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for what books had given the former; and the judgment of a great man upon this occafion was, I think, very juft and proper. In a converfation between Sir John Suckling, Sir William D'Avenant, Endymion Porter, Mr. Hales of Eton, and Ben Jonfon, Sir John Suckling, who was a profeffed admirer of Shakspeare, had undertaken his defence against Ben Jonfon with fome warmth; Mr. Hales, who had fat ftill for fome time, told them," That if Mr. Shakspeare had not read the ancients, he had likewife not ftolen any thing from them; and that if he would produce any one topick finely treated by any one of them, he would undertake to show fome
thanks, when it shall know that you dare in these jig-given times to countenance a legitimate poem. I must call it fo, against all noife of opinion, from whofe crude and ayrie reports I appeal to that great and fingular facultie of judgment in your lordship."
See also the Epilogue to Every Man in his Humour, by Lord Buckhurft, quoted below in The Account of our old English Theatres, ad finem. To his teftimony and that of Mr. Drummond of Hawthornden, (there alfo mentioned,) may be added that of Leonard Digges in his Verfes on Shakspeare, and of Sir Robert Howard, who says in the preface to his Plays, folio, 1665, (not thirty years after Ben's death,) "When I confider how fevere the former age has been to fome of the best of Mr. Jonfon's never-to-be-equalled comedies, I cannot but wonder, why any poet should speak of former times." The truth is, that however extravagant the elogiums were that a few scholars gave him in their closets, he was not only not admired in his own time by the generality, but not even understood. His friend Beaumont affures him in a copy of verses, that "his sense is so deep that he will not be understood for three ages to come." MALONE.
2 Mr. Hales, who had fat ftill for fome time, told them,] In Mr. Rowe's first edition this paffage runs thus:
"Mr. Hales, who had fat ftill for fome time, hearing Ben frequently reprouch him with the want of learning and ignorance of the antients, told him at last, That if Mr. Shakspeare," &c. By the alteration, the fubfequent part of the sentence"if he would produce," &c. is rendered ungrammatical.
thing upon the fame fubject at least as well written by Shakspeare.3
3 he would undertake to Show fomething upon the fame Subject at least as well written by Shakspeare.] I had long endeavoured in vain to find out on what authority this relation was founded; and have very lately discovered that Mr. Rowe probably derived his information from Dryden: for in Gildon's Letters and Effays, published in 1694, fifteen years before this Life appeared, the fame ftory is told; and Dryden, to whom an Effay in vindication of Shakspeare is addreffed, is appealed to by the writer as his authority. As Gildon tells the story with some flight yariations from the account given by Mr. Rowe, and the book in which it is found is now extremely scarce, I fhall fubjoin the paffage in his own words:
"But to give the world fome fatisfaction that Shakspeare has had as great veneration paid his excellence by men of unqueftioned parts, as this I now exprefs for him, I fhall give fome account of what I have heard from your mouth, fir, about the noble triumph he gained over all the ancients, by the judgment of the ableft criticks of that time.
"The matter of fact, if my memory fail me not, was this. Mr. Hales of Eton affirmed, that he would fhow all the poets of antiquity out-done by Shakspeare, in all the topicks and commonplaces made ufe of in poetry. The enemies of Shakspeare would by no means yield him fo much excellence; fo that it came to a refolution of a trial of skill upon that fubject. The place agreed on for the dispute was Mr. Hales's chamber at Eton. A great many books were fent down by the enemies of this poet; and on the appointed day my Lord Falkland, Sir John Suckling, and all the perfons of quality that had wit and learning, and interefted themselves in the quarrel, met there; and upon a thorough difquifition of the point, the judges chofen by agreement out of this learned and ingenious affembly, unanimously gave the preference to Shakspeare, and the Greek and Roman poets were adjudged to vail at least their glory in that, to the English Hero."
This elogium on our author is likewise recorded at an earlier period by Tate, probably from the fame authority, in the preface to The Loyal General, quarto, 1680: "Our learned Hales was wont to affert, that, fince the time of Orpheus, and the oldest poets, no common-place has been touched upon, where our author has not performed as well."
Dryden himself alfo certainly alludes to this ftory, which he appears to have related both to Gildon and Rowe, in the follow
NEW Margin of an Ancient SURVEY, made by Order of SIR GEORGE CAREW, option, and KARL of TOTNESS) and found at Clopton near Stratford upon Avon, in 1786.
The latter part of his life was spent, as all men of good fenfe will with theirs may be, in eafe, retirement, and the converfation of his friends. He had the good fortune to gather an estate equal to his occafion, and, in that, to his wifh; and is faid
ing paffage of his Effay of Dramatick Poefy, 1667; and he as well as Gildon goes fomewhat further than Rowe in his panegyrick. After giving that fine character of our poet which Dr. Johnson has quoted in his preface, he adds, "The confideration of this made Mr. Hales of Eton fay, that there was no fubject of which any poet ever writ, but he would produce it MUCH BETTER done by Shakspeare; and however others are now generally preferred before him, yet the age wherein he lived, which had contemporaries with him, Fletcher and Jonfon, never equalled them to him in their esteem: And in the laft king's court [that of Charles I.] when Ben's reputation was at highest, Sir John Suckling, and with him the greater part of the courtiers, fet our Shakspeare far above him."
Let ever-memorable Hales, if all his other merits be forgotten, be ever mentioned with honour, for his good taste and admiration of our poet. "He was," fays Lord Clarendon, one of the leaft men in the kingdom; and one of the greatest scholars in Europe." See a long character of him in Clarendon's Life, Vol. I. p. 52. MALONE.
He had the good fortune to gather an eftate equal to his occafion,] Gildon, without authority, I believe, fays, that our author left behind him an estate of 3001. per ann. This was equal to at least 1000l. per ann. at this day; the relative value of money, the mode of living in that age, the luxury and taxes of the present time, and various other circumstances, being confidered. But I doubt whether all his property amounted to much more than 2001. per ann. which yet was a confiderable fortune in those times. He appears from his grand-daughter's will to have poffeffed in Bishopton, and Stratford Welcombe, four yard land and a half. A yard land is a denomination well known in Warwickfhire, and contains from 30 to 60 acres. The average therefore being 45, four yard land and a half may be estimated at about two hundred acres. As fixteen years purchase was the common rate at which the land was fold at that time, that is, one half less than at this day, we may suppose that thefe lands were let at feven fhillings per acre, and produced 701. per annum. If we rate the New-Place with the appurtenances, and our poet's other