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to have spent fome years before his death at his native Stratford.5 His pleafureable wit and good
houfes in Stratford, at 601. a year, and his houfe, &c. in the Blackfriars, (for which he paid 1401.) at 201. a year, we have a rent-roll of 150l. per annum. Of his perfonal property it is not now poffible to form any accurate eftimate: but if we rate it at five hundred pounds, money then bearing an intereft of ten per cent. Shakspeare's total income was 2001. per ann.* In The Merry Wives of Windfor, which was written foon after the year 1600, three hundred pounds a year is described as an eftate of fuch magnitude as to cover all the defects of its pof
"O, what a world of vile ill-favour'd faults
S to have spent fome years before his death at his native Stratford.] In 1614 the greater part of the town of Stratford was confumed by fire; but our Shakspeare's houfe, among fome others, escaped the flames. . This houfe was firft built by Sir Hugh Clopton, a younger brother of an ancient family in that neighbourhood. Sir Hugh was Sheriff of London in the reign of Richard III. and Lord Mayor in the reign of King Henry VII, By his will he bequeathed to his elder brother's fon his manor of Clopton, &c. and his house, by the name of the Great House in Stratford. Good part of the estate is yet [in 1733] in the poffeffion of Edward Clopton, Efq. and Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt. lineally defcended from the elder brother of the firft Sir Hugh.
The eftate had now been fold out of the Clopton family for above a century, at the time when Shakspeare became the purchafer who having repaired and modelled it to his own mind, changed the name to New-Place, which the manfion-house, fince erected upon the fame spot, at this day retains. The house, and lands which attended it, continued in Shakspeare's defcendants to the time of the Reftoration; when they were re-purchased by the Clopton family, and the manfion now belongs to Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt. To the favour of this worthy gentleman I owe the knowledge of one particular in honour of our poet's once dwelling-houfe, of which I prefume Mr. Rowe never was apprized. When the Civil War raged in England, and King
*To Shakspeare's income from his real and perfonal property must be added 2001. per ann, which he probably derived from the theatre, while he continued on the ftage.
nature engaged him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship, of the gentlemen of the
Charles the Firft's Queen was driven by the neceffity of her affairs to make a recefs in Warwickshire, the kept her court for three weeks in New-Place. We may reasonably fuppofe it then the best private house in the town; and her Majefty preferred it to the College, which was in the poffeffion of the Combe family, who did not fo ftrongly favour the King's party. THEOBALD.
From Mr. Theobald's words the reader may be led to fuppofe that Henrietta Maria was obliged to take refuge from the rebels in Stratford-upon-Avon: but that was not the cafe. She marched from Newark, June 16, 1643, and entered Stratford-upon-Avon triumphantly, about the 22d of the fame month, at the head of three thoufand foot and fifteen hundred horse, with 150 waggons and a train of artillery. Here fhe was met by Prince Rupert, accompanied by a large body of troops. After fojourning about three weeks at our poet's houfe, which was then poffeffed by his grand-daughter Mrs. Nath, and her husband, the Queen went (July 13) to the plain of Keinton under Edge-hill, to meet the King, and proceeded from thence with him to Oxford, where, fays a contemporary hiftorian, "her coming (July 15) was rather to a triumph than a war."
Of the College above mentioned the following was the origin. John de Stratford, Bishop of Winchester, in the fifth year of King Edward III. founded a Chantry confifting of five priests, one of whom was Warden, in a certain chapel adjoining to the church of Stratford on the fouth fide; and afterwards (in the feventh year of Henry VIII.) Ralph Collingwode inftituted four chorifters, to be daily affiftant in the celebration of divine service there. This chantry, fays Dugdale, soon after its foundation, was known by the name of The College of Stratford-upon-Avon.
In the 26th year of Edward III." a house of square stone" was built by Ralph de Stratford, Bishop of London, for the habitation of the five priests. This houfe, or another on the same spot, is the house of which Mr. Theobald speaks. It still bears the name of "The College," and at present belongs to the Rev. Mr. Fuller
After the fuppreffion of religious houses, the fite of the college was granted by Edward VI. to John Earl of Warwick and his heirs; who being attainted in the first year of Queen Mary, it reverted to the crown.
Sir John Clopton, Knt. (the father of Edward Clopton, Efq. and Sir Hugh Clopton,) who died at Stratford-upon-Avon in
neighbourhood. Amongst them, it is a story almost ftill remembered in that country that he had a par
April, 1719, purchased the estate of New-Place, &c. fome time after the year 1685, from Sir Reginald Forfter, Bart. who married Mary, the daughter of Edward Nafh, Efq. coufin-german to Thomas Nath, Efq. who married our poet's grand-daughter, Elibeth Hall. Edward Nash bought it, after the death of her second husband, Sir John Barnard, Knight. By her will, which will be found in a fubfequent page, the directed her trustee, Henry Smith, to fell the New-Place, &c. (after the death of her hufband,) and to make the first offer of it to her coufin Edward Nafh, who purchased it accordingly. His fon Thomas Nafh, whom for the fake of diftinction I fhall call the younger, having died without iffue, in Auguft, 1652, Edward Nath by his will, made on the 16th of March, 1678-9, devised the principal part of his property to his daughter Mary, and her husband Reginald Forfter, Efq. afterwards Sir Reginald Forster; but in confequence of the teftator's only referring to a deed of fettlement executed three days before, without reciting the substance of it, no particular mention of New-Place is made in his will. After Sir John Clopton had bought it from Sir Reginald Forster, he gave it by deed to his younger fon, Sir Hugh, who pulled down our poet's house, and built one more elegant on the fame fpot.
