« PreviousContinue »
of the Clopton family for above a century, at the time when Shakspeare became the purchaser, who, having repaired and modelled it to his own mind, changed the name to New Place, which the mansion-house afterwards erected, in the room of the poet's house, retained for many years. The house and lands belonging to it continued in the possession of Shakspeare's descendants to the time of the Restoration, when they were re-purchased by the Clopton family. Here, in May 1742, when Mr. Garrick, Mr. Macklin, and Mr. Delane, visited Stratford, they were hospitably entertained under Shakspeare's mulberry-tree, by Sir Hugh Clopton, who was a barrister, was knighted by George I. and died in the 80th year of his age, 1751. His executor, about the year 1752, sold New Place to the Rev. Mr. Gastrell, a man of large fortune, who resided in it but a few years, in consequence of a disagreement with the inhabitants of Stratford. As he resided part of the year at Lichfield, he thought he was assessed too highly in the monthly rate towards the maintenance of the poor, and being opposed, he peevishly declared, that that house should never be assessed again; and soon afterwards pulled it down, sold the ma
terials, and left the town. He had some time before cut down Shakspeare's mulberry-tree, to
save himself the trouble of showing it to visitors. That Shakspeare planted this tree appears to be sufficiently authenticated. Where New Place stood is now a garden.
During Shakspeare's abode in this house, he enjoyed the acquaintance and friendship of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood; and here he is thought to have written the play of Twelfth Night. He died on his birth-day, Tuesday, April 23, 1616, when he had exactly completed his fifty-second year; and was buried on the north side of the chancel, in the great church at Stratford, where a monument is placed in the wall, on which he is represented under an arch, in a sitting posture, a cushion spread before him, with a pen in his right hand, and his left rested on a scroll of paper. The following Latin distich is engraved under the cushion :
Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem, Terra tegit, populus moret, Olympus habet.
Perhaps we should read Sophoclem, instead of Socratem. Underneath are the following lines:
Stay, passenger, why dost thou go so fast?
Read, if thou canst, whom envious death has plac'd Within this monument: Shakspeare, with whom Quick nature dy'd; whose name doth deck the tomb Far more than cost: since all that he hath writ Leaves living art but page to serve his wit.
Obiit ano. Dni. 1616,
Æt. 53, die 23 Apri.
We have not any account of the malady which, at no very advanced age, closed the life and labours of this unrivalled and incomparable genius. The only notice we have of his person is from Aubrey, who says, He was a handsome well-shaped man;' and adds, 'verie good company, and of a very ready and pleasant and smooth wit.'
His family consisted of two daughters, and a son named Hamnet, who died in 1596, in the twelfth year of his age. Susannah, the eldest daughter, and her father's favourite, was married to Dr. John Hall, a physician, who died Nov. 1635, aged 60. Mrs. Hall died July 11, 1649, aged 66. They left only one child, Elizabeth,
born 1607-8, and married April 22, 1626, to Thomas Nashe, esq. who died in 1647; and afterwards to Sir John Barnard, of Abington in Northamptonshire, but died without issue by either husband. Judith, Shakspeare's youngest daughter, was married to Mr. Thomas Quiney, and died Feb. 1661-2, in her 77th year. By Mr. Quiney she had three sons, Shakspeare, Richard, and Thomas, who all died unmarried. The traditional story of Shakspeare having been the father of Sir William Davenant, has been generally discredited.
From these imperfect notices*, which are all we have been able to collect from the labours of his biographers and commentators, our readers will perceive that less is known of Shakspeare than of almost any writer who has been considered as an object of laudable curiosity. Nothing could be more highly gratifying, than an account of the early studies of this wonderful man, the
* The first regular attempt at a life of Shakspeare is prefixed to Mr. A. Chalmers's variorum edition, published in 1805, of which we have availed ourselves in the above Sketch.
progress of his pen, his moral and social qualities, his friendships, his failings, and whatever else constitutes personal history. But on all these topics his contemporaries, and his immediate successors, have been equally silent; and if aught can hereafter be discovered, it must be by exploring sources which have hitherto escaped the anxious researches of those who have devoted their whole lives, and their most vigorous talents, to revive his memory, and illustrate his writings.
It is equally unfortunate, that we know as little of the progress of his writings, as of his personal history. The industry of his illustrators for the last forty years, has been such as probably never was surpassed in the annals of literary investigation; yet so far are we from information of the conclusive or satisfactory kind, that even the order in which his plays were written rests principally on conjecture, and of some of the plays usually printed among his works, it is not yet determined whether he wrote the whole, or any part. We are, however, indebted to the labours of his commentators, not only for much light thrown upon his obscurities, but for a text pu