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this period is afforded too by a letter dated January 24th, 1597-8, from Abraham Sturley, at Stratford, to, it is supposed, Richard Quiney, in the course of which the former writes :
“ It semeth bi him that our countriman, Mr. Shakspere, is willinge to disburse some monei upon some od yarde land or other att Shottri or neare about us ; he thinketh it a veri fitt patterne to move him to deale in the matter of our tithes."
The year 1598, it is believed, witnessed the first acquaintance between Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, an acquaintance honourable to both, and which there can be no doubt speedily ripened into hearty friendship. According to Rowe, Shakespeare's “acquaintance with Ben Johnson began with a remarkable piece of humanity and good nature : Mr. Johnson, who was at that time altogether unknown to the world, had offer'd one of his plays to the players, in order to have it acted, and the persons into whose hands it was put, after having turn'd it carelessly and superciliously over, were just upon returning it to him with an ill-natur'd answer, that it would be of no service to their company, when Shakespear luckily cast his eye upon it, and found something so well in it as to engage him first to read it through, and afterwards to recommend Mr. Johnson and his writings to the public.” We have only Rowe's authority for this anecdote, but there seems no reason for doubting that some such passage did occur.65 There is another agreeable tradition respecting the acquaintance of these famous “Worthies” preserved by Fuller, who, speaking of Shakespeare, says, “Many were the wit-combates betwixt him and Ben Jonson, which two I behold like a Spanish great gallion and an English man-of-war ;-Master Jonson (like the former) was built far higher in learning, solid but slow in his performances ; Shake-speare with the English man-of-war, lesser in bulk, but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about and take advantage of all winds, by the quickness of his wit and invention."66
We now come to perhaps the most remarkable literary notice of Shakespeare by a contemporary extant. In 1598, Francis Meres published a work entitled Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury, being the Second Part of Wits Commonwealth, in which occurs the following passage respecting our poet and his compositions :
“As the soule of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras, so the sweete-wittie soule of Ovid lives in mellifluous and hony-tongued Shakespeare; witnes his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred Sonnets among his private friends, &c.
“ As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for comedy and tragedy among the Latines, so Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage ; for comedy, witnes his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Love Labors Lost, his Love Labours Wonne, his Midsummers Night Dreame, and his Merchant of Venice ; for tragedy, his Richard the 2., Richard the 3., Henry the 4., King John, Titus Andronicus, and his Romeo and Juliet.
“As Epius Stolo said that the Muses would speake with Plautus tongue, if they would speak Latin, so I say that the Muses would speak with Shakespeares fine filed phrase, if they would speake English.”67
65 Gifford rejects it disdainfully, in the belief that Jon- children, and after the christning, being in a deepe study, son's Every Man in His Humour is the piece recorded Johnson came to cheere him up, and askt him why he was in Henslowe's Diary, the comedie of C'mers as acted by so melancholy. No, faith, Ben, sayes he, not I; but I have the Lord Admiral's men in May, 1597, but Jonson distinctly beene considering a great while what should be the fittest states, in the edition of his works, 1616, that Every Man gift for me to bestow upon my god-child, and I have in his Humour was first acted by the Lord Chamberlain's resolv'd at last. I prythe what? says he. Ifaith, Ben, Ile servants in 1598. It is noticeable that in a list of the e'en give him a dowzen good Lattin spoones, and thou shalt “principal comedians” subjoined to this piece, Shake- translate them." From Merry Passages and Jeasts, Ms. speare's name stands first; unfortunately this list does not Harl. 6395. specify the character played by each actor, but our poet is 67 Of the poems and plays enumerated by Meres, a small supposed to have acted Old Knowell.
portion only, it is supposed, were in print when he wrote in 66 Worthies, p. 126, A a a. ed. fol. Some of these “wit- 1598. Those known to have been published that date combats" have been handed down to us, but they are not of are, the Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, Richard II., and a quality to verify their alleged parentage. For example:- Richard III., Romeo and Juliet, Titus Andronicus, and
"Shakespeare was god-father to one of Ben Johnsons the First Part of Henry IV.
This extract is of striking importance in determining the chronology of Shakespeare's dramas, and it is of equal interest in a biographical sense. It shows to what a height of reputation he had risen at the early age of thirty-four, an age when many writers have hardly begun to put forth their full powers.
The next literary allusion to our author is poetic, and occurs in a collection of Epigrams, published by Weever in 1599 :
" Ad Gulielmum Shakespeare.
I sware Apollo got them, and none other ;
Some heaven-born goddess said to be their mother.
Faire fire-hot Venus charming him to love her ;
Proud lust-stung Tarquine seeking still to prove her;
Their sugred tongues and power-attractive beauty
For thousand vowes to them subjective dutie.