In May, 1742, when Mr. Garrick, Mr. Macklin, and Mr. Delane vifited Stratford, they v were hofpitably entertained under Shakspeare's mulberry-tree, by Sir Hugh Clopton. He was a barrifter at law, was knighted by George the First, and died in the 80th year of his age, in Dec. 1751. His nephew, Edward Clopton, the fon of his elder brother Edward, lived till June, 1753.
The only remaining perfon of the Clopton family now living (1788), as I am informed by the Rev. Mr. Davenport, is Mrs. Partheriche, daughter and heiress of the second Edward Clopton above mentioned. "She refides," he adds, " at the family manfion at Clopton near Stratford, is now a widow, and never had any iffue.'
The New Place was fold by Henry Talbot, Efq. fon-in-law and executor of Sir Hugh Clopton, in or foon after the year 1752, to the Rev. Mr. Gastrell, a man of large fortune, who refided in it but a few years, in confequence of a disagreement with the inhabitants of Stratford. Every house in that town that is let or valued at more than 40s. a year, is affeffed by the overseers, according to its worth and the ability of the occupier,
ticular intimacy with Mr. Combe, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and ufury: it
to pay a monthly rate toward the maintenance of the poor. As Mr. Gaftrell refided part of the year at Lichfield, he thought he was affeffed too highly; but being very properly compelled by the magiftrates of Stratford to pay the whole of what was levied on him, on the principle that his houfe was occupied by his fervants in his abfence, he peevishly declared, that that house should never be affeffed again; and foon afterwards pulled it down, fold the materials, and left the town. Withing, as it should seem, to be "damn'd to everlasting fame," he had some time before cut down Shakspeare's celebrated mulberry-tree, to fave himself the trouble of showing it to those whofe admiration of our great poet led them to vifit the poetick ground on which it ftood.
That Shakspeare planted this tree, is as well authenticated as any thing of that nature can be. The Rev. Mr. Davenport informs me, that Mr. Hugh Taylor, (the father of his clerk,) who is now eighty-five years old, and an alderman of Warwick, where he at prefent refides, fays, he lived when a boy at the next houfe to New-Place; that his family had inhabited the house for almost three hundred years; that it was tranfmitted from father to fon during the laft and the prefent century; that this tree (of the fruit of which he had often eaten in his younger days, fome of its branches hanging over his father's garden,) was planted by Shakspeare; and that till this was planted, there was no mulberry-tree in that neighbourhood. Mr. Taylor adds, that he was frequently, when a boy, at New-Place, and that this tradition was preserved in the Clopton family, as well as in his own.
There were scarce any trees of this species in England till the year 1609, when by order of King James many hundred thoufand young mulberry-trees were imported from France, and fent into the different counties, with a view to the feeding of filkworms, and the encouragement of the filk manufacture. See Camdeni Annales ab anno 1603 ad annum 1623, published by Smith, quarto, 1691, p. 7; and Howes's Abridgment of Stowe's Chronicle, edit. 1618, p. 503, where we have a more particular account of this tranfaction than in the larger work. A very few mulberry-trees had been planted before; for we are told, that in the preceding year a gentleman of Picardy, Monfieur Foreft, "kept greate ftore of English filkworms at Greenwich, the which the king with great pleasure came often to fee them worke; and of their filke he caufed a piece of taffata to be made.”
happened, that in a pleafant conversation amongst their common friends, Mr. Combe told Shakspeare in a laughing manner, that he fancied he intended to write his epitaph, if he happened to out-live him; and fince he could not know what might be faid of him when he was dead, he defired it might
Shakspeare was perhaps the only inhabitant of Stratford, whofe business called him annually to London; and probably on his return from thence in the spring of the year 1609, he planted this tree.
As a fimilar enthufiafm to that which with fuch diligence has fought after Virgil's tomb, may lead my countrymen to vifit the fpot where our great bard spent feveral years of his life, and died; it may gratify them to be told that the ground on which The New-Place once ftood, is now a garden belonging to Mr. Charles Hunt, an eminent attorney, and town-clerk of Stratford. Every Englishman will, I am fure, concur with me in wishing that it may enjoy perpetual verdure and fertility:
In this retreat our SHAKSPEARE's godlike mind
that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe,] This Mr. John Combe I take to be the fame, who, by Dugdale, in his Antiquities of Warwickshire, is faid to have died in the year 1614, and for whom at the upper end of the quire of the guild of the holy cross at Stratford, a fair monument is erected, having a ftatue thereon cut in alabafter, and in a gown, with this epitaph: "Here lyeth interred the body of John Combe, Efq. who departing this life the 10th day of July, 1614, bequeathed by his last will and teftament thefe fums enfuing, annually to be paid for ever; viz. xx. s. for two fermons to be preach'd in this church, and vi. 1. xiii. s. iv. d. to buy ten gownes for ten poore people within the borough of Stratford; and 1001. to be lent to fifteen poore tradesmen of the fame borough, from three years to three years, changing the parties every third year, at the rate of fifty fhillings per annum, the which increase he appointed to be distributed towards the relief of the almes-poor there." The donation has all the air of a rich and fagacious usurer.