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Title: Shakspeare and His Times [Vol. 2 of 2]

Author: Nathan Drake

Release date: November 28, 2016 [eBook #53626]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Lisa Reigel, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries.)


Transcriber's Notes: In footnotes and attributions, commas and periods seem to be used interchangeably. They remain as printed. Variations in spelling, hyphenation, and accents remain as in the original unless noted. A complete list of corrections as well as other notes follows the text.



—— On the tip of his subduing tongue
All kind of arguments and question deep,
All replication prompt, and reason strong,
For his advantage still did wake and sleep:
To make the weeper laugh, the laugher weep,
He had the dialect and different skill,
Catching all passions in his craft of will;
That he did in the general bosom reign
Of young, of old; and sexes both enchanted.
The very age and body of the time, his form and pressure.



Printed by A. Strahan,
Printers-Street, London.



PART II. continued.
Dedications of Shakspeare's Venus and Adonis, and Rape of Lucrece, to the Earl of Southampton—Biographical Sketch of the Earl—Critique on the Poems of Shakspeare. Page 1
On the Dress and Modes of Living, and the Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants of the Metropolis, during the Age of Shakspeare. 87
On the Diversions of the Metropolis, and the Court—The Stage; its Usages and Economy. 168
A Brief View of Dramatic Poetry, from the Birth of Shakspeare to the Period of his Commencement as a Writer for the Stage, about the Year 1590; with Critical Notices of the Dramatic Poets who flourished during that Interval. 227
[iv]CHAP. IX.
Period of Shakspeare's Commencement as a Dramatic Poet—Chronological Arrangement of his genuine Plays—Observations on Pericles; on the Comedy of Errors; on Love's Labour's Lost; on Henry the Sixth, Part the First; on Henry the Sixth, Part the Second; and on A Midsummer-Night's Dream—Dissertation on the Fairy Mythology, and on the Modifications which it received from the Genius of Shakspeare. 256
Observations on Romeo and Juliet; on the Taming of the Shrew; on The Two Gentlemen of Verona; on King Richard the Third; on King Richard the Second; on King Henry the Fourth, Parts First and Second; on The Merchant of Venice; and on Hamlet—Dissertation on the Agency of Spirits and Apparitions, and on the Ghost in Hamlet. 356
Observations on King John; on All's Well that Ends Well; on King Henry the Fifth; on Much Ado about Nothing; on As You Like It; on Merry Wives of Windsor; on Troilus and Cressida; on Henry the Eighth; on Timon of Athens; on Measure for Measure; on King Lear; on Cymbeline; on Macbeth—Dissertation on the Popular Belief in Witchcraft during the Age of Shakspeare, and on his Management of this Superstition in the Tragedy of Macbeth. 419
Observations on Julius Cæsar; on Antony and Cleopatra; on Coriolanus; on The Winter's Tale; on The Tempest—Dissertation on the General Belief of the Times in the Art of Magic, and on Shakspeare's Management of this Superstition as exhibited in The Tempest—Observations on Othello; on Twelfth Night, and on the Plays ascribed to Shakspeare—Summary of Shakspeare's Dramatic Character. 490
A Brief View of Dramatic Poetry, and its Cultivators, during Shakspeare's Connection with the Stage. 556
The Biography of Shakspeare continued to the Close of his Residence in London. 581
Anecdotes relative to Shakspeare during his Retirement at Stratford. 603
The Death of Shakspeare—Observations on his Will—On the Disposition and Moral Character of Shakspeare—On the Monument erected to his Memory, and on the Engraving of him prefixed to the first Folio Edition of his Plays—Conclusion. 611
Appendix. 625







Shakspeare's dedication of his Venus and Adonis to the Earl of Southampton, in 1593; the accomplishments, the liberality, and the virtues of this amiable nobleman, and the substantial patronage which, according to tradition, he bestowed upon our poet, together claim for him, in this place, a more than cursory notice as to life and character.

Thomas Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton, and Baron of Titchfield, was born on the sixth of October, 1573. His grandfather had been created an Earl in the reign of Henry the Eighth; and his father, who married Mary, the daughter of Anthony, first Viscount of Montague, was a strenuous supporter of the rights of Mary Queen of Scots. Just previous to the completion of his eighth year, he suffered an irreparable loss by the death of his father, on the 4th of October, 1581. His mother, however, appears to have been by no means negligent of his education; for he was early sent to Cambridge, being [2]matriculated there when only twelve years old, on the 11th of December, 1585. He was admitted of St. John's College, where, on the 6th of June, 1589, he took his degree of Master of Arts, and, after a residence of nearly five years in the University, he finally left it for Town, to complete his course of studies at Gray's Inn, of which place, in June, 1590, he had entered himself a member.

The circumstances which, so shortly after Lord Southampton's arrival in London, induced Shakspeare to select him as his patron, may, with an assurance almost amounting to certainty, be ascribed to the following event. Not long after the death of her husband, Lady Southampton married Sir Thomas Heneage, treasurer of the chamber, an office which necessarily led him into connection with actors and dramatic writers. Of this intercourse Lord Southampton, at the age of seventeen, was very willing to avail himself, and his subsequent history evinces, that, throughout life, he retained a passionate attachment to dramatic exhibitions. No stronger proof, indeed, can be given of his love for the theatre, than what an anecdote related by Rowland Whyte affords us, who, in a letter to Sir Robert Sydney, dated October 11th, 1599, tells his correspondent, that "my Lord Southampton and Lord Rutland come not to the Court (at Nonesuch). The one doth but very seldome. They pass away the tyme in London merely in going to plaies EVERY DAY."[2:A]

To a young nobleman thus inclined, imbued with a keen relish for dramatic poetry, who was ardent in his thirst for fame, and liberal in the encouragement of genius, it was natural for our poet to look not only with hope and expectation, but with enthusiastic regard. To Lord Southampton, therefore, though only nineteen years old, Shakspeare, in his twenty-ninth year[2:B], dedicated his Venus and Adonis, "the first heire of his invention."

[3]The language of this dedication, however, indicates some degree of apprehension as to the nature of its reception, and consequently proves that our author was not at this period assured of His Lordship's support; for it commences thus:—"Right Honorable, I know not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolisht lines to your Lordship;" and he adds in the opening of the next clause, "onely if your Honor seeme but pleased, I account myselfe highly praised." These timidities appear to have vanished in a very short period: for our author's dedication to the same nobleman of his Rape of Lucrece, which was entered on the Stationers' Books on May 9th, 1594, and published almost immediately afterwards, speaks a very different language, and indicates very plainly that Shakspeare had already experienced the beneficial effects of His Lordship's patronage. Gratitude and confidence, indeed, cannot express themselves in clearer terms than may be found in the diction of this address:—"The love I dedicate to Your Lordship," says the bard, "is without end.—The warrant I have of your Honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours, what I have to doe is yours, being part in all I have devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duety would shew greater; meane time, as it is, it is bound to your Lordship." Words more declaratory of obligation it would not be easy to select, and we shall be justified, therefore, in inferring, that Lord Southampton had conferred upon Shakspeare, in consequence of his dedication to him of Venus and Adonis, some marked proof of his kindness and protection.

Tradition has recorded, among other instances of this nobleman's pecuniary bounty, that he, at one time, gave Shakspeare a thousand pounds, in order to complete a purchase, a sum which in these days would be equal in value to more than five times its original amount.[3:A] [4]This may be, and probably is, an exaggeration; but that it has been founded on the well-known liberality of Lord Southampton to Shakspeare; on a certain knowledge that donations had passed from the peer to the poet, there can be little doubt. It had become the custom of the age to reward dedication by pecuniary bounty, and that Lord Southampton was diffusively and peculiarly generous in this mode of remuneration, we have the express testimony of Florio, who, dedicating his World of Words to this nobleman in 1598, says:—"In truth, I acknowledge an entire debt, not only of my best knowledge, but of all; yea of more than I know, or can to your bounteous lordship, in whose pay and patronage I have lived some years; to whom I owe and vowe the years I have to live. But, as to me, and many more, the glorious and gracious sunshine of your honour hath infused light and life." Here, if we except the direct confession relative to "pay," the language is similar to, and not more emphatically expressive of gratitude than was Shakspeare's; and that, under the phrase "many more," Florio meant to include our poet, we may, without scruple, infer. To an actor, to a rising dramatic writer, to one who had placed the first fruits of his genius under his protection, and who was still contending with the difficulties incident to his situation, the taste, the generosity, and the feeling of Lord Southampton, would naturally be attracted; and the donation which, in all probability, followed the dedication of Venus and Adonis, we have reason, from the voice of tradition, to conclude, was succeeded by many, and still more important, proofs of His Lordship's favour.

The patronage of literature, however, was not the only inclination which, at this early period of life, His Lordship cultivated with enthusiasm; the year subsequent to his receival of Shakspeare's dedication of The Rape of Lucrece, saw him entangled in all the perplexities of [5]love, and the devoted slave of the faire Mrs. Varnon. Of this attachment, which was thwarted by the caprice of Elizabeth, Rowland Whyte, in a letter to Sir Henry Sydney, dated September 23rd, 1595, writes in the following terms:—"My Lord Southampton doth with too much familiarity court the faire Mrs. Varnon, while his friends, observing the Queen's humours towards my Lord of Essex, do what they can to bring her to favour him; but it is yet in vain."[5:A] This young lady, Elizabeth Vernon, was the cousin of the celebrated Earl of Essex, between whom and Southampton differences had arisen, which this passion for his fair relative dissipated for ever.[5:B]

Yet the fascinations of love could not long restrain the ardent spirit of Lord Southampton. In 1597, when Lord Essex was appointed General of the forces destined to act against the Azores, Southampton, at the age of twenty-four, gallantly came forward as a volunteer, on board the Garland, one of Her Majesty's best ships,—an offer which was soon followed by a commission from Essex to command her. An opportunity speedily occurred for the display of his courage; in an engagement with the Spanish fleet, he pursued and sunk one of the enemy's largest men of war, and was wounded in the arm, during the conflict.[5:C] Sir William Monson, one of the Admirals of the expedition, tells us, that the Earl lost time in this chase, which might have been better employed[5:D]; but his friend Essex appears to have considered his conduct in a different light, and conferred upon him, during his voyage, the honour of knighthood.

[6]On his return to England, in October, 1597, he had the misfortune to find that the Queen had embraced the opinion of Monson, rather than that of Essex, and frowned with displeasure on the officer who had presumed to pursue and sink a Spanish vessel, without orders from his commander; a censure which was intended also to reach the General, with whom she was justly offended for having assumed the direction of a service to which his judgment and his talents were inadequate.

Nor was the immediately subsequent conduct of Southampton in the least degree calculated to appease the anger of Elizabeth; he renewed his proposals of marriage, and again without consulting her wishes; he quarrelled with, and challenged the Earl of Northumberland, and compelled her to issue a mandate in order to prevent their meeting; and one evening, being engaged at play, in the presence-chamber, with Raleigh and some other courtiers, they protracted their amusement beyond the hour of the Queen's retirement to rest; and being warned by Willoughby, the officer in waiting, to depart, Raleigh obeyed, but Southampton, indignant and easily irritated, refused compliance, and, warm language ensuing, he struck Willoughby, who was not backward in returning the blow. When the Queen, the next morning, was apprised of this disgraceful scuffle, she applauded Willoughby for his spirited conduct, adding, that "he had better have sent Southampton to the porter's lodge, to see who durst have fetched him out."[6:A]

This heedless and intemperate ebullition of passion, the result of youth and inexperience, was atoned for by many sterling virtues of the head and heart; and the career of dissipation was fortunately interrupted by His Lordship's attention to his duty as a senator in the first place, and, secondly, by an engagement to accompany Mr. Secretary Cecil on an embassy to Paris. His introduction to parliamentary business began on the 24th of October, 1597, and [7]terminated, with the session, on the 8th of February 1598; and two days afterwards, he left London to commence his tour.

Previous to his quitting the capital, he, and his friends, Cobham and Raleigh, thought it necessary to entertain his future fellow-traveller; and, on this occasion, Southampton had recourse to his favourite amusement, the drama; for it is recorded that they "severally feasted Mr. Secretary, before his departure; and had plaies, and banquets."[7:A] The bare mention of this excursion, however, had afforded extreme grief to the fair object of his affections, who "passed her time in weeping[7:B];" and, in order to obviate the apprehended consequences of his absence, and consequently her sorrow, it had been secretly proposed that Lord Southampton should marry his mistress before his departure.[7:C] Circumstances having prevented the accomplishment of this plan, we are not surprised to learn that when His Lordship departed, on the 10th of February 1598, he left "behind him a most desolate gentlewoman, that almost wept out her fairest eyes."[7:D]

The travellers reached Paris on the 1st of March 1598, and on the 17th of the same month, Cecil introduced his friend, at Angers, to that illustrious monarch Henry the Fourth, telling His Majesty, that Lord Southampton "was come with deliberation to do him service." Henry received the Earl most graciously, and embraced him with many expressions of regard; and, had not the peace of Vervins intervened, His Lordship would have ardently seized the opportunity of serving the ensuing campaign under a general of such unrivalled reputation.

In the course of November 1598, there is reason to suppose that this enterprising nobleman returned to London[7:E]; soon after which event, his union with Elizabeth Vernon took place. His bride was [8]the daughter of John Vernon of Hodnet, in the county of Salop, and she appears to have possessed a large share of personal charms. A portrait of her was drawn by Cornelius Jansen, which is said to have "the face and hands coloured with incomparable lustre."[8:A] The unjustifiable resentment of the Queen, however, rendered this connection, for a time, a source of much misery to both parties. Her capricious tyranny was such, as to induce her to feel offended, if any of her courtiers had the audacity to love or marry without her knowledge or permission; and the result of what she termed His Lordship's clandestine marriage, was the instant dismissal of himself and his lady to a prison. How long their confinement was protracted, cannot now be accurately ascertained; that it was long in the opinion of the Earl of Essex, appears from an address of his to the Lords of Council, in which he puts the following interrogation:—"Was it treason in my Lord of Southampton to marry my poor kinswoman, that neither long imprisonment, nor any punishment besides, that hath been usual, in like cases, can satisfy, or appease[8:B]?" But we do know that it could not have existed beyond March, 1599; for on the 27th of that month, Lord Southampton accompanied his friend Essex to Ireland, where, immediately on his arrival, he was appointed by the Earl, now Lord Deputy of that country, his general of the horse.

This military promotion of Southampton is one among numerous proofs of the imprudence of Essex, for it was not only without the Queen's knowledge, but, as Camden has informed us, "clean contrary to his instructions."[8:C] What was naturally to be expected, therefore, soon occurred; Lord Southampton was, by the Queen's orders, deprived of his commission, in the August following, and on the 20th of September, 1599, he revisited London, where, apprehensive of the [9]displeasure of Her Majesty, he absented himself from court, and endeavoured to soothe his inquietude by the attractions of the theatre, to which his ardent admiration of the genius of Shakspeare now daily induced him to recur.

The resentment of the Queen, however, though not altogether appeased, soon began to subside; and in December 1599, when Lord Mountjoy was commissioned to supersede Essex in the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland, Lord Southampton was one of the officers selected by Her Majesty to attend him. Farther than this she refused to condescend; for, though His Lordship solicited for some weeks the honour of kissing her hand, and was supported in this request by the influence of Cecil, he solicited in vain, and was at length compelled to rest satisfied with the expression of her wishes for the safety of his journey.

One unpleasant consequence of his former transient campaign in Ireland, had been a quarrel with the Lord Grey, who acting under him as a colonel of horse had, from the impetuosity of youthful valour, attacked the rebel force without orders; a contempt of subordination which had been punished by his superior with a night's imprisonment.[9:A] The fiery spirit of Grey could not brook even this requisite attention to discipline, and he sent Southampton a challenge, which the latter, on his departure for Ireland, in April 1600, accepted, by declaring, that he would meet Lord Grey in any part of that country. The Queen, however, for the present arrested the combat; but the animosity was imbittered by delay, and Lord Southampton felt it necessary to his character to break off his military engagements, which had conferred upon him the reputation of great bravery and professional skill, and had received the marked approval of the Lord Deputy, to satiate the resentment of Grey, who had again called him to a meeting, and fixed its scene in the Low Countries.

Of this interview we know nothing more than that it proved so completely abortive, that, shortly afterwards, Lord Grey attacked [10]Southampton as he rode through the streets of London, an outrage which affords but a melancholy trait of the manners of the age, though punished on the spot by the immediate committal of the perpetrator to prison.

It had been happy, however, for the fame and repose of Southampton, had this been the only unfortunate contest in which he engaged; but he was recalled by Essex from the Low Countries, in order to assist him in his insurrectionary movements against the person and government of his sovereign. Blinded by the attachments of friendship, which he cultivated with enthusiastic warmth, and indignant at the treatment which he had lately received from the Queen, he too readily listened to the treasonable suggestions of Essex, and became one of the conspirators who assembled at the house of this nobleman on the 8th of February 1601. Here they took the decisive step of imprisoning the Queen's privy counsellors who had been sent to enquire into the purport of their meeting, and from this mansion they sallied forth, with the view of exciting the citizens to rebellion. An enterprise so criminal, so rash, and chimerical, immediately met the fate which it merited; and the trial of Essex and Southampton for high treason took place on the 19th of February, when, both being found guilty, the former, as is well known, expiated his offence by death, while the latter, from the minor culpability of his views, from the modesty and contrition which he exhibited in his defence, and from the intercession of Cecil and the peers, obtained a remission of the sentence affecting his life, but was condemned to imprisonment in the Tower.

We have more than once mentioned the great partiality of Lord Southampton to dramatic literature, and it is somewhat remarkable that this partiality should have been rendered subservient to the machinations of treason; for Bacon tells us, that "the afternoon before the rebellion, Merick, (afterwards the defender of Essex-house,) with a great company of others, that afterwards were all in the action, had procured to be played before them the play of deposing King Richard the Second;—when it was told him by one of the [11]players that the play was old, and they should have loss in playing it, because few would come to it, there were forty shillings extraordinary given to play it, and so thereupon played it was."[11:A] It appears from the State Trials, vol. vii. p. 60., that the player to whom the forty shillings were given, was Augustine Philippes, one of the patentees of the Globe playhouse with Shakspeare, in 1603.

The term old applied to this play, which, according to the report of the Queen, "was played forty times in open streets and houses[11:B]," has induced Dr. Farmer and Mr. Tyrwhitt to conclude that a play entitled Richard the Second, or Henry the Fourth, existed before Shakspeare's dramas on these subjects. This position, however, is dissented from by Mr. Chalmers, who says,—"In opposition to Farmer and Tyrwhitt, I hold, though I have a great respect for their memories, that it was illogical to argue, from a nonentity, against an entity; that as no such play as the Henry IV. which they spoke of had ever appeared, while Shakspeare's Richard II. was apparent to every eye, it was inconsequential reasoning in them to prefer the first play to the last: and I am, therefore, of opinion, that the play of deposing Richard II. which was seditiously played on the 7th of February 1600-1, was Shakspeare's Richard II., that had been originally acted in 1596, and first printed in 1597."[11:C]

This opinion of Mr. Chalmers will be much strengthened when we reflect that Lord Southampton's well-known attachment to the muse of Shakspeare, would almost certainly induce him to prefer the play written by his favourite poet to the composition of an obscure, and, without doubt, a very inferior writer.

The death of Elizabeth terminated the confinement and the sufferings of Lord Southampton. No sooner had James acceded to the throne, than he sent an order for his release from the Tower, which took place on the 10th of April, 1603, and accompanied it with a [12]request that he would meet him on his way to England. This might be considered as a certain presage of future favours, and was, indeed, speedily followed, not only by the reversal of his attainder, and the restoration of his property, but by an accumulation of honours. He was immediately appointed master of the game to the Queen; a pension of six hundred pounds per annum was allotted to his lady; in July, 1603, he was installed a knight of the garter, and created captain of Isle of Wight and of Carisbrooke Castle, and in the following Spring he was constituted Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, and was chosen by the King as his companion in a journey to Royston.

This flow of good fortune was, however, transiently impeded by the jealousy of James, who, stimulated by the machinations of some of his courtiers, envious of the returning prosperity of the Earl[12:A], was led to suspect that an improper intimacy had taken place between Southampton and his Queen; a charge of disaffection to His Majesty was, therefore, brought against His Lordship, and he was apprehended towards the close of June, 1604; but not the smallest proof of his disloyalty having been substantiated, he was immediately released, and as immediately retaken into favour.

Of his perfect reinstatement, indeed, in the affections of James we possess a decided proof. Rowland Whyte, writing to Lord Shrewsbury, on the 4th of March, 1604, says,—"My La. Southampton was brought to bed of a young Lord upon St. David's Day (March 1st) in the morning; a St. to be much honored by that howse for so great a blessing, by wearing a leeke for ever upon that day."[12:B] Now this child was christened at court on the 27th of the same month, "the King, and Lord Cranburn, with the Countess of Suffolk, being [13]gossips[13:A];" an honour which was followed, in June, 1606, by a more substantial mark of regard, the appointment of His Lordship to be Warden of the New Forest, and Keeper of the Park of Lindhurst.

In November, 1607, Lord Southampton lost his mother, who had been wife successively to Henry Wriothesly Earl of Southampton, to Sir Thomas Heneage, and to Sir William Hervey. We are told by Lord Arundel that she "lefte the best of her stuffe to her sonne, and the greatest part to her husband[13:B]"; this bequest, however, could not have been very ample, for it did not obviate the necessity of her son's applying, shortly afterwards, to trade and colonisation with the view of increasing his property. In 1609, he was constituted a member of the first Virginia Company, took a most active part in their concerns, and was the chief promoter of the different voyages to America, which were undertaken as well for the purposes of discovery as for private interest.

The warmth of temper which distinguished Lord Southampton in early life, seems not to have been adequately repressed by time and experience; he was ever prone to resentment, though not difficult to conciliate, and, unhappily, the manners of the age were not such as to impose due restraint on the tumultuary passions. A quarrel with Lord Montgomery, on a trifling occasion, which occurred in April, 1610, is but too striking an illustration of these remarks; "they fell out at tennis," relates Winwood, "where the rackets flew about their ears, but the matter was compounded by the King, without further bloodshed[13:C];" a passage, the close of which proves that they had fought and wounded each other with the instruments of their amusement!

We speedily recognise Lord Southampton, however, acting in a manner more suitable to his station and character; on the 4th of June, 1610, he officiated as carver at the magnificent festival which [14]was given in honour of young Henry's assumption of the title of Prince of Wales; and in July, 1613, we find His Lordship entertaining the King at his house in the New Forest, whither he had returned from an expedition to the continent, expressly for this purpose, and under the expectation of receiving a royal visit. After discharging this duty to his sovereign, he again left his native country, and was present, in the following year, with Lord Herbert of Cherbury, at the siege of Rees, in the dutchy of Cleve.

It was at this period that his reputation as a patron of literature, attained its highest celebrity, and it is greatly to be desired that tradition had enabled us to dwell more minutely on his intercourse with the learned. His bounty to, and encouragement of, Shakspeare have conferred immortality on his name; to Florio, we have seen, he extended a durable and efficient support; Brathwayt, in his dedication of his "Scholar's Medley," 1614, calls him "learnings best favourite;" and in 1617, he contributed very liberally to relieve the distresses of Minsheu, the author of "The Guide to Tongues." Doubtless, had we more ample materials for his life, these had not been the only instances of his munificence to literary talent.

Still further promotion awaited this accomplished nobleman. When James visited Scotland, in 1617, he accompanied his sovereign, and rendered himself so acceptable by his courtesy and care, that, on the 19th of April, 1619, he was rewarded by the confidential situation of a privy-counsellor, an honour which he had long anxiously held in view.

This completion of his wishes, however, was not attended with the result which he had so sanguinely expected. He found himself unable, from principle, to join in the measures of the court, and the opposition which he now commenced against the King and his ministers, had, in a mind so ardent, a natural tendency to excess. In 1620, and the two following years, he was chosen, contrary to the wishes of government, treasurer of the Virginia Company, an office of great weight and responsibility, but to which his zeal and activity in forwarding the views of that corporation gave him a just [15]claim. Such, indeed, was the sense which the company entertained of his merits, that his name was annexed to several important parts of Virginia; as, for instance, Southampton-hundred, Hampton-roads, &c.

Whilst he opposed the court merely in its commercial arrangements, no personal inconvenience attended his exertions; but when, in the session of parliament which took place towards the commencement of the year 1621, he deemed it necessary to withstand the unconstitutional views of ministers, he immediately felt the arm of power. He had introduced with success a motion against illegal patents; and during the sitting of the 14th of March, so sharp an altercation occurred between himself and the Marquis of Buckingham, that the interference of the Prince of Wales was necessary to appease the anger of the disputants.

This stormy discussion, and His Lordship's junction with the popular party, occasioned so much suspicion on the part of government, that on the 16th of June, twelve days after the prorogation of parliament, he was committed to the custody of the Dean of Westminster; nor was it until the 18th of the subsequent July, that he was permitted to return to his house at Titchfield, under a partial restraint, nor until the first of September, that he was entirely liberated.

Unawed, however, by this unmerited persecution, and supported by a numerous and respectable party, justly offended at the King's pusillanimity in tamely witnessing his son-in-law's deprivation of the Palatinate, he came forward, with augmented activity, in the parliament of 1624, which opened on the 9th of February. Here he sat on several committees; and when James, on the 5th of the June following, found himself compelled to relinquish his pacific system, and to enter into a treaty with the States-General, granting them permission to raise four regiments in this country, he, unfortunately for himself and his son, procured the colonelcy of one of them.[15:A]

[16]Being under the necessity of taking up their winter-quarters at Rosendale in Holland, the Earl, and his eldest son Lord Wriothesly, were seized with a burning fever; "the violence of which distemper," says Wilson, "wrought most vigorously upon the heat of youth, overcoming the son first, and the drooping father, having overcome the fever, departed from Rosendale with an intention to bring his sons body to England; but at Bergen-op-zoom he died of a lethargy in the view and presence of the Relator, and were both in one small bark brought to Southampton."[16:A] The son expired on the 5th of November, and his parent on the tenth, and they were both buried in the sepulchre of their fathers at Titchfield, on Innocents' day, 1624.

Thus perished, in the fifty-second year of his age, Henry Earl of Southampton, leaving a widow, and three daughters, who, from a letter preserved in the Cabala, appear to have been in confined circumstances; this epistle is from the Lord Keeper Williams to the Duke of Buckingham, dated Nov. 7th, 1624, and requesting of that nobleman "his grace and goodness towards the most distressed widow and children of my Lord Southampton."[16:B]

If we except a constitutional warmth and irritability of temper, and their too common result, an occasional error of judgment, there did not exist, throughout the reigns of Elizabeth and James, a character more truly amiable, great, and good than was that of Lord Southampton. To have secured, indeed, the reverence and affection of Shakspeare, was of itself a sufficient passport to the purest fame; but the love and admiration which attended him was general. As a soldier, he was brave, open, and magnanimous; as a statesman remarkable for integrity and independence of mind, and perhaps no [17]individual of his age was a more enthusiastic lover, or a more munificent patron, of arts and literature.

The virtues of his private life, as well as these features of his public character, rest upon the authority of those who best knew him. To the "noble" and "honourable disposition," ascribed to him by Shakspeare, who affectionately declares, that he loves him "without end," we can add the respectable testimony of Chapman, Sir John Beaumont, and Wither, all intimately acquainted with him, and the second his particular friend.

Chapman, in one of his dedicatory sonnets, prefixed to his version of the Iliad, not only applies to him the epithet "learned," but declares him to be the "choice of all our country's noblest spirits[17:A];" and Beaumont, in an Elegy on his death, tells us that his ambition was to draw

"A picture fit for this my noble friend,
That his dear name may not in silence die."

[18] In a beautiful strain of enthusiasm, he informs us, that his verses are calculated for posterity, and

——————————— "not for the present age;
For what man lives, or breathes on England's stage,
That knew not brave Southampton, in whose sight
Most plac'd their day, and in his absence night?"

He then proceeds to sketch his character at the different periods of his life:—

"When he was young, no ornament of youth
Was wanting in him;"

and, in manhood, he shone

"As best in martial deedes and courtly sports;"

until riper age, and the cares of the world, having begun to shade his head with silver hairs,

"His valiant fervour was not then decaide,
But joyn'd with counsell, as a further aide."

After this eulogium on the more ostensible features of his life, which terminates with the assertion, that

"No pow'r, no strong persuasion could him draw
From that, which he conceiv'd as right and law,"

he presents a most pleasing delineation of his domestic conduct and enjoyments:—

"When shall we in this realme a father finde
So truly sweet, or husband halfe so kinde?
Thus he enjoyde the best contents of life,
Obedient children, and a loving wife:
These were his parts in peace:"

and concludes with celebrating his love of letters and of literary men:—

"I keepe that glory last, which is the best,
The love of learning, which he oft exprest
[19]By conversation, and respect to those
Who had a name in artes, in verse or prose."[19:A]

Wither seems to have been equally impressed with the estimable character of Lord Southampton, and to have meditated a record of his life and virtues; for, in an epigram addressed to him, with a copy of his "Abuses Stript and Whipt," he exclaims,

"I ought to be no stranger to thy worth,
Nor let thy virtues in oblivion sleep:
Nor will I, if my fortunes give me time."[19:B]

In short, to adopt the language of an enthusiastic admirer of our dramatic bard, "Southampton died as he had lived, with a mind untainted: embalmed with the tears of every friend to virtue, and to splendid accomplishments: all who knew him, wished to him long life, still lengthened with all happiness."[19:C]

That a nobleman so highly gifted, most amiable by his virtues, and most respectable by his talents and his taste, should have been strongly attached to Shakspeare, and this attachment returned by the poet with equal fervour, cannot excite much surprise; indeed, that more than pecuniary obligation was the tie that connected Shakspeare with his patron, must appear from the tone of his dedications, especially from that prefixed to the "Rape of Lucrece," which [20]breathes an air of affectionate friendship, and respectful familiarity.[20:A] We should also recollect, that, according to tradition, the great pecuniary obligation of Shakspeare to his patron, was much posterior to the period of these dedications, being given for the purpose of enabling the poet to make a purchase at his native town of Stratford, a short time previous to his retirement thither.

It may, therefore, with safety be concluded, that admiration and esteem were the chief motives which actuated Shakspeare in all the stages of his intercourse with Lord Southampton, to whom, in 1593, we have found he dedicated the "first heir of his invention."

Our reasons for believing that this poem was written in the interval which occurred between the years 1587 and 1590, have been already given in a former part of the work[20:B], and we shall here, therefore, only transcribe the title page of the original edition, which, though entered in the Stationers' books by Richard Field, on the 18th of April, 1593, was supposed not to have been published before 1594, until Mr. Malone had the good fortune to procure a copy from a provincial catalogue, perhaps the only one remaining in existence[20:C]:—

"Venus and Adonis.

Vilia miretur Vulgus, mihi flavus Apollo,
Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua.

London. By Richard Field, and are to be solde at the Signe of the White Greyhound, in Paules Church Yard. 1593."

[21]This, the earliest offspring of our poet's prolific genius, consists of one hundred and ninety-nine stanzas, each stanza including six lines, of which the first four are in alternate rhime, and the fifth and sixth form a couplet. Its length, indeed, is one of its principal defects; for it has led, not only to a fatiguing circumlocution, in point of language, but it has occasioned the poet frequently to expand his imagery into a diffuseness which sometimes destroys its effect; and often to indulge in a strain of reflection more remarkable for its subtlety of conceit, than for its appropriation to the incidents before him. Two other material objections must be noticed, as arising from the conduct of the poem, which, in the first place, so far as it respects the character of Adonis, is forced and unnatural; and, in the second, has tempted the poet into the adoption of language so meretricious, as entirely to vitiate the result of any moral purpose which he might have had in view.

These deductions being premised, we do not hesitate to assert, that the Venus and Adonis contains many passages worthy of the genius of Shakspeare; and that, as a whole, it is superior in poetic fervour to any production of a similar kind by his contemporaries, anterior to 1587. It will be necessary, however, where so much discrepancy of opinion has existed, to substantiate the first of these assertions, by the production of specimens which shall speak for themselves; and as the conduct and moral of the piece have been given up as indefensible, these must, consequently, be confined to a display of its poetic value; of its occasional merit with regard to versification and imagery.

In the management of his stanza, Shakspeare has exhibited a more general attention to accuracy of rhythm and harmony of cadence, than was customary in his age; few metrical imperfections, indeed, are discoverable either in this piece, or in any of his minor poems; but we are not limited to this negative praise, being able to select from his first effort instances of positive excellence in the structure of his verse.

Of the light and airy elegance which occasionally characterises the [22]composition of his Venus and Adonis, the following will be accepted as no inadequate proofs:—

"Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear,
Or, like a fairy, trip upon the green,
Or, like a nymph, with long dishevel'd hair,
Dance on the sands, and yet no footing seen.
"If love have lent you twenty thousand tongues,
And every tongue more moving than your own,
Bewitching like the wanton mermaid's songs,
Yet from mine ear the tempting tune is blown."

To terminate each stanza with a couplet remarkable for its sweetness, terseness, or strength, is a refinement almost peculiar to modern times; yet Shakspeare has sometimes sought for, and obtained this harmony of close: thus Venus, lamenting the beauty of Nature after the death of Adonis, exclaims,

"The flowers are sweet, their colours fresh and trim;
But true-sweet beauty liv'd and dy'd with him;"

and again, when reproaching the apathy of her companion,—

"O learn to love; the lesson is but plain,
And, once made perfect, never lost again."

Nor are there wanting passages in which energy and force are very skilfully combined with melody and rhythm; of the subsequent extracts, which are truly excellent for their vigorous construction, the lines in Italics present us with the point and cadence of the present day. Venus, endeavouring to excite the affection of Adonis, who is represented

——————— "more lovely than a man,
More white and red than doves or roses are,"

tells him,

"I have been woo'd, as I entreat thee now,
Even by the stern and direful god of war,
Whose sinewy neck in battle ne'er did bow—
[23]Over my altars hath he hung his lance,
His batter'd shield, his uncontrolled crest,
And for my sake hath learn'd to sport and dance,
To coy, to wanton, dally, smile, and jest:"

and, on finding her efforts fruitless, she bursts forth into the following energetic reproach:—

"Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone,
Well-painted idol, image, dull and dead,
Statue, contenting but the eye alone,
Thing like a man, but of no woman bred."

The death of Adonis, however, banishes all vestige of resentment, and, amid numerous exclamations of grief and anguish, gives birth to prophetic intimations of the hapless fate of all succeeding attachments:—

"Since thou art dead, lo! here I prophesy,
Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend;
It shall be waited on with jealousy,
Find sweet beginning, but unsavoury end;—
It shall suspect, where is no cause of fear;
It shall not fear, where it should most mistrust;
It shall be merciful, and too severe,
And most deceiving when it seems most just;—
It shall be fickle, false, and full of fraud,
And shall be blasted in a breathing-while;
The bottom poison, and the top o'er-straw'd
With sweets, that shall the sharpest sight beguile:
The strongest body shall it make most weak,
Strike the wise dumb, and teach the fool to speak."

These passages are not given with the view of impressing upon the mind of the reader, that such is the constant strain of the versification of the Venus and Adonis; but merely to show, that, while in narrative poetry he equals his contemporaries in the general structure of his verse, he has produced, even in his earliest attempt, instances of beauty, melody, and force, in the mechanism of his stanzas, which have no parallel in their pages. In making this assertion, it must [24]not be forgotten, that we date the composition of Venus and Adonis anterior to 1590, that the comparison solely applies to narrative poetry, and consequently that all contest with Spenser is precluded.

It now remains to be proved, that the merits of this mythological story are not solely founded on its occasional felicity of versification; but that in description, in the power of delineating, with a master's hand, the various objects of nature, it possesses more claims to notice than have hitherto been allowed.

After the noble pictures of the horse which we find drawn in the book of Job, and in Virgil, few attempts to sketch this spirited animal can be expected to succeed; yet, among these few, impartial criticism may demand a station for the lines below:—

"Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds,
And now his woven girts he breaks asunder,
The bearing earth with his hard hoof he wounds,
Whose hollow womb resounds like heaven's thunder.—
His ears up prick'd; his braided hanging mane
Upon his compass'd crest now stands on end;
His nostrils drink the air, and forth again,
As from a furnace, vapours doth he send:—
Sometimes he trots, as if he told the steps,
With gentle majesty, and modest pride:
Anon he rears upright, curvets and leaps,
As who should say, lo! thus my strength is try'd.—
Look, when a painter would surpass the life,
In limning out a well-porportion'd steed,
His art's with Nature's workmanship at strife,
As if the dead the living should exceed;
So did this horse excell a common one,
In shape, in courage, colour, pace, and bone.
Round-hoof'd, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long,
Broad-breast, full eyes, small head, and nostril wide,
High crest, short ears, straight legs, and passing strong,
Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender hide."

[25]Venus, apprehensive for the fate of Adonis, should he attempt to hunt the boar, endeavours to dissuade him from his purpose, by drawing a most formidable description of that savage inmate of the woods, and by painting, on the other hand, the pleasures to be derived from the pursuit of the hare. The danger necessarily incurred from attacking the former, and the various efforts by which the latter tries to escape her pursuers, are presented to us with great fidelity and warmth of colouring.

"Thou had'st been gone, quoth she, sweet boy, ere this,
But that thou told'st me, thou would'st hunt the boar,
O be advis'd; thou know'st not what it is
With javelin's point a churlish swine to gore,
Whose tushes never-sheath'd he whetteth still,
Like to a mortal butcher, bent to kill.
On his bow back he hath a battle set
Of bristly pikes, that ever threat his foes;
His eyes, like glow-worms, shine when he doth fret;
His snout digs sepulchres where-e'er he goes;
Being mov'd, he strikes whate'er is in his way,
And whom he strikes, his crooked tushes slay.
His brawny sides, with hairy bristles armed,
Are better proof than thy spear's point can enter;
His short thick neck cannot be easily harmed;
Being ireful, on the lion he will venture.—
But if thou needs wilt hunt, be rul'd by me;
Uncouple at the timorous flying hare,
Or at the fox, which lives by subtlety,
Or at the roe, which no encounter dare:
Pursue these fearful creatures o'er the downs,
And on thy well-breath'd horse keep with thy hounds.
And when thou hast on foot the purblind hare,
Mark the poor wretch to overshoot his troubles,
How he out-runs the wind, and with what care
He cranks and crosses, with a thousand doubles:—
Sometime he runs among the flock of sheep,
To make the cunning hounds mistake their smell;
And sometime where earth-delving conies keep,
To stop the loud pursuers in their yell;
And sometime sorteth with a herd of deer;
Danger deviseth shifts; wit waits on fear:
[26]For there his smell with others being mingled,
The hot scent-snuffling hounds are driven to doubt,
Ceasing their clamorous cry till they have singled
With much ado the cold fault cleanly out;
Then do they spend their mouths: Echo replies,
As if another chase were in the skies.
By this, poor Wat, far off upon a hill,
Stands on his hinder legs with listening ear,
To hearken if his foes pursue him still;
Anon their loud alarums he doth hear;
And now his grief may be compared well
To one sore-sick, that hears the passing bell.
Then shall thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch
Turn, and return, indenting with the way;
Each envious briar his weary legs doth scratch,
Each shadow makes him stop, each murmur stay."

This poem abounds with similes, many of which include miniature sketches of no small worth and beauty. A few of these shall be given, and they will not fail to impart a favourable impression of the fertility and resources of the rising bard. The fourth and fifth, which we have distinguished by Italics, more especially deserve notice, the former representing a minute piece of natural history, and the latter describing in words adequate to their subject, one of the most terrible convulsions of nature.

———————————— "as one on shore
Gazing upon a late-embarked friend,
Till the wild waves will have him seen no more,
Whose ridges with the meeting clouds contend."
——————— "as one that unaware
Hath dropp'd a precious jewel in the flood."
"Or 'stonish'd as night-wanderers often are,
Their light blown out in some mistrustful wood."
"Or, as the snail, whose tender horns being hit,
Shrinks backward in his shelly cave with pain."
"As when the wind, imprison'd in the ground,
Struggling for passage, earth's foundation shakes."

We shall close these extracts from the Venus and Adonis, with two passages which form a striking contrast, and which prove that [27]the author possessed, at the commencement of his career, no small portion of those powers which were afterwards to astonish the world; powers alike unrivalled either in developing the terrible or the beautiful.

"And therefore hath she bribed the Destinies,
To cross the curious workmanship of nature,
To mingle beauty with infirmities,
And pure perfection with impure defeature;
Making it subject to the tyranny
Of sad mischances and much misery;
As burning fevers, agues pale and faint,
Life-poisoning pestilence, and frenzies wood,
The marrow-eating sickness, whose attaint
Disorder breeds by heating of the blood:
Surfeits, impostumes, grief, and damn'd despair—
And not the least of all these maladies,
But in one minute's sight brings beauty under—
As mountain snow melts with the mid-day sun."
"Lo! here the gentle lark, weary of rest,
From his moist cabinet mounts up on high,
And wakes the morning, from whose silver breast
The sun ariseth in his majesty;
Who doth the world so gloriously behold,
That cedar tops and hills seem burnish'd gold.
Venus salutes him with this fair good morrow:
O thou clear god, and patron of all light,
From whom each lamp and shining star doth borrow
The beauteous influence that makes him bright."[27:A]

If we compare the Venus and Adonis of Shakspeare with its classical prototypes; with the Epitaphium Adonidis of Bion, and the beautiful narrative of Ovid, which terminates the tenth book of his Metamorphoses, we must confess the inferiority of the English poem, to the former in pathos, and to the latter in elegance; but if [28]we contrast it with the productions of its own age, it cannot fail of being allowed a large share of relative merit. It has imbibed, indeed, too many of the conceits and puerilities of the period in which it was produced, and it has lost much interest by deviating from tradition; for, as Mr. Steevens has remarked, "the common and more pleasing fable assures us, that

———— "when bright Venus yielded up her charms,
The blest Adonis languish'd in her arms;"[28:A]

yet the passages which we have quoted, and the general strain of the poem, are such as amply to account for the popularity which it once enjoyed.

That this was great, that the work was highly valued by poetic minds, and, as might be supposed, from the nature of its subject, the favourite of the young, the ardent, and susceptible, there are not wanting several testimonies. In 1595, John Weever had written at the age of nineteen, as he informs us, a collection of Epigrams, which he published in 1599[28:B]; of these the twenty-second is inscribed Ad Gulielmum Shakspeare, and contains a curious though quaint encomium on some of the poet's earliest productions:—

"Honie tong'd Shakspeare, when I saw thine issue,
I swore Apollo got them, and none other,
Their rosie-tainted features clothed in tissue,
Some heaven-born goddesse said to be their mother.
Rose-cheeckt Adonis with his amber tresses,
Faire fire-hot Venus charming him to love her,
Chaste Lucretia virgine-like her dresses,
Proud lust-stung Tarquine seeking still to prove her."[28:C]

[29]In a copy of Speght's edition of Chaucer, which formerly belonged to Dr. Gabriel Harvey, this physician, the noted opponent of Nash, has inserted the following remarks:—"The younger sort take much delight in Shakspeare's Venus and Adonis; but his Lucrece, and his tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke, have it in them to please the wiser sort, 1598."[29:A]

Meres, also, in his "Wit's Treasury," published in the same year with the above date, draws a parallel between Ovid and Shakspeare, resulting from the composition of this piece and his other minor poems. "As the soule of Euphorbus," he observes, "was thought to live in Pythagoras, so the sweete wittie soule of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakspeare, witnes his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred sonnets among his private friends, &c."[29:B]

A third tribute, and of a similar kind, was paid to the early efforts of our author in 1598, by Richard Barnefield, from which it must be inferred that the versification of Shakspeare was considered by his contemporaries as pre-eminently sweet and melodious, a decision for which many stanzas in the Venus and Adonis might furnish sufficient foundation:—

"And Shakspeare thou, whose honey-flowing vein,
(Pleasing the world,) thy praises doth contain,
Whose Venus, and whose Lucrece, sweet and chaste,
Thy name in fame's immortal book hath plac'd,
Live ever you, at least in fame live ever!
Well may the body die, but fame die never."[29:C]

That singularly curious old comedy, "The Returne from Parnassus," written in 1606, descanting on the poets of the age, introduces Shakspeare solely on account of his miscellaneous poems, a [30]striking proof of their popularity; and, like his predecessors, the author characterises them by the sweetness of their metre:

"Who loves Adonis love, or Lucre's rape,
His sweeter verse contaynes hart-robbing life,
Could but a graver subject him content,
Without love's foolish lazy languishment."[30:A]

It appears, likewise, from this extract, and will further appear from two subsequent quotations, that the meretricious tendency of the Venus and Adonis did not altogether escape the notice or the censure of the period which produced it.

A more ample eulogium on the merits of Shakspeare's first production issued from the press in 1607, in a poem composed by William Barksted, and entitled, Mirrha the Mother of Adonis; or Lustes Prodigies, of which the concluding lines thus appreciate the value of his model:—

"But stay, my Muse, in thine own confines keep,
And wage not warre with so deere lov'd a neighbour;
But having sung thy day-song, rest and sleep;
Preserve thy small fame, and his greater favor.
His song was worthie merit; Shakspeare, hee
Sung the faire blossome, thou the wither'd tree:
Laurel is due to him; his art and wit
Hath purchas'd it; cyprus thy brows will fit."[30:B]

A pasquinade on the literature of his times was published by John Davies of Hereford in 1611; it first appeared in his "Scourge of Folly," under the title of "A Scourge for Paper-Persecutors," and among other objects of his satire Paper, here personified, is represented as complaining of the pruriency of Shakspeare's youthful fancy.

"Another (ah, harde happe) mee vilifies
With art of love, and how to subtilize,
[31]Making lewd Venus with eternal lines
To tie Adonis to her love's designes;
Fine wit is shewn therein: but finer 'twere,
If not attired in such bawdy geare."[31:A]

The charge of subtilizing which this passage conveys, may certainly be substantiated against the minor poetry of our bard: no small portion of it is visible in the Venus and Adonis; but the Rape of Lucrece is extended by its admission to nearly a duplicate of what ought to have been its proper size.

To the quotations now given, as commemorative of Shakspeare's primary effort in poetry, we shall add one, whose note of praise is, that our author was equally excellent in painting lust or continency:—

"Shakspeare, that nimble Mercury thy brain
Lulls many-hundred Argus' eyes asleep,
So fit for all thou fashionest thy vein,
At the horse-foot fountain thou hast drunk full deep.
Virtue's or vice's theme to thee all one is;
Who loves chaste life, there's Lucrece for a teacher:
Who list read lust, there's Venus and Adonis
True model of a most lascivious lecher."[31:B]

From the admiration thus warmly expressed by numerous contemporaries, even when connected with slight censure, it will, of course, [32]be inferred that the demand for re-impressions of the Venus and Adonis would be frequent; and this was, indeed, the fact. In the year following the publication of the editio princeps, there is reason to conclude that the second impression was printed; for the poem appears again entered in the Stationers' books on the 23d of June, 1594, by —— Harrison, sen.; unless this entry be merely preliminary to the edition of 1596, which was printed in small octavo, by Richard Field, for John Harrison.[32:A] Of the subsequent editions, one was published, in 1600, by John Harrison, in 12mo.; another occurs in 1602, and, in 1607, the Venus and Adonis was reprinted at Edinburgh, "which must be considered," remarks Mr. Beloe, "as an indubitable proof, that at a very early period the Scotch knew and admired the genius of Shakspeare."[32:B] The title-page of this edition has the same motto as in the original impression; beneath it is a Phœnix in the midst of flames, and then follows "Edinburgh. Printed by John Wreittoun, are to bee sold in his shop, a little beneath the Salt Trone. 1607."

It is highly probable, that between the period of the Edinburgh copy, and the year 1617, the date of the next extant edition, an intervening impression may have been issued; Venus and Adonis, it should be noticed, is entered in the Stationers' Register, by W. Barrett, Feb. 16. 1616; and the next entry is by John Parker, March 8. 1619, preparatory perhaps to the edition which appeared in 1620. In 1630, another re-print was called for, which was again repeated in 1640, and in the various subsequent editions of our author's poems.

The same favourable reception which accompanied the birth and progress of the Venus and Adonis attended, likewise, the next poem which our author produced, The Rape of Lucrece. This was printed in quarto, in 1594, by Richard Field, for John Harrison, and has a [33]copious Argument prefixed, which, as Mr. Malone remarks, is a curiosity, being, with the two dedications to the Earl of Southampton, the only prose compositions of our great poet (not in a dramatic form) now remaining.[33:A]

The Rape of Lucrece is written in stanzas of seven lines each; the first four in alternate rhyme; the fifth line corresponding with the second and fourth, and the sixth and seventh lines forming a couplet. To this construction it is probable that Shakspeare was led through the popularity of Daniel's Complaint of Rosamond, which was published in 1592, and exhibits the same metrical system.

If we had just reason for condemning the prolixity of Venus and Adonis, a still greater motive for similar censure will be found in the Rape of Lucrece, which occupies no less than two hundred and sixty-five stanzas, and, of course, includes one thousand eight hundred and fifty-five lines, whilst the tale, as conducted by Ovid, is impressively related in about one hundred and forty verses!

From what source Shakspeare derived his fable, whether through a classic or a Gothic channel is uncertain. The story is of frequent occurrence in ancient writers; for, independent of the narrative in the Fasti of the Roman poet, it has been told by Dionysius Halicarnassensis, by Livy, by Dion Cassius, and Diodorus Siculus. "I learn from Coxeter's notes," says Warton, "that the Fasti were translated into English verse before the year 1570. If so, the many little pieces now current on the subject of Lucretia, although her legend is in Chaucer, might immediately originate from this source. In 1568, occurs a Ballett called, 'The grevious complaynt of Lucrece.' And afterwards, in the year 1569, is licenced to James Robertes, 'A ballet of the death of Lucryssia.' There is also a ballad of the legend of Lucrece, printed in 1576. These publications might give rise to Shakspeare's Rape of Lucrece, which appeared in 1594. At this period of our poetry, we find the same subject occupying the attention [34]of the public for many years, and successively presented in new and various forms by different poets. Lucretia was the grand example of conjugal fidelity throughout the Gothic ages."[34:A]

One material advantage which the Rape of Lucrece possesses over its predecessor, is, that its moral is unexceptionable; and, on this account, we have the authority of Dr. Gabriel Harvey, that it was preferred by the graver readers. In every other respect, no very decided superiority, we are afraid, can be adduced. It is more studied and elaborate, it is true; but the result of this labour has in many instances been only an accumulation of far-fetched imagery and fatiguing circumlocution. Yet, notwithstanding these defects, palpable as they are, the poem has not merited the depreciation to which it has been subjected by some very fastidious critics. It occasionally delights us by a few fervid sketches of imagination and description; and by several passages of a moral and pathetic cast, clothed in language of much energy and beauty; and though the general tone of the versification be more heavy and encumbered than that of the Venus and Adonis, it is sometimes distinguished by point, legerity, and grace. The quotations, indeed, which we are about to give from this neglected poem, are not only such as would confer distinction on any work, but, to say more, they are worthy of the poet which produced them.

Of metrical sweetness, of moral reflection, and of splendid and appropriate imagery, we find an exquisite specimen at the very opening of the poem. Collatine, boasting of his felicity "in the possession of his beauteous mate," the bard exclaims—

"O happiness enjoy'd but of a few!
And, if possess'd, as soon decayed and done
As is the morning's silver melting dew,
Against the golden splendour of the sun!
A date expir'd, and cancel'd ere begun."[34:B]

Stanza iv.

[35]We must not omit also the first clause of the sixteenth stanza, which affords an admirable example of spirited and harmonious rhythm. Tarquin in addressing Lucrece:—

"He stories to her ears her husband's fame,
Won in the fields of fruitful Italy;
And decks with praises Collatine's high name;
Made glorious by his manly chivalry,
With bruised arms and wreaths of victory."

One of the peculiar excellences of the Rape of Lucrece, is its frequent expression of correct sentiment in pointed language and emphatic verse. Tarquin, soliloquising on the crime which he is about to commit, thus gives vent to the agonies of momentary contrition:—

"Fair torch, burn out thy light, and lend it not
To darken her whose light excelleth thine!
And die unhallow'd thoughts, before you blot
With your uncleanness that which is divine!
O shame to knighthood and to shining arms!
O foul dishonour to my houshold's grave!
O impious act, including all foul harms!
A martial man to be soft fancy's slave!—
What win I, if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy!
Who buys a minute's mirth, to wail a week?
Or sells eternity, to get a toy?"

The same terseness of diction and concinnity of versification appear in the subsequent lines:—

"Then for thy husband's and thy children's sake,
Tender my suit: bequeath not to their lot
The shame that from them no device can take,
The blemish that will never be forgot."

It may, likewise, be added, that simplicity and strength in the modulation, together with a forcible plainness of phraseology, characterise a few stanzas, of which one shall be given as an instance:—

[36]"O teach me how to make mine own excuse!
Or, at the least, this refuge let me find;
Though my gross blood be stain'd with this abuse,
Immaculate and spotless is my mind;
That was not forc'd; that never was inclin'd
To accessary yieldings—but, still pure,
Doth in her poison'd closet yet endure."

To these short examples, which are selected for the purpose of showing, not only the occasional felicity of the poet in the mechanism of his verse, but the uncommon and unapprehended worth of what this mechanism is the vehicle, we shall subjoin three passages of greater length, illustrative of what this early production of our author's Muse can exhibit in the three great departments of the descriptive, the pathetic, and the morally sublime.

Lucrece, in the paroxysms of her grief, is represented as telling her mournful story

"To pencil'd pensiveness and coloured sorrow,"

to a piece

"Of skilful painting, made for Priam's Troy,"


"Many a dry drop seemed a weeping tear,
Shed for the slaughtered husband by the wife;"

and where

"The red blood reek'd to show the painter's strife,
And dying eyes gleam'd forth their ashy lights:"
"She throws her eyes about the painting round,
And whom she finds forlorn, she doth lament;
At last she sees a wretched image bound,
That piteous looks to Phrygian shepherds lent;
His face, though full of cares, yet show'd content:
Onward to Troy with the blunt swains he goes,
So mild, that Patience seem'd to scorn his woes.
In him the painter labour'd with his skill
To hide deceit, and give the harmless show
An humble gait, calm looks, eyes wailing still,
A brow unbent, that seem'd to welcome woe;
Cheeks, neither red nor pale, but mingled so
That blushing red no guilty instance gave,
Nor ashy pale the fear that false hearts have.
[37]But like a constant and confirmed devil,
He entertain'd a show so seeming just,
And therein so ensconc'd his secret evil,
That jealousy itself could not mistrust——
The well-skill'd workman this mild image drew
For perjur'd Sinon."

This is a picture, of which the colouring, but too often overcharged in every other part of the poem, may be pronounced chaste and correct.

A simple and unaffected flow of thought, expressed in diction of equal purity and plainness, are essential requisites towards the production of the pathetic, either in poetry or prose; and, unfortunately, in the Rape of Lucrece, these excellences, especially in their combined state, are of very rare occurrence. We are not, however, totally destitute of passages which, by their tenderness and simplicity, appeal to the heart. Thus the complete wretchedness of Lucretia is powerfully and simply painted in the following lines:—

"The little birds that tune their morning's joy,
Make her moans mad with their sweet melody.
For mirth doth search the bottom of annoy;
Sad souls are slain in merry company;
Grief best is pleas'd with grief's society:
True sorrow then is feelingly suffic'd,
When with like semblance it is sympathiz'd."

She, accordingly, invokes the melancholy nightingale, and invites her, from similarity of fate, to be her companion in distress.—

"And for, poor bird, thou sing'st not in the day,
As shaming any eye should thee behold,
Some dark deep desert, seated from the way,
That knows nor parching heat nor freezing cold,
Will we find out; and there we will unfold
To creatures stern sad tunes, to change their kinds:
Since men prove beasts, let beasts bear gentle minds."

"Shakspeare has here," says Mr. Malone, in a note on the first of these stanzas, "as in all his writings, shown an intimate acquaintance [38]with the human heart. Every one that has felt the pressure of grief will readily acknowledge that mirth doth search the bottom of annoy."[38:A]

The last specimen which we shall select from this poem, would alone preserve it from oblivion, were it necessary to protect from such a fate any work which bears the mighty name of Shakspeare. Indeed, whether we consider this extract in relation to its diction, its metre, its sentiment, or the sublimity of its close, it is alike calculated to excite our admiration:—

"Unruly blasts wait on the tender spring;
Unwholesome weeds take root with precious flowers;
The adder hisses where the sweet birds sing;
What virtue breeds, iniquity devours:
We have no good that we can say is ours,
But ill-annexed opportunity
Or kills his life, or else his quality.
O, Opportunity! thy guilt is great:
'Tis thou that execut'st the traitor's treason;
Thou set'st the wolf where he the lamb may get;
Whoever plots the sin, thou point'st the season;
'Tis thou that spurn'st at right, at law, at reason;
And in thy shady cell, where none may spy him,
Sits Sin, to seize the souls that wander by him."

