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dramatist on his retirement from London, we may perhaps conclude that Mr. and Mrs. Hall were joint occupiers of it, and aided in keeping up the vivacity of the family circle. Shakespeare himself only completed his forty-eighth year in April, 1612, and every tradition and circumstance of his life tends to establish not only the gentleness and kindness, but the habitual cheerfulness of his disposition.
Nevertheless, although we suppose him to have separated himself from the labours and anxieties attendant upon his theatrical concerns, he was not without his annoyances, though of a different kind. We refer to a chancery suit in which he seems to have been involved by the purchase, in 1605, of the remaining term of a lease of part of the tithes of Stratford. It appears that a rent of 271. 13s. 4d. had been reserved, which was to be paid by certain lessees under peril of forfeiture, but that some of the parties, disregarding the consequences, had refused to contribute their proportions; and Richard Lane, of Awston, Esquire, Thomas Greene, of Stratford-upon-Avon, Esquire, and William Shakespeare, “of Stratford-upon-Avon, gentleman,” were under the necessity of filing a bill before Lord Ellesmere, to compel all the persons deriving estates under the dissolved college of Stratford to pay their shares. What was the issue of the suit is not any where stated; and the only important point in the draft of the bill, in the hands of the Shakespeare Society, is, that our great dramatist therein stated the value of his “moiety” of the tithes to be 601. per annum.
In the summer of 1613 a calamity happened which we do not believe affected our author's immediate interests, on account of the strong probability that he had taken care to divest himself of all theatrical property before he finally took up his residence in his birthplace. The Globe, which had been in use for about eighteen years, was burned down on 29th June, 1613,
in consequence of the thatch, with which it was partially covered, catching fire from the discharge of some theatrical artillery'. It is doubtful what play was then in a course of representation : Sir Henry Wotton gives it the title of “All is True,” and calls it “a new play;" while Howes, in his continuation of Stowe's Annales, distinctly states that it was “ Henry the Eighth 5.” It is very possible that both may be right, and that Shakespeare's historical drama was that night revived under a new name, and therefore mistakenly called “a new play” by Sir Henry Wotton, although it had been nearly ten years on the stage. The Globe was rebuilt in the next year, as we are told on what may be considered good authority, at the cost of King James and of many noblemen and gentlemen, who seem to have contributed sums of money for the purpose. If James I. lent any pecuniary aid on the occasion, it affords another out of many proofs of his disposition to encourage the drama, and to assist the players who acted under the royal name. Although Shakespeare might not
* John Taylor, the water-poet, was a spectator of the calamity, (perhaps in his own wherry) and thus celebrated it in an epigram, which he printed in 1614 in his “ Nipping and Snipping of Abuses,” &c. 4to.
“ UPON THE BURNING OF THE GLOBE.
And I in action saw the Globe to burne.” 5 See vol. v. p. 495, and “ Hist. of Engl. Dram. Poetry and the Stage,” vol. i. p. 386, and vol. iii. p. 298.
6 This fact, with several other new and curious particulars respecting the fate of the Blackfriars theatre, the Whitefriars (called the Salisbury Court) theatre, the Phænix, the Fortune, and the Hope (which was also at times used for bearbaiting) is contained in some manuscript notes to a copy of Stowe’s Annales, by Howes, folio, 1631, in the possession of Mr. Pickering : they appear to have been made just after the last event mentioned in them. The burning of the Globe is there erroneously fixed in 1612. When, too, it is said that the Hope was built in 1610, the meaning must be that it was then reconstructed, so as to be adapted to both purposes, stage-plays and bear-baiting. The memoranda are thus headed : “ A note of such passages as have beene omitted, and as I have seene, since the printing of Stowe's Survey of London in 4to, 1618, and this Chronicle at large, 1631."
“Play Houses.—The Globe play house, on the Bank side in Southwarke, was burnt downe to the ground in the yeare 1612. And new built up againe in the yeare 1613, at the great charge of King James, and many noble men, and others. And now pulled downe to the ground by Sir Mathew Brand on Munday, the 15 of April, 1644, to make tenements in the rome of it.
be in any way pecuniarily affected by the event, we may be sure that he would not be backward in using his influence, and perhaps in rendering assistance by a gift of money, for the reconstruction of a playhouse in which he had often acted, from which he had derived so much profit, and in the continuance of the performances at which so many of his friends and fellows were deeply interested.
