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bably the first effay of his poetry, be loft, yet it is said to have been fo very bitter, that it redoubled
well known from the fhare he had in compiling the Biographia Britannica) among the collections which he left for a Life of Shakspeare, obferves, that "there was a very aged gentleman living in the neighbourhood of Stratford, (where he died fifty years fince) who had not only heard, from feveral old people in that town, of Shakspeare's tranfgreflion, but could remember the first stanza of that bitter ballad, which, repeating to one of his acquaintance, he preferved it in writing; and here it is neither better nor worse, but faithfully transcribed from the copy which his relation very courteously communicated to me :"
"A parliemente member, a juftice of peace,
"At home a poor fcare-crowe, at London an affe,
"We allowe by his ears but with affes to mate.
Contemptible as this performance muft now appear, at the time when it was written it might have had fufficient power to irritate a vain, weak, and vindictive magiftrate; efpecially as it was affixed to several of his park-gates, and confequently publifhed among his neighbours.-It may be remarked likewise, that the jingle on which it turns, occurs in the firft fcene of The Merry Wives of Windfor.
I may add, that the veracity of the late Mr. Oldys has never yet been impeached; and it is not very probable that a ballad ihould be forged, from which an undiscovered wag could derive no triumph over antiquarian credulity. STEEVENS.
According to Mr. Capell, this ballad came originally from Mr. Thomas Jones, who lived at Tarbick, a village in Worcesterfhire, about 18 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, and died in 1703, aged upwards of ninety. "He remembered to have heard from feveral old people at Stratford the ftory of Shakfpeare's robbing Sir Thomas Lucy's park; and their account of it agreed with Mr. Rowe's, with this addition, that the ballad written against Sir Thomas Lucy by Shakspeare was stuck upon his park-gate, which exafperated the knight to apply to a lawyer at Warwick to proceed against him. Mr. Jones (it is added) put down in writing the first stanza of this ballad, which was all he
the prosecution against him to that degree, that he was obliged to leave his business and family in Warwickshire, for fome time, and fhelter himself in London.
It is at this time, and upon this accident, that he is faid to have made his firft acquaintance in the playhouse. He was received into the company then in being, at firft in a very mean rank, but
remembered of it." In a note on the transcript with which Mr. Capell was furnished, it is faid, that "the people of those parts pronounce low fie like Lucy." They do fo to this day in Scotland. Mr. Wilkes, grandson of the gentleman to whom Mr. Jones repeated the stanza, appears to have been the person who gave a copy of it to Mr. Oldys, and Mr. Capell.
In a manufcript History of the Stage, full of forgeries and falfehoods of various kinds written (I fufpect by William Chetwood the prompter) fome time between April 1727 and October 1730, is the following paffage, to which the reader will give just as much credit as he thinks fit:
"Here we shall obferve, that the learned Mr. Joshua Barnes, late Greek Profeffor of the University of Cambridge, baiting about forty years ago at an inn in Stratford, and hearing an old woman finging part of the above-said song, fuch was his respect for Mr. Shakspeare's genius, that he gave her a new gown for the two following ftanzas in it; and, could fhe have faid it all, he would (as he often faid in company, when any discourse has cafually arose about him) have given her ten guineas :
"Sir Thomas was too covetous,
"To covet fo much deer,
"When horns enough upon his head,
"Had not his worship one deer left?
"Took pains enough to find him horns
"Should last him during life." MALONE.
"He was received into the company-at firft in a very mean rank;] There is a stage tradition, that his firft office in the theatre was that of Call-boy, or prompter's attendant; whofe employment it is to give the performers notice to be ready to enter, as often as the bufinefs of the play requires their appearance on the ftage.. MALONE..