We have already seen, that, in the passages quoted from contemporary writers in favour of Venus and Adonis, the Rape of Lucrece has, with the exception of two instances, been honoured with equal notice and equal approbation. Here, therefore, it will only be necessary to add those notices in which the latter production is the exclusive object of praise.

Of these, the earliest[38:B] is to be found in the first edition of [39]Drayton's "Matilda, the faire and chaste Daughter of Lord Robert Fitzwater," published in 1594, a few months, or probably weeks, after the appearance of the Rape of Lucrece. In this impression, and solely in this impression, the Heroine thus eulogises the composition of our bard:—

"Lucrece, of whom proud Rome hath boasted long,
Lately reviv'd to live another age,
And here arriv'd to tell of Tarquin's wrong,
Her chaste denial, and the tyrants rage,
Acting her passions on our stately stage,
She is remember'd, all forgetting me,
Yet I as fair find chaste as ere was she."[39:A]

The year following Drayton's Matilda, a work was printed in quarto, under the title of Polimanteia, in the margin of which Shakspeare's Lucrece is thus cursorily mentioned. "All praise-worthy Lucretia, Sweet Shakspeare."[39:B]

[40]The next separate notice of this poem occurs in some verses prefixed to the second edition of "Willobie his Avisa," which appeared in 1596. They are subscribed Contraria Contrariis Vigilantius Dormitanus, and open with the allusion to Shakspeare's Lucrece:—

"In lavine land though Livie boast,
There hath beene seene a constant dame;
Though Rome lament that she have lost
The garland of her rarest fame,
Yet now ye see that here is found
As great a faith in English ground.
Though Collatine have dearly bought
To high renowne a lasting life,
And found, that most in vaine have sought
To have a faire and constant wife,
Yet Tarquine pluckt his glistring grape,
And Shake-speare paintes poor Lucrece rape."[40:A]

To these contemporary notices, with the view of showing what was thought of the Rape of Lucrece half a century after its production, we shall subjoin the opinion of S. Sheppard, who, in "The Times Displayed in Six Sestyads," printed in 1646, 4to., comparing Shakspeare with Euripides, Sophocles, and Aristophanes, adds—

"His sweet and his to be admired lay
He wrote of lustful Tarquin's rape, shews he
Did understand the depth of poesie."[40:B]

The editions of the Rape of Lucrece were as numerous as those of the Venus and Adonis. "In thirteen years after their first appearance," [41]remarks Mr. Malone, "six impressions of each of them were printed, while in the same period, his Romeo and Juliet, one of his most popular plays, passed only twice through the press."[41:A]

Of the early re-impressions, those which are extant, are in small octavo, of the date 1596, 1598, 1600, 1607, 1616, 1624, 1632, &c. In the title of that which was published in 1616, occur the words newly revised and corrected. "When this copy first came to my hands," says Mr. Malone, "it occurred to me, that our author had perhaps an intention of revising and publishing all his works, (which his fellow-comedians, in their preface to his plays, seem to hint he would have done, if he had lived,) and that he began with this early production of his muse, but was prevented by death from completing his scheme; for he died in the same year in which this corrected copy of Lucrece (as it is called) was printed. But on an attentive examination of this edition, I have not the least doubt that the piece was revised by some other hand. It is so far from being correct, that it is certainly the most inaccurate and corrupt of all the ancient copies."[41:B]

To the Rape of Lucrece succeeds, in the order of publication, the Passionate Pilgrim. This imperfect collection of our author's minor pieces was printed by W. Jaggard in 1599, in small octavo, and with the poet's name.

[42]Not only is this little work entitled to notice from the priority of its public appearance, before the larger collection termed "Sonnets;" but there is, we think, sufficient proof that a part of its contents had, as compositions, a prior origin. It opens with a sonnet inserted in Love's Labour's Lost[42:A], a play which, according to Mr. Chalmers, was written in 1592, and not later, even in the calculation of Mr. Malone, than 1594. The second sonnet, and the fourth, seventh, and ninth, are founded on the story of Venus and Adonis, and, from their similarity in diction, imagery, and sentiment, to "the first heir" of the poet's "invention," appear to have been originally intended, either for insertion in the greater work, or were preludes to its composition: they "seem," remarks Mr. Malone, "to have been essays of the author when he first conceived the idea of writing a poem on the subject of Venus and Adonis, and before the scheme of his poem was adjusted;" and he adds, in a subsequent page, that the eighth sonnet "seems to have been intended for a dirge to be sung by Venus on the death of Adonis."[42:B]

Beside these intimations of very early composition in the Passionate Pilgrim, a similar inference may be drawn from our author's allusion, in his sixth sonnet, to Dowland as a celebrated lutenist, and from a notice in the old copy that the ballad commencing "It was a lording's daughter," and the five following poems, were set to music, which music, says Oldys, in one of his manuscripts, was the composition of John and Thomas Morley. Now Dowland had obtained celebrity in his art as early as 1590; and in 1597, when Bachelor of Music in both the universities, published his first book of Songs or Airs, in four parts, for the Lute; and Tho. Morley, who, there is reason to believe, was deceased in 1600, had still earlier been in vogue, and continued to publish his compositions until 1597, in which year appeared his Canzonets.

When Meres, therefore, printed his Wit's Treasury in 1598, it is highly probable that the close of the following passage, already quoted [43]for a different purpose, and which has been thought to refer exclusively to the "Sonnets" afterwards published in 1609, particularly alluded also to the sonnets of the Passionate Pilgrim, which had been privately circulated and set to music by Dowland and Morley. "As the soul of Euphorbus," says he, "was thought to live in Pythagoras, so the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakspeare. Witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred Sonnets among his private friends, &c."

It is remarkable that the year following this notice by Meres, appeared Jaggard's first edition of the Passionate Pilgrim. May we not conclude, therefore, that this encomium on the manuscript sonnets of Shakspeare, induced Jaggard to collect all the lyric poetry of our author which he could obtain through his own research and that of his friends, and to publish it surreptitiously with a title of his own manufacture? That it was not sent into the world under the direction, or even with the knowledge of Shakspeare, must be evident from the circumstance of Marlowe's madrigal, Come live with me, &c. being inserted in the collection; nor is it likely, setting this error aside, that Shakspeare, in his thirty-third year, at a time when he had written several plays including some dramatic songs, and undoubtedly had produced a large portion of the sonnets which were given to the world in 1609, would have published a Collection so scanty and unconnected as the Passionate Pilgrim, which, independent of Marlowe's poem, contains but twenty pieces.

Indeed we are warranted in attributing not only the edition of 1599 solely to the officiousness of Jaggard, but likewise two subsequent impressions, of which the last furnishes us with some further curious proofs of this printer's skill in book-making, and also with an interesting anecdote relative to our bard.

The precise period when the second edition issued from the press was unknown to Mr. Malone[43:A], and is not yet ascertained; but the [44]third edition, printed in 1612, in small octavo, and published by W. Jaggard, is connected with the following literary history.

In 1609, Thomas Heywood published a folio volume entitled "Troia Britanica: or, Great Britaine's Troy. A Poem, devided into 17 severall Cantons, intermixed with many pleasant poeticall Tales. Concluding with an Universal Chronicle from the Creation, untill these present Times." This work was printed and published by William Jaggard, and includes two translations from Ovid, namely the epistles of Paris to Helen, and Helen to Paris, "which being so pertinent to our historie," says Heywood, "I thought necessary to translate."

It happened, unfortunately for the honest fame of Jaggard, that when he published the third edition of the Passionate Pilgrim in 1612, he was tempted, with the view of increasing the size of his volume, to insert these versions by Heywood, dropping, however, the translator's name, and, of course, suffering them to be ascribed to Shakspeare, who appears in the title-page as the author of the entire collection.

Shortly after this imposition on the public had gone forth, Heywood produced his "Apology for Actors. Containing three briefe Treatises. 1. Their Antiquity. 2. Their Ancient Dignity. 3. The true use of their quality. London: Printed by Nicholas Okes, 1612," 4to.; and at the close of this thin treatise, which consists but of sixty pages, the author addresses the following remarkable epistle to his new bookseller:—

"To my approved good friend, Mr. Nicholas Okes.

"The infinite faults escaped in my booke of Britaine's Troy, by the negligence of the printer, as the misquotations, mistaking of sillables, misplacing halfe lines, coining of strange and never heard of words: these being without number, when I would have taken a particular account of the errata, the printer answered me, hee would not publish his owne disworkemanship, but rather let his owne fault [45]lye upon the necke of the author: and being fearfull that others of his quality, had beene of the same nature, and condition, and finding you on the contrary, so carefull and industrious, so serious and laborious, to doe the author all the rights of the presse; I could not choose but gratulate your honest endeavours with this short remembrance. Here likewise, I must necessarily insert a manifest injury done me in that worke, by taking the two Epistles of Paris to Helen, and Helen to Paris, and printing them in a lesse volume, under the name of another (Shakspeare), which may put the world in opinion I might steale them from him; and hee, to doe himselfe right, hath since published them in his owne name: but as I must acknowlege my lines not worthy his patronage under whom he hath publisht them, SO THE AUTHOR (Shakspeare) I know much offended with M. Jaggard that (altogether unknowne to him) presumed to make so bold with his name. These, and the like dishonesties, I know you to be cleare of; and I could wish but to bee the happy author of so worthy a worke as I could willingly commit to your care and workmanship.

Your's ever,

Thomas Heywood."

Here nothing can be more evident than that Jaggard introduced these translations in the "Passionate Pilgrim," without the permission, or even the knowledge of Shakspeare, and further, that he, Shakspeare, was much offended with Jaggard for so doing; a piece of information which completely rescues the memory of Shakspeare from any connivance in the fraud: and yet, strange as it may appear, on this very epistle of Heywood has been founded a charge of imposition against Shakspeare, and the only defence offered for the calumniated poet has been, that, contrary to the public and positive assertion of Heywood, he, and not Heywood, was the translator of the Epistles in question.

This interpretation can only be accounted for on the supposition that both the accuser and defender have alike mistaken the language of Heywood, and have conceived him to have been speaking of [46]himself, when, in fact, he was referring to Shakspeare; for, that the passage "so the author I know much offended with M. Jaggard that (altogether unknowne to him) presumed to make so bold with his name," can only be applied to our great poet, must be clear from the consideration that Jaggard, so far from making bold with the name of Heywood, dropped it altogether, while he daringly committed the very offence as to Shakspeare, by clandestinely affixing his name to the versions of Heywood.

It will be right, however, to bring forward the accusation and defence of these gentlemen, as they will sufficiently prove that more errors than one have been committed in their attempts, and that these have been the result of a want of intimacy with the literary history of Shakspeare's age.

In the twenty-sixth volume of the Monthly Magazine, a correspondent whose signature is Y. Z., after commenting on Heywood's letter, as quoted by Dr. Farmer, and after transcribing the very passage just given above in Italics, declares "this passage contains an heavy charge against Shakspeare: it accuses him, not only of an attempt to impose on the public, but on his patron, Lord Southampton, to whom he dedicated his 'unpolisht lines[46:A];'" and, in his reply to Mr. Lofft, he again remarks,—"The translations in question were certainly published in Shakspeare's name, and with his permission; they were also dedicated by him to his best and kindest friend."[46:B]

Now, that the passage in debate contains no charge against Shakspeare is, we think, perfectly demonstrable from the import of Heywood's epistle, which we have given at full length, and which, we suspect, Y. Z. has only partially seen, through the medium of Dr. Farmer's quotation.

That the poet imposed upon his patron by dedicating to him his "unpolisht lines," meaning these versions from Ovid, is an assertion totally contrary to the fact. Of his poems Shakspeare dedicated only [47]two to Lord Southampton, which were published separately, the Venus and Adonis in 1593, and the Rape of Lucrece in 1594, and the expression "unpolisht lines" alludes exclusively to the first of these productions.

So far from any permission being given by Shakspeare for the insertion of these translations, we find him highly offended with Jaggard for presuming to introduce them under his name; and from the admission of these pieces and Marlowe's poem, we may securely infer that the three editions by Jaggard of the Passionate Pilgrim were surreptitious and void of all authority. Such, indeed, seems to have been the opinion of his contemporaries with regard to the first impression; for the two poems in Jaggard's collection of 1599, commencing "My flocks feed not," and "As it fell upon a day," are inscribed to Shakspeare, while in England's Helicon of 1600 they bear the subscription of Ignoto, a pretty plain intimation of all want of reliance on the editorial sagacity of this unprincipled bookseller.

Justice requires of us to state that Y. Z. has not brought forward this accusation from any enmity to the poet, of whom, on the contrary, he professes himself to be an ardent admirer; but with the hope of seeing the transaction cleared up to the honour of his favourite bard, a hope which Mr. Lofft, in a subsequent number of the Magazine, generously comes forward to gratify.

In doing this, however, he has unfortunately taken for granted the data on which Y. Z. has founded his charge, and builds his defence of the poet on the ill-grounded supposition of his being the real translator of the Epistles of Ovid, treating the question as if it were the subject of a trial at law. The consequence has been a somewhat singular series of mistakes. "It appears," observes Mr. Lofft, "that among his undisputed poems, these translations were published by Jaggard, in 1609."[47:A] Here are two assumptions, of which one seems founded on a surmise in the first communication of Y. Z., who says, [48]"if my memory does not deceive me, the Poems of Shakspeare appeared in 1609."[48:A] That an edition of the Passionate Pilgrim was printed between the years 1599 and 1612 is certain, for the copy of 1612 is expressly termed the third edition; but that this impression took place in 1609, is a conclusion without any authority, for, as we have remarked before, no copy of this date has yet been discovered. Granting, however, that it did issue in this year, there is every reason, from the detail already given, to affirm, that it could not contain the translations in question, and was probably nothing more than a re-impression of the edition of 1599.

"In the same year" (that is 1609), proceeds Mr. L., "Heywood makes his claim." Heywood made no claim until 1612; yet, continues Mr. L., "this he does in a book entitled 'Britain's Glory,' published by the very same Jaggard." Now Heywood wrote no book entitled "Britain's Glory," an assertion which seems to be verified by Mr. Lofft himself, who commences the next paragraph but one in the following terms:—"This Britain's Troy, in which he advances his claim to these translations, seems to have been the earliest of the many volumes which he published," a sentence which almost compels us to consider the title "Britain's Glory," in the preceding paragraph, as a typographical error; but it is remarkable that neither in Britain's Troy is this claim advanced, nor was it by many instances the earliest of his publications, a reference to the Biographia Dramatica exhibiting not less than five of his productions anterior to 1609.

These inaccuracies in the charge and defence of Shakspeare, the detection of which has proved an unpleasant task, and peculiarly so when we reflect, that to one of the parties and to his family[48:B] the [49]venerable bard owes many obligations, will induce us to rely with greater confidence on the simple truth, as developed in the letter of Heywood,—that Shakspeare, as soon as he was made acquainted with the fraudulent attempt of Jaggard, expressed the warmest indignation at his conduct.

On the poetical merit of the Passionate Pilgrim, it will not be necessary to say much; for, as the best and greater part of it consists of pieces in the sonnet form, and these are but few, the skill of the bard in this difficult species of composition will more properly be discussed when we come to consider the value of the large collection which he has bequeathed us under the appellation of Sonnets. One, however, of the pieces which form the Passionate Pilgrim, we shall extract, not only for its beauty as a sonnet, though this be considerable, but as it makes mention of his great poetical contemporary, Edmund Spenser, for whose genius, as might naturally be expected, he appears to have entertained the most deep-felt admiration:—

"If music and sweet poetry agree,
As they must needs, the sister and the brother,
Then must the love be great 'twixt thee and me,
Because thou lov'st the one, and I the other.
Dowland to thee is dear, whose heavenly touch
Upon the lute doth ravish human sense;
Spenser to me, whose deep conceit is such,
As passing all conceit, needs no defence.
Thou lov'st to hear the sweet melodious sound,
That Phœbus' lute, the queen of music, makes;
And I in deep delight am chiefly drown'd,
Whenas himself to singing he betakes.
One god is god of both, as poets feign;
One knight loves both, and both in thee remain."

The expression, deep conceit, "seems to allude," remarks Mr. Malone, "to the Faery Queen. If so, these sonnets were not written till after 1590, when the first three books of that poem were published[49:A];" a conjecture which is strongly corroborated by two [50]lines from Barnefield's "Remembrance of some English Poets," where the phrase is directly applied to the Fairy Queen:

"Live Spenser! ever, in thy Fairy Queene;
Whose like (for deep conceit) was never seene."[50:A]

The remaining portion of Shakspeare's Poems includes the Sonnets and A Lover's Complaint, which were printed together in 1609.[50:B] At what period they were written, or in what year of the poet's life they were commenced, has been a subject of much controversy. That some of these sonnets were alluded to by Meres in 1598, when he speaks of our author's "sugred Sonnets among his private friends," and that a few of these very sonnets, as many, at least, as Jaggard could obtain, were published by him the following year, in consequence of this notice, appears to be highly probable; but that the entire collection, as published in 1609, had been in private circulation anterior to Meres's pamphlet, is a position not easily to be credited, and contrary, indeed, to the internal evidence of the poems themselves, which bear no trifling testimony of having been written at various and even distant periods; and there is reason to think in the space elapsing between the years 1592 and 1609, between the twenty-eighth and forty-fifth year of the poet's age.

That some of them were early compositions, and produced before the author had acquired any extended reputation, may be inferred from the subsequent passages. In the sixteenth sonnet, with reference to his own poetry, he adopts the expression "my pupil pen;" and in the thirty-second he petitions his mistress to "vouchsafe" him "but this loving thought,"

"Had my friend's muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought
To march in ranks of better equipage."

A small portion of the fame and property which he afterwards [51]enjoyed, could have fallen to his share when he composed the thirty-seventh sonnet, the purport of which is to declare, that though

—— "made lame by fortune's dearest spite,"

he is rich in the perfections of his mistress, and having engrafted his love to her abundant store, he adds,

"So then I am not lame, poor, nor despis'd."

There is much reason to conclude, however, that by far the greater part of these sonnets was written after the bard had passed the meridian of his life, and during the ten years which preceded their publication; consequently, that with the exception of a few of earlier date, they were the amusement of his leisure from his thirty-fifth to his forty-fifth year. We have been led to this result from the numerous allusions which the author has made, in these poems, to the effects of time on his person; and though these may be, and are without doubt, exaggerated, yet are they fully adequate to prove that the writer could no longer be accounted young. It is remarkable that the hundred and thirty-eighth sonnet, which was originally printed in the Passionate Pilgrim contains a notice of this kind:

"Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best;"

an expression which well accords with the poet's then period of life; for when Jaggard surreptitiously published the minor collection, Shakspeare was thirty-five years old.

Among the allusions of this nature in his "Sonnets," the selection of a few will answer our purpose. The first occurs in the twenty-second sonnet:—

"My glass shall not persuade me I am old,
So long as youth and thou are of one date."

The two next are still more explicit:—

[52]"But when my glass shows me myself indeed,
'Bated and chopp'd with tan'd antiquity:"

Son. 62.

"Against my love shall be, as I am now,
With time's injurious hand crush'd and o'erworn:"

Son. 63.

and the last that we shall give completes the picture, which, though overcharged in its colouring, must be allowed, we think, to reflect some lineaments of the truth:—

"That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day,
As after sun-set fadeth in the west——
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie."

Son. 73.

The comparison instituted in these lines between the bare ruined choir of a cathedral, and an avenue at the close of autumn, has given origin to a short but very elegantly written note from the pen of Mr. Steevens. "This image," he remarks, "was probably suggested to Shakspeare by our desolated monasteries. The resemblance between the vaulting of a Gothic isle, and an avenue of trees whose upper branches meet and form an arch over-head, is too striking not to be acknowledged. When the roof of the one is shattered, and the boughs of the other leafless, the comparison becomes yet more solemn and picturesque."[52:A]

On the principal writers of this minor but difficult species of lyric poetry, to which Shakspeare could have recourse in his own language, it will be necessary to enter into some brief criticism, in order to ascertain the progress and merit of his predecessors, and the models on which he may be conceived to have more peculiarly founded his own practice.

[53]The rapid introduction of Italian poetry into our country, during the reign of Henry the Eighth, very early brought with it a taste for the cultivation of the sonnet. Before 1540, Wyat had written all his poems, many of which are sonnets constructed nearly on the strictest form of the Italian model; the octant, or major system being perfectly correct, while the sextant, or minor system, differs only from the legitimate type by closing with a couplet. The poetical value of these attempts, however, does not, either in versification or imagery, transcend mediocrity, and are greatly inferior to the productions, in the same department, of his accomplished friend, the gallant but unfortunate Surrey. The sonnets of this elegantly romantic character, which were published in 1557, deviate still further from the Italian structure, as they uniformly consist of three quatrains in alternate or elegiac verse, and these terminated by a couplet; a secession from the laws of legitimacy which is amply atoned for by virtues of a far superior order, by simplicity, purity, and sweetness of expression, by unaffected tenderness of sentiment, and by vivid powers of description. To this unexaggerated encomium we must add, that the harmony of his metre is often truly astonishing, and even, in some instances, fully equal to the rhythm of the present age. That the assertion wants not sufficient evidence, will be acknowledged by the adduction of a single specimen:—


"Set me whereas the sunne doth parche the grene,
Or where his beames do not dissolve the ise:
In temperate heate where he is felt and sene:
In presence prest of people madde or wise:
Set me in hye, or yet in low degree;
In longest night, or in the shortest daye:
In clearest skie, or where cloudes thickest be;
In lusty youth, or when my heeres are graye:
Set me in heaven, in earth, or els in hell,
In hyll or dale, or in the foming flood,
Thrall, or at large, alive whereso I dwell,
Sicke or in health, in evill fame or good:
Hers will I be, and onely with this thought
Content my self, although my chaunce be nought."

[54]Of the sonnets of Watson, which were published about 1581, we have given an opinion, at some length, in the preceding chapter, and shall merely add here, that neither in their structure, nor in their diction or imagery, could they be, or were they, models for our author; and are indeed greatly inferior, not only to the sonnets of Shakspeare, but to those of almost every other poet of his day.

The sonnets of Sidney, which appeared in 1591 under the title of Astrophel and Stella, exhibit a variety of metrical arrangement; a few which rival, and several which nearly approach, the most strict Petrarcan form. The octant in Sidney is often perfectly correct, while the sextant presents us with the structure which, though not very common in Italian, has been, since his time, adopted more frequently than any other by our own poets; that is, where the first line and the third, the second and fourth, the fifth and sixth, rhime together; with this difference, however, that the moderns, in their division of the sextant, have more usually followed the example of Surrey just quoted, in forming their minor system of a quatrain and a couplet, while Sidney more correctly distributes it into terzette.

On this arrangement is by far the greater portion of Sidney's sonnets constructed; but the most pleasing of his metrical forms, and which has the merit too of being built after the Italian cast, consists in the Octant, of two tetrachords of disjunct alternate rhime, the last line of the first stanza rhiming to the first of the second; and in the Sextant, of a structure in which the first and second, the fourth and fifth, and the third and sixth verses rhime. Thus has he formed the following exquisite sonnet, which will afford no inaccurate idea of his powers in this province of the art:—

"O kisse, which doest those ruddie gemmes impart,
Or gemmes, or fruits of new-found Paradise,
Breathing all blisse and sweetning to the heart,
Teaching dumbe lips a nobler exercise.
O kisse, which soules, even soules, together tyes
By linkes of Love, and only Nature's art:
How faine would I paint thee to all men's eyes,
Or of thy gifts at least shade out some part.
[55]But she forbids; with blushing words, she sayes,
She builds her fame on higer-seated praise:
But my heart burnes, I cannot silent be.
Then since, deare life, you faine would have me peace,
And I, mad with delight, want wit to cease,
Stop you my mouth with still still kissing me."

Son. 81.

In 1592, Daniel produced his Delia, including fifty-seven sonnets, of which only two follow the Italian standard; the remainder consisting of three elegiac stanzas and a closing couplet. They display many beauties, and, being a model of easy imitation, have met with numerous copyists.

Of the Diana of Constable, a collection of sonnets in eight decades, we have already, if we consider their mediocrity, given a sufficiently copious notice. They were published in 1594, and were soon eclipsed by the Amoretti of Spenser, a series of eighty-eight sonnets, printed about the year 1595. These, from the singularity of their construction, which not only deviates from the Italian costume, but has seldom found an imitator, require, independent of their poetic value, peculiar notice. The Spenserian sonnet, then, consists of three tetrachords in alternate rhime; the last line of the first tetrachord rhiming to the first of the second, and the last of the second to the first of the third, and the whole terminated by a couplet. That this system of rhythm often flows sweetly, and that it is often the vehicle of chaste sentiment and beautiful imagery must, in justice, be conceded to this amiable poet; but, at the same time, it is necessary to add, that it is occasionally the medium of quaintness and far-fetched conceit. A specimen, however, shall be subjoined, of which, if the first stanza be slightly tainted with affectation, the remainder will be pronounced, as well in melody and simplicity as in moral beauty, nearly perfect.

"The doubt which ye misdeeme, fayre Love, is vaine,
That fondly feare to lose your liberty;
When, losing one, two liberties ye gaine,
And make him bond that bondage earst did fly.
[56]Sweet be the bands, the which true Love doth tye
Without constraynt, or dread of any ill:
The gentle birde feeles no captivity
Within her cage; but sings, and feeds her fill.
There Pride dare not approach, nor Discord spill
The league twixt them, that loyal Love hath bound:
But simple Truth, and mutual Good-will,
Seeks, with sweet Peace, to salve each others wound:
There Fayth doth fearless dwell in brazen towre,
And spotlesse Pleasure builds her sacred bowre."

Son. 65.

Between the sonnets of Spenser, and those of Drayton, a period of ten or eleven years, many minor bards, such as Percy, Barnes, Barnefielde, Griffin, Smith, &c. the titles of whose works will be found in the table of our preceding chapter, were induced to cultivate, and sometimes with tolerable success, this difficult little poem; nor are there wanting, during this period, some elegant examples of the sonnet interspersed through the works of writers of a higher rank, as, for instance, Googe, Gascoigne, Raleigh, Breton, and Lodge; but we shall close this criticism with a few remarks on the sonnets of the once popular poet whose productions of this kind immediately preceded the collection of Shakspeare in 1609.

The sonnets of Drayton which, in number sixty-three, were published under the title of "Ideas," in 1605, 8vo., are, for the most part, written on the plan of Daniel. Fifty-two exhibit three four-lined stanzas, in alternate rhime, completed by a couplet; and eleven consist of three quatrains with two verses of immediate, interposed between two verses of disjunct, rhime, and a terminating couplet. The versification of Drayton in these pieces is sufficiently smooth, and the sentiment is sometimes natural and pleasing, though too often injured by an ill-judged display of wit and point. With the exception, also, of two sonnets addressed to the River Anker, they possess little of what can be termed descriptive poetry.

It now remains to ascertain to which of these writers of the sonnet Shakspeare chiefly directed his attention, in choosing a model for his own compositions. Dr. Sewell and Mr. Chalmers contend that, in emulation of Spenser, he took the Amoretti of that poet for his [57]guide[57:A]; but, though we admit that he was an avowed admirer of the Fairy Queen, and that the publication of the Amoretti in 1595 might still further strengthen his attachment to this species of lyric poesy, yet we cannot accede to their position. The structure, indeed, of the Spenserian sonnet is, with the exception of a closing couplet, totally different from Shakspeare's; nor are their style and diction less dissimilar.

If we revert, however, to the sonnets of Daniel, which were published in 1592, we shall there find, as Mr. Malone had previously remarked, the prototype of Shakspeare's amatory verse. Indeed no doubt can arise, when we recollect, that all Daniel's sonnets, save two, are composed of three quatrains in alternate rhime and a couplet, and that all Shakspeare's, one hundred and fifty-four in number, are, if we except a single instance[57:B], of a similar description. There is, also, in Daniel, much of that tissue of abstract thought, and that reiteration of words, which so remarkably distinguish the sonnets of our bard. Of this no greater proof can be adduced than the sonnet we shall now subjoin, and which, in all its features, may be said to be truly Shakspearean:—

"And whither, poor forsaken, wilt thou go,
To go from sorrow, and thine own distress?
When every place presents like face of woe,
And no remove can make thy sorrows less?
Yet go, forsaken; leave these woods, these plains:
Leave her and all, and all for her, that leaves
Thee and thy love forlorn, and both disdains;
And of both wrongful deems, and ill conceives.
Seek out some place; and see if any place
Can give the least release unto thy grief:
Convey thee from the thought of thy disgrace;
Steal from thyself, and be thy care's own thief.
But yet what comforts shall I hereby gain?
Bearing the wound, I needs must feel the pain."

Son. 49.

[58]There is reason to suppose that none of Shakspeare's sonnets were written before the appearance of Daniel's "Delia." A few in the Passionate Pilgrim seem, as hath been observed, to have been suggested during the composition of the Venus and Adonis, and were probably penned in the interval elapsing between the publication of the Delia in 1592, and of the Venus and Adonis in 1593; for, though the earliest of his sonnets, they are still cast in the very mould which Daniel had constructed.

The difficulties, however, which attend the ascertainment of Shakspeare's model in these compositions, are nothing when compared to those which surround the enquiry as to the person to whom they are addressed. An almost impenetrable darkness rests on the question, and no effort has hitherto, in the smallest degree, tended to disperse the gloom.

When Thomas Thorpe published our author's sonnets in 1609, he accompanied them with the following mysterious dedication:—

"To The Only Begetter
Of These Ensuing Sonnets,
Mr. W. H.
All Happiness
And That Eternity Promised
By Our Ever-Living Poet
Wisheth The
Well-Wishing Adventurer
In Setting Forth,
T. T."

On the first perusal of this address, the import would seem to be, that Mr. W. H. had been the sole object of Shakspeare's poetry, and of the eternity promised by the bard. But a little attention to the language of the times in which it was written, will induce us to correct this conclusion; for as a part of our author's sonnets is most certainly addressed to a female, it is evident that W. H. could not be the only begetter of them in the sense which primarily suggests itself. For the true meaning of the word we are indebted to Mr. Chalmers, who observes, on the authority of Minsheu's Dictionary of 1616, that one [59]sense of the verb to beget is there given to bring foorth. "W. H.," he continues, "was the bringer forth of the Sonnets. Beget is derived by Skinner from the A. S. begettan, obtinere. Johnson adopts this derivation, and sense: so that begetter, in the quaint language of Thorpe, the Bookseller, Pistol, the ancient, and such affected persons, signified the obtainer; as to get, and getter, in the present day, means obtain, and obtainer, or to procure, and the procurer."

We must, infer, therefore, from this explanation of the word, that Mr. W. H. had influence enough to obtain the manuscript from the poet, and that he lodged it in Thorpe's hands for the purpose of publication, a favour which the bookseller returned, by wishing him all happiness and that eternity which had been promised by the bard, in such glowing colours, to another, namely, to one of the immediate subjects of his sonnets.

That this is the only rational meaning which can be annexed to the word "promised," will appear, when we reflect that for Thorpe to have wished W. H. the eternity which had been promised him by an ever-living poet, would have been not only superfluous, but downright nonsense: the eternity of an ever-living poet must necessarily ensue, and was a proper subject of congratulation, but not of wishing or of hope.

It appears also that this dedication was understood in the same light by some of the earlier editors of the sonnets. Cotes, it is true, republished them in 1640 without a commentary; but when Gildon re-printed them in 1710, he gives it as his opinion that they were all of them in praise of his mistress; and Dr. Sewell, when he edited them in 1728, had embraced a similar idea, for he tells us, in reference to our author's example, that "A young muse must have a mistress, to play off the beginning of fancy; nothing being so apt to elevate the soul to a pitch of poetry, as the passion of love."[59:A]

The conclusion of these editors remained undisputed for more than half a century, when Mr. Malone, in 1780, published his [60]Supplement to the Edition of Shakspeare's Plays of 1778, which includes the Sonnets of the poet, accompanied by his own notes, and those of his friends. Here, beside the opinion which he has himself avowed, he has given the conjectures of Dr. Farmer, and Mr. Tyrwhitt, and the decision of Mr. Steevens.

All these gentlemen concur in believing, that more than one hundred of our author's sonnets are addressed to a male object. Dr. Farmer, influenced by the initials in the dedication, supposes that Mr. William Harte, the poet's nephew, was the object in question; but a reference to the Stratford Register completely overturns this hypothesis, for it there appears, that William, eldest son of William Harte, who married Shakspeare's Sister Joan, was baptized August 28th, 1600, and consequently could not be even in existence when the greater part of these compositions were written.

Mr. Tyrwhitt, founding his conjecture on a line in the twentieth sonnet, which is thus printed in the old copy,

"A man in hew all Hews in his controlling,"

conceives that the letters W. H. were intended to imply William Hughes. If we recollect, however, our bard's uncontrollable passion for playing upon words; that hew frequently meant, in the usage of his time, mien and appearance, as well as tint, and that Daniel, who was probably his archetype in these pieces, has spelt it in the same way, and once, if not oftener, for the sake of emphasis, with a capital[60:A], we shall not feel inclined to place such reliance on this supposition.

When Mr. Steevens, in 1766, annexed a reprint of the sonnets to Shakspeare's plays, from the quarto editions, he hazarded no observations on their scope or origin; but in Malone's Supplement, he ventured, in a note on the twentieth sonnet, to declare his conviction that it was addressed to a male object.[60:B]

[61]Lastly, Mr. Malone, in the Supplement just mentioned, after specifying his concurrence in the conjecture of Mr. Tyrwhitt, adds—"To this person, whoever he was, one hundred and twenty of the following poems are addressed; the remaining twenty-eight are addressed to a lady."[61:A]

Thus the matter rested on the decision of these four celebrated commentators, who were uniform in assorting their belief, that Shakspeare had addressed the greater part of his sonnets to a man, when Mr. George Chalmers in 1797, in his "Apology for the Believers in the Shakspeare Papers," attempted to overturn their conclusion, by endeavouring to prove that the whole of the Sonnets had been addressed by Shakspeare to Queen Elizabeth; a position which he labours to strengthen, by additional research, in his "Supplemental Apology" of 1799!

That Mr. Chalmers, however, notwithstanding all his industry and ingenuity, has failed in establishing his point, must be the acknowledgment of every one who has perused the sonnets with attention. Indeed the phraseology of Shakspeare so positively indicates a male object, that, if it cannot, in this respect, be reposed on, we may venture to assert, that no language, however explicit, is entitled to confidence. Nothing but extreme carelessness could have induced Gildon and Sewell to conceive that the prior part of these sonnets was directed to a female, and even Mr. Chalmers himself is compelled to convert his Queen into a man, before he can give any plausibility to his hypothesis. That Elizabeth, in her capacity of a sovereign, was frequently addressed in language strictly applicable to the male sex, is very true, and such has been the custom to almost every female sovereign; but that she should be thus metamorphosed, for the express purpose of wooing her by amatory sonnets, is a position which cannot be expected to obtain credit.

The question then returns upon us, To whom are these sonnets addressed? We agree with Farmer, Tyrwhitt, Steevens, and Malone, [62]in thinking the object of the greater part of the sonnets to have been of the male sex; but, for the reasons already assigned, we cannot concede that either Harte or Hughes was the individual.

If we may be allowed, in our turn, to conjecture, we would fix upon Lord Southampton as the subject of Shakspeare's sonnets, from the first to the hundredth and twenty-sixth, inclusive.

Before we enter, however, on the quotation of such passages as are calculated to give probability to our conclusion, it will be necessary to show that, in the age of Shakspeare, the language of love and friendship was mutually convertible. The terms lover and love, indeed, were as often applied to those of the same sex who had an esteem for each other, as they are now exclusively directed to express the love of the male for the female. Thus, for instance, Ben Johnson subscribes himself the lover of Camden, and tells Dr. Donne, at the close of a letter to him, that he is his "ever true lover;" and with the same import, Drayton, in a letter to Drummond of Hawthornden, informs him, that Mr. Joseph Davis is in love with him. Shakspeare, in his Dramas, frequently adopts the same phraseology in expressing the relations of friendship: Portia, for example, in the Merchant of Venice, speaking of Antonio, says,

————————————— "this Antonio,
Being the bosom lover of my lord:"

and in Coriolanus, Menenius exclaims,

—————— "I tell thee, fellow,
Thy general is my lover:"[62:A]

but it is to his Poems that we must refer for a complete and extensive proof of this perplexing ambiguity of diction, which will gradually unfold itself as we proceed to quote instances in support of Lord Southampton's being the subject of his muse.

[63]That Shakspeare was, at the same time, attached by friendship, and by love; that, according to the fashion of his age, he employed the same epithet for both, though, in one instance, at least, he has accurately distinguished the sexes, positively appears from the opening stanza of a sonnet in the Passionate Pilgrim of 1599:—

"Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still;
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman, coloured ill."[63:A]

That this better angel was Lord Southampton, and that to him was addressed the number of sonnets mentioned above, we shall now endeavour to substantiate.

Perhaps one of the most striking proofs of this position, is the hitherto unnoticed fact, that the language of the Dedication to the Rape of Lucrece, and that of part of the twenty-sixth sonnet, are almost precisely the same.

The Dedication runs thus:—"The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end;—The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would shew greater."

The Sonnet is as follows:

"Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit,
To thee I send this written embassage,
To witness duty, not to show my wit.
Duty so great, which wit so poor as mine
May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it."

Here, in the first place, it may be observed, that in his prose, as well as in his verse, our author uses the same amatory language; for [64]he opens the dedication to His Lordship with the assurance that his love for him is without end. In correspondence with this declaration, the sonnet commences with this remarkable expression,—Lord of my love; while the residue tells us, in exact conformity with the prose address, his high sense of His Lordship's merit and his own unworthiness.

That no doubt may remain of the meaning and direction of this peculiar phraseology, we shall bring forward a few lines from the 110th sonnet, which, uniting the language of both the passages just quoted, most incontrovertibly designates the sex, and, at the same time, we think, the individual to whom they are addressed:—

———————————— "My best of love,
Now all is done, save what shall have no end:
Mine appetite I never more will grind
On newer proof, to try an older friend,
A God in love, to whom I am confin'd."

Before we proceed any further, however, it may be necessary to obviate an objection to our hypothesis which must immediately suggest itself. It will be said, that the first seventeen sonnets are written for the sole purpose of persuading their object to marry, and how could this exhortation be applicable to Lord Southampton, who, from the year 1594 to the year 1599 was the devoted admirer of the faire Mrs. Varnon?

To remove this apparent incongruity, we have only to recollect, that His Lordship's attachment to his mistress met with the most decided and relentless opposition from the Queen; and there is every reason to infer, from the voluntary absences of the Earl in the years 1597 and 1598, and the extreme distress of his mistress on these occasions, that the connection had been twice given up, on his part, in deference to the will of his capricious sovereign.

Shakspeare, when his friend at the age of twenty-one was first smitten with the charms of Elizabeth Vernon, was high in His Lordship's confidence and favour, as the dedication of his Lucrece, at this period, fully evinces. We also know, that the Earl was very indignant [65]at the interference of the Queen; that he very reluctantly submitted, for some years, to her cruel restrictions in this affair; and if, in conformity with his constitutional irritability of temper, and the natural impulse of passion on such a subject, we merely admit, his having declared what every lover would be tempted to utter on the occasion, that if he could not marry the object of his choice, he would die single, a complete key will be given to what has hitherto proved inexplicable.

It immediately, indeed, and most satisfactorily accounts for four circumstances, not to be explained on any other plan. It affords, in the first place, an easy and natural clue to the poet's expostulatory language, who, being ardently attached to his patron, wished, of course, to see him happy either in the possession of his first choice or in the arms of a second, and, therefore, reprobates, in strong terms, such a premature vow of celibacy: it gives in the second place, an adequate solution of the question, why so few as only seventeen sonnets, and these the earliest in the collection, are employed to enforce the argument? for when His Lordship, on his return to London from the continent in 1598, embraced the resolution of marrying his mistress, notwithstanding the continued opposition of the Queen, all ground for further expostulation was instantly withdrawn. These seventeen sonnets, therefore, were written between the years 1594 and 1598, and were consequently among those noticed by Meres in 1598, as in private circulation: in the third place, it assigns a sufficient motive for withholding from public view, until after the death of the Queen, a collection of which part was written to counteract her known wishes, by exciting the Earl to form an early and independent choice: and in the fourth place it furnishes a cogent reason why Jaggard, in his surreptitious edition of the Passionate Pilgrim in 1599, did not dare to publish any of these sonnets, at a time when Southampton and his lady were imprisoned by the enraged Elizabeth, as a punishment for their clandestine union.

Having thus, satisfactorily as we think, not only removed the objection but strikingly corroborated the argument through the medium of our defence, we shall select a few passages from these initiatory [66]sonnets in order still further to show the masculine nature of their object, and to give a specimen of the poet's expostulatory freedom:—

"—— Where is she so fair, whose un-ear'd womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond, will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity."

Sonnet 3.

"—— thou — — — —
Unlook'd on diest, unless thou get a son."

Son. 7.

"The world will be thy widow and still weep—
No love toward others in that bosom sits,
That on himself such murderous shame commits."

Son. 9.

"—— —— —— —— Dear my love, you know,
You had a father; let your son say so."

Son. 13.

"Now stand you on the top of happy hours;
And many maiden garlands yet unset,
With virtuous wish would bear you living flowers."

Son. 16.

If more instances were wanting to prove that Shakspeare's object was a male friend, a multitude might be quoted from the remaining sonnets; we shall content ourselves, however, with adding a few to those already given from the first seventeen:—

"O carve not with thy hours my love's fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
Him in thy course untainted do allow,
For beauty's pattern to succeeding men."

Son. 19.

"His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
And they shall live, and he in them still green."

Son. 63.

The transcription of one entire sonnet will spare further quotation, as it must prove, against all the efforts of sophistry, the sex for which we contend:

"Ah! wherefore with infection should HE live
And with HIS presence grace impiety.
[67]That sin by HIM advantage should atchieve,
And lace itself with HIS society.
Why should false painting imitate HIS cheek,
And steal dead seeing of HIS living hue?
Why should poor beauty indirectly seek
Roses of shadow, since HIS rose is true?
Why should HE live now Nature bankrupt is,
Beggar'd of blood to blush through lively veins?
For she hath no exchequer now but HIS,
And proud of many, lives upon HIS gains.
O, HIM she stores, to show what wealth she had,
In days long since, before these last so bad."

Son. 67.

The subsequent sonnets, likewise, as far as the hundred and twenty-seventh, which appear to have been written at various periods anterior to 1609, not only bear the strongest additional testimony to the mascularity of the person addressed, but in several instances clearly evince the nature of the affection borne to him, which without any doubt consisted solely of ardent friendship and intellectual adoration. Two entire sonnets, indeed, are dedicated to the expression of these sentiments, in the first of which he tells his noble patron, that he had absorbed in his own person all the friendship which he (Shakspeare) had ever borne to the living or the dead, and he finely terms this attachment "religious love." In thy bosom he exclaims—

"—— there reigns love and all love's loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried.
How many a holy and obsequious tear
Hath dear religious love stolen from mine eye,
As interest of the dead, which now appear
But things remov'd, that hidden in thee lie!
Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,
Hung with the trophies of my lovers[67:A] gone;
Who all their parts of me to thee did give;
That due of many now is thine alone:"

Son. 31.

[68] and in the second he says, addressing the same friend, that when Death arrests him, his verse

"—— for memorial still with thee shall stay.
When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to thee."

Son. 74.

That Shakspeare looked up to his friend not only with admiration and gratitude, but with reverence and homage, and, consequently, that neither William Harte nor William Hughes, nor any person of his own rank in society could be the subject of his verse, must be evident from the passages already adduced, and will be still more so when we weigh the import of the following extracts.

We are told, in the seventy-eighth sonnet, what, indeed, we might have supposed from the Earl's well-known munificence to literary men, that he was the theme of every muse; and it is added, that his patronage gave dignity to learning and majesty to grace:—

"So oft have I invoked thee for my muse,
And found such fair assistance in my verse,
As every alien pen hath got my use,
And under thee their poesy disperse.
Thine eyes, that taught the dumb on high to sing,
And heavy ignorance aloft to fly,
Have added feathers to the learned's wing,
And given grace a double majesty.
Yet be most proud of that which I compile,
Whose influence is thine, and born of thee."

In his ninety-first sonnet the poet informs us, that he values the affection of his friend more than riches, birth, or splendour, finishing his eulogium by asserting that he was not his peculiar boast, but the pride of all men:—

"Thy love is better than high birth to me,
Richer than wealth, prouder than garment's cost,
Of more delight than hawks or horses be,
And having thee, of all men's pride I boast."

[69]But in terms the most emphatic and explicit does he point to his object, in the sonnet which we are about to quote entire, distinctly marking the sex, the dignity, the rank, and moral virtue of his friend:—

"O truant Muse, what shall be thy amends,
For thy neglect of TRUTH IN BEAUTY DY'D?
Both truth and beauty on my love depends;
So dost thou too, and therein dignify'd.
Make answer, Muse: wilt thou not haply say,
'Truth needs no colour, with his colour fix'd,
Beauty no pencil, beauty's truth to lay:
But best is best, if never intermix'd?—'
Because HE needs no praise, wilt thou be dumb?
Excuse not silence so; for it lies in thee
To make HIM much out-live a GILDED TOMB,
And to be prais'd of ages yet to be.
Then do thy office, Muse; I teach thee how
To make HIM seem long hence as HE shows now."

Son. 101.

To whom can this sonnet, or indeed all the passages which we have quoted apply, if not to Lord Southampton, the bosom-friend, the munificent patron of Shakspeare, the noble, the elegant, the brave, the protector of literature and the theme of many a song. And let it be remembered, that if the hundreth and first sonnet be justly ascribed to Lord Southampton, or if any one of the passages which we have adduced, be fairly applicable to him, the whole of the hundred and twenty-six sonnets must necessarily apply to the same individual, for the poet has more than once affirmed this to have been his plan and object:

"Why write I still all one, ever the same
That every word doth almost tell my name."

Son. 76.

—— "all alike my songs, and praises be
To one, of one, still such and ever so."

Son. 105.

It may be objected, that the opening and closing sonnet of the collection which we conceive to be exclusively devoted to Lord Southampton, admit neither of reconcilement with each other, nor with the hypothesis which we wish to establish. This discrepancy, [70]however, will altogether vanish, if we compare the import of these sonnets with that of two others of the same series.

It will be allowed that the expressions, "the world's fresh ornament," the "only herald to the gaudy spring," and the epithets "tender churl," in the first sonnet, may with great propriety be applied to a young nobleman of twenty-one, just entering on a public and splendid career; but, if it be true, that these sonnets were written at various times, between the years 1594 and 1609, how comes it, that in the hundred and twenty-sixth, the last addressed to his patron, he still uses an equally youthful designation, and terms him "my lovely boy," an appellation certainly not then adapted to His Lordship, who, in 1609, was in his thirty-sixth year?

That the sonnets were written at different periods, he tells us in an apology to his noble friend for not addressing him so frequently as he used to do at the commencement of their intimacy, assigning as a reason, that as he was now the theme of various other poets, such addresses must have lost their zest:

"Our love was new, and then but in the spring,
When I was wont to greet it with my lays;
As Philomel in summer's front doth sing,
And stops his pipe in growth of riper days:
Not that the summer is less pleasant now
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,
But that wild musick burdens every bough,
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.
Therefore, like her, I sometime hold my tongue,
Because I would not dull you with my song."

Son. 102.

The mystery arising from the use of the juvenile epithets, he completely clears up in his hundred and eighth sonnet, where he says, that having exhausted every figure to express his patron's merit and his own affection, he is compelled to say the same things over again; that he is determined to consider him as young as when he first hallowed his fair name; that friendship, in fact, weighs not the advance of life, but adheres to its first conception, when youth and beauty clothed the object of its regard. In pursuance of this [71] determination, he calls him, in this very sonnet, "sweet boy;" but it will be more satisfactory to copy the entire poem, in order to show, that our interpretation is not, in the smallest degree, strained:—

"What's in the brain that ink may character,
Which hath not figur'd to thee my true spirit?
What's new to speak, what new to register,
That may express my love, or thy dear merit?
Nothing, sweet boy; but yet, like prayers divine,
I must each day say o'er the very same;
Counting no old thing old, thou mine, I thine,
Even as when first I hallowed thy fair name.
So that eternal love in love's fresh case
Weighs not the dust and injury of age,
Nor gives to necessary wrinkles place,
But makes antiquity for aye his page;
Finding the first conceit of love there bred,
Where time and outward form would show it dead."

In conformity with this resolution of considering his friend as endowed whilst he lives with perpetual youth, he closes his sonnets to him, not only with the repetition of the juvenile epithet "boy," but he positively assures him that he has time in his power, that he grows by waning, and that nature, as he goes onward, still plucks him back, in order to disgrace time. The conceit is somewhat puerile, though clearly explanatory of the systematic intention of the poet:

"O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power
Dost hold time's fickle glass, his fickle hour;
Who hast by waning grown, and therein show'st
Thy lovers withering, as thy sweet self grow'st;
If nature, sovereign mistress over wrack,
As thou goest onwards, still will pluck thee back,
She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill
May time disgrace, and wretched minutes kill."

He terminates this sonnet, however, and his series of poetical addresses to Lord Southampton, with a powerful corrective of all flattery, in reminding him that although nature "may detain," she cannot "keep her treasure," and that he must ultimately yield to death.

[72]We must also observe, that the poet has marked the termination of these sonnets to his friend, not only by the solemn nature of the concluding sentiment, but by a striking deviation from the customary form of his composition in these pieces; the closing poem not being constructed with alternate rhimes, but consisting of six couplets!

After thus attempting, at considerable length, and we trust with some success, to solve a mystery hitherto deemed inexplicable, we shall offer but a few observations on the object of the remaining twenty-eight sonnets.

In the first place, it is not true, as Mr. Malone has asserted, that they are all addressed to a female. Two, at least, have not the slightest reference to any individual; the hundred and twenty-ninth sonnet being a general and moral declamation on the misery resulting from sensual love, and the hundred and forty-sixth, an address to his own soul of a somewhat severe and religious cast.

Of the residue, four have no very determinate application, and to whom the twenty-two are dedicated, is not now to be ascertained, and, if it were, not worth the enquiry; for, a more worthless character, or described as such in stronger terms, no poet ever drew. We much wish, indeed, these sonnets had never been published, or that their subject could be proved to have been perfectly ideal. We are the more willing to consider them in this light, since, if we dismiss these confessional sonnets, not the slightest moral stain can rest on the character of Shakspeare; as the frolic in Sir Thomas Lucy's park, from his youth, and the circumstances attending it, must be deemed altogether venial. It is very improbable, also, that any poet should publish such an open confession of his own culpability.

Of the grossly meretricious conduct of his mistress, of whose personal charms and accomplishments we know nothing more than that she had black eyes, black hair, and could play on the virginal, Sonnets 137. 142. and 144. bear the most indubitable evidence. Well, therefore, might the poet term her his "false plague," his [73]"worser spirit," his "female evil," and his "bad angel;" well might he tell her, notwithstanding the colour of her eyes and hair,

"Thy black is fairest in my judgment's place;
In nothing art thou black, save in thy deeds."

Son. 131.

"For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night."

Son. 147.

Well might he blame his pliability of temper, his insufficiency of judgment and resolution, well might he call himself "past cure," and "frantick-mad," when, addressing this profligate woman, he exclaims,

"Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill,
That in the very refuse of thy deeds
There is such strength and warrantise of skill,
That in my mind, thy worst all best exceeds?
Who taught thee how to make me love thee more,
The more I hear and see just cause of hate?
O, though I love what others do abhor,
With others thou should'st not abhor my state;
If thy unworthiness rais'd love in me,
More worthy I to be belov'd by thee."[73:A]

Son. 150.

Now, weighing, what almost every other personal event in our author's life establishes, the general moral beauty of his character, and reflecting, at the same time, that he was at this period a husband, and the father of a family, we cannot but feel the most entire conviction, that these sonnets were never directed to a real object: but that, notwithstanding they appear written in his own person, and two of them, indeed, (Sonnets 135. and 136.) a perpetual pun on his Christian name, they were solely intended to express, aloof from all individual application, the contrarieties, the inconsistencies, and the miseries of illicit love. Credulity itself, we think, cannot suppose [74]otherwise, and, at the same time, believe that the poet was privy to their publication.

To this discussion of a subject clogged with so many difficulties, we shall now subjoin some remarks on the poetical merits and demerits of our author's sonnets; and here, we are irresistibly induced to notice the absurd charge against, and the inadequate defence of, sonnet-writing, brought forward by Messrs. Steevens and Malone, in the Supplement of the latter gentleman.[74:A]

The antipathy of Mr. Steevens to this species of lyric poetry, seems to have amounted to the highest pitch of extravagance. In a note on the fifty-fourth sonnet, he asks, "What has truth or nature to do with sonnets?" as if truth and nature were confined to any particular metre or mode of composition; and, in a subsequent page, he informs us that the sonnet is "a species of composition which has reduced the most exalted poets to a level with the meanest rhimers; has almost cut down Milton and Shakspeare to the standards of Pomfret and——but the name of Pomfret is perhaps the lowest in the scale of English versifiers."[74:B] Nothing can exceed the futility and bad taste of this remark, and yet Mr. Malone has advanced no other defence of the "exalted poets" of Italy than that, "he is slow to believe that Petrarch is without merit;" and for Milton he offers this strange apology,—"that he generally failed when he attempted rhime, whether his verses assumed the shape of a sonnet, or any other form."[74:C]

When we recollect, that the noblest poets of Italy, from Dante to Alfieri, have employed their talents in the construction of the sonnet, and that many of their most popular and beautiful passages have been derived through this medium; when we recollect, that the first bards of our own country, from Surrey to Southey, have followed their example with an emulation which has conferred immortality on their efforts; when we further call to mind the exquisite specimens of rhimed poetry which Milton has given us in his L'Allegro and [75]Il Penseroso; and when, above all, we retrace the dignity, the simplicity, the moral sublimity of many of his sonnets, perhaps not surpassed by any other part of his works, we stand amazed at the unqualified censure on the one hand, and at the impotency of the defence on the other.

If such be the fate, then, between these commentators, of the general question, and of the one more peculiarly relative to Milton, it cannot be expected that Shakspeare should meet with milder treatment. In fact, Mr. Steevens has asserted, that his sonnets are "composed in the highest strain of affectation, pedantry, circumlocution, and nonsense[75:A];" a picture which Mr. Malone endeavours to soften, by telling us that "it appears to him overcharged:" that similar defects occur in his dramas, and that the sonnets, "if they have no other merit, are entitled to our attention, as often illustrating obscure passages in his plays."[75:B]

It is true that in the next paragraph he ventures to declare, that he cannot perceive that their versification is less smooth than that of Shakspeare's other compositions, and that he can perceive perspicuity and energy in some of them; but well might Mr. Steevens reply, that "the case of these sonnets is certainly bad, when so little can be advanced in support of them."[75:C]

Let us try, therefore, if we cannot, and that also with great ease, prove that these sonnets have been not only miserably criticised, but unmercifully abused; and that, in point of poetical merit, they are superior to all those which preceded the era of Drummond.

In the first place, then, we altogether deny that either affectation or pedantry can, in the proper sense of the terms, be applied to the sonnets of Shakspeare. Were any modern, indeed, of the nineteenth century to adopt their language and style, he might justly be taxed with both; but in Sidney and Shakspeare it was habit, indissoluble habit, and not affectation; it was the diction in which they had been [76]practised from early youth to clothe their sentiments and feelings; it was identified with all their associations and intellectual operations; it was the language, in fact, the mode of expression, in a greater or less degree, of all their contemporaries; and to have stripped their thoughts of a dress, which to us appears quaint and artificial, would have been to them a painful and more elaborate task. When once, indeed, we can attribute this artificial, though often emphatic style, as we ought to do, to the universally defective taste of the age in which it sprang, and not to individual usage, we shall be prepared to do justice to injured genius, and to confess, that frequently beneath this laboured phraseology are to be found sentiments simple, natural, and touching. We may also very safely affirm of Shakspeare's sonnets, that, if their style be compared with that of his predecessors and contemporaries, in the same department of poetry, a manifest superiority must often be awarded him, on the score of force, dignity, and simplicity of expression; qualities of which we shall very soon afford the reader some striking instances.

To a certain extent, we must admit the charge of circumlocution, not as applied to individual sonnets, but to the subject on which the whole series is written. The obscurities of this species of poem have almost uniformly arisen from density and compression of style, nor are the compositions of Shakspeare more than usually free from this source of defect; but when it is considered that our author has written one hundred and twenty-six sonnets for the sole purpose of expressing his attachment to his patron, it must necessarily follow, that a subject so continually reiterated, would display no small share of circumlocution. Great ingenuity has been exhibited by the poet in varying his phraseology and ideas; but no effort could possibly obviate the monotony, as the result of such a task.

