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Here beginneth the Story of
SHAKSPEARE AND HIS FRIENDS.
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,
Soul of the age !
I PRYTHEE have patience, courteous reader ! the whilst I describe a certain chamber well worthy of most minute delineation-as thou wilt see anonfrom its having been the retreat, or closet, or place retired from the public eye, in which the master spirit of his age, and the glory of all times to come, did first develope those right famous qualities from which the world hath received such infinite profit
and delight. I will not trouble thee with a vain show of phrases architectural, which crabbed antiquarians do much affect; for I am not learned in the mystery of stone and timber; but what true heart and simple skill can do with language, will I essay, to give thee an accurate conception of a place that hath so many admirable recommendations to thy attention.
It was a room of no extraordinary dimensions, yet was it not stinted to space. The ceiling was of a moderate height, and the sides of the chamber were of oak, the panels of which were adorned with a goodly shew of delicate tracery, like unto the folds of linen; and round the chimneypiece was a most liberal display of carving, in fruit and foliage. A large vase of living flowers, that filled the chamber with a ravishing sweetness, stood beside the fire-dogs. One broad casement, composed of many little panes let into pieces of lead, looked out upon the river, and the centre part of it being open like a door, at divers times might be heard the mellow “ye, ho !” of the bargeman working his oar, as he piloted his heavy craft towards the city wharfs; or, mayhap, softened in the distance, the burthen of a popular ballad, sung by a party of merry apprentices going a pleasuring on the water. At one end of the room there rested on the oak floor, a large heavy press of dark walnut
tree wood, ornamented with rude carvings of Adam and Eve, and the tree of knowledge; and opposite, stood an ancient bookcase, the shelves of which supported a number of famous black letter volumes, folios and others, cased in parchment or roan bindings. On several narrow high-backed chairs, of carved oak, might be seen different articles of apparel—a hat on one, a cloak on another, and mayhap, a rapier resting against a third. In one corner were sundry swords and a matchlock, in another, divers pieces of old armour.
An empty tankard, and the remains of the morning repast, stood upon a large table in the centre of the chamber; and near the window, before a smaller table covered with papers, and in an antique arm-chair, sat its illustrious occupant.
Although his hose were ungartered, and his doublet had been left unbraced, his right noble countenance and worshipful bearing left not the spectator opportunity to notice the negligence of his attire. His face, which was of a manly agetwo years short of thirty—had been most providently fashioned,-with a forehead of marvellous capacity-eyes mild, yet lively withal—a mouth impressed with a very amatory eloquence-and a beard of a perfect gravity. Nor were his limbs of a less favourable mould. In fact, he was a man of multitudinous good graces. I would there were more such. Many such there can never be, for ad
inirable as he was in person, he was still more estimable in mind; and the union of these excellencies in a like liberal proportion is of such rarity, that peradventure the example will last out the world.
I am but a sorry limner; but had ì the art of Master Holbein, of famous memory, I could not hope, in a portrait, to do him justice; nevertheless, as what the original hath done hath been so singularly well liked, I despair not that posterity will give him proper countenance. However, suffice it to say, he sat writing with a creditable diligence; ever and anon leaning against his seat, abstractedly as it were ; and when he had sufficiently pondered on the matter with which he was in
progress, his pen resumed its path along the paper with additional speed. Sometimes he would smile as he wrote, as if tickled with the creations of his own fancy; and once his humour seemed so touched with some palpable conceit, that he cast down the pen, and throwing himself back in his chair, did laugh right heartily. At other times, when he appeared to have written passages of a graver purport, which gave him more than passable satisfaction, he took the paper in his hand, and did read aloud, with a rich voice and a most felicitous expression; and of a verity, never was the air so filled with delectable thoughts. At this time there was heard a