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with Mr. Combe,* an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and usury: it happened, that in a pleasant conversation amongst their common friends, Mr. Combe told Shakspeare in a laughing manner, that he fancied he intended to write his epi. taph, if he happened to out-live him; and since he could not know what might be said of him when he was dead, he desired it might be done immediately; upon which Shakspeare gave him these four verses:
“ Ten in the hundred lies here ingravidit
that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe,] This Mr. John Combe I take to be the same, who, by Dugdale, in his Antiquities of Warwickshire, ia said to have died in the year 1614, and for whom at the upper end of the quire of the guild of the holy cross at Stratford, a fair monument is erected, having a statue thereon.cut in alabaster, and in a gown, with this epitaph: “Here lyeth interred the body of John Combe, Esq. who depart. ing this life the 10th day of July, 1614, bequeathed by his last will and testament these sums ensuing, annually to be paid for ever; viz. xx s. for two sermons to be preach'd in this church, and vi l. xiii s. iv d. to buy ten gownes for ten poore people within the borough of Stratford; and 1001. to be sent to fifteen poore tradesmen of the same borough, from three years to three years, changing the parties every third year, at the rate of fifty shillings per annum, the which increase he appointed to be dis. tributed towards the relief of the almes-poor there.” The donation has all the air of a rich and sagacious usurer.
Theobald: + Ten in the hundred lies here ingrav'd;] In The More the Mers rier, containing Three Score and odd headless Epigrams, shot, (like the Fooles Bolts) among you, light where they will: By H. P. Gent. &c. 1608, I find the following couplet, which is almost the same as the two beginning lines of this Epitaph on John-a-Combe :
“ And a hundred to ten to the devil he's gone." Again, in Wit': Interpreter, 8vo. 3d edit. 1671, p. 298: .
“ Here lies at least ten in the hundred,
“Shackled up both hands and feet,
“But thus being now of life bereav'n,
Steevens. So, in Camden's Remains, 1614:
“Here lyes ten in the hundred,
“In the ground fast ramm'd;
“If any man ask, Who lies in this tomb?
“Oh! ho! quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe.” But the sharpness of the satire is said to have stung the man so. severely, that he never forgave it.f
* Oh! ho! quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe.] The Rev. Francis Peck, in his Memoirs of the Life and Poeticul Works of Mr. John Milton, 4to. 1740, p. 223, has introduced another epi. taph imputed (on what authority is unknown) to Shakspeare. It is on Tom-a-Combe, alias Thin-beard, brother to this John, who is mentioned by Mr. Rowe:
“ Thin in beard, and thick in purse;
“ The devil and he had both one nurse." Steevens. I suspect that these lines were sent to Mr. Peck by some person that meant to impose upon him. It appears from Mr. John Combe's will, that his brother Thomas was dead in 1614. John devised the greater part of his real and personal estate to his nephew Thomas Combe, with whom Shakspeare was certainly Con good terms, having bequeathed him his sword.
Since I wrote the above, I find from the Register of Stratford, that Mr. Thomas Combe (the brother of John) was buried there, Jan. 22, 1609-10. Malone.
