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Mr. Rowe has told us, that he derived the principal anecdotes in his account of Shakspeare, from Betterton the player, whose zeal had induced him to visit Stratford, for the sake of procuring all possible intelligence concerning a poet to whose works he might justly think himself under the strongest obligations. Notwithstanding this assertion, in the manuscript papers of the late Mr. Oldys it is said, that one Bowman (according to Chetwood, p. 143, an actor more than half an age on the London theatres") was unwilling to allow that his associate and contemporary Betterton had ever undertaken such a journey.* Be this
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 communicated it to Mr. Rowe," who (according to Dr. Johnson) related it to Mr. Pope. Mr. Rowe (if this intelligence be authentick) seems to have concurred with me in opinion, as he forebore to introduce a circumstance so incredible into his Life of Shakspeare. As to the book which furnishes the anecdote, not the smallest part of it was the composition of Mr. Cibber, being entirely written by a Mr. Shiells, amanuensis to Dr. Johnson, when his Dictionary was preparing for the press. T. Cibber was in the King's Bench, and accepted of ten guineas from the booksellers for leave to prefix his name to the work; and it was purposely so prefixed as to leave the reader in doubt whether himself or his father was the person designed.
The foregoing anecdote relative to Cibber's Lives, &c. I received from Dr. Johnson. See, however, The Monthly Review for December, 1781, p. 409. Steevens.
Mr. Steevens in one particular is certainly mistaken. To the theatre in Blackfriars I have no doubt that many gentlemen rode in the time of Queen Elizabeth and King James I. From the Strand, Holborn, Bishopsgate-street, &c. where many of the nobility lived, they could indeed go no other way than on foot, or on horseback, or in coaches; and coaches till after the death of Elizabeth were extremely rare. Many of the gentry, therefore, certainly went to that playhouse on horseback.
This, however, will not establish the tradition relative to our author's first employment at the playhouse, which stands on a very slender foundation. Malone.
it is said, that one Bowman-was unwilling to allow his associate and contemporary Betterton had ever undertaken such a journey.] This assertion of Mr. Oldys is altogether unworthy of credit. Why any doubt should be entertained concerning Mr. Betterton's having visited Stratford, after Rowe's positive assertion that he did so, it is not easy to conceive. Mr. Rowe did not go there himself; and how could he have collected the few circumstances relative to Shakspeare and his family, which he was told, if he had not obtained information from some friend who
matter as it will, the following particulars, which I shall give in the words of Oldys, are for aught we know to the contrary, as well authenticated as any of the anecdotes delivered down to us by Rowe..
Mr. Oldys had covered several quires of paper with laborious collections for a regular life of our author. From these I have made the following extracts, which (however trivial) contain the only circumstances that wear the least appearance of novelty or information; the song in p. 40 excepted.
"If tradition may be trusted, Shakspeare often baited at the Crown inn or tavern in Oxford, in his journey to and from London. The landlady was a woman of great beauty and sprightly wit; and her husband Mr. John Davenant, (afterwards mayor of that city) a grave melancholy man; who, as well as his wife, used much to delight in Shakspeare's pleasant company. Their son young Will Davenant (afterwards Sir William) was then a little school-boy in the town, of about seven or eight years old,* and so fond also of Shakspeare, that whenever he heard of his arrival, he would fly from school to see him. One day an old townsman observing the boy running homeward almost out of breath asked him whither he was posting in that heat and hurry. He answered, to see his god-father Shakspeare. There's a good boy, said the other, but have a care that you don't take God's name in vain. This story Mr. Pope told me at the Earl of Oxford's table, upon occasion of some discourse which arose about Shakspeare's monument then newly erected in Westminster-abbey; and he quoted Mr. Betterton the player for his authority.
examined the register of the parish of Stratford, and made personal inquiries on the subject?
