« السابقةمتابعة »
Mr. Capell conjectures, that his early marriage prevented his being sent to one of the universities. It appears, however, as Dr. Farmer observes, that his early life was incompatible with a course of education; and it is certain, that "his contemporaries, friends and "foes, nay, and himself likewise, agree in his want of "what is usually termed literature." It is, indeed, a strong argument in favour of Shakspeare's illiterature, that it was maintained by all his contemporaries, many of whom have bestowed every other merit upon him, and by his successors, who lived nearest to his time, when" his memory was green :" and that it has been denied only by Gildon, Sewell, and others, down to Upton, who could have no means of ascertaining the truth. Mr. Malone seems inclined to revive their opinion, but finds it impossible.
In his eighteenth year (1582) or perhaps a little sooner, he married ANNE HATHAWAY, who was seven years and a half older than himself. She was the daughter of one Hathaway, who is said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford. Of his domestic economy or professional occupation at this time, we have no information; but if we may credit former accounts, by Rowe, &c., it would appear, that both were in a considerable degree neglected, in consequence of his associating with a gang of deer-stealers.
It is said, that being detected with them in robbing the park, that is, stealing deer out of the park of sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote, near Stratford, he was so rigorously prosecuted by that gentleman as to be obliged to leave his family and business, whatever that might be, and take shelter in London. Sir Thomas, on this occasion, was exasperated by a ballad which Shakspeare wrote, (probably his first essay in poetry,) of which the following stanza was communicated to Mr. Oldys :
"A parliemente member, a justice of peace,
"If lowsie is Lucy, as some volke miscalle it,
"Yet an asse in his state
"We allowe by his ears but with asses to mate.
If Lucy is lowsie, as some volke miscalle it, "Sing lowsie Lucy, whatever befall it."
In our preceding edition, we remarked that these lines do no great honour to our poet, and the satire was probably unjust; for, although some of his admirers have exclaimed against sir Thomas as a "vain, weak, "and vindictive magistrate," he was certainly exerting no very violent act of oppression in protecting his property against a young man who was degrading the commonest rank of life, and who had at this time bespoke no indulgence by any display of superior talents. It was
also added, that the ballad must have made some noise at sir Thomas's expence, for the author took care it should be affixed to his park gates, and liberally circulated among his neighbours.
In defence of Shakspeare, Mr. Malone attempts to prove that our poet could not have offended sir Thomas Lucy by stealing his deer: FIRST, because (granting for a moment that he did steal deer) stealing deer was a common youthful frolic, and therefore could not leave any very deep stain on his character: SECONDLY, it was a practice wholly unmixed with any sordid or lucrative. motive, for the venison thus obtained was not sold, but freely participated at a convivial board: THIRDLY, that the ballad Shakspeare is said to have written in ridicule of sir Thomas Lucy is a forgery: and LASTLY, that sir Thomas Lucy had no park, and no deer.
After this very singular defence of Shakspeare, which occupies thirty of Mr. Malone's pages, besides some very prolix notes, he appears to be perplexed to know what to do with Shakspeare's resentment against sir Thomas Lucy. That he had a resentment against this
gentleman is certain, and that he retained it for many years is equally certain, for he gave vent to it in 1601, when he wrote "The Merry Wives of Windsor," about a year after sir Thomas's death.
Mr. Malone, after allowing that various passages in the first scene of the above-mentioned play, afford ground for believing that our author, on some account or other, had not the most profound respect for sir Thomas, adds, "the dozen white luces, however, which Shallow is made to commend as a good coat,' was not sir Thomas Lucy's coat of arms: though Mr. Theobald asserts that it is found on the monument of one of the family, as represented by Dugdale. No such coat certainly is found, either in Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire, or in the church of Charlecote, where I in vain sought for it. It is probable that the deviation from the real coat of the Lucies, which was gules, three lucies hariant, argent, was intentionally made by our poet, that the application might not be too direct, and give offence to sir Thomas Lucy's son, who, when this play was written, was living, and much respected, at Stratford."
As the deer-stealing story has hitherto been told in order to account for Shakspeare's arrival in London, it might have been expected that Mr. Malone would have been enabled to substitute some other reason, and to precede the arrival of our poet with some circumstances of more importance and of greater dignity; but nothing of this kind is to be found. We have lost the old tradition, with all its feasible accompaniments, but have got nothing in return. All that Mr. Malone ventures to conjecture, is, that when Shakspeare left Stratford, "he was involved in some pecuniary difficulties."
On his arrival in London, which was probably in the year 1586, when he was only twenty-two years old, he is said to have made his first acquaintance in the play-house, to which idleness or taste may have directed
him, and where his necessities, if tradition may be credited, obliged him to accept the office of call-boy, or prompter's assistant. This is a menial whose employment it is to give the performers notice to be ready to enter, as often as the business of the play requires their appearance on the stage. Pope, however, relates a story, communicated to him by Rowe, but which Rowe did not think deserving of a place in the life which he wrote, that must a little retard the advancement of our poet to the office just mentioned. According to this story, Shakspeare's first employment was to wait at the door of the play-house, and hold the horses of those who had no servants, that they might be ready after the performance. But "I cannot," says his acute commentator, Mr. Steevens, "dismiss this anecdote without observing "that it seems to want every mark of probability. "Though Shakspeare quitted 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 should 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 necessity of "holding horses for subsistence. Mr. Malone has re"marked, in his Attempt to ascertain the Order in "which the Plays of Shakspeare were 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 perhaps his relation. "The genius of our author prompted him to write poetry; his connexion with a player might have given "his productions a dramatic turn; or his own sagacity 66 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 general 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 "that time, that the usual mode of conveyance to these "places of amusement was by water, but not a single "writer so much as hints at the custom of riding to "them, or at the practice of having horses held during "the hours of exhibition. Some allusion to this usage, "(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 communi"cated it to Mr. Rowe, who, according to Dr. Johnson, "related it to Mr. Pope."
Mr. Malone concurs in opinion that this story stands on a very slender foundation, while he differs with Mr. Steevens as to the fact of gentlemen going to the theatre on horseback. With respect to Shakspeare's father "being engaged in a lucrative business," we may remark that this could not have been the case at the time our author came to London. He is said to have arrived in London in 1586, the year in which his father resigned the office of alderman, and was in decayed cir
But in whatever situation he was first employed at the theatre, he appears to have soon discovered those talents which afterwards made him
"The applause! delight! the wonder of our stage!"
Some distinction he probably first acquired as an actor, although Mr. Rowe was not able to discover any character in which he appeared to more advantage than