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more than a balance for what books had given the former and the judgment of a great man upon this occasion was,
In vain, however, did he endeavour to bully the town into approbation by telling his auditors," By G-'tis good, and if you like't, you may;" and by pouring out against those who preferred our poet to him, a torrent of illiberal abuse; which, as Mr. Walpole justly observes, some of his contemporaries were willing to think wit, because they were afraid of it; for, notwithstanding all his arrogant boasts, notwithstanding all the clamour of his partizans both in his own life time and for sixty. years after his death, the truth is, that his pieces, when first formed, were so far from being applauded by the people, that they were scarcely endured; and many of them were actually, damned.
The fine plush and velvets of the age
"Did oft for sixpence damn thee from the stage,”
says one of his eulogists in Jonsonius Virbius, 4to. 1638. Jonson himself owns that Sejanus was damned. "It is a poem, says he, in his Dedication to Lord Aubigny, "that, if I well remember, in your Lordship's sight suffered no less violence from our people here, than the subject of it did from the rage of the people of Rome." His friend E. B. (probably Edmund Bolton) speaking of the same performance, says,—
"But when I view'd the people's beastly rage,
"Bent to confound thy grave and learned toil,
Again, in his Dedication of Catiline to the Earl of Pembroke, the author says, "Posterity may pay your benefit the honour and thanks, when it shall know that you dare in these jig-given times to countenance a legitimate poem. I must call it so, against all noise of opinion, from whose crude and ayrie reports I appeal to that great and singular facultie of judgment in your lordship."
See also the Epilogue to Every Man in his Humour, by Lord Buckhurst, quoted below in The Account of our old English Theatres, ad finem. To his testimony and that of Mr. Drummond of Hawthornden, (there also mentioned,) may be added that of Leonard Digges in his Verses on Shakspeare, and of Sir Robert Howard, who says in the preface to his Plays, folio, 1665, (not thirty years after Ben's death,) "When I consider how severe the former age has been to some of the best of Mr. Jonson's never-to-be-equalled comedies, I cannot but wonder, why any poet should speak of former times." The truth is, that however extravagant the elogiums were that a few scholars gave him in
I think, very just and proper. In a conversation between Sir John Suckling, Sir William D'Avenant, Endymion Porter, Mr. Hales of Eton, and Ben Jonson, Sir John Suckling, who was a professed admirer of Shakspeare, had undertaken his defence against Ben Jonson with some warmth; Mr. Hales, who had sat still for some time, told them*, That if Mr. Shakspeare had not read the ancients, he had likewise not stolen any thing from them; and that if he would produce any one topick finely treated by any one of them, he would undertake to show something upon the same subject at least as well written by Shakspearet.
their closets, he was not only not admired in his own time by the generality, but not even understood. His friend Beaumont assures him in a copy of verses, that "his sense is so deep that he will not be understood for three ages to come." MALONE.
* Mr. Hales, who had sat still for some time, told THEM,] In Mr. Rowe's first edition this passage runs thus:
"Mr. Hales, who had sat still for some time, hearing Ben. frequently reproach him with the want of learning and ignorance of the antients, told him at last, That if Mr. Shakspeare," &c. By the alteration, the subsequent part of the sentence-" if he would produce," &c. is rendered ungrammatical. MALONE.
+ He would undertake to show something upon the same subject at least as well written by Shakspeare.] I had long endeavoured in vain to find out on what authority this relation was founded; and have very lately discovered that Mr. Rowe proba bly derived his information from Dryden: for in Gildon's Letters and Essays, published in 1694, fifteen years before this Life appeared, the same story is told; and Dryden, to whom an Essay in vindication of Shakspeare is addressed, is appealed to by the writer as his authority. As Gildon tells the story with some slight variations from the account given by Mr. Rowe, and the book in which it is found is now extremely scarce, I shall subjoin the passage in his own words:
"But to give the world some satisfaction that Shakspeare has had as great veneration paid his excellence by men of unques tioned parts, as this I now express for him, I shall give some account of what I have heard from your mouth, sir, about the noble triumph he gained over all the ancients, by the judgment of the ablest criticks of that time.
"The matter of fact, if my memory fail me not, was this. Mr. Hales of Eton affirmed, that he would show all the poets of antiquity out-done by Shakspeare, in all the topicks and commonplaces made use of in poetry. The enemies of Shakspeare would. by no means yield him so much excellence; so that it came to
The latter part of his life was spent, as all men of good sense will wish theirs may be, in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends. He had the good fortune to gather an estate equal to his occasion, and, in that, to his wish; and is said to have spent some years before his death at his native Stratford. His pleasurable wit and good-nature engaged him in the acquaintance, and entitled
a resolution of a trial of skill upon that subject. The place agreed on for the dispute was Mr. Hales's chamber at Eton. A great many books were sent down by the enemies of this poet; and on the appointed day my Lord Falkland, Sir John Suckling, and all the persons of quality that had wit and learning, and interested themselves in the quarrel, met there; and upon a thorough disquisition of the point, the judges chosen by agreement out of this learned and ingenious assembly, unanimously gave the preference to Shakspeare, and the Greek and Roman Poets were adjudged to vail at least their glory in that to the English Hero."
