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Ovid, and Plautus] may seem in some sort to be compounded Add to all these that though his Genius generally was jocular and inclining him to festivity, yet he could when so disposed be solemn and serious, as appears by his Tragedies.... He was an eminent instance of the truth of that rule, Poeta non fit sed nascitur; one is not made but born a Poet.... Many were the wit-combats betwixt him and Ben. Jonson, which two I behold like a Spanish great galleon and an English man of war; Master Jonson (like the former) was built far higher in learning, solid but slow in his performances. Shakespeare, with the English manof-war, lesser in bulk, but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about, and take advantage of all winds by the quickness of his wit and invention...... He died Anno Domini 16, and was buried at Stratford-upon-Avon, the Town of his Nativity."
Purchased, April, 1909.
334. — JOHN AUBREY'S NOTICES in his 'Brief lives,' chiefly of conteinporaries, set down between the years 1669 and 1696.
John Aubrey, the Oxford antiquary and gossip (1626-1697) collected information about Shakespeare and other men of letters in manuscript notes which are in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. They were first printed imperfectly at the end of a book called “ Letters written by eminent persons in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.” Oxford, 1813. They were first fully edited from the author's MSS. by the Rev. Andrew Clark, Oxford, Clarenden Press, 1898. Aubrey based part of his information respecting the poet on reports communicated to him by William Beeston (d. 1682), an aged actor, whom Dryden called 'the chronicle of the stage,' and who was doubtless a trustworthy witness.
In his account of Sir William Davenant, Aubrey writes (vol. I, p. 204)—“Mr. William Shakespeare was wont to goe into Warwickshire once a yeare, and did commonly in his journey lye at this house [the Crowne Taverne] in Oxon, where he was exceedingly respected. I have heard Parson Robert Davenant [Sir William Davenant's brother] say that Mr. W. Shakespeare has given him a hundred kisses."
Of Shakespeare himself Aubrey records (vol. II. p. 225) “Mr. William Shakespear was borne at Stratford-upon-Avon, in the county of Warwick : his father was a butcher, and I have been told heretofore by some of the neighbours, that when he was a boy he exercised his father's trade, but when he kill'd a calfe he would doe it in a high style, and make a speech. There was at that time another butcher's son in this towne that was held not at all inferior to him for a naturall witt, his acquaintance and coetanean, but dyed young. This William, being inclined naturally to poetry and acting, came to London, I guesse, about 18, and was an actor at
one of the playhouses, and did act exceedingly well. He began early to make essayes at dramatique poetry, which at that time was very lowe, and his playes tooke well. He was a handsome well shap’t man, very good company, and of a very readie and pleasant smooth witt. The humour of
the constable, in A Midsomer night's Dreaine, he happened to take at Grendon, in Bucks, -I think it was Midsomer night that he happened to lye there—which is the roade from London to Stratford, and there was living that constable about 1642, when I first came to Oxon. Mr. Josias Howe is of that parish, and knew him. Ben Johnson and he did gather humours of men dayly wherever they came. One time as he was at the tavern at Stratford super Avon, one Combes, an old rich usurer, was to be buryed, he makes there this extemporary epitaph,
Ten in the hundred the Devill allowes,
He was wont to goe to his native countrey once a yeare. I thinke I have been told that he left 2 or 300 li. per annum there and thereabout to a sister. (vide his epitaph in Dugdale's Warwickshire). I have heard Sir William Davenant and Mr. Thomas Shadwell (who is counted the best comedian we have now) say, that he had a most prodigious witt, and did admire his naturali parts beyond all other dramaticall writers. He was wont to say (B. H. Johnson's Underwoods) that he never blotted out a line in his life'; sayd Ben Jonson, ‘I wish he had blotted out a thousand.' His comedies will remaine witt as long as the English tongue is understood, for that he handles inores hominuin; now our present writers reflect so much upon particular persons and coxcombeities, that twenty yeares hence they will not be understood.
Though, as Ben Johnson sayes of him, that he had but little Latine and lesse Greek, he understood Latine pretty well, for he had been in his younger yeares a schoolmaster in the countrey. From Mr. Beeston."
Purchased in 1909. 335.— EDWARD PHILLIPS'S THEATRUM POETARUM.--A Complete Collection of the Poets, Especially The most Eminent, of all Ages....
With some Observations and Reflections upon many of them, particularly those of our own nation, Together with a Prefatory Discourse of the Poets and Poetry in Generall. London, 1675. 12mo.
Edward Phillips (1630-1696), the author of this compilation, was nephew and pupil of the poet Milton, many of whose poetical opinions be reproduced in this volume. In the Pre
face, Phillips remarks,-“ let us observe Spencer with all his Rustie, obsolete words, with all his rough-hewn clowterly Verses ; yet take him throughout, and we shall find in him a gracefull and Poetic Majesty : in like manner Shakespear, in spight of all his unfiled expressions his rambling and indigested Fancys, the laughter of the Critical, yet must be confess't a Poet above many that go beyond him in Literature some degrees.”
Phillips's observations upon Shakespeare on p. 194 are:
“ William Shakespear, the Glory of the English Stage; whose nativity at Stratford upon Avon, is the highest honour that Town can boast of: from an Actor of Tragedies and Comedies, he became a Maker ; and such a Maker, that though some others may perhaps pretend to a more exact Decorum and æconomie, especially in Tragedy, never any express't a more lofty and Tragic heighth; never any represented nature more purely to the life, and where the polishments of Art are most wanting, as probably his Learning was not extraordinary, he pleaseth with a certain wild and native Elegance; and in all his Writings hath an unvulgar style, as well in his Venus and Adonis, his Rape of Lucrece and other various Poems, as in his Dramatics.”