his admirable wit, and the natural turn of it to the ftage, foon distinguished him, if not as an extraordinary actor, yet as an excellent writer. His name is printed, as the custom was in those times, amongst thofe of the other players, before fome old plays, but without any particular account of what fort of parts he used to play; and though I have inquired, I could never meet with any further account of him this way, than that the top of his performance was the Ghoft in his own Hamlet.3 I fhould have been much more pleafed, to have learned from certain authority, which was the first play he wrote;4 it would be without doubt a pleasure to any man, curious in things of this kind, to fee and know what was the first effay of a fancy like Shakspeare's. Perhaps we are not to look for his beginnings, like thofe of other authors, among their least perfect writings; art had fo little, and nature fo large a fhare in what he did, that, for aught I know, the performances of his youth, as they were the moft vigorous, and had the most fire and ftrength of imagination in them, were the beft.5 I would not
than that the top of his performance was the Ghoft in his own Hamlet.] See fuch notices as I have been able to collect on this fubject, in the Lift of old English actors, post.
to have learned from certain authority, which was the firft play he wrote;] The higheft date of any I can yet find, is Romeo and Juliet in 1597, when the author was 33 years old; and Richard the Second, and Third, in the next year, viz. the 34th of his age. POPE.
Richard II. and III. were both printed in 1597.-On the order of time in which Shakspeare's plays were written, see the Effay in the next volume. MALONE.
5 for aught I know, the performances of his youthwere the beft.] See this notion controverted in An Attempt to afcertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays. MALONE.
be thought by this to mean, that his fancy was fo loofe and extravagant, as to be independent on the rule and government of judgment; but that what he thought was commonly fo great, fo juftly and rightly conceived in itself, that it wanted little or no correction, and was immediately approved by an impartial judgment at the first fight. But though the order of time in which the feveral pieces were written be generally uncertain, yet there are paffages in fome few of them which feem to fix their dates. So the Chorus at the end of the fourth act of Henry the Fifth, by a compliment very handfomely turned to the Earl of Effex, fhows the play to have been written when that lord was general for the Queen in Ireland; and his elogy upon Queen Elizabeth, and her fucceffor King James, in the latter end of his Henry the Eighth, is a proof of that play's being written after the acceffion of the latter of these two princes to the crown of England. Whatever the particular times of his writing were, the people of his age, who began to grow wonderfully fond of diverfions of this kind, could not but be highly pleased to fee a genius arise amongst them of fo pleasurable, fo rich a vein, and fo plentifully capable of furnishing their favourite entertainments. Besides the advantages of his wit, he was in himself a good-natured man, of great sweetness in his manners, and a moft agreeable companion; fo that it is no wonder, if, with fo many good qualities, he made himself acquainted with the beft converfations of thofe times. Queen Elizabeth had feveral of his plays acted before her, and without doubt gave him many gracious marks of her favour: it is that maiden princess plainly, whom he intends by
and that whole paffage is a compliment very pro perly brought in, and very handfomely applied to her. She was fo well pleased with that admirable character of Falstaff, in The Two Parts of Henry the Fourth, that the commanded him to continue it for one play more, and to show him in love. This is faid to be the occafion of his writing The Merry Wives of Windfor. How well fhe was obeyed, the play itself is an admirable proof. Upon this occafion it may not be improper to obferve, that this part of Falstaff is faid to have been written originally under the name of Oldcafile: fome of that family being then remaining, the Queen was pleased to command him to alter it; upon which he made ufe of Falftaff. The prefent offence was indeed avoided; but I do not know whether the author may not have been fomewhat to blame in his fecond choice, fince it is certain that Sir John Falftaff, who was a knight of the garter, and a lieutenant-general, was a name of diftinguifhed merit in the wars in France in Henry the Fifth's and Henry the Sixth's times. What grace foever the Queen conferred upon him, it was not to her only he owed the fortune which the reputation of
- fhe commanded him to continue it for one play more,] This anecdote was firft given to the publick by Dennis, in the Epifile Dedicatory to his comedy entitled The Comical Gallant, 4to. 1702, altered from The Merry Wives of Windfor.
this part of Falstaff is faid to have been written originally under the name of Oldcastle;] See the Epilogue to Henry the Fourth. POPE.
In a note fubjoined to that Epilogue, and more fully in Vol. XI. p. 194, n. 3, the reader will find this notion overturned, and the origin of this vulgar error pointed out. Mr. Rowe was evidently deceived by a paffage in Fuller's Worthies, mifunderstood.