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Like some other of his contemporaries, he was perhaps an actor as well as a dramatist ; but, when
He is said, I imagine, to have been a member of the Merchant Tailors' Company because one of his pieces, (to be noticed afterwards,) The Monument of Honour, bears on its title-page “ By John Webster, Taylor."
It was of course desirable that the Court Books of the Merchant Tailors' Company should be examined ; and the important information, illustrative of personal history, which is afforded by wills, was too obvious not to cause a search to be made in Doctors' Commons. Although something has been found in both places, which perhaps relates to the poet, or to his family, it is impossible to identify him with any of the individuals of whom notices have been discovered in those registers.
The following extracts from the Court Book of Merchant Tailors' Company were made for me by the Clerk, 26th Dec. 1828, strangers, by a new regulation of the Company, not being allowed to inspect their documents :
From Court Book, vol. i. fol. 557;
“ Lune X° die decembris 1571. “ Item Anne Sylver, Widdowe, pñted and made free John
Webster her late Apprentise.” From Court Book, vol. ii. fol. 48 ;
“ Lune XX° die Januarij A° dm 1576. “ Item John Palmer pñted John Webster his Apprtize and also
made the saide Webster free.”
From Court Book, vol. vi. fol. 633;
“ Lune Decimo Septimo die Novemb
“ Anno Dm 1617.
AND HIS WRITINGS.
in a tract (hereafter to be mentioned) calle:1 Histriomastrix, &c. Hall and his coadjutor term him “ the
From Index Book to Freemen ; “ Webster Johes - Annam Silver, wid. 10 decembr 1571 Webster Johes 20 Johem Palmer, ... 20 Januarij 1576 Webster Joshes—fe Henricum Clinckard, 17 Novembris 1617."
“There are no other entries about any John Webster between the years 1571 and 1617."
The following memoranda are derived from the Prerogative Office:
John Webster, clothworker, of London, made his will on the 5th August, 1625. He bequeaths to his sister, Jane Cheney, dwelling within seven miles of Norwich, 101., with remainder, if she died, to her children, and if they died, to his sister Elizabeth Pyssing; to whom he also left 101., with remainder to her children. To his sister, Anne Webstar, of Holand, in Yorkshire, the same sum, with remainder to her children. To his father-in-law, William Hattfield, of Whittington, in Derbyshire, 151., and to his four children 41. each. To his cousin, Peter Webstar, and his wife, dwelling in Doncaster, 40s. each. To his cousin, Peter Webstar, of Whittington, in Derbyshire, he gives 101., and if he died before it was paid, it was to be given to his brother, who was a protestant, 'for I hear that one brother of my cousin Peter is a papist.' To William Bradbury, of London, shoemaker, 51. To Richard Matthew, his (the testator's) son-in-law, 161. He mentions his father-in-law, Mr. Thomas Farman. He gives his cousin, Edward Curtice, 11. 2s. To his cousin, Edward Curtis, son of Edward Curtis, senior, 31. He leaves the residue of his property to his brothers and sisters in law, by his wife ; specially providing that Elizabeth Walker should be one. He constitutes Mr. Robert Aungel, and his cousin, Mr. Francis Ash, citizens, his exeeutors; and his cousins, Curtis and Tayler, overseers of his
quondam player,” they appear only to have meant “ writer of plays."
will,-—which was proved by his executors on the 7th October, 1625.
John Webster, of St. Botolph's-without-Aldgate, citizen and tallow-chandler, of London, made his will on the 16th February, 1628, and orders by it, that his body should be buried in the churchyard of that parish, as near to his nephew, John Webster, as might be. To Katherine, his wife, he gives some freehold and copyhold lands in Clavering, in Essex, for life, with remainder to his nephew, James Webster; together with some property in Houndsditch, she paying 50s. quarterly to Mary Lee, wife of James Lee, of London, Merchant Tailor. To his nephew, James Webster, he bequeaths lands in Sabridgeworth, in Herts, with twothirds of his printed books, sword, pike, and other arms, when of full age, with reversion, if he died without heirs, to William Webster, alias Wilkinson. To his three sisters, Dorothy Wilkinson, Susan Nettleton, and Alice Brookes, his lands at Clavering, after the decease of his wife ; they paying to Mary Wigge, Barbara Brend, Agnes Loveband, widow, and Clement Campe, his wife's four sisters 41., each yearly. He afterwards describes the beforementioned William Webster, alias Wilkinson, as 'the eldest son of my eldest sister, Dorothy Wilkinson, late wife of Richard Wilkinson, of Yorkshire.' If the said William died without issue, the property so given him was to go to the testator's nephews, Thomas, son of Thomas Nettleton, and Edmund, son of Robert Brookes. He also mentions his nephew, Henry Wilkinson; his niece, Isabel Nettleton, then under age; his apprentice, John Wigge; bis niece, Elizabetn Brend, and her father, George Brende; to the children of John Alderston, of Chelmsford, he gives 101. each ; and to his cousin, Benjamin Crabtree, 21. And directs that the beforementioned James Webster, when of age, shall surrender to Michael Wilkinson a close in Cawood, in
The earliest notice of Webster yet discovered, occurs in the papers of Henslowe :
Two Harpies, by Dekker, Drayton, Middleton, Webster, and Mundy.
“ 1602 Lady Jane, by Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, Tho
mas Heywood, Wentworth Smith, and John Webster. “ The Second Part of Lady Jane, by Thomas Heywood, John Webster, Henry Chettle, and Thomas Dekker."
Malone's Shakespeare, (by Boswell), vol. iii. p. 327. The Two Harpies and Lady Jane are among the lost dramas of our ancestors.
In 1604 Webster made some additions to the Malcontent of Marston * This was a work for which he was not ill fitted. The masculine character of his mind and style would very aptly harmonize with the characteristics of his predecessor ; with whom, indeed, he has many qualities in comYorkshire, which was the testator's father's, and fell, by descent, to his (the testator's) brother, James Webster, who sold it to Michael Wilkinson. He appoints Mr. Thomas Overman, alderman and leatherseller, of London, the aforesaid John Alderston and Thomas Santy, citizen and merchant tailor, of London, overseers, and his wife Katherine, executrix, of his will, who proved it on the 12th Nov., 1641.
evident that both ese persons died without issue. * What the additions were, we cannot exactly say: see vol. iv., p. 3.
mon, and from the study of whose writings he perhaps in no slight degree modelled his own.
In 1607 were given to the press The History of Sir Thomas Wyatt, Westward Ho, and Northward Hoy-all which were composed by Webster, in alliance with Dekker.
That the authors did not superintend the printing of Sir Thomas Wyatt there can be no doubt, as the text is miserably corrupt; and I am inclined to believe that it is merely made up from fragments of the drama called Lady Jane, already mentioned in the quotation from Henslowe's papers.
Westward Ho, and Northward Ho, (the former of which was on the stage in 1605,—see vol. iii., p. 3,) are full of life and bustle, and exhibit as curious a picture of the manners and customs of the time as we shall anywhere find. Though by no means pure, they are comparatively little stained by that grossness from which none of our old comedies are entirely free. In them the worst things are always called by the worst names : the licentious and the debauched always speak most strictly in character; and the rake, the bawd, and the courtezan, are as odious in representation as they would be if actually present. But the public taste has now