We shall not condescend to a refutation of the fourth epithet, which, if at all applicable to any portion of Shakspeare's minor poems, can alone apply to Sonnets 135. and 136., which are a continued pun upon his Christian name, a species of trifling which was the peculiar vice of our author's age.

[77]That an attempt to exhaust the subject of friendship; to say all that could be collected on the topic, would almost certainly lead, in the days of Shakspeare, to abstractions too subtile and metaphysical, and to a cast of diction sometimes too artificial and scholastic for modern taste, no person well acquainted with the progress of our literature can deny; but candour will, at the same time, admit, that the expression and versification of his sonnets are often natural, spirited, and harmonious, and that where the surface has been rendered hard and repulsive by the peculiarities of the period of their production, we have only to search beneath, in order to discover a rich ore of thought, imagery, and sentiment.

It has been stated that Shakspeare's sonnets, consisting of three elegiac quatrains and a couplet, are constructed on the plan of Daniel's; a mode of arrangement which, though bearing no similitude to the elaborate involution of the Petrarchan sonnet, may be praised for the simplicity of its form, and the easy flow of its verse; and that these technical beauties have often been preserved by our bard, and are frequently the medium through which he displays the treasures of a fervent fancy and a feeling heart, we shall now attempt, by a series of extracts, to prove.

The description of the sun in his course, his rising, meridian altitude, and setting, and his influence over the human mind, are enlivened by imagery peculiarly vivid and rich; the seventh and eighth lines especially, contain a picture of a great beauty:—

"Lo in the orient when the gracious light
Lifts up his burning head, each under eye
Doth homage to his new-appearing sight,
Serving with looks his sacred majesty;
And having climb'd the steep-up heavenly hill,
Resembling strong youth in his middle age,
Yet mortal looks adore his beauty still,
Attending on his golden pilgrimage;
But when from high-most pitch, with weary car,
Like feeble age, he reeleth from the day,
The eyes, 'fore duteous, now converted are
From his low tract, and look another way:
So thou," &c.

Son. 7.

[78]The inevitable effects of time over every object in physical nature, reminding the poet of the disastrous changes incident to human life, he exclaims in a style highly figurative and picturesque:—

"When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls, all silver'd o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard;
Then of thy beauty do I question make."

Son. 12.

A still more lovely sketch, illustrative of the uneasiness which he felt in consequence of absence from his friend, is given us in the following passage, of which the third and fourth lines are pre-eminent for the poetry of their diction:—

"From you have I been absent in the Spring,
When proud-pied April, dress'd in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing;
That heavy Saturn laugh'd and leap'd with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew."

Son. 98.

To the melody, perspicuity, and spirit of the versification of the next specimen, and to the exquisite turn upon the words, too much praise cannot be given. It is one amongst the numerous evidences of Lord Southampton being the subject of the great bulk of our author's sonnets; for he assures us, that he not only esteemed his lays, but gave argument and skill to his pen:—

"Where art thou, Muse, that thou forget'st so long
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend'st thou thy fury on some worthless song,
Dark'ning thy power, to lend base subjects light?
[79]Return, forgetful Muse, and straight redeem
In gentle numbers time so idly spent;
Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem,
And gives thy pen both skill and argument."

Son. 100.

From the expressions "old rhyme," and "antique pen," in the extract which we are about to quote, it is highly probable that our bard alluded to Chaucer, certainly before his own appearance the greatest poet that England had produced. The chivalric picture in the first quatrain, is peculiarly interesting, and the cadence of the metre is harmony itself:—

"When, in the chronicle of wasted time,
I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
And beauty making beautiful old rhime,
In praise of ladies dead, and lovely knights;
Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty's best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their antique pen would have express'd
Even such a beauty as you master now."

Son. 106.

It is a striking proof of the poetical inferiority of the few sonnets which Shakspeare has addressed to his mistress, that we find it difficult to select more than one passage from them which does honour to his memory. Of this, however, it will be allowed, that the comparison is happy, the rhythm pleasing, and the expression clear:—

"And truly not the morning sun of heaven
Better becomes the grey cheeks of the east,
Nor that full star that ushers in the even,
Doth half that glory to the sober west,
As those two mourning eyes become thy face."

Son. 132.

In order, however, to judge satisfactorily of the merit of these poems, it will, no doubt, be deemed necessary by the reader, that a few entire sonnets be presented to his notice; for, though the passages just quoted, as well as numerous others which might be given, have a decided claim upon our approbation, yet, the sonnet being a [80] very brief composition, it will, of course, be required, that all its parts be perfect, and of equal value. That this is not always the case with these productions of our author, will be inferred from the short extracts which we have selected; but that it is so in very many instances may truly be affirmed, and will, indeed, be proved by the subsequent specimens.

So far from affectation and pedantry being the general characteristic of these pieces, impartial criticism must declare, that more frequent examples of simple, clear, and nervous diction are to be culled from them, than can be found among the sonnets of any of his contemporaries. The following, indeed, is given, not as a solitary proof, but as the exemplar of a numerous class of Shakspearean sonnets; and with the remark, that neither in this instance, nor in many others, is there, either in versification, language, or thought, the smallest deviation into the regions of affectation or conceit:—

"No longer mourn for me when I am dead,
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it; for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O if, I say, you look upon this verse,
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;
But let your love even with my life decay:
Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
And mock you with me after I am gone."

Son. 71.

Simplicity of style, and tenderness of sentiment, form the sole features of this sonnet; but in the next, with an equal chastity of diction, are combined more energy and dignity, together with the infusion of some noble and appropriate imagery. It must also be added, that the flow and structure of the verse are singularly pleasing:—

[81]"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd."

Son. 116.

Of a lighter though more glowing cast of poetry, both in expression and imagination, but with a slight blemish, arising from the pharmaceutical allusion in the last line, is the sonnet which we are about to quote. A trifling inaccuracy with respect to the colour of the cynorhodon, or canker-rose, afforded Mr. Steevens a pretext for the splenetic interrogation which has been recorded by us with due censure. It is somewhat strange that the beauties of the poem could not disarm the prejudices of the critic:

"O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour which doth in it live.
The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye,
As the perfumed tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly
When summer's breath their masked buds discloses:
But, for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwoo'd, and unrespected fade;
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:
And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
When that shall fade, my verse distills your truth."

Son. 54.

In spirit, however, in elegance, in the skill and texture of its modulation, and beyond all, in the dignified and highly poetical [82] close of the third quatrain, no one of our author's sonnets excels the twenty-ninth. The ascent of the lark was a favourite subject of contemplation with the poet:—

"When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate.
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee,—and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd, such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings."

It is, time, however, to terminate these transcriptions, which have been already sufficiently numerous to enable the reader to form an estimate of the poet's merit in the difficult task of sonnet-writing. That many more might be brought forward, of equal value with those which we have selected, will be allowed perhaps when we state, that in the specimens of Mr. Ellis, the Petrarca of Mr. Henderson, and the Laura of Mr. Lofft, eleven have been chosen, of which, we find upon reference, only one among the four just now adduced.

The last production in the minor poems of Shakspeare, is A Lover's Complaint, in which a forlorn damsel, seduced and deserted, relates the history of her sorrows to

"A reverend man that graz'd his cattle nigh."

It is written in stanzas of seven lines; the first and third, and the second, fourth, and fifth, rhiming to each other, while the sixth and seventh form a couplet; an arrangement exactly similar to the stanza of the Rape of Lucrece. Like many of our author's smaller pieces, it is too full of imagery and allusion, but has several passages of [83]great beauty and force. In the description which this forsaken fair one gives of the person and qualities of her lover, the following lines will be acknowledged to possess considerable excellence:—

"His browny locks did hang in crooked curls,
And every light occasion of the wind
Upon his lips their silken parcels hurls.—
His qualities were beauteous as his form,
For maiden-tongu'd he was, and therefore free;
Yet, if men mov'd him, was he such a storm
As oft 'twixt May and April is to see,
When winds breathe sweet, unruly though they be.—
His real habitude gave life and grace
To appertainings and to ornament."

These, and every other portion of the poem, however, are eclipsed by a subsequent part of the same picture, in which, as Mr. Steevens well remarks, the poet "has accidentally delineated his own character as a dramatist."[83:A] So applicable, indeed, did the passage appear to us, as a forcible though rapid sketch of the more prominent features of the author's own genius, and of his universal influence over the human mind, that we have selected it as a motto for the second volume of this work:—

—— "On the tip of his subduing tongue
All kind of arguments and question deep,
All replication prompt, and reason strong,
For his advantage still did wake and sleep:
To make the weeper laugh, the laugher weep,
He had the dialect and different skill,
Catching all passions in his craft of will;
That he did in the general bosom reign
Of young, of old; and sexes both enchanted."

The address which the injured mistress puts into the mouth of her [84]seducer, when "he 'gan besiege her," opens in a strain of such beautiful simplicity, that we cannot avoid an expression of regret, that the defective taste of the age prevented its continuance and completion in a similar style of tenderness and ease:—

————————————— "Gentle maid,
Have of my suffering youth some feeling pity,
And be not of my holy vows afraid."

After relating, rather too circumstantially, the arts and hypocrisy which had been exercised for her ruin, she bursts into the following exclamation:—

"O father, what a hell of mischief lies
In the small orb of one particular tear!"

Various lines, and brief extracts, of no common merit, might be detached from the Lover's Complaint; but enough has now been said on the Miscellaneous Poetry of Shakspeare, to prove that it possesses a value far beyond what has been attributed to it in modern times. The depreciation, indeed, to which it has been lately subjected, a fate so directly opposed to that which accompanied its first reception in the world, must be ascribed, in a great measure, to the unaccountable prejudices of Mr. Steevens, who, in an Advertisement prefixed to the edition of our author's Dramas, in 1793, has made the following curious declaration:—

"We have not reprinted the Sonnets, &c. of Shakspeare, because the strongest act of parliament that could be framed would fail to compel readers into their service; notwithstanding these miscellaneous poems have derived every possible advantage from the literature and judgment of their only intelligent editor, Mr. Malone, whose implements of criticism, like the ivory rake and golden spade in Prudentius, are on this occasion disgraced by the objects of their culture—had Shakspeare produced no other works than these, his name would have reached us with as little celebrity as time has [85]conferred on that of Thomas Watson, an older and much more elegant sonnetteer."[85:A]

That Watson was a much more elegant sonnetteer than Shakspeare, is an assertion which wants no other mean for its complete refutation, than a reference to the works of the elder bard. At the period when Mr. Steevens advanced this verdict, such a reference was not within the power of one in a thousand of his readers, but all may now be referred to a very satisfactory article in the British Bibliographer, where Sir Egerton Brydges has transcribed seventeen of Watson's sonnets, and declares it to be his conviction, that they "want the moral cast" of Shakspeare's sonnets; "his unsophisticated materials; his pure and natural train of thought."[85:B] It may be added, that a more extended comparison would render the inferiority of Watson still further apparent, and that the Bard of Avon would figure from the juxta-position like "Hyperion to a satyr."

When Mr. Steevens compliments his brother-commentator at the expense of the poet; when he tells us, that his implements of criticism are on this occasion disgraced by the objects of their culture, who can avoid feeling a mingled emotion of wonder and disgust? who can, in short, forbear a smile of derision and contempt at the folly of such a declaration?

And lastly, when he assures us, that the strongest act of parliament that could be framed would fail to compel readers into the service of our author's Miscellaneous Poetry, and when, at the same time, we recollect, what gives us pleasure to acknowledge, the wit, the ingenuity, and research of this able editor on almost every other occasion, it will not, we trust, be deemed a work of supererogation, that we have attempted to unfold, at length, the beauties of these calumniated poems, and to refute the sweeping censure which they have so unworthily incurred; nor will the summary inference with which we shall conclude this chapter, be viewed, we hope, as either [86]incorrect, or unauthorised by the previous disquisition, when we state it to consist of the following terms; namely, that the Poems of Shakspeare, although they are chargeable with the faults peculiar to the age in which they sprung, yet exhibit so much originality, invention, and fidelity to nature, such a rich store of moral and philosophic thought, and often, such a purity, simplicity, and grace of style, as not only deservedly placed them high in the favour of his contemporaries, but will permanently secure to them no inconsiderable share of the admiration and the gratitude of posterity.[86:A]


[2:A] Sydney Papers, vol. ii. p. 132.

[2:B] Venus and Adonis was entered on the Stationers' Books, by Richard Field, April 18, 1593, six days before its author completed the twenty-ninth year of his age.

[3:A] "There is one instance," says Rowe, who first mentioned the anecdote, "so singular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakspeare's, that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William Davenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted; that my Lord Southampton at one time gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to. A bounty very great, and very rare at any time."—Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 67.

[5:A] Sydney Papers, vol. i. p. 348.

[5:B] "There were present, at this Council, the Earl of Southampton, with whom, in former times, he (Essex) had been at some emulations, and differences, at Court: But, after, Southampton, having married his Kinswoman, plunged himself wholly into his fortune," &c. Declaration of the Treason of the Earl of Essex, sign. D. quoted by Mr. Chalmers, Supplement. Apology, p. 110.

[5:C] Rowland Whyte informs us, that "Lord Southampton fought with one of the king's great men of war, and sunk her." Sydney Papers, vol. ii. p. 72; but Sir William Monson calls this man of war "a frigate of the Spanish fleet."

[5:D] Account of the Wars with Spain, p. 38.

[6:A] Sydney Papers, vol. ii. p. 83.

[7:A] Sydney Papers, vol. ii. p. 87.

[7:B] Ibid., p. 81.

[7:C] Ibid., p. 88.

[7:D] Ibid., p. 90.

[7:E] In a letter, dated November 2nd, 1598, Rowland Whyte says, that Lord Southampton is about to return to England. Sydney Papers, vol. ii. p. 104.

[8:A] Imperfect Hints towards a New Edition of Shakspeare, 4to. Part II., Advertisement, p. xxi.

[8:B] Birch's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 422.

[8:C] Kennet's History of England, vol. ii. p. 614.

[9:A] Vide Harrington's Nugæ Antiquæ, vol. ii. p. 33.

[11:A] Bacon's Works, Mallet's edit. vol. iv. p. 412.

[11:B] Vide Queen Elizabeth's Progresses, by Nichols, vol. ii. p. 1.

[11:C] Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, p. 311, 312.

[12:A] Wilson tells us, that "the Earl of Southampton, covered long with the Ashes of great Essex his Ruins, was sent for from the Tower, and the King lookt upon him with a smiling countenance, though displeasing happily to the new Baron Essingdon, Sir Robert Cecil, yet it was much more to the Lords Cobham and Grey, and Sir Walter Rawleigh."—History of Great Britain, folio, 1653, p. 4.

[12:B] Lodge's Illustrations of British History, vol. iii. p. 270.

[13:A] Winwood's Memorials, vol. iii. p. 54.

[13:B] Lodge's Illustrations, vol. iii. p. 331.

[13:C] Winwood's Memorials, vol. iii. p. 154.

[15:A] "This Spring," relates Wilson, "gave birth to four brave Regiments of foot (a new apparition in the English horizon) fifteen hundred in a regiment, which were raised, and transported into Holland, under four gallant Collonells; the Earl of Oxford, the Earl of Southampton, the Earl of Essex, and the Lord Willoughby, since Earl of Lindsey."—History of Great Britain, p. 280.

[16:A] History of Great Britain, p. 284.

[16:B] Cabala, p. 299.

[17:A] When Richard Brathwaite dedicated his "Survey of History, or a Nursery for Gentry," to Lord Southampton, he terms him "Learning's select Favourite." Vide Restituta, vol. iii. p. 340.—Nash, dedicating his "Life of Jacke Wilton," 1594, to the same nobleman, calls him "a dere lover and cherisher, as well of the Lovers of Poets, as of Poets themselves;" and he emphatically adds,—"Incomprehensible is the height of your spirit, both in heroical resolution and matters of conceit. Unrepriveably perished that booke whatsoever to wast paper, which on the diamond rocke of your judgement disasterly chanceth to be shipwrackt." Jarvis Markham also addresses our English Mecænas in a similar style, commencing a Sonnet prefixed to his "Most honorable Tragedie of Richard Grenvile, Knt." in the following manner:—

"Thou glorious Laurell of the Muses' hill;
Whose eyes doth crowne the most victorious pen:
Bright Lampe of Vertue, in whose sacred skill
Lives all the blisse of eares-inchaunting men:"

and closes it with declaring, that if His Lordship would vouchsafe to approve his Muse, immortality would be the result:—

"So shall my tragick layes be blest by thee,
And from thy lips suck their eternitie."

Restituta, vol. iii. pp. 410, 414.

[19:A] Beaumont's Poems. Chalmers's English Poets, vol. vi. p. 42.

[19:B] Several other tributes to the memory and virtues of Southampton are on record. Daniel has one, commemorating his fortitude, when under sentence of death, and the Rev. William Jones published, in 1625, a Sermon on his decease, preached before the Countess; to which he added, "The Teares of the Isle of Wight, shed on the tombe of their most noble, valorous, and loving Captaine and Governour, the right Honourable Henrie, Earle of Southampton," containing an Elegy on the father and son written by himself; "an Episode upon the death" of Lord Southampton, by Fra. Beale Esqr.; fifteen short pieces of poetry, called "certain touches upon the life and death of the Right Honourable Henrie, Earle of Southampton," by W. Pettie, and another poem on the same subject by Ar. Price.

[19:C] Imperfect Hints towards a New Edition of Shakspeare, Part II. p. 6. 4to. 1788.

[20:A] A similar impression seems to have arisen in the mind of the ingenious author of the "Imperfect Hints," who, after selecting the parting scene between Bassanio and Anthonio in the Merchant of Venice, as the subject of a picture, remarks, that "this noble spirit of friendship might have been realized, when my lord Southampton (the dear and generous friend of Shakspeare) embarked for the seige of Rees in the Dutchy of Cleve."—Imperfect Hints, Part I. p. 35.

[20:B] See Part II. chap. ii.

[20:C] "Mr. Malone," relates Mr. Beloe, "had long been in search of this edition, and when he was about to give up all hope of possessing it, he obtained a copy from a provincial catalogue. But he still did not procure it till after a long and tedious negotiation, and a most enormous price."—Anecdotes of Literature, vol. i. p. 363.

[27:A] These, and the following extracts, are taken from Mr. Malone's edition of the Poems of Shakspeare.

[28:A] Malone's Supplement to Shakspeare, 1780, vol. i. p. 463.

[28:B] "Epigrammes in the oldest Cut and newest Fashion. A twice seven Houres (in so many Weekes) Studie. No longer (like the Fashion) not unlike to continue. The first seven, John Weever.

Sit voluisse sit valuisse.

At London: printed by V. S. for Thomas Bushell, and are to be sold at his shop, at the great North doore of Paules. 1599. 12mo."—Vide Beloe's Anecdotes, vol. vi. p. 156.

[28:C] Beloe's Anecdotes, vol. vi. p. 159.

[29:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 2. note by Steevens.

[29:B] Censura Literaria, vol. ix. p. 45, 46.

[29:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 197.

[30:A] Ancient British Drama, vol. i. p. 49. col. 2.

[30:B] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. p. 463.

[31:A] Censura Literaria, vol. vi. p. 276. A second edition of this satire was published separately, in 4to. 1625.

[31:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 197, 198.—Many passages, I believe, might be added to those given in the text, which point out the great popularity of our author's earliest effort in poetry. Thus, in the Merrie Conceited Jests of George Peele, an author who died in or before 1598, the Tapster of an Inn in Pye-corner is represented as "much given to poetry: for he had ingrossed the Knight of the Sunne, Venus and Adonis, and other pamphlets."—Reprint, p. 28.

Again in the Dumb Knight, an Historical Comedy, by Lewis Machin, printed in 1608, one of the characters, after quoting several lines from Venus and Adonis, concludes by saying,—

"Go thy way, thou best book in the world.

"Veloups. I pray you, sir, what book do you read?

"President. A book that never an orator's clerk in this kingdom but is beholden unto; it is called, Maid's Philosophy, or Venus and Adonis."

Ancient British Drama, vol. ii. p. 146.

[32:A] It is the more probable that the entry of 1594 indicates a separate edition, as an entry of the impression of 1596 appears in the Stationers' Register, by W. Leake, dated June 23. 1596.—Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 121.

[32:B] Beloe's Anecdotes, vol. i. p. 363. This copy is in the possession of Mr. Chalmers.

[33:A] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. p. 469. note.

[34:A] Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. iii. p. 415, 416.—"It is remarkable," says the historian, in a note on this passage, "that the sign of Berthelette, the king's printer in Fleet-street, who flourished about 1540, was the Lucretia, or as he writes it, Lucretia Romana."

[34:B] The last line of this extract is taken from the 12mo. edit. of 1616.

[38:A] Supplement, vol. i. p. 537. note.

[38:B] Perhaps the opening stanza of the following scarce poem, entitled "Epicedium. A funerall Song, upon the vertuous life and godly death of the right worshipfull the Lady Helen Branch;

Virtus sola manet, cætera cuncta ruunt.

London, printed by Thomas Creed, 1594;" may allude to our author's Rape of Lucrece:—

"You that to shew your wits, have taken toyle
In regist'ring the deeds of noble men;
And sought for matter in a forraine soyle,
As worthie subjects of your silver pen,
Whom you have rais'd from darke oblivion's den.
You that have writ of chaste Lucretia,
Whose death was witnesse of her spotlesse life:
Or pen'd the praise of sad Cornelia,
Whose blamelesse name hath made her fame so rife,
As noble Pompey's most renoumed wife:
Hither unto your home direct your eies,
Whereas, unthought on, much more matter lies."

Vide Brydges's Restituta, vol. iii. p. 297-299.

[39:A] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. p. 575.

[39:B] "Polimanteia, or The meanes lawfull and unlawfull, to judge of the fall of a Common-wealth, against the frivolous and foolish conjectures of this age. Whereunto is added, A letter from England to her three daughters, Cambridge, Oxford, Innes of Court, and to all the rest of her inhabitants, &c. &c. Printed by John Legate, Printer to the Universitie of Cambridge, 1595."

"This work," remarks Mr. Haslewood, "is divided into three parts; the first, Polimanteia, is on the subtleties and unlawfulness of Divination, the second, an address from England to her three Daughters; and the third, England to her Inhabitants, concluding with the speeches of Religion and Loyalty to her children. Some researches have been made by a friend to ascertain the author's name, but without success. He was evidently a man of learning, and well acquainted with the works of contemporary writers, both foreign and domestic. The second part of his work is too interesting, from the names enumerated in the margin, not to be given entire. The mention of Shakspeare is two years earlier than Meres's Palladis Tamia, a circumstance that has escaped the research of all the Commentators; although a copy of the Polimanteia was possessed by Dr. Farmer, and the work is repeatedly mentioned by Oldys, in his manuscript notes on Langbaine."—British Bibliographer, vol. i. p. 274.

[40:A] British Bibliographer, No. XIV. p. 247.

[40:B] Ibid. No. V. p. 533.

[41:A] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. p. 575.

[41:B] Supplement, vol. i. p. 471.—An edition of the Rape of Lucrece, with a supplement by John Quarles, was published about 1676; for at the end of a copy of Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, in my possession, printed in 1676, and the eighth edition, is a catalogue of books sold by Peter Parker, the proprietor of the above impression, among which occurs the following article:—

"The Rape of Lucrece committed by Tarquin the sixth, and remarkable judgements that befell him for it, by that incomparable Master of our English Poetry William Shakespeare Gentleman. Whereunto is annexed the Banishment of Tarquin or the reward of Lust, by John Quarles, 8vo."

It is remarkable, that, at the commencement of the eighteenth century, our author's Venus and Adonis, and The Rape of Lucrece, were re-published as State Poems, though it would puzzle the most acute critic to discover, in either of them, the smallest allusion to the politics of their age. The work in which they are thus enrolled, and which betrays also the most complete ignorance of the era of their production, is entitled "State Poems.—Poems on affairs of State from 1620 to 1707." London, 1703-7. 8vo. 4 vols.

[42:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 105. Act iv. sc. 3.—We have found reason, as will be seen hereafter, to ascribe this play to the year 1591.

[42:B] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. pp. 710. 715.

[43:A] "I know not," says this gentleman, "when the second edition was printed."—Reed's Shakspeare, 1803, vol. ii. p. 153.

[46:A] Vol. xxvi. p. 120, 121.

[46:B] Ibid. vol. xxvi. p. 523.

[47:A] Monthly Magazine, vol. xxvi. p. 312.

[48:A] Monthly Magazine, vol. xxvi. p. 121.

[48:B] Of the ill-requited Capel, whose text of Shakspeare, notwithstanding all which has been achieved since his decease, is, perhaps, one of the purest extant, we shall probably have occasion to speak hereafter. Of the talents of his nephew, and of the glowing attachment which he bears to Shakspeare, and of the taste and judgment which he has shown in appreciating his writings and character, we possess an interesting memorial in the Introduction to his late publication, entitled "Aphorisms from Shakspeare."

[49:A] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. p. 714.

[50:A] Printed at the end of his "Lady Pecunia, 4to. London, 1605." This very sonnet, however, has been attributed to Barnefield himself, and is, in all probability, another evidence of the incorrectness or the fraud of Jaggard.

[50:B] "Shakspeare's Sonnets, never before imprinted, quarto, 1609, G. Eld, for T. T."

[52:A] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. p. 640.

[57:A] Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, pp. 40-43.

[57:B] Sonnet 126. It should be observed, however, that Sonnet 145, though in alternate verse, and terminated by a couplet, is in the octo-syllabic measure.

[59:A] Preface to his revised and corrected edition of Shakspeare's Works, p. 7.

[60:A] See his "Queen's Arcadia."

[60:B] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. p. 596.

[61:A] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. p. 579.

[62:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 331, and vol. xii. p. 219.

[63:A] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. p. 698.

[67:A] If we consult the context of this sonnet, and recollect that Shakspeare addresses in his own person, it will be sufficiently evident that my lovers here can only mean my friends.

[73:A] That this series of sonnets, as well as the preceding, should be considered by Mr. Chalmers as addressed to Queen Elizabeth, is, indeed, of all conjectures, the most extraordinary!

[74:A] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. p. 682.

[74:B] Ibid. p. 684.

[74:C] Ibid.

[75:A] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. p. 684.

[75:B] Ibid. p. 685.

[75:C] Ibid.

[83:A] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. p. 748. note.

[85:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 30.

[85:B] British Bibliographer, No. XII. p. 16.

[86:A] That Shakspeare himself entertained a confident hope of the immortality of his minor poems, the following, out of many instances, will sufficiently prove:—

"So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."

Son. 18.

"Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young."

Son. 19.

"Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall out-live this powerful rhime."

Son. 54.

"Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow;
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet, to times in hope, my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand."

Son. 60.

——— "Confounding age ———
——— shall never cut from memory
My sweet love's beauty, though my lover's life.
His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
And they shall live, and he in them still green."

Son. 63.

"When all the breathers of this world are dead;
You still shall live (such virtue hath my pen),
Where breath most breathes,—even in the mouths of men."

Son. 81.




Before we enter on the dramatic career of Shakspeare, a subject which we wish to preserve unbroken, and free from irrelative matter, it will be necessary, in order to prosecute our view of the costume of the Times, to give a picture in this place of the prevalent habits of the metropolis, which, with the sketch already drawn of those peculiar to the country, will form a corresponding, and, we trust, an adequate whole.

In no period of our annals, perhaps, has DRESS formed a more curious subject of enquiry, than during the reigns of Elizabeth and James the First. The Queen, who possessed an almost unbounded share of vanity and coquetry, set an example of profusion which was followed through every rank of society, and furnished by its universality, an inexhaustible theme for the puritanic satirists of the age.

Of the mutability and eccentricity of the dresses both of men and women, during this period, Harrison has provided us with a singular and interesting account, and which, as constituting a very appropriate preface to more minute particulars, we shall here transcribe.

"Such is our mutabilitie, that to daie there is none to the Spanish guise, to morrow the French toies are most fine and delectable, yer long no such apparell as that which is after the high Alman fashion, by and by the Turkish maner is generallie best liked of, otherwise the Morisco gowns, the Barbarian sleeves, the mandilion worne to Collie westen ward, and the short French breeches make such a comelie vesture, that except it were a dog in a doublet, you shall not sée anie so disguised, as are my countrie men of England. And as these fashions are diverse, so likewise it is a world to see the costlinesse and the curiositie: the excesse and the vanitie: the pompe and [88]the braverie: the change and the varietie: and finallie the ficklenesse and the follie that is in all degrees: insomuch that nothing is more constant in England than inconstancie of attire. Oh how much cost is bestowed now adaies upon our bodies and how little upon our soules! how many sutes of apparell hath the one and how little furniture hath the other? how long time is asked in decking up of the first, and how little space left wherin to feed the later? how curious, how nice also are a number of men and women, and how hardlie can the tailer please them in making it fit for their bodies? how manie times must it be sent backe againe to him that made it? what chafing, what fretting, what reprochfull language doth the poore workman beare awaie? and manie times when he dooth nothing to it at all, yet when it is brought home againe it is verie fit and handsome; then must we put it on, then must the long seames of our hose be set by a plumb-line, then we puffe, then we blow, and finallie sweat till we drop, that our clothes may stand upon us. I will saie nothing of our heads, which sometimes are polled, sometimes curled, or suffered to grow at length like woman's lockes, manie times cut off above or under the ears round as by a woodden dish. Neither will I meddle with our varietie of beards, of which some are shaven from the chin like those of Turks, not a few cut short like to the beard of marques Otto, some made round like a rubbing brush other with a pique devant (O fine fashion) or now and then suffered to grow long, the barbers being growen to be so cunning in this behalfe as the tailers. And therefore if a man have a leane and streight face, a marquesse Ottons cut will make it broad and large; if it be platter like, a long slender beard will make it seeme the narrower; if he be wesell becked, then much heare left on the cheekes will make the owner looke big like a bowdled hen, and so grim as a goose, if Cornelius of Chalmeresford saie true: manie old men doo weare no beards at all. Some lustie courtiers also and gentlemen of courage, doo weare either rings of gold, stones, or pearle in their eares, whereby they imagine the workmanship of God not to be a little amended. But herein they rather disgrace than adorne their persons, [89]as by their nicenesse in apparell, for which I saie most nations doo not unjustlie deride us, as also for that we doo séeme to imitate all nations round about us, wherein we be like to the Polypus or Chameleon; and thereunto bestow most cost upon our arses, and much more than upon all the rest of our bodies, as women doo likewise upon their heads and shoulders. In women also it is most to be lamented that they doo now farre exceed the lightnesse of our men (who neverthelesse are transformed from the cap even to the verie shoo) and such staring attire as in time past was supposed meet for none but light housewives onelie, is now become an habit for chast and sober matrones. What should I saie of their doublets with pendant cod peeses on the brest full of jags and cuts, and sleeves of sundrie colours? their galligascons to beare out their bums and make their attire to sit plum round (as they terme it) about them? their fardingals, and diverslie coloured nether stocks of silke, ierdseie, and such like, whereby their bodies are rather deformed than commended? I have met with some of these trulles in London so disguised, that it hath passed my skill to discerne whether they were men or women."[89:A]

After this philippic, we shall proceed to notice the Dress of the Ladies, commencing with that of the Queen, who is thus described by Paul Hentzner, as he saw her passing on her way to chapel, at the royal palace of Greenwich. Having mentioned the procession of barons, earls, knights, &c., he adds,—"Next came the queen, in the sixty-fifth year of her age, as we were told, very majestic; her face oblong, fair, but wrinkled; her eyes small, yet black and pleasant; her nose a little hooked; her lips narrow, and her teeth black; (a defect the English seem subject to, from their too great use of sugar) she had in her ears two pearls, with very rich drops; she wore false hair, and that red; upon her head she had a small crown;—her bosom was uncovered, as all the English ladies have it, till they marry; and she had on a necklace of exceeding fine jewels; her [90]hands were small, her fingers long, and her stature neither tall nor low; her air was stately, her manner of speaking mild and obliging. That day she was dressed in white silk, bordered with pearls of the size of beans, and over it a mantle of black silk, shot with silver threads; her train was very long, the end of it borne by a marchioness; instead of a chain, she had an oblong collar of gold and jewels.——While we were there, W. Slawata, a Bohemian baron, had letters to present to her; and she, after pulling off her glove, gave him her right hand to kiss, sparkling with rings and jewels.—The ladies of the court followed next to her, very handsome and well shaped, and for the most part dressed in white."[90:A]

A few articles of the customary dress of Elizabeth, not adverted to by Hentzner, and particularly the characteristic ruff and stomacher, it may be requisite to subjoin. The former of these was profusely laced, plaited, and apparently divergent from a centre on the back of her neck; it was very broad, extending on each side of her face, with the extremities reposing on her bosom, from which rose two wings of lawn, edged with jewels, stiffened with wire, and reaching to the top of her hair, which was moulded into the shape of a cushion, and richly covered with gems. The stomacher was strait and broad, and though leaving the bosom bare, still formed a long waist by extending downwards; it was loaded with jewels and embossed gold, and preposterously stiff and formal.

The attachment of the Queen to dress was such, that she could not bear the idea of being rivalled, much less surpassed, in any exhibition of this kind. "It happenede," relates Sir John Harrington, "that Ladie M. Howarde was possessede of a rich border, powderd wyth golde and pearle, and a velvet suite belonginge thereto, which moved manie to envye; nor did it please the Queene, who thoughte it exceeded her owne. One daye the Queene did sende privately, and got the ladies rich vesture, which she put on herself, and came forthe the [91]chamber amonge the ladies; the kirtle and border was far too shorte for her Majestie's heigth; and she askede every one 'How they likede her new-fancied suit?' At lengthe, she askede the owner herself, 'If it was not made too short and ill-becoming?'—which the poor ladie did presentlie consente to. 'Why then, if it become not me, as being too shorte, I am minded it shall never become thee, as being too fine; so it fitteth neither well.' This sharp rebuke abashed the ladie, and she never adorned her herewith any more."[91:A]

Neither could she endure, from whatever quarter it came, any censure, direct or indirect, on her love of personal decoration. "One Sunday (April last)," says the same facetious knight, "my lorde of London preachede to the Queenes Majestie, and seemede to touche on the vanitie of deckinge the bodie too finely.—Her Majestie tolde the ladies, that 'If the bishope helde more discourse on suche matters, shee wolde fitte him for heaven, but he shoulde walke thither withoute a staffe, and leave his mantle behind him:' perchance the bishope hathe never soughte her Highnesse wardrobe, or he woulde have chosen another texte."[91:B]

Of this costly wardrobe it is recorded in Chamberlaine's epistolary notices, that it consisted of more than two thousand gowns, with all things answerable[91:C]; and Mr. Steevens, commenting on a passage in Cymbeline, where Imogen exclaims—

"Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion;
And, for I am richer than to hang by the walls,
I must be ripp'd,"—

gives us the following interesting illustration.

"Clothes were not formerly, as at present, made of slight materials, were not kept in drawers, or given away as soon as lapse of time or change of fashion had impaired their value. On the contrary, they were hung up on wooden pegs in a room appropriated to the sole [92]purpose of receiving them; and though such cast-off things as were composed of rich substances, were occasionally ripped for domestick uses, (viz. mantles for infants, vests for children, and counterpanes for beds) articles of inferior quality were suffered to hang by the walls, till age and moths had destroyed what pride would not permit to be worn by servants or poor relations.

"When a boy, at an ancient mansion-house in Suffolk, I saw one of these repositories, which (thanks to a succession of old maids!) had been preserved, with superstitious reverence, for almost a century and a half.

"When Queen Elizabeth died, she was found to have left above three thousand dresses behind her."[92:A]

With such a model before them, it may easily be credited, that our fair country-women vied with each other in the luxury, variety, and splendour of their dress. Shakspeare has noticed most of their eccentricities in this way, and a few remarks on his allusions, with some invectives from less good-tempered observers, will sufficiently illustrate the subject.

Benedict, describing the woman of his choice, says, "her hair shall be of what colour it please God[92:B];" an oblique stroke at a very prevalent fashion in Shakspeare's time of colouring or dying the hair, and which, from its general adoption, not only excited the shaft of the satirist, but the reprobation of the pulpit. Nor were the ladies content with disfiguring their own hair, but so universally dismissed it for that of others, that it was a common practice with them, as Stubbes asserts in his Anatomie of Abuses, to allure children who had beautiful hair to private places, in order to deprive them of their envied locks.

That the dead were frequently rifled for this purpose, our poet has told us in more places than one; thus, in his sixty-eighth sonnet, he says—

[93]—— "the golden tresses of the dead,
The right of sepulchres, were shorn away,
To live a second life on second head,
'And' beauty's dead fleece made another gay;"

and he repeats the charge in his Merchant of Venice,—

"So are those crisped snaky golden locks,
Which make such wanton gambols with the wind,
Upon supposed fairness, often known
To be the dowry of a second head,
The skull that bred them in the sepulchre."[93:A]

The hair, when thus obtained, was often dyed of a sandy colour, in compliment to the Queen, whose locks were of that tint; and these false ornaments or "thatches," as Timon terms them, were called periwigs; thus Julia, in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, contemplating the picture of her rival, observes,

"Her hair is auburn, mine is perfect yellow:
If that be all the difference in his love,
I'll get me such a colour'd periwig."[93:B]

Periwigs, which were first introduced into England about 1572, were to be had of all colours; for an old satirist, speaking of his countrywomen, says, "It is a woonder more than ordinary to beholde theyr perewigs of sundry collours."[93:C] A distinction, however, in wearing the hair, as well as in other articles of dress, existed between the matrons and unmarried women. "Gentlewomen virgins," observes Fines Moryson, "weare gownes close to the body, and aprons of fine linen, and go bareheaded, with their hair curiously knotted, and raised at the forehead, but many (against the cold, as they say,) weare caps of hair that is not their own."[93:D]

[94]To some of the various coverings for the hair our poet refers in the Merry Wives of Windsor, when Falstaff, complimenting Mrs. Ford, exclaims, "thou hast the right arched bent of the brow, that becomes the ship-tire, the tire-valiant, or any tire of Venetian admittance."[94:A]

The ship-tire appears to have been an open flaunting head-dress, with scarfs or ribands floating in the air like streamers, or as Fenton himself, in the fifth act of this play, describes it,

"With ribbons pendant flaring 'bout her head."

The tire-valiant, if the text be correct, must mean a dress still more shewy and ostentatious; and we know that feathers, jewels, and gold and silver ornaments, were common decorations in these days of gorgeous finery. Nash, in 1594, speaks of "lawn caps" with "snow-resembled silver curlings[94:B];" and a sarcastic poet in 1595 describes

—— "flaming heads with staring haire,
'With' wyers turnde like horns of ram—
To peacockes I compare them right,
That glorieth in their feathers bright."[94:C]

Venice and Paris were the sources of fashion, and both occasionally furnished a more chaste and elegant costume for the female head than the objects of Falstaff's encomium. The "French hood," a favourite of the times, consisted simply of gauze or muslin, reaching from the back of the head down over the forehead, and leaving the hair exposed on each side.[94:D] Cauls, or nets of gold thread, were thrown with much taste over their glossy tresses, and attracted the notice of the satirist just quoted:—

"These glittering caules of golden plate
Wherewith their heads are richlie dect,
Makes them to seeme an angels mate
In judgment of the simple sect."[94:E]

[95]Another happy mode of embellishment consisted of placing gracefully on the hair artificial peascods, which were represented open, with rows of pearls for peas.

The lady's morning-cap was usually a mob[95:A]; and the citizens' wives wore either a splendid velvet cap[95:B], or what was called the 'Minever cap,' with peaks three inches high, white, and three-cornered.

Paint was openly used for the face:

"These painted faces which they weare,
Can any tell from whence they came;"[95:C]

and masks and mufflers were in general use; the former, according to Stubbes, were made of velvet, "wherewith when they ride abroad they cover all their faces, having holes made in them against their eyes, whereout they looke. So that if a man that knew not their guise before, should chaunce to meet one of them, he would think he met a monster or a Devil, for face he can shew none, but two broad holes against their eyes, with glasses in them[95:D];" the latter covered the lower part of the face only, as far as the nose, and had the appearance of a linen bandage. So common were these female masks in Shakspeare's days, that the author of Quippes for newfangled Gentlewemen, after remarking that they were the offspring not of modesty but of pride, informs us that

—— "on each wight now are they seene,
The tallow-pale, the browning bay,
The swarthy blacke, the grassie-greene,
The pudding-red, the dapple-graie."[95:E]

The ruff, already partly described under the dress of Elizabeth, was common to both sexes; but under the fostering care of the ladies, attained, in stiffness, fineness, and dimensions, the most extravagant [96]pitch of absurdity. It reached behind to the very top of the head, and the tenuity of the lawn or cambrick of which it was made was such, that Stowe prophecies, they would shortly "wear ruffes of a spider's web." In order to support so slender a fabrick, a great quantity of starch become necessary, the skilful use of which was introduced by a Mrs. Dingen Van Plesse in 1564, who taught her art for a premium of five guineas. Starching was subsequently improved by the introduction of various colours, one of which, the yellow die, being the invention of a Mrs. Turner, who was afterwards concerned in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, was dismissed with abhorrence from the fashionable world, in consequence of this abandoned woman being executed at Tyburn in a ruff of her favourite tint. The extreme indignation with which Stubbes speaks of the use of starch is highly amusing:—"One arch or piller," says he, "wherewith the devil's kingdome of great ruffes is underpropped, is a certain kind of liquid matter which they call startch, wherein the devill hath learned them to wash and die their ruffes, which, being drie, will stand stiff and inflexible about their neckes. And this starch they make of divers substances—of all collours and hues, as white, redde, blewe, purple, and the like."

We are further informed by the same vehement satirist, that the ruff had the additional support of an underpropper called a suppertasse, and that its plaits were adjusted by poking-sticks made of iron, steel, or silver, that, when used, were heated in the fire, a custom against which he expresses his wrath by relating a most curious story of a gentlewoman of Antwerp who had her ruff poked by the devil on the 27th of May, 1582, "the sound whereof," says he, "is blowne through all the world, and is yet fresh in every mans memory." It appears that this unfortunate lady, being invited to a wedding, could not, although she employed two celebrated laundresses, get her ruff plaited according to her taste, upon which, proceeds Stubbes, "she fell to sweare and teare, to curse and ban, casting the ruffes under feete, and wishing that the devill might take her when shee did wear any neckerchers againe;" a wish which was speedily accomplished; for the devil, [97]assuming the form of a beautiful young man, made his appearance under the character of a suitor, and enquiring the cause of her agitation, "tooke in hande the setting of her ruffes, which he performed to her great contentation and liking; insomuch, as she, looking herselfe in a glasse (as the devill bad her) became greatly inamoured with him. This done, the young man kissed her, in the doing whereof, he writhed her neck in sunder, so she died miserably; her body being straight waies changed into blew and black colours, most ugglesome to beholde, and her face (which before was so amorous) became most deformed and fearfull to looke upon. This being knowne in the citie, great preparation was made for her buriall, and a rich coffin was provided, and her fearfull body was laide therein, and covered very sumptuously. Foure men immediately assayed to lift up the corpes, but could not move it; then sixe attempted the like, but could not once stirre it from the place where it stood. Whereat the standers-by marvelling, causing the coffin to be opened to see the cause thereof: where they found the body to be taken away, and a blacke catte, very leane and deformed, sitting in the coffin, setting of great ruffes, and frizling of haire, to the greate feare and woonder of all the beholders."[97:A]

The waist was beyond all proportion long, the bodice or stays terminating at the bottom in a point, and having in the fore part a pocket, for money, needle-work, and billets, a fashion to which Proteus alludes in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, when he tells Valentine

"Thy letters ———————————————
————————————— shall be deliver'd
Even in the milk-white bosom of thy love."[97:B]

Gowns were made of the richest materials, with velvet capes embroidered with bugelles, and with the sleeves curiously cut[97:C]; the [98]fashionable petticoat was the Scottish fardingale, made of cloth, taffety, satin, or silk, and of enormous bulk, so that when an Elizabethan lady was dressed in one of these, with the gown, as was usually the case, stuffed about the shoulders, and the ruffe in the first style of the day, her appearance was truly formidable. Over all was frequently thrown a kirtle, mantle, or surcoat, with or without a head, formed of silk or velvet, and richly bordered with lace.

Silk-stockings, which were first worn by the Queen in 1560. Mrs. Montagu, her silk-woman, having presented her with a pair of this material in that year, soon became almost universal among the ladies, and formed one of the most expensive articles of their dress.

Shoes with very high heels, in imitation of the Venetian chopine, a species of stilt sometimes better than a foot in height, was the prevalent mode, and carried, for the sake of increasing the stature, to a most ridiculous excess. It never reached, indeed, this enormous dimension in England, but seems, from a passage in Hamlet, to have been of such a definite size, as to admit of a reference to it as a mark of admeasurement, for the Prince remarks, "Your Ladyship is nearer to heaven, than when I saw you last, by the altitude of a chopine."[98:A]

Fans, constructed of ostrich feathers, inserted into handles of gold, silver, or ivory, and wrought with great skill in various elegant forms, were so commonly worn that the author of "Quippes for upstart newfangled Gentlewemen," 1595, exclaims,—

"Were fannes, and flappes of feathers, found
To flit away the flisking flies,—
The wit of women we might praise,
But seeing they are still in hand,
In house, in field, in church, in street;
In summer, winter, water, land,
In colde, in heate, in drie, in weet;
I judge they are for wives such tooles
As bables are, in playes, for fooles."[98:B]

[99]Silver and ivory handles were usual among ladies of the middle class of society; but in the higher ranks they were frequently decorated with gems, and the Queen had several new-year's gifts of fans, the handles of which were studded with diamonds and other jewels.[99:A] Shakspeare has many allusions to fans of feathers[99:B]; and even hints, in his Henry the Eighth, that the coxcombs of his day were not ashamed to adopt their use.[99:C]

Perfumed bracelets, necklaces, and gloves, were favourite articles. "Gloves as sweet as damask roses," form part of the stock of Autolycus, and Mopsa tells the clown, that he promised her "a pair of sweet gloves."[99:D] The Queen in this, as in most other luxuries of dress, set the fashion; for Howes informs us, that in the fifteenth year of her reign, Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford, presented her with a pair of perfumed gloves trimmed with four tufts of rose-coloured silk, in which she took such pleasure that she was always painted with those gloves on her hands, and that their scent was so exquisite that it was ever after called the Earl of Oxford's perfume.[99:E]

To these notices it may be added, that a small looking-glass pendent from the girdle[99:F], a pocket-handkerchief richly wrought with gold and silver, and a love-lock hanging wantonly over the shoulder, were customarily exhibited by the fashionable female.

Burton, writing at the close of the Shakspearean era, has given us a brief but exact enumeration of the feminine allurements of his day; a passage which, whilst it adds a few new particulars, will [100]furnish an excellent recapitulation of what has been already advanced.

"Why," exclaims he, "do they decorate themselves with artificial flowers, the various colours of herbs, needle works of exquisite skill, quaint devices, and perfume their persons, wear inestimable riches in precious stones, crown themselves with gold and silver, use coronets and tires of several fashions; deck themselves with pendants, bracelets, ear-rings, chains, girdles, rings, pins, spangles, embroideries, shadows, rebatoes, versicoler ribands? Why do they make such glorious shews with their scarfs, feathers, fans, masks, furs, laces, tiffanies, ruffs, falls, calls, cuffs, damasks, velvets, tinsels, cloth of gold, silver tissue? Such setting up with corks, straitening with whale bones; why, it is but as a day-net catcheth larks, to make young ones stoop unto them.—And when they are disappointed, they dissolve into tears, which they wipe away like sweat: weep with one eye, laugh with the other; or as children, weep and cry they can both together: and as much pity is to be taken of a woman weeping as of a goose going barefoot."[100:A]

We have seen in the extract from Harrison, at the commencement of this chapter, that a great portion of it is employed in satirising the extravagance and folly of the male-dress of his times, and the adduction of further particulars will serve but to strengthen the propriety of his invective, and to prove, what will scarcely be credited, that, in the absurdity and frivolity of personal ornament, the men far surpassed the other sex.

Though there is reason to conclude that this taste for expensive and frivolous declaration, was originally derived from the reign of [101]Elizabeth, yet was it even still more encouraged by James; for though he set no example of profusion of this kind in his own person, Sir Arthur Wheldon declaring that he was "in his apparrell so constant, as by his good will he would never change his cloathes till very ragges; his fashion never: insomuch, as one bringing to him a hat of a Spanish block, he cast it from him, swearing he neither loved them nor their fashions. Another time, bringing him roses on his shoes, asked, if they would make him a ruffe-footed-dove? one yard of sixpenny ribband served that turne[101:A];" yet was he passionately attached to dress in the persons of his courtiers; "he doth admire good fashion in cloaths;" says Lord Howard, writing to Sir John Harington in 1611; "I would wish you to be well trimmed; get a new jerkin well bordered, and not too short; the King saith, he liketh a flowing garment; be sure it be not all of one sort, but diversly coloured, the collar falling somewhat down, and your ruff well stiffend and bushy. We have lately had many gallants who failed in their suits, for want of due observance of these matters. The King is nicely heedfull of such points, and dwelleth on good looks and handsome accoutrements. Eighteen servants were lately discharged, and many more will be discarded, who are not to his liking in these matters.—Robert Carr is now most likely to win the Prince's affection, and dothe it wonderously in a little time. The Prince leaneth on his arm, pinches his cheek, smoothes his ruffled garment, and, when he looketh at Carr, directeth discourse to divers others. This young man dothe much study all art and device; he hath changed his tailors and tiremen many times, and all to please the Prince, who laugheth at the long grown fashion of our young courtiers, and wisheth for change for every day."[101:B]

King James's love of finery seems to have been imbibed, not only by his courtiers, but by all his youthful subjects; for from the crown [102]of his head to the sole of his foot, nothing can exceed the fantastic attire by which the beau of this period was distinguished. His hair was worn long and flowing, "whose length," says Decker, "before the rigorous edge of any puritanical pair of scissors should shorten the breadth of a finger, let the three housewifely spinsters of destiny rather curtail the thread of thy life;—let it play openly with the lascivious wind, even on the top of your shoulders."[102:A] His hat was made of silk, velvet, taffeta, or beaver, the last being the most expensive; the crown was high, and narrow toward the top, "like the speare or shaft of a steeple," observes Stubbes, "standing a quarter of a yard above their heads;" the edges, and sometimes the whole hat, were embroidered with gold and silver, to which a costly hat-band sparkling with gems, and a lofty plume of feathers, were generally added. It appears, from a passage in the Taming of the Shrew, that to these high hats the name of copatain was given; for Vincentio, surprised at Tranio being dressed as a gentleman, exclaims, "O fine villain! A silken doublet! a velvet hose! a scarlet cloak! and a copatain hat![102:B]" a word which Mr. Steevens considers as synonymous with a high copt hat. It was usual with gallants to wear gloves in their hats, as a memorial of their ladies favour.[102:C]

Of the beard and its numerous forms, we have already seen a curious detail by Harrison, to which we may subjoin, that it was customary to dye it of various colours[102:D], and to mould it into various forms, according to the profession, age, or fancy of the wearer. Red was one of the most fashionable tints[102:E]; a beard of "formal cut" distinguished the justice[102:F] and the judge; a rough bushy beard marked [103]the clown, and a spade-beard, or a stiletto, or dagger-shaped beard, graced the soldier. "It is observable," remarks Mr. Malone, "that our author's patron, Henry Earl of Southampton, who spent much of his time in camps, is drawn with the latter of these beards; and his unfortunate friend, Lord Essex, is constantly represented with the former."[103:A]

Of the effeminate fashions of this age, perhaps the most effeminate was the custom of wearing jewels and roses in the ears, or about the neck, and of cherishing a long lock of hair under the left ear, called a love-lock. The first and least offensive of these decorations, the use of jewels and rings in the ear, was general through the upper and middle ranks, nor was it very uncommon to see gems worn appended to a riband round the neck.[103:B] Roses were almost always an appendage of the love-lock, but these were, for the most part, formed of riband, yet we are told by Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, "that it was once the fashion to stick real flowers in the ear." The love-lock, with its termination in a silken rose, had become so notorious, that Prynne at length wrote an express treatise against it, which he entitled, The Unloveliness of Love-locks, and long womanish Hair, 1628.[103:C]

The ruff never reached the extravagant dimensions of that in the other sex, yet it gradually acquired such magnitude as to offend the eye of Elizabeth, who, in one of her sumptuary laws, ordered it, when reaching beyond "a nayle of a yeard in depth," to be clipped.[103:D]

[104]The doublet and hose, to the eighth year of Elizabeth's reign, had been of an enormous size, especially the breeches, which being puckered, stuffed, bolstered and distended with wool and hair, attained a magnitude so preposterous, that, as Strutt relates on the authority of a MS. in the Harleian collection, "there actually was a scaffold erected round the inside of the parliament-house for the accommodation of such members as wore those huge breeches; and that the said scaffold was taken down when, in the eighth of Elizabeth, those absurdities went out of fashion."[104:A]

The doublet was then greatly reduced in size, yet so hard-quilted, that Stubbes says, the wearer could not bow himself to the ground, so stiff and sturdy it stood about him. It was made of cloth, silk or satin, fitting the body like a waistcoat, surmounted by a large cape, and accompanied either with long close sleeves, or with very wide ones, called Danish sleeves. The breeches, hose, or gallygaskins, now shrunk in their bulk, were either made close to the form, or rendered moderately round by stuffing; the former, which ended far above the knee, were often made of crimson satin, cut and embroidered[104:B], and the latter had frequently a most indelicate appendage, to which our poet has too often indulged the licence of allusion.[104:C] A cloak surmounting the whole, of the richest materials, and generally embroidered with gold or silver, was worn buttoned over the shoulder. Fox-skins, [105]lamb-skins, and sables were in use as facings, but the latter were restricted to the nobility, none under the rank of an earl being allowed to wear sables, which were so expensive, that an old writer of 1577, speaking of the luxury of the times, says, "that a thousand ducates were sometimes given for a face of sables[105:A];" consequently, as Mr. Malone has remarked, "a suit trimmed with sables was, in Shakspeare's time, the richest dress worn by men in England."[105:B]

The stockings, or hose as they were called in common with the breeches, consisted either of woven silk, or were cut out by the taylor "from silke, velvet, damaske, or other precious stuffe."[105:C] They were gartered, externally, and below the knee, with materials of such expensive quality, that Howes tells us, in his Continuation of Stowe's Chronicle, "men of mean rank weare garters and shoe-roses of more than five pounds price." Decker advises his gallant to "strive to fashion his legs to his silk stockings, and his proud gate to his broad garters[105:D]," which being so conspicuous a part of the dress, were either manufactured of gold and silver, or were made of satin and velvet with a deep gold fringe. The common people were content with worsted galloon, or what were called caddis-garters.[105:E] The gaudiness of attire, indeed, with regard to these articles of clothing, appears to have been carried to a most ridiculous excess; red silk-stockings, parti-coloured garters, and cross gartering, so as to represent the varied colours of the Scotch plaid, were frequently exhibited.