This elogium on our author is likewise recorded at an earlier period by Tate, probably from the same authority, in the preface to The Loyal General, quarto, 1680: "Our learned Hales was wont to assert, that, since the time of Orpheus, and the oldest poets, no common-place has been touched upon, where our author has not performed as well."
Dryden himself also certainly alludes to this story, which he appears to have related both to Gildon and Rowe, in the following passage of his Essay of Dramatick Poesy, 1667; and he as well as Gildon goes somewhat further than Rowe, in his panegyrick. After giving that fine character of our poet which Dr. Johnson has quoted in his preface, he adds, " The consideration of this made Mr. Hales of Eton say, that there was no subject of which any poet ever writ, but he would produce it MUCH BETTER done by Shakspeare; and however others are now ge nerally preferred before him, yet the age wherein he lived, which had contemporaries with him, Fletcher and Jonson, never equalled them to him in their esteem: And in the last king's court [that of Charles I.] when Ben's reputation was at highest, Sir John Suckling, and with him the greater part of the courtiers, set our Shakspeare far above him."
Let ever-memorable Hales, if all his other merits be forgotten, be ever mentioned with honour, for his good taste and admiration of our poet. "He was," says Lord Clarendon, “one of the least men in the kingdom; and one of the greatest scholars in Europe." See a long character of him in Clarendon's Life, vol. i. p. 52. MALONE.
him to the friendship of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. Amongst them, it is a story almost still remembered in that country that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe*, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and usury: it happened, that in a pleasant 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 since he could not know what might be said of him when he was dead, he desired it might be done immediately; upon which Shakspeare gave him these four lines:
"Ten in the hundred lies here ingrav'd;
""Tis a hundred to ten his soul is not say'd:
"Oh! oh! quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe."
But the sharpness of the satire is said to have stung the man so severely, that he never forgave it.
He died in the 53d year of his age, and was buried on the north side of the chancel, in the great church at Stratford, where a monument is placed in the wallt. On his grave-stone underneath is,
*- that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe,] This Mr. John Combe I take to be the same, who, by Dugdale, in his Antiquities of Warwickshire, is said 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 statue thereon cut in alabaster, and in a gown, with this epitaph: "Here lyeth interred the body of John Combe, Esq. who departing this life the 10th day of July, 1614, bequeathed by his last will and testament these sums ensuing, annually to be paid for ever; viz. xx. s. for two sermons 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 100L. to be lent to fifteen poore tradesmen of the same borough, from three years to three years, changing the parties every third year, at the rate of fifty shillings per annum, the which increase he appointed to be distributed towards the relief of the almespoor there." The donation has all the air of a rich and sagacious usurer. THEOBALD.
where a monument is placed in the wall.] He is represented under an arch, in a sitting posture, a cushion spread before him, with a pen in his right hand, and his left rested on a
"Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear
"Blest be the man that spares these stones,
He had three daughters, of which two lived to be married; Judith, the elder, to one Mr. Thomas Quiney, by whom she had three sons, who all died without children; and Susanna, who was his favourite, to Dr. John Hall, a phy sician of good reputation in that country. She left one, child only, a daughter, who was married first to Thomas Nashe, Esq. and afterwards to Sir John Barnard of Abing ton, but died likewise without issue.
This is what I could learn of any note, either relating to himself or family; the character of the man is best seen in his writings. But since Ben Jonson has made a sort of an essay towards it in his Discoveries, I will give
it in his words:
scroll of paper. The following Latin distich is engraved under the cushion:
Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
The first syllable in Socratem is here made short, which cannot be allowed. Perhaps we should read Sophoclem. Shak speare is then appositely compared with a dramatick author among the ancients: but still it should be remembered that the elogium is lessened while the metre is reformed; and it is well known that some of our early writers of Latin poetry were uncommonly negligent in their prosody, especially in proper names. The thought of this distich, as Mr. Tollet observes, might have been taken from The Faëry Queene of Spenser, B. II. c. ix. st. 48, and c. x. st. 3.
To this Latin inscription on Shakspeare should be added the lines which are found underneath it on his monument:
"Stay, passenger, why dost thou go so fast?
"Read, if thou canst, whom envious death hath plac'd
"Obiit An°. Dni. 1616.
æt. 53, die 23 Apri." STEEVENS.