« PreviousContinue »
ance with the French language. In the play of Henry V. we have a whole scene in it, and in other places it occurs familiarly in the dialogue.
We may observe in general, that the early editions have not half the quantity; and every sentence, or rather every word most ridiculously blundered. These, for several reasons, could not possibly be published by the author *;
* Every writer on Shakspeare hath expressed his astonishment, that his author was not solicitous to secure his fame by a correct edition of his performances. This matter is not understood. When a poet was connected with a particular playhouse, he constantly sold his works to the Company, and it was their interest to keep them from a number of rivals. A faA vourite piece, as Heywood informs us, only got into print, when it was copied by the ear, " for a double sale would bring on a suspicion of honestie." Shakspeare therefore himself published nothing in the drama: when he left the stage, his copies remained with his fellow-managers, Heminge and Condell; who at their own retirement, about seven years after the death of their author, gave the world the edition now known by the name of the first folio; and call the previous publications "stolne and surreptitious, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealths of injurious impostors." But this was printed from the playhouse copies; which in a series of years had been frequently altered, through convenience, caprice, or ignorance. We have a sufficient instance of the liberties taken by the actors, in anl old pamphlet by Nash, called Lenten Stuff, with the Prayse of the red Herring, 4to. 1599, where he assures us, that in a play of his, called The Isle of Dogs, "foure acts, without his consent, or the leaste guesse of his drift or scope, were supplied by the players."
This, however, was not his first quarrel with them. In the Epistle prefixed to Greene's Arcadia, which I have quoted before, Tom hath a lash at some "vaine glorious tragedians," and very plainly at Shakspeare in particular; which will serve for an answer to an observation of Mr. Pope, that had almost been forgotten: "It was thought a praise to Shakspeare, that he scarce ever blotted a line :-I believe the common opinion of his want of learning proceeded from no better ground. This too, might be thought a praise by some."-But hear Nash, who was far from praising: "I leaue all these to the mercy of their mother-tongue, that feed on nought but the crums that fall from the translator's trencher. That could scarcely Latinize their neck verse if they should haue neede, yet English Seneca read by candle-light yeelds many good sentences---hee will affoord you whole Hamlets, I should say, handfuls of tragicall speeches."
and it is extremely probable, that the French ribaldry was at first inserted by a different hand, as the many additions most certainly were after he had left the stage.-Indeed, every friend to his memory will not easily believe, that he was acquainted with the scene between Catharine and the old gentlewoman; or surely he would not have admitted such obscenity and nonsense.
Mr. Hawkins, in the Appendix to Mr. Johnson's edition, hath an ingenious observation to prove, that Shakspeare, supposing the French to be his, had very little knowledge of the language.
"Est-il impossible d'eschapper la force de ton bras?" says a Frenchman.-" Brass, cur?" replies Pistol.
"Almost any one knows, that the French word bras is pronounced brau; and what resemblance of sound does this bear to brass?"
Mr. Johnson makes a doubt, whether the pronunciation of the French language may not be changed, since Shakspeare's time," if not," says he, "it may be suspected that some other man wrote the French scenes: but this does not appear to be the case, at least in this terminal tion, from the rules of the grammarians, or the practice of
-I cannot determine exactly when this Epistle was first published; but, I fancy, it will carry the original Hamlet somewhat further back than we have hitherto done and it may be observed, that the oldest copy now extant is said to be "enlarged to almost as much againe as it was." Gabriel Harvey printed at the end of the year 1592, Foure Letters and certaine Sonnetts, especially touching Robert Greene: in one of which his Arcadia is mentioned. Now Nash's Epistle must have been previous to these, as Gabriel is quoted in it with applause; and the Foure Letters were the beginning of a quarrel. Nash replied, in Strange Newes of the intercepting certaine Letters, and a Convoy of Verses, as they were going privilie to victual the Low Countries, 1593. Harvey rejoined the same year in Pierce's Supererogation, or a new Praise of the old Asse. And Nash again, in Have with you to Saffron Walden, or Gabriell Harvey's Hunt is up; containing a full Answer to the eldest Sonne of the Halter-maker, 1596.
Dr. Lodge calls Nash our true English Aretine and John Taylor in his Kicksey-Winsey, or a Lerry Come-twang, even makes an oath "by sweet satyricke Nashe his urne.”-He died before 1606, as appears from an old comedy, called The Return from Parnassus.
the poets. I am certain of the former from the French Alphabeth of De la Mothe*, and the Orthoepia Gallica of John Eliott; and of the latter from the rhymes of Marot, Ronsard, and Du Bartas.-Connections of this kind were very common. Shakspeare himself assisted Ben Jonson in his Sejanus, as it was originally written; and Fletcher in his Two Noble Kinsmen.
But what if the French scene were occasionally introduced into every play on this subject? and perhaps there were more than one before our poet's-In Pierce Penilesse, his Supplication to the Deuill, 4to. 1592, (which, it seems, from the Epistle to the Printer, was not in the first edition,) the author, Nash, exclaims, "What a glorious thing it is to have Henry the Fifth represented on the stage leading the French King prisoner, and forcing both him and the Dolphin to swear fealty!"-And it appears from the Jests of the famous comedian, Tarlton, 4to. 1611, that he had been particularly celebrated in the part of the Clown, in Henry the Fifth; but no such character exists in the play of Shakspeare. Henry the Sixth hath ever been doubted; and a passage in the above-quoted piece of Nash may give us reason to believe, it was previous to our author. "Howe would it haue joyed braue Talbot (the terror of the French) to thinke that after he had lyen two hundred yeare in his toomb, he should triumph again on the stage; and haue his bones now embalmed with the teares of ten thousand spectators at least (at seuerall times) who in the tragedian that represents his person, imagine they behold him fresh bleeding."I have no doubt but Henry the Sixth had the same author with Edward the Third, which hath been recovered to the world in Mr. Capell's Prolusions.