Another memorial of this period, a letter addressed by Richard Quiney 6s to the poet himself, is considered of inestimable value, as being the only one now known to exist of all the communications he must have received :
“ Loveinge Contreyman, I am bolde of yow, as of a ffrende, craveinge yowr helpe with xxxli uppon Mʻ. Bushells and my securytee, or M'. Myttons with me. M”. Rosswell is nott come to London as yeate, and I have especiall cawse. Yow shall ffrende me muche in helpeinge me out of all the debettes I owe in London, I thanck God, and muche quiete my mynde, which wolde nott be indebeted. I am nowe towardes the Cowrte, in hope of answer for the dispatche of my buysenes. Yow shall nether loose creddytt nor monney by me, the Lorde wyllinge ; and nowe butt perswade yowrselfe soe, as I hope, and yow shall nott need to feare butt with all heartie thanckefullnes I wyll holde my tyme, and content yowr ffreende, and yf we bargaine farther, yow shalbe the paie-master yowrselfe. My tyme biddes me hasten to an ende, ande soe I committ thys (to) yowr care and hope of yowr helpe. I feare I shall nott be backe thys night ffrom the Cowrte. Haste. The Lorde be with yow and with us all, Amen! ffrom the Bell in Carter Lane, the 25 October, 1598.
Yowrs in all kyndenes,
From a subsidy roll dated Oct. 1st, 1598, discovered in the Carlton Ride Record Office by the Rev. J. Hunter, Shakespeare, it appears, was then assessed at five pounds, and subjected to a rate of thirteen shillings and fourpence, in the parish of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate :
“ Affid. William Shakespeare, vli.—xiijs. iiijd.” 69
** Richard Quiney was the father of the Thomas Quiney who subsequently married Shakespeare's youngest daughter. He was at London when the above letter was written, on business connected with the Stratford corporation, that borough having solicited Lord Treasurer Burghley for exemption from the subsidies imposed by the last Parlia
ment, on account of the distress and poverty occasioned in the town by two recent fires.
69 The memorandum affid. attached to the name is supposed to signify that he had made an affidavit of nonresidence, or some ground of exemption.
On the 8th of September, 1601, is recorded the burial of the poet's father." He was born, according to Malone, in or before the year 1530, and had consequently outlived the allotted threescore and ten years. 71
In May of the succeeding year, the poet increased his property by the purchase of a hundred and seven acres of arable land, for three hundred and twenty pounds ; 72 in September of the same year, he purchased a house or cottage in Dead Lane, opposite New Place, and also a messuage with barns, gardens, and orchards, of Hercules Underhill, for sixty pounds.
On the 29th of March, 1602-3, died Queen Elizabeth ; 73 and Chettle in his Englandes Mourning Garment, complains, that Shakespeare, whom she had “graced,” had not bewailed her loss in elegiac strains :
"Nor doth the silver-tongèd Melicert
Drop from his honied Muse one sable teare
And sing her Rape done by that Tarquin, Death." King James's partiality for the drama was manifested long before he ascended the English throne. In 1589, there is said to have been an English company, called “ Her Majestics Players,” at the Scottish Court. Ten years later, he licensed a company of English comedians to act at Edinburgh ; and on the 9th of October, 1601, we find, from the registers of the town council of Aberdeen, that the English players received thirty-two marks as a gratuity; and on the 22d of the same month, that the freedom of the city was conferred upon “Laurence Fletcher Comedian to his Majestie.”
On the 17th of May, 1603, a few days only after he reached London, the following warrant 74 under the Privy Seal was issued :
“ BY THE KING. “Right trusty and welbeloved Counsellor, we greete you well, and will and commaund you, that under our privie seale in your custody for the time being, you cause our letters to be derected to the keeper of our greate seale of England, commaunding him under our said greate seale, he cause our letters to be made patent in forme following. James, by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, Fraunce, and Irland, defender of the faith, &c. To all justices, maiors, sheriffs, constables, headboroughes, and other, our officers and loving subjects greeting. Know ye, that we of our speciall grace, certaine knowledge and meere motion, have licenced and authorized, and by these presentes doe licence and authorize, these our servants, Laurence Fletcher, William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustine Phillippes, John Hemmings, Henrie Condell, William Sly, Robert Armyn, Richard Cowlye, and the rest of their associats, freely
70 The entry in the Stratford register is as follows:
on this property in 1611, “twenty acres of pasture land are mentioned, in addition to the hundred and seven acres of arable land. See Appendix.
“1601, Septemb. 8, Mr. Johuñes Shakspeare.” 71 “The latest notice of John Shakespeare hitherto met with occurs in a paper in the Council Chamber at Stratford, containing notes respecting an action of trespass brought by Edward Grevil against several burgesses of Stratford, in 1601. His name is in a list that appears amongst memoranda of the defendant's case, perhaps of the witnesses intended to be called, -'Mr. Ibon Sackesper.'”—Halliwell's Life of Shakespeare, p. 73, fol.