t- the sharpness of the satire is said to have stung the man 60 severely, that he never forgave it.] I take this opporturnity to avow my disbelief that Shakspeare was the author of Mr. Combe's Epitaph, or that it was written by any other person at the request of that gentleman. If Betterton the player did really visit Warwickshire for the sake of collecting anecdotes relative to our author, perhaps he was too easily satisfied with such as fell in his way, without making any rigid search into their authenticity. It appears also from a following copy of this inscription, that it was not ascribed to Shakspeare so early as two years after his death. Mr. Reed of Staple-Inn obligingly pointed it out to me in the Remains, &c. of Richard Braithwaite, 1618; and as his edition of our epitaph varies in some measure from the latter one published by Mr. Rowe, I shall not hesitate to transcribe it: "Upon one John Cambe of Stratford upon Avon, a notable Usurer,
fastened upon a Tombe that he had caused to be built in his Life-Time:
“ Ten in the hundred must lie in his grave,
“Oh (quoth the divill) my John a Combe.” Here it may be observed that, strictly speaking, this is no jocular epitaph, but a malevolent prediction; and Braithwaite's copy is surely more to be depended on (being procured in or
He died in the 53d year of his age,* and was buried on the
before the year 1618) than that delivered to Betterton or Rowe, almost a century afterwards. It has been already remarked, that two of the lines said to have been produced on this occasion, were printed as an epigram in 1608, by H. P. Gent. and are likewise found in Camden's Remains, 1614. I may add, that a usurer's solicitude to know what would be reported of him when he was dead, is not a very probable circumstance; neither was Shakspeare of a disposition to compose an invective, at once so bitter and uncharitable, during a pleasant conversation among the common friends of himself and a gentleman, with whose family he lived in such friendship, that at his death he bequeathed his sword to Mr. Thomas Combe as a legacy. A miser's monument indeed, constructed during his life-time, might be regarded as a challenge to satire; and we cannot wonder that anonymous lampoons should have been affixed to the marble designed to convey the character of such a being to posterity. I hope I may be excused for this attempt to vindicate Shakspeare from the imputation of having poisoned the hour of confidence and festivity, by producing the severest of all censures on one of his company. I am unwilling, in short, to think he could so wantonly and so publickly have expressed his doubt concerning the salvation of one of his fellow-creatures. Steevens.
Since the above observations first appeared, (in a note to the edition of our author's poems which I published in 1780,) I have obtained an additional proof of what has been advanced, in vindication of Shakspeare on this subject. It occurred to me that the will of John Combe might possibly throw some light on this matter, and an examination of it some years ago furnished me with such evidence as renders the story recorded in Braithwaite's Remains very doubtful: and still more strongly proves that, whoever was the author of this epitaph, it is highly improbable that it should have been written by Shakspeare.
The very first direction given by Mr. Combe in his will is, concerning a tomb to be erected to him afier his death. “My will is, that a convenient tomb of the value of threescore pounds shall by my executors hereafter named, out of my goods and chattels first raysed, within one year after my decease, be set over me.” So much for Braithwaite's account of his having erected his own tomb in his life-time. That he had any quarrel with our author, or that Shakspeare had by any act stung him so severely that Mr. Combe never forgave him, appears equally void of foundation; for by his will he bequeaths “to Mr. William Shakspere five pounds.” It is probable that they lived in intimacy, and that Mr. Combe had made some purchase from our poet; for he devises to his brother George, “the close or grounds known by the name of Parson’s Close, alias Shakspere's Close.” It must be owned that Mr. Combe's will is dated Jan. 28, 1612-13, about eighteen months before his death; and therefore the evidence now produced is not absolutely decisive, as he might
north side of the chancel, in the great church at Stratford, where
have erected a tomb, and a rupture might have happened be.. tween him and Shakspeare, after the making of this will: but it is very improbable that any such rupture should have taken place; for if the supposed cause of offence had happened subsequently to the execution of the instrument, it is to be presumed that he would have revoked the legacy to Shakspeare: and the same argument may be urged with respecet to the direction concerning his tomb.
Mr. Combe by his will bequeaths to Mr. Francis Collins, the elder, of the borough of Warwick, (who appears as a legatee and subscribing witness to Shakspeare's will, and therefore may be presumed a common friend,) ten pounds; to his godson John Collins, (the son of Francis) ten pounds; to Mrs. Susanna Collins (probably godmother to our poet's eldest daughter) six pounds, thirteen shillings, and four-pence; to Mr. Henry Walker, (father to Shakspeare's godson) twenty shillings; to the poor of Stratford twenty pounds; and to his servants, in various le. gacies, one hundred and ten pounds. He was buried at Stratford, July 12, 1614, and his will was proved Nov. 10, 1615.