Nor were the shoes and boots of this period less extravagantly ostentatious. Corked shoes, or pantofles, are described by Stubbes as bearing up their wearers two inches or more from the ground, as [106]being of various colours, and razed, carved, cut, and stitched. They were not unfrequently fabricated of velvet, embroidered with the precious metals, and when fastened with strings, these were covered with enormous roses of riband, curiously ornamented and of great value. Thus Hamlet speaks of "Provencial roses on my razed shoes;" and it is remarkable, that, as in the present age, both shoes and slippers were worn shaped after the right and left foot. Shakspeare describes his smith

"Standing on slippers, which his nimble haste
Had falsely thrust upon contrary feet:"[106:A]

and Scott, in his Discoverie of Witchcraft, observes, that he who receiveth a mischance, "will consider, whether he put not on his shirt wrong side outwards, or his left shoe on his right foot."[106:B]

The boots were, if possible, still more eccentric and costly than the shoes, resembling, in some degree, though on a larger scale, the theatric buskin of the modern stage. They were usually manufactured of russet cloth or leather, hanging loose and ruffled about the leg, with immense tops turned down and fringed, and the heel decorated with gold or silver spurs. Decker speaks of "a gilt spur and a ruffled boot;" and in another place adds,—"let it be thy prudence to have the tops of them wide as the mouth of a wallet, and those with fringed boot-hose over them to hang down to thy ancles."[106:C] Yet even this extravagance did not content those who aspired to the highest rank of fashion; for Doctor Nott, the editor of Decker's Horn-book, in a note on the last passage which we have quoted, informs us, on the authority of Stubbes's Anatomie of Abuses, that these boots were often "made of cloth fine enough for any hand, or ruff; and so large, that the quantity used would nearly make a shirt: they were embroidered in gold and silver; having on them the [107]figures of birds, animals, and antiques in various coloured silks: the needle-work alone of them would cost from four to[107:A] ten pounds." Shakspeare alludes to the large boots with ruffles, or loose tops, which were frequently called lugged boots, in All's Well That Ends Well, act iii. sc. 2.; and we find, from the same authority, that boots closely fitting the leg were sometimes worn; for Falstaff, in Henry the Fourth, Part II., accounting for the Prince's attachment to Poins, mentions, among his other qualifications, that he "wears his boot very smooth, like unto the sign of the leg."[107:B]

Nor was the interior clothing of the beau less sumptuous and expensive than his exterior apparel; his shirts, relates that minute observer, Stubbes, were made of "camericke, Hollande, lawne, or els of the finest cloth that may be got." And were so wrought with "needle-worke of silke, and so curiously stitched with other knackes beside, that their price would sometimes amount to ten pounds."[107:C]

No gentleman was considered as dressed without his dagger and rapier; the former, richly gilt and ornamented, was worn at the back: thus Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, exclaims,

"This dagger hath mista'en,—for, lo! his house
Is empty on the back of Montague—
And is mis-sheathed in my daughter's bosom:"[107:D]

and an old play, of the date 1570, expressly tells us,

"Thou must weare thy sword by thy side,
And thy dagger handsumly at thy backe:"[107:E]

The rapier, or small sword, which had been known in this country from the reign of Henry the Eighth, or even earlier, entirely [108]superseded, about the 20th of Elizabeth, the use of the heavy or two-handed sword and buckler; an event which Justice Shallow, in the Merry Wives of Windsor, is represented as regretting.[108:A] Though occasionally used as an offensive weapon, and certainly a more dangerous instrument than its predecessor, it was chiefly worn as a splendid ornament, the hilt and scabbard being profusely, and often elegantly decorated. It was also the custom to wear these swords when dancing, as appears from a passage in All's Well That Ends Well, where Bertram says,

"I shall stay here the forehorse to a smock—
Till honour be bought up, and no sword worn,
But one to dance with;"[108:B]

an allusion which has received most satisfactory illustration from Mr. Douce, in an extract taken from Stafforde's Briefe conceipt of English pollicy, 1581, 4to., in which not only this practice is mentioned, but the preceding fashion of the heavy sword and buckler is particularly noticed:—"I thinke wee were as much dread or more of our enemies, when our gentlemen went simply, and our serving men plainely, without cuts or gards, bearing their heavy swords and buckelers on their thighes, insted of cuts and gardes and light daunsing swordes; and when they rode, carrying good speares in theyr hands in stede of white rods, which they cary now more like ladies or [109]gentlewemen than men; all which delicacyes maketh our men cleane effeminate and without strength."[109:A]

It soon became the fashion to wear these rapiers of such an enormous length, that government was obliged to interfere, and a sumptuary law was passed to limit these weapons to three feet, which was published by proclamation, together with one for the curtailment of ruffs. "He," says Stowe, "was held the greatest gallant, that had the deepest ruffe and longest rapier: the offence to the eye of the one, and the hurt unto the life of the subject that came by the other, caused her Majesty to make proclamation against them both, and to place selected grave citizens at every gate to cut the ruffes, and breake the rapiers' points of all passengers that exceeded a yeard in length of their rapiers."[109:B] This regulation occasioned a whimsical circumstance, related by Lord Talbot, in a letter to the Earl of Shrewsbury, dated June 23d, 1580:—"The French Imbasidore, Mounswer Mouiser, (Malvoisier) ridinge to take the ayer, in his returne cam thowrowe Smithfild; and ther, at the bars, was steayed by thos offisers that sitteth to cut sourds, by reason his raper was longer than the statute: He was in a great feaurie, and dreawe his raper; in the meane season my Lord Henry Seamore cam, and so steayed the mattr: Hir Matie is greatlie ofended wth the ofisers, in that they wanted jugement."[109:C]

This account of the male fashionable dress, during the days of Shakspeare, has sufficiently borne out the assertion which we made at its commencement,—that in extravagance and frivolity it surpassed the caprice and expenditure of the other sex; a charge which is repeated by Burton at the close of this era; for, exclaiming against the luxury of fine clothes, he remarks, "women are bad, and men worse.—So ridiculous we are in our attires, and for cost so excessive, that as Hierom said of old,—'tis an ordinary thing to put [110]a thousand oaks, and an hundred oxen into a suit of apparel, to wear a whole mannor on his back. What with shoo-ties, hangers, points, caps and feathers, scarfs, bands, cuffs, &c., in a short space their whole patrimonies are consumed. Heliogabalus is taxed by Lampridius, and admired in his age for wearing jewels in his shoos, a common thing in our times, not for Emperors and Princes, but almost for serving-men and taylors: all the flowres, stars, constellations, gold and pretious stones do condescend to set out their shoos."[110:A]

The dress of the citizen, indeed, was, if less elegant, equally showy, and sometimes fully as expensive as that of the man of fashion. The medium habit may, with great probability, be considered as sketched in the following humorous tale, derived from a popular pamphlet printed in 1609:—

"A citizen, for recreation-sake,
To see the country would a journey take
Some dozen mile, or very little more;
Taking his leave with friends two months before,
With drinking healths, and shaking by the hand,
As he had travail'd to some new-found-land.
Well: taking horse with very much ado,
London he leaveth for a day or two:
And as he rideth, meets upon the way
Such as (what haste soever) bid men stay.
"Sirrah! (says one) stand, and your purse deliver,
I am a taker, thou must be a giver."
Unto a wood hard by they hale him in,
And rifle him unto his very skin.
"Maisters, (quoth he) pray heare me ere you go:
For you have rob'd more now than you do know.
My horse, in troth, I borrow'd of my brother:
The bridle and the saddle, of another:
The jerkin and the bases be a taylor's:
The scarfe, I do assure you, is a saylour's:
The falling band is likewise none of mine,
Nor cuffes; as true as this good light doth shine.
[111]The sattin-doublet and rays'd velvet hose
Are our church-wardens—all the parish knows.
The boots are John the grocer's, at the Swan:
The spurrs were lent me by a serving-man.
One of my rings, (that with the great red stone)
In sooth I borrow'd of my gossip Jone:
Her husband knows not of it. Gentlemen!
Thus stands my case:—I pray shew favour then."
"Why, (quoth the theeves) thou need'st not greatly care,
Since in thy loss so many beare a share.
The world goes hard: many good fellowes lacke:
Looke not, at this time, for a penny backe.
Go, tell, at London, thou didst meete with foure
That, rifling thee, have rob'd at least a score.""[111:A]

Under the next section of this chapter, including the Modes of Living, it is our intention to give a short detail of the household furniture, eating, drinking, and domestic economy of our town-ancestors, during the close of the sixteenth, and beginning of the seventeenth century.

In that part of the first volume which is appropriated to the Modes of Living in the Country, we have seen Holinshed alluding to the increasing luxury of his age in furniture, the convenience, richness, and magnificence of which, as displayed in the upper and middle classes of society in the metropolis, we shall now endeavour briefly to illustrate.

That the palaces of Elizabeth were decorated with all the splendour that tapestry, embroidery, and cloths of gold and silver, and services of plate could effect, we have numberless proofs; but that they united with these the still higher luxuries of comfort and accommodation, too often wanting amid the most gorgeous scenes, we have the testimony of Sir John Harrington, who, in his "Treatise on Playe," circa 1597, thus describes the conveniences which the Queen [112]had provided for her courtiers:—"It is a great honor of the Queen's court, that no princes servants fare so well and so orderly:—to be short, the stately pallaces, goodly and many chambers, fayr gallerys, large gardens, sweet walkes, that princes with magnificent cost do make, (the xxth parte of which they use not themselves) all shew that they desire, the ease, content and pleasure of theyr followers, as well as themselves. Which matter, though it be more proper to another discourse, yet I colde not but towch it in this, agaynst theyr error rather than awsterytie, that say play becomes not the presence, and that it would not as well become the state of the chamber to have easye quilted and lyned forms and stools for the lords and ladyes to sit on, as great plank forms that two yeomen can scant remove out of their places, and waynscot stooles so hard, that since great breeches were layd asyde, men can skant indewr to sitt on."[112:A]

Hentzner, in his Travels, gives a still further display of the costly costume of the Queen's apartments. At Windsor Castle he tells us that Her Majesty had "two bathing-rooms cieled and wainscoted with glass;" and at Hampton Court he adds, "her closet in the chapel was most splendid, quite transparent, having its window of chrystal. We were led into two chambers, called the presence, or chambers of audience, which shone with tapestry of gold and silver, and silk of different colours.—Here is besides a small chapel richly hung with tapestry, where the Queen performs her devotions. In her bed-chamber the bed was covered with very costly cover lids of silk:—in one chamber were several excessively rich tapestries, which are hung up when the queen gives audience to foreign ambassadors; there were numbers of chusions ornamented with gold and silver; many counterpanes and coverlids of beds lined with ermine: in short, all the walls of the palace shine with gold and silver. Here is besides a certain cabinet called Paradise, where besides that every thing glitters so with silver, gold, and jewels, as to dazzle ones [113]eyes, there is a musical instrument made all of glass, except the strings."[113:A]

The emulation of the nobility left them little behind their Queen in ornamental profusion of this kind; and the picture which Shakspeare has drawn of Imogen's chamber in Cymbeline, may be quoted as an apposite instance, for he ever imparts the costume of his native island to that of every other country:—

"Her bed-chamber was hanged
With tapestry of silk and silver; the story
Proud Cleopatra, when she met her Roman—
——————————— A piece of work
So bravely done, so rich, that it did strive
In workmanship, and value.
——————————— The chimney-piece,
Chaste Dian bathing.—
——————————— The roof o' the chamber
With golden cherubins is fretted: Her andirons
(I had forgot them) were two winking Cupids
Of silver, each on one foot standing."[113:B]

To this sketch we can add a few features from a little work entitled "The Mirrour of Madnes," anno 1576, where the house of the opulent man is thus described:—"My chaumbers, parloures, and other such romes, hanged wyth clothe of tyssue, arrace, and golde; my cupbordes heades set oute and adorned after the richest, costlieste, and most gloryous maner, wyth one cuppe cocke height upon an other, beside the greate basen and ewer both of silver and golde; filled at convenient tymes with sweete and pleasaunt waters, wherewith my delicate hands may be washed, my heade recreated, and my nose refreshed, &c."[113:C]

When Lævinius Lemnius, a celebrated physician and divine of Zealand, visited London, during the reign of Elizabeth, he was delighted with the houses and furniture of the middle classes:—"The [114]neate cleanliness," says he, "the exquisite finenesse, the pleasaunte and delightfull furniture in every point for household, wonderfully rejoyced mee; their chambers and parlours, strawed over with sweet herbes, refreshed mee; their nosegayes finelye entermingled wyth sondry sortes of fragaunte floures, in their bed chambers and privie roomes, with comfortable smell cheered mee up, and entierlye delighted all my sences."[114:A]

To these general descriptions, we shall subjoin some further remarks on a few of the articles which they contain; minutiæ which will render us more familiarly acquainted with the domestic arrangements of our forefathers.

Arras or tapestry, representing landscapes and figures, formed the almost universal hangings for rooms below, and chambers above. When first introduced, it was attached to the bare walls; but it was soon found necessary, in consequence of the damp arising from the brick work, to suspend it on wooden frames, placed at such a distance from the sides of the room, as would easily admit of any person being introduced behind it, a facility which soon converted these vacancies into common hiding-places. Thus Shakspeare, during his scenic developements, has very frequent recourse to this expedient. "I will ensconce me behind the arras[114:B];" "I whipt me behind the arras[114:C];" "Look thou stand within the arras[114:D]:" "Go hide thee behind the arras[114:E]:" "Behind the arras I'll convey myself[114:F]," &c. &c.

We have seen that in the Country, mottoes were often placed in halls and servants' chambers, for the instruction of the domestics; a custom which was also adopted on tapestry for the improvement of [115]their superiors, and to which Shakspeare refers in his Rape of Lucrece,

"Who fears a sentence, or an old man's saw,
Shall by a painted cloth be kept in awe;"[115:A]

and is further confirmed by Dr. Bulleyne, who, in one of his productions, says,—"This is a comelie parlour,—and faire clothes, with pleasaunte borders aboute the same, with many wise sayings painted upon them."[115:B]

What these wise sayings were, we are taught by the following extract from a publication of 1601:—

"Read what is written on the painted cloth:
Do no man wrong; be good unto the poor;
Beware the mouse, the maggot and the moth,
And ever have an eye unto the door;
Trust not a fool, a villain, nor a whore;
Go neat, not gay, and spend but as you spare;
And turn the colt to pasture with the mare; &c."[115:C]

proverbial wisdom, which Orlando, in As You Like It, designates by the phrase "right painted cloth."[115:D]

That "the arras figures[115:E]," though in general coarsely executed, had strongly impressed the mind of Shakspeare, and furnished him with no small portion of imagery and allusion, has been very satisfactorily established by Mr. Whiter, who remarks, that their "effects may be perpetually traced by the observing critic," even "when the poet himself is totally unconscious of this predominating influence."[115:F]

[116]The manner of illuminating the halls and banquetting rooms of the Great at this period, was truly classical. We find that Homer, describing the palace of Alcinous, says—

"Youths forged of gold, at every table there,
Stood holding flaming torches;"[116:A]

and Lucretius, speaking of the Dome of the opulent, describes its walls with

"A thousand lamps irradiate, propt sublime
By frolic forms of youths in massy gold,
Flinging their splendours o'er the midnight feast."[116:B]

Similar to these were the

—————————— "fixed candlesticks,
With torch-staves in their hands,"[116:C]

of our ancestors, which generally represented a man in armour with his hands extended, in which were placed the sockets for the lights; and we may easily conceive how splendid these might be rendered by the arts of the goldsmith and jeweller.

Where these antique candelabras were not adopted, living candle-holders supplied their place, and were, indeed, always present, when a central or perambulatory light was required: "Give me a torch," says Romeo,

"I'll be a candle-holder and look on."[116:D]

The gentlemen-pensioners of Queen Elizabeth usually held her torches; and Shakspeare represents Henry the Eighth going to Wolsey's palace, preceded by sixteen torch-bearers.[116:E] At great entertainments, beside candelabras fixed against the sides of the room, [117]torch-bearers stood by the tables, supplying the light which we now receive from chandeliers.[117:A]

Watch-lights, which were divided into equal portions by marks, each of which burnt a limited time, were common in the bed-chambers of the wealthy; they are alluded to in Tomkis's Albumazar, 1614, where Sulpitia says, "Why should I sit up all night like a watching-candle?"[117:B]

Every bed-chamber was furnished with two beds, a standing-bed, and a truckle-bed; in the former slept the master, and in the latter his page. The Host, in Merry Wives of Windsor, directing Simple where to find Sir John Falstaff, says,—"There's his chamber, his house, his castle, his standing-bed, and truckle-bed[117:C];" and Decker, and Middleton, further illustrate the custom, when the first, alluding to a page, says, he is "so dear to his lordship, as for the excellency of his fooling to be admitted both to ride in coach with him, and to lie at his very feet on a truckle-bed[117:D];" and the second, addressing a similar personage, exclaims,—"Well, go thy ways, for as sweet a breasted page as ever lay at his master's feet in a truckle-bed."[117:E] It may be added that the standing-bed had frequently on it a counterpoint, or counterpane, so rich and costly as, according to Stowe, to be worth sometimes a thousand marks. This piece of luxury forms one of Gremio's articles, when enumerating the furniture of his city-house, a catalogue which throws much curious light upon our present subject:—

———————— "My house within the city,
Is richly furnished with plate and gold;
Basons and ewers, to lave her dainty hands;
My hangings all of Tyrian tapestry:
[118]In ivory coffers I have stuffed my crowns;
In cypress chests my arras, counter points,
Costly apparel, tents, and canopies,
Fine linen, Turky cushions boss'd with pearl,
Valence of Venice gold in needle-work,
Pewter and brass, and all things that belong
To house, or housekeeping."[118:A]

Pewter, during the reign of Elizabeth, was considered as a very costly material, and, at the commencement of the sixteenth century, had been so rare, as to be hired by the year, even for the use of noblemen's houses.[118:B]

The ivory coffers, and cypress chests, mentioned in Gremio's list, were esteemed, at this period, highly ornamental pieces of furniture for apartments designed for the reception of visitors. "I have seen," relates Mr. Steevens, "more than one of these, as old as the time of our poet. They were richly ornamented on the tops and sides with scroll-work, emblematical devices, &c. and were elevated on feet."[118:C] Shakspeare has an allusion to this custom in Twelfth Night, where he speaks of

"Empty trunks, o'er flourished by the Devil."[118:D]

The tables in these apartments, and in the halls of the nobility, were so constructed as to turn up; being flat leaves, united by hinges, and resting on tressels, so as to fold into a small compass. Thus Capulet, wanting room for the dancers in his hall, calls out

"A hall! a hall! give room, and foot it, girls,
More light, ye knaves; and turn the tables up."[118:E]

When dinner, or supper, was served up, these tables were covered with carpets; hence Gremio exclaims, "Where's the cook? Is supper ready?—Be the carpets laid?"[118:F]

[119]Pictures constituted a frequent decoration in the rooms of the wealthy; and there are numerous instances to prove that those which were estimated as valuable, were protected by curtains. Olivia, addressing Viola in Twelfth Night, says,—"We will draw the curtain, and shew you the picture[119:A];" the same imagery occurs in Troilus and Cressida, where Pandarus, unveiling Cressida, uses almost the same words: "Come draw this curtain, and let us see your picture[119:B]." The passage, however, which Mr. Douce has quoted in illustration of this subject, as it decides the point, will supersede all further reference:—"In Deloney's Pleasant history of Jack of Newbery, printed before 1597, it is recorded," he remarks, "that 'in a faire large parlour which was wainscotted round about, Jacke of Newbery had fifteene faire pictures hanging, which were covered with curtaines of greene silke, fringed with gold, which he would often shew to his friends.'"[119:C]

The practice of strewing floors with rushes was general before the introduction of carpets for this purpose, and the first mansions in the kingdom could boast of nothing superior in this respect. Shakspeare has many lines in reference to the custom; Glendower, for instance, interpreting Lady Mortimer's address to her husband, says,

———————— "She bids you
Upon the wanton rushes lay you down."[119:D]

Again Iachimo, rising from the Trunk in Imogen's chamber, exclaims:—

——————————— "Our Tarquin thus
Did softly press the rushes, ere he waken'd
The chastity he wounded;"[119:E]

[120]and lastly, Romeo calls out

"A torch for me: let wantons light of heart,
Tickle the senseless rushes with their heels."[120:A]

Similar allusions abound in our old dramatic poets, one of which we shall give for the singularity of its comparison: "All the ladies and gallants," says Jonson, in his Cynthia's Revels, "lye languishing upon the rushes, like so many pounded cattle i' the midst of harvest.[120:B]"

The utility of the rush, and the species used for this purpose, will be illustrated by the following passages:—"Rushes that grow upon dry groundes," observes Dr. Bulleyne, "be good to strew in halles, chambers, and galleries, to walke upon, defending apparell, as traynes of gownes and kertles from dust[120:C];" and Decker tells us of "windowes spread with hearbs, the chimney drest up with greene boughs, and the floore strewed with bulrushes."[120:D]

Of the hospitality of the English, and of the style of eating and drinking in the upper ranks of society, Harrison has given us the following curious, though general, detail.

"In number of dishes and change of meat," he remarks, "the nobilitie of England (whose cookes are for the most part musicall headed Frenchmen and strangers) doo most exceed, sith there is no daie in maner that passeth over their heads, wherein they have not onelie béefe, mutton, veale, lambe, kid, porke, conie, capon, pig, or so manie of these as the season yeeldeth: but also some portion of the red or fallow déere, beside great varietie of fish and wild foule, and thereto sundrie other delicates wherein the sweet hand of the seafaring Portingale is not wanting: so that for a man to dine with one of them, [121]and to tast of everie dish that standeth before him (which few use to doo, but ech one feedeth upon that meat him best liketh for the time, the beginning of everie dish notwithstanding being reserved unto the greatest personage that sitteth at the table, to whome it is drawen up still by the waiters as order requireth, and from whence it descendeth againe even to the lower end, whereby each one may tast thereof) is rather to yield unto a conspiracie with a greate deale of meat for the spéedie suppression of naturall health, then the use of a necessarie meane to satisfie himselfe with a competent repast, to susteine his bodie withall.—

"The chiefe part likewise of their dailie provision is brought in before them (commonlie in silver vessell, if they be of the degree of barons, bishops and upwards) and placed on their tables, whereof when they have taken what it pleaseth them, the rest is reserved, and afterward sent downe to their serving men and waiters, who féed thereon in like sort with convenient moderation, their reversion also being bestowed upon the poore, which lie readie at their gates in great numbers to receive the same. This is spoken of the principall tables whereat the nobleman, his ladie and guestes are accustomed to sit, beside which they have a certeine ordinarie allowance daillie appointed for their hals, where the chiefe officers and household servants (for all are not permitted by custome to waite upon their master) and with them such inferiour guestes doo feed as are not of calling to associat the noble man himselfe (so that besides those afore mentioned, which are called to the principall table, there are commonlie fortie or three score persons fed in those hals,) to the great reliefe of such poore sutors and strangers also as oft be partakers thereof and otherwise like to dine hardlie. As for drinke it is usuallie filled in pots, gobblets, jugs, bols of silver in noble mens houses, also in fine Venice glasses of all formes, and for want of these elsewhere in pots of earth of sundrie colours and moulds (whereof manie are garnished with silver) or at the leastwise in pewter, all which notwithstanding are seldome set on the table, but each one as necessitie urgeth, calleth for a cup of such drinke as him listeth to [122]have: so that when he hath tasted of it he delivered the cup againe to some one of the standers by, who making it cleane by pouring out the drinke that remaineth, restoreth it to the cupbord from whence he fetched the same. By this devise,—much idle tippling is further more cut off, for if the full pots should continuallie stand at the elbow or neere the trencher, diverse would alwaies be dealing with them, whereas now they drinke seldome and onelie when necessitie urgeth, and so avoid the note of great drinking, or often troubling of the servitors with filling of their bols. Neverthelesse in the noble men's hals, this order is not used, neither in anie mans house commonlie under the degree of a knight or esquire of great revenues. It is a world to sée in these our daies, wherein gold and silver most aboundeth, how that our gentilitie as lothing those mettals (bicause of the plentie) do now generallie choose rather the Venice glasses both for our wine and béere, than anie of those mettals or stone wherein before time we have béene accustomed to drinke, but such is the nature of man generallie that it most coveteth things difficult to be atteined; and such is the estimation of this stuffe, that manie become rich onelie with their new trade unto Murana (a towne neere to Venice situat on the Adriatike sea) from whence the verie best are dailie to be had, and such as for beautie doo well neare match the christall or the ancient Murrhina vasa, whereof now no man hath knowledge. And as this is seene in the gentilitie, so in the wealthie communaltie the like desire of glasse is not neglected."[122:A]

To this interesting sketch a few particulars shall be added in order to render the picture more complete; and, in the first place, we shall give an account, from an eye-witness, of the ceremonies accompanying the dinner-table of Elizabeth. "While the Queen was still at prayers," relates Hentzner, "we saw her table set out with the following solemnity:

"A gentleman entered the room bearing a rod, and along with [123]him another who had a table-cloth, which, after they had both kneeled three times with the utmost veneration, he spread upon the table, and after kneeling again, they both retired. Then came two others, one with the rod again, the other with a salt-seller, a plate and bread; when they had kneeled, as the others had done, and placed what was brought upon the table, they too retired with the same ceremonies performed by the first. At last came an unmarried lady (we were told she was a countess) and along with her a married one, bearing a tasting knife; the former was dressed in white silk, who, when she had prostrated herself three times in the most graceful manner, approached the table, and rubbed the plates with bread and salt, with as much awe, as if the queen had been present: when they had waited there a little while, the yeoman of the guards entered, bareheaded, clothed in scarlet, with a golden rose upon their backs, bringing in at each turn a course of twenty-four dishes, served in plate, most of it gilt; these dishes were received by a gentleman in the same order they were brought, and placed upon the table, while the lady-taster gave to each of the guard a mouthful to eat, of the particular dish he had brought for fear of any poison. During the time that this guard, which consists of the tallest and stoutest men that can be found in all England, being carefully selected for this service, were bringing dinner, twelve trumpets and two kettle-drums made the hall ring for half an hour together. At the end of all this ceremonial a number of unmarried ladies appeared, who, with particular solemnity, lifted the meat off the table, and conveyed it into the queen's inner and more private chamber, where, after she had chosen for herself, the rest goes to the ladies of the court. The queen dines and sups alone with very few attendants."[123:A]

The strict regularity and temperance which prevailed in the court of Elizabeth, were by no means characteristic of that of her successor, who, in his convivial moments, too often grossly transgressed [124]the bounds of sobriety. When Christian IV., King of Denmark, visited England in July, 1606, the carousals at the palace were carried to a most extravagant height, and their influence on the higher ranks was such, that "our good English nobles," remarks Harrington, "whom I never could get to taste good liquor, now follow the fashion, and wallow in beastly delights. The ladies abandon their sobriety, and are seen to roll about in intoxication;" accusations which he fully substantiates whilst relating the following most ludicrous scene:—

"One day," says he, "a great feast was held, and, after dinner, the representation of Solomon his Temple, and the coming of the Queen of Sheba was made, or (as I may better say) was meant to have been made, before their Majesties, by device of the Earl of Salisbury and others.—But, alas! as all earthly thinges do fail to poor mortals in enjoyment, so did prove our presentment hereof. The Lady who did play the Queen's part, did carry most precious gifts to both their Majesties; but, forgetting the steppes arising to the canopy, overset her caskets into his Danish Majesties lap, and fell at his feet, tho I rather think it was in his face. Much was the hurry and confusion; cloths and napkins were at hand, to make all clean. His Majesty then got up and would dance with the Queen of Sheba; but he fell down and humbled himself before her, and was carried to an inner chamber and laid on a bed of state; which was not a little defiled with the presents of the Queen which had been bestowed on his garments; such as wine, cream, jelly, beverage, cakes, spices, and other good matters. The entertainment and show went forward, and most of the presenters went backward, or fell down; wine did so occupy their upper chambers. Now did appear, in rich dress, Hope, Faith, and Charity: Hope did assay to speak, but wine rendered her endeavours so feeble that she withdrew, and hoped the King would excuse her brevity: Faith was then all alone, for I am certain she was not joyned with good works, and left the court in a staggering condition: Charity came to the King's feet, and seemed to cover the multitude of sins her sisters had committed; [125]in some sorte she made obeysance and brought giftes, but said she would return home again, as there was no gift which heaven had not already given his Majesty. She then returned to Hope and Faith, who were both sick and spewing in the lower hall. Next came Victory, in bright armour, and presented a rich sword to the King, who did not accept it, but put it by with his hand; and by a strange medley of versification, did endeavour to make suit to the King. But Victory did not triumph long; for, after much lamentable utterance, she was led away like a silly captive, and laid to sleep in the outer steps of the anti-chamber. Now did Peace make entry, and strive to get foremoste to the King; but I grieve to tell how great wrath she did discover unto those of her attendants; and much contrary to her semblance, most rudely made war with her olive branch, and laid on the pates of those who did oppose her coming." The facetious Knight concludes his story by declaring that "in our Queen's days—I neer did see such lack of good order, discretion, and sobriety, as I have now done."[125:A]

We have already mentioned in Part the First, Chapter the Fifth of this work, that the usual hour of dinner, among the upper classes, was eleven o'clock in the forenoon; and though Harrison, in the passage which we last quoted from him, describes the provisions as often brought to the tables of the nobility served on silver, yet wooden trenchers for plates were still frequently to be found at the most sumptuous tables; thus Harrington in 1592, giving directions to his servants, orders, "that no man waite at the table without a trencher in his hand, except it be upon good cause, on pain of 1d."[125:B]

To the silver, gilt plate, and cut glass of Harrison, may be added the use of china, an article of luxury to which the Clown in Measure for Measure thus alludes:—"Your honours have seen such dishes; they are not china dishes, but very good dishes."[125:C] A considerable quantity of china or porcelain, had been brought into this country, [126]during the reign of Elizabeth, as part of the cargo of some captured Spanish carracks.[126:A] It appears, also, that carpet-cloth for tables was, towards the close of our period, dismissed for table-linen, and that of a quality so fine, that Mrs. Otter, in Ben Jonson's Silent Woman, which was first acted in 1609, laments having "stained a damask table-cloth, cost me eighteen pound."[126:B]

With all these luxuries, the reader will be surprised to learn, that forks were not introduced into this country before 1611. Knives had been in general use since the year 1563, but for the former the fingers had been the sole substitute. The honour of this cleanly fashion, must be given to that singular traveller Thomas Coryat, who in his Crudities informs us, that he found forks common in Italy. "Hereupon," says he, "I myself thought good to imitate the Italian fashion, by this forked cutting of meate, not only while I was in Italy, but also in Germany, and oftentimes in England since I came home; being once quipped for that frequent using of my forke, by a certaine learned gentleman, a familiar friend of mine, one M. Laurence Whitaker, who in his merry humour doubted not to call me at table Furcifer, only for using a forke at feeding, but for no other cause."[126:C]

The utility of the practice was soon acknowledged, for we find Jonson, in 1614, speaking of their adoption in his "Devil Is An Ass," where Meercraft, having mentioned his "project of the forks," Sledge exclaims—

"Forks? what be they?
Meer. The laudable use of forks,
Brought into custom here, as they are in Italy,
To th' sparing o' napkins."[126:D]

To the articles of provision enumerated by Harrison, we may add, [127]that the bread of this period was of many various kinds, and sometimes peculiarly fine, especially that made at York. "Bred," says a physician who wrote in 1572, "of dyvers graines, of divers formes, in divers places be used:—some in forme of manchet, used of the gentility: some of greate loves, as is usual among yeomanry, some betweene both, as with the franklings: some in forme of cakes, as at weddings: some rondes of hogs, as at upsittings: some simnels, cracknels, and buns, as in the Lent, some in brode cakes, as the oten cakes in Kendall on yrons: some on slate stones as in the hye peke: some in frying pans as in Darbyshyre: some betwene yrons as wapons: some in round cakes as bysket for the ships. But these and all other the mayne bread of York excelleth, for that it is of the finest floure of the wheat well tempered, best baked, a patterne of all others the fineste."[127:A]

Dinners had attained a degree of epicurism which rival those of the present day; three courses, of which the second consisted of game, and the third of pastry, creams, and confections, together with a dessert, including marchpane, (a cake composed of filberts, almonds, pistacho-nuts, pine-kernels, sugar of roses, and flour) marmalades, pomegranates, oranges, citrons, apples, pears, raisins, dates, nuts, grapes, &c. &c.[127:B], were common in the houses of the opulent, nor was any expense spared in procuring the most luxurious dainties. "Who will not admire," remarks an Essayist of this age, "our nice dames of London, who must have cherries at twenty shillings a pound, and pescods at five shillings a pecke, huske without pease? Yong rabbettes of a spanne, and chickens of an inch?"[127:C]

To such a height, indeed, had sensuality in eating arisen among the courtiers of James the First, that Osborne, in his "Traditional [128]Memorials" on the reign of that monarch, informs us, "the Earl of Carlisle was one of the Quorum, that brought in the vanity of Ante-suppers not heard of in our Fore-fathers time, and for ought I have read, or at least remember, unpractised by the most luxurious tyrants. The manner of which was, to have a board covered at the first entrance of the guests with dishes as high as a tall man could well reach, filled with the choicest and dearest viands sea and land could afford: and all this once seen and having feasted the eyes of the invited, was in a manner thrown away, and fresh set on the same height, having only this advantage of the other, that it was hot. I cannot forget one of the attendants of the K. that at a feast, made by this monster in excess, eat to his single share a whole pie reckoned to my Lord at ten pounds."[128:A]

The extravagance and excess of refection with regard to eatables, must, however, we are sorry to say, yield to those which accompanied the use, or rather the abuse, of vinous liquors. The propensity of the English of his times to drunkenness, has been frequently commented on by Shakspeare; Iago, in reference to a drinking-catch which he had just sung, says, "I learned it in England, where (indeed) they are most potent in potting; your Dane, your German, and your swag-bellied Hollander,—Drink, ho!—are nothing to your English.

Cass. Is your Englishman so expert in his drinking?

Iago. Why, he drinks you, with facility, your Dane dead drunk; he sweats not to overthrow your Almain; he gives your Hollander a vomit, ere the next pottle can be filled[128:B];" a charge which seems to be confirmed by the sober testimony of Gascoigne,—"The Almaynes," he observes, "with their smale Rhenish wine, are contented; but we must have March beere, double beere, dagger ale, bracket, &c. Yea, wine itself is not sufficient, but sugar, lemons, [129]and spices, must be drowned thereinne!"[129:A] Yet, it is but fair to subjoin, as an acknowledged fact, that we derived this vinosity, as Heywood terms it, from the Danes; "they," says he, "have made a profession thereof from antiquity, and are the first upon record that brought their wassel-bowles and elbowe-deep healthes into this land."[129:B]

Of the consumption of wine, a striking estimate may be formed, from part of a letter addressed by the Earl of Shrewsbury to the Marquis of Winchester and Sir Walter Mildmay, dated January, 1569:—"It may please you to understaund," says His Lordship, "that whereas I have had a certen ordinary allowaunce of wine, amongs other noble men, for expenses in my howsehold, wtout imposte; The charg˜s daily that I do nowe susteyn, and have done all this yere past, well knowen by reason of the Quene of Scotts, are so grete therein as I am compelled to be now a suter unto yow that ye woll please to have a friendlie considerac˜on unto the necessitie of my large expenses. Truly two tonnes in a monthe have not hitherto sufficed ordinarily." "This passage," observes Mr. Lodge, "will serve to correct a vulgar error, relating to the consumption of wine in those days, which, instead of being less, appears to have been, at least in the houses of the great, even more considerable than that of the present time. The good people who tell us that Queen Elizabeth's Maids of Honour breakfasted on roast beef, generally add, that wine was then used in England as a medicine, for that it was sold only by the apothecaries. The latter assertion, though founded on a fact, seems to have led to a mistake in the former; for the word Apothecary, from the Greek Αποθήκη, repositorium, is applicable to any shopkeeper, or warehouseman, and was probably once used in that general sense."[129:C] It appears, however, from Decker's Tracts, that apothecaries, in the modern acceptation of the [130]word, sold both wine and tobacco, and that their shops formed the fashionable lounge of the day:—"here you must observe to know in what state tobacco is in town, better than the merchants; and to discourse of the apothecaries where it is to be sold; and to be able to speak of their wines, as readily as the apothecary himself reading the barbarous hand of a doctor."[130:A] "Some lie in ambush, to note what apothecary's shop he (the gallant) resorts to every morning."[130:B]

The variety of wines in the days of Shakspeare has not since been exceeded, or, perhaps, even equalled. Harrison mentions fifty-six French wines, and thirty-six Spanish, Italian, &c., to which must be added several home-made wines, such as Ypocras, Clarey, Braket, &c. &c., for which receipts may be found in Arnold's Chronicle.

Among the foreign wines used at this period, none have attracted so much notice, or so much controversy, as the celebrated beverage of Falstaff, Sack. Whether this was a dry or a sweet wine has been left undecided by the commentators, after much elaborate and contradictory disquisition. If we may repose, however, on the authority of Gervase Markham's "English Housewife," a book published very shortly after the death of Shakspeare, and probably written several years before that event, a book professing to contain "the opinions of the greatest Physicians," many years antecedent to the Dedication which includes this assertion[130:C], the question must be considered as finally settled. This author, in his fourth chapter, entitled, "The ordering, preserving, and helping of all sorts of Wines, and first of the choice of sweet Wines," opens the subject by declaring, that he had derived his knowledge on wines from a vintner "profest skilful in [131]the trade," and he then immediately proceeds, addressing the housewife, to speak first of the election of sweet wines; "she must," says he, "be carefull that the Malmseys be full wines, pleasant, well hewed and fine: that Bastard be fat, and strong, if it be tawney it skils not: for the tawny Bastards be always the sweetest. Muscadine must be great, pleasant and strong with a sweet scent, and with Amber colour. Sack if it be Seres (as it should be) you shall know it by the mark of a cork burned on one side of the bung, and they be ever full gage, and so are other Sacks, and the longer they lye, the better they be."[131:A]

From this passage we learn three circumstances relative to Sack: 1stly, that Sack was a sweet wine; 2dly, that Seres, or Xeres, Sack, or what Shakspeare, in 1597, calls "a good sherris-sack," a wine manufactured at Xeres in Spain, was the most esteemed of its kind; and, 3dly, that other Sacks were in use in this country. Still further light is thrown upon this topic in a subsequent page, where we are told, when enumerating the sweet wines in contradistinction to those of a sharp taste, that Sacks are of three species—"Your best Sacks are of Seres in Spain, your smaller of Galicia and Portugall, your strong Sacks are of the Islands of the Canaries, and of Malligo."[131:B] It is, therefore, to be inferred, that, though all these Sacks were sweet, the sweetest, as well as the strongest, were the Canary and Malaga; next to these in saccharine impregnation, and best in flavour, the Xeres; and lastly, the weakest and least sweet, were the Galicia and Portugal.

The conclusion we consequently draw from these premises is, that the Sherris-Sack of Falstaff was Spanish Xeres, a wine not dry, like our modern Sherry, but sweet, and though not so strong or so sweet as the Sacks brought from Canary and Malaga, superior in flavour to both.

It may be objected to this deduction, that if Sherris-Sack were a sweet wine, it would not have been necessary to add sugar to it, an article which Sir John ever mingled with his favourite potation.[131:C] [132]This will not prove valid, however, when we recollect that, in the first place, Xeres was not the sweetest of the Sacks, and, in the second, that in Shakspeare's time it was the custom to mix sugar with every species of wine; "gentlemen garrawse," observes Fynes Moryson, "only in wine, with which they mix sugar, which I never observed in any other place or kingdom to be used for that purpose. And because the taste of the English is thus delighted with sweetness, the wines in taverns (for I speak not of merchantes or gentlemen's cellars) are commonly mixed at the filling thereof, to make them pleasant."[132:A] A similar partiality for sugar in wine is noticed by Paul Hentzner[132:B], as one of the peculiarities of the English; and from these passages Mr. Reed deduces the legitimate inference that the fondness of the English nation for sugar, at this epoch, was so great as to induce them to mix it even with sweet wines; "if," says he, "the English drank only rough wine with sugar, there appears nothing extraordinary, or worthy of particular notice.—The addition of sugar, even to sack, might, perhaps, to a taste habituated to sweets, operate only in a manner to improve the flavour of the wine."[132:C]

We find also from Sir John's comments on his favourite liquor, that he added not only sugar, but a toast to it[132:D]; that he had an insuperable aversion to its being mulled with eggs, vehemently exclaiming, "I'll no pullet-sperm in my brewage[132:E];" and that he abominated its sophistication with lime, declaring that "a coward is worse than a cup of sack with lime in it[132:F];" an ingredient which the vinters used to increase its strength and durability.

[133]To this deterioration, our witty Knight, as his convivial hours were usually spent in taverns, was, of course, peculiarly subject. Houses of this description were very numerous in our author's days, and, there is reason to think, fully as much frequented as are similar places in the present age. The Boars Head Tavern in Eastcheap, and the Mermaid in Cornhill, immortalised in the writings of Shakspeare, Ben Jonson, and Fletcher, are enumerated in a long list of taverns given us in an old black-letter quarto, entitled Newes from Bartholomew Fayre[133:A]; and to these we must add, as of equal poetical celebrity, the Tabard Inn or Tavern, noticed by Stowe, in 1598, as the most ancient in Southwark[133:B], and endeared to us as the "Hosterie" of the never-to-be-forgotten pilgrims, in that delightful work, the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer.

A tavern, says a writer, who lived in these times, and who published in 1628, "is the common consumption of the afternoon, and the murderer or maker-away of a rainy day.—To give you the total reckoning of it; it is the busy man's recreation, the idle man's business, the melancholy man's sanctuary, the stranger's welcome, the inns-of-court man's entertainment, the scholar's kindness, and the citizen's [134]curtesy. It is the study of sparkling wits, and a cup of canary their book."[134:A]

At these places were regular ordinaries, which Decker tells us were of three kinds; namely, "an ordinary of the largest reckoning, whither most of your courtly gallants do resort;" a twelve-penny ordinary frequented by "the justice of peace or young knight;" and a three-penny ordinary, "to which your London usurer, your stale batchelor, and your thrifty attorney do resort."[134:B]

From the same author we also learn, that it was usual in taverns, especially in the city, to send presents of wine from one room to another, as a complimentary mark of friendship:—"Enquire," directs he, "what gallants sup in the next room; and, if they be any of your acquaintance, do not you, after the city fashion, send them in a pottle of wine and your name."[134:C] This custom, too, is recorded by Shakspeare, as a mode of introduction to a stranger, where Bardolph, at the Garter Inn, Windsor, addressing Falstaff, says,—"Sir John, there's one master Brook below would fain speak with you, and be acquainted with you; and hath sent your worship a morning's draught of sack[134:D];" a passage which Mr. Malone has illustrated by the following nearly contemporary anecdote:—"Ben Jonson," he relates, "was at a tavern, and in comes Bishop Corbet, (but not so then,) into the next room. Ben Jonson calls for a quart of raw wine, and gives it to the tapster. 'Sirrah,' says he, 'carry this to the gentleman in the next chamber, and tell him, I sacrifice my service to him.' The fellow did, and in those words. 'Friend,' says Dr. Corbet, 'I thank him for his love; but 'pr'ythee tell him from me that he is mistaken; for sacrifices are always burnt."[134:E]

The most singular and offensive practice, however, at least to [135]modern manners, which occurred at this period in taverns, a practice common, too, even among the higher ranks, is likewise related by Decker, when giving advice "How a Gallant should behave himself in an Ordinary" of the first class:—"You may rise in dinner time," he tells his "courtly gallant," "to ask for a closestool, protesting to all the gentlemen that it costs you an hundred pounds a year in physick, besides the annual pension which your wife allows her doctor; and, if you please, you may, as your great French lord doth, invite some special friend of yours from the table to hold discourse with you as you sit in that withdrawing chamber; from whence being returned again to the board, you shall sharpen the wits of all the eating gallants about you, and do them great pleasure to ask what pamphlets or poems a man might think fittest to wipe his tail with."[135:A] Gross as this habit now appears to us, it was prevalent upon the continent until nearly the close of the last century.

To the reign of Elizabeth is to be attributed the introduction of a luxury, which has since become almost universal, the custom of using, or, as it was then called, of taking tobacco. This herb, which was first brought into England by Sir Francis Drake, about the year 1586, met with an early and violent opposition, and gave birth to a multitude of invectives and satires, among which the most celebrated is King James's "Counterblast to Tobacco." This monarch entertained the most rooted antipathy to the use of tobacco in any form, and closes his treatise by asserting that it is "a custom loathsome to the eye, hatefull to the nose, harmfull to the braine, dangerous to the lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stigian smoake of the pit that is bottomless."[135:B] He also [136]tells us in another work, that were he to invite the devil to a dinner, "he should have these three dishes—1. a pig; 2. a poole of ling and mustard; and 3. a pipe of tobacco for digesture."[136:A]

Tobacco may be said, indeed, to have made many inroads in domestic cleanliness, and, on this account, to have deservedly incurred the dislike of that large portion of the female sex on whom the charge of household economy devolved. "Surely," says James, "smoke becomes a kitchin farre better than a dining chamber," a remark which is as applicable now as it was then; but we cannot help smiling when he adds, with his usual credulity, "and yet it makes a kitchin also oftentimes in the inward parts of men, soyling and infecting them, with an unctuous and oily kind of soote, as hath bene found in some great Tobacco takers, that after their death were opened."[136:B]

Such were, indeed, the tales in common circulation among the lower orders, and which Ben Jonson has very humorously put into the mouth of Cob in Every Man in his Humour:—"By Gods me," says the water-bearer, "I marle what pleasure or felicity they have in taking this roguish tobacco! It's good for nothing but to choak a man, and fill him full of smoke and embers: there were four died out of one house last week with taking of it, and two more the bell went for yesternight; one of them, they say, will ne'er scape it; he voided a bushel of soot yesterday, upward and downward. By the stocks, an' there were no wiser men than I, I'd have it present whipping, man or woman, that should but deal with a tobacco-pipe; why, it will stifle them all in the end, as many as use it; it's little better than ratsbane or rosaker."[136:C]

It would appear that the prejudices against the use of this narcotic required much time for their extirpation; for Burton, who wrote about thirty years after its introduction, and at the very close of the [137]Shakspearean era, seems as violent against the common use of tobacco as even James himself:—"A good vomit," says he, "I confesse, a vertuous herbe, if it be well qualified, opportunely taken, and medicinally used, but as it is commonly used by most men, which take it as Tinkers do ale, 'tis a plague, a mischiefe, a violent purger of goods, lands, health, hellish, devilish damn'd tobacco, the ruine and overthrow of body and soule."[137:A]

Notwithstanding this abuse, however, and the edicts of King James forbidding its consumption in all ale-houses, tobacco soon acquired such general favour, that Stowe tells us in his Annals, "it was commonly used by most men and many women;" and James, appealing to his subjects, exclaims,—"Now how you are by this custome disabled in your goods, let the gentry of this land beare witnesse, some of them bestowing three, some foure hundred pounds a yeere upon this precious stinke[137:B];" a sum so enormous, that we must conclude them to have been as determined smokers as the Buckinghamshire parson recorded by Lilly, who "was so given over to tobacco and drink, that when he had no tobacco, he would cut the bell-ropes and smoke them!"[137:C]

Snuff-taking was as much in fashion as smoking; and the following passage from Decker proves, that the gallants of his day were as extravagant and ridiculous in their use of it as our modern beaux, whether we regard the splendour of their boxes, or their affectation in applying the contents; it appears also to have been customary to take snuff immediately before dinner. "Before the meat come smoking to the board, our gallant must draw out his tobacco-box, 'and' the ladle for the cold snuff into the nostril,—all which artillery may be of gold or silver, if he can reach to the price of it;—then let him shew his several tricks in taking it, as the whiff, the ring, &c. for these are complements that gain gentlemen no mean respect."[137:D] "It [138]is singular," remarks Dr. Nott, alluding to the general use of tobacco at this period, "when the introduction of this new indulgence had so engaged the pen of almost every cotemporary playwright and pamphleteer, nay, even of royalty itself, that Shakspeare should have been totally silent upon it."[138:A]

The residue of the Domestic Economy of this era may be included under the articles of servants and miscellaneous household arrangements.

In the days of Elizabeth servants were more numerous, and considered as a more essential mark of gentility, than at any subsequent period. "The English," observes Hentzner, "are lovers of shew, liking to be followed wherever they go by whole troops of servants, who wear their master's arms in silver, fastened to their left arms."[138:B] They were, also, usually distinguished by blue coats; thus Grumio, enquiring for his master's servants, says,—"Call forth Nathaniel, Joseph, Nicholas, Philip, Walter, Sugarsop, and the rest; let their heads be sleekly combed, their blue coats brushed."[138:C] We learn, however, from Fynes Moryson, that both silver badges and blue coats went out of fashion in the reign of James the First; "the servants of gentlemen," he informs us, "were wont to weare blew coates, with their master's badge of silver on the left sleeve, but now they most commonly weare clokes garded with lace, all the servants of one family wearing the same livery for colour and ornament."[138:D]

The very strict regulations to which servants were subjected in the sixteenth century, and the admirable order preserved in the household of the upper classes at that time, will be illustrated in a very satisfactory and entertaining manner, by the "Orders for Household Servantes; first devised by John Haryngton, in the yeare 1566, and renewed by John Haryngton, Sonne of the saide John, in [139]the yeare 1592: the saide John, the Sonne, being then High Shrieve of the County of Somerset."

"Imprimis, That no servant bee absent from praier, at morning or evening, without a lawfull excuse, to be alledged within one day after, upon payne to forfeit for every tyme 2d.

2. "Item, That none sweare any othe, uppon paine for every othe 1d.

3. "Item, That no man leave any doore open, that he findeth shut, without there bee cause, upon payne for every tyme 1d.

4. "Item, That none of the men be in bed, from our Lady-day to Michaelmas, after 6 of the clock in the morning: nor out of his bed after 10 of the clock at night; nor, from Michaelmas till our Lady-day, in bed after 7 in the morning; nor out after 9 at night, without reasonable cause, on paine of 2d.

5. "Item, That no man's bed be unmade, nor fire or candle-box uncleane, after 8 of the clock in the morning, on paine of 1d.

6. "Item, That no man make water within either of the courts, upon paine of, every tyme it shalbe proved, 1d.

7. "Item, That no man teach any of the children any unhonest speeche, or baudie word, or othe, on paine of 4d.

8. "Item, That no man waite at the table, without a trencher in his hand, except it be uppon some good cause, on paine of 1d.

9. "Item, That no man appointed to waite at my table, be absent that meale, without reasonable cause, on paine of 1d.

10. "Item, If any man breake a glasse, hee shall answer the price thereof out of his wages; and, if it bee not known who breake it, the buttler shall pay for it, on paine of 12d.

11. "Item, The table must bee covered halfe an hour before 11 at dinner, and 6 at supper, or before, on paine of 2d.

12. "Item, That meate bee readie at 11, or before, at dinner; and 6, or before, at supper, on paine of 6d.

13. "Item, That none be absent, without leave or good cause, the whole day, or any part of it, on paine of 4d.

[140]14. "Item, That no man strike his fellow, on paine of losse of service; nor revile or threaten, or provoke another to strike, on paine of 12d.

15. "Item, That no man come to the kitchen without reasonable cause, on paine of 1d. and the cook likewyse to forfeit 1d.

16. "Item, That none toy with the maids, on paine of 4d.

17. "Item, That no man weare foule shirt on Sunday, nor broken hose or shooes, or dublett without buttons, on paine of 1d.

18. "Item, That when any strainger goeth hence, the chamber be drest up againe within 4 hours after, on paine of 1d.

19. "Item, That the hall bee made cleane every day, by eight in the winter, and seaven in the sommer, on paine of him that should do it to forfet 1d.

20. "That the court-gate bee shutt each meale, and not opened during dinner and supper, without just cause, on paine the porter to forfet for every time 1d.

21. "Item, That all stayrs in the house, and other rooms that neede shall require, bee made cleane on Fryday after dinner, on paine of forfeyture of every on whome it shall belong unto, 3d.

"All which sommes shalbe duly paide each quarter-day out of their wages, and bestowed on the poore, or other godly use."[140:A]

To the tribe of household servants, must be added, as a constant inmate in the houses of the great, during the life of Shakspeare, and, indeed, to the close of the reign of Charles I., that motley personage, the Domestic Fool, who was an essential part of the entertainment of the fire-side, not only in the palace and the castle, but in the tavern and the brothel.

The character of the "all-licens'd fool" has been copied from the life, with his usual naïveté and precision, and with an inexhaustible fund of wit, in many of the plays of our poet; yet, perhaps, we shall no where find a more condensed and faithful picture of the [141]manners of this once indispensable source of domestic pleasantry, than what has been given us by Dr. Lodge:—"This fellow," says he, "in person is comely, in apparell courtly, but in behaviour a very ape, and no man; his studie is to coine bitter jeasts, or to shew antique motions, or to sing baudie sonnets and ballads: give him a little wine in his head, he is continually flearing and making of mouthes: he laughs intemperately at every little occasion, and dances about the house, leaps over tables, out-skips mens heads, trips up his companion's heeles, burns sack with a candle, and hath all the feats of a lord of misrule in the countrie: feed him in his humor, you shall have his heart, in meere kindnesse he will hug you in his armes, kisse you on the cheeke, and rapping out an horrible oth, crie God's soule Tum I love you, you know my poore heart, come to my chamber for a pipe of tabacco, there lives not a man in this world that I more honour. In these ceremonies you shall know his courting, and it is a speciall mark of him at the table, he sits and makes faces."[141:A]

On the passages in this quotation distinguished by Italics, it will be necessary to offer a brief comment. From Shakspeare we learn that the apparel of the domestic fool was of two kinds; he had either a parti-coloured coat fastened round the body by a girdle, with close breeches, and hose on each leg of different colours; or he wore a long petticoat dyed with curious tints, and fringed with yellow. With both dresses was generally connected a hood, covering the whole head, falling over part of the breast and shoulders, and surmounted with asses ears, or a cocks-comb. Bells and a bauble were the usual insignia of the character; the former either attached to the elbows, [142]or the skirt of the coat, and the latter, consisting of a stick, decorated at one end with a carved fool's head, and having at the other an inflated bladder, an instrument either of sport or defence.

Bitter jests, provided they were so dressed up, or so connected with adjunctive circumstances, as to raise a laugh, were at all times allowed; but it was moreover expected, that their keenness or bitterness should be also allayed by a due degree of obliquity in the mode of attack, by a careless, and, apparently, undesigning manner of delivery, and by a playful and frolic demeanour. For these purposes, fragments of sonnets and ballads were usually chosen by the fool, as a safe medium through which the necessary degree of concealment might be given, and the edge of his sarcasm duely abated; a practice of which Shakspeare has afforded us many instances, and especially in his Fool in King Lear, whose scraps of old songs fully exemplify the aim and scope of this favourite of our ancestors.[142:A]

A few household arrangements, in addition to those developed in Sir John Harrington's orders, shall terminate this branch of our subject.

We have seen, when treating of the domestic economy of the country squire, that it was usual to take their banquet or dessert, in an arbour of the garden or orchard; and in town, the nobility and gentry, immediately after dinner and supper, adjourned to another room, for the purpose of enjoying their wine and fruit; this practice is alluded to by Shakspeare, in Romeo and Juliet[142:B]; and Beaufort, in the Unnatural Combat of Massinger, says:—

"We'll dine in the great room, but let the musick
And banquet be prepared here;"[142:C]

[143]a custom which it is astonishing the delicacy and refinement of modern manners have not generally adopted.

As our ancestors, during the greater part of the period we are considering, possessed not the conveniency of eating with forks, and were, therefore, compelled to make use of their fingers, it became an essential point of good manners, to wash the hands immediately before dinner and supper, as well as afterwards: thus Petruchio, on the entrance of his servants with supper, says, addressing his wife,—

"Come, Kate, and wash, and welcome heartily."[143:A]

In the fifteenth item of Harrington's Orders, we find that no man was allowed to come to the kitchen without reasonable cause, an injunction which may appear extraordinary; but, in those days, it was customary, in order to prevent the cook being disturbed in his important duties, to keep the rest of the men aloof, and, when dinner was ready, he summoned them to carry it on the table, by knocking loudly on the dresser with his knife: thus in Massinger's Unnatural Combat, Beaufort's steward says,—

"When the dresser, the cook's drum, thunders, Come on,
The service will be lost else;"[143:B]

a practice which gave rise to the phraseology, he knocks to the dresser, or, he warns to the dresser, as synonymous with the annunciation that, "dinner is ready."

It was usual, also, especially where the domestic fool was retained, to keep an ape or a monkey, as a companion for him, and he is frequently represented with this animal on his shoulders. Monkeys, likewise, appear to have been an indispensable part of a lady's establishment, and, accordingly, Ben Jonson, in his Cynthia's Revels, [144]represents one of his characters as asserting, "the gentleman (I'll undertake with him) is a man of fair living, and able to maintain a lady in her two caroches a day, besides pages, monkeys, parachitoes, with such attendants as she shall think meet for her turn."[144:A]

Beside monkeys and parachitoes, this quotation also proves, that caroches, a species of coach, were common in 1600, when Jonson's play was first acted. The coach and caroch, vehicles differing probably rather in size than form, are thus distinguished by Green, who in his Tu Quoque, 1641, speaks of

——————— "the keeping of a coach
For country, and caroch for London;"[144:B]

and, indeed, in 1595, they seem to have been equally general, for the author of Quippes for upstart newfangled Gentlewemen, says:—

"Our wantons now in coaches dash
From house to house, from street to street."[144:C]

The era of their introduction into this country has been recorded by Taylor, the water-poet. "In the year 1564," he remarks, "one William Boonen, a Dutchman, brought first the use of coaches hither, and the said Boonen was Queene Elizabeth's coachman; for indeede a coach was a strange monster in those days, and the sight of it put both horse and man into amazement: some said it was a great crab shell brought out of China, and some imagined it to be one of the Pagan Temples, in which the Cannibals adored the divell; but at last those doubts were cleared, and coach-making became a substantial trade."[144:D]

So substantial, indeed, had this trade become in 1601, that on the 7th of November of the same year, an act was introduced into the House of Lords, "to restrain the excessive and superfluous use of [145]coaches, within this realm[145:A];" it was rejected, however, on the second reading, and the trade of coach-making went on progressively increasing.

