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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 Eng. lish 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 generally 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 ;
“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. l. xiii. s. iv. d. to buy ten gownes for ten poore people within the borough of Stratford ; and 100). 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 almes
The donation has all the air of a rich and sagacious usurer. THEOBALD.
t 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
" And curst be he that moves my bones." 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 physician 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 Abington, 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,
THEOBALD. The first syllable in Socratem is here made short, which cannot be allowed. Perhaps we should read Sophoclem. Shakspeare 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 ?
“ Obiit Ano. Dni. 1616.
“I remember the players have often mentioned it as an “ honour to Shakspeare, that in writing (whatsoever he
penned) he never blotted out a line. My answer hath “ been, Would he had blotted a thousand! which they
thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity “ this, but for their ignorance, who chose that circum “stance to commend their friend by, wherein he most “ faulted : and to justify mine own candour, for I loved
the man, and do honour his memory, on this side idola“ try, as much as any. He was, indeed, honest, and of “ an open and free nature, had an excellent fancy, brave “ notions, and gentle expressions ; wherein he flowed with " that facility, that sometimes it was necessary he should “ be stopped: Sufflaminandus erat, as Augustus said of “ Haterius. His wit was in his own power; would the “ rule of it had been so too. Many times he fell into those
things which could not escape laughter; as when he " said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him,
• Cæsar, thou dost me wrong.' “ He replied:
• Cæsar did never wrong, but with just cause.' “ and such like, which were ridiculous. But he redeemed “his vices with his virtues ; there was ever more in him “ to be praised than to be pardoned.”
As for the passage which he mentions out of Shakspeare, there is somewhat like it in Julius Cæsar, but without the absurdity ; nor did I ever meet with it in any edition that I have seen, as quoted by Mr. Jonson*.
Besides his plays in this edition, there are two or three ascribed to him by Mr. Langbaine, which I have never seen, and know nothing of. He writ likewise Venus and Adonis, and Tarquin and Lucrece, in stanzas, which have been printed in a late collection of poems t. As to the
nor did I ever meet with it in any edition that I have seen, as quoted by Mr. Jonson.] See Mr. Tyrwhitt's note on Julius Cæsar, Act III. Sc. I. vol. xii. p. 75, n. 8. Malone.
t in a late collection of poems.] In the fourth volume of State Poems, printed in 1707. Mr. Rowe did not go beyond A Late Collection of Poems, and does not seem to have known that Shakspeare also wrote 154 Sonnets, and a poem entitled A Lover's Complaint. MALONE.
character given of him by Ben Jonson, there is a good deal true in it: but I believe it may be as well expressed by what Horace says of the first Romans, who wrote tragedy upon the Greek models, (or indeed translated them,) in his epistle to Augustus:
naturâ sublimis et acer:
“ Sed turpem putat in chartis metuitque lituram." As I have not proposed to myself to enter into a large and complete criticism upon Shakspeare's works, so I will only take the liberty, with all due submission to the judgment of others, to observe some of those things I have been pleased with in looking him over.
His plays are properly to be distinguished only into comedies and tragedies. Those which are called histories, and even some of his comedies, are really tragedies, with a run or mixture of comedy amongst them *. That way
are really tragedies, with a run or mixture of comedy amongst them.] Heywood, our author's contemporary, has stated the best defence that can be made for his intermixing lighter with the more serious scenes of his dramas :
“ It may likewise be objected, why amongst sad and grave histories I have here and there inserted fabulous jests and tales savouring of lightness. I answer, I have therein imitated our historical, and comical poets, that write to the stage, who, lest the auditory should be dulled with serious courses, which are merely weighty and material, in every act present some Zany, with his mimick action to breed in the less capable mirth and laughter; for they that write to all, must strive to please all. And as such fashion themselves to a multitude diversely addicted, so I to an universality of readers diversely disposed." Pref. to History of Women, 1624. Malone.
The criticks who renounce tragi-comedy as barbarous, I fear, speak more from notions which they have formed in their closets, than any well-built theory deduced from experience of what pleases or displeases, which ought to be the foundation of all rules.
Even supposing there is no affectation in this refinement, and that those criticks have really tried and purified their minds till there is no dross remaining, still this can never be the case of a popular audience, to which a dramatick representation is referred.
Dryden in one of his prefaces condemns his own conduct in The Spanish Friar; but, says he, I did not write it to please my