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lurch, and went down in a moment, carrying with her to the bottom three hundred of those convivial Hollanders.

A large Biscay galleon, too, of Recalde's squadron, much disabled in action, and now, like many others, unable to follow the Armada, was summoned by Captain Cross, of the Hope, forty-eight guns, to surrender. Although foundering, she resisted, and refused to strike her flag. One of her officers attempted to haul down her colours, and was run through the body by the captain, who, in his turn, was struck dead by a brother of the officer thus slain. In the midst of this quarrel the ship went down with all her crew.

Six hours and more, from ten till nearly five, the fight had lasted—a most cruel battle, as the Spaniards declared. There were men in the Armada who had served in the action of Lepanto, and who declared that famous encounter to have been far surpassed in severity and spirit by this fight off Gravelines. “Surely every man in our fleet did weli,” said Winter, “and the slaughter the enemy received was great." Nor would the Spaniards have escaped even worse punishment, had not, most unfortunately, the penurious policy of the Queen's government rendered her ships useless at last, even in this supreme moment. They never ceased cannonading the discomfited enemy until the ammunition was exhausted.. “When the cartridges were all spent,” said Winter, “and the munitions in some vessels gone altogether, we ceased fighting, but followed the enemy, who still kept away." And the enemy-although still numerous, and seeming strong enough, if properly handled, to destroy the whole English fleet-fled before them. There remained more than fifty Spanish vessels, above six hundred tons in size, besides sixty hulks and other vessels of less account; while in the whole English navy were but thirteen ships of or above that burthen. “ Their force is wonderful great and

strong,” said Howard, “ but we pluck their feathers by little and little."

For Medina-Sidonia had now satisfied himself that he should never succeed in boarding those hard-fighting and swift-sailing craft, while, meantime, the horrible panic of Sunday night and the succession of fights throughout the following day, had completely disorganised his followers. Crippled, riddled, shorn, but still numerous, and by no means entirely vanquished, the Armada was flying with a gentle breeze before an enemy who, to save his existence, could not have fired a broadside.




[While England was thus struggling with Spain, it was

winning an even greater glory in letters. Great wriiers appeared both in prose and poetry; and more than fifty dramatists wrote plays, which gave life to the English stage. Of these the foremost was William Shakspere.]

OF hardly any great poet indeed do we know so little. For the story of Shakspere's youth we have only one or two trifling legends, and these almost certainly false. Not a single letter or characteristic saying, not one of the jests “spoken at the Mermaid," l hardly a single anecdote, remain to illustrate his busy life in London. His look and figure in later age have been preserved by the bust over his tomb at Stratford, and a hundred years after his death he was still remembered in his native town; but the minute diligence

i The Mermaid Inn in Bread Street, Cheapside, where the poets met together.

of later inquirers was able to glean hardly a single detail, even of the most trivial order, which could throw light upon the years of retirement before his death. It is owing perhaps to the harmony and unity of Shakspere's temper that no salient peculiarity seems to have left its trace on the memory of his contemporaries; it is the very grandeur of his genius which precludes us from discovering any personal trait in his works. His supposed self-revelation in the Sonnets is so obscure that only a few outlines can be traced even by the boldest conjecture. In his dramas he is all his characters, and his characters range over all mankind. There is not one, or the act or word of one, that we can identify personally with the poet himself. .

He was born in 1564, the sixth year of Elizabeth's reign, twelve years after the birth of Spenser, three years later than the birth of Bacon. Marlowe was of the same age with Shakspere : Greene probably a few years older. His father, a glover and small farmer of Stratford-on-Avon, was forced by poverty to lay down his office of alderman as his son reached boyhood; and stress of poverty may have been the cause which drove William Shakspere, who had already wedded at eighteen a wife older than himself, to London and the stage. His life in the capital can hardly have begun later than in his twenty-third year, the memorable year which preceded the coming of the Armada, and which witnessed the production of Marlowe's “Tamburlaine." If we take the language of the Sonnets as a record of his per. sonal feeling, his new profession as an actor stirred in him only the bitterness of self-contempt. He chides with Fortune " that did not better for my life provide than public means that public manners breed ;' he writhes at the thought that he has “made himself a motley to the view" of the gaping

? Marlowe gave the first great impulse to English tragedy; Greene to English comedy.

apprentices in the pit of Blackfriars. “Thence comes it,” he adds, “that my name receives a brand, and almost thence my nature is subdued to that it works in.” But the application of the words is a more than doubtful one. In spite of petty squabbles with some of his dramatic rivals at the outset of his career, the genial nature of the newcomer seems to have won him a general love ainong his fellows. In 1592, while still a mere actor and fitter of old plays for the stage, a fellowplaywright, Chettle, . answered Greene's attack on him in words of honest affection : “Myself have seen his demeanour no less civil than he excellent in the quality he professes : besides, divers of worship have reported his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writing, that approves his art.” His partner Burbage spoke of him after death as a “worthy friend and sellow ;” and Jonson handed down the general tradition of his time when he described him as “indeed honest, and of an open and free nature.”

His profession as an actor was at any rate of essential service to him in the poetic career which he soon undertook. Not only did it give him the sense of theatrical necessities which makes his plays so effective on the boards, but it enabled him to bring his pieces as he wrote them to the test of the stage. If there is any truth in Jonson's statement that Shakspere never blotted a line, there is no justice in the censure which it implies on his carelessness or incorrectness. The conditions of poetic publication were in fact wholly different from those of our own day. A drama remained for years in manuscript as an acting piece, subject to continual revision and amendment; and every rehearsal and representation afforded hints for change which we know the young poet was far from neglecting. The chance which has preserved an earlier edition of his “Hamlet” shows in what an unsparing way Shakspere could recast even the finest products of his genius. Five years after the supposed date of his arrival in London he was already famous as a dramatist. Greene speaks bitterly of him under the name of “Shakescene" as an “upstart crow beautified with our feathers,” a sneer which points either to his celebrity as an actor or to his preparation for loftier flights by fitting pieces. of his predecessors for the stage. He was soon partner in the theatre, actor, and playwright; and another nickname, that of “ Johannes Factotum” or Jack-of-all-Trades, shows his readiness to take all honest work which came to hand.

With his publication in 1593 of the poem of “Venus and Adonis," " the first heir of my invention " as Shakspere calls it, the period of independent creation fairly began. The date of its publication was a very memorable one. The “Faerie Queen” had appeared only three years before, and had placed Spenser without a rival at the head of English poetry. On the other hand the two leading dramatists of the time passed at this moment suddenly away. Greene died in poverty and self-reproach in the house of a poor shoemaker. “Doll,” he wrote to the wife he had abandoned, “I charge thee, by the love of our youth and by my soul's rest, that thou wilt see this man paid ; for if he and his wife had not succoured me I had died in the streets.” “Oh that a year were granted me to live,” cried the young poet from his bed of death, “but I must die, of every man abhorred! Time, loosely spent, will not again be won ! My time is loosely spent-and I undone!” A year later the death of Marlowe in a street brawl removed the only rival whose powers might have equalled Shakspere's own. He was now about thirty; and the twenty-three years which elapsed between the appearance of the “Adonis” and his death were filled with a series of masterpieces. Nothing is more characteristic of his genius than its incessant activity. Through the five years which followed the publication of his

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