He must himself have had an escape from a similar disaster at Stratford in the very next year. Fires had broken out in the borough in 1594 and 1595, which had destroyed many of the houses, then built of wood, or of materials not calculated to resist combustion; but that which occurred on the 9th July, 1614, seems to have done more damage than both its predecessors. At the instance of various gentlemen in the neighbourhood, including Sir Fulk Greville, Sir Richard Verney, and Sir Thomas Lucy, King James issued a proclamation, or brief, dated 11th May, 1615, in favour of the inhabitants of Stratford, authorizing the colleclection of donations in the different churches of the kingdom for the restoration of the town; and alleging that within two hours the fire had consumed “fiftyfour dwelling-houses, many of them being very fair houses, besides barns, stables, and other houses of office, together also with great store of corn, hay, straw, wood, and timber.” The amount of loss is stated, on the same authority, to be “eight thousand pounds and upwards?.” What was the issue of this charitable appeal to the whole kingdom we know not.
“ The Black Friers play house, in Black Friers London, which had stood many yeares, was pulled down to the ground on Munday, the 6 day of August, 1655, and tenements built in the roome.
“The play house in Salisbury Court, in Fleete streete, was pulled down by a company of souldiers, set on by the Sectaries of these sad times, on Saturday, the 24th day of March, 1649.
• The Phenix, in Druery Lane, was pulled down also this day, being Saturday the 24th day of March, 1649, by the same souldiers.
“ The Fortune play house, between White Crosse streete and Golding Lane, was burned down to the ground in the year 1618. And built againe, with bricke worke on the outside, in the year 1622; and now pulld downe on the inside by these souldiers, this 1649.
“ The Hope, on the Banke side in Southwarke, commonly called the Beare Garden : a play house for stage playes on Mundays, Wednesdayes, Fridayes, and Saterdayes; and for the baiting of the beares on Tuesdays and Thursdayes—the stage being made to take up and downe when they please. It was built in the year 1610 ; and now pulled downe to make tenements by Thomas Walker, a peticoate maker in Cannon Streete, on Tuesday the 25 day of March, 1636. Seven of Mr. Godfries beares, by the command of Thomas Pride, then hie Sherefe of Surry, were shot to death on Saturday, the 9 day of February, 1655, by a company of souldiers.”
It is very certain that the dwelling of our great dramatist, called New Place, escaped the conflagration, and his property, as far as we can judge, seems to have been situated in a part of the town which fortunately did not suffer from the ravages of the fire.
The name of Shakespeare is not found among those of inhabitants whose certificate was stated to be the immediate ground for issuing the royal brief, but it is not at all unlikely that he was instrumental in obtaining it. We are sure that he was in London in November following the fire', and possibly was taking some steps in favour of his fellow-townsmen. However, his principal business seems to have related to the projected inclosure of certain common lands in the neighbourhood of Stratford in which he had an interest. Some inquiries as to the rights of various parties were instituted in September, 1614, as we gather from a document yet preserved, and which is now before us. The individuals whose claims are set out are, “Mr. Shakespeare,” Thomas Parker, Mr. Lane, Sir Francis Smith, Mace, Arthur Cawdrey, and “Mr. Wright, vicar of Bishopton.” All that it is necessary to quote is the following, which refers to Shakespeare, and which, like the rest, is placed under the head of “Auncient Freeholders in the fields of Old Stratford and Welcome.”
? We take these particulars from a copy of the document “printed by Thomas Purfoot,” who then had a patent for all proclamations, &c. It has the royal arms, and the initials I. R. at the top of it as usual. It is in the possession of the Shakespeare Society.
* The name of his friend William Combe is found among the “esquires ” enumerated in the body of the instrument.
This fact appears in a letter, written by Thomas Greene, on 17th November, 1614, in which he tells some person in Stratford that he had been to see “his cousin Shakespeare,” who had reached town the day before.
“Mr. Shakspeare, 4 yard land': noe common, nor ground beyond Gospell bushe: noe ground in Sandfield, nor none in Slow Hill field beyond Bishopton, nor none in the enclosures beyond Bishopton.”
The date of this paper is 5th September, 1614, and, as we have said, we may presume that it was chiefly upon this business that Shakespeare came to London on the 16th November. It should appear that Thomas Greene, of Stratford, was officially opposing the inclosure on the part of the corporation; and it is probable that Shakespeare's wishes were accordant with those of the majority of the inhabitants: however this might be, (and it is liable to dispute which party Shakespeare favoured) the members of the municipal body of the borough were nearly unanimous, and, as far as we can learn from the imperfect particulars remaining upon this subject, they wished our poet to use his influence to resist the project, which seems to have been supported by Mr. Arthur Mainwaring, then resident in the family of Lord Ellesmere as auditor of his domestic expenditure.
It is very likely that Shakespeare saw Mainwaring; and, as it was only five or six years since his name had been especially brought under the notice of the Lord Chancellor, in relation to the claim of the city autho
Malone informs us, without mentioning his authority, that “in the fields of Old Stratford, where our poet's estate lay, a yard land contained only about twenty-seven acres,” but that it varied much in different places : he derives the term from the Saxon gyrd land, virgata terræ.-Shakspeare, by Boswell, vol. ï. p. 25. According to the same authority, a yard land in Wilmecote consisted of more than fifty acres.