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have hooted the wits from the field; and, attaching themselves to the mighty body of Shakspeare, like barnacles to the hull of a proud man-of-war, they are prepared to plough with him the vast ocean of time; and thus, by the only means in their power, to snatch themselves from that oblivion to which Nature had devoted them. It would be unjust, however, to defraud these gentlemen of their proper praise. They have read for men of talents; and, by their gross labor in the mine, they have accumulated materials to be arranged and polished by the hand of the finer artist.—Some apology may be necessary for this short digression from the more immediate subject of my biography. But the three or four years, which were passed by Shakspeare in the peaceful retirement of New Place, are not distinguished by any traditionary anecdote deserving of our record; and the chasm may not improperly be supplied with whatever stands in contiguity with it. I should pass in silence, as too trifling for notice, the story of our Poet's extempore and jocular epitaph on John Combe, a rich townsman of Stratford, and a noted money-lender, if my readers would not object to me that I had omitted an anecdote which had been honored with a place in every preceding biography of my Author. As the circumstance is related by Rowe, “In a pleasant conversation among their common friends, Mr. Combe told Shakspeare, in a laughing manner, that he fancied he intended to write his epitaph if he happened to outlive 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 verses :
"Ten in the hundred lies here ingraved :
- -- -
But the sharpness of the satire is said to have stung the man so severely that he never forgave it.” By Aubrey the story is differently told; and the lines in question, with some alterations, which evidently make them worse, are said to have been written after Combe's death. Steevens and Malone discredit the whole tale. The two first lines, as given to us by Rowe, are unquestionably not Shakspeare's; and that any lasting enmity subsisted between these two burghers of Stratford is disproved by the respective wills of the
parties, John Combe bequeathing five pounds to our Poet, and our Poet leaving his sword to John Combe's nephew and residuary legatee, John Combe himself being at that time deceased. With the two commentators above mentioned, I am inclined, therefore, on the whole, to reject the story as a fabrication; though I cannot, with Steevens, convict the lines of malignity; or think, with him and with Malone, that the character of Shakspeare, on the supposition of his being their author, could require any labored vindication to clear it from stain. In the anecdote, as related by Rowe, I can see nothing but a whimsical sally breaking from the mind of one friend, and of a nature to excite a good-humored smile on the cheek of the other. In Aubrey's hands, the transaction assumes a somewhat darker complexion ; and the worse verses, as written after the death of their subject, may justly be branded as malevolent, and as discovering enmity in the heart of their writer. But I have dwelt too long upon a topic which, in truth, is undeserving of a syllable and if I were to linger on it any longer, for the purpose of exhibiting Malone's reasons for his preference of Aubrey's copy of the epitaph to Rowe's, and his discovery of the propriety and beauty of the single Ho in the last line of Aubrey's, as Ho is the abbreviation of Hobgoblin, one of the names of Robin Goodfellow, the fairy servant of Oberon, my readers would have just cause to complain of me, as sporting with their time and their patience.
On the ninth of July, 1614, Stratford was ravaged by a fire, which destroyed fifty-four dwelling-houses, besides barns and outoffices. It abstained, however, from the property of Shakspeare; and he had only to commiserate the losses of his neighbors.
With his various powers of pleasing; his wit and his humor; the gentleness of his manners; the flow of his spirits and his fancy; the variety of anecdote with which his mind must have been stored; his knowledge of the world, and his intimacy with man, in every gradation of society, from the prompter of a playhouse to the peer and the sovereign, Shakspeare must have been a delightful -nay, a fascinating companion; and his acquaintance must necessarily have been courted by all the prime inhabitants of Stratford and its vicinity. But over this, as over the preceding periods of his life, brood silence and oblivion; and in our total ignorance
of his intimacies and friendships, we must apply to our imagination to furnish out his convivial board, where intellect presided, and delight, with admiration, gave the applause.
On the 2d of February, 1615–16, he married his youngest daughter, Judith, then in the thirty-first year of her age, to Thomas Quiney, a vintner in Stratford; and on the 25th of the succeeding month, he executed his will. He was then, as it would appear, in the full vigor and enjoyment of life; and we are not informed that his constitution had been previously weakened by the attack of any malady. But his days, or rather his hours, were now all numbered; for he breathed his last on the 23d of the ensuing April, on that anniversary of his birth which completed his fifty-second year. It would be gratifying to our curiosity to know something of the disease, which thus prematurely terminated the life of this illustrious man; but the secret is withheld from us; and it would be idle to endeavor to obtain it. We may be certain that Dr. Hall, who was a physician of considerable eminence, attended his father-in-law in his last illness; and Dr. Hall kept a register of all the remarkable cases, with their symptoms and treatment, which, in the course of his practice, had fallen under his observation. This curious MS., which had escaped the enmity of time, was obtained by Malone; but the recorded cases in it most unfortunately began with the year 1617; and the preceding part of the register, which most probably had been in existence, could no where be found. The mortal complaint, therefore, of William Shakspeare, is likely to remain forever unknown; and as darkness had closed upon his path through life, so darkness now gathered round his bed of death, awfully to cover it from the eyes of succeeding generations.
