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The evidence from Mrs. Hall is contained in an account of a conversation which James Cooke, a surgeon, held with her about the year 1642. About that year he bought some books from Mrs. Hall; one being a manuscript book in which her husband had recorded in Latin particulars of many of his cases. Some of these particulars Cooke translated into English, and so published them in 1657.1 He then, in his address 'To the Friendly Reader,' gave the following account of the circumstances under which he became possessed of the work:
'Being in my Art an Attendent to parts of some regiments to keep the pass at the Bridge of Stratfordupon-Avon, There being then with me a Mate allyed to the Gentleman that writ the following Observations in Latin, he invited me to the house of Mrs. Hall Wife to the deceased, to see the Books left by Mr. Hall. After a view of them, she told me she had some Books left, by one that professed Physick, with her Husband, for seme mony. I told her, if I liked them, I would give her the money again; she brought them forth, amongst which there was this with another of the Authors, both intended for the Presse. I being acquainted with Mr. Hall's hand, told her that one or two of them were her Husbands, and shewed them her; she denyed, I affirmed, till I perceived she begun to be offended. At last I returned her the money.'
Like most women of her station at that time, Mrs. Hall
was no scholar; otherwise she could not have failed to recognise her husband's writing, which, if his signature on his will be any criterion, was sufficiently remarkable. 1 She made her mark on legal documents in all known cases except one, but that signature, although not that of a practiced writer, is perfectly satisfactory.2 Though not a scholar, the following lines on her grave-stone show her to have been exceptionally intelligent:
'Witty above her sex, but that's not all,
From the manner of Dr. Hall's reference to 'my manuscripts,' is it not evident that they were of his own writing, such as those we afterwards see in the possession of Mrs. Hall? While it would be natural for Dr. Hall to say, when bequeathing such papers to one not in the profession, 'burn them or do with them what you please,' it is inconceivable that one of Dr. Hall's education could so refer to them if they included any manuscripts of Shakespeare's, or that he could have thought of alienating any such manuscripts from his wife, Shakespeare's daughter. Who Mr. Boles was we do not know.
Mrs. Hall's daughter and son-in-law. probably went to live with her at New Place immediately after Dr. Hall's death. In August, 1642 (the year of Cooke's interview with Mrs. Hall) Nash speaks of New Place as in his
1 See Outlines, i. 275.
2 See Lee, Life, Illustrated library ed., p. 227.
occupation; and in a manuscript dated March 14, 1645–6, refers to my mother-in-law, Mrs. Hall, who lives with me.' 2
Mrs. Hall's disturbance at the thought of parting with a manuscript of her husband's and her keen appreciation of the money value of books, prove that she would have taken particular care of manuscripts of her father's had she possessed any.
It has been suggested that Dr. and Mrs. Hall's puritanism may have been responsible for the total loss of Shakespeare's manuscripts. But a complete answer to that suggestion is to point to the elaborate monument which they erected to his memory in Stratford church. He is there represented in the act of writing, and the verses on the monument give him the very highest praise, and all on account of his writings.
In 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death, his friends, fellow-actors, and fellow-shareholders-in-the theatre, John Heming and Henry Condell, published the First Folio edition of his works. It contains thirty-six plays, twenty of which then appeared in print, as far as is known, for the first time. In the address to the great variety of readers,' which they prefixed, Heming and Condell say, It had beene a thing, we confesse, worthie to have beene wished, that the Author himselfe had liv'd to have set forth and overseen his owne writings. But since it hath bin ordain'd otherwise, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you do not envie his
2 Outlines, ii. 321,
Friends the office of their care and paine to have collected and publish'd them; and so to have publish'd them, as where (before) you were abus'd by diverse stolne and surreptitious copies maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of injurious impostors that expos'd them, even those are now offer'd to your view cur'd, and perfect of their limbes, and all the rest absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them. Who, as he was a happie imitator of Nature, was a most gentle expressor of it. His mind and hand went together; and what he thought he uttered with that easinesse, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers.'
Their reference to Shakespeare's papers is of course to papers he had supplied to them for acting purposes. during the years of his connection with the theatre. Their statement that the plays which had been previously printed were in the folio 'cured, and perfect of their limbs' is universally admitted to be a misrepresentation. In his 'Life of Shakespeare,' Mr. Sidney Lee says, 'There is no doubt that the whole volume was printed from the acting versions in the possession of the manager of the company with which Shakespeare had been associated. But it is doubtful if any play were printed exactly as it came from his pen. The First Folio text is often markedly inferior to that of the sixteen pre-existent quartos, which, although surreptitiously and imperfectly printed, followed playhouse copies of a far earlier date. In the case of twenty of the plays in the First Folio
no quartos exist for comparison, and of these twenty
plays "Coriolanus," "All's Well," and "Macbeth" present a text abounding in corrupt passages.'1
The evidence from Heming and Condell supports that from Dr. and Mrs. Hall; for if any manuscripts had been left in the ordinary course of things by Shakespeare, as Halliwell-Phillipps says, 'it is reasonable to assume that they [Heming and Condell] would have used his materials and not been so careful to mention that they themselves were the only gatherers.'2
Sometime within seven years of Shakespeare's death, his son-in-law and daughter erected the monument to his memory in Stratford church.3 It is placed near to the grave, on the northern wall of the chancel. Below the bust is the following inscription:—
Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem.
Stay Passenger why goest thou by so fast?
The description in the first line of the Latin verses was evidently a deliberate attempt to give as complete a summary of Shakespeare as could be given in few words. And that summary received the endorsement of his son-in
1 p. 307.
2 Outlines, i. 263.
Mentioned by L. Digges, First Folio, 1623