"Bowman," we are told, "was unwilling to believe," &c. But the fact disputed did not require any exercise of his belief. Mr. Bowman was married to the daughter of Sir Francis Watson, Bart. the gentleman with whom Betterton joined in an adventure to the East Indies, whose name the writer of Betterton's Life in Biographia Britannica has so studiously concealed. By that unfortunate scheme Betterton lost above 20001. Dr. Ratcliffe 60001. and Sir Francis Watson his whole fortune. On his death soon after the year 1692, Betterton generously took his daughter under his protection, and educated her in his house. Here Bowman married her; from which period he continued to live in the most friendly correspondence with Mr. Betterton, must have known whether he went to Stratford or not. Malone.
of about seven or eight years old,] He was born at Oxford in February, 1605-6. Malone.
t- Shakspeare's monument then newly erected in Westminster-abbey,]"This monument," says Mr. Granger, was erected in 1741, by the direction of the Earl of Burlington, Dr. Mead, Mr. Pope, and Mr. Martyn. Mr. Fleetwood and Mr. Rich gave
I answered, that I thought such a story might have enriched the variety of those choice fruits of observation he has presented us in his preface to the edition he had published of our poet's
each of them a benefit towards it, from one of Shakspeare's own plays. It was executed by H. Scheemaker, after a design of Kent.
"On the monument is inscribed-amor publicus posuit. Dr. Mead objected to amor publicus, as not occurring in old classcial inscription; but Mr. Pope and the other gentlemen concerned insisting that it should stand, Dr. Mead yielded the point, saying,
"Omnia vincit amor, nos et cedamus amori."
"This ancedote was communicated by Dr. Lort, late Greek professor of Cambridge, who had it from Dr. Mead himself."
It was recorded at the time in The Gentleman's Magazine for Feb. 1741, by a writer who objects to every part of the inscription, and says it ought to have been, "G. S. centum liginti et quatuor post obitum annis populus plaudens [aut favens] posuit."
The monument was opened Jan. 29, 1741. Scheemaker is said to have got 3001. for his work. The performers at each house, much to their honour, performed gratis; and the Dean and Chapter of Westminster took nothing for the ground. The money received by the performance at Drury Lane, amounted to above 2001. the receipts at Covent Garden to about 1001. These particulars I learn from Oldys's MS. notes on Langbaine.
The scroll on the monument, as I learn from a letter to my father, dated June 27, 1741, remained for some time after the monument was set up, without any inscription on it. This was a challenge to the wits of the time; which one of them accepted by writing a copy of verses, the subject of which was a conversation supposed to pass between Dr. Mead and Sir Thomas Hanmer, relative to the filling up of the scroll. I know not whether they are in print, and I do not choose to quote them all. The introductory lines, however, run thus:
"To learned Mead thus Hanmer spoke,
At Drury Lane was acted Julius Cæsar, 28 April, 1738, when a prologue written by Benjamin Martyn, Esq. was spoken by Mr. Quin, and an epilogue by James Noel, Esq. spoken by Mrs. Porter. Both these are printed in The General Dictionary. At Covent Garden was acted Hamlet, 10th April, 1739, when a prologue written by Mr. Theobald, and printed in The London Magazine of that year, was spoken by Mr. Ryan. In the newspaper of the day it was observed that this last representation was far from being numerously attended. Reed.
works. He replied "There might be in the garden of mankind such plants as would seem to pride themselves more in a regular production of their own native fruits, than in having the repute of bearing a richer kind by grafting; and this was the reason he omitted it."*
The same story, without the names of the persons, is printed among the jests of John Taylor the Water-poet, in his works, folio, 1630, p. 184, No 39: and, with some variations, may be found in one of Hearne's pocket books.†
and this was the reason he omitted it.] Mr. Oldys might have added, that he was the person who suggested to Mr. Pope the singular course which he pursued in his edition of Shakspeare. "Remember," says Oldys in a MS. note to his copy of Langbaine, Article, Shakspeare, "what I observed to my Lord Oxford for Mr. Pope's use, out of Cowley's preface." The observation here alluded to, I believe, is one made by Cowley in his preface, p. 53, edit. 1710, 8vo: "This has been the case with Shakspeare, Fletcher, Jonson, and many others, part of whose poems I should presume to take the boldness to prune and lop away, if the care of replanting them in print did belong to me; neither would I make any scruple to cut off from some the unnecessary young suckers, and from others the old withered branches; for a great wit is no more tied to live in a vast volume, than in a gigantick body; on the contrary it is commonly more vigorous the less space it animates, and as Statius says of little Tydeus,
totos infusa per artus,
Major in exiguo regnebat corpore virtus."