It hath been observed, that the Giant of Rabelais is sometimes alluded to by Shakspeare: and in his time no
* Lond. 1592, 8vo.
+ Lond. 1593, 4to. Eliot is almost the only witty grammarian that I have had the fortune to meet with. In his Epistle prefatory to The Gentle Doctors of Gaule, he cries out for persecution, very like Jack in that most poignant of all Satires, the Tale of a Tub, "I pray you be readie quicklie to cauill at my booke, I beseech you heartily calumniate my doings with speede, I request you humbly controll my method as soone as you may, I earnestly entreat you hisse at my inventions," &c.
translation was extant.-But the story was in every one's hand.
In a letter by one Laneham, or Langham, for the name is written differently*, concerning the entertainment at Killingwoorth Castle, printed 1575, we have a list of the vulgar romances of the age: King Arthurz Book, Huon of Burdeaus, Friar Rous, Howleglass, and Gargantua." Merest mentions him as equally hurtful to young minds with the Four Sons of Aymon, and the Seven Champions. And John Taylor had him likewise in his catalogue of authors, prefixed to Sir Gregory Nonsence+.
But to come to a conclusion, I will give you an irrefragable argument, that Shakspeare did not under
It is indeed of no importance, but I suspect the former to be right, as I find it corrupted afterward to Lanam and Lanum. This author by a pleasant mistake in some sensible Conjectures on Shakspeare lately printed at Oxford, is quoted by the name of Maister. Perhaps the title-page was imperfect; it runs thus: "Palladis Tamia. Wits Treasury. Being the second part of Wits Commonwealth, By Francis Meres Maister of Artes of both Universities."
I am glad out of gratitude to this man, who hath been of frequent service to me, that I am enabled to perfect Wood's account of him; from the assistance of our Master's very accurate list of graduates, (which it would do honour to the university to print at the publick expense) and the kind information of a friend from the register of his parish :---He was originally of Pembroke-Hall, B. A. in 1587, and M. A. 1591. About 1602 he became rector of Wing in Rutland; and died there, 1646, in the 81st year of his age.
I have quoted many pieces of John Taylor, but it was impossible to give their original dates. He may be traced as an author for more than half a century. His works were collected in folio, 1630, but many were printed afterward; I will mention one for the humour of the title: "Drinke and welcome, or the famous History of the most part of Drinkes in use in Greate Britaine and Ireland; with an especial Declaration of the Potency, Vertue, and Operation of our English Ale: with a description of all sorts of Waters, from the Ocean Sea to the Tears of a Woman, 4to. 1633." In Wits Merriment, or Lusty Drollery, 1656, we have an Epitaph on John Taylor, who was born in the city of Glocester, and dyed in Phoenix Alley, in the 75 yeare of his age; you may find him, if the worms have not devoured him, in Covent Garden churchyard," p. 130. -He died about two years before.
stand two very common words in the French and Latin languages.
According to the articles of agreement between the conqueror Henry and the King of France, the latter was to style the former, (in the corrected French of the former editions,) "Nostre tres cher filz Henry roy d'Angleterre ; and in Latin, Præclarissimus filius," &c. What," says Dr. Warburton, "is tres cher in French, præclarissimus in Latin! we should read præcarissimus."-This appears to be exceedingly true; but how came the blunder? it is a typographical one in Holinshed, which Shakspeare copied; but must indisputably have corrected, had he been acquainted with the languages." Our said father, during his life, shall name, call, and write us in French in this manner: Nostre tres chier filz, Henry roy d'Engleterre-and in Latine in this manner, Præclarissimus filius noster." Edit. 1587, p. 574.
To corroborate this instance, let me observe to you, though it be nothing further to the purpose, that another error of the same kind hath been the source of a mistake in an historical passage of our author, which hath ridiculously troubled the criticks.
Richard the Third* harangues his army before the battle of Bosworth:
* Some inquiry hath been made for the first performers of the capital characters in Shakspeare.
We learn, that Burbage, the alter Roscius of Camden, was the original Richard, from a passage in the poems of Bishop Corbet; who introduces his host at Bosworth describing the battle:
"But when he would have said King Richard died,
The play on this subject mentioned by Sir John Harrington in his Apologie for Poetrie, 1591, and sometimes mistaken for Shakspeare's, was a Latin one, and written by Dr. Legge; and acted at St. John's in our university, some years before 1588, the date of the copy in the Museum. This appears from a better MS. in our library at Emmanuel, with the names of the original performers.
It is evident from a passage in Camden's Annals, that there was an old play likewise on the subject of Richard the Second; but I know not in what language. Sir Gelley Merrick, who was concerned in the harebrained business of the Earl of Essex, and was hanged for it with the ingenious Cuffe, in 1601, is accused