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When musing midnight reigns, or silent noon,
Of hours thus dear to the good and wise, to the admirers of nature, the favourites of fancy, and the lovers of contemplation, we have now only to confess, that it has been our wish to avail ourselves, so far at least as may prove, that whilst enjoying the delicious coolness of retreat by fountain, wood, or stream, we have been not altogether uninfluenced by the local spirit of the scene, nor totally unbenefited by what to the shade and silence of a noonday solitude we owe, in prompting through every age and clime, some of the most beautiful and ennobling speculations of human thought and genius.
It is our hope, therefore, and has been, indeed, our aim, that the following pages, whilst they furnish some amusement for the lovers of nature, of poetry, of biography, and of romance, should, at the same time, include what may, indirectly at least, tend to improve the morals and amend the heart; what may, in short, for those who at the noontide hour of summer
• Are listless laid the velvet grass along."
afford that species of mental food which shall best harmonise with the season and its scenery, and with the feelings and associations which they are calculated to suggest.
Shakspeare unites in his existence the utmost eleva
tion and the utmost depth ; and the most foreign, and even apparently irreconcileable properties subsist in him peaceably together. The world of spirits and nature have laid all their treasures at his feet : in strength, a demi-god; in profundity of view, a prophet; in all-seeing wisdom, a protecting spirit of a higher order; he lowers himself to mortals as if unconscious of his superiority, and is as open and unassuming as a child.
Schlegel, apud Black.
* The principal object of this narrative has been to bring forward a picture of the moral, social, and domestic life of Shakspeare in accordance with the few traits which tradition has preserved of his personal history. No one can be more aware than myself of the danger which must be incurred in venturing to introduce our immortal countryman on the living scene; yet such has ever appeared to me, as well from the study of his writings, as from the features of his scanty biography, to be the extraordinary beauty, and almost sublime simplicity of his private character, that, notwithstanding the manifold risk attending the experiment, I have been induced to make the attempt, with the view of more fully and completely expressing my own conception of his peculiar worth in all the relations of humanity. In doing this, a portion of his literary character will, of necessity, appear, but it is sketched in subserviency to the main design.
Julius Shaw *, the master of the Falcon Inn, at Stratford-upon-Avon, had just been called away from a party of friends who were recreating
* Julius Shaw was a personage of considerable respectability in Stratford. He was born Sept. 1571; he married Anne Boyes, May 5th, 1594; he was chosen Bailiff of Stratford in 1615; he was a witness to Shakspeare's will in 1616, and died at Stratford, where he was buried, June 24th, 1629. He was consequently, at the period when this narrative commences, about the age of forty-four, and seven years younger than his friend Shakspeare.
“ Julius Shaw,” says Mr. Ireland, speaking of the Falcon Inn, as it existed in Shakspeare's time, “ was the name of the person who then kept the house, and who was a subscribing witness to our poet's Will. Shaw was by trade a carpenter and undertaker, and is supposed, with some degree of probability, the person who buried him. Shakspeare is said to have passed much time in this house, and to have had a strong partiality for the landlord, as well as for his liquor."-Picturesque Views on the Avon, p. 203, 204.
Whether this account can be depended upon I know not, but the tradition is sufficient for the purposes to which it is applied; for I wish it to be understood that the chief object of this narrative is to unfold my own idea of the private character of Shakspeare, to which every incident, whether originating from pure fiction or 'supposed fact, is held in subordination.
There were three Shaws existing at one time in Stratford; RALPH SHAw, a wool-driver, the father of William and Julius, and the friend of Mr. John Shakspeare ; WILLIAM, the eldest son, a glover, and JULIUS, the youngest, the personage whose agency I have introduced at the commencement of this tale. Vide Malone's Shakspeare, apud Boswell, vol. ii. p. 79. 547. 554; and 609.
themselves in his orchard bower, on the evening of the 9th of June, 1615, when his attention was diverted from the business on which he had been summoned, by a crowd assembling at his door. On stepping forward to enquire into what had brought them together, he perceived at a littledistance, some peasantry approaching, and carrying a kind of frame or bier, on which lay extended the body of a man. This was preceded by an aged servant, well mounted, and leading a blood mare; whilst followed close behind, on a grey palfrey, and evidently in great distress of mind, a young lady of the most interesting features and person.
An accident, he was told, had happened to a gentleman on the road. He had been thrown from his horse, within a few miles of Stratford, and, having been seriously injured, they were bringing him to the Falcon, as the nearest place of public accommodation. Scarcely had he received this account, when the sufferer reached his gates; and Shaw, who possessed a large share of humanity, together with an active and intelligent mind, instantly issued his orders, in the execution of which, he himself took a pro