Phillips also remarks of Ben Jonson that “he was no Shakesphear.” Of Marlowe he says that he was “a kind of a second Shakesphear (whose contemporary he was).” Again Phillips notes of Fletcher that he was one of the happy Triumvirate (the other two being Johnson and Shakespeare) of the chief dramatic Poets of our Nation, in the last foregoing Age, among whom there might be said to be a symmetry of perfect, while each excelled in his peculiar way: Ben Jonson in his elaborate poems and knowledge of Authors, Shakespear in his pure vein of wit and natural Poetic heighth, Fletcher in a Courtly Elegance, and gentile familiarity of style, and withal a wit and invention so overflowing, that the luxuriant branches thereof were frequently thought convenient to be lopt off by his almost inseparable Companion Francis Beaumont.";
336.-WILLIAM WINSTANLEY'S NOTICE of 1684The Lives of the most Famous English Poets or the Honour of Parnassus. London, 1687, 12 mo.
William Winstanley, of Saffron Walden, Essex (1628-1698) was an industrious compiler of biographies, and devised the first
Poor Robin' Almanacks. His account of Shakespeare in this volume boldly plagiarizes Fuller's and Phillips' earlier notices, and had first appeared in the second edition of Winstanley's England's Worthies’ in 1684. Winstanley makes no original remarks about Shakespeare, save that the dramatist of Stratfordupon-Avon, in Warwickshire, was “one of the Triumvirate, who from Actors, became Makers of Comedies and Tragedies, viz.
Christopher Marlow before him, and Mr. John Lacey, since his time.”* Lacey was a well-known actor and drainatist of Winstanley's owii generation.
Books with which Shakespeare's Work shows him to
have been familiar. Nos. 337-346.
337 -HOLINSHED'S CHRONICLES of England, Ireland, & Scotland. London, 1586. Folio.
This is the second and enlarged edition of the standard book on English History in Shakespeare's era. The first edition appeared in 1578. The compiler and editor, Raphael Holinshed, was assisted by William Harrison in his descriptions of England and Scotland and by Richard Stanihurst in the history of Ireland. Holinshed died about the end of 1580, and the new edition was revised and extended and brought down to date by other hands. Shakespeare seems to have studied English history from this second edition of Holinshed. He borrowed thence almost all the plots of his historical plays, often embodying Holinshed's langu. age. He also depended largely on Holinshed's Chronicle for his plays based on early British or Scottish legends, viz:-Macbeth, King Lear and Cymbeline.
Bequeathed by MRS. BEISLY, Sydenham, 1896.
338.--NORTH'S TRANSLATION OF PIUTARCH'S LIVES. -The lives of the noble Grecians and Romaines, compared together by that grave learned philosopher and historiographer Plutarke of Chæronea. Translated out of Greeke into French by Iames Amiot and out of French into English by Sir Thomas North, Knight. London, Printed by Richard Field, 1612.
North's great translation of Plutarch's Lives was first printed and published in London in 1579, by Thomas Vautrollier, whom Richard Field, a native of Stratford-upon-Avon, served as apprentice. Field succeeded to Vautrollier's business in 1587 and he reprinted North’s Plutarch in 1595 and 1603, as well as in 1612; his issue of the last year is here exhibited. Shakespeare was well-read in North's standard version of Plutarch, and on it he bases his Roman tragedies of Julius Cæsar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Corio. lanus. North worked not from the Greek original, but from an admirable French translation.
Bequeathed by MRS. BEISLY, Sydenham, 1896.
339.-Fragments of eight leaves of “A C mery talys.” A popular jest-book of Shakespeare's day.
Alluded to by Shakespeare in Much Ado about Nothing ii. I, 135.
Beat. Nor will you not tell me who you are ?
Beat. That I was disdainful, and that I had my good wit out of the Hundred Merry Tales : well, this was Signior Benedick that said so.
There seem to have been many sixteenth century editions of the book. But of these only one perfect copy appears to have survived. The unique exemplar, which was Emprynted at London at the signe of the Mermayd At Powlys gate next to chepe syde” by “Johannes Rastell,”' 22nd Noveniber, 1526, is now in the Royal Library of the University at Göttingen; it was reprinted in London in 1866.
Presented by J. O. HALLIWELL-PHILLIPPS.
340.--A Merry Jeste of a Shrewde and Curste Wyfe lapped in Morrelles Skin for her good Behauyour.
Fragment of a black-letter poem, printed in London about 1550. The only perfect copy is in the Huth Library. An imperfect copy is in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. There are no other traces known of this early edition. The poem tells the farcical story of a shrewish wife, whom her husband tames by wrapping her in the skin of an old ' morel,' or dark-coloured horse. The wife's character and experience are commonly regarded by commentators of Shakespeare as suggesting to him some touches for his comedy of The Taming of the Shrew. The poem is reprinted in 'Shakespeare's Library edited by W. C. Hazlitt, Pt I. Vol. iv. p. 415 seq.
Presented by J. O. HALLIWELL-PHILLIPPS
341.--GIRALDI CINTHIO's COLLECTION OF ITALIAN ROMANCES.—Degli hecatommithi di M. Giovanbattista Giraldi Cinthio, nobile Ferrarese. Venice, 1580. 8vo.
This is the fourth edition of a famous collection of Italian stories, which was first published in 1565, and was widely popular under the title of “Hecatommithi," i.e. a hundred tales. The author, Giraldi Cinthio (1504-1573), a native of Ferrara, was a six