Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

ܪܐ

the poets. I am certain of the former from the French Alphabeth of De la Mothe*, and the Orthoepia Gallica of John Eliot t; 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, 4 to.

Eliot is almost the only witty gramma. rian 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," Sc.

a

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 f.

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. X. in 1587, and M. A. 1591. About 1602 he became rector of Wing in Rutland ; and died there, 1646,

1 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 Phænix Alley, in the 75 yeare of his age; you may firid 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 precarissimus.—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 ridicu- . lously troubled the criticks.

Richard the Third * harangues his army before the battle of Bosworth:

[ocr errors]

a

* 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,

“ And call'd a horse, a horse, he Burbage cried." 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. Jolin'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

66

“Remember whom ye are to cope withal,
" A sort of vagabonds, of rascals, runaways
“And who doth lead them but a paltry fellow

Long kept in Britaine at our mother's cost,

« A milksop,” &c.« Our mother,” Mr. Theobald perceives to be wrong, and Henry was somewhere secreted on the continent: he reads therefore, and all the editors after him,

“Long kept in Bretagne at his mother's cost." But give me leave to transcribe a few more lines from Holinshed, and you will find at once, that Shakspeare had been there before me : “ Ye see further, how a companie of traitors, theeves, outlaws and runnagates be aiders and partakers of his feat and enterprise. And to begin with the erle of Richmond captaine of this rebellion, he is a Welsh milksop-brought up by my moother's means and mine, like

a captive in a close cage in the court of Francis Duke of Britaine." P. 756.

Holinshed copies this verbatim from his brother chronicler Hall, edit. 1548, fol. 54; but his printer hath given us by accident the word moother instead of brother; as it is in the original, and ought to be in Shakspeare *.

I hope, my good friend, you have by this time acquitted our great poet of all piratical depredations on the ancients, and are ready to receive my conclusion.—He remembered perhaps enough of his school-boy learning to put the Hig,

amongst other things, “ quod eroletam Tragediam de tragică abdicatione Regis Ricardi Secundi in publico theatro coram conjuratis datâ pecuniâ agi curasset."

I cannot take my leave of Holinshed without clearing up a difficulty, which hath puzzled his biographers. Nicholson and other writers have supposed him a clergyman. Tanner goes further, and tells us, that he was educated at Cambridge, and actually took the degree of M. A. in 1544. Yet it appears by his will, printed by Hearne, that at the end of life he was only a steward or a servant in some capacity or other, to Thomas Burdett, Esq. of Bromcote, in Warwickshire.---These things Dr. Campbell could not reconcile. The truth is, we have no claim to the education of the Chronicler : the M. A. in 1544, was not Raphael, but one Ottiwell Holingshed, who was afterward named by the founder one of the first Fellows of Trinity College.

[ocr errors]

hag, hog, into the mouth of Sir Hugh Evans; and might pick up in the writers of the time*, or the course of his conversation, a familiar phrase or two of French or Italian: but his studies were most demonstratively confined to nature and his own language.

In the course of this disquisition, you have often smiled at “all such reading, as was never read ;” and possibly I may have indulged it too far: but it is the reading necessary for a comment on Shakspeare. Those who apply solely to the ancients for this purpose, may with equal wisdom study the Talmud for an exposition of Tristram Shandy. Nothing but an intimate acquaintance with the writers of the time, who are frequently of no other value, can point out his allusions, and ascertain his phraseology. The reformers of his text are for ever equally positive, and equally wrong. The cant of the age, a provincial expression, an obscure proverb, an obsolete custom, a hint at a person or a fact no longer remembered, hath continually defeated the best of our guessers: You must not suppose me to speak at random, when I assure you, that from some forgotten book or other, I can demonstrate this to you in many hundred places : and I almost wish, that I had not been persuaded into a different employment.

Though I have as much of the natale solum + about me,

[ocr errors]

* Ascham in the Epistle prefixed to his Toxophilus, 1571, observes of them, that Manye Englishe writers, usinge straunge wordes, as Lattine, Frenche, and Italian, do make all thinges darke and harde. Ones,” says he, “I communed with a man which reasoned the Englishe tongue to be enriched and encreased thereby, sayinge: Who will not prayse that feast, where a man shall drincke at a dinner both wyne, ale, and beere? Truly (quoth I) they be al good, eury one taken by himself alone, but if you put Malmesye and sacke, redde wyne and white, ale and beere, and al in one pot, you shall make a drinke neither easye to be knowen, nor yet holsome for the bodye.”

+ This alludes to an intended publication of the Antiquities of the Town of Leicester. The work was just begun at the press, when the writer was called to the principal tuition of a large college, and was obliged to decline the undertaking. The plates, however, and some of the materials, have been long ago put into the hands of a gentleman, who is every way qualified to make a proper use of them.

« ZurückWeiter »