Our author, at the time of making his will, had it not in his power to show any testimony of his regard for Mr. Combe, that gentleman being then dead; but that he continued a friendly correspondence with his family to the last, appears evidently (as Mr. Steevens has observed) from his leaving his sword to Mr. Thomas Combe, the nephew, residuary legatee, and one of the executors of John.
On the whole we may conclude, that the lines preserved by Rowe, and inserted with some variation in Braithwaite's Remains, which the latter has mentioned to have been affixed to Mr. Combe's tomb in his life-time, were not written till after Shakspeare's death; for the executors, who did not prove the will till Nov. 1615, could not well have erected “a fair monument” of considerable expence for those times, till the middle or per. haps the end of the year 1616, in the April of which year our poet died. Between that time and the year 1618, when Braithwaite's book appeared, some one of those persons (we may presume) who had suffered by Mr. Combe's severity, gave vent to his feelings in the satirical composition preserved by Rowe; part of which, we have seen, was borrowed from epitaphs that had already been printed. That Mr. Combe was a money-lender, may be inferred from a clause in his will, in which he mentions his “good and just debtors;” to every one of whom he remits, “twenty shillings for every twenty pounds, and so after this rate for a greater or lesser debt,” on their paying in to his executors what they owe.
Mr. Combe married Mrs. Rose Clopton, August 27, 1560; and therefore was probably, when he died, eighty years old. His property, from the description of it, appears to have beon considerable.
a monument is placed in the wall.f On his grave-stone underneath is,
In justice to this gentleman it should be remembered, that in the language of Shakspeare's age an usurer did not mean one who took exorbitant, but any, interest or usance for money; which many then considered as criminal. The opprobrious term by which such a person was distinguished, Ten in the hundred, proves this ; for ten per cent was the ordinary interest of money. See Shakspeare's will.—Sir Philip Sidney directs by his will, made in 1586, that Sir Francis Walsingham shall put four thousand pounds which the testator bequeathed to his daughter, “ to the best behoofe either by purchase of land or lease, or some other good and godly use, but in no case to let it out for any usury at all.” Malone.
* He died in the 53d year of his age,] He died on his birth-day, April 23, 1616, and had exactly completed his fifty-second year. From Du Cange's Perpetual Almanack, Gloss. in v. Annus, (making allowance for the different style which then prevailed in England from that on which Du Cange's calculation was formed,) it appears, that the 23d of April, in that year was a Tuesday,
No account has been transmitted to us of the malady which at so early a period of life deprired England of its brightest ornament. The private note-book of his son-in-law Dr. Hall,Ń containing a short state of the cases of his patients, was a few years ago put into my hands by my friend, the late Dr. Wright; and as Dr. Hall married our poet's daughter in the year 1607, and undoubtedly attended Shakspeare in his last illness, being then forty years old, I had hopes this book might have enabled me to gratify the publick curiosity on this subject. But unluckily the earliest case recorded by Hall, is dated in 1617. He had proba. bly filled some other book with memorandums of his practice in preceding years; which by some contingency may hereafter be found, and inform posterity of the particular circumstances that attended the death of our great poet.-From the 34th page of this book, which contains an account of a disorder under which his daughter Elizabeth laboured (about the year 1624) and of the method of cure, it appears, that she was his only daughter; [Elizabeth Hall, filia mea unica, tortura oris defædata.] In the beginning of April in that year she visited London and returned to Stratford on the 22d; an enterprize at that time “of great pith and moment.”
While we lament that our incomparable poet was snatched from the world at a time when his faculties were in their full vigour, and before he was " declined into the vale of years,” let
§ Dr. Hall's pocket-book after his death fell into the hands of a surgeon of Warwick, who published a translation of it, (with some additions of his own) under the title of Select Observations on the English Bodies of eminent Persons, in desperate Diseases, &c. The third edition was printed in 1683.