The extravagancy of domestic economy, with regard to these machines, and the servants who were deemed necessary, as their accompaniment, is strikingly depicted in the following extract from a letter written shortly after their marriage, by Lady Compton, to her husband, William Lord Compton, a few years subsequent to the death of Shakspeare. After several items equally moderate with those we are going to transcribe, she thus proceeds:—"Alsoe, I will have 6 or 8 gentlemen; and I will have my twoe coaches, one lyned with velvett to myselfe, wth 4 very fayre horses, and a coache for my woemen, lyned wth sweete cloth, one laced wth gold, the other wth scarlett, and laced with watched lace and silver, wth 4 good horses. Alsoe, I will have twoe coachmen, one for my owne coache, the other for my women. Alsoe, att any tyme when I travayle, I will be allowed not only carroches, and spare horses for me and my women, but I will have such carryadgs, as shal be fittinge for all orderly; not pestringe my things wth my woemens, nor theirs wth either chambermayds, or theirs wth wase maids. Alsoe, for laundresses, when I travayle I will have them sent away before wth the carryadgs to see all safe, and the chambermayds I will have goe before wth the groomes, that a chamber may be ready, sweete and cleane. Alsoe, for that yt is indecent to croud upp myself wth my gentl. usher in my coache, I will have him to have a convenyent horse to attend me either in citty or country. And I must have 2 footemen. And my desire is, that you defray all the chardges for me."[145:B]

Of the Manners and Customs of this period, the next branch of our present enquiry, we shall open a short review, by sketching the prominent features of Elizabeth's personal character, which must, [146]necessarily, have had great influence, not only on her courtiers, but on society at large. As a monarch, she was, with few exceptions, truly worthy of admiration; but, as a woman, she often exhibits such a series of weaknesses and frailties, as must excite astonishment, as well from the force of contrast, as from their own turpitude and folly.

The most valuable and praise-worthy part of her private character, her literary accomplishments, her love of learning, and her encouragement of letters, together with the influence which they exerted over the minds of her subjects, have been considered, at some length, in the first volume of this work[146:A]; and to the favourable side of the picture, we must here add, that she was equally eminent for some acquirements more peculiarly feminine. Among these, her skill in needle-work has been more than once particularly celebrated, her excellence in which stimulated the ladies of her reign to more than ordinary exertion in this useful department. "The various kinds of needle-work practised by our indefatigable grandmothers," observes Mr. Douce, "if enumerated, would astonish even the most industrious of our modern ladies;" and he adds, that "many curious books of patterns for lace and all sorts of needle-work were formerly published."[146:B]

But this rare example, in a monarch, of industry and economy, and the still more important acquisitions of literature and science, [147]were overwhelmed by a host of foibles, among which, none were more remarkable than her extreme vanity and coquetry, and at a period too, when she had reason to expect, from her infirmities, and the common law of nature, that death was not far distant. To be thought beautiful, young, and agile, and an object of amorous affection, to the last moment of her existence, seems to have been her chief ambition as a woman; nor could any language on these topics, when addressed to her, be too complimentary, amatory, or glowing. When sixty years of age, Raleigh thus speaks of her, in a letter intended for her perusal:—"I that was wont to see her riding like Alexander, hunting like Diana, walking like Venus, the gentle wind blowing her fair hair about her pure cheeks, like a nymph, sometimes sitting in the shade, like a goddess, sometimes singing like an angel, sometimes playing like Orpheus; behold the sorrow of this world! once amiss hath bereaved me of all[147:A];" and when sixty-eight, Lord Mountjoy, Lord Deputy of Ireland, thus addresses her:—"When I have done all that I can, the uttermost effects of my labours doe appeare so little to my owne zeale to doe more, that I am often ashamed to present them unto your faire and royall eyes. I beseeche your Majestie to thinke, that in a matter of so great importance, my affection will not suffer me to commit so grosse a fault against your service, as to doe any thing, for the which I am not able to give you a very good account, the which above all things, I desire to do at your owne royall feete, and that your service here, may give me leave to fill my eyes with their onely deere and desired object."[147:B] It was at the same advanced period of life, too, when the sister of Lord Essex, interceding for her brother's life, tells Her Majesty,—"Early did I hope this morning, to have had mine eyes blessed with your majesty's beauty.—That her brother's life, his love, his service to her beauties, did not deserve so hard a punishment. That he would be disabled [148]from ever serving again his sacred goddess! whose excellent beauties and perfections ought to feel more compassion."[148:A]

Her affectation of youth, in order to render language such as this somewhat appropriate, was carried to the most ridiculous excess; "there is almost none," remarks Harrington, "that wayted in Queene Elizabeth's court, and observed any thing, but can tell that it pleased her much to seeme and to be thought, and to be told, that she looked younge;" and he then relates, in illustration of his assertion, that when Bishop Rudd preached before the Queen, in Lent, 1596, after giving an arithmetical description, with a manifest allusion to Her Majesty, of the grand climacterical year, he put a prayer into the mouth of the Queen, in which she is represented as quoting, with reference to herself, the following passage from Ecclesiastes: When the grinders shall be few in number, and they wax darke that looke out of the windowes, &c., and the daughters of singing shall be abased; but, the sermon being concluded, "the Queene (as the manner was) opened the window, (of her closet) but she was so far from giving him thanks, or good countenance, that she said plainly, 'he should have kept his arithmetick for himselfe; but I see (said she) the greatest clerks are not the wisest men;' and so went away for the time discontented." Three days afterwards, however, she declared before Harrington and her courtiers, that "the good bishop was deceaved in supposing she was so decayed in her limbs and senses, as himselfe, perhaps, and other of that age are wont to be; she thankt God that neither her stomache nor strength, nor her voyce for singing, nor fingering for instruments, nor lastly, her sight was any whit decayed."[148:B]

Her strength and agility, she endeavoured to prove, were not diminished, by dancing, or attempting to dance, to nearly the end of her reign. Being present at Lord Herbert's marriage, in 1600, after supper, dancing commenced by ladies and gentlemen in masques; [149]and Mrs. Fetton, one of the masquers, "went to the Queen, and woed her to dawnce. Her Majesty asked what she was? Affection, she said. Affection, said the Queen, is false. Yet her Majestie rose and dawnced!"[149:A] She was now in her sixty-ninth year!

Nor was she less artful than vain; cunning and finesse might be often necessary in her political capacity, but she carried the same wiliness and duplicity into all the relations of private life. Sir John Harrington has admirably drawn her disposition in these respects, and has painted her blandishments, her mutability of temper, and her deceptive conduct, with a masterly pencil. "Hir mynde," he observes, "was oftime like the gentle aire that comethe from the westerly pointe in a summer's morn; 'twas sweete and refreshinge to all arounde her:—again, she coulde pute forthe suche alteracions,—as lefte no doubtynges whose daughter she was.—By art and nature together so blended, it was difficulte to fynde hir right humour at any tyme;—for few knew how to aim their shaft against her cunning.—I have seen her smile," he adds, "soothe with great semblance of good likinge to all arounde, and cause everie one to open his moste inwarde thought to her; when, on a sudden, she would ponder in pryvate on what had passed, write down all their opinions, draw them out as occasion required, and sometyme disprove to their faces what had been delivered a month before. Hence she knew every one's parte, and by thus fishinge, as Hatton sayed, she caught many poor fish, who little knew what snare was laid for them."[149:B]

Of her boundless inclination to circumvent and deceive, a most ludicrous instance is related by Sir Arthur Wheldon, who tells us, that when Sir Roger Aston was sent with letters from James to the Queen (which was often the case), "he did never come to deliver any—but he was placed in the Lobby; the hangings being turned him, (lifted up) where he might see the Queene dancing to a little fiddle, which was to no other end, than he should tell his master by her [150]youthfull disposition, how likely he was to come to the possession of the Crown he so much thirsted after."[150:A]

Extreme jealousy was another leading feature in the manners of Elizabeth, which, far from being the result of her exalted rank, was, indeed, most apparent in her domestic life and relations. She could bear no female near her who, in beauty, accomplishments, or dress, was likely either to surpass or rival her; and the death of the unfortunate Mary may be attributed rather to an inextinguishable envy of her personal charms, than to any apprehensions of the establishment of her claim to the throne of England. How anxious she was to be thought more beautiful and accomplished than her sister Queen, is vividly delineated by Sir John Melvill, who, in his numerous interviews with Elizabeth, during his residence in London, describes her as changing her dress for him every day; as dancing before him, and playing on the virginals, merely for the purpose of ascertaining whether he thought she or Mary most excelled in dress, dancing, and music. She even went so far as to enquire, whether he considered her hair or his mistress's to be the fairest and most entitled to admiration, and, at length, asked him which was tallest, and, on his answering, that the Scottish Queen surpassed her in height,—"Then," saith she, "she is too high; for I myself am neither too high, nor too low[150:B]."

Nothing is better known in our history than Elizabeth's personal chastisement of the unhappy Earl of Essex; and so little, indeed, was she accustomed, on any occasion, to the control of her passions, that her courtiers daily dreaded similar inflictions. "The Queene seemede troubled to daye," says Harrington; "Hatton came out from her presence with ill countenance, and pulled me aside by the girdle, and saide, in secret waie, 'If you have any suite to daie, I praye you put it aside, The sunne doth not shine.' 'Tis this accursede Spanishe businesse; so [151]will not I adventure her Highnesse choller, leste she shoulde collar me also."[151:A]

Even in the expression of her dislike on such trivial matters as the cut of a coat, or the depth of a fringe, she spared neither the public exposure of her courtiers, nor the adoption of the most masculine and vindictive contempt. "The Queene loveth to see me," says Sir John Harrington, "in my laste frize jerkin, and saithe 'tis well enough cutt. I will have another made liken to it. I do remember she spit on Sir Mathew's fringed clothe, and said, the fooles wit was gone to ragges.—Heav'n spare me from suche jibinge."[151:B]

If such petulant and rough treatment fell to the lot of her courtiers in public, we may rest assured, that in private, her domestics, and ladies of honour, experienced not a milder fate. Manual correction, indeed, we are told, was a frequent resource with Her Majesty, and even when chiding for "small neglects," Fenton tells us, in a letter to Sir John Harrington, dated May, 1597, that it was "in such wise, as to make these fair maids often cry and bewail in piteous sort."[151:C] In short, to adopt the language of Sir Robert Cecil, who had an intimate knowledge both of her public and private character, she "was more than a man, and (in troth) sometyme less than a woman."[151:D]

Elizabeth, indeed, possessed many qualities of the most exalted rank, and her courage, magnanimity, prudence, and political wisdom, were such as to redeem the foibles which we have enumerated. They were virtues, of which her successor was totally destitute; for the manners of James may be truly painted by the epithets, frivolity, pusillanimity, extravagance, pedantry, and credulity.

Some of the most striking traits in his character have been drawn with great strength and vivacity in Sir John Harrington's description of an interview with this monarch, in January, 1607:—"He enquyrede," says he, "muche of lernynge, and showede me his owne in suche [152]sorte, as made me remember my examiner at Cambridge aforetyme. He soughte muche to knowe my advances in philosophie, and utterede profounde sentences of Aristotle, and suche lyke wryters, whiche I had never reade, and which some are bolde enoughe to saye, others do not understand: but this I must passe by. The Prince did nowe presse my readinge to him parte of a canto in Ariosto; praysede my utterance, and said he had been informede of manie, as to my lernynge, in the tyme of the Queene. He asked me 'what I thoughte pure witte was made of; and whom it did best become?' Whether a Kynge shoulde not be the best clerke in his own countrie; and, if this lande did not entertayne goode opinion of his lernynge and good wisdome?' His Majestie did much presse for my opinion touchinge the power of Satane in matter of witchcraft; and askede me, with muche gravitie,—'If I did trulie understande, why the devil did worke more with anciente women than others?' I did not refraine from a scurvey jeste, and even saide (notwithstandinge to whom it was said) that—we were taught hereof in scripture, where it is tolde, that the devil walketh in dry places.—His Highnesse tolde me the Queene his mothers deathe was visible in Scotlande before it did really happen, being, as he saide, 'spoken of in secrete by those whose power of sight presentede to them a bloodie heade dancinge in the aire.' He then did remarke muche on this gifte, and saide he had soughte out of certaine bookes a sure waie to attaine knowledge of future chances. Hereat, he namede many bookes, which I did not knowe, nor by whom written; but advisede me not to consult some authors which woulde leade me to evill consultations—at lengthe he saide: Now, Sir, you have seene my wisdome in some sorte, and I have pried into yours. I praye you, do me justice in your reporte, and in good season, I will not fail to add to your understandinge, in suche pointes as I maye find you lacke amendment."[152:A] This is an extract which lays open the heart of James, and speaks volumes on the subject.

[153]The manners of the reigning monarch imperceptibly give a colouring to those of every class of society, stronger in proportion to its approximation to the source; a remark which is fully exemplified in the females of the reign of Elizabeth, those especially who constituted, or were near, the court, copying, according to their ability, the virtues, accomplishments, and foibles of the Queen. They were learned, skilled in needle-work, and wrote a beautiful hand, in emulation of the Queen's, which, in the earlier period of her life, was peculiarly elegant; but they were, also, vain, capricious, and in their habits and language often masculine and coarse. It was customary for ladies of the first rank to give manual correction to their servants of both sexes; a practice of which Shakspeare has given us an instance in his Twelfth-Night, where Maria, alluding to Malvolio's whimsical appearance, says, "I know my lady will strike him."[153:A] Nor were often their daily occupations, or their language, when provoked, in the least degree more feminine; we are told that Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, "was a builder, a buyer and seller of estates, a money lender, a farmer, and a merchant of lead, coals and timber;" and her daughter Mary, who married Gilbert, seventh Earl of Shrewsbury, sent the following message to Sir Thomas Stanhope, with whom she had quarrelled, by one George Williamson, which message was "delivered by the said Williamson, February 15, 1592, in the presence of certain persons whose names were subscribed—'My Lady hath commanded me to say thus much to you. That though you be more wretched, vile, and miserable, than any creature living; and, for your wickedness, become more ugly in shape than the vilest toad in the world; and one to whom none of reputation would vouchsafe to send any message; yet she hath thought good to send thus much to you—that she be contented you should live, (and doth nowaies wish your death) but to this end: that all the plagues and miseries that may befall any man may light upon such a caitiff as you are; [154]and that you should live to have all your friends forsake you; and, without your great repentance, which she looketh not for because your hath been so bad, you will be damned perpetually in hell fire.' With many other opprobrious and hatefull words, which could not be remembered, because the bearer would deliver it but once, as he said he was commanded; but said if he had failed in any thing, it was in speaking it more mildly, and not in terms of such disdain as he was commanded."[154:A]

Of the male population of this period, the manners seem to have been compounded from the characters of the two sovereigns. Like Elizabeth, they were brave, magnanimous, and prudent; and sometimes, like James, credulous, curious, and dissipated. On the virtues, happily from their notoriety, there is little occasion to comment; foreigners, as well as natives, bearing testimony to their existence: thus Hentzner tells us,—"The English are serious, like the Germans;—they are powerful in the field, successful against their enemies, impatient of any thing like slavery."[154:B] But of the foibles and vices, as more evanescent and mutable, it may be interesting to state a few particulars.

Of the credulity and superstition which abounded during this era, and which had been fostered by the weakness of James, a sufficient detail has already been given in a former part of this work; and we shall here merely add, that Alchemistry was one of the foolish pursuits of the day. Scot, who has devoted the fourteenth book of his treatise on the "Discoverie of Witchcraft," to this subject, tells us that the admirable description given by Chaucer of this folly, in his Chanones Yemannes prologue and tale, still strictly applied to its cultivators in 1584, who continued to

—————————— "looke ill-favouredlie,
And were alwaies tired beggarlie,
[155]So as by smelling and thredbare araie,
These folke are knowne and discerned alwaie."[155:A]

An insatiable curiosity for seeing strange sights, and hearing strange adventures, together with an eager desire for visiting foreign countries, prevailed in an extraordinary degree during the age of Shakspeare, who has, in several parts of his works, satirized these propensities with much humour. In the Tempest, for instance, he has held up to scorn the first of these foibles in an admirable strain of sarcasm:—"A strange fish! Were I in England now, (as once I was,) and had but this fish painted, not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of silver; there would this monster make a man; any strange beast there makes a man: when they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian[155:B];" a passage which Mr. Douce has very appositely illustrated by a quotation from Batman. "Of late years," says the Gothic Pliny, "there hath been brought into England, the cases or skinnes of such crocodiles to be seene, and much money given for the sight thereof; the policy of strangers laugh at our folly, either that we are too wealthy, or else that we know not how to bestow our money."[155:C]

Of the influence arising from the relation of strange adventures, we have a striking proof in the character of Othello, who won the affections of his mistress by the detail of his "hair-breadth scapes:"—

"Wherein of antres vast, and desarts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose head touch heaven
It was 'his' hint to speak."[155:D]

It appears, indeed, that the conversation of this period very frequently turned upon the wonderful discoveries of travellers, whose [156]voyages to, and travels in the New World then occupied much of the public attention. Exaggeration, from a love of importance, too often accompanied these narratives, a licence which our poet has happily ridiculed in the following lines:—

—————————————— "When we were boys,
Who would believe that there were mountaineers
Dew-lapp'd like bulls, whose throats had hanging at them
Wallets of flesh? or that there were such men,
Whose heads stood in their breasts? which now we find
Each putter-out on five for one, will bring us
Good warrant of."[156:A]

The close of this passage alludes to a practice then common among the numerous travellers of those times, of putting out their money, especially when about to undertake a long and hazardous journey, for the purpose of receiving exorbitant interest on their return; a custom which, Moryson informs us, originated among the nobility, but before 1617 had become frequent even with men of base condition.[156:B] Thus we find Ben Jonson, in 1599, representing Puntarvolo, in Every Man out of his Humour, disclosing such a scheme:—"I do intend," says he, "this year of jubilee coming on, to travel: and, because I will not altogether go upon expence, I am determined to put forth some five thousand pound, to be paid me five for one, upon the return of myself, my wife, and my dog from the Turk's court in Constantinople. If all or either of us miscarry in the journey, 'tis gone: if we be successful, why there will be five and twenty thousand pound to entertain time withal."[156:C]

To such a height had this passion for travelling attained, that those who were not able to accomplish a distant expedition, crossed over to France or Italy, and gave themselves as many airs on their return, as if they had been to the antipodes; a species of affectation which Shakspeare acutely satirizes in the following terms:—"Farewell, [157]monsieur traveller; look, you lisp, and wear strange suits; disable all the benefits of your own country; be out of love with your nativity, and almost chide God for making you that countenance you are; or I will scarce think you have swam in a gondola."[157:A]

An equally severe castigation has been bestowed on these superficial ramblers, in Observations and Discourses, published by Edward Blount, in 1620, who informs us, that their discourse made them every where ridiculous. "The name of English gelding," he adds, "frights them; and thence they take occasion to fall into the commendation of a mule, or an ass. A pasty of venison makes them sweat, and then swear that the only delicacies be mushrooms, or caveare, or snails. A toast in beer or ale drives them into madness; and so to declaim against the absurd and ignorant customs of their own country, and thereupon digress into the commendation of drinking their wine refreshed with ice or snow."

The pernicious habit of gaming had become almost universal in the days of Elizabeth, and, if we may credit George Whetstone, had reached a prodigious degree of excess. Speaking of the licentiousness of the stage previous to the appearance of Shakspeare, he adds,—"But there are in the bowels of this famous citie, farre more daungerous plays, and little reprehended: that wicked playes of the dice, first invented by the devill, (as Cornelius Agrippa wryteth,) and frequented by unhappy men: the detestable roote, upon which a thousand villanies grow.

"The nurses of thease (worse than heathenysh) hellish exercises are places called ordinary tables: of which there are in London, more in nomber to honour the devyll, than churches to serve the living God.

"I cõstantly determine to crosse the streets, where these vile houses (ordinaries) are planted, to blesse me from the inticements of them, which in very deed are many, and the more dangerous in that [158]they please with a vain hope of gain. Insomuch on a time, I heard a distemperate dicer solemnly sweare that he faithfully beleeved, that dice were first made of the bones of a witch, and cards of her skin, in which there hath ever sithence remained an inchantment yt whosoever once taketh delight in either, he shall never have power utterly to leave them, for quoth he, I a hundred times vowed to leave both, yet have not the grace to forsake either."[158:A]

No opportunity for the practice of this ruinous habit seems to have been omitted, and we find the modern mode of gambling, by taking the odds, to have been fully established towards the latter end of the sixteenth century; for Gilbert Talbot, writing to his father, the Earl of Shrewsbury, on May the 15th, 1579, after informing His Lordship, that the matter of the Queen's marriage with Monsieur "is growne very colde," subjoins, "and yet I know a man may take a thousande pounds, in this towne, to be bounde to pay doble so muche when Monsr. cum̃ethe into Inglande, and treble so muche when he marryethe the Q. Matie., and if he nether doe the one nor the other, to gayne the thousande poundes cleare."[158:B]

Duelling, at this period, from its frequency, had given rise to a complicated system of rules for its regulation, and to fixed schools for its practice and improvement. The "Noble Science of Defence," as it was called, included three degrees, a Master's, a Provost's, and a Scholar's, and for each of these a regular prize was played. In order, also, to obviate disputes, "four Ancient Masters of Defence" were constituted, who resided "in the city of London," and to whom not only difficult points of honour were referred, but tribute was likewise paid by all inferior professors of the science.

Nor were books wanting to explain, and to adjust, the causes, and the modes of quarrelling. Of these the two most celebrated were [159]written by Saviolo and Caranza, authors who are repeatedly mentioned by Shakspeare, Jonson, and Fletcher. The absurd minuteness of Saviolo's treatise, entitled, Of Honour and honourable Quarrels, 4to. 1595, has been ridiculed with exquisite humour in As You Like It, where Touchstone says

"O sir, we quarrel in print, by the book;—we met, and found the quarrel was upon the seventh cause.

Jaq. How did you find the quarrel on the seventh cause?

Touch. Upon a lie seven times removed;—as thus: I did dislike the cut of a certain courtier's beard; he sent me word, if I said his beard was not cut well, he was in the mind it was: This is called the Retort courteous. If I sent him word again, it was not well cut, he would send me word, he cut it to please himself: This is called the Quip modest. If again, it was not well cut, he disabled my judgment: This is call'd the Reply churlish. If again, it was not well cut, he would answer, I spake not true: This is call'd the Reproof valiant. If again, it was not well cut, he would say, I lie: This is called the Countercheck quarrelsome: and so to the Lie circumstantial, and the Lie direct.—All these you may avoid, but the lie direct; and you may avoid that too, with an If. I knew when seven justices could not take up a quarrel; but when the parties were met themselves, one of them thought but of an If, as, If you said so, then I said so; and they shook hands, and swore brothers. Your If is the only peace-maker; much virtue in If."[159:A]

Nor is this much exaggerated; for Saviolo has a chapter on the Diversity of Lies, and enumerates the Lie certain, the conditional Lie, the Lie in general, the Lie in particular, the foolish Lie, and the returning back of the Lie.

A taste for gossipping, as well amongst the male as female sex, was more than usually prevalent at this epoch. An anonymous writer of 1620, speaking of male gossips, describes their trifling and vexatiously intrusive manners, in a way which leads us to conclude, that the evil was severely felt, and of great magnitude:—"It is a wonder," says he, "to see what multitudes there be of all sorts that make this their only business, and in a manner spend their whole time in compliment; as if they were born to no other end, bred to no other purpose, had nothing else to do, than to be a kind of living walking ghosts, to haunt and persecute others with unnecessary observation.—

[160]"If these giddy goers be forced to give a reason for their wheeling up and down the streets, their answer is, they know not else how to pass their time. And how tedious it is, for a man that accounts his hours, to be subject to these vacancies, and apply himself to lose a day with such time-passers; who neither come for business, nor out of true friendship, but only to spend the day; as if one had nothing else to do, but to supply their idle time!—

"After they have asked you how you do, and told some old or fabulous news, laughed twice or thrice in your face, and censured those they know you love not (when, peradventure, the next place they go to, is to them—where they will be as courteous to you); spoke a few words of fashions and alterations;—made legs and postures of the last edition; with three or four diminutive oaths and protestations of their service and observance; they then retire."

The diminutive oaths, mentioned at the close of this quotation, were, unfortunately, considered as ornaments of conversation, and adopted by both sexes, in order to give spirit and vivacity to their language; a shocking practice, which seems to have been rendered fashionable by the very reprehensible habit of the Queen, whose oaths were neither diminutive nor rare; for it is said, that she never spared an oath in public speech or private conversation when she thought it added energy to either. After this example in the highest classes, we need not be surprised when Stubbes tells us, speaking of the great body of the people, that, "if they speake but three or four words, yet they must be interlaced with a bloudie oath or two."

These abominable expletives appear to have formed no small share of the language of compliment, a species of simulation which was carried to an extraordinary height in the days of our poet: thus Marston, describing the finished gallant, says,—

———————— "Marke nothing but his clothes,
His new stampt complement, his cannon oathes;
Marke those."[160:A]

[161]Decker, apostrophising the courtiers of his day, and playing upon a term of Guido's musical scale, exclaims,—"You courtiers, that do nothing but sing the gamut A-Re of complimental courtesy[161:A];" and Shakspeare, painting this

———— "sweet, sweet poison for the age's tooth."

represents the Bastard in his King John, thus addressing a travelled fop:—

—————————————— "My dear sir,
(Thus leaning on mine elbow, I begin,)
I shall beseech you—That is question now;
And then comes answer like an A B C book:—
O sir, says answer, at your best command;
At your employment; at your service, sir:—
No, sir, says question, I, sweet sir, at yours:
And so, ere answer knows what question would,
(Saving in dialogue of compliment;
And talking of the Alps, and Appennines,
The Pyrenean, and the river Po,)
It draws toward supper."[161:B]

"What a deal of synamon and ginger is sacrificed to dissimulation," observes Sir William Cornwallis in 1601, "O, how blessed do I take mine eyes for presenting me with this sight! O Signior, the star that governs my life is contentment, give me leave to interre myself in your arms!—Not so, sir, it is too unworthy an inclosure to contain such preciousness, &c. This, and a cup of drink, makes the time as fit for a departure as can be."[161:C]

A peculiar species of compliment existed among the scientific and literary characters of our author's times, in permitting those who looked up to them with reverence and esteem, to address them by the endearing appellation of Father; adopting them, in fact, as their literary offspring, and designating them, in their works, by the title of [162]sons. In conformity with this custom, Ben Jonson adopted not less than twelve or fourteen persons for his sons, among whom were, Cartright, Randolph, Brome, &c.; and the practice continued to be observed until the end of the seventeenth century; for in 1676, Charles Cotton dedicated his Complete Angler to his "most worthy father and friend, Mr. Izaak Walton, the elder;" and says in the body of his work, "he gives me leave to call him Father, and I hope is not yet ashamed of his Adopted Son."[162:A]

This complimental paternity Shakspeare has introduced in his Troilus and Cressida, where Ajax, addressing Nestor, says,—"Shall I call you father?" to which the venerable Grecian replies, "Ay, my good son."[162:B]

To this sketch of manners, we shall add a brief account of some customs, which more peculiarly belong to the province of Police, commencing with the inaugural ceremonies attendant on the Lord Mayor's entrance on the duties of his office. The pageantry and magnificence which once accompanied this periodical assumption of power, may be estimated from the following description, taken from a manuscript, written in 1575:—

"The day of St. Simon and Jude he (the Mayor) entrethe into his estate and offyce: and the next daie following he goeth by water to Westmynster, in most tryumplyke maner. His barge beinge garnished with the armes of the citie: and nere the sayd barge goeth a shyppbote of the Queenes Matie, beinge trymed upp, and rigged lyke a shippe of warre, with dyvers peces of ordinance, standards, penons, and targetts of the proper armes of the sayd Mayor, the armes of the Citie, of his company; and of the marchaunts adventurers, or of the staple, or of the company of the newe trades; next before hym goeth the barge of the lyvery of his owne company, decked with their owne proper armes, then the bachelers barge, and so all the companies in London, in order, every one havinge their owne proper barge [163]garnished with the armes of their company. And so passinge alonge the Thamise, landeth at Westmynster, where he taketh his othe in Thexcheker, beffore the judge there, (whiche is one of the chiefe judges of England,) whiche done, he returneth by water as afforsayd, and landeth at powles wharfe, where he and the reste of the Aldermen take their horses, and in great pompe passe through the greate streete of the citie, called Cheapside. And fyrste of all cometh ij great estandarts, one havinge the armes of the citie, and the other the armes of the Mayor's company; next them ij drommes and a flute, then an ensigne of the citie, and then about lxx or lxxx poore men marchinge ij and two togeather in blewe gownes, with redd sleeves and capps, every one bearinge a pyke and a target, wheron is paynted the armes of all them that have byn Mayor of the same company that this newe mayor is of. Then ij banners one of the kynges armes, the other of the Mayor's owne proper armes. Then a sett of hautboits playinge, and after them certayne wyfflers, in velvett cotes, and chaynes of golde, with white staves in their handes, then the pageant of tryumphe rychly decked, whereuppon by certayne fygures and wrytinges, some matter touchinge justice, and the office of a maiestrate is represented. Then xvj trompeters viij and viij in a company, havinge banners of the Mayor's company. Then certayne wyfflers in velvet cotes and chaynes, with white staves as aforesayde. Then the bachelers ij, and two together, in longe gownen, with crymson hoodes on their shoulders of sattyn; which bachelers are chosen every yeare of the same company that the Mayor is of, (but not of the lyvery,) and serve as gentlemen on that and other festivall daies, to wayte on the Mayor, beinge in nomber accordinge to the quantetie of the company, sometimes sixty or one hundred. After them xij trompeters more, with banners of the Mayor's company, then the dromme and flute of the citie, and an ensigne of the Mayor's company, and after, the waytes of the citie in blewe gownes, redd sleeves and cappes, every one havinge his silver coller about his neck. Then they of the liverey in their longe gownes, every one havinge his hood on his lefte shoulder, halfe black and [164]halfe redd, the nomber of them is accordinge to the greatnes of the companye whereof they are. After them followe Sheriffes officers, and then the Mayor's officers, with other officers of the citie, as the comon sargent, and the chamberlayne; next before the Mayore goeth the sword-bearer, having on his headd, the cappe of honor, and the sworde of the citie in his right hande, in a riche skabarde, sett with pearle, and on his left hand goeth the comon cryer of the citie, with his great mace on his shoulder, all gilt. The Mayor hathe on a long gowne of skarlet, and on his lefte shoulder, a hood of black velvet, and a riche coller of gold of SS. about his neck, and with him rydeth the olde Mayor also, in his skarlet gowne, hood of velvet, and a chayne of golde about his neck. Then all the Aldermen ij and ij together, (amongst whom is the Recorder), all in skarlet gownes; and those that have byn Mayors, have chaynes of gold, the other have black velvett tippetts. The ij Shereffes come last of all, in their black skarlet gownes and chaynes of golde.

"In this order they passe alonge through the citie, to the Guyldhall, where they dyne that daie, to the number of 1000 persons, all at the charge of the Mayor and the ij Shereffes. This feast costeth 400l., whereof the Mayor payeth 200l., and eche of the Shereffes 100l. Imediately after dyner, they go the churche of St. Paule, every one of the aforesaid poore men, bearrynge staffe torches and targetts, whiche torches are lighted when it is late, before they come from evenynge prayer."[164:A]

Had the police of the city been as strictly regulated, as were the ceremonies attending the inauguration of its chief magistrate, the inhabitants of London, in Queen Elizabeth's days, would have had little cause of complaint, with regard to personal protection; but, [165]though the Statutes of the Streets were numerous and rigid, and sometimes ridiculously minute, for No. 22. enacts, that "no man shall blowe any horne in the night, within this citie, or whistle after the houre of nyne of the clock in the night, under paine of imprisonment[165:A]," yet they were so ill executed, that, even in the day-time, disturbances of the most atrocious kind were deemed matters of common occurrence. Thus Gilbert Talbot and his wife, writing to the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury, consider the following acts of violence as trifling matters:—"On Thursday laste, (Feb. 13th, 1587,) as my Lorde Rytche was rydynge in the streates, there was one Wyndam that stode in a dore, and shotte a dagge at him, thynkynge to have slayne him; but God p˜vyded so for my L. Rytche, that this Wyndam apoyntynge his servante yt mornynge to charge his dagge wth II bulletts, the fellow, doubtinge he mente to doe sum myschefe wth it, charged it only wth powder and paper, and no bullett; and so this L'. lyfe was thereby saved, for otherwyse he had beene slayne. Wyndam was p˜sently taken by my L. Rytche's men, and, beynge broughte before the Counsell, confessed his intende, but the cause of his quarrell I knowe not; but he is com̄ytted to the Towre. The same daye, also, as Sr John Conway was goynge in the streetes, Mr Lodovyke Grevell came sodenly uppon him, and stroke him on the hedd wth a sworde, and but for one of Sr John Conwaye's men, who warded the blow, he had cutt of his legges; yet did he hurte him sumwhat on bothe his shynns: The Councell sente for Lodovyke Grevell, and have com̄ytted him to the Marchallcye. I am forced to trouble yor Honors wth thes tryflynge matters, for I know no greater."[165:B]

Yet a sufficient number of watchmen, constables, and justices of the peace, was not wanting. Of these, the first were armed with halberds, which, in Shakspeare's time, were called bills, and they usually carried a lanthorn in one hand, and sometimes a bell in the [166]other, resting the halberd on the shoulder.[166:A] Notwithstanding these official characters, however, the peace of the city was frequently more effectually preserved by the interference of the apprentices, than by that of the appointed guardians of public order; for it appears, from Shakspeare's dramas, that the cry of Clubs! was a signal for the apprentices to arm themselves with these weapons, and quell the disturbance. Thus in King Henry the Eighth, act v. sc. 3., the Porter's man says:—"I hit that woman who cried out, clubs! when I might see from far some forty truncheoneers draw to her succour, which were the hope of the Strand[166:B];" and in Henry the Sixth, Part the First, even the Mayor of London is represented, on occasion of a quarrel between the partizans of the Duke of Gloucester and the Cardinal of Winchester, as threatening to call in similar assistance:—

"I'll call for clubs, if you will not away."[166:C]

We cannot wonder that the inferior officers of the Police should be slack in the performance of their duty, when we recollect, that the Justices of the Peace, in these days, especially those resident in the metropolis, were so open to bribery, that many of them obtained the appellation of Basket Justices; nor did a member of the House of Commons hesitate, during the reign of Elizabeth, to describe a justice of the peace as "an animal who for half a dozen of chickens would readily dispense with a dozen penal laws."[166:D]

Many customs of a miscellaneous nature might with ease be extracted from the dramas of our poet; but to give them any relative bearing or concatenation would be nearly impossible, and a totally insulated detail of minute circumstances, would prove tedious to the [167]most persevering reader. Enough, we trust, has been collected to throw no feeble light on the general manners and modes of living, of the period under consideration, especially if it be recollected that the full picture is to be formed from a combination of this with the similar chapter, in a former part of the work, on the costume of rural life.


[89:A] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 289, 290.—Harrison's Description of England.

[90:A] Paul Hentzner's Travels in England: translated by Lord Orford. Edward Jeffery's edit. 8vo. 1797. p. 34, 35.

[91:A] Nugæ Antiquæ apud Park, vol. i. p. 361.

[91:B] Ibid. p. 170.

[91:C] Ibid. p. 118.

[92:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 526, 527. note 2.

[92:B] Ibid. vol. vi. p. 63. Much Ado About Nothing, act ii. sc. 3.

[93:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 314. Act iii. sc. 2.

[93:B] Ibid. vol. iv. p. 289. Act iv. sc. 4.

[93:C] "The English Ape, The Italian Imitation, The Foote-Steppes of Fraunce," a black-letter tract, dated 1588; for an account of which see Beloe's Anecdotes, vol. ii. p. 260.

[93:D] Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vi. p. 64. note by Malone.

[94:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 128.

[94:B] "Christ's Tears over Jerusalem," 4to. 1594.

[94:C] "Quippes for upstart new fangled Gentlewemen: or a Glasse, to view the pride of vain glorious Women," 4to. 1595.—Vide Restituta, vol. iii. p. 255.

[94:D] Vide Strutt's Customs, vol. iii. plate 22. fig. 9.

[94:E] Restituta, vol. iii. p. 256.

[95:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 154.

[95:B] Strutt's Customs, vol. iii. plate 12.

[95:C] Restituta, vol. iii. p. 256.

[95:D] Anatomie of Abuses, 4to. p. 59.

[95:E] Restituta, vol. iii. p. 257.

[97:A] Anatomie of Abuses, 4to. p. 43.

[97:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 248.

[97:C] See Katharine's Gown, in Taming of the Shrew, Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 157.

[98:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 144.—Mr. Douce has given a plate of the chopine, in his second volume on Shakspeare, p. 234.

[98:B] Restituta, vol. iii. p. 257.

[99:A] "In a list of jewels given to the Queen at New-years tide, 1589, is 'A fanne of fethers, white and redd, the handle of golde, inamaled with a halfe moone of mother of perles, within that a halfe moone garnished with sparks of dyamonds, and a few seede perles on the one side, having her Majestie's picture within it; and on the back-side a device with a crowe over it. Geven by Sir Frauncis Drake.'"—Nichols's Progresses, vol. ii. p. 54. note.

[99:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 80.; vol. xi. p. 261. &c. &c.

[99:C] Ibid. vol. xv. p. 46. Act i. sc. 3.

[99:D] Ibid. vol. ix. p. 349. 352. Winter's Tale, act iv. sc. 3.

[99:E] Stowe's Annals, by Howes, edit 1614. p. 868.

[99:F] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 72. note.

[100:A] Anatomy of Melancholy, folio, 8th edit. p. 293, 294. 307.—In Vaughan's "Golden Grove," also, the first edition of which appeared in 1600, may be found some curious notices on "superfluitie of apparell" with regard to both sexes; he tells us that the women in the early ages of the world "imitated not hermaphrodites, in wearing of men's doublets. They wore no chaines of gold, &c.—they went not clothed in velvet gownes, nor in chamlet peticotes. They smelt not unto pomander, civet, muske, and such lyke trumperies."

[101:A] The Court and Character of King James. Written and taken by Sir A. W. being an eye, and ear witnesse. 12mo. 1650. p. 180, 181.

[101:B] Nugæ Antiquæ, vol. i. pp. 391, 392.

[102:A] Decker's Gull's Hornbook, reprint of 1812, pp. 83. 87.

[102:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 175.

[102:C] Ibid. vol. xvii. p. 467.—Caps were usually worn by the lower class, see vol. vi. p. 89.

[102:D] Ibid. vol. vi. p. 357.

[102:E] Bottom, in Midsummer Night's Dream, mentions also a straw-coloured, an orange-tawny, a purple-in-grain, and a perfect yellow, beard, act i. sc. 2.

[102:F] See Jaques's description of the Seven Ages in As You Like It, act ii. sc. 7.

[103:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 399.

[103:B] Jervis Markham has an allusion to this custom in his Treatise entitled Honour in Perfection, 4to., p. 18.

[103:C] Frequent references to these fashions may be found in our author; vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vi. p. 162; vol. ix. p. 242, and vol. x. p. 355. Jonson and Fletcher also abound with them; and see that curious exposition of fashionable follies, Decker's Gull's Hornbook, Reprint, p. 86. 137, &c.

[103:D] Vide Stowe's Annals, p. 869.—The divisions, or pieces of the brim of the collar or ruffe, were, according to Cotgrave's Dictionary, 1611, termed piccadillies. And the author of London and its Environs described, tells us, that in Piccadilly "there were formerly no houses, and only one shop for Spanish ruffs, which was called the Piccadilly or ruff shop." Vide vol. v.

[104:A] Strutt's Customs, vol. iii. p. 85.—The next age saw this absurd mode of dress revived: and Bulmer, in his Pedigree of the English Gallant, relates, that, when the law was in force against the use of bags for stuffing breeches, a man was brought before a court of justice, charged with wearing the prohibited article, upon which, in order to refute the accusation, he produced from within "a pair of sheets, two table cloths, ten napkins, four shirts, a brush, a glass, a comb, night-caps, &c." p. 548.

[104:B] In the first volume of the Antiquarian Repertory, it is recorded, that "Nailer came through London apparelled in a doublet and galey-gascoigne breeches, all of crimsin satin, cut and raced."


Luc. A round hose, madam, now's not worth a pin,
Unless you have a cod-piece to stick pins on.

Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 236.

Thomas Wright in his "Passions of the Minde," first published in 1601, speaking of our countrymen's proneness to imitate French fashions, tells us in his chapter entitled "Discoverie of Passions in Apparell,"—"Some I have heard very contemptuously say, that scarcely a new forme of breeches appeared in the French King's kitchin but they were presently translated over into the court of England."

[105:A] Bishop's Blossoms.—Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 197.

[105:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 197.

[105:C] Anatomy of Abuses, p. 30.

[105:D] Gull's Hornbook, p. 93.

[105:E] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xi. p. 275, note.

[106:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 212.

[106:B] Quoted by Dr. Farmer: Reed's Shakspeare, vol. x. p. 481.

[106:C] Decker's Gull's Horn-book, reprint, pp. 13. 76.

[107:A] See also, Strutt's Dress and Habits of the People of England, vol. ii. p. 263.

[107:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 102. Act ii. sc. 4.

[107:C] Vide Andrews's History of Great Britain, vol. ii. p. 301.

[107:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx. p. 256.

[107:E] "The Longer thou Livest the more Fool thou art."—Vide Biographia Dramatica, vol. ii. p. 193.

[108:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. pp. 75, 76.—To the old two-handed sword, and to the monstrous stuffed hose, Ben Jonson most humorously refers us, in his Epicœne; or, the Silent Woman, where True-wit frightens Daw by an exaggerated description of Sir Amorous La Foole's warlike attire. "He has got," says he, "somebody's old two-hand sword, to mow you off at the knees: and that sword hath spawn'd such a dagger!—But then he is so hung with pikes, halberds, petronels, callivers, and muskets, that he looks like a justice of peace's hall: a man of two thousand a year is not cess'd at so many weapons as he has on. There was never fencer challeng'd at so many several foils. You would think he meant to murder all St. Pulchre's parish. If he could but victual himself for half a year in his breeches, he is sufficiently arm'd to overrun a country."—Act iv. sc. 5.

[108:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. viii. p. 257. Act ii. sc. 1.

[109:A] Douce's Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 315.

[109:B] Stowe's Annals, p. 869.

[109:C] Lodge's Illustrations of British History, vol. ii. p. 228.

[110:A] Anatomy of Melancholy, 8th edit. folio, p. 295.

[111:A] "Doctor Merrie-man: or Nothing but Mirth. Written by S. R. At London, printed for John Deane, and are to be sold at his Shoppe at Temple Barre, under the Gate." 1609. 4to. pp. 24.—Vide Restituta, vol. iii. p. 442. Samuel Rowland is supposed to be the author of this lively satire.

[112:A] Nugæ Antiquæ, vol. i. pp. 201, 202.

[113:A] Travels in England, pp. 54. 56-58.

[113:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. pp. 489-491.

[113:C] Censura Literaria, vol. viii. p. 19.

[114:A] "The Touchstone of Complexions, &c." First written in Latine by Levine Lemnie, and now Englished by Thomas Newton. small 8vo. bl. l. 1576.

[114:B] Merry Wives of Windsor, act iii. sc. 3.

[114:C] Much Ado about Nothing, act i. sc. 3.

[114:D] King John, act iv. sc. 1.

[114:E] Henry IV. Part I., act ii. sc. 4.

[114:F] Hamlet, act iii. sc. 3.

[115:A] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. p. 487.

[115:B] "A Dialogue both pleasaunt and pitifull, &c." by Dr. Willyam Bulleyne, 1564. sig. H 5. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. viii. p. 104.

[115:C] "No whipping nor tripping, but a kind of friendly snipping," 8vo.—Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. viii. p. 104. note by Malone.

[115:D] Act iii. sc. 2.

[115:E] Cymbeline, act ii. sc. 2.

[115:F] "A Specimen of a Commentary on Shakspeare, &c." on the principle of Mr. Locke's Doctrine of the Association of Ideas, p. 78. 8vo. 1794.

[116:A] Pope's Odyssey, book vii.

[116:B] Good's Lucretius, vol. i. p. 189.

[116:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 447. King Henry V., act iv. sc. 2.

[116:D] Romeo and Juliet, act i. sc. 4.

[116:E] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xv. p. 55.

[117:A] Vide Warton's Extract from Froissart, Hist. of English Poetry, vol. iii. Dissertation, p. lxxvi.

[117:B] Ancient British Drama, vol. ii. p. 592.

[117:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 181.

[117:D] Gull's Horn-book, pp. 22, 23.

[117:E] "More Dissemblers besides Women," act i. sc. 1.

[118:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 92. Taming of the Shrew, act ii. sc. 1.

[118:B] Ibid. p. 93. note by Steevens.

[118:C] Ibid. vol. v. p. 376. note.

[118:D] Act iii. sc. 4.

[118:E] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx. p. 65.

[118:F] Ibid. vol. ix. p. 124.

[119:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 272. Act i. sc. 5.

[119:B] Ibid. vol. xv. p. 342. Act iii. sc. 2.

[119:C] Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 85.

[119:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xi. p. 331. King Henry IV. Part I. act iii. sc. 1.

[119:E] Cymbeline, act ii. sc. 2. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 466.

[120:A] Act i. sc. 4. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 48.

[120:B] Act ii. sc. 5.

[120:C] Bulwarke of Defence, 1579, fol. 21.

[120:D] Belman of London, 1612. sig. B 4.—We may add, also, to this enumeration, the general use of large mirrors, or looking-glasses, for Hentzner tells us that he was shewn, "at the house of Leonard Smith, a taylor, a most perfect looking-glass, ornamented with gold, pearls, silver, and velvet, so richly as to be estimated at 500 ecus du soleil."—Travels, p. 32.

[122:A] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 280.

[123:A] Hentzner's Travels, pp. 36, 37.

[125:A] Nugæ Antiquæ, vol. i. pp. 349-352.

[125:B] Ibid. p. 106.

[125:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vi. p. 236. Act ii. sc. 1.

[126:A] Douce's Illustrations, vol. i. p. 125.

[126:B] Whalley's Jonson; act iii. sc. 2.

[126:C] "Coryat's Crudities, hastily gobled up in five Moneths Travells, &c." 1611. 4to. p. 90.

[126:D] Whalley's Johnson; act v. sc. 4.

[127:A] "The benefit of the auncient Bathes of Buckstones, which cureth most greevous sicknesses, never before published: compiled by John Jones, Phisition. At the King's Mede nigh Darby. Anno salutis 1572, &c." bl. l.—Vide Censura Literaria, vol. x. p. 277.

[127:B] Vide Stubbes's Anatomie of Abuses, p. 69, and Caius's Booke of Counseil, &c. fol. 24.

[127:C] The Passions of the Minde. By Th. W. (Thomas Wright.) London, printed by V. S. for W. B. 1601. small 8vo.

[128:A] The Works of Francis Osborn, Esq. 8vo. 9th edit. p. 475.

[128:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xix. p. 335.

[129:A] Delicate Dyet for Daintie-mouthed Droonkards: wherein the fowle abuse of common carowsing and quaffing with heartie draughtes is honestly admonished. 8vo. 1576.

[129:B] Philocothonista, or the drunkard opened, dissected, and anatomized, 4to.

[129:C] Lodge's Illustrations of British History, &c., vol. ii. p. 27.

[130:A] Gull's Horn-book, 1609, reprint, p. 119, 120.

[130:B] English Villanies, &c. first printed in 1616.

[130:C] Of the precise year when the first edition of Markham's English House-wife was published, I am ignorant; but a near approximation to the fact may be deduced from the following statement:—The first edition of his Country Contentments appeared in 1615, and the eleventh in 1683; of his Cheap and Good Husbandry, the first impression took place in 1616, and the fourteenth in 1683; and of the English House-wife, the ninth edition issued from the press in the same year, namely 1683.

[131:A] English Housewife, p. 112, 113.

[131:B] Ibid. p. 118.

[131:C] "If sack and sugar be a fault, god help the wicked."—Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 308.

[132:A] Itinerary, 1617, Part III. p. 152.

[132:B] Travels, Jeffery's edition, p. 64.: "They put a great deal of sugar in their drink."

[132:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 282.

[132:D] "Go fetch me a quart of sack, put a toast in it," Merry Wives of Windsor, act iii. sc. 5.

[132:E] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 150.

[132:F] Ibid. vol. xi. p. 281, 282.—It appears that Sack, in Shakspeare's time, was sold at eight-pence halfpenny a Quart—for in Falstaff's Tavern-bill occurs the following item: "Sack, two gallons, 5s. 8d." Vol. xi. p. 314.

[133:A] The title-page of this curious poem is lost, but the passage alluded to, is as follows:—

"There hath beene great sale and utterance of wine,
Besides beere and ale, and ipocras fine,
In every country, region, and nation;
Chefely at Billingsgate, at the Salutation,
And Bores Head, neere London Stone,
The Swan at Dowgate, a taverne well knowne,
The Miter in Cheape, and then the Bull Head,
And many like places that make noses red;
The Bores Head in old Fish-street, three Cranes in the Vintree,
And now of late St. Martin's in the Sentree;
The Wind-mill in Lothburry, the Ship at the Exchange,
King's Head in New Fish-streete, where roysters do range;
The Mermaid in Cornhill, Red Lion in the Strand,
Three Tuns Newgate Market, Old Fish-street at the Swan."

[133:B] "The Survay of London," 4to. 1618. bl. l. p. 782.

[134:A] Earle's Microcosmography, reprint by Bliss, pp. 39, 40.

[134:B] Gull's Horn-book, reprint by Nott, pp. 109. 127, 128.

[134:C] Ibid. p. 159, 160.

[134:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 91.

[134:E] Ibid. vol. v. p. 91. note. From Merry Passages and Jeasts, MSS. Harl. 6395.

[135:A] Gull's Horn-book, pp. 121, 122.—"Let us here remark," adds Dr. Nott, in a note on this passage, "that J. Harington is to be considered as the inventor of that cleanly comfort the water-closet; which gave rise to his witty little tract above-mentioned, (Metamorphosis of Ajax, a jakes, 1596,) wherein he humorously recommends the same to Q. Elizabeth; and for which, by the way, he was banished her court."

[135:B] The Workes of the most High and Mighty Prince, James, &c. &c. folio, 1616. p. 222.

[136:A] Apophthegms of King James, 1671.

[136:B] The Workes of King James, folio, p. 221.

[136:C] Whalley's Jonson; act iii. sc. 5.

[137:A] Anatomy of Melancholy, p. 235. col. 1.

[137:B] Workes of King James, p. 221.

[137:C] History of his Life and Times, 8vo. p. 44.

[137:D] Gull's Horn-book, pp. 119, 120.

[138:A] Reprint of Decker's Gull's Horn-book, p. 17. note 15.

[138:B] Travels, 8vo. p. 63.

[138:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 127.

[138:D] Itinerary, 1617. folio.

[140:A] Nugæ Antiquæ, vol. i. pp. 105-108.

[141:A] Wit's Miserie and the World's Madnesse, 4to. 1599.—So necessary was a fool to the monarch and his courtiers, that Armin, in his Nest of Ninnies, 4to. 1608, describing Will Sommers, Henry the Eighth's fool, says,—

—————————————— "In all the Court
Few men were more belov'd than was this Foole,
Whose merry prate kept with the king much rule.
When he was sad, the King and he would rime:
Thus Will exiled sadnesse many a time."

[142:A] We must here observe, that the Baron of Brandwardine's Fool, in Waverley, is an admirable copy of the character, as drawn by Shakspeare; and, as the work seems a faithful picture of existing manners in 1745, is a striking proof of the retention of this curious personage, until a recent period.

[142:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx. p. 72.

[142:C] Gifford's Edition of Massinger, vol. i. p. 167.; and vol. iv. p. 29.

[143:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 133.

[143:B] Gifford's Massinger, vol. i. p. 166.; and Dodsley's Old Plays, by Reed, vol. xii. p. 430.

[144:A] Act iv. sc. 2.

[144:B] Ancient British Drama, vol. ii. p. 546. col. 1.

[144:C] Restituta, vol. iii. p. 258.

[144:D] The Works of Taylor, the Water Poet, 1630. p. 240.

[145:A] Vide Lords' Journals, vol. ii. p. 229.

[145:B] Vide Gifford's Massinger, vol. iv. pp. 43, 44. note ex Autog. in Bibl. Harl.

[146:A] Part II. chapter ii.

[146:B] Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 94.—Mr. Douce gives the title-pages of several publications of this kind, in 1588, 1591, 1598, and 1599; and, lastly, describes one called "The needles excellency," illustrated with copper-plates, and adds,—"prefixed to the patterns are sundry poems in commendation of the needle, and describing the characters of ladies who have been eminent for their skill in needle-work, among which are Queen Elizabeth and the Countess of Pembroke. These poems were composed by John Taylor, the water poet. It appears that the work (in 1640) had gone through twelve impressions, and yet a copy is now scarcely to be met with. This may be accounted for by supposing that such books were generally cut to pieces, and used by women to work upon or transfer to their samplers.—It appears to have been originally published in the reign of James the First." P. 96.

[147:A] Vide Chalmers's Apology, p. 45., from Murden, p. 657.

[147:B] Moryson's Itinerary, p. 233.

[148:A] Walpole's Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors apud Park, vol. ii. p. 89.

[148:B] Nugæ Antiquæ, vol. ii. pp. 216-218.

[149:A] Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, vol. ii.

[149:B] Nugæ Antiquæ, vol. i. pp. 355. 357-359.

[150:A] The Court and Character of King James, 12mo. 1650. pp. 5, 6.

[150:B] Vide Melvill's Memoirs.

[151:A] Nugæ Antiquæ, vol. i. pp. 175, 176.

[151:B] Ibid. vol. i. p. 167.

[151:C] Ibid. p. 235.

[151:D] Ibid. p. 345.

[152:A] Ibid. vol. i. pp. 367-370.

[153:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 353.

[154:A] Lodge's Illustrations of British History, vol. i. Introduction, pp. xviii. xix. from a MS. in the possession of the Rev. Sir Richard Kaye, Dean of Lincoln.

[154:B] Hentzner's Travels, pp. 63, 64.

[155:A] Discoverie of Witchcraft, 4to. pp. 355, 356.—Scot has taken great liberties with the text of Chaucer, both in modernising the language, and in tacking together widely separated lines and couplets.

[155:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 83. Act ii. sc. 2.

[155:C] Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 14.—Batman upon Bartholome, fol. 359. b.

[155:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xix. pp. 269, 270.

[156:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. pp. 114, 115.

[156:B] Itinerary, Part I. p. 198.

[156:C] Whalley's Works of Ben Jonson; act ii. sc. 3.

[157:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. viii. p. 138. As You Like It, act iv. sc. 1.

[158:A] "The Enemie to Vnthryftinesse: publishing by Lawes, documents and disciplines, &c. By George Whetstons, Gent. Printed at London by Richard Jones. 1586." 4to. pp. 24. 32.—Vide British Bibliographer, vol. iii. pp. 601-604.

[158:B] Lodge's Illustrations of British History, vol. ii. pp. 217, 218.

[159:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. viii. pp. 171. 177. 179, 180, 181. 183.

[160:A] Scourge of Villanie, 1599. book ii. sat. 7.

[161:A] Gull's Horn-book, p. 15.

[161:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. x. pp. 360-362.

[161:C] Essayes by Sir William Cornwallyes, the younger. Essay 28.

[162:A] Walton's Complete Angler, Bagster's edit. 1808, pp. 369. 380.

[162:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xv. pp. 328, 329.

[164:A] "A breffe description of the Royall Citie of London, capitall citie of this realme of England. (City Arms.) Wrytten by me William Smythe citezen and haberdasher of London, 1575." MS.

"This compilation," says Mr. Haslewood, "forms a quarto volume of moderate thickness, and was intended for publication."—Vide British Bibliographer, vol. i. pp. 539-542.

[165:A] Vide "The Statutes of the Streets," printed by Wolfe, in 1595.

[165:B] Lodge's Illustrations, vol. ii. p. 206.

[166:A] The costume of the Watchman is thus represented in the title-page to Decker's "O per se O," &c. 4to. 1612, and is copied in Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vi. p. 97.

[166:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xv. p. 205.

[166:C] Ibid. vol. xiii. p. 36.

[166:D] D'Ewes's Journals of Parliament, in Queen Elizabeth's Reign, p. 661. 664.




Of the diversions of the metropolis and court, some were peculiar, and some were shared in common with the country. "The countrey hath his recreations," observes Burton, "the city his several Gymnicks and exercises, feasts and merry meetings."—"What so pleasant as to see some Pageant or sight go by, as at Coronations, Weddings, and such like solemnities, to see an Embassadour or a Prince met, received, entertained, with Masks, Shews, Fireworks, &c."[168:A]; and an old dramatic poet of 1590, gives us a still more copious list of town amusements:—

"—— Let nothing that's magnifical,
Or that may tend to London's graceful state,
Be unperform'd, as showes and solemne feastes,
Watches in armour, triumphes, cresset lights,
Bonefires, belles, and peales of ordinaunce
And pleasure. See that plaies be published,
Mai-games and maskes, with mirth and minstrelsie,
Pageants and school-feastes, beares and puppet-plaies.[168:B]

"Every palace," continues Burton, "every city almost, hath his peculiar walks, cloysters, terraces, groves, theatres, pageants, games, and several recreations[168:C];" and we purpose, in this chapter, giving some account of the leading articles thus enumerated, but more particularly of the stage, as being peculiarly connected with the design and texture of our work.

