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Yet, by those who allow to possibilities the influence of facts, it may be said that this picture was probably the ornament of a club-room in Eastcheap, round which other resemblances of contemporary poets and players might have been arranged : --that the Boar's Head, the scene of Falstaff's jollity, might also have been the favourite tavern of Shakspeare :that, when our author returned over London Bridge from the Globe theatre, this was a convenient house of entertainment; and that for many years afterwards (as the tradition of the neighbourhood reports) it was understood to have been a place where the wits and wags of a former age were assembled, and their portraits reposited. To such suppositions it may be replied, that Mr. Sloman, who quitted this celebrated publick house in 1767, (when all its furniture, which had devolved to him from his two immediate predecessors, was sold off,) declared his utter ignorance of any picture on the premises, except a coarse daubing of the Gadshill robbery. From hence the following probabilities may be suggested :
3 Philip Jones of Barnard's Inn, the auctioneer who sold off Mr. Sloman's effects, has been fought for ; but he died a few years ago. Otherwise, as the knights of the hammer are said to preserve the catalogue of every auction, it might have been known whether pictures constituted any part of the Boar's Head furniture; for Mr. Sloman himself could not affirm that there were no small or obscure paintings above stairs in apartments which he had seldom or ever occasion to visit.
Mrs. Brinn, the widow of Mr. Sloman's predecessor, after her husband's decease quitted Eastcheap, took up the trade of a wireworker, and lived in Crooked Lane. She died about ten years ago. · One, who had been her apprentice (no youth,) declares. she was a very particular woman, was circumstantial in her narratives, and so often repeated them, that he could not poflibly forget any article she had communicated relative to the plate, furniture, &c. of the Boar's Head :--that the often spoke of the painting that represented the robbery at Gadshill, but never fo much as hinted at any other pictures in the house ; and had there been any, he is sure the would not have failed to describe them in her accounts of her foriner business and place of abode, which supplied her with materials for conversation to the very end of a long life.
-first, that if Shakspeare's portrait was ever at the Boar's Head, it had been alienated before the fire of London in 1666, when the original house was burnt ;-and, secondly, that the path through which the same picture has travelled since, is as little to be determined as the course of a subterraneous stream.
It may also be remarked, that if such a Portrait had existed in Eastcheap during the life of the industrious Vertue,4 he would most certainly have procured it, instead of having submitted to take his first engraving of our author from a juvenile likeness of James I. and his last from Mr. Keck's unauthenticated purchase out of the dressing-room of a modern actress.
It is obvious, therefore, from the joint depofitions of Mr. Wilson and Mr. Sloman, that an inference disadvantageous to the authenticity of the Boar's Head story must be drawn; for if the portrait in question arrived after a silent progress through obscurity, at the shop of a broker who, being ignorant of its value, fold it for a few shillings, it must necessarily have been unattended by any history whatever.
And if it was purchased at a sale of goods at the Boar's Head, as neither the master of the house, or his two predecessors, had the least idea of having possessed such a curiosity, no intelligence could be sent abroad with
4 The four last publicans who kept this tavern are said to have filled the whole period, from the time of Vertue's inquiries, to the year 1788, when the Boar's Head, having been untenanted for five years, was converted into two dwellings for shopkeepers.
it from that quarter. In either case then we may suppose, that the legend relative to the name of its painter,5 and the place where it was found, (notwithstanding both these particulars might be true,) were at hazard appended to the portrait under confideration, as soon as its fimilitude to Shakspeare had been acknowledged, and his name discovered on the back of it. This circumstance, however, cannot affect the credit of the picture ; for (as the late Lord Mansfield observed in the Douglas controversy)“ there are instances in which falihood has been employed in support of a real fact, and that it is no uncommon thing for a man to defend a true cause by fabulous pretences.”
That Shakspeare's family possessed no resemblance of him, there is sufficient reason to believe. Where then was this fashionable and therefore neceffary adjunct to his works to be fought for ? If any where, in London, the theatre of his fame and fortune, and the only place where painters, at that period, could have expected to thrive by their profession. We may suppose too, that the booksellers who employed Droelhout, discovered the object of their research by the direction of Ben Jonson, who in the following lines has borne the most ample testimony to the verifimilitude of a portrait which will now be recommended, by a more accurate and finished engraving, to the publick notice:
5 The tradition that Burbage painted a likeness of Shakspeare, has been current in the world ever since the appearance of Mr. Granger's Biographical History.
• It is not improbable that Ben Jopson furnished the Dedication and Introduction to the first folio, as well as the Commendatory Verses prefixed to it.
“ The figure, that thou here seeft put,
That the legitimate resemblance of such a man has been indebted to chance for its preservation, would excite greater astonishment, were it not recollected, that a portrait of him has lately become an object of far higher consequence and estimation than it was during the period he flourished in, and the twenty years succeeding it; for the profeffion of a player was scarcely then allowed to be reputable. . This remark, however, ought not to stand unsupported by a passage in The Microcosmos of John Davies of Hereford, Ato. 1605, p. 215, where, after having indulged himself in a long and severe strain of satire on the vanity and affectation of the actors of his age, he subjoins
as he hath hit His face ;] It should feem from these words, that the plate prefixed to the folio 1623 exhibited such a likeness of Shakspeare as fatisfied the eye of his contemporary, Ben Jonson, who, on an occasion like this, would hardly bave ventured to assert what it was in the power of many of his readers to contradi&t. When will evidence half fo conclusive be produced in favour of the Davenantico-Bettertonian-Barryan-Keckian-Nicolfian-Chandosan canvas, which bears not the flighteft resemblance to the original of Droefhout's and Marshall's engraving ?
“ Players, I love yee and your qualitie,
The reader will observe from the initials in the margin of the third of these wretched lines, that W. Shakspeare was here alluded to as the poet, and R. Burbage as the painter.
Yet notwithstanding this compliment to the higher excellencies of our author, it is almost certain that his resemblance owes its present safety to the shelter of a series of garrets and lumber-rooms, in which it had sculked till it found its way into the broker's shop from whence the discernment of a modern connoisseur so luckily redeemed it.
It may also be observed, that an excellent original of Ben Jonson was lately bought at an obscure auction by Mr. Ritson of Gray's Inn, and might once have been companion to the portrait of Shakspeare thus fortunately restored, after having been lost to the publick for a century and a half. They are, nevertheless, performances by very different artists. The face of Shakspeare was imitated by a delicate pencil, that of Jonson by a bolder hand. It is not designed, however, to appretiate the distinct value of these pictures ; though it must be allowed (as several undoubted originals of old Ben are extant)
are all good, As long as all these goods are no worse us'd;] So, in our author's Othello :
“ Where virtue is, these are most virtuous."