On the 25th of April, 1616, two days after his decease, he was buried in the chancel of the church of Stratford ; and at some period within the seven subsequent years (for in 1623 it is noticed in the verses of Leonard Digges), a monument was raised to his memory, either by the respect of his townsmen or by the piety of relations. It represents the Poet with a countenance of thought, resting on a cushion, and in the act of writing. It is placed under an arch, between two Corinthian columns of black marble, the capitals and bases of which are gilt. The face is said, but, as far as I can find, not on any adequate authority, to have been modelled from the face of the deceased; and the whole was painted, to bring the imitation nearer to nature. The face and the hands wore the carnation of life: the eyes were light hazel : the hair and beard were auburn : a black gown, without sleeves, hung loosely over a scarlet doublet. The cushion, in its upper part, was green ; in its lower, crimson; and the tassels were of gold color. This certainly was not in the high classical taste ; though we may learn from Pausanias that statues in Greece were sometimes colored after life; but as it was the work of contemporary hands, and was intended, by those who knew the Poet, to convey to posterity some resemblance of his lineaments and dress, it was a monument of rare value, and the tastelessness of Malone, who caused all its tints to be obliterated with a daubing of white lead, cannot be sufficiently ridiculed and condemned. Its material is a species of freestone; and as the chisel of the sculptor was most probably under the guidance of Dr. Hall, it bore some promise of likeness to the mighty dead. Immediately below the cushion is the following distich :
Judicio Pylium; genio Socratem; arte Maronem
Terra tegit; populus mæret ; Olympus habet.
On a tablet underneath are inscribed these lines :
Stay, passenger ; why dost thou go so fast?
and the flat stone, covering the grave, holds out, in very irregular characters, a supplication to the reader, with the promise of a blessing, and the menace of a curse :
Good friend! for Jesus' sake forbear
And cursed be he that moves my bones. The last of these inscriptions may have been written by Shakspeare himself, under the apprehension of his bones being tumbled, with those of many of his townsmen, into the charnel-house of the parish. But his dust has continued unviolated, and is likely to remain in its holy repose till the last awful scene of our perishable globe. It were to be wished that the two preceding inscriptions
were more worthy than they are of the tomb to which they are attached. It would be gratifying if we could give any faith to the tradition, which asserts that the bust of this monument was sculptured from a cast moulded on the face of the departed Poet; for then we might assure ourselves that we possess one authentic resemblance of this preëminently intellectual mortal. But the cast, if taken, must have been taken immediately after his death; and we know neither at whose expense the monument was constructed, nor by whose hand it was executed, nor at what precise time it was erected. It may have been wrought by the artist, acting under the recollections of the Shakspeare family, into some likeness of the great townsman of Stratford; and, on this probability, we may contemplate it with no inconsiderable interest. I cannot, however, persuade myself that the likeness could have been strong. The forehead, indeed, is sufficiently spacious and intellectual; but there is a disproportionate length in the under part of the face; the mouth is weak; and the whole countenance is heavy and inert. Not having seen the monument itself, I can speak of it only from its numerous copies by the graver; and by these it is possible that I may be deceived. But if we cannot rely on the Stratford bust for a resemblance of our immortal Dramatist, where are we to look with any hope of finding a trace of his features? It is highly probable that no portrait of him was painted during his life; and it is certain that no portrait of him, with an incontestable claim to genuineness, is at present in existence. The fairest title to authenticity seems to be assignable to that which is called the Chandos portrait, and is now in the collection of the Duke of Buckingham, at Stowe. The possession of this picture can be distinctly traced up to Betterton and Davenant. Through the hands of successive purchasers, it became the property of Mr. Robert Keck. On the marriage of the heiress of the Keck family, it passed to Mr. Nicholl, of Colney-Hatch, in Middlesex : on the union of this gentleman's daughter with the Duke of Chandos, it found a place in that nobleman's collection; and, finally, by the marriage of the present Duke of Buckingham with the Lady Anne Elizabeth Brydges, the heiress of the house of Chandos, it has settled in the gallery of Stowe. This was pronounced by the late Earl of Orford (Horace Walpole), as we are informed by Mr. Granger, to be the only original picture