbeth. A Captain Gordon informs his vacant mind upon some abstruse subjects, as to which we have the following record :-" He assures me that the Duncan murdered at Forres was the same person that Shakspere writes of.” There scarcely requires any further evidence of the prosaic character of his mind; and if there be some truth in the axiom of Shakspere, that
“The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sourds,