72 The indenture is “ Between William Combe, of Warrwicke, in the countie of Warrwick, esqnier, and John Combe, of Olde Stretford, in the countie aforesaid, gentleman, on the one partie, and William Shakespere, of Stretford-uppon-Avon, in the countie aforesaide, gentleman, on thother partye,” and is dated 1st of May. The dramatist being at this time absent from Stratfor l, the conveyance was executed by his brother Gilbert. In the fine levied
73 One of the latest visits she paid to any of her nobility, we are told, was to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, at Harefield, at the beginning of August, 1602, and on that occasion, according to an interlined memorandum first printed by Mr. Collier from the Egerton papers, Othello was acted for her entertainment:
"6 August, 1602. Rewardes to the vaulters, players, and dauncers, (of this xli. to Burbidges players for Othello), lxiiijli. xviijs. xd.”
It is proper to state, however, that there is ground for believing this interlineation to be a modern fabrication. See the Introduction to Othello, p. 645, Vol. III.
74 In the Chapter House.—The patent under the Great Seal is dated May 19th.
to use and exercise the arte and faculty of playing comedies, tragedies, histories, enterludes, moralls, pastorals, stage-plaies, and such other like, as thei have already studied, or hereafter shall use or studie, as well for the recreation of our loving subjects, as for our solace and pleasure, when we shall thinke good to see them, during our pleasure ; and the said comedies, trajedies, histories, enterludes, moralls, pastoralls, stage-plaies, and such like, to show and exercise publiquely to their best commoditie, when the infection of the plague shall decrease, as well within theire now usuall howse called the Globe, within our county of Surrey, as also within anie towne halls, or mout halls, or other convenient places within the liberties and freedome of any other citie, universitie, towne, or borough whatsoever within our said realmes and dominions : willing and commaunding you, and every of you, as you tender our pleasure, not only to permit and suffer them heerin, without any your letts, hinderances, or molestations, during our said pleasure, but also to be ayding or assisting to them yf any wrong be to them offered ; and to allowe them such former courtesies, as hathe bene given to men of their place and qualitie; and also what further favour you shall shew to these our servants for our sake, we shall take kindly at your hands. And these our letters shall be your sufficient warrant and discharge in this behalfe.
“ Given under our signet at our mannor of Greenewiche, the seavententh day of May in the first
yeere of our raigne of England, France, and Ireland, and of Scotland the six and thirtieth.”
Of the precise period when Shakespeare ceased to act we know no more than of the time when he began.75 His name last appears in a printed list of the characters attached to Jonson's “Sejanus,” published in 1603, and it is thought that he relinquished a profession to which, if the lines in Sonnet cx1.76 express his real sentiments, he was never partial, shortly after the King's Patent was issued.77
In 1604, we find the poet bringing an action in the Court of Record at Stratford against Phillip Rogers for the sum of £1 158. 10d., the consideration being for “malt ” sold and
of hym. Mr. Benfield commendes hym; he was heare yesterdaye. Nicke
75 Among the various contributions purporting to throw light on Shakespeare's career which we owe to Mr. Collier, are two that claim attention at this stage of the biography. The first is a new reading of a letter still preserved at Dulwich College, from Mrs. Alleyn to her husband the actor, then absent on a professional expedition. The letter in question is dated October 20, 1603, and towards the end, where the paper is somewhat decayed, occurs a postscript, one paragraph of which reads thus :
" Aboute a weeke agoe there (cam le a youthe who saide he was
Mr. Frauncis Chaloner)s man ld have borrow[e]dx' to
and inquire after the fellow and said he had lent hym a horne. I
of hym Mr. Bromffeild commendes hym: hewas heare yesterdaye. Nicke
" Aboute a weeke a goe there came a youthe who said he was
... said he knewe hym not, only he herde of hym that he was & Toge so he was glade we did not lend him the money . Richard Johnes (went to seeko and inquire after the fellow, and said he had lent hym a horse. I feare me he pulled hym, thoughe he gulled not us. The youthe was a prety youthe, and banson in appayrell: we knowe not what becamo
By what oversight, or from what motive, certain words
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand.”
delivered at several times. The following year, he made the most considerable purchase he is known to have effected, in buying the tithes of Stratford, Old Stratford, Bishopton and Welcome. Not long subsequently, we are told King James wrote to the poet with his own hand “an amicable letter,
;"> 78 and, as Mr. Dyce remarks, “the tradition is, perhaps, indirectly supported by the following entries in the Accounts of the Revels, which prove how highly the dramas of Shakespeare were relished at the court of James :
[Accounts from Oct. 31st, 1611, to Nov. 1st, 1612. ]
presented att Whithall
The 5th of November : A
78 « That most learned prince, and great patron of learning, King James the First, was pleased with his own hand to write an amicable letter to Mr. Shakespeare; which letter, though now lost, remained long in the hands of Sir William D'Avenant, as a credible person, now living, can testify.”—Advertisement to Lintot's edition of Shakespeare's Poems, 1710. In a manuscript note on his copy of Fuller's Worthies, Oldys states that Sheffield, Duke of
Buckingham, told Lintot that he had seen the letter in the possession of Sir William Davenant. Farmer conjectures that the letter was in acknowledgment of the compliment conveyed in the passage of Macbeth, Act IV. Sc. 1, where James is indicated as carrying "two-fold balls and treble sceptres."
79 Cunningham's Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court, &c.