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To the foregoing Accounts of SHAKESPEARE's Life, I have
only one Palage to add, which Mr. Pope related, as communicated to him by Mr. Rowe..
IN the time of Elizabeth, coaches being yet uncommon, I and hired coaches not at all in use, those who were too proud, too tender, or too idle to walk, went on horseback to any distant business or diversion. Many came on horseback to the play *, and when Shakespeare fled to London from the terror of a criminal prosecution, his first expedient was to wait at the door of the play-house, and hold the horses of those that had no fervants, that they might be ready again after the performance. In this office he became so conspicuous for his care and readiness, that in a short time every man as he alighted called for Will. Shakespeare, and scarcely any other waiter was trusted with a horse while Will. Shakespeare could be had. This was the first dawn of better fortune. Shakespeare, finding more horses put into his hand than he could hold, hired boys to wait under his inspection, who, when Will. Shakespeare was summoned, were immediately to present themfelves, I am Shakespeare's boy, Sir. In time Shakespeare found higher employment; but as long as the practice of riding to the play-house continued, the waiters that held the horses retained the appellation of, Shakespeare's boys f.
· * Plays were at this time performed in the afternoon. " The pollicie of plaies is very necessary, howsoever some shallow-brained censurers (not the deepest searchers into the secrets of govern. ment) mightily oppugne them. For whereas the afternoone being the idleft time of the day wherein men that are their own masters (as gentlemen of the court, the innes of the court, and a number of captains and soldiers about London) do wholly bestow themselves upon pleasure, and that pleasure they devide (how vertu. ously it kills not) either in gaming, following of harlots, drinking, or seeing a play, is it not better (fince of four extreames all the world cannot keepe them but they will choose one) that they should betake them to the least, which is plaies ?" Nash's Pierce Pennilese bis Supplication to the Devil, 1595. STEEVENS.
I cannot dismiss this anecdote without observing that it seems to want every mark of probability. Though Shakespeare quitted
Mr. Rowe has told us that he derived the principal anecdotes in his account of Shakespeare, from Betterton the player, whose zeal had induced him to visit Stratford for the sake of procuring all pollible intelligence concerning a poet to whole works he might juitly think
Stratford on account of a juvenile irregularity, we have no reason to suppose that he had forfeited the protection of his father who was engaged in a lucrative business, or the love of his wife who had already brought him two children, and was herself the daughter of a substantial yeoman. It is unlikely therefore, when he was beyond the reach of his prosecutor, that he thould conceal* his plan of life, or place of residence from those who if he found himself distressed, could not fail to afford him such supplies as would have set him above the necelsity of holding horses for subfistence. Mr. Malone has remarked in his Attempt to ascertain the Order in which the Plays of Shakespeare avere written, that he might have found an easy introduction to the stage; for Thomas Green, a celebrated comedian of that period, was his townsman, and per. haps his relation. The genius of our author prompted him to write poetry ; his connection with a player might have given his productions a dramatick turn; or his own fagacity might have taught him that fame was not incompatible with profit, and that the theatre was an avenue to both. That it was once the custom to ride on horseback to the play, I am likewise yet to learn. The most popular of the theatres were on the Bank-side; and we are told by the satirical pamphleteers of the time, that the usual mode of conveyance to these places of ainusement, was by water: but not a single writer so much as hints at the custom oi riding to them, or at the practice of having horse, held during the hours of exhibition. Soine allusion to this urage (if it had existed) must, I think, have been discovered in the course of our researches after contemporary fashions. Let it be remembered too, that we receive this tale on no higher authority than that of Cibber's Lives of the Poets, vol. I. p. 130. “ Sir William Davenant told it to Mr. Betterton, who communicated it to Mr. Rowe,” who (according to Dr. Johnson) related it to Mr. Pope. Mr. Rowe (if this intelligence be authentic) fecins to have concurred with me in opinion, as he forebore to introduce a circumstance so incredible in. to his life of Shakespeare. As to the book which furnishes the anecdote, not the finalleit part of it was the composition of Mr. Cibber, being entirely written by a Mr. Shiells, amanuensis to Dr. Johnson, when his Dictionary was preparing for the press. T. Čibher was in the King's Bercy, and accepted of ten guineas from the bool seilers for leave to prefix his name to the work; and it was purpotely lo prefixe as to leave the reader in doubt whether himseif or his father was the perfon designed. STEEVENS.
himself himself under the strongest obligations. Notwithstanding this assertion, in the manuscript papers of the late Mr. Oldys it is said, that one Bowman (according to Chetwood, p. 144, “ an actor more than half an age on the London theatres”) was unwilling to allow that his associate and contemporary Betterton had ever undertaken such a journey. Be this matter as it will, the following particulars, which I shall give in the words of Oldys, are, for ought we know to the contrary, as well authenticated as any of the anecdotes delivered down to us by Rowe.
Mr. Oldys had covered several quires of paper with laborious collections for a regular life of our author. From these I have made the following extracts, which (however trivial) contain the only circumstances that wear the least appearance of novelty or information; the song excepted, which the reader will find in a note on the first scene of the Merry Wives of Windsor.
« If tradition may be trusted, Shakespeare often baited at the Crown Inn or Tavern in Oxford, in his journey to and from London. The landlady was a woman of great beauty and sprightly wit; and her husband, Mr. John Davenant, (afterwards mayor of that city), a grave melancholy man, who as well as his wife used much to delight in Shakespeare's pleasant conipany. Their fon young Will Davenant (afterwards Sir William) was then a little school-boy in the town, of about seven or eight years old, and so fond also of Shakespeare, that whenever he heard of his arrival, he would fly from school to see him. One day an old townsman observing the boy running homeward almost out of breath, asked him whither he was posting in that heat and hurry. He anfwered, to see his god-father Shakcípeare. There's a good boy, said the other, but have a care that you don't take God's name in vain. This story Mr. Pope told me at the Earl of Oxford's table, upon occalion of fome discourse which arose about Shakespeare's monument then newly erected in Westminster Abbey; and he quoted Mr. Betterton the player for his authority. I answered that I thought such a story might have enriched the variety of those choice fruits of obfervation he has presented us in his preface to the edition he had published of our poet's works. He replied " There might be in the garden of mankind such plants as would seem to pride themselves more in a regular production of their own native fruits, than in hav