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tragedy of Macbeth, but more efpecially the fcene where the King is murdered, in the fecond Act, as well as this play, is a noble proof of that manly fpirit with which he writ; and both fhow how powerful he was, in giving the strongest motions to our fouls that they are capable of. I cannot leave Hamlet, without taking notice of the advantage with which we have seen this master-piece of Shakfpeare diftinguish itfelf upon the flage, by Mr. Betterton's fine performance of that part. A man, who, though he had no other good qualities, as he has a great many, muft have made his way into the efteem of all men of letters, by this only excellency. No man is better acquainted with Shakspeare's manner of expreffion, and indeed he has ftudied him fo well, and is fo much a master of him, that whatever part of his he performs, he does it as if it had been written on purpose for him, and that the author had exactly conceived it as he plays it. I must own a particular obligation to him, for the moft confiderable part of the paffages relating to this life, which I have here tranfinitted to the publick; his veneration for the memory of Shakspeare having engaged him to make a journey into Warwickshire on purpose to gather up what remains he could, of a name for which he had fo great a veneration.2
of a name for which he had fo great a veneration.] Mr. Betterton was born in 1635, and had many opportunities of collecting information relative to Shakspeare, but unfortunately the age in which he lived was not an age of curiofity. Had either he or Dryden or Sir William D'Avenant taken the trouble to vifit our poet's youngest daughter, who lived till 1662, or his grand-daughter, who did not die till 1670, many particulars might have been preferved which are now irrecoverably loft. Shakspeare's fifter, Joan Hart, who was only five years younger than him, died at Stratford in Nov. 1646, at the age of feventy
To the foregoing Accounts of SHAKSPEARE'S LIFE, I have only one Pafsage to add, which Mr. Pope related, as communicated to him by Mr. Rowe.
IN the time of Elizabeth, coaches being yet un
common, and hired coaches not at all in ufe, those who were too proud, too tender, or too idle to walk, went on horfeback to any diftant business or diverfion. Many came on horfeback to the play,3 and when Shakspeare fled to London from the terror of a criminal profecution, his firft expedient was to wait at the door of the playhouse, and hold the horses of thofe that had no fervants, that they might be ready again after the performance. In this office he became fo confpicuous for
fix; and from her undoubtedly his two daughters, and his grand, daughter Lady Barnard, had learned feveral circumstances of his early history antecedent to the year 1600. MALONE.
This Account of the Life of Shakspeare is printed from Mr, Rowe's fecond edition, in which it had been abridged and altered by himself after its appearance in 1709. STEEVENS.
3 Many came on horseback to the play,] Plays were at this time performed in the afternoon. "The pollicie of plaies is very neceffary, howsoever fome fhallow-brained cenfurers (not the deepest fearchers into the fecrets of government) mightily oppugne them. For whereas the afternoon being the idleft time of the day wherein men that are their own mafters (as gentlemen of the court, the innes of the court, and a number of captains and foldiers about London) do wholly beftow themselves upon pleafure, and that pleasure they divide (how vertuoufly it skills not) either in gaming, following of harlots, drinking, or feeing a play, is it not better (fince of four extreames all the world cannot keepe them but they will choose one) that they should betake them to the leaft, which is plaies?" Nafh's Pierce Pennileffè his Supplication to the Devil, 1592. STEEVENS.
his care and readiness, that in a fhort time every man as he alighted called for Will. Shakspeare, and scarcely any other waiter was trufted with a horse while Will, Shakspeare could be had. This was the first dawn of better fortune. Shakspeare, finding more horses put into his hand than he could hold, hired boys to wait under his infpection, who, when Will. Shakspeare was fummoned, were immediately to present themselves, I am Shakspeare's boy, Sir. In time, Shakspeare found higher employment: but as long as the practice of riding to the playhouse continued, the waiters that held the horfes retained the appellation of, Shakspeare's boys. JOHNSON.
4 the waiters that held the horfes retained the appellation of, Shakspeare's boys.] I cannot difmifs this anecdote without obferving that it feems to want every mark of probability. Though Shakspeare quitted Stratford on account of a juvenile irregularity, we have no reafon to fuppofe that he had forfeited the protection of his father who was engaged in a lucrative bufinefs, or the love of his wife who had already brought him two children, and was herself the daughter of a substantial yeoman. It is unlikely therefore, when he was beyond the reach of his profecutor, that he should conceal his plan of life, or place of refidence, from those who, if he found himself diftreffed, could not fail to afford him fuch fupplies as would have fet him above the neceffity of holding horfes for fubfiftence. Mr. Malone has remarked in his Attempt to afcertain the Order in which the Plays of Shakspeare were written, that he might have found an eafy introduction to the ftage; for Thomas Green, a celebrated comedian of that period, was his townfman, and perhaps his relation. The genius of our author prompted him to write poetry; his connection with a player might have given his productions a dramatick turn; or his own fagacity might have taught him that fame was not incompatible with profit, and that the theatre was an avenue to both. That it was once the general custom to ride on horse-back to the play, I am likewife yet to learn. The most popular of the theatres were on the Bankfide; and we are told by the fatirical pamphleteers of that time, that the ufual mode of conveyance to these places of amufement, was by water, but
Mr. Rowe has told us, that he derived the principal anecdotes in his account of Shakspeare, from Betterton the player, whofe zeal had induced him to vifit Stratford, for the fake of procuring all poffible intelligence concerning a poet to whofe works he might juftly think himself under the strongest
not a fingle writer fo much as hints at the cuftom of riding to them, or at the practice of having horfes held during the hours. of exhibition. Some allufion to this ufage, (if it had exifted) muft, I think, have been discovered in the course of our refearches 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) feems to have concurred with me in opinion, as he forebore to introduce a circumftance fo incredible into his Life of Shakspeare. As to the book which furnishes the anecdote, not the smallest part of it was the compofition of Mr. Cibber, being entirely written by a Mr. Shiells, amanuenfis to Dr. Johnson, when his Dictionary was preparing for the prefs. T. Cibber was in the King's Bench, and accepted of ten guineas from the bookfellers for leave to prefix his name to the work; and it was purposely fo prefixed as to leave the reader in doubt whether himself or his father was the perfon defigned.
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, Bishopfgate 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 horfeback. See the proofs, in the Effay above referred to.
This, however, will not establish the tradition relative to our author's firft employment at the playhouse, which stands on a very flender foundation. MALONE.
obligations. Notwithstanding this affertion, in the manuscript papers of the late Mr. Oldys it is faid, 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 affociate and contemporary Betterton had ever undertaken fuch a journey.5 Be this 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 feveral 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
it is faid, that one Bowman-was unwilling to allow that his affociate and contemporary Betterton had ever undertaken fuch a journey.] This affertion of Mr. Oldys is altogether unworthy of credit. Why any doubt should be entertained concerning Mr. Betterton's having vifited Stratford, after Rowe's pofitive affertion that he did fo, 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 has told, if he had not obtained information from fome friend who examined the Register of the parish of Stratford, and made personal inquiries on the fubje&t ?
"Bowman," we are told, was unwilling to believe," &c. But the fact difputed 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 Eaft Indies, whofe name the writer of Betterton's Life in Biographia Britannica has so studiously concealed. By that unfortunate scheme Betterton loft above 20001. Dr. Ratcliffe 60001. and Sir Francis Watson his whole fortune. On his death foon after the year 1692, Betterton generously took his daughter under his protection, and educated her in his houfe. Here Bowman married her; from which period he continued to live in the most friendly correfpondence with Mr. Betterton, and must have known whether he went to Stratford or not. MALONE.