Pope adopted this very unwarrantable idea; striking out from the text of his author whatever he did not like: and Cowley himself has suffered a sort of poetical punishment for having suggested it, the learned Bishop of Worcester [Dr. Hurd] having pruned and lopped away his beautiful luxuriances, as Pope, on Cowley's suggestion, did those of Shakspeare. Malone.
The same story. may be found in one of Hearne's pocket books.] Antony Wood is the first and original author of the anecdote that Shakspeare, in his journies from Warwickshire to London, used to bait at the Crown-inn on the west side of the Corn market in Oxford. He says, that D'Avenant the poet was born in that house in 1606. "His father (he adds) John Davenant, was a sufficient vintner, kept the tavern now known by the sign of the Crown, and was mayor of the said city in 1621. His mother was a very beautiful woman, of a good wit and conversation, in which she was imitated by none of her children but by this William [the poet]. The father, who was a very grave and discreet citizen, (yet an admirer and lover of plays and play-makers, especially Shakspeare, who frequented his house in his journies between Warwickshire and London,) was of a melancholick disposition, and was seldom or never seen to laugh, in which he was
"One of Shakspeare's younger brothers,* who lived to a good old age, even some years, as I compute, after the restoration o
imitated by none of his children but by Robert his eldest son, afterwards fellow of St. John's College, and a venerable Doctor of Divinity." Wood's Ath. Oxon. Vol. II, p. 292, edit. 1692. I will not suppose that Shakspeare could have been the father of a Doctor of Divinity who never laughed; but it was always a constant tradition in Oxford that Shakspeare was the father of Davenant the poet. And I have seen this circumstance expressly mentioned in some of Wood's papers. Wood was well qualified to know these particulars; for he was a townsman of Oxford, where he was born in 1632. Wood says, that Davenant went to school in Oxford. Ubi supr.
* One of Shakspeare's younger brothers, &c.] Mr. Oldys seems to have studied the art of " marring a plain tale in the telling of it;" for he has in this story introduced circumstances which tend to diminish, instead of adding to, its credibility. Male dum recitas, incipit esse tuus. From Shakspeare's not taking notice of any of his brothers or sisters in his will, except Joan Hart, I think it highly probable that they were all dead in 1616, except her, at least all those of the whole blood; though in the register there is no entry of the burial of either his brother Gilbert, or Edmund, antecedent to the death of Shakspeare, or at any subsequent period.
The truth is, that this account of our poet's having performed the part of an old man in one of his own comedies, came originally from Mr. Thomas Jones, of Tarbick, in Worcestershire, who has been already mentioned, (see p. 40, n. *,) and who related it from the information, not of one of Shakspeare's brothers, but of a relation of our poet, who lived to a good old age, and who had seen him act in his youth. Mr. Jones's informer might have been Mr. Richard Quiney, who lived in London, and died at Stratford in 1656, at the age of 69; or Mr. Thomas Quiney, our poet's son-in-law, who lived, I believe, till 1663, and was twenty-seven years old when his father-in-law died; or some one of the family of Hathaway. Mr. Thomas Hathaway, I believe Shakspeare's brother-in-law, died at Stratford in 1654-5, at the age of 85.
There was a Thomas Jones, an inhabitant of Stratford, who between the years 1581 and 1590 had four sons, Henry, James, Edmund, and Isaac: some one of these, it is probable, settled at Tarbick, and was the father of Thomas Jones, the relater of this anecdote, who was born about the year 1613.
If any of Shakspeare's brothers lived till after the restoration, and visited the players, why were we not informed to what player he related it, and from what player Mr. Oldys had his account The fact, I believe, is, he had it not from a player, but from the above-mentioned Mr. Jones, who likewise communicated the stanza of the ballad on Sir Thomas Lucy, which has been printed in a former page. Malone.