[169]As the principal object, therefore, of the present discussion, will be the amusements usually appropriated to the capital; those which it has in common with the country shall be first enumerated, though in a more superficial way.

Of these, card-playing seems to have been as universal in the days of Elizabeth, as in modern times, and carried on, too, with the same ruinous consequences to property and morals; for though Stowe tells us, when commemorating the customs of London, that "from All-Hallows eve to the day following Candlemas-day, there was, among other sports, playing at cards for counters, nails, and points, in every house, more for pastime than for gain," yet we learn from contemporary satirists, from Gosson, Stubbes, and Northbrooke[169:A], that all ranks, and especially the upper classes, were incurably addicted to gaming in the pursuit of this amusement, which they considered equally as seductive and pernicious as dice.

The games at cards peculiar to this period, and now obsolete, are, 1. Primero, supposed to be the most ancient game of cards in England. It was very fashionable in the age of Shakspeare, who represents Henry the Eighth playing "at primero with the duke of Suffolk[169:B];" and Falstaff exclaiming in the Merry Wives of Windsor, "I never prospered since I foreswore myself at primero."[169:C]

The mode of playing this curious game is thus described by Mr. Strutt, from Mr. Barrington's papers upon card-playing, in the eighth volume of the Archæologia:—"Each player had four cards dealt to him one by one, the seven was the highest card in point of number that he could avail himself of, which counted for twenty-one, the six counted for sixteen, the five for fifteen, and the ace for the same, but the two, the three, and the four, for their respective points only. The knave of hearts was commonly fixed upon for the quinola, which the [170]player might make what card or suit he thought proper; if the cards were of different suits, the highest number won the primero, if they were all of one colour he that held them won the flush."[170:A]

2. Trump, nearly coeval in point of antiquity with primero, and introduced in Gammer Gurton's Needle, a comedy, first acted in 1561, where Dame Chat, addressing Diccon, says,—

"We be fast set at trump, man, hard by the fyre;"[170:B]

and we learn from Decker that, in 1612, it was much in vogue:—"To speake," he remarks, "of all the sleights used by card-players in all sorts of games would but weary you that are to read, and bee but a thanklesse and unpleasing labour for me to set them down. Omitting, therefore the deceipts practised (even in the fayrest and most civill companies) at Primero, Saint Maw, Trump, and such like games, I will, &c."[170:C]

3. Gleek. This game is alluded to twice by Shakspeare[170:D]; and from a passage in Cook's Green's Tu Quoque, appears to have been held in much esteem:—

"Scat. Come, gentlemen, what is your game?

Staines. Why, gleek; that's your only game;"[170:E]

it is then proposed to play either at twelve-penny gleek, or crown gleek.[170:F]

To these may be added, Gresco, Mount Saint, New Cut, Knave Out of Doors, and Ruff, all of which are mentioned in old plays, and were favourites among our ancestors.[170:G]

[171]Tables and Dice, enumerated by Burton after cards, include some games unknown to the present day; such as tray-trip, mum-chance, philosopher's game, novum, &c.; the first is noticed by Shakspeare in Twelfth Night, and appears, from a note by Mr. Tyrwhitt, to have been a species of draughts[171:A]; the second was also a game at tables, and is coupled by Ben Jonson in the Alchemist with tray-trip[171:B]; the third is mentioned by Burton[171:C], and is described by Mr. Strutt from a manuscript in the British Museum.—"It is called," says the author, "'a number fight,' because in it men fight and strive together by the art of counting or numbering how one may take his adversary's king and erect a triumph upon the deficiency of his calculations[171:D];" and the fourth is introduced by Shakspeare in Love's Labour's Lost[171:E];—"it was properly called novum quinque," remarks Mr. Douce, "from the two principal throws of the dice, nine and five;—was called in French quinque-nove, and is said to have been invented in Flanders."[171:F]

The immoralities to which dice have given birth, we are authorised in considering, from the proverbial phraseology of Shakspeare, to have been as numerous in his time as at present. The expressions "false as dice[171:G]," and "false as dicers' oaths[171:H]," will be illustrated by the following anecdote, taken from an anonymous MS. of the reign of James the First:—"Sir William Herbert, playing at dice with another gentleman, there rose some questions about a cast. Sir William's antagonist declared it was a four and a five; he as positively insisted that it was a five and a six; the other then swore with a bitter [172]imprecation, that it was as he had said; Sir William then replied, 'Thou art a perjured knave; for give me a sixpence, and if there be a four upon the dice, I will return you a thousand pounds;' at which the other was presently abashed, for indeed the dice were false, and of a high cut, without a four."[172:A]

Dancing was an almost daily amusement in the court of Elizabeth; the Queen was peculiarly fond of this exercise, as had been her father Henry the Eighth, and the taste for it became so general, during her reign, that a great part of the leisure of almost every class of society was spent, and especially on days of festivity, in dancing.

To dance elegantly was one of the strongest recommendations to the favour of Her Majesty; and her courtiers, therefore, strove to rival each other in this pleasing accomplishment; nor were their efforts, in many instances, unrewarded. Sir Christopher Hatton, we are told, owed his promotion, in a great measure, to his skill in dancing; and in accordance with this anecdote, Gray opens his "Long Story" with an admirable description of his merit in this department, which, as containing a most just and excellent picture, both of the architecture and manners of "the days of good Queen Bess," as well as of the dress and agility of the knight, we with pleasure transcribe. Stoke-Pogeis, the scene of the narrative, was formerly in the possession of the Hattons:—

"In Britain's isle, no matter where,
An ancient pile of building stands;
The Huntingdons and Hattons there
Employ'd the pow'r of Fairy hands
To raise the cieling's fretted height,
Each pannel in achievements clothing,
Rich windows that exclude the light,
And passages that lead to nothing.
Full oft within the spacious walls,
When he had fifty winters o'er him,
[173]My grave Lord-Keeper led the brawls;
The seal and maces danc'd before him.
His bushy beard and shoe-strings green,
His high-crown'd hat and sattin doublet,
Mov'd the stout heart of England's Queen.
Tho' Pope and Spaniard could not trouble it."

The Brawl, a species of dance, here alluded to, is derived from the French word braule, "indicating," observes Mr. Douce, "a shaking or swinging motion.—It was performed by several persons uniting hands in a circle, and giving each other continual shakes, the steps changing with the tune. It usually consisted of three pas and a pied-joint, to the time of four strokes of the bow; which, being repeated, was termed a double brawl. With this dance, balls were usually opened."[173:A]

Shakspeare seems to have entertained as high an idea of the efficacy of a French brawl, as probably did Sir Christopher Hatton, when he exhibited before Queen Elizabeth; for he makes Moth in Love's Labour's Lost ask Armado,—"Master, will you win your love with a French brawl?" and he then exclaims, "These betray nice wenches."[173:B] That several dances were included under the term brawls, appears from a passage in Shelton's Don Quixote:—"After this there came in another artificial dance, of those called Brawles[173:C];" and Mr. Douce informs us, that amidst a great variety of brawls, noticed in Thoinot Arbeau's treatise in dancing, entitled Orchesographie, occurs a Scotish brawl; and he adds that this dance continued in fashion to the close of the seventeenth century.[173:D]

Another dance of much celebrity at this period, was the Pavin or Pavan, which, from the solemnity of its measure, seems to have been held in utter aversion by Sir Toby Belch, who, in reference to his intoxicated surgeon, exclaims,—"Then he's a rogue. After a [174]passy-measure, or a pavin, I hate a drunken rogue."[174:A] This is the text of Mr. Tyrwhitt; but the old copy reads,—"Then he's a rogue, and a passy measure's pavyn," which is probably correct; for the pavan was rendered still more grave by the introduction of the passamezzo air, which obliged the dancers, after making several steps round the room, to cross it in the middle in a slow step or cinque pace. This alteration of time occasioned the term passamezzo to be prefixed to the name of several dances; thus we read of the passamezzo galliard, as well as the passamezzo pavan; and Sir Toby, by applying the latter appellation to his surgeon, meant to call him, not only a rogue, but a solemn coxcomb. "The pavan, from pavo a peacock," observes Sir J. Hawkins, "is a grave and majestick dance. The method of dancing it was anciently by gentlemen dressed with a cap and sword, by those of the long robe in their gowns, by princes in their mantles, and by ladies in gowns with long trains, the motion whereof in the dance resembled that of a peacock's tail. This dance is supposed to have been invented by the Spaniards, and its figure is given with the characters for the step, in the Orchesographia of Thoinot Arbeau.—Of the passamezzo little is to be said, except that it was a favourite air in the days of Queen Elizabeth. Ligon, in his History of Barbadoes, mentions a passamezzo galliard, which, in the year 1647, a Padre in that island played to him on the lute; the very same, he says, with an air of that kind which in Shakspeare's play of Henry the Fourth was originally played to Sir John Falstaff and Doll Tearsheet, by Sneak, the musician, there named."[174:B]

Of equal gravity with the "doleful pavin," as Sir W. D'Avenant calls it, was The Measure, to tread which was the relaxation of the most dignified characters in the state, and formed a part of the revelry of the inns of court, where the gravest lawyers were often found treading the measures. Shakspeare puns upon the name of this dance, and contrasts it with the Scotch jig, in Much Ado about Nothing, [175]where he introduces Beatrice telling her cousin Hero,—"The fault will be in the musick, cousin, if you be not woo'd in good time: if the prince be too important, tell him, there is measure in every thing, and so dance out the answer. For hear me, Hero: Wooing, wedding, and repenting, is as a Scotch jig, a measure, and a cinque-pace: the first suit is hot and hasty, like a Scotch jig, and full as fantastical: the wedding, mannerly-modest, as a measure full of state and ancientry; and then comes repentance, and, with his bad legs, falls into the cinque-pace faster and faster, till he sink into his grave."[175:A]

A more brisk and lively step accompanied the Canary dance, which was, likewise, very fashionable:—"I have seen a medicine," says Lafeu in All's Well that Ends Well, alluding to the influence of female charms,—

"That's able to breathe life into a stone;
Quicken a rock, and make you dance canary,
With spritely fire and motion;"[175:B]

and Moth advises Armado, when dancing the brawl, to Canary it with his feet.[175:C]

The mode of performing this dance, is thus given by Mr. Douce, from the treatise of Thoinot Arbeau:—"A lady is taken out by a gentleman, and after dancing together to the cadences of the proper air, he leads her to the end of the hall; this done he retreats back to the original spot, always looking at the lady. Then he makes up to her again, with certain steps, and retreats as before. His partner performs the same ceremony, which is several times repeated by both parties, with various strange fantastic steps, very much in the savage style."[175:D]

Beside the brawl, the pavan, the measure, and the canary, several other dances were in vogue, under the general titles of corantoes, [176]lavoltos, jigs, galliards, and fancies, but the four which we have selected for more peculiar notice, appear to have been the most celebrated.

It is a melancholy proof of the imperfect state of civilisation during the reign of Elizabeth, that the barbarous sport of Bear and Bullbeating should have been as favourite a diversion of the court, nobility, and gentry, as of the lowest class of society. Indeed it would appear, from an order issued by the privy council, in July, 1591, that the populace had earlier than their superiors become tired of this cruel spectacle, and had given a marked preference to the amusements of the stage; for it is enacted in the above order, that there should be no plays publickly exhibited on Thursdays; because on Thursdays, bear-baiting and such like pastimes had been usually practised; and four days afterwards an injunction to the same effect was sent to the Lord Mayor, in which, after justly reprobating the performance of plays on the Sabbath, it is added, that on "all other days of the week in divers place the players do use to recite their plays to the great hurt and destruction of the game of bear-baiting, and like pastimes, which are maintained for her Majesty's pleasure."[176:A]

History informs us that Elizabeth's pleasure was thus gratified at an early period of her life, and continued to be so to the close of her reign. When confined at Hatfield house, she, and her sister, Queen Mary, were recreated with a grand exhibition of bear-baiting, "with which their highnesses were right well content."[176:B] Soon after she had ascended the throne, she entertained the French ambassadors with bear and bull baiting, and stood a spectatress of the amusement until six in the evening; a similar exhibition took place the next day at Paris-Garden, for the same party; and even twenty-seven years posterior, Her Majesty could not devise a more welcome gratification for the Danish ambassador, than the display of such a spectacle at Greenwich.

[177]So decided a partiality for this savage pastime would, of course, induce her courtiers to take care that their mistress should not be disappointed in this respect, and more especially when she honoured them with one of her periodical visits. Accordingly Laneham tells us, that when she was at Kenelworth Castle, in 1575, not less than thirteen bears were provided for her diversion, and that these were baited with a large species of ban-dogs.[177:A]

An example thus set by royalty itself, soon spread through every rank, and bear and bull baiting became one of the most general amusements in England. Shakspeare has alluded to it in more than twenty places, and it has equally attracted the notice of the foreign and domestic historian. Hentzner, whose Itinerary was printed in Latin A. D. 1598, was a spectator at one of these exhibitions, which he describes in the following manner: speaking of the theatres he says, "there is still another place, built in the form of a theatre, which serves for the baiting of bulls and bears; they are fastened behind, and then worried by great English bull-dogs, but not without great risque to the dogs, from the horns of the one, and the teeth of the other; and it sometimes happens they are killed on the spot; fresh ones are immediately supplied in the places of those that are wounded or tired." He then adds an account of a still more inhuman pastime:—"To this entertainment, there often follows that of whipping a blinded bear, which is performed by five or six men, standing circularly with whips, which they exercise upon him without any mercy, as he cannot escape from them because of his chain; he defends himself with all his force and skill, throwing down all who come within his reach, and are not active enough to get out of it, and tearing the whips out of their hands, and breaking them."[177:B] Stowe, in the edition of his Survey printed in 1618, remarks, that "as for the bayting of Bulles and Beares, they are till this day much frequented, namely, in Beare-gardens on the Bankside, wherein be prepared Scaffolds for beholders to stand upon."[177:C]

[178]The admission to these gardens was upon easy terms, for we are told that the spectators paid "one pennie at the gate, another at the entrie of the scaffold, and a third for quiet standing."[178:A] It was usual also for the bearward to parade the streets with his animal, who had frequently a monkey on his back and was preceded by a minstrel. The bear was generally complimented with the name of his keeper: thus, in Shakspeare's time, there was a celebrated one at Paris Garden called Sackerson. "I have seen Sackerson loose," says Slender, "twenty times; and have taken him by the chain: but, I warrant you, the women have so cried and shriek'd at it, that it pass'd:—but women, indeed, cannot abide 'em; they are very ill-favoured rough things[178:B];" in the "Puritan" published in 1607, occurs one named George Stone; and in the "Humorous Lovers," by the Duke of Newcastle, printed in 1617, Tom of Lincoln is the appellation of another.

A diversion infinitely more elegant and pleasing in all its accompaniments, once of great utility, and unattended with the smallest vestige of barbarism or inhumanity, we have now to record as resulting from the use of the long bow, which, though greatly on the decline, in the days of Elizabeth, as a weapon of warfare, still lingered amongst us as a species of amusement. Various attempts, indeed, had been made by the nearly immediate predecessors of Elizabeth, to revive the use of the long bow as a military weapon; but with very partial success:—"the most famous, prudent, politike and grave prince K. Henry the 7," says Robinson, "was the first Phenix in chusing out a number of chiefe Archers to give daily attendance upon his person, whom he named his Garde. But the high and mighty renowmed prince his son, K. H. 8. (ann. 1509) not onely with great prowes and praise proceeded in that which his father had begon; but also added greater dignity unto the same, like a most roial renowmed David, enacting a good and godly statute [179](ann. 33 H. 8. cap. 9.) for the use and exercise of shooting in every degree. And further more for the maintenance of the same laudable exercise in this honourable city of London by his gratious charter confirmed unto the worshipful citizens of the same, this your now famous order of Knightes of Prince Arthure's Round Table or Society: like as in his life time when he saw a good Archer indeede, he chose him and ordained such a one for a knight of the same order."[179:A]

To this "Auncient Order, Societie, and Unitie Laudable, of Prince Arthure," as it was termed, and to which Shakspeare alludes, under the character of Justice Shallow, in the second part of King Henry the Fourth[179:B], Archery owed, for some time, considerable support; but ultimately, it contributed to hasten its decline. Under the auspices of Prince Arthur, eldest son of King Henry VII., and who was so expert a bowman, that every skilful shooter was complimented with his name, the society flourished abundantly; its captain being honoured with his title, and the other members being termed his knights. His brother Henry was equally attached to the art, but unfortunately, having appointed a splendid match at shooting with the long bow, at Windsor, an inhabitant of Shoreditch, London, joining the archers, exhibited such extraordinary skill, that the King, delighted with his performance, humorously gave him the title of Duke of Shoreditch, an appellation which not only superseded the former title, but, being copied by the inferior members, in assuming the rank of Marquis, Earl, &c., threw such a degree of burlesque and ridicule over the business, as finally brought contempt upon the art itself.

The Society, however, still subsisted with much magnificence [180]during the reign of Elizabeth; and in the very year that Robinson published his book in support of Archery, namely, in 1583, "a grand shooting match was held in London, and the captain of the archers assuming his title of Duke of Shoreditch, summoned a suit of nominal nobility, under the titles of Marquis of Barlo, of Clerkenwell, of Islington, of Hoxton, of Shacklewell, and Earl of Pancrass, &c., and these meeting together at the appointed time, with their different companies, proceeded in a pompous march from Merchant Taylors' Hall, consisting of three thousand archers, sumptuously apparelled; nine hundred and forty-two of them having chains of gold about their necks. This splendid company was guarded by four thousand whifflers and billmen, besides pages and footmen. They passed through Broad-street, the residence of their captain, and thence into Moorfields, by Finsbury, and so on to Smithfield, where having performed several evolutions, they shot at a target for honour."[180:A]

Notwithstanding this brilliant celebration, it appears that, thirteen years afterwards, the disuse of archery was so general, that the "Companies of Bowyers and Fletchers" made heavy complaints, and procured a work to be written, in order to place before "the nobility and gentlemen of England," their distress, and deprivation of subsistence, from the neglect of the bow. The work is entitled, "A briefe Treatise, To proove the necessitie and excellence of the Vse of Archerie. Abstracted out of ancient and moderne writers, by R. S. Perused and allowed by Aucthoritie." 4to. 1596. This was one of the last attempts to revive the bow as a weapon of defence, and it records a contemporary and successful effort to repel cavalry by its adoption on the part of a rebel force.

[181]"About Bartholomew tyde last, 1595," relates the author, "there came out of Scotland one James Forgeson, bowyer to the King of Scots, who credibly reported, that about two years past, certaine rebelles did rise there against the King, who sent against them five hundred horsemen well appointed. They meeting three hundred of the rebel's bowmen, encountered each with other, when the bowemen slue two hundred and fourscore of their horses, and killed, wounded, and sore hurt most part of the Kinge's men. Whereupon the said Forgeson was sent hether from the King with commission to buy up ten thousande bowes and bowstaves: but because he could not speed heer, he went over into the East countries for them."[181:A]

The Toxophilus of Ascham, first published in 1544, was written in order "that stil, according to the olde wont of Englande, youth should use it for the most honest pastime in peace, that men might handle it as a most sure weapon in warre."[181:B] The latter of these purposes so completely failed, that the use of the bow as an offensive or defensive weapon of warfare totally ceased in the time of James the First; but the former was partially gained, as the treatise of Ascham certainly contributed to prolong the reign of archery as a mere recreation, though it could not retrieve its character as an instrument for the destruction of game. So early, indeed, as 1531, we learn from Sir Thomas Elyot's "Boke named the Governour," that cross-bows and guns had then superseded the long-bow, in the sports of the field:—"Verylye I suppose," says he, "that before crosbowes and handegunnes were broughte into this realme, by the sleyghte of our enemies, to the entent to distroye the noble defence of archerye, continuall use of shootynge in the longe bowe made the feate soo perfecte and exacte among englyshemen, that thei than as surely and soone kylled suche game whiche thei lysted to have, as thei nowe can do with the crossebowe or gunne."[181:C]

[182]The cross-bow was the fashionable instrument for killing game, even with the ladies, in the days of Elizabeth; the Queen was peculiarly fond of the sport, and her example was eagerly followed by the female part of her court. Shakspeare represents the Princess and her ladies, in Love's Labour's Lost, thus employed[182:A]; and Mr. Lodge informs us, through the medium of a letter, written by Sir Francis Leake in 1605, that the Countess of Shrewsbury, and the ladies of the Cavendish family, were ardently attached to this diversion.[182:B]

That the honest pastime of shooting with the long bow was often commuted, in the capital, for amusements of a much less innocent nature, we learn from Stowe, who attributes the decline of archery, as a diversion, to the enclosure of common grounds in the vicinity of the metropolis:—"What should I speake," says he, "of the ancient dayly exercises in the long Bow by citizens of this citie, now almoste cleane left off and forsaken: I over passe it: for by the meanes of closing in of common grounds, our Archers for want of roome to shoote abroad, creep into bowling allies, and ordinarie dicing-houses neerer home, where they have roome enough to hazard their money at unlawfull games."[182:C]

Among the amusements more peculiarly belonging to the metropolis, and which better than any other exhibits the fashionable mode, at that time, of disposing of the day, we may enumerate the custom of publickly parading in the middle isle of St. Paul's Cathedral. During the reign of Elizabeth and James, Paul's Walk, as it was called, was daily frequented by the nobility, gentry, and professional men; here, from ten to twelve in the forenoon, and from three to six in the afternoon, they met to converse on business, politics, or pleasure; and hither too, in order to acquire fashions, form assignations for the gaming table, or shun the grasp of the bailiff, came the gallant, the gamester, and the debtor, the stale knight, and the [183]captain out of service; and here it was that Falstaff purchased Bardolph; "I bought him," says the jolly knight, "at Paul's."[183:A]

Of the various purposes for which this temple was frequented by the loungers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Decker has left us a most entertaining account, and from his tract on this subject, published in 1609, we shall extract a few passages which throw no incurious light on the follies and dissipation of the age.

The supposed tomb of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, but in reality that of Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, appears to have been a privileged part of the Cathedral:—"The Duke's tomb," observes Decker, addressing the gallant, "is a sanctuary; and will keep you alive from worms, and land rats, that long to be feeding on your carcass: there you may spend your legs in winter a whole afternoon; converse, plot, laugh, and talk any thing; jest at your creditor, even to his face; and in the evening, even by lamp-light, steal out; and so cozen a whole covey of abominable catch-polls."[183:B]

Such was the resort of the male fashionable world to this venerable Gothic pile, that it was customary for trades-people to frequent its aisles for the purpose of collecting the dresses of the day. "If you determine to enter into a new suit, warn your tailor to attend you in Pauls, who, with his hat in his hand, shall like a spy discover the stuff, colour, and fashion of any doublet or hose that dare be seen there, and, stepping behind a pillar to fill his table books with those notes, will presently send you into the world an accomplished man; by which means you shall wear your clothes in print with the first edition."[183:C]

The author even condescends to instruct his beau, when he has obtained his suit, how best to exhibit it in St. Paul's, and concludes by pointing out other recourses for killing time, on withdrawing from the cathedral. "Bend your course directly in the middle line, that [184]the whole body of the church may appear to be yours; where, in view of all, you may publish your suit in what manner you affect most, either with the slide of your cloak from the one shoulder: and then you must, as 'twere in anger, suddenly snatch at the middle of the inside, if it be taffeta at the least; and so by that means your costly lining is betrayed, or else by the pretty advantage of compliment. But one note by the way do I especially woo you to, the neglect of which makes many of our gallants cheap and ordinary, that by no means you be seen above four turns; but in the fifth make yourself away, either in some of the semsters' shops, the new tobacco-office, or amongst the booksellers, where, if you cannot read, exercise your smoke, and inquire who has writ against this divine weed, &c."[184:A]

After dinner it was necessary that the finished coxcomb should return to Paul's in a new dress:—"After dinner you may appear again, having translated yourself out of your English cloth into a light Turkey grogram, if you have that happiness of shifting; and then be seen, for a turn or two, to correct your teeth with some quill or silver instrument, and to cleanse your gums with a wrought handkerchief: it skills not whether you dined, or no; that is best known to your stomach; or in what place you dined; though it were with cheese, of your own mother's making, in your chamber or study."[184:B]

The fopperies exhibited in a place, which ought to have been closed against such unhallowed inmates, rival, if not exceed, all that modern puppyism can produce. The directions which Decker gives to his gallant on quitting St. Paul's in the forenoon, clearly prove, that the loungers of Shakspeare's time are not surpassed, either in affectation or the assumption of petty consequence, by the same worthless class of the nineteenth century:—"in which departure," enjoins the satirist, "if by chance you either encounter, or aloof off [185]throw your inquisitive eye upon any knight or squire, being your familiar, salute him not by his name of Sir such a one, or so; but call him Ned, or Jack, &c. This will set off your estimation with great men: and if, though there be a dozen companies between you, 'tis the better, he call aloud to you, for that is most genteel, to know where he shall find you at two o'clock; tell him at such an ordinary, or such; and be sure to name those that are dearest, and whither none but your gallants resort."[185:A]

A still more offensive mode of displaying this ostentatious folly, sprang from a custom then general, and even now not altogether obsolete, of demanding spur-money from any person entering the cathedral during divine service, with spurs on. This was done by the younger choristers, and, it seems, frequently gave birth to the following gross violation of decency: "Never be seen to mount the steps into the quire, but upon a high festival day, to prefer the fashion of your doublet; and especially if the singing-boys seem to take note of you; for they are able to buzz your praises above their anthems, if their voices have not lost their maiden heads: but be sure your silver spurs dog your heels, and then the boys will swarm about you like so many white butterflies[185:B]; when you in the open quire shall draw forth a perfumed embroidered purse, the glorious sight of which will entice many countrymen from their devotion to wondering: and quoit silver into the boy's hands, that it may be heard above the first lesson, although it be read in a voice as big as one of the great organs."[185:C]

The tract from which we have taken these curious illustrations, contains also a passage which serves to show, that London, in the time of our poet, was not unprovided with exhibitions of the docility, sagacity, and tricks of animals; and this, with similar relations, will tend to prove, that the ingenious Mr. Astley, and the Preceptor of [186]the learned pig, had been anticipated both in skill and perseverance. Decker, after conducting his "mere country gentleman" to the top of St. Paul's, proceeds thus:—"Hence you may descend, to talk about the horse that went up; and strive, if you can, to know his keeper; take the day of the month, and the number of the steps; and suffer yourself to believe verily that it was not a horse, but something else in the likeness of one: which wonders you may publish, when you return into the country, to the great amazement of all farmer's daughters, that will almost swoon at the report, and never recover till their bans be asked twice in the church."[186:A]

This is the dancing-horse alluded to by Shakspeare, in Love's Labour's Lost[186:B]; an English bay gelding, fourteen years old, and named Morocco. He had been taught by one Banks, a Scotchman, and their fame was spread over a great part of Europe; "if Banks had lived in older times," remarks Sir Walter Raleigh, "he would have shamed all the inchanters in the world: for whosoever was most famous among them, could never master, or instruct any beast as he did."[186:C] It was the misfortune, indeed, of this man and his horse to be taken for enchanters; while at Paris, they had a narrow escape, being imprisoned for dealing with the devil, and at length liberated, on the magistrates discovering that the whole was merely the effect of human art[186:D]; but at Rome they fell a sacrifice to the more rivetted superstitions of the people, and were both burnt as magicians; a fate to which Ben Jonson adverts in the following lines:—

"But amongst those Tiberts, who do you think there was?
Old Bankes the juggler, our Pythagoras,
Grave tutor to the learned horse. Both which,
Being, beyond sea, burned for one witch,
Their spirits transmigrated to a cat."[186:E]

[187]Nor were the feats of this sagacious horse unrivalled by the wonderful acquirements of other animals. The praise of Morocco is frequently combined by the poets and satirists of the age, with an account of the extraordinary tricks of his contemporary brutes: thus John Taylor, the water-poet, places Holden's camel on a level with Banks's horse:—

"Old Holden's camel, or fine Bankes his cut;"

and Bishop Hall, in his satires, brings us acquainted with a sagacious elephant, to which he kindly adds a couple of wonders of a different description; a bullock with two tails, and a fiddling friar. He is describing the metamorphosis which London had produced in the person and manners of a young farmer, and adds,

"The tenants wonder at their landlord's sonne,
And blesse them at so sudden coming on,
More than who vies his pence to view some trick
Of strange Marocco's dumb arithmetick,
Of the young elephant, or two-tayl'd steere,
Or the rigg'd camel, or fiddling frere."[187:A]

The catalogue of wonders, monsters, and tricks, may be augmented by a reference to Ben Jonson, who, in his Bartholomew Fair, among other spectacles, speaks of a Bull with five legs and two pizzles, Dogs dancing the morrice, and a Hare beating the Tabor.[187:B]

But of all the amusements which distinguish the age of Shakspeare, none could vie in richness, splendour, or invention, with the costly spectacles, called Masques, and Pageants. The frequency of these exhibitions during the reigns of Elizabeth and James is astonishing, if we consider the immense expense which was lavished on their production; the most celebrated poets and the most skilful artists often assisted in their formation; nor was it uncommon to behold nobility, [188]or even royalty itself, assuming the part of actors in these romantic entertainments.

What a gorgeous and voluptuous court could effect, in seconding the efforts of consummate skill, through the medium of machinery, decoration, and dress, may be collected from the numerous Masques of Ben Jonson, who seems to feel the inadequacy of language to express the beauty, grandeur, and sumptuousness of the devices employed on these occasions. Thus, in his Hymenæi, or the Solemnities of Masque and Barriers at a Marriage, he manifestly labours to paint the scene, and, at length, professes himself unequal to the task of conveying the impressions which it had made upon him. "Hitherto," says he, "extended the first night's solemnity, whose grace in the execution left, not where to add to it, with wishing: I mean (nor do I court them) in those, that sustained the nobler parts. Such was the exquisite performance, as (beside the pomp, splendor, or what we may call apparelling of such presentments), that alone (had all else been absent) was of power to surprise with delight, and steal away the spectators from themselves. Nor was there wanting whatsoever might give to the furniture or complement; either in riches, or strangeness of the habits, delicacy of dances, magnificence of the scene, or divine rapture of musick. Only the envy was, that it lasted not still; or, (now it is past) cannot by imagination, much less description, be recovered to a part of that spirit it had in the gliding by."[188:A]

[189]Nothing, indeed, shows the romantic disposition of Elizabeth, and, indeed, of her times, more evidently than the Triumph, as it was called, devised and performed with great solemnity, in honour of the French commissioners for the Queen's marriage with the Duke of Anjou, in 1581. The contrivance was for four of her principal courtiers, under the quaint appellation of "four foster-children of Desire," to besiege and carry, by dint of arms, "The Fortress of Beauty;" intending, by this courtly ænigma, nothing less than the Queen's Majesty's own person. The actors in this famous triumph were, the Earl of Arundel, the Lord Windsor, Master Philip Sidney, and Master Fulk Grevil. And the whole was conducted so entirely in the spirit and language of knight-errantry, that nothing in the Arcadia itself is more romantic.[189:A]

The example of the court was followed with equal profusion by the citizens, and various corporate bodies of the capital, who contended with each other in the cost bestowed on these performances. In 1604, when King James and his Queen passed triumphantly from the Tower to Westminster, the citizens erected seven gates or arches, in different parts of the space through which the procession had to proceed. Over the first arch "was represented the true likeness of all the notable houses, towers, and steeples, within the citie of London.—The sixt arche or gate of triumph was erected above the Conduit in Fleete-Streete, whereon the Globe of the world was seen to move, &c. At Temple-bar a seaventh arche or gate was erected, the forefront whereof was proportioned in every respect like a Temple, being dedicated to Janus, &c.—The citie of Westminster, and dutchy of [190]Lancaster, at the Strand, had erected the invention of a rainbow, the moone, sunne, and starres, advanced between two Pyramids."[190:A]

In 1612-13, the gentlemen of the inns of court presented a masque in honour of the marriage of the Elector Palatine of the Rhine, with the Princess Elizabeth, of which the poetry was the composition of Chapman, and the machinery the invention of Inigo Jones. The expense of this pageantry amounted, according to Dugdale[190:B], to one thousand and eighty-six pounds eight shillings and eleven pence, and was conducted with uncommon splendour. "First rode," relates Howes, "fiftie choyce gentlemen richly attyred, and as gallantly mounted, with every one his footemen to attend him: These rode very stately like a vauntguard." Next to these appeared an antique or mock-masque. "After them came two chariots triumphal, very pleasant and full of state, wherein rode the choyce musitians of this kingdome, in robes like to the Virginian priests, with sundry devises, all pleasant and significant, with two rankes of torches: Then came the chiefe maskers with great State in white Indian habit, or like the great princes of Barbary, richly imbrodered with the golden sun, with suteable ornaments in all poynts, about their necks were rufs of feathers, spangled and beset with pearle and silver, and upon their heads lofty corronets suteable to the rest."[190:C]

Nor were these fanciful and ever varying pageants productive merely of amusement; they had higher aims, and more important effects, and, while ostensibly constructed for the purposes of compliment and entertainment, either indirectly inculcated some lesson of moral wisdom, or more immediately obtained their end, by impersonating the vices and the virtues, and exhibiting a species of ethic drama.

They had also the merit of conveying no inconsiderable fund of instruction from the stores of mythology, history, and philosophy. [191]Of this the masques of Jonson afford abundant proof, containing, as they do, not only the common superficial knowledge on these subjects, but displaying such a mass of recondite learning, illustrative of the manners, opinions, customs, and antiquities of the ancient world, as would serve to extend the information of the educated, while they delighted and instructed the body of the people.

To these classical diversions, these eruditæ voluptates, which were remarkably frequent during the whole era of Shakspeare's existence, we may confidently ascribe some portion of that intimacy with the records of history, the fictions of paganism, and the reveries of philosophy which our poet so copiously exhibits throughout his poems and plays, as well as no small accession to the wild and fantastic visionary forms that so pre-eminently delight us in the golden dreams of his imagination.

Among the numerous scenes and descriptions which owe their birth, in our author's dramas, to these superb combinations of mechanism and poesy, we shall select two passages that more peculiarly point out the manner in which he has availed himself of their scenery and arrangement.

"There is a passage in Antony and Cleopatra," observes Mr. Warton, "where the metaphor is exceedingly beautiful; but where the beauty both of the expression and the allusion is lost, unless we recollect the frequency and the nature of these shows (the Pageants) in Shakspeare's age. I must cite the whole of the context, for the sake of the last hemistick.

"Ant. Sometime we see a cloud that's dragonish,
A vapour sometime, like a bear or lion;
A towred citadel, a pendant rock,
A forked mountain, or blue promontory
With trees upon't, that nod unto the world,
And mock our eyes with air: Thou hast seen these signs;
They are Black Vesper's Pageants."[191:A]

This illustrious critic, however, should have continued the quotation [192]somewhat further; for the next three lines include a piece of imagery immediately taken from the same source, and more worthy of remark than any preceding allusion:—

"Eros. Ay, my lord.
Ant. That, which is now a horse; even with a thought,
The Rack dislimns; and makes it indistinct,
As water is in water."[192:A]

The meaning of the expression, "The Rack dislimns," is clearly ascertained by a reference to Ben Jonson's Hymenæal Masque already quoted, in which occurs the following striking passage:—"Here the upper part of the scene, which was all of clouds, and made artificially to swell and ride like the Rack, began to open, and the air clearing, in the top thereof was discovered Juno sitting in a throne, supported by two beautiful peacocks.—Round about her sate the spirits of the ayre, in several colours, making musique. Above her the region of fire, with a continual motion, was seen to whirl circularly, and Jupiter standing in the top (figuring the heaven) brandishing his thunder. Beneath her the rainbow Iris, and, on the two sides eight ladies, attired richly, and alike, in the most celestial colours, who represented her powers, as she is the Governess of Marriage."[192:B]

This extract, also, together with the one given in a preceding page, descriptive of the Citizen's Pageant in honour of James and his Queen, 1604, will throw a strong light on a celebrated passage in the Tempest, and fully prove our poet's extensive obligations to these very ingenious devices:—

"Our revels now are ended: These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
[193]Yea all, which it inherit, shall dissolve;
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind."[193:A]

The towers, the temples, and the great globe itself of these lines, we find exhibited in the pageant of 1604, eight or ten years anterior to the representation of this play; while in the masque of Jonson, we perceive the occasion of its performance to have been similar to that which gave origin to the insubstantial pageant of Prospero, both being Hymenæal Masques, both likewise including among their actors the characters of Iris and Juno, and both being accompanied by spirits of the ayre making musick.

Here the term rack, in both quotations from our poet, manifestly appears, from the passage in Ben Jonson's masque, to have been drawn from the machinery of the pageant, and to have implied masses of clouds in motion; the lines from Antony and Cleopatra, alluding to their mutability and endless diversity, and those in the Tempest importing their utter insignificance and instability when compared with the more durable materials of the pageant; and hence emphatically founding on their evanescence, a complete picture of entire dissolution, that, like the insubstantial pageant which had just vanished from their eyes, not only towers, palaces, temples, and the globe itself, should disappear, but even not the most trifling part of the fabric of the world, not even the passing clouds, the fleeting rack, should be left behind, as a memorial of existence.

Upon no occasions were these imposing spectacles, the masque, the pageant, and the triumph, gotten up with more gorgeous splendour, than during the Progresses which Elizabeth so frequently made throughout the course of her long reign. Every nobleman's house was thrown open for her reception whilst thus engaged, and the keenest rivalry was excited amongst them, with regard to the expense, magnificence, variety, and duration of the entertainments which [194]they lavished upon her. Nor was the Queen at all scrupulous in accepting their invitations, for she considered this hospitality, however ruinous to the individual, as a necessary attention, and, in fact, entered the mansions of her courtiers with the same feelings of property, as when she sate down beneath the roof of what might more strictly be termed her own palaces. That her subjects were complaisant enough to acquiesce in this assumption, is evident from a passage in Harrison's Description of England, who mentioning the variety of the Queen's houses, adds,—"But what shall I need to take upon me to repeat all, and tell what houses the queen's majesty hath? Sith all is hirs; and when it pleaseth hir in the summer season to recreate hirself abroad, and view the state of the countrie, and hear the complaints of hir unjust officers or substitutes, every nobleman's house is hir palace, where she continueth during pleasure, and till she returne again to some of hir owne." One of the most striking proofs of the frequency and oppression of these royal visits, has been recorded by Mr. Nichols, who tells us, that "she was twelve times at Theobald's, which was a very convenient distance from London. Each visit cost Cecil two or three thousand pounds; the Queen lying there at his Lordships charge, sometimes three weeks, or a month, or six weeks together."[194:A]

These Progresses, however, of which Mr. Nichols has presented us with a most curious and ample collection, serve, more than any other documents which history could afford, to impress us with an accurate and interesting idea of the hospitality, diversions, costume, and domestic economy, of the great Baronial Chieftains of our last romantic reign. From them, observes their very ingenious editor, "much of the manners of the times may be learned. They give us a view into the interior of the noble families, display their state in house-keeping, and other articles, and set before our eyes their magnificent mansions long since gone to decay, or supplanted by others of the succeeding age."[194:B]

[195]Perhaps the most splendid reception which Elizabeth met with, in the whole course of her Progresses, was at Kenelworth-castle, in Warwickshire, the seat of the once all-powerful Earl of Leicester. Some slight notice of this place, as having probably attracted the attention of young Shakspeare, during the visit of Her Majesty, has already been given in a former part of our work; but it will be necessary here, in order to impart a just conception of the costly entertainments which awaited the Queen on these excursions, to give a brief catalogue of the ten days "princely pleasures" of Kenelworth castle.

Her Majesty reached Lord Leicester's on Saturday, the ninth of July, 1575, and was greeted, on her approach to the castle, by a Sibyl, prophesying prosperity to her government. Six giants stood ready to receive her at the outer gate apparently blowing trumpets, which were in reality sounded by persons placed behind them, while the Porter, representing Hercules, addressed her in a metrical speech, "proclaiming open gates and free passage to all, and yielding to her on his knees, his club, keys, and office." Arriving at the base court, a female figure, appropriately dressed, "came all over the pool, being so conveyed, that it seemed she had gone upon the water; she was attended by two water-nymphs, and calling herself the Lady of the Lake," complimented Her Majesty, who, passing on to the inner court, crossed the bridge, which was ornamented with seven pillars on each side, exhibiting on their summits, birds in cages, fruits in silver bowls, corn in similar vessels, wine and grapes in silver pots, fishes in trays, weapons of war, and musical instruments, the respective gifts of Silvanus, Pomona, Ceres, Bacchus, Neptune, Mars, and Apollo. Then, preceded by a noble band of music, the Queen crossed the inner court, alighted from her horse, and entered her apartments.

On Sunday evening, she beheld a grand display of fire-works, a species of amusement which had been little known previous to her reign: "after a warning piece or two," says Laneham, "was a blaze of burning darts flying to and fro, beams of stars coruscant, streams [196]and hail of fire-sparks, lightnings of wild fire on the water; and on the land, flight and shot of thunder-bolts, all with such continuance, terror, and vehemence, the heavens thundered, the waters surged, and the earth shook."

Monday was occupied by hunting, conducted on a large and magnificent scale, during which Her Majesty was ingeniously complimented through the medium of several sylvan devices.

Music, dancing, and pageantry on the water, formed the diversions of the Tuesday.

Hunting and field sports consumed the Wednesday; bear-baiting, tumbling, and fire-works, were the recreations of the Thursday; and, the weather not permitting any out-door diversions on Friday, the time was spent in banquetting, shows, and domestic games.

On Saturday, the morning being fine, the Queen was highly entertained by the representation of a country bride-ale, by running at the quintain, and by the "Old Coventry Play of Hock Thursday;" while the evening diversions were a regular play, a banquet, and a masque.

The amusement of hunting was resumed on the Monday, returning from which Her Majesty was highly gratified by a pageant on the water, exhibiting, among other spectacles, Arion seated upon a dolphin twenty-four feet in length, and singing a song, accompanied by the music of six performers, who were snugly lodged in the belly of the fish.

The Coventry play not having been finished on the preceding Saturday, was repeated, at the desire of the Queen, on the Tuesday, and on Wednesday the 20th, she bade adieu to Kenelworth, greatly delighted with the hospitality and princely splendour of its noble owner.[196:A]

The Hall and the Tiltyard were two of the most striking features at Kenelworth, and they designate with sufficient precision two of the leading characteristics of the age of Elizabeth, its hospitality, and [197]attachment to chivalric costume; the former was carried on upon a scale to which modern usage is a perfect stranger; for, as Bishop Hurd remarks, "the same bell, that called the great man to his table, invited the neighbourhood all around, and proclaimed a holiday to the whole country[197:A];" and the latter cherished its predilections, and romantic ardour, by cultivating tilting, the sole remaining offspring of the gorgeous tournament, with scientific skill. The latter half of the sixteenth, and the commencement of the seventeenth, century, saw, indeed, the diversion of running at the ring carried to its highest degree of perfection, from which, however, it very soon afterwards began to decline, and may be said to have expired with the reign of James the First.

Yet the influence of this amusement, in exciting the heroism of the Elizabethan age, was by no means inconsiderable, and we may view the tilt-yard of Kenelworth, with the eyes of Dr. Hurd, "as a nursery of brave men, a very seed-plot of warriors and heroes.—And, as whimsical a figure as a young tilter may make in a modern eye, who will say that the virtue was not formed here, that triumphed at Axell, and bled at Zutphen."[197:B]

To complete the picture of Kenelworth-castle during this festive period, it would be desirable, could we ascertain what were the domestic economy and usages which were adopted in so large a household, and how the Queen, her ladies, and attendants, contrived to pass the hours, when the weather forbade exterior diversions, and when the masque, the banquet, and the fete, had exhausted their attractions. Fortunately we possess a sketch of this kind, from the communicative pen of Laneham, who seems to have been gifted, if we may trust his own account, with great powers of pleasing, and to have enjoyed, in an extraordinary degree, the favour and confidence of the high-born dames of honour who followed in the train of Elizabeth.

[198]"Methought it my part," he relates in a letter to his friend, "somewhat to impart unto you how it is here with me, and how I lead my life, which indeed is this:—

"A mornings I rise ordinarily at seven o'clock: Then ready, I go into the Chapel; soon after eight, I get me commonly into my Lord's chamber, or into my Lord's presidents. There at the cupboard, after I have eaten the manchet served overnight for livery (for I dare be as bold, I promise you, as any of my friends the servants there: and indeed could I have fresh, if I would tarry; but I am of wont jolly and dry a mornings): I drink me up a good bol of ale: when in a sweet pot it is defecated by all night's standing, the drink is the better, take that of me: and a morsel in a morning, with a sound draught; is very wholesome and good for the eye-sight: Then I am as fresh all the forenoon after, as had I eaten a whole piece of beef. Now, Sir, if the Council sit, I am at hand; wait at an inch, I warrant you: If any man make babbling, 'Peace,' say I, 'wot ye where ye are?' If I take a listener, or a pryer in at the chinks or at the lock-hole, I am by and by in the bones of him: But now they keep good order, they know me well enough: If a be a friend, or such a one as I like, I make him sit down by me on a form or a chest; let the rest walk, a God's name.

"And here doth my language now and then stand me in good stead: My French, my Spanish, my Dutch, and my Latin: Sometime among Ambassador's men, if their Master be within the Council: Sometime with the Ambassador himself, if he bid call his lacky, or ask me what's a clock; and I warrant ye I answer him roundly; that they marvel to see such a fellow there: then laugh I and say nothing: Dinner and supper I have twenty places to go to, and heartily prayed to: Sometime get I to Master Pinner; by my faith, a worshipful Gentleman, and as careful for his charge as any her Highness hath: there find I alway good store of very good viands; we eat, and be merry, thank God and the Queen. Himself in feeding very temperate and moderate as ye shall see any: and yet, by your leave, of a dish, as a cold pigeon or so, that hath come to him at meat more [199]than he looked for, I have seen him een so by and by surfeit, as he hath plucked off his napkin, wiped his knife, and eat not a morsel more; like enough to stick in his stomach a two days after: (some hard message from the higher officers; perceive ye me?) upon search, his faithful dealing and diligence hath found him faultless.

"In afternoons and a nights, sometime am I with the right worshipful Sir George Howard, as good a Gentleman as any lives: And sometime, at my good Lady Sidneys chamber, a Noblewoman that I am as much bound unto, as any poor man may be unto so gracious a Laday; and sometime in some other place. But always among the Gentlewomen by my good will; (O, ye know thatt comes always of a gentle spirit:) And when I see company according, then can I be as lively too: Sometime I foot it with dancing: now with my gittern, and else with my cittern, then at the virginals: Ye know nothing comes amiss to me: Then carol I up a song withal; that by and by they come flocking about me like bees to honey: And ever they cry, 'Another, good Langham, another!' Shall I tell you? When I see Mistress —— (A, see a mad Knave; I had almost told all!) that she gives once but an eye or an ear; why then, man, am I blest; my grace, my courage, my cunning is doubled: She says, sometime, 'She likes it;' and then I like it much the better; it doth me good to hear how well I can do. And to say truth; what with mine eyes, as I can amorously gloat it, with my Spanish sospires, my French heighes, mine Italian dulcets, my Dutch hoves, my double releas, my high reaches, my fine feigning, my deep diapason, my wanton warbles, my running, my timing, my tuning, and my twinkling, I can gracify the matters as well as the proudest of them, and was yet never stained, I thank God: By my troth, Countryman, it is some time high midnight, ere I can get from them. And thus have I told ye most of my trade, all the live-long day: what will ye more, God save the Queene and my Lord."[199:A]

[200]Of this magnificent castle, the unrivalled abode of baronial hospitality, and chivalric pageantry, who can avoid lamenting the present irreparable decay, or forbear apostrophising the mouldering reliques in the pathetic, and picturesque language, which Bishop Hurd has placed in the mouth of his admired Addison?

"Where, one might ask, are the tilts and tournaments, the princely shows and sports, which were once so proudly celebrated within these walls? Where are the pageants, the studied devices, and emblems of curious invention, that set the court at a gaze, and even transported the high soul of our Elizabeth? Where now, pursued he, (pointing to that which was formerly a canal, but at present is only a meadow, with a small rivulet running through it) where is the floating island, the blaze of torches that eclipsed the day, the lady of the lake, the silken nymphs her attendants, with all the other fantastic exhibitions surpassing even the whimsies of the wildest romance? What now is become of the revelry of feasting? of the minstrelsy that took the ear so delightfully as it babbled along the valley, or floated on the surface of this lake? See there the smokeless kitchens, stretching to a length that might give room for the sacrifice of a hecatomb; the vaulted hall, which mirth and jollity have set so often in an uproar; the rooms of state, and the presence-chamber: what are they now but void and tenantless ruins, clasped with ivy, open to wind and weather, and representing to the eye nothing but the ribs and carcase, as it were, of their former state? And see, said he, that proud gate-way, once the mansion of a surly porter, who, partaking of the pride of his lord, made the crowds wait, and refused admittance, perhaps, to nobles whom fear or interest drew to these walls, to pay their homage to their master: see it now the residence of a poor tenant, who turns the key but to let himself out to his daily labour, to admit him to a short meal, and secure his nightly slumbers."[200:A]

[201]To this account of some of the principal diversions of the court and the metropolis, we have now to subjoin, in a compass corresponding with the scale of our work, a clear, but necessarily a brief view, of an amusement which, more than any other, is calculated to interest, and to influence every class of society. The state, economy, and usages of THE STAGE, therefore, during the age of Shakspeare, will occupy the remainder of this chapter, forming an introduction to a sketch of dramatic poetry, at the period of Shakspeare's commencement as a writer for the stage.

The reader is probably aware, from the very copious and bulky, though somewhat indigested, collections, which have been published on this subject, that the following detail, consisting of an arrangement of minute facts, and which aims at nothing more than a neat and lucid compendium of an intricate topic, must necessarily, at almost every step, be indebted to previous researches; in order, therefore, to obviate a continual parade of reference, let it suffice, that we acknowledge the basis of our disquisition to have been derived from the labours of Steevens and Malone, as included in the last variorum edition of Shakspeare; from the two Apologies of Mr. Chalmers; from Decker, as reprinted by Nott; and occasionally, from the pages of Warton, Percy, Whiter, and Gilchrist. Where references, however, are absolutely essential, they will be found in their due place.

It has been justly observed by Mr. Chalmers, that "what Augustus said of Rome, may be remarked of Elizabeth and the stage, that she found it brick, and left it marble."[201:A] At her accession in 1558, no regular theatre had been established, and the players of that period, even in the capital, were compelled to have recourse to the yards of great Inns, as the most commodious places which they could obtain for the representation of their pieces. These, being surrounded by open stages and galleries, and possessing, likewise, numerous private apartments and recesses from which the genteeler part of the audience [202]might become spectators at their ease, while the central space held a temporary stage, uncovered in fine weather, and protected by an awning in bad, were not ill calculated for the purposes of scenic exhibition, and, most undoubtedly, gave rise to the form and construction, adopted in the erection of the licensed theatres.

In this stage of infancy was the public stage at the birth of Shakspeare; nor would it so rapidly have emerged into importance, had not the Queen, though occasionally yielding to the enmity and fanaticism of the puritans with regard to this recreation, been warmly attached to theatric amusements. So early as 1569, was she frequently entertained in her own chapel-royal, by the performance of plays on profane subjects, by the children belonging to that establishment; and the year following has been fixed upon as the most probable era of the erection of a regular play-house, very appropriately named The Theatre, and supposed to have been situated in the Blackfriars.

We shall not be surprised, therefore, to find, that in 1574 a regular company of players was established by royal licence, granting to James Burbage, John Perkyn, John Lanham, William Johnson, and Robert Wilson, servants of the Earl of Leicester, authority, under the privy seal, "to use, exercyse and occupie the arte and facultye of playenge commedies, tragedies, enterludes, stage-playes, and such other like as they have alreadie used and studied, or hereafter shall use and studie, as well for the recreation of our lovinge subjects as for our solace and pleasure when we shall thinke good to see them—throughoute our realme of England."[202:A]

This may be considered then, with great probability, as the first general licence obtained by any company of players in England; but, with the customary precaution of Elizabeth, it contains a clause, subjecting all dramatic amusements to the previous inspection of the Master of the Revels, an officer who, in the reign of Henry the Eighth, had been created to superintend a part of the duties which until then [203]had fallen to the province of the Lord Chamberlain, and who now had the sphere of his control augmented by this prudent enactment, providing "that the saide commedies, tragedies, enterludes and stage-playes be by the Master of our Revels for the tyme beynge before sene and allowed."

The officers who exercised this authority, during the life of Shakspeare, were Sir Thomas Benger, Edmond Tilney, and Sir George Bucke. Sir Thomas Benger, who succeeded Sir Thomas Cawerden in 1560, lived not to see Shakspeare's entrance into the scenic world, but, dying in 1577, Tilney's appointment took place in 1579. This gentleman continued to regulate the stage for the long period of thirty-one years; he beheld the dawn and the mid-day splendour of Shakspeare's dramatic genius, and in his official capacity, he enjoyed the opportunity of licensing not less than thirty of his dramas, commencing with Henry the Sixth, and terminating with Antony and Cleopatra. On his death, in 1610, Sir George Bucke, who had obtained a reversionary patent for the office in 1603, and had executed its duties for twelvemonth previous to Tilney's decease, became Master of the Revels, and had the felicity of reading, and the honour of licensing, some of the last and noblest productions of our immortal poet, namely, Timon of Athens, Coriolanus, Othello, the Tempest, and Twelfth Night. He also lived to deplore the premature extinction of this unrivalled bard, and he died in the year which presented to the public the first folio edition of his plays.

The erection of a theatre in 1570; the establishment by royal authority of a regular company in 1574; and the subjection of both to highly respectable officers, operated so strongly in favour of dramatic amusements, that we find Stubbes, the puritanic satirist, bitterly inveighing in 1583 against the great popular support of the theatres in his day, which he sarcastically terms Venus' Palaces, and immediately afterwards designates by a general application of the names which had been given at that time to the two principal structures: "marke," says he, "the flocking and running to theaters and [204]curtens, daylie and hourely, night and daye, tyme and tyde, to see playes and enterludes."[204:A]

This passion for the stage continued rapidly to increase, and before the year 1590 not less than four or five theatres were in existence. The patronage of dramatic representation made an equal progress at court; for though Elizabeth never, it is believed, attended a public theatre, yet had she four companies of children who frequently performed for her amusement, denominated the Children of St. Pauls, the Children of Westminster, the Children of the Chapel, and the Children of Windsor. The public actors too, who were sometimes, in imitation of these appellations, called the Children of the Revels, were, towards the close of Her Majesty's reign especially, in consequence of a greatly acquired superiority over their younger brethren, often called upon to act before her at the royal theatre in Whitehall. Exhibitions of this kind at court were usual at Christmas, on Twelfth Night, at Candlemas, and at Shrove-tide, throughout the reigns of Elizabeth and James, and the plays of Shakspeare were occasionally the entertainment of the night: thus we find Love's Labour's Lost to have been performed before our maiden Queen during the Christmas-holydays, and King Lear to have been exhibited before King James on St. Stephen's night.[204:B]

On these occasions, the representation was generally at night, that it might not interfere with the performances at the regular theatres, which took place early in the afternoon; and we learn from the Council-books, that the royal remuneration, in the age of Elizabeth, for the exhibition of a single play at Whitehall, amounted to ten pounds, of which, twenty nobles, or six pounds thirteen shillings, and four-pence, formed the customary fee; and three pounds, six shillings, and eight-pence, the free gift or bounty. If, however, the performers were required to leave the capital for any of the royal palaces in its neighbourhood, the fee, in consequence of the public [205]exhibition of the day being prevented, was augmented to twenty pounds.

The protection of the drama by Elizabeth and her ministers, though it did not exempt the public players, except in one instance, from the penalties of statutes against vagabonds, yet it induced, during the whole of her long reign, numerous instances of private patronage from the most opulent of her nobility and gentry, who, possessing the power of licensing their own domestics as comedians, and, consequently of protecting them from the operation of the act of vagrancy, sheltered various companies of performers, under the denomination of their servants, or retainers,—a privilege which was taken away, by act of parliament, on the accession of James, and, as Mr. Chalmers observes, "put an end for ever to the scenic system of prior times."[205:A]

To this private patronage of the latter half of the sixteenth century, we must ascribe not less than fourteen distinct companies of players, that, in succession, contributed to exhilarate the golden days of England's matchless Queen, and, in their turn, enjoyed the honour of contributing to her amusement. Of these, the following is a chronological enumeration:—Soon after the accession of Elizabeth, appeared Lord Leicester's company, the same which, in 1574, was finally incorporated by royal licence; in 1572, was formed Sir Robert Lane's company; in the same year Lord Clinton's; in 1575, companies were created by Lord Warwick, and the Lord Chamberlain, the name of Shakspeare being enrolled among the servants of the latter, who, in the first year of the subsequent reign, became entitled to the appellation of His Majesty's servants; in 1576, the Earl of Sussex brought forward a theatrical body, and in 1577, Lord Howard another, neither of which, however, attained much eminence; in 1578, the Earl of Essex mustered a company of players, and in 1579, Lord Strange, and the Earl of Derby, followed his [206]example; in 1591, the Lord Admiral produced his set of comedians; in 1592, the Earl of Hertford effected a similar arrangement; in 1593, Lord Pembroke protected an association of actors, and, at the close of Her Majesty's reign, the Earl of Worcester had in pay, also, a company of theatrical performers.

In the mean time theatres, both public and private, were greatly on the increase, and, during the period that Shakspeare immortalised the stage, not less than seven of these structures, of established notoriety, were in existence. Four of them were considered as public theatres, namely, The Globe on the Bankside, The Curtain in Shoreditch, The Red Bull in St. John's Street, and The Fortune in Whitecross Street; and three were termed private houses, one, for instance, in Blackfriars, another in Whitefriars, and The Cockpit or Phœnix, in Drury-Lane. As The Globe, however, and the theatre in Blackfriars were the property of the same set of players, only six companies of comedians were formed, or wanted, for the purposes of representation.

Beside these principal play-houses, several others, possessing a more ephemeral existence, as The Swan, The Rose, &c., sprung up and fell in succession, forming altogether such a number, as justly gave alarm and offence to the stricter clergy, and at length attracted the attention of the privy-council, who, on the 22d of June, 1600, issued an order for the reduction of the number of play-houses, limiting these buildings to two, selecting that called The Fortune for Middlesex, and fixing on The Globe for Surrey. To such a degree, however, had now arisen the attachment of the people to dramatic recreations, that notwithstanding these orders were re-issued, with still stronger injunctions, the following year, they could never be carried into any effectual execution.

Much as Elizabeth favoured the stage, it appears to have been patronised by her successor with equal, if not superior, zeal. James may be said, indeed, to have given a dignity and consequence to the profession, to which it had hitherto been a stranger, and to have introduced into the theatric world, a new, and better constituted [207]arrangement of its parts. No sooner had he ascended the throne, than three companies were formed under his auspices; the Lord Chamberlain's servants he adopted as his own; the Queen chose the Earl of Worcester's, and Prince Henry fixed upon the Earl of Nottingham's; and on the 19th of May, only twelve days after his arrival in London, he granted to his own company, being that performing at The Globe, the following licence, which was first published in Rymer's Fœdera, in 1705:—

"Pro Laurentio Fletcher et Willielmo Shakespeare et aliis.

"A.D. 1603. Pat.

"1. Jac. P. 2. m. 4. James by the grace of God, &c. to all justices, maiors, sheriffs, constables, headboroughs, and other our officers and loving subjects, greeting. Know you that wee, of our special grace, certaine knowledge, and meer motion, have licensed and authorised, and by these presentes doe licence and authorize theise our servaunts, Laurence Fletcher, William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustine Phillippes, John Hemings, Henrie Condel, William Sly, Robert Armin, Richard Cowly, and the rest of their associates, freely to use and exercise the art and faculty of playing comedies, tragedies, histories, interludes, morals, pastorals, stage-plaies, and such like other as thei have alreadie studied or hereafter shall use or studie, as well for the recreation of our loving subjects, as for our solace and pleasure when we shall thincke good to see them, during our pleasure: and the said comedies, tragedies, histories, enterludes, morals, pastorals, stage-plaies, and such like, to shew and exercise publiquely to their best commoditie, when the infection of the plague shall decrease, as well within theire nowe usuall house called the Globe, within our county of Surrey, as also within anie towne-halls or moute-halls, or other convenient places within the liberties and freedom of any other citie, universitie, toun, or boroughe whatsoever, within our said realmes and dominions. Willing and commanding you and everie of you, as you tender our [208]pleasure, not onelie to permit and suffer them herein, without any your letts, hindrances, or molestations, during our pleasure, but also to be aiding or assistinge to them if any wrong be to them offered, and to allow them such former curtesies as hathe been given to men of their place and quallitie; and also what further favour you shall shew to theise our servaunts for our sake, we shall take kindlie at your handes. In witness whereof, &c.

"Witness our selfe at Westminster, the nynteenth daye of Maye,

"Per Breve de private sigillo."[208:A]

To The Globe mentioned in this licence, and to the play-house in Blackfriars, as being the theatres exclusively belonging to Shakspeare's company, and where all his dramas were performed, we shall now confine our attention, the customs and usages of these, the one being a public, and the other a private theatre, pretty accurately applying to the rest.

The exact era of the building of The Globe has not been ascertained. Mr. Malone, from the documents which he consulted, conceives it to have been erected not long anterior to the year 1596; and Mr. Chalmers, resting on the evidence of Norden's map of London, concludes it to have been built before the year 1593.[208:B] Its scite appears to have been on the southern side of the Thames, called the Bankside, and its form, which was of considerable size, to have been externally hexagonal, and internally circular. It was constructed of wood, and only partly thatched, its centre being open to the weather. It was probably named The Globe, not from the circularity of its interior, but from its sign exhibiting Hercules supporting the globe, under which was inscribed, Totus mundus agit histrionem.

[209]Being a public theatre, The Globe was likewise distinguished by a pole erected on its roof, to which, during the hours of exhibition, a flag was attached; for, by reason of its central exposure, it necessarily became a summer theatre, its performers, the King's company, usually commencing their season here during the month of May. The exhibitions at the Globe were frequent, and it is said, chiefly calculated for the lower class of people, the upper ranks, and the critics, generally preferring the private theatres, which were smaller, and more conveniently fitted up. The advantages of elegance and decoration, however, were no longer wanting to The Globe, in 1614; for the old structure, consisting of wood and thatch, being burnt down on the 29th of June, 1613, the subsequent year saw it rise from its ashes with considerable splendour.[209:A]

The Theatre in Blackfriars may be classed among the earliest buildings of the kind, being certainly in existence before 1580. It was erected near the present site of Apothecaries' Hall, and being without the liberties of the city of London, had the good fortune to escape the levelling fury of the fanatics, who, shortly after the above period, obtained leave to destroy all the play-houses within the jurisdiction of the city.

It does not appear that Shakspeare's company, or the King's servants, had any interest in this theatre before the winter of 1604, at which period, or in the following spring, they became its purchasers; the children of the Revels, or, as they were sometimes called, the children of Blackfriars, being the usual performers at this house, prior to that event.

[210]The distinctions subsisting between Blackfriars and The Globe, seem to have been nothing more, than that the former being a private, and a winter, house, was smaller, more compactly put together, and, as the representations were by candle-light, better calculated for the purposes of warmth and protection. As the internal structure, however, with the exception of the open centre, was similar to that of The Globe, and as the economy and usages were, there is every reason to believe, the same, not only in both these houses, but in every other contemporary theatre, the subsequent notices may be considered as applying, where not otherwise expressed, to the general state of the Elizabethan stage, though immediately derived from the costume of The Globe.

The interior architectural arrangements of this ancient theatre have been, in their leading features, preserved to the present day. The galleries, or scaffolds, as they were sometimes called, were constructed over each other, occupying three sides of the house, and assuming, according to the plan of the building, a square or semicircular form. Beneath these were small apartments, called rooms, intended for the genteeler part of the audience, and answering, in almost every respect, to our modern boxes. In The Globe, these were open to all who chose to pay for them, but at Blackfriars and other private theatres, there is some reason to conclude, that they were occasionally the property of individuals, who secured their claim through the medium of a key.[210:A]

It has been remarked, that the centre of The Globe, or summer theatre, was open to the weather, and, from the first temporary play-houses having been built in the area of inns or common osteries, this was usually called The Yard. It had neither floor nor benches, and the common people standing here to see the performance, were, therefore, termed by Shakspeare groundlings; an epithet repeated by Decker, who speaks of "the groundling and gallery commoner, [211]buying his sport by the penny."[211:A] The similar space at Blackfriars was named the Pit, but seems to have differed in no other respect than in being protected by a roof. It was separated from the stage merely by a railing of pales, for there was no intervening orchestra, the music, consisting chiefly of trumpets, cornets, hautboys, lutes, recorders, viols, and organs, being executed by a band of eight or ten performers, who were stationed in an elevated balcony nearly occupying that part of the house which is now denominated the upper stage-box.

The stage itself appears to have been divided into two parts, namely the lower and the upper stage; the former with nearly the same relative elevation with regard to the pit as in the theatres of our own times; the latter, resembling a balcony in shape, was placed towards the rear of the former, having its platform not less than eight or nine feet from the ground. This was a contrivance attended with much conveniency; here was represented the play before the King in Hamlet; here, in several of the old plays, part of the dialogue was carried on, and here, having curtains which drew in front, were occasionally concealed, from the view of the audience, persons whose seclusion might be necessary to the business of the plot.

Curtains also of woollen, or silk, were hung in the front of the greater or lower stage, not suspended, in the modern style, by lines and pullies, but opening in the middle, and sliding on an iron rod.

Beside the accommodation of boxes, pit, and galleries, in the usual parts of the house, two boxes, one on each side, were attached to the balcony or upper stage, and were termed private boxes; but, being inconveniently situated, and, as Decker remarks, "almost smothered in darkness," were seldom frequented, except from motives of eccentricity, by characters higher than waiting-women and gentlemen-ushers.[211:B] Seats, also, at the private theatres, were allowed to be [212]placed on the stage, and were generally occupied by the wits, gallants, and critics of the day: thus Decker observes,—"by sitting on the stage, you have a signed patent to engross the whole commodity of censure; may lawfully presume to be a girder, and stand at the helm to steer the passage of scenes."[212:A]

The passage in italics which closes this quotation, would seem to be decisive of the long agitated question relative to the use of scenery; Mr. Malone asserting,—"that the stage of Shakspeare was not furnished with moveable painted scenes, but merely decorated with curtains, and arras or tapestry hangings, which, when decayed, appear to have been sometimes ornamented with pictures[212:B];" and Mr. Steevens contending, that where so much machinery as the plays of Shakspeare require, is allowed to have been employed, the less complicated adjunct of scenes could scarcely be wanting; for that where "the column is found standing, no one will suppose but that it was once accompanied by its usual entablature.—In short," he adds, "without characteristic discriminations of place, the historical dramas of Shakspeare in particular would have been wrapped in tenfold confusion and obscurity; nor could the spectator have felt the poet's power, or accompanied his rapid transitions from one situation to another, without such guides as painted canvas only could supply.—But for these, or such assistances, the spectator, like Hamlet's mother, must have bent his gaze on mortifying vacancy; and with the guest invited by the Barmecide, in the Arabian tale, must have furnished from his own imagination the entertainment of which his eyes were solicited to partake."[212:C]

If the machinery accompanying trap-doors, tombs, and cauldrons, the appearance of ghosts, phantoms, and monsters, the descent of gods, the magic evanishment of articles of furniture and provision, and the confliction of the elements, were not strangers to the Shakspearean theatre, it surely would have been an easy matter to have [213]transferred the frame-work and painted canvas which, according to Holinshed, and even preceding chroniclers, decorated the pageants and tournaments of those days, to the business of the stage. Nor can we, indeed, conceive, as Mr. Steevens has remarked, how the minute inventory of Imogen's bedchamber, and the accurate description of the exterior of Inverness Castle, could have been rendered intelligible or endurable without such assistance.

It is highly, probable, therefore, from these considerations, and from the passage in Decker, that, notwithstanding the mass of negative evidence collected by Mr. Malone, moveable painted scenes were occasionally introduced on the stage during the age of Shakspeare; and it may be further reasonably concluded, that, from the phrase of STEERING the PASSAGE of scenes, the mechanism was formed and conducted on a plan approximating that which is now familiar to a modern audience.

The conjecture of Mr. Steevens, however, that private theatres had no scenes, while the public had, owing to the former admitting part of the audience on the stage, who might interfere with the convenient shifting of such an apparatus, is annihilated by the quotation from Decker, who expressly says, that "by SITTING ON THE STAGE, you have a signed patent to stand at the helm to steer the passage of the scenes," by which it would appear, that those who obtained seats on the private stage, occasionally amused themselves by assisting the regular mechanists in the adjustment of the scenery.

We learn, also, from Heywood[213:A], that the internal roof of the stage was either painted of a sky-blue colour, or hung with drapery of a similar tint, in order to represent the HEAVENS; and there is much reason to suppose, with a very ingenious commentator, that when the idea of a gloomy and starless night was to be impressed, these heavens were hung with black, whence, among many passages [214]in Shakspeare illustrative of this position, the following line manifestly owes its origin:—

"Hung be the Heavens with black, yield day to night."[214:A]

It has, likewise, been asserted, and, indeed, to a certain extent, proved, by the same learned writer, that the lower part of the stage was distinguished by the name of HELL; and he quotes the annexed passage from Chapman as decisive on the subject:—

"The fortune of a Stage (like fortune's self)
Amazeth greatest judgments: and none knows
The hidden causes of those strange effects,
That rise from this Hell, or fall from this Heaven."[214:B]

From this connection of the celestial and infernal regions with the stage, Mr. Whiter has inferred, through the medium of numerous pertinent quotations from Shakspeare and his contemporaries, that a vast mass of imagery was so blended and associated in the mind of our great poet, as to form an intimate union in his ideas between HELL and NIGHT; the DARKENED HEAVENS and the STAGE of TRAGEDY[214:C]; and this, too, at an early period, even during the composition of his Rape of Lucrece, which contains some striking instances of this theatrical combination.

To these notices on the interior structure of the Shakspearean theatre, we shall now add the most material circumstances relative to its economy and usages.

The mode of announcing its exhibitions, if we except the medium of newspapers, a resource of subsequent times, seems to have been not less effectual and extensive than that of the present day. Play-bills were printed, expressing the title of the piece or pieces to be performed, but containing neither the names of the characters, nor [215]of the actors; these were industriously circulated through the town, and affixed to posts and public buildings, a custom which forms the subject of a repartee recorded by Taylor the water-poet, who began to write towards the close of Shakspeare's life:—"Master Field, the player," he relates, "riding up Fleet-street a great pace, a gentleman called him, and asked him, what play was played that day. He being angry to be staied on so frivolous a demand, answered, that he might see what play was plaied upon every poste. I cry you mercy, said the gentleman, I tooke you for a poste, you rode so fast."[215:A]

In the early part of the reign of Elizabeth, the Days of Acting, at the public theatres, were chiefly confined to Sundays, Her Majesty's licence to Burbage in 1574, granting such exhibition on that day, out of the hours of prayer; and this was the day which the Queen herself usually selected for dramatic representation at court. The rapidly increasing taste, however, for theatric amusement soon induced the players to go beyond the limits of permission, and we find Gosson, in 1579, exclaiming, that the players, "because they are allowed to play every Sunday, make four or five Sundays, at least, every week."[215:B] A reformation more consonant to morality and decorum took place in the subsequent reign; for, though plays were still performed on Sundays, at the court of James the First, yet they were no longer tolerated on that day at the public theatres, permission being now given, on application to the Master of the Revels, for [216]their performance every day, save on the Sabbath, during the winter, and with no further exception than the Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent, which were at that time called sermon-days.

The Hours of Acting, during the whole period of Shakspeare's career, continued to be early in the afternoon. In 1598, we are informed by an epigram of Sir John Davies, that one o'clock was the usual time for the commencement of the play:—

"Fuscus doth rise at ten, and at eleven
He goes to Gyls, where he doth eat till one,
Then sees a play."

and, in 1609, when Decker published his Gull's Horn-book, the hour was thrown back to three, nor did it become later until towards the close of the seventeenth century. The time visually consumed in the exhibition appears, from the prologue to Henry the Eighth, to have been only two hours:—

——————————— "Those that come—
I'll undertake, may see away their shilling
Richly in two short hours."[216:A]

The mention of payment in this passage, leads to the consideration of the Prices of Admission, and the sum here specified, contemporary authority informs us, was demanded for entrance into the best rooms or boxes.[216:B] Sixpence also, and sometimes a shilling, was paid for seats or stools on the stage. Sixpence was likewise the price of admission to the pit and galleries of the Globe and Blackfriars; but at inferior houses, a penny, or at most two-pence, gave access to the "groundling," or the "gallery-commoner." Dramatic poets, as in the present day, were admitted gratis. We may also add, that, from some verses addressed to the memory of Ben Jonson, by Jasper [217]Mayne, and alluding to his Volpone or the Fox, acted in 1605, it is allowable to infer, that the prices of admission were, on the first representation of a new play, doubled, and even sometimes trebled.[217:A]

There is every reason to suppose, that while Shakspeare wrote for the stage, the Number of Plays performed in One Day, seldom, if ever, exceeded one tragedy, comedy, or history, and that the entertainment was varied and protracted, either by the extempore humour and tricks of the Clown after the play was over, or by singing, dancing, or ludicrous recitation, between the acts.

The house appears to have been pretty well supplied with Lights; the stage being illuminated by two large branches; the body of the house by cresset lights, formed of ropes wreathed and pitched, and placed in open iron lanterns, and these were occasionally assisted by the interspersion of wax tapers among the boxes.

The Amusements of the Audience before the Play commenced seem to have been amply supplied by themselves, the only recreation provided by the theatre, during this tedious interval, being the music of the band, which struck up thrice, playing three flourishes, or, as they were then called, three soundings, before the performance began; but these were of course short, being principally intended as announcements, similar to those which we now receive from the prompter's bell. To kill time, therefore, reading and playing cards were the resources of the genteeler part of the audience: "Before the play begins," says Decker to his gallant, "fall to cards; you may win or lose, as fencers do in a prize, and beat one another by confederacy, yet share the money when you meet at supper: notwithstanding, to gull the ragamuffins that stand aloof gaping at you, throw the cards, having first torn four or five of them, round about the stage, just upon the third sound, as though you had lost."[217:B]

[218]Of the less refined amusements of these gaping ragamuffins, "the youths that thunder at a play-house, and fight for bitter apples[218:A]," we find numerous traces in Decker, Jonson, and their contemporaries, which enable us to assert, that they chiefly consisted in smoking tobacco, drinking ale, cracking nuts, and eating fruit, which were regularly supplied by men attending in the theatre, and whose vociferation and clamour, or, as a writer of that time expresses it, "to be made adder-deaf with pippin-cry[218:B]," were justly considered as grievous nuisances; more especially the use of tobacco, which must have been intolerable to those unaccustomed to its odour, and, indeed, occasionally drew forth the execration of individuals: thus in a work entitled, "Dyets Dry Dinner," we find the author commencing an epigram on the wanton and excessive use of tobacco, in the following terms:—

"It chaunc'd me gazing at the Theater,
To spie a Dock-Tabacco-Chevalier,
Clouding the loathing ayr with foggie fume
Of Dock-Tabacco;— — — —
I wisht the Roman lawes severity:
Who smoke selleth, with smoke be done to dy."[218:C]

The most rational of the amusements which occupied the impatient audience, was certainly that of reading, and this appears to have been supplied by a custom of hawking about new publications at the [219]theatre; at least this may be inferred from the opening of an address to the public, prefixed by William Fennor, to a production of his, entitled "Descriptions," and published in 1616. "To the Gentlemen readers, worthy gentlemen, of what degree soever, I suppose this pamphlet will hap into your hands, before a play begin, with the importunate clamour of Buy a New Booke, by some needy companion, that will be glad to furnish you with worke for a turn'd teaster."[219:A]

As soon as the third sounding had finished, it was usual for the person whose province it was to speak the Prologue, immediately to enter. As a diffident and supplicatory manner were thought essential to this character, who is termed by Decker, "the quaking Prologue," it was the custom to clothe him in a long black velvet cloak, to which Shirley adds, a little beard, a starch'd face, and a supple leg.[219:B]

On withdrawing the curtain, the stage was generally found strewed with rushes, which, in Shakspeare's time, as hath been remarked in our first volume, formed the common covering of floors, from the palace to the cottage[219:C]; but, on very splendid occasions, it was matted entirely over; thus, Sir Henry Wotton, in a letter which describes the conflagration of the Globe Theatre, in 1613, says, that on the night of the accident, "the King's Players had a new play, called All is true, representing some principal pieces of the reign of Henry the Eighth, which was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and majesty, even to the matting of the stage."[219:D]

[220]The performance of tragedy appears to have been attended with some peculiar preparations; one of which was hanging the stage with black, a practice which dwelt on Shakspeare's recollection when, in writing his Rape of Lucrece, he speaks of

"Black stage for tragedies, and murthers fell;"[220:A]

and is put out of dispute by a passage in the Induction to an anonymous tragedy, entitled, A Warning for fair Women, 1599, where History, addressing Comedy, says:—

"Look, Comedie, I mark'd it not till now,
The stage is hung with blacke, and I perceive
The auditors prepar'd for tragedie:"

to which Comedy replies:—

"Nay then, I see she shall be entertain'd;
These ornaments beseem not thee and me."[220:B]

If the decorations of the stage itself could boast but little splendour, the wardrobe, even of The Globe and Blackfriars, could not be supposed either richly or amply furnished; in fact, even Jonson, in 1625, nine years after Shakspeare's death, betrays the poverty of the stage-dresses, when he exclaims in the Induction to his Staple of News, "O curiosity, you come to see who wears the new suit to-day; whose clothes are best pen'd, &c.—what king plays without cuffs, and his queen without gloves: who rides post in stockings, and dances in boots."[220:C] It is evident, therefore, that the dramas of our great poet could derive little attraction from magnificence of attire, though it [221]appears, from a passage in Jonson, that not only was there a prompter, or book-holder, but likewise a property, or tire-man, belonging to each theatre, in 1601.[221:A] Periwigs, which came into fashion about 1596, were often worn on the stage by male characters, whence Hamlet is represented calling a ranting player, "a robustious periwig-pated fellow[221:B];" masks or vizards were also sometimes used by those who personated female characters; thus Quince tells Flute, in the Midsummer Night's Dream, on his objecting to perform a woman's part, that he "shall play it in a mask."[221:C]

Female characters indeed, were on the old English stage, as they had been on the Grecian and Roman, always personated by men or boys, a practice which continued with us until near the period of the Restoration. Italy and France long preceded us in the introduction of women on the theatric boards; for Coryate writing from Venice in 1608, and describing one of the theatres of that city, says, "the house is very beggarly and base, in comparison of our stately play-houses in England;" and he then adds, what must give us a wretched idea of the state of the stage at that time in Italy, "neither can their actors compare with us for apparell, shewes, and musicke. Here," he continues, "I observed certaine things that I never saw before; for I saw women act, a thing that I never saw before."[221:D]

The mode of expressing dislike of, or censuring a play, was as decided in the days of Shakspeare as in the present age, and sometimes effected by the same means. Decker gives us two methods of expressing disapprobation; one, by leaving the house with as many in your train as you can collect, the other, by staying, in order to interrupt the performance: "you shall disgrace him (the poet) worse," he observes, "than by tossing him in a blanket, or giving him the bastinado in a tavern, if, in the middle of his play, be it [222]pastoral or comedy, moral or tragedy, you rise with a screwed and discontented face from your stool to be gone;"—and "salute all your gentle acquaintance, that are spread either on the rushes, or on stools about you; and draw what troop you can from the stage after you:" but, "if either the company, or indisposition of the weather bind you to sit it out;—mew at passionate speeches; blare at merry; find fault with the musick; whew at the children's action; whistle at the songs[222:A];" modes of annoyance sufficiently provoking, and occasionally very effectual toward the final condemnation of a play, as Ben Jonson experienced in more instances than one.[222:B]

It was usual also for the critics and coxcombs of the day, either from motives of curiosity, vanity, or malevolence, to carry to the theatre table-books, made of small plates of slate bound together in duodecimo, and to take down passages from the play, for the purpose either of retailing them in taverns and parties, or with the view of ridiculing and degrading the author; "to such, wherever they sit concealed," says the indignant Jonson in 1601, "let them know, the author defies them and their writing-tables."[222:C]

An Epilogue, sometimes spoken by one of the Dramatis Personæ, and sometimes by an extra character, was not uncommon at this period; and, when employed, generally terminated, if in a public theatre, with a prayer for the king or queen; if, in a private one, for the lord of the mansion. The prayer, however, was, almost always, a necessary form, whether an epilogue were adopted or not; and, on these occasions, whatever may have been the nature of the preceding drama, the players, kneeling down, solemnly addressed themselves to their devotions: thus Shakspeare concludes his Epilogue to the Second Part of King Henry the Fourth, by telling his audience, "I [223]will bid you good night: and so kneel down before you;—but, indeed, to pray for the queen[223:A];" and Sir John Harrington closes his Metamorphosis of Ajax, 1596, with the following sarcastic mention of this custom as retained in private theatres:—"But I will neither end with sermon nor prayer, lest some wags liken me to my L. (——) players, who when they have ended a baudie comedy, as though that were a preparative to devotion, kneele down solemnly, and pray all the companie to pray with them for their good lord and maister." Considering the place chosen for its display, this is, certainly, a custom

"More honour'd in the breach, than the observance."

With regard to the Remuneration of Actors, during the age of Shakspeare, it has been ascertained, that, after deducting forty-five shillings, which were the usual nightly, or rather daily, expenses at the Globe and Blackfriars, the net receipt never amounted to more than twenty pounds, and that the average receipt, after making a similar deduction, may be estimated at about nine pounds. This sum Mr. Malone supposes to have been in our poet's time "divided into forty shares, of which fifteen were appropriated to the house keepers or proprietors, three to the purchase of copies of new plays, stage-habits, &c. and twenty-two to the actors." He further calculates, that, as the acting season lasted forty weeks, and each company consisted of about twenty persons, six of whom probably were principal, and the others subordinate performers, if we suppose two shares to have been the reward of a principal actor; one share that of a second class composed of six, and half a share the portion of the remaining eight, the performer who had two shares, would, on the calculation of nine pounds clear per night, receive nine shillings as his nightly dividend, and, at the rate of five plays a week, his weekly profit would amount to two pounds five shillings. "On all these data," [224]adds Mr. Malone, "I think it may be safely concluded, that the performers of the first class did not derive from their profession more than ninety pounds a year at the utmost. Shakspeare, Heminge, Condell, Burbadge, Lowin, and Taylor had without doubt other shares as proprietors or leaseholders; but what the different proportions were which each of them possessed in that right, it is now impossible to ascertain."[224:A] If we consider, however, the value of money during the reign of Elizabeth, and the relative prices of the necessary articles of life, it will be found that these salaries were not inadequate to the purposes of comfortable subsistence.

The profits accruing to the original source of the entertainment, or, in other words, the Remuneration given to the Dramatic Poet, was certainly, if we compare the claims of genius between the two parties, on a scale inferior to that which fell to the lot of the actor.

The author had the choice of two modes in the disposal of his property; he either sold the copy-right of his play to the theatre, or retained it in his own hands. In the former instance, which was frequently had recourse to in the age of Shakspeare, the only emolument was that derived from the purchase made by the proprietors of the theatre, who took care to secure the performance of the piece exclusively to their own company, and whose interest it was to defer its publication as long as possible; in the latter instance, not only had the poet the right of publication and the benefit of sale in his own option, but he had, likewise, a claim upon the theatre for a benefit. This, towards the termination of the sixteenth century, took place on the second day[224:B], but [225]was soon afterwards, as early indeed as 1612, postponed to the third day.[225:A]

From a publication of Robert Greene's, dated 1592, it appears, that the price of a drama, when disposed of to the public players, was twenty nobles, or six pounds thirteen shillings and four pence; but that private companies would sometimes give double that[225:B] sum. It has been recorded, indeed, by Oldys, in one of his manuscripts, but upon what authority is not mentioned, that Shakspeare received but five pounds for his Hamlet![225:C]

What a bookseller gave for the copyright of a play at this period is unknown; but we have sufficient foundation, that of the bookseller's Preface to the quarto edition of our poet's Troilus and Cressida in 1609, for asserting, that sixpence was the sale price of a play when published.[225:D] It may also be affirmed, on grounds of equal security, that forty shillings formed the customary compliment for the flattery of a dedication.[225:E]

To these notices concerning the pecuniary rewards of poets and performers, may be added the conjecture of Mr. Malone, that Shakspeare, "as author, actor, and proprietor, probably received from the theatre about two hundred pounds a year."[225:F]

[226]From this description of the architecture, economy, and usages of the Shakspearean Stage, it must be evident, how trifling were the obligations of our great poet to the adventitious aid of scenery, machinery, and decoration, notwithstanding we have admitted these to be somewhat more elaborate than is usually allowed. The Art of Acting, however, had, during the same period, made very rapid strides towards perfection, and dramatic action and expression, therefore, coadjutors of infinitely more importance than the most splendid scenical apparatus, exhibited, we have reason to believe, powers in a great degree competent to the task of doing justice to the imperishable productions of this unrivalled bard of pity and of terror.


[168:A] Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, fol., 8th edit., p. 171. col. i.

[168:B] "The Pleasant and Stately Morall of the Three Lordes and Three Ladies of London," &c., London. Printed by Jhones, at the Rose and Crowne, neere Holburne Bridge, 1590. Vide Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, Introduct., p. xxviii.; and Beloe's Anecdotes of Literature, vol. i. p. 350, 351.

[168:C] Anatomy of Melancholy, p. 172. col. i.

[169:A] "Schoole of Abuse," "Anatomie of Abuses," and "Treatise against Diceing, Card-playing," &c.

[169:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 170. Act v. sc. 1.

[169:C] Ibid. vol. v. p. 186, 187. Act iv. sc. 5.

[170:A] Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, 4to. 1810, p. 291, 292.

[170:B] Ancient British Drama, vol. i. p. 111. col. 1.

[170:C] Belman of London, sig. F 2.

[170:D] Midsummer Night's Dream, act iii. sc. 1. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 401. Romeo and Juliet, act iv. sc. 5. Reed's Shakspeare vol. xx. p. 221.

[170:E] Ancient British Drama, vol. ii. p. 551. col. 1.

[170:F] In the Compleat Gamester, 2nd edit. 1676, p. 90., may be found the mode of playing this game.

[170:G] The first of these games is mentioned in Eastward Hoe, printed in 1605, and written by Ben Jonson, George Chapman, and John Marston; the second in the Dumb Knight, the production of Lewis Machin, 1608; the third in A Woman killed with Kindness, written by Thomas Heywood, 1617, where are also noticed Lodam, Noddy, Post and Pair, a species of Brag, Knave out of Doors, and Ruff, this last being something like Whist, and played in four different ways, under the names of English Ruff, French Ruff, Double Ruff, and Wide Ruff.—Vide Ancient British Drama, vol. ii. p. 444, 445.

[171:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 335. note.

[171:B] Works of Ben Jonson; act v. sc. 4.

[171:C] Anatomy of Melancholy, p. 172. col. 2.

[171:D] Sports and Pastimes, 4to. p. 277.

[171:E] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 183. Act v. sc. 2.

[171:F] Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 243.

[171:G] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. pp. 227, 228. Winter's Tale, act i. sc. 2.

[171:H] Ibid. vol. xviii. p. 240. Hamlet, act iii. sc. 4.

[172:A] Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 272.

[173:A] Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 217.

[173:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 52. Act iii. sc. 1.

[173:C] Part II. p. 129

[173:D] Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. i. pp. 219, 220.

[174:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 406.

[174:B] Ibid. vol. v. p. 407. note.

[175:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vi. pp. 38, 39.

[175:B] Ibid. vol. viii. p. 260, 261.

[175:C] Ibid. vol. vii. p. 52.

[175:D] Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 221.

[176:A] Chalmers's Apology, p. 380.

[176:B] Warton's Life of Sir Tho. Pope, sect. iii. p. 85.

[177:A] Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, vol. i. p. 249.

[177:B] Hentzner's Travels, pp. 29, 30.

[177:C] P. 147.

[178:A] Lambarde's Perambulation of Kent, 1570, p. 248.

[178:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. pp. 33, 34. M. W. of Windsor, act i. sc. 1.

[179:A] "The Auncient Order, Societie, and Vnitie Laudable, of Prince Arthure, and his knightly Armoury of the Round Table. With a Threefold Assertion frendly in favour and furtherance of English Archery at this day. Translated and Collected by R. R." (Richard Robinson) 4to. 1583.—Vide British Bibliographer, vol. i. p. 125. 127.

[179:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 144.

[180:A] Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 62., from Strype's London, vol. i. p. 250.—In 1682, appeared "A remembrance of the worthy show and shooting by the Duke of Shoreditch and his associates the worshipful citizens of London, upon Tuesday the 17th of September 1583, set forth according to the truth thereof, to the everlasting honour of the game of shooting in the long bow. B. W. M."

[181:A] Vide British Bibliographer, vol. i. pp. 448. 450.

[181:B] Ascham's Works apud Bennet, 4to. p. 55.

[181:C] The Boke named the Governour; the edition of 1553. p. 83.

[182:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 71. Act iv. sc. 1.

[182:B] Lodge's Illustrations of British History, vol. iii. p. 295.

[182:C] Stowe's Survey of London, 4to. 1618. p. 162.

[183:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 29. Henry IV. Part ii. act i. sc. 2.

[183:B] The Gull's Horn-book, 4to. 1609. Reprint of 1812, p. 99.

[183:C] Ibid. pp. 101, 102.

[184:A] Gull's Horn-book, pp. 95, 96.

[184:B] Ibid. pp. 97, 98.

[185:A] Gull's Horn-book, p. 97.

[185:B] They are thus called, from wearing white surplices.

[185:C] Gull's Horn-book, pp. 99, 100.

[186:A] Gull's Horn-book, pp. 104, 105.

[186:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 26. Act i. sc. 2.

[186:C] History of the World, First Part, p. 178.

[186:D] Vide Douce's Illustrations, vol. i. pp. 213, 214.

[186:E] Ben Jonson's Works, fol. edit. 1640. Epigrammes, p. 46.

[187:A] Chalmers's English Poets, vol. v. p. 274. col. 2. Satires, book iv. sat. 2.

[187:B] Works of Ben Jonson; act v. sc. 4.

[188:A] The Workes of Benjamin Jonson, folio. 1640. Masques, p. 143.—Of the costly magnificence of this spectacle, an idea may be formed from that part which relates to the attire of the actors: "that of the Lords," describes the poet, "had part of it taken from the antique Greek statue; mixed with some moderne additions: which made it both gracefull, and strange. On their heads they wore Persick crowns that were with scroles of gold-plate turned outward, and wreathed about with a carnation and silver net-lawne; the one end of which hung carelessly on the left shoulder; the other was tricked up before, in severall degrees of folds, between the plates, and set with rich jewels, and great pearles. Their bodies were of carnation cloth of silver, richly wrought, and cut to expresse the naked, in manner of the Greek Thorax; girt under the brests with a broad belt of cloth of gold imbroydered, and fastened before with jewels: Their Labels were of white cloth of silver, laced, and wrought curiously between, sutable to the upper halfe of their sleeves; whose nether parts with their bases, were of watchet cloth of silver, chev'rond all over with lace. Their Mantils were of severall colour'd silkes, distinguishing their qualities as they were coupled in paires; the first, skie colour; the second, pearle colour; the third, flame colour; the fourth, tawny: and these cut in leaves, which were subtilly tack'd up, and imbroydered with Oo's, and between every ranck of leaves, a broad silver lace. They were fastened on the right shoulder, and fell compasse down the back in gracious folds, and were again tyed with a round knot, to the fastening of their swords. Upon their legs they wore silver greaves." P. 143.

[189:A] Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, vol. i. Preface, p. 10.

[190:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 137. note by Malone, from Stowe's Annals.

[190:B] Origines Juridiciales, folio, p. 346, edit. 1671.

[190:C] Stowe's Annales, by Howes, folio, p. 1006. edit. 1631.

[191:A] History of English Poetry, vol. ii. p. 365. note.

[192:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xvii. pp. 235, 236. Act iv. sc. 12.

[192:B] The Workes of Benjamin Jonson, fol. 164. Masques, p. 135.

[193:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. pp. 135-137. Act iv. sc. 1.

[194:A] Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, vol. i. Preface, p. 19.

[194:B] Ibid. p. 24.

[196:A] This enumeration is abridged from Laneham's Letter, and the "Princely Pleasures at Kenelworth Castle," reprinted in Nichols's Progresses, vol. i.

[197:A] Hurd's Moral and Political Dialogues, vol. i. p. 160. edit. of 1788.

[197:B] Ibid. vol. i. p. 150.

[199:A] Nichols's Progresses, vol. i. Laneham's Letter, p. 81-84.

[200:A] Hurd's Moral and Political Dialogues, vol. i. pp. 148-150.

[201:A] Chalmers's Apology, p. 353.

[202:A] See Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 48.

[204:A] Anatomie of Abuses, edit. 1583, p. 90.

[204:B] See Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 363. note.

[205:A] Apology, p. 393.

[208:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. pp. 51, 52.

[208:B] See Malone's Inquiry, p. 87.; Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 64.; and Chalmers's Apology, p. 115.

[209:A] Of the perishable materials, and inconvenient construction of the old theatre, we have some remarkable proofs, in two letters extant, describing the accident. The first written by Sir Henry Wotton, and dated July 2. 1613, concludes by asserting that "nothing did perish but wood and straw, and a few forsaken cloaks;" and the second from Mr. John Chamberlaine to Sir Ralph Winwood, dated July 8. 1613, remarks, that "it was a great marvaile and fair grace of God that the people had so little harm, having but two narrow doors to get out."—Reliquiæ Wotton, p. 425. edit. 1685; and Winwood's Memorials, vol. iii. p. 469.

[210:A] See Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. ii. p. 394. note.

[211:A] Gull's Horn-book, Nott's reprint, p. 132.

[211:B] Ibid. p. 135.

[212:A] Gull's Horn-book, p. 138.

[212:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. pp. 106-108.

[212:C] Ibid. p. 109. note.

[213:A] Apology for Actors, 1612. sig. D.

[214:A] Whiter's Specimen of a Commentary on Shakspeare, pp. 157, 158.

[214:B] Ibid. pp. 178. 183.; and see Prologue to All Fools, by Chapman, 1605, in Old Plays, vol. iv. p. 116.

[214:C] Whiter's Specimen, p. 184.

[215:A] Taylor's Works, p. 183.—Mr. Malone is of opinion that to these play-bills we owe "the long and whimsical titles which are prefixed to the quarto copies of our author's plays.—It is indeed absurd to suppose, that the modest Shakspeare, who has more than once apologized for his untutored lines, should in his manuscripts have entitled any of his dramas most excellent and pleasant performances." Thus:—

"The most excellent Historie of the Merchant of Venice, 1600."

"A most pleasant and excellent conceited Comedie of Syr John Falstaffe and the Merry Wives of Windsor, 1602."

"The late and much-admired Play, called Pericles Prince of Tyre, 1609," &c. &c.

Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. pp. 163-165.

[215:B] Schoole of Abuse.—Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 154.

[216:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xv. p. 4.

[216:B] Decker's Gull's Horn-book, reprint, p. 18. note.

[217:A] Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 175. note.

[217:B] Gull's Horn-book, reprint, p. 146.

[218:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xv. p. 205. Henry VIII. act v. sc. 3.

[218:B] Notes from Black-fryers, by H. Fitz-Jeoffery, 1617.

[218:C] "Dyets Dry Dinner: consisting of eight several courses. 1. Fruites. 2. Hearbes. 3. Flesh. 4. Fish. 5. Whitmeats. 6. Spice. 7. Sauce. 8. Tabacco. All served in after the order of time universall. By Henry Buttes, Maister of Artes, and Fellowe of C. C. C. in C.

Qui miscuit utile dulci.
Non nobis solum nati sumus, sed
Ortus nostri sibi vendicant.

Printed in London by Tho. Creede, for William Wood, and are to be sold at the West end of Powles, at the signe of Tyme, 1599." Small 8vo.

[219:A] "Fennors Descriptions, or a true relation of certaine and divers speeches, spoken before the King and Queene's most excellent Majestie, the Prince his highnesse, and the Lady Elizabeth's Grace. By William Fennor, his Majestie's Servant. London, Printed by Edward Griffin, for George Gibbs, and are to bee sold at his shop in Paul's Church-yard, at the signe of the Flower-De-luce, 1616." 4to.

[219:B] Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 120. note.

[219:C] Vide Decker's Gull's Horn-book, reprint, p. 135.

[219:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 68. note.

[220:A] Malone's Supplement, vol. i. p. 517.—"The hanging however was," remarks the editor, "I suppose, no more than one piece of black baize placed at the back of the stage, in the room of the tapestry which was the common decoration when comedies were acted."

[220:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 111. note.

[220:C] Whalley's Works of Ben Jonson; Prologue in Induction.

[221:A] Whalley's Jonson; Cynthia's Revels, Induction.

[221:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 181. Act iii. sc. 2.

[221:C] Ibid. vol. iv. p. 338. Act i. sc. 2.

[221:D] Coryate's Crudities, 4to. 1611, p. 247.

[222:A] Gull's Horn-book, reprint, pp. 147-149.

[222:B] Sejanus, Catiline, and The New Inn, were all condemned.

[222:C] "There is reason to believe," remarks Mr. Malone, "that the imperfect and mutilated copies of one or two of Shakspeare's dramas, which are yet extant, were taken down by the ear, or in short-hand, during the exhibition."—Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 151.

[223:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 263.

[224:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 190.

[224:B] In Davenant's Play-house to be Let, occurs the following passage:—

"There is an old tradition,
That in the times of mighty Tamberlane,
Of conjuring Faustus and the Beauchamps bold,
You poets used to have the second day."

[225:A] On the authority of Decker's Prologue to one of his comedies entitled, If this be not a good Play the Devil's in't, 1612:—

———————— "Not caring, so he gains
A cram'd third day."

[225:B] "Master R. G., would it not make you blush—if you sold Orlando Furioso to the queenes players for twenty nobles, and when they were in the country, sold the same play to Lord Admirals men, for as much more?"—Defence of Coney-catching, 1592.

[225:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 172.

[225:D] "Had I time I would comment upon it, though I know it needs not, (for so much as will make you thinke your testerne well bestowd) but for so much worth, as even poore I know to be stuft in it."—Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xv. p. 226.

[225:E] "I did determine not to have dedicated my play to any body, because forty shillings I care not for; and above, few or none will bestow on these matters."—Dedication to A Woman's a Weathercock, a comedy by N. Field, 1612.

[225:F] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 191.




It is remarkable that the era of the birth of Shakspeare should occur in almost intermediate contact with those periods which mark the first appearance of what may be termed legitimate tragedy and comedy. In 1561-2, was exhibited the tragedy of Ferrex and Porrex, written by Thomas Norton, and Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, "the first specimen," observes Mr. Warton, "in our language of an heroick tale written in verse, and divided into acts and scenes, and cloathed in all the formalities of a regular tragedy[227:A];" in 1564, as is well known, the leading object of our work, the great poet of nature, was born; and, in 1566, was acted at Christ's College, Cambridge, under the quaint title of Gammer Gurton's Needle, the first play, remarks Wright, "that looks like a regular comedy."[227:B]

Previous to the exhibition of these pieces, the public had been contented with Mysteries, Moralities, and Interludes; the first of these, exclusively occupied by miracles and scriptural narratives, originated with the ecclesiastics so far back as the eleventh century[227:C]; the second, consisting chiefly of allegorical personification, seems to have arisen about the middle of the fifteenth century[227:D]; and the third, a species of farce, or, as Jonson defines them, something played at the intervals of festivity, became prevalent during the reign of Henry the Eighth.

[228]The examples, however, which were now furnished by Sackville and Still, in the production of Gorboduc[228:A], and Gammer Gurton, were not lost upon their age; and to the ideas of legitimate fable emanating from these sources, are also to be added those derived from the now frequent custom of acting plays in the schools and universities, in imitation of the dramas of Plautus and Terence. To these co-operating causes may be ascribed the numerous tragedies and plays which appeared between the years 1566 and 1590, principally written by men who had been educated at the universities, and who, in the serious drama, endeavoured to support the stately and declamatory style of Gorboduc.

It is to this period, also, that we must refer for the epoch of the historical drama, or, what were called, in the language of their times, Histories, a gradual improvement, it is true, on the allegorical Dramatis Personæ of the moralities, but which, in the interval elapsing between 1570 and 1590, received a consistency and form, a materiality and organisation, which only required the animating fire of Shakspeare's muse to kindle into life and immortality.

For the prevalence and popularity of this species of play, anterior to the productions of our poet, we are probably indebted to the publication of The Mirrour for Magistrates, a poetical miscellany, of which four editions were printed between 1564 and 1590, and where the most remarkable personages in English history are brought forward relating the story of their own disasters.

Another and very popular species of dramatic composition, at this era, may be satisfactorily deduced from the strong attachment still existing for the ancient moralities, in which the most solemn and serious subjects were often blended with the lowest scenes of farce and broad humour; for though the taste of the educated part of the public was chastened and improved by the classical tragedy of Sackville, and by the translations also of Gascoigne, who, in 1566, [229]presented his countrymen with Jocasta from Euripides, and The Supposes, a regular comedy, from Ariosto, yet the lower orders still lingered for the mingled buffoonery of their old stage, and tragi-comedy became necessary to catch their applause. This apparently heterogenous compound was long the most fascinating entertainment of the scenical world; nor were even the wildest features of the allegorical drama unrepresented; for the interlude and, subsequently, the masque, were frequently lavish in the creation of personages equally as extravagant and grotesque as any which the fifteenth century had dared to produce.

To this enumeration of the various kinds of dramatic poetry which preceded the efforts of Shakspeare, one more, of a very singular nature, must be added, the production of Richard Tarleton, the celebrated jester and comedian, who, previous to 1589, or during the course of that year, exhibited a play in two parts, called "The Seven Deadlie Sins."[229:A] The piece itself has perished, but the Platt, or groundwork, of the Second Part, having been preserved, we find that the preceding portion had been occupied in exemplifying the sins of Pride, Gluttony, Wrath, and Avarice, while Envy, Sloth, and Lechery, were reserved for its successor. The plan which Tarleton pursued, in illustrating the effects of these sins, was by selecting scenes and passages from the plays of various authors, and combining them into a whole by the connecting medium of chorusses, interlocutors, and pantomimic show. Thus the Second Part is composed from three plays, namely, Sackville's Gorboduc, and two, now lost, entitled Sardanapalus and Tereus, while the moralisation and connection are introduced and supported by alternate monologues in the persons of Henry the Sixth, and Lidgate, the monk of Bury. This curious specimen of scenic exhibition may not unaptly receive the appellation of the Composite Drama.

After this short general sketch of the progress of dramatic poetry [230]from 1564 to 1591, it will be necessary to descend to some particular criticism on the chief productions which graced the stage during this interval; an attempt which we shall conduct chronologically, under the names of their respective authors.

1. Sackville, Thomas. Though the tragedy of Sackville was exhibited before Queen Elizabeth at Whitehall, on the 18th of January, 1561-2, it did not reach the press until 1565, when a spurious edition was published under the title of The Tragedie of Gorboduc. This piracy brought forth a legitimate copy in 1571, from the press of John Daye, which was now called The Tragedie of Ferrex and Porrex; but the nomenclature was again altered in a third edition, printed for Edward Alde, in 1590, reassuming its first and more popular denomination of The Tragedie of Gorboduc.

The first and third editions inform us in their title-pages, that "three acts were written by Thomas Norton, and the two last by Thomas Sackville," a co-partnership which, but for this intimation, would not have been suspected, for the whole has the appearance, both in matter and style, of having issued from one and the same pen.

If the mechanism of this play, which Warton justly calls the "first genuine English Tragedy[230:A]," approximate in the minor parts of its construction to a classical type, being regularly divided into acts and scenes, with a chorus of British sages closing every act save the last, yet does it evince, in many other respects, the infancy of dramatic art in this country. Every act is preceded by an elaborate Dumb Show, allegorically depicting the business of the immediately succeeding scenes, a resource, the crude nature of which sufficiently points out the stage of poetry that gave it birth. Nor is the conduct of the fable less inconsistent with the exterior formalities of the piece, the unities of time and place being openly violated, and the chronological detail of history, or rather of the fabulous annals of [231]the age, closely followed. The plot, too, is sterile and uninteresting, and the passions are touched with a feeble and ineffective hand.

The great merit, indeed, of Gorboduc, is in its style and versification, in its moral and political wisdom, qualities which recommended it to the notice and encomium of Sir Philip Sidney, who tells us, that "Gorboduc is full of stately speeches, and well sounding phrases, climbing to the heighth of Seneca his style, and as full of notable morality, which it doth most delightfully teach."[231:A] Declamation and morality, however, are not the essentials of tragedy; the first, indeed, is a positive fault, and the second should only be the result of the struggle and collision of the passions. We must, therefore, limit the beneficial example of Sackville to purity and perspicuity of diction, to skill in the structure of his numbers, and to truth and dignity of sentiment. If to these virtues of composition, though occasionally encumbered by a too unbending rigidity of style, his contemporaries had paid due attention, we should have escaped that torrent of tumor and bombast which, shortly afterwards, inundated the dramatic world, and which continued to disgrace the national taste during the whole period to which this chapter is confined.

2. Edwards, Richard. This poet, one of the gentlemen of Queen Elizabeth's chapel, and master of the children there, was the author of two plays, under the titles of Damon and Pithias, and Palamon and Arcite. The former of these was acted before the Queen, at court, in 1562, and first published in 1571, by Richard Jones, who terms it The excellent comedie of two the moste faithfullest freendes Damon and Pithias; it is an early specimen of tragi-comedy, and written in rhyme, the inferior characters exhibiting a vein of coarse humour, and the more elevated, some touches of pathos, which the story, indeed, could scarcely fail to elicit, and some faint attempts at [232]discrimination of character. The versification is singular, consisting generally of couplets of twelve syllables, but frequently intermixed with lines varying upwards from this number, even as far as eighteen. Palamon and Arcite, which was considered as far surpassing his first drama, had the honour also of being performed before Elizabeth, at Christ-Church Hall, Oxford, in 1566; it is likewise termed a comedy, and is said to have gratified Her Majesty so highly, that, sending for the author, after the play was finished, she greatly commended his talents, thanked him for the entertainment which his muse had afforded her, and promised to befriend him more substantially hereafter, an intention, however, which was frustrated by the death of the poet during the course of that very year.

Edwards appears to have been very popular, and highly estimated as a writer. Puttenham has classed him with those who "deserve the highest price for comedy and interlude[232:A]," and Thomas Twine calls him, in an epitaph on his death,

—— "the flowre of all our realme,
And Phœnix of our age,"

assigning him immortality expressly on account of his dramatic productions.[232:B]

3. Still, John, a prelate to whom is ascribed, upon pretty good foundation, the first genuine comedy in our language. He was Master of Arts of Christ's College, Cambridge, at the period of producing Gammer Gurton's Needle, and subsequently became rector of Hadleigh, in the county of Suffolk, archdeacon of Sudbury, master of St. John's and Trinity Colleges, and lastly bishop of Bath and Wells.

Gammer Gurton's Needle, which, as we have already remarked, had been first acted in 1566, was committed to the press in 1575, under [233]the following title:—"A ryght pithy, pleasant, and merie Comedy, intytuled Gammer Gurton's Nedle; played on the stage not longe ago in Christes Colledge, in Cambridge. Made by Mr. S. master of art. Imprented at London in Fleetestreat, beneth the Conduit, at the signe of S. John Evangelest, by Thomas Colwell."

The humour of this curious old drama, which is written in rhyme, is broad, familiar, and grotesque; the characters are sketched with a strong, though coarse, outline, and are to the last consistently supported. The language, and many of the incidents, are gross and indelicate; but these, and numerous allusions to obsolete customs, mark the manners of the times, when the most learned and polished of the land, the inmates of an University, could listen with delight to dialogue often tinctured with the lowest filth and abuse. It must be confessed, however, that this play, with all its faults, has an interest which many of its immediate, and more pretending successors, have failed to attain. It is evidently the production of a man of talents and observation, and the second act opens with a drinking song, valuable alike for its humour, and the ease and spirit of its versification.

4. Gascoigne, George. At the very period when Still produced his comedy in rhyme, Gascoigne presented the public with a specimen of the same species of drama in prose. This is a translation from the Italian, entitled, "The Supposes. A comedie written in the Italian tongue by Ariosto, Englished by George Gascoigne of Graies-inn esquire, and there presented, 1566."

"The dialogue of this comedy," observes Warton, "is supported with much ease and spirit, and has often the air of a modern conversation. As Gascoigne was the first who exhibited on our stage a story from Euripides, so in this play he is the first that produced an English comedy in prose."[233:A]

The translation from the Phœnissæ of Euripides, or, as Gascoigne [234]termed it, Jocasta, was acted in the refectory of Gray's Inn, in the same year with the Supposes. It was the joint production of our poet and his friend Francis Kinwelmersh, the first and fourth acts being written by the latter bard. Jocasta is more a paraphrase than a translation, and occasionally aspires to the honours of original composition, new odes being sometimes substituted for those of the Greek chorus. The dialogue of this play is given in blank verse, forming one of the earliest specimens of this measure, and, like Gorboduc, each act is preceded by a dumb show, and closed by a long ode, in the composition of which, both Gascoigne and his coadjutor have evinced considerable lyric powers.

Shakspeare seems to have been indebted to the Supposes of Gascoigne for the name of Petruchio, in the Taming of the Shrew, and for the incident which closes the second scene of the fourth act of that play.[234:A]

5. Wager, Lewis, the author of an Interlude, called Mary Magdalen, Her Life and Repentance, 1567. 4to. This, like most of the interludes of the same age, required, as we are told in the title-page, only four persons for its performance. The subject, which is taken from the seventh chapter of St. Luke, had been a favourite with the writers of the ancient Mysteries, of which pieces one, written in 1512, is still preserved in the Bodleian Library.[234:B]

6. Wilmot, Robert, a student of the Inner Temple, the publisher, and one of the writers of an old tragedy, intitled Tancred and Gismund or Gismonde of Salerne, the composition of not less than five Templers, and performed before Elizabeth in 1568. Each of these gentlemen, says Warton, "seems to have taken an act. At the end of the fourth is Composuit Chr. Hatton, or Sir Christopher Hatton, undoubtedly the same that was afterwards exalted by the Queen to the office of lord keeper for his agility in dancing."[234:C]

[235]Wilmot, who is mentioned with approbation in Webbe's "Discourse of English Poetrie[235:A]," corrected and improved, many years after the first composition, the united labours of himself and his brother Templers, printing them with the following title: "The Tragedie of Tancred and Gismond. Compiled by the Gentlemen of the Inner Temple, and by them presented before Her Majestie. Newly revived and polished according to the decorum of these daies. By R. W. London. Printed by Thomas Scarlet, and are to be solde by E. C. R. Robinson. 1592."

In a dedication to his fellow-students, the editor incidentally fixes the era of the first production of his drama: "I am now bold to present Gismund to your sights, and unto your's only, for therefore have I conjured her by the love that hath been these twenty-four years betwixt us, that she wax not so proud of her fresh painting, to straggle in her plumes abroad, but to contain herself within the walls of your house; so am I sure she shall be safe from the tragedian tyrants of our time, who are not ashamed to affirm that there can no amorous poem favour of any sharpness of wit, unless it be seasoned with scurrilous words."

From a fragment of this play as originally written, and inserted in the Censura Literaria, it appears to have been composed in alternate rhyme, and, we may add, displays both simplicity in its diction, and pathos in its sentiment. An imperfect copy of Wilmot's revision, and perhaps the only one in existence, is in the Garrick Collection.[235:B]

7. Garter, Thomas. To this person has been ascribed by Coxeter, The Commody of the moste vertuous and godlye Susanna; it was entered on the Stationers' books in 1568, and probably first performed about that period; its being in black letter, in metre, and not divided into acts, are certainly strong indications of its antiquity. It was reprinted in 4to. 1578.

[236]8. Preston, Thomas, was master of arts, and fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and afterwards doctor of laws, and master of Trinity-Hall. Taking a part in the performance of John Ritwise's Latin tragedy of Dido, got up for the entertainment of the Queen when she visited Cambridge in 1564, Her Majesty was so delighted with the grace and spirit of his acting, that she conferred upon him a pension of twenty pounds a year, being rather more than a shilling a day; a transaction which Mr. Steevens conceives to have been ridiculed by Shakspeare in his Midsummer-Night's Dream, where Flute, on the absence of Bottom, exclaims, "O sweet bully Bottom! Thus hath he lost sixpence a-day during his life; he could not have 'scaped sixpence a-day: an the duke had not given him sixpence a-day for playing Pyramus, I'll be hanged; he would have deserved it: sixpence a-day, in Pyramus, or nothing."[236:A]

Nor was this the only sly allusion which Preston experienced from the pen of Shakspeare. Langbaine, Theobald, and Farmer consider the following speech of Falstaff as referring to a production of this writer:—"Give me a cup of sack," says the Knight, "to make mine eyes look red, that it may be thought I have wept; for I must speak in passion, and I will do it in king Cambyses' vein."[236:B]

The play satirised under the name of this monarch, is entitled, "A Lamentable Tragedy, mixed ful of pleasant Mirth, conteyning the Life of Cambises, King of Percia, from the beginning of his Kingdome, unto his Death, his one good deed of execution; after that many wicked deeds, and tirannous murders committed by and through him; and last of all, his odious Death, by God's justice appointed. Don in such order as followeth, by Thomas Preston." Imprinted at London, by Edwarde Allde. 4to. B. L.

This curious drama, which was written and published about 1570, being in the old metre, a species of ballad stanza, the allusion in Shakspeare must have been rather to the effect, than to the form, of [237]King Cambyses' vein, perhaps referring solely, as Dr. Farmer observes, to the following marginal direction,—"At this tale tolde, let the queen weep."[237:A]

From the Division of the Partes, as given by Mr. Beloe, this very scarce tragi-comedy seems to have been partly allegorical, and, from the specimen produced in the Biographia Dramatica, to have justly merited the ridicule which it was its fate to excite.[237:B]

9. Wapul, George, the author of a play called "Tide Tarrieth for No Man. A most pleasaunte and merry Comedie, ryght pithy and fulle of delighte." It was entered on the Stationers' books in October, 1576, and reprinted in 1611, 4to. B. L. This drama appears to be irrecoverably lost, as we can find no trace of it, save the title.

10. Lupton, Thomas. Of this writer nothing more is known, than that he wrote one play, which is to be found in the Collection of Mr. Garrick, and under the appellation of "A Moral and Pitieful Comedie, entitled All for Money. Plainly representing the Manners of Men and Fashion of the World nowe adaies. Compiled by T. Lupton. At London, printed by Roger Warde and Richard Mundee, dwelling at Temple Barre. Anno 1578." It is written in rhyme, printed in black letter, the pages unnumbered, and the style very antique and peculiar. The characters are altogether figurative and allegorical, and form one of the most grotesque examples of Dramatis Personæ extant. We have Learning with Money, Learning without Money, Money without Learning, and Neither Money nor Learning; we have also Mischievous Helpe, Pleasure, Prest for Pleasure, Sinne, Swift to Sinne, Damnation, Satan, Pride, and Gluttonie; again, Gregoria Graceless, William with the two Wives, St. Laurence, Mother Crooke, Judas, Dives, and Godly Admonition, &c. &c. Like many other dramatic pieces of the same age, it is evidently the offspring of the old Moralities, an attachment to [238]which continued to linger among the lower classes for many subsequent years.

11. Whetstone, George. To this bard, more remarkable for his miscellaneous than his dramatic poetry, we are indebted for one play, viz. "The right excellent and famous Historye of Promos and Cassandra. Devided into two Commicall Discourses." 4to. B. L. 1578.

An extrinsic importance affixing itself to this production, in consequence of its having furnished Shakspeare with several hints for his Measure for Measure, has occasioned its re-publication.[238:A] "The curious reader," remarks Mr. Steevens, "will find that this old play exhibits an almost complete embryo of Measure for Measure; yet the hints on which it is formed are so slight, that it is nearly as impossible to detect them, as it is to point out in the acorn the future ramifications of the oak."[238:B]

The fable of Promos and Cassandra furnishes little interest, in the hands of Whetstone; nor are the diction and versification such as can claim even the award of mediocrity. It is chiefly written in alternate rhyme, with no pathos in its serious, and with feeble efforts at humour in its comic, parts.

12. Wood, Nathaniel, a clergyman of the city of Norwich, and only-known as the producer of "An Excellent New Comedie, entitled, The Conflict of Conscience, contayninge a most lamentable example of the doleful desparation of a miserable worldlinge, termed by the name of Philologus, who forsooke the trueth of God's Gospel for feare of the losse of lyfe and worldly goods." 4to. 1581. This is another of the numerous spawn which issued from the ancient Mysteries and Moralities; the Dramatis Personæ, consisting of a strange medley of personified vices and real characters, are divided into six parts, "most convenient," says the author, "for such as be [239]disposed either to shew this Comedie in private houses or otherwise." It is in the Garrick Collection, and very rare.

13. Peele, George, the first of a train of play-wrights, who made a conspicuous figure just previous to the commencement, and during the earlier years, of Shakspeare's dramatic career. Educated at the University of Oxford, where he took his degree of Master of Arts in 1579, Peele shortly afterwards removed to London, and became the city poet, and a conductor of the pageants. His dramatic talents, like those which he exhibited in miscellaneous poetry, have been rated too high; the latter, notwithstanding Nash terms him "the chief supporter of pleasance, the atlas of poetrie, and primus verborum artifex," with the exception of two or three pastoral pieces, seldom attain mediocrity; and the former, though Wood has told us that "his plays were not only often acted with great applause in his life-time, but did also endure reading, with due commendation, many years after his death[239:A]," are now, and perhaps not undeservedly, held in little estimation. The piece which entitles him to notice in this chapter was printed in 1584, under the appellation of The Arraignment of Paris; it is a pastoral drama, which was performed before the Queen, by the children of her chapel, and has had the honour of being attributed, though without any foundation, to the muse of Shakspeare.[239:B] Peele, who is supposed to have died about 1597, produced four additional plays, namely, Edward the First, 4to. 1593; The Old Wive's Tale, 4to. 1595; King David and Fair Bethsabe, published after his death in 1599, and The Turkish Mahomet and Hyron the Fair Greek, which was never printed, and is now lost. From this unpublished play Shakspeare has taken a passage which he puts into the mouth of Pistol, who, in reference to Doll Tearsheet, calls out, Have we not Hiren here[239:C]? a quotation which is to be detected in several other plays, Hiren as we find, from one of our author's tracts, named The Merie Conceited Jests of George Peele, [240]being synonymous with the word courtezan.[240:A] These allusions, however, mark the popularity of the piece, and his contemporary Robert Greene classes him with Marlowe and Lodge, "no less deserving," he remarks, "in some things rarer, in nothing inferior."[240:B] From the specimens, however, which we possess of his dramatic genius, the opinion of Greene will not readily meet with a modern assent; the pastoral and descriptive parts of his plays are the best, which are often clothed in sweet and flowing verse; but, as dramas, they are nerveless, passionless, and therefore ineffective in point of character.[240:C]

14. Lilly, John. This once courtly author, whom we have had occasion to censure for his affected innovation, and stilted elegance in prose composition, was, says Phillips, "a writer of several old-fashioned Comedies and Tragedies, which have been printed together [241]in a volume, and might perhaps when time was, be in very good request."[241:A]

The dramas here alluded to, but of which Phillips has given a defective and incorrect enumeration, are—

The volume mentioned by Phillips was published by Edward Blount in 1632, containing six of these pieces, to which he has affixed the title of "Sixe Court Comedies."

Notwithstanding the encomia of Mr. Blount, the genius of this "insufferable Elizabethan coxcomb," as he has been not unaptly called, was by no means calculated for dramatic effect. Epigrammatic wit, forced conceits, and pedantic allusion, are such bad substitutes for character and humour, that we cannot wonder if fatigue or insipidity should be the result of their employment. Campaspe has little interest, and no unity in its fable, and though termed a tragi-comedy, is written in prose; Sappho and Phaon has some beautiful passages, but is generally quaint and unnatural; Endimion has scarcely any thing to recommend it, and disgusts by its gross and fulsome flattery of Elizabeth; Galatea displays some luxuriant imagery, and Phillida and Galatea are not bad copies from the Iphis and Ianthe of Ovid; Mydas is partly a political production, and though void of interest, has more simplicity and purity both of thought and diction than is usual with this writer; Mother Bombie is altogether worthless [242]in a dramatic light; The Woman in the Moon is little better; The Maid her Metamorphosis, the greater part of which is in verse, is one of the author's experiments for the refinement of our language,—an attempt which, if any where more peculiarly absurd, must be pronounced to be so on the stage; Love his Metamorphosis, of which the very title-page pronounces its condemnation, being designated as "A Wittie and Courtly Pastoral."[242:A]

Though only two or three of Lilly's earlier dramas fall within the period allotted to this chapter, yet, in order to prevent a tiresome repetition of the subject, we have here enumerated the whole of his comedies; a plan that we shall pursue with regard to the remaining poets of this era.

It may be necessary to remark, that we must not estimate the poetical talents of Lilly from his failure as a dramatist; for in the Lyric department he has shown very superior abilities, whether we consider the freedom and melody of his versification, or the fancy and sentiment which he displays. His plays abound with songs alike admirable for their beauty, sweetness, and polish.[242:B]

Lilly, who had received an excellent classical education, and was a member of both the Universities, died about the year 1600.

15. Hughes, Thomas, the author of a singular old play, entitled "The Misfortunes of Arthur (Uther Pendragon's sonne) reduced into tragical notes by Thomas Hughes, one of the Societie of Graye's Inne." 12mo. 1587.

In conformity with some prior examples, this production has an argument, a dumb show, and a chorus to each act; "it is beautifully printed in the black letter," observes the editor of the Biographia Dramatica, "and has many cancels consisting of single words, half [243]lines, and entire speeches; these were reprinted and pasted over the cancelled passages; a practice, I believe, very rarely seen."[243:A] Arthur was performed before the Queen at Greenwich, on the 28th of February, and in the thirtieth year of her reign, and exhibits in its title-page a remarkable proof of the licence which actors at that time took in curtailing or enlarging the composition of the original author, informing us that the play "was set downe as it passed from under his (the poet's) hands, and as it was presented, excepting certain words and lines, where some of the actors either helped their memories by brief omission, or fitted their acting by alteration." The writer appears to have been familiar with the Roman classics, but the rarity of his piece is much greater than its merit.[243:B]

16. Kyd, Thomas, to whom has been ascribed four plays, viz.: Jeronimo; The Spanish Tragedy; Solyman and Perseda, and Cornelia. Of these the first, which appeared on the stage about the year 1588, seems to have been given to Kyd, in consequence of his resuming the name and story in his Spanish tragedy; it is a short piece not divided into acts and scenes, of little value, and was printed in 1605, under the title of "The First Part of Jeronimo. With the Warres of Portugal, and the Life and Death of Don Andrea." 4to.[243:C]

"The Spanish Tragedy, or, Hieronimo is mad again, Containing the lamentable end of Don Horatio and Belimperia. With the pitifull Death of Hieronimo," is supposed to have been first acted in 1588, or 1589, immediately following up the elder Jeronimo which had been well received.

Though this drama was an incessant object of ridicule to the contemporaries and immediate successors of its author, it nevertheless acquired great popularity, and long maintained possession of the stage. The consequence of this partiality was shown in a perversion [244]of the public taste, for nothing can exceed the bombast and puerilities of this play and of those to which it gave almost instant birth. Kyd, in fact, whilst aspiring to the delineation of the most tremendous incidents, and the most uncontrolled passions, seems totally unconscious of his own imbecillity; and the result, therefore, has usually been, either unqualified horror, unmitigated disgust, or the most ludicrous emotion. There is neither symmetry, consistency, nor humanity, in the characters; they are beings not of this world, and the finest parts of the play, which occur in the fourth act, possess a tone of sorrow altogether wild and preternatural. The catastrophe is absurdly horrible.

Such were the attractions, however, of this sanguinary tragedy, that Ben Jonson, who, according to Decker, originally performed the character of Jeronimo, was employed by Mr. Henslow, in 1602, to give it a fresh claim on curiosity by his additions.[244:A]

"The Tragedie of Solyman and Perseda, wherein is laide open Love's Constancy, Fortune's Inconstancy, and Death's Triumphs," is conjectured by Mr. Hawkins to have been the production of [244:B]Kyd. Like Jeronimo, it is not divided into acts, and was entered on the stationers books in the same year with the Spanish Tragedy, a circumstance which leads us to suppose, that its date of performance was nearly contemporary with that production. Its style and manner, too, are such as assimilate it to the peculiar genius which breathes through the undisputed writings of the tragedian to whom it has been ascribed.

Cornelia, thus named when first published in 4to. 1594, but reprinted in 1595, under the enlarged title of "Pompey the Great his Fair Cornelia's Tragedy, effected by her Father and Husband's Downcast, Death, and Fortune," 4to. This play being merely a translation from the French of Garnier, and consequently an imitation of the ancients through a third or fourth medium, requires little [245]notice. The dialogue is in blank verse, and the choruses in various lyric metres.[245:A]

Kyd died, oppressed by poverty, about the year 1595.

17. Marlowe, Christopher, as an author, an object of great admiration and encomium in his own times, and, of all the dramatic poets who preceded Shakspeare, certainly the one who possessed the most genius. He was egregiously misled, however, by bad models, and his want of taste has condemned him, as a writer for the stage, to an obscurity from which he is not likely to emerge.

This "famous gracer of tragedians," as he is termed by Greene, in his Groatsworth of Wit, produced eight plays:—

1. Tamburlaine the Great, or the Scythian Shepherd. Part the First. 4to.

2. Tamburlaine the Great. Part the Second. 4to.

Of this tragedy, in two parts, which was brought on the stage about the year 1588, though not printed until 1590, it is impossible to speak without a mixture of wonder and contempt; for, whilst a few passages indicate talents of no common order, the residue is a tissue of unmingled rant, absurdity, and fustian: yet strange as it may appear, the most extravagant flights of this eccentric composition were the most popular, and numerous allusions to its moon-struck reveries, are to be found in the productions of its times. That it should be an object of ridicule to Shakspeare, and of quotation to Pistol, are alike in character.[245:B]

[246]3. Lust's Dominion, or the Lascivious Queen a Tragedy. 12mo.

This, like the two former plays, is tragedy run mad, and its spirit may be justly described in the words of one of its characters; Eleazor the Moor, who exclaims,—

"—— Tragedy, thou minion of the night,
——————— to thee I'll sing
Upon an harp made of dead Spanish bones,
The proudest instrument the world affords;
"Whilst" thou in crimson jollity shall bathe
Thy limbs, as black as mine, in springs of blood
Still gushing."

Its horrors, however, for this is the only epithet its incidents can claim, are often clothed in poetical imagery, and even luscious versification; it has also more fine passages to boast of than Tamburlaine, and it has, likewise, more developement of character; but all these are powerless in mitigating the disgust which its fable and conduct inspire.

4. The Troublesome Raigne and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England. 4to.

[247]Edward the Second is a proof, that, when Marlowe chose to drop the barbarities of his age, and the bombast of "King Cambyses' Vein," he could exert an influence over the heart which has not often been excelled. There is a truth, simplicity, and moral feeling in this play which irresistibly attracts, and would fain induce us to hope, that its author could not have exhibited the impious and abandoned traits of character which have usually been attributed to him. The death-scene of Edward is a master-piece of pity and terror.

5. "The Massacre of Paris, with the Death of the Duke of Guise. 8vo." A subject congenial with the general cast of Marlowe's gloomy and ferocious style of colouring, nor is it deficient in his wonted accumulation of horrors. It possesses, however, a few good scenes, and may be classed midway between the author's worst and best productions.

6. The Rich Jew of Malta, 4to. The prejudice against the Jews, during the reign of Elizabeth, was excessive; none were suffered to reside in the kingdom, and every art encouraged that could stimulate the hatred of the people against this persecuted race. No engine was better calculated for this purpose than the stage, and no characters were ever more relished, or more malignantly enjoyed, than the Barabas of Marlowe, and the Shylock of Shakspeare. The distance, however, between them, as well with regard to truth of delineation, as to poetical vigour of conception, is infinite; for whilst the Jew of Marlowe can be considered in no other light than as the mere incarnation of a fiend, that of Shakspeare possesses, with all his ferocity and cruelty, such a touch of humanity as classes him distinctly with his species, and renders him, if not a very probable, yet a very possible being.

7. "The Tragical Historie of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus." 4to. This, in point of preternatural wildness, and metaphysical horror, is the chef d'œuvre of Marlowe. It unfolds not only genius of a sublimated and exotic cast, but seems to have been the product of a mind inflamed by unhallowed curiosity, and an eager irreligious desire of invading the secrets of another world, and so far gives credence to [248]the imputations which have stained the memory of its author; for this play breathes not a poetic preternaturalism, if we may use the expression, but looks like the creature of an atmosphere emerging from the gulph of lawless spirits, and vainly employed in pursuing the corruscations which traverse its illimitable gloom.

The catastrophe of this play makes the heart shudder, and the hair involuntarily start erect; and the agonies of Faustus on the fast-approaching expiration of his compact with the Devil, are depicted with a strength truly appalling.

Yet amidst all this diabolism, there occasionally occur passages of great moral sublimity, passages on which Milton seems to have fixed his eye. Thus, the reply of the Demon Mephostophilis to the enquiry of Faustus, concerning the locality of Hell, bears a striking analogy to the descriptions of Satan's internal and ever-present torments at the commencement of the fourth book of Paradise Lost. "Tell me," exclaims the daring necromancer, "where is the place that men call Hell?"

"Mephostophilis. Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place; but where we are is hell,
And where hell is, there we must ever be,
And, to be short, when all the world dissolves,
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be hell that are not heaven."

8. The Tragedie of Dido, Queene of Carthage.—This drama was written in conjunction with Thomas Nash, and printed in 1594.[248:A]

Marlowe has been lavishly panegyrised by Jonson, Heywood, Drayton, Peele, Meres, Nash, &c.; but by none so emphatically as by Phillips, who, at the very opening of his article on this poet, calls him "a kind of a second Shakspeare." This seems, however, to have been done rather with a reference to the similarities arising from his having, like Shakspeare, been actor, player, and author of a poem on [249]a congenial subject with Venus and Adonis, namely, his Hero and Leander, than from any approximation in the value of their dramatic works.[249:A]

The death of Marlowe, which took place before the year 1593, was violent and premature, the melancholy termination of a life rendered still more melancholy by vice and infidelity.[249:B]

18. Lodge, Thomas. Two dramatic pieces have issued from the pen of this elegant miscellaneous poet. Of these the first was written in conjunction with Robert Greene, and entitled A Looking-Glass for London and England, a tragi-comedy, acted in 1591[249:C], though not published until 1598. The second is called "The Wounds of Civil War. Lively set forth in the true tragedies of Marius and Scilla," and probably performed in the year following the representation of the former play. It was printed in 1594. These dramas, though not the best of Dr. Lodge's productions, were not unpopular, nor deemed unworthy of his talents; the Looking-Glass appears to have been acted four times at the Rose theatre, in about the space of fifteen months.

19. Greene, Robert. This pleasing, but unfortunate poet, was the author of six plays, independent of that which he wrote as the coadjutor of Lodge. 1. "The Honorable Historie of Frier Bacon and Frier Bongay." 4to. As Greene died in September, 1592, there can [250]be no doubt that all his dramas were written, if not all performed, before Shakspeare's commencement as a writer for the stage; we find, from Henslowe's List, that Frier Bacon was performed at the Rose theatre, in February, 1591, and repeated thrice in the course of the season[250:A]; it was printed in 1594, and being founded on a popular story, had considerable success. 2. "The Historie of Orlando Furioso, one of the twelve Peers of France." This piece was likewise performed at the same theatre, in February, 1591, and also printed in 1594; the fable is taken, with little or no alteration, from the Orlando of Ariosto. 3. "The Scottish Historie of James the Fourth, slaine at Flodden. Entermixed with a pleasant Comedie presented by Oboram King of the Fayeries." Greene, says Oldys, in plotting plays, was his craft's master, and it would be curious and interesting to ascertain how he has conducted a subject which has obtained so much celebrity in our own days, and more especially in what manner he has combined it with the romantic superstition attendant on Oberon and his fairies.[250:B] 4. "The Comicall Historie of Alphonsus, King of Arragon." 5. "The History of Jobe." This play, which was never printed, and it is supposed never performed, although it was entered on the Stationers' books, in 1594, was unfortunately, with many others, destroyed by the carelessness of Dr. Warburton's servant. 6. "Fair Emm, the Miller's Daughter of Manchester, with the Love of William the Conqueror," a comedy which has been ascribed to Greene, by Phillips and Winstanley; the former, after enumerating some pieces which upon no good grounds [251]had been attributed to the joint pens of our author and Dr. Lodge, adds, "besides which, he wrote alone the comedies of Friar Bacon and Fair Emme."[251:A] It is the more probable that this drama was the composition of Greene, as it was represented at the same theatre and by the same company which brought forward his avowed productions.

We must, with Ritson, express our regret, that the dramatic works of Greene have not hitherto been collected and published together.[251:B]

20. Legge, Thomas, twice vice-chancellor of Cambridge, and the author of two plays which, though never printed, were acted with great applause, not only in the University which gave them birth, but on the public theatres. The first of these is named The Destruction of Jerusalem, and appears from Henslowe's List to have been performed at the Rose theatre, on the 22d of March, 1591; the second is entitled, The Life of King Richard the Third, a subject which induces us to regret, that it should not have been submitted to the press, especially when the character of Legge for dramatic talent is considered; for Meres informs us in 1598, that "Doctor Leg of Cambridge" was esteemed among the "best for tragedie," adding, that "as M. Anneus Lucanus writ two excellent tragedies, one called Medea, the other de Incendio Troiæ cum Priami calamitate: so Doctor Leg hath penned two famous tragedies, ye one of Richard the 3, the other of the destruction of Jerusalem."[251:C] The death of Dr. Legge took place in July, 1607.

To this catalogue of dramatic writers who preceded Shakspeare, it will be necessary to annex the names, at least, of those anonymous plays which, as far as any record of their performance has reached us, were the property of the stage anterior to the year 1594, under the almost certain presumption, that they must have been written before Shakspeare had acquired any celebrity as a theatrical poet.

[252]These, with the exception of the plays ascribed to Shakspeare, a few Interludes and Moralities, the tragi-comedy of Appius and Virginia, printed in 1576, and the tragedy of Selimus, Emperor of the Turks, must, and perhaps without danger of any very important omission, be limited to the following enumeration of dramas performed at the Rose theatre during the years 1591, 1592, and 1593; from which, however, we have withdrawn all those pieces that may be found previously noticed under the names of their respective authors:—

1. Muly Mulocco, or the Battle of Alcazar[252:A], 1591.
2. Spanish Comedy of Don Horatio, ——
3. Sir John Mandeville, ——
4. Henry of Cornwall, ——
5. Chloris and Orgasto[252:B], ——
6. Pope Joan, ——
7. Machiavel, ——
8. Ricardo[252:C], ——
9. Four Plays in One, ——
10. Zenobia, ——
11. Constantine, ——
12. Brandymer, ——
13. Titus Vespasian ——
14. The Tanner of Denmark, 1592.
15. Julian of Brentford, ——
16. The Comedy of Cosmo, ——
17. God Speed the Plough, 1593.
[253]18. Huon of Bourdeaux, ——
19. George a Green[253:A], ——
20. Buckingham, ——
21. Richard the Confessor, ——
22. William the Conqueror, ——
23. Friar Francis, ——
24. The Pinner of Wakefield[253:B], ——
25. Abraham and Lot, ——
26. The Fair Maid of Italy, ——
27. King Lud, ——
28. The Ranger's Comedy[253:C], ——

In order accurately to ascertain how far Shakspeare might be indebted to his predecessors, it would be highly desirable to possess a printed collection of all the dramas which are yet within the reach of the press, from the days of Sackville, to the year 1591. Such a work, so far from diminishing the claim to originality with which this great poet is now invested, would, we are convinced, place it in a still more indisputable point of view; and merely prove, that, without any servility of imitation, or even the smallest dereliction of his native talent and creative genius, he had absorbed within his own refulgent sphere the few feeble lights which, previous to his appearance, had shed a kind of twilight over the dramatic world.

The models, indeed, if such they may be called, which were presented to his view, are, as far as we are acquainted with them, so grossly defective in structure, style, and sentiment, that, if we set aside two or three examples, little or nothing could be learned from [254]them. In the course of near thirty years which elapsed between Sackville and Shakspeare, the best and purest period was perhaps that which immediately succeeded the exhibition of Gorboduc, but which was speedily terminated by the appearance of Preston's Cambyses in or probably rather before the year 1570. From this era we behold a succession of playwrights who, for better than twenty years, deluged the stage as tragic poets with a torrent of bombastic and sanguinary fiction, alike disgraceful to the feelings of humanity and common sense; or as comic writers, overwhelmed us with a mass of quaintness, buffoonery, and affectation. The worthy disciples of the author of Cambyses, Whetstone, Peele, Lilly, Kydd, and Marlowe, seem to have racked their brains to produce what was unnatural and atrocious, and having, like their leader, received a classical education, misemployed it to clothe their conceptions in a scholastic, uniform, and monotonous garb, as far, at least, as a versification modulated with the most undeviating regularity, and destitute of all variety of cadence or of pause could minister to such an effect.

That so dark a picture should occasionally be relieved by gleams of light, which appear the more brilliant from the surrounding contrast, was naturally to be expected; and we have accordingly seen that the very poets who may justly be censured for their general mode of execution, for the wildness and extravagancy of their plots, now and then present us with lines, passages, and even scenes, remarkable for their beauty, strength, or poetical diction; but these, so unconnected are they, and apart from the customary tone and keeping of the pieces in which they are scattered, appear rather as the fortuitous irradiation of a meteor, whose momentary splendour serves but to render the returning gloom more heavy and oppressive, than the effect of that sober, steady, and improving light which might cheer us with the prospect of approaching day.

Of the twenty poets who have just passed in review before us, Marlowe certainly exhibits the greatest portion of genius, though debased with a large admixture of the gross and glaring faults of his contemporaries. Two of his productions may yet be read with [255]interest; his Edward the Second, and his Faustus; though the latter must be allowed to deviate from the true tract of tragedy, in presenting us rather with what is horrible than terrible in its incidents and catastrophe.

We must not be surprised, therefore, that the dramatic fabrics of these rude artists should have met with the warmest admiration, when we recollect, that, in the infancy of an art, novelty is of itself abundantly productive of attraction, and that taste, neither formed by good models, nor rendered fastidious by choice, can have little power to check the march of misguided enthusiasm.

It is necessary, however, to record an event in dramatic history, which, coming into operation just previous to the entrance of our poet into the theatric arena as an author, no doubt contributed powerfully not only to chasten his muse, but, through him, universally the national taste. In 1589 commissioners were appointed by the Queen for the purpose of reviewing and revising the productions of all writers for the stage, with full powers to reject and strike out all which they might deem unmannerly, licentious, and irreverent; a censureship which, it is evident, if properly and temperately executed, could not fail of conferring almost incalculable benefit on a department of literature at that time not much advanced in its career, and but too apt to transgress the limits of a just decorum.

This regulation ushers in, indeed, by many degrees the most important period in the annals of our theatre, when Shakspeare, starting into dramatic life, came boldly forward on the eye, leaving at an immeasurable distance behind him, and in groupes more or less darkly shaded, his immediate predecessors, and his earliest contemporaries in the art.


[227:A] Warton's Hist. of English Poetry, vol. iii. p. 355.

[227:B] Vide Historia Histrionica.

[227:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 6. 11. See, also, Percy and Warton.

[227:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 29; and Warton's Hist. of English Poetry, vol. ii. p. 199.

[228:A] See Ancient British Drama, vol. i. both for this play and Gammer Gurton's Needle, as edited by Walter Scott.

[229:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 404.

[230:A] Warton's Hist. of English Poetry, vol. iii. p. 210.

[231:A] Defence of Poesie, pp. 561, 562.—Vide Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, folio, 7th. edit. 1629.

[232:A] Arte of English Poesie, reprint, p. 51.

[232:B] Chalmers's English Poets, vol. ii. Turberville's Poems, p. 620.

[233:A] History of English Poetry, vol. iii. p. 474.

[234:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 144. note by Farmer.

[234:B] MS. Digb. 133.

[234:C] Hist. of English Poetry, vol. iii. p. 376. note.

[235:A] Sign. C 4.

[235:B] Vide Censura Literaria, vol. vii. p. 305. et seq.; and Dodsley's Old Plays, by Reed, vol. ii. p. 154.

[236:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 461. Act iv. sc. 2.

[236:B] Ibid. vol. xi. p. 301.

[237:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xi. p. 302. note.

[237:B] Vide Beloe's Anecdotes of Literature, vol. i. p. 323.; and Biographia Dramatica apud Reed, vol. i. p. 362.

[238:A] Among "Six Old Plays, on which Shakspeare founded his Measure for Measure, Comedy of Errors," &c. &c.; reprinted from the original editions, 2 vols. 8vo. 1779.

[238:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vi. p. 184.

[239:A] Biographia Dramatica, vol. i. p. 351.

[239:B] Ibid. vol. ii. p. 21.

[239:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 90.

[240:A] Vide Reprint, 1809, p. 22.

[240:B] Vide Greene's Groatsworth of Witte bought with a Million of Repentance, reprint.

[240:C] Of the sweetness of versification and luxuriancy of imagery which Peele occasionally exhibits, we shall quote an instance from "The Love of King David and Fair Bethsabe. With the Tragedie of Absalon;" a play which Mr. Hawkins has re-printed in his Origin of the Drama, 3 vols.; observing, that the genius of Peele seems to have been kindled by reading the Prophets, and the Song of Solomon:—

"Bethsabe. Come gentle Zephyr trick'd with those perfumes
That erst in Eden sweetened Adam's love,
And stroke my bosom with thy silken fan:
This shade (sun-proof) is yet no proof for thee,
Thy body smoother than this waveless spring,
And purer than the substance of the same,
Can creep through that his lances cannot pierce.
Thou and thy sister soft and sacred Air,
Goddess of life, and governess of health,
Keeps every fountain fresh and arbor sweet:
No brazen gate her passage can repulse,
Nor bushy thicket bar thy subtle breath.
Then deck thee with thy loose delightsome robes,
And on thy wings bring delicate perfumes,
To play the wantons with us through the leaves."

[241:A] Theatrum Poetarum, apud Brydges, pp. 199, 200.

[242:A] For these plays, Blount's republication being scarce, the reader may consult Dodsley's Old Plays, 1780; Hawkins's Origin of the English Drama; Ancient British Drama apud Walter Scott; and Old Plays, vols. 1 and 2. 8vo. 1814.

[242:B] Numerous specimens of these Songs, in case the dramas are not at hand, will be found in Ellis's Specimens of the Early English Poets, vol. ii.; and in Beloe's Anecdotes of Literature and Scarce Books, vol. ii.

[243:A] Biographia Dramatica, vol. ii. p. 237.

[243:B] See a further account of this play, and a specimen of the chorus, in Beloe's Anecdotes, vol. i. p. 386.

[243:C] Vide Ancient British Drama, vol. i. p. 459.

[244:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 394.

[244:B] Vol. ii. p. 197.

[245:A] "There is particularly remembered," remarks Phillips, "his tragedy Cornelia." Theatrum Poetarum, apud Brydges, p. 206.

[245:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 92. Henry the Fourth, Part II., act ii. sc. 4.—The passage which Pistol has partially quoted will afford some idea of the wild and turgid extravagances of this poet. Tamburlaine is represented in a chariot drawn by captive monarchs with bits in their mouths; and, holding the reins in his left hand, he is in the act of scourging them with a whip:—

"Tamb. Holla ye pamper'd jades of Asia:
What, can ye draw but twenty miles a day,
And have so proud a chariot at your heels,
And such a coachman as great Tamburlaine?
But from Asphaltis, where I conquered you,
To Byron here, where thus I honour you?
The horse that guide the golden eye of heaven,
And blow the morning from their nostrils,
Making their fiery gate above the clouds,
Are not so honour'd in their governor,
As you ye slaves in mighty Tamburlaine.
The head strong jades of Thrace Alcides tamed,
That King Egeas fed with human flesh,
And made so wanton that they knew their strengths,
Were not subdued with valour more divine,
Than you by this unconquer'd arm of mine.
To make you fierce and fit my appetite,
You shall be fed with flesh as raw as blood,
And drink in pails the strongest muscadell:
If you can live with it, then live and draw
My chariot swifter than the racking clouds:
If not, then die like beasts, and fit for nought
But perches for the black and fatal ravens."

[248:A] This rare play was purchased, at the Roxburgh sale, for seventeen guineas!

[249:A] Theatrum Poetarum, apud Brydges, p. 113.

[249:B] Two accounts, varying materially, have been given by Wood and Vaughan, of this poet's untimely fate. That by Vaughan as being little known, and apparently founded on the writer's own knowledge of the fact, I shall venture to transcribe. The Golden Grove, from which it is extracted, was first published in 1600. Relating God's judgments on Atheists, he adds:—

"Not inferiour to these was one Christopher Marlow, by profession a play-maker, who, as it is reported, about fourteen yeres a-goe, wrote a booke against the Trinitie: but see the effects of God's justice; it so hapned, that at Detford, a litle village, about three miles distant from London, as he meant to stab with his poynard one named Ingram, that had invited him thither to a feaste, and was then playing at tables; hee perceyuing it, so avoyded the thrust, that withall drawing out his dagger for his defence, he stab'd this Marlow into the eye, in such sort, that his braynes comming out at the dagger's point, hee shortly after dyed."

[249:C] Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 355.

[250:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 354.

[250:B] Berkenhout's Biographia Literaria, p. 319. note.—The only account which I have seen of this play, printed in 1598, is in a note by Mr. Malone, who tells us that Shakspeare does not appear to have been indebted to this piece. "The plan of it," he adds, "is shortly this: Bohan, a Scot, in consequence of being disgusted with the world, having retired to a tomb where he has fixed his dwelling, is met by Aster Oberon, king of the fairies, who entertains him with an antick or dance by his subjects. These two personages, after some conversation, determine to listen to a tragedy, which is acted before them, and to which they make a kind of chorus, by moralizing at the end of each act." Vol. ii. p. 250.

[251:A] Theatrum Poetarum apud Brydges, p. 193.

[251:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p. 37.

[251:C] Vide Censura Literaria, vol. ix. p. 98.

[252:A] This play was printed in 1594, and has fallen under the ridicule of Shakspeare, in a parody on the words, Feed and be fat, &c.

[252:B] The miserable orthography of this catalogue has frequently disguised the real titles so much as to render them almost unintelligible, and I suspect Orgasto in this place to be very remote from the genuine word.

[252:C] Called in one part of the list, "bendo and Ricardo," and in another, "Byndo and Ricardo."

[253:A] This, being the prior part of the title of the Pinner of Wakefield, mentioned below, is probably one and the same with that production.

[253:B] The Pinner of Wakefield, which is in Dodsley's Collection, and in Scott's Ancient British Drama, was printed in 1599.

[253:C] Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. pp. 354-358.—Mr. Malone observes of the play in this catalogue, called "Richard the Confessor," that it "should seem to have been written by the Tinker, in Taming of the Shrew, who talks of Richard Conqueror."




We have, in a former portion of this work[256:A], assigned our reasons for concluding that, on Shakspeare's arrival in London, about the year 1586 or 1587, his immediate employment was that of an actor; and we now proceed to consider the much agitated question as to the era of his first attempts in dramatic poetry. That this was subsequent to the production of his Venus and Adonis, we possess his own authority, when he informs us that the poem just mentioned was the first heir of his invention; and though we enjoy no testimony of a like kind, or emanating from a similar source, as to the period of his earliest effort in dramatic literature, yet, if we be correct in referring the composition of his Venus and Adonis to the interval elapsing between the years 1587 and 1590[256:B], the epoch of his first play cannot, with any probability, be placed either much anterior or subsequent to the year 1590. That it occurred not before this date, may be presumed from recollecting, that, in the first place, the prosecution of his amatory poem and the acquirement of his profession as an actor, might be sufficient to occupy an interval of two years; and, in the second place, that no contemporary previous to 1592, neither Webbe in 1586[256:C], nor Puttenham in 1589[256:D], nor Harrington in February, [257]1591[257:A], has noticed or even alluded to any theatrical production of our author.

That it took place, either in 1590, or very soon after that year, must be inferred both from tradition, and from written testimony. Aubrey tells us, from the former source, that "he began early to make essays in dramatique poetry, which at that time was very lowe, and his plays took well[257:B];" and from the nature and extent of the allusions in the following passage from Robert Greene's Groatsworth of Witte bought with a Million of Repentance, there can be no doubt that, not only one play, but that several had been written and prepared for the stage by our poet, anterior to September, 1592.

It appears that this tract of Greene's was completed a very short time previous to his death, which happened on the third of the month of the year just mentioned, and that Henry Chettle, "upon whose perill"[257:C] it had been entered in the Stationers' register on September the 20th, 1592, became editor and publisher of it before the ensuing December.[257:D]

Greene had been the intimate associate of Marlowe, Lodge, and Peele, and he concludes his Groatsworth of Witte with an address to these bards, the object of which is, to dissuade them from any further reliance on the stage for support, and to warn them against the ingratitude and selfishness of players: "trust them not;" he exclaims, "for there is an upstart crowe BEAUTIFIED WITH OUR FEATHERS, that with his tygres heart wrapt in a player's hide, supposes hee is as well able to bombaste out a blank verse as the best of you; and being an absolute Johannes fac-totum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a countrey."[257:E]

To Mr. Tyrwhit we are indebted for the first application of this [258]passage to Shakspeare, who, as might naturally be expected, feeling himself hurt at Greene's unmerited sarcasm, clearly pointing to him by the designation of the only Shake-scene in a country, and not well pleased with Chettle's officious publication of it, expressed his sentiments so openly as to draw forth from the repentant editor, about three months after his edition of the Groatsworth of Witte, an apology, which adds further weight to the inferences which we wish to deduce from the language of Greene. In this interesting little pamphlet which, under the title of Kind Harts Dreame, we have had occasion to quote more at large in an earlier part of the volume[258:A], the author, after slightly noticing Marlowe, one of the offended parties, and speaking highly of the demeanour, professional ability, and moral integrity of Shakspeare, closes the sentence and the eulogium by mentioning "HIS FACETIOUS GRACE OF WRITING, THAT APPROVES HIS ART."

From these passages in Greene and Chettle, combined with the traditionary relation of Aubrey, we may legitimately infer, first, that he had written for the stage before the year 1592; secondly, that he had written during this period with considerable success, for Aubrey tells us, that his plays took well, and Chettle that his grace in writing approved his art; thirdly, that he had written both tragedy and comedy, Greene reporting, that he was well able to bombast out a blank verse, and Chettle speaking of his "facetious grace in writing;" fourthly, that he had altered and brought on the stage some of the separate or joint productions of Marlowe, Greene, Lodge, and Peele; the words of Greene, where he terms Shakspeare a "crowe beautified with OUR feathers, that with his tygres heart wrapt in a player's hide, supposes," &c. implying, not only that he had furtively acquired fame by appropriating their productions, but referring to a particular play, through the medium of quotation, as a proof of the assertion, the words tygres heart wrapt in a player's hide being a parody of a line in the Third [259]Part of King Henry the Sixth: or what we, for reasons which will be speedily assigned, have thought proper to call the Second Part,—

"O, tiger's heart, wrapp'd in a woman's hide;"[259:A]

fifthly, that he had already excited, as the usual consequence of success, no small degree of jealousy and envy; hence Greene has querelously bestowed upon him the appellation of upstart, and has taxed him with a monopolising spirit, an accusation which leads us to believe, sixthly, that he had written or prepared for the stage SEVERAL PLAYS anterior to September, 1592; this last inference, which we conceive to be fairly deduced from the description of our poet as an absolute Johannes fac-totum with regard to the stage, will immediately bring forward again the question as to the precise era of our author's earliest drama.

Now to warrant the charge implied by the expression, an absolute fac-totum, we must necessarily allow a sufficient lapse of time before September, 1592, in order to admit, not only of Shakspeare's altering a play for the stage, but of his composing either altogether, or in part, both tragedy and comedy on a basis of his own choice, so that he might, as he actually did, appear to Greene, in the capacities of corrector, improver, and original writer of plays, to be a perfect fac-totum.

And, if we further reflect, that the composition of the Groatsworth of Witte most probably, from indisposition, occupied its author one month, as he complains of weakness scarce suffering him to write towards the conclusion of his tract, and that we cannot reasonably conclude less than two years to have been employed by Shakspeare in the execution of the functions assigned him by Greene; the period for the production of his first drama, will necessarily be thrown back to the August of the year 1590; an era to which no objection, from contradictory testimony, can with any show of probability apply; for, [260]though Harrington, whose Apologie for Poetrie was entered on the Stationers' books in February, 1591, has not noticed Shakspeare, yet, if we consider that this treatise was, in all likelihood, completed previous to the close of 1590, we shall not wonder that a play, performed but three or four months before the critic finished his labours, unappropriated too, there is reason to think, by the public at that time, and unacknowledged by the author, should be passed over in silence.

Having thus endeavoured to fix the era of our poet's commencement as a dramatic writer, it remains to ascertain which was the first drama that, either wholly or in great part, issued from his pen; a subject, like the former, certainly surrounded with many difficulties, liable to many errors, and only to be illustrated by a patient investigation of, and a well-weighed deduction from, minute circumstances and conflicting probabilities.

The reasons which have induced us to fix upon Pericles, as the result of a laborious, if not a successful, enquiry, will be offered, with much diffidence, under the first article of the following Chronological Arrangement, which, though deviating, in several instances, from the chronologies of both Chalmers and Malone, will not, it is hoped, on that account be found needlessly singular, nor unproductive of a closer approximation to probability, and, perchance, to truth.

For the sake of perspicuity, it has been thought eligible to prefix, in a tabular form, the order which has been adopted, the observations confirmatory of its arrangement being classed according to the series thus drawn out; and here it may be necessary to premise, that the substance of our commentary, with the exception of what may be requisite to establish a few new dates, will be chiefly confined to critical remarks on each play, relieved by intervening dissertations on the super-human agency of the poet.

[261]Chronological Table.

1. Pericles, 1590.
2. Comedy of Errors, 1591.
3. Love's Labour's Lost, 1591.
4. King Henry the Sixth, Part I. 1592.
5. King Henry the Sixth, Part II. 1592.
6. Midsummer-Night's Dream, 1593.
7. Romeo and Juliet, 1593.
8. Taming of the Shrew, 1594.
9. Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1595.
10. King Richard the Third, 1595.
11. King Richard the Second, 1596.
12. King Henry the Fourth, Part I. 1596.
13. King Henry the Fourth, Part II. 1596.
14. The Merchant of Venice, 1597.
15. Hamlet, 1597.
16. King John, 1598.
17. All's Well That Ends Well, 1598.
18. King Henry the Fifth, 1599.
19. Much Ado About Nothing, 1599.
20. As You Like It, 1600.
21. Merry Wives of Windsor, 1601.
22. Troilus and Cressida, 1601.
23. King Henry the Eighth, 1602.
24. Timon of Athens, 1602.
25. Measure for Measure, 1603.
26. King Lear, 1604.
27. Cymbeline, 1605.
28. Macbeth, 1606.
29. Julius Cæsar, 1607.
30. Antony and Cleopatra, 1608.
[262]31. Coriolanus, 1609.
32. The Winter's Tale, 1610.
33. The Tempest, 1611.
34. Othello, 1612.
35. Twelfth Night, 1613.

1. Pericles, 1590. That the greater part, if not the whole, of this drama, was the composition of Shakspeare, and that it is to be considered as his earliest dramatic effort, are positions, of which the first has been rendered highly probable by the elaborate disquisitions of Messrs. Steevens and Malone, and may possibly be placed in a still clearer point of view by a more condensed and lucid arrangement of the testimony already produced, and by a further discussion of the merits and peculiarities of the play itself; while the second will, we trust, receive additional support by inferences legitimately deduced from a comprehensive survey of scattered and hitherto insulated premises.

The evidence required for the establishment of a high degree of probability under the first of these positions necessarily divides itself into two parts; the external and the internal evidence. The former commences with the original edition of Pericles, which was entered on the Stationers' books by Edward Blount, one of the printers of the first folio edition of Shakspeare's plays, on the 20th of May[262:A], 1608, but did not pass the press until the subsequent year, when it was published, not, as might have been expected, by Blount, but by one Henry Gosson, who placed Shakspeare's name at full length in the title-page.

[263]It is worthy of remark, also, that this edition was entered at Stationers' Hall together with Antony and Cleopatra, and that it, and the three following editions, which were also in quarto, were styled in the title-page, the much admired play of Pericles. As the entry, however, was by Blount, and the edition by Gosson, it is probable, as Mr. Malone has remarked, that the former had been anticipated by the latter, through the procurance of a play-house copy.[263:A] It may also be added, that Pericles was performed at Shakspeare's own theatre, The Globe. The next ascription of this play to our author, is found in a poem entitled The Times Displayed in Six Sestyads, by S. Sheppard, 4to. 1646, dedicated to Philip Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and containing, in the ninth stanza of the sixth Sestiad, a positive assertion of Shakspeare's property in this drama:—

"See him whose tragick sceans Euripides
Doth equal, and with Sophocles we may
Compare great Shakspear; Aristophanes
Never like him his fancy could display,
Witness the Prince of Tyre, HIS Pericles."[263:B]

This high eulogium on Pericles received a direct contradiction very shortly afterwards from the pen of an obscure poet named Tatham, who bears, however, an equally strong testimony as to Shakspeare being the author of the piece, which he thus presumes to censure:—

"But Shakespeare, the plebeian driller, was
Founder'd in HIS Pericles, and must not pass."[263:C]

To these testimonies in 1646 and 1652, full and unqualified, and made at no distant period from the death of the bard to whom they relate, we have to add the still more forcible and striking declaration [264]of Dryden, who tells us, in 1677, and in words as strong and as decisive as he could select, that

"Shakspeare's own muse, HIS Pericles first bore."[264:A]

The only drawback on this accumulation of external evidence is the omission of Pericles in the first edition of our author's works; a negative fact which can have little weight when we recollect, that both the memory and judgment of Heminge and Condell, the poet's editors, were so defective, that they had forgotten Troilus and Cressida, until the entire folio and the table of contents had been printed, and admitted Titus Andronicus, and the Historical Play of King Henry the Sixth, probably for no other reasons, than that the former had been, from its unmerited popularity, brought forward by Shakspeare on his own theatre, though, there is sufficient internal evidence to prove, without the addition of a single line; and because the latter, with a similar predilection of the lower orders in its favour, had, on that account, obtained a similar, though not a more laboured attention from our poet, and was therefore deemed by his editors, though very unnecessarily, a requisite introduction to the two plays on the reign of that monarch which Shakspeare had really new-modelled.

It cannot, consequently, be surprising that, as they had forgotten Troilus and Cressida until the folio had been printed, they should have also forgotten Pericles until the same folio had been in circulation, and when it was too late to correct the omission; an error which the second folio has, without doubt or examination, blindly copied.

If the external evidence in support of Shakspeare being the author of the greater part of this play be striking, the internal must be pronounced still more so, and, indeed, absolutely decisive of the question; for, whether we consider the style and phraseology, or the [265]imagery, sentiment, and humour, the approximation to our author's uncontested dramas appears so close, frequent, and peculiar, as to stamp irresistible conviction on the mind.

The result has accordingly been such as might have been predicted under the assumption of the play being genuine; for the more it has been examined, the more clearly has Shakspeare's large property in it been established. It is curious, indeed, to note the increased tone of confidence which each successive commentator has assumed in proportion as he has weighed the testimony arising from the piece itself. Rowe, in his first edition, says, "it is owned that some part of Pericles certainly was written by him, particularly the last act;" Dr. Farmer observes that the hand of Shakspeare may be seen in the latter part of the play; Dr. Percy remarks, that "more of the phraseology used in the genuine dramas of Shakspeare prevails in Pericles, than in any of the other six doubted plays[265:A]," and, of the two rival restorers of this drama, Steevens and Malone, the former declares;—"I admit without reserve that Shakspeare,

——— "whose hopeful colours
Advance a half-fac'd sun, striving to shine,"

is visible in many scenes throughout the play;—the purpurei panni are Shakspeare's, and the rest the productions of some inglorious and forgotten play-wright;"—adding, in a subsequent paragraph, that Pericles is valuable, "as the engravings of Mark Antonio are valuable not only on account of their beauty, but because they are supposed to have been executed under the eye of Raffaelle[265:B];" while the latter gives it as his corrected opinion, that "the congenial sentiments, the numerous expressions bearing a striking similitude to passages in his undisputed plays, some of the incidents, the situation of many of the persons, and in various places the colour of the style, all these combine to set the seal of Shakspeare on the play before us, and [266]furnish us with internal and irresistible proofs, that a considerable portion of this piece, as it now appears, was written by him. The greater part of the three last acts may, I think, on this ground be safely ascribed to him; and his hand may be traced occasionally in the other two divisions."[266:A] Lastly, Mr. Douce asserts, that "many will be of opinion that it contains more that he might have written than either Love's Labour's Lost, or All's Well that Ends Well."[266:B]

For satisfactory proof that the style, phraseology, and imagery of the greater part of this play are truly Shakspearean, the reader is referred to the commentators, who have noticed, with unwearied accuracy, all the numerous coincidences which, in these respects, occur between Pericles and the poet's subsequent productions; similitudes so striking, as to leave no doubt that they originated from one and the same source.

If we attend, however, a little further to the dramatic construction of Pericles, to its humour, sentiment, and character, not only shall we find additional evidence in favour of its being, in a great degree, the product of our author, but fresh cause, it is expected, for awarding it a higher estimation than it has hitherto obtained.

However wild and extravagant the fable of Pericles may appear, if we consider its numerous chorusses, its pageantry, and dumb shows, its continual succession of incidents, and the great length of time which they occupy, yet is it, we may venture to assert, the most spirited and pleasing specimen of the nature and fabric of our earliest romantic drama which we possess, and the more valuable, as it is the only one with which Shakspeare has favoured us. We should therefore welcome this play, an admirable example of "the neglected favourites of our ancestors, with something of the same feeling that is experienced in the reception of an old and valued friend of our fathers or grandfathers. Nay, we should like "it" the better for "its" gothic appendages of pageants and chorusses, to explain the [267]intricacies of the fable; and we can see no objection to the dramatic representation even of a series of ages in a single night, that does not apply to every description of poem which leads in perusal from the fire-side at which we are sitting, to a succession of remote periods and distant countries. In these matters, faith is all-powerful; and, without her influence, the most chastely cold and critically correct of dramas is precisely as unreal as the Midsummer-Night's Dream, or the Winter's Tale."[267:A]

Perfectly coinciding in opinion with this ingenious critic, and willing to give an indefinite influence to the illusion of the scene, we have found in Pericles much entertainment from its uncommon variety and rapidity of incident, qualities which peculiarly mark the genius of Shakspeare, and which rendered this drama so successful on its first appearance, that the poets of the time quote its reception as a remarkable instance of popularity.[267:B]

A still more powerful attraction in Pericles is, that the interest accumulates as the story proceeds; for, though many of the characters in the earlier part of the piece, such as Antiochus and his Daughter, Simonides and Thaisa, Cleon and Dionyza, disappear and drop into oblivion, their places are supplied by more pleasing and efficient agents, who are not only less fugacious, but better calculated for theatric effect. The inequalities of this production are, indeed, considerable, and only to be accounted for, with probability, on the supposition, that Shakspeare either accepted a coadjutor, or improved on the rough sketch of a previous writer; the former, for reasons which will be assigned hereafter, seems entitled to a preference, and will explain why, in compliment to his dramatic friend, he has suffered a few passages, and one entire scene, of a character totally [268]dissimilar to his own style and mode of composition, to stand uncorrected; for who does not perceive that of the closing scene of the second act, not a sentence or a word escaped from the pen of Shakspeare, and yet, that the omission of a few lines would have rendered that blameless and consistent, which is now, with reference to the character of Simonides, a tissue of imbecillity, absurdity, and falsehood.[268:A]

[269]No play, in fact, more openly discloses the hand of Shakspeare than Pericles, and fortunately his share in its composition appears to have been very considerable; he may be distinctly, though not [270]frequently, traced, in the first and second acts; after which, feeling the incompetency of his fellow-labourer, he seems to have assumed almost the entire management of the remainder, nearly the whole of the third, fourth, and fifth acts bearing indisputable testimony to the genius and execution of the great master.

The truth of these affirmations will be evident, if we give a slight attention to the sentiment and character which are developed in the scenes before us. It has been repeatedly declared, that Pericles, though teeming with incident, is devoid of character, an assertion which a little scrutiny is alone sufficient to refute.

Shakspeare has ever delighted in drawing the broad humour of inferior life, and in this, which we hold to be, the first heir of his DRAMATIC invention, no opportunity is lost for the introduction of such sketches; accordingly, the first scene of the second act, and the third and sixth scenes of the fourth act, are occupied by delineations of this kind, coloured with the poet's usual strength and verisimilitude, and painting the shrewd but honest mirth of laborious fishermen, and the vicious badinage of the inhabitants of a brothel. Leaving these traits, however, which sufficiently speak for themselves, let us turn our view on the more serious persons of the drama.

Of the minor characters belonging to this groupe, none, except Helicanus and Cerimon, are, it must be confessed, worthy of consideration; the former is respectable for his fidelity and integrity, though not individualised by any peculiar attribution, but in Cerimon, who exhibits the rare union of the nobleman and the physician, the most unwearied benevolence, the most active philanthropy, are depicted in glowing tints, and we have only to regret that he fills not a greater space in the business of the drama. He is introduced in the second scene of the third act, as having

"Shaken off the golden slumber of repose,"

to assist, in a dreadfully inclement night, some shipwrecked mariners:

"Cer. Get fire and meat for these poor men;
It has been a turbulent and stormy night.
[271]Serv. I have been in many; but such a night as this,
Till now, I ne'er endur'd."

His prompt assistance on this occasion calls forth the eulogium of some gentlemen who had been roused from their slumbers by the violence of the tempest:

"Your honour has through Ephesus pour'd forth
Your charity, and hundreds call themselves
Your creatures, who by you have been restor'd:
And not your knowledge, personal pain, but even
Your purse, still open, hath built lord Cerimon
Such strong renown as time shall never—"

They are here interrupted by two servants bringing in a chest which had been washed on shore, and which is found to contain the body of Thaisa, the wife of Pericles, on a survey of which, Cerimon pronounces, from the freshness of its appearance, that it had been too hastily committed to the sea, adding an observation which would form an excellent motto to an Essay on the means of restoring suspended animation:

"Death may usurp on nature many hours,
And yet the fire of life kindle again
The overpressed spirits."

The disinterested conduct and philosophic dignity of Cerimon cannot be placed in a more amiable and striking light, than in that which they receive from the following declaration, worthy of being inscribed in letters of gold in the library of every liberal cultivator of medical science:

"Cerimon. I held it ever
Virtue and "knowledge"[271:A] were endowments greater
Than nobleness and riches: careless heirs
May the two latter darken and expend;
But immortality attends the former,
[272]Making a man a god. 'Tis known, I ever
Have studied physick, through which secret art,
By turning o'er authorities, I have
(Together with my practice) made familiar
To me and to my aid, the blest infusions
That dwell in vegetives, in metals, stones;
And I can speak of the disturbances
That nature works, and of her cures; which give me
A more content in course of true delight
Than to be thirsty after tottering honour,
Or tie my treasure up in silken bags."

If we now contemplate the two chief personages of the play, Pericles and Marina; and if it can be proved that these occupy, as they should do, the fore ground of the picture, are well relieved, and characteristically sustained, nothing can be wanting, when combined with the other marks of authenticity collected by the commentators, to substantiate the genuine property of Shakspeare.

Buoyant with hope, ardent in enterprise, and animated by the keenest sensibility, Pericles is brought forward as a model of knighthood. Chivalric in his habits, romantic in his conceptions, and elegant in his accomplishments, he is represented as the devoted servant of glory and of love. His failings, however, are not concealed; for the enthusiasm and susceptibility of his character lead him into many errors; he is alternately the sport of joy and grief, at one time glowing with rapture, at another plunged into utter despair. Not succeeding in his amatory overture at the court of Antiochus, and shocked at the criminality of that monarch and his daughter, he becomes a prey to the deepest despondency:—

"The sad companion, dull-eye'd melancholy,
By me so us'd a guest is, not an hour,
In the day's glorious walk, or peaceful night,
The tomb where grief should sleep, can breed me quiet."[272:A]

Affliction, however, of a more unequivocal kind soon assails him; he is shipwrecked on the coast of Greece, and compelled to solicit [273]support from the benevolence of some poor fishermen. His address to these honest creatures is truly pathetic:—

"Per. He asks of you, that never us'd to beg.—
What I have been, I have forgot to know;
But what I am, want teaches me to think on;
A man shrunk up with cold: my veins are chill,
And have no more of life, than may suffice
To give my tongue that heat, to ask your help."[273:A]

From this state of dejection he is suddenly raised to the most sanguine pitch of hope, on perceiving the fishermen dragging in their net to shore a suit of rusty armour. Enveloped in this, he determines to appear at Pentapolis the neighbouring capital of Simonides, as a knight and gentleman; to purchase a steed with a jewel yet remaining on his arm, and to enter the lists of a tournament then in preparation, as a candidate for the hand of Thaisa, the daughter of the king. His exultation on the prospect, he thus expresses to his humble friends:

"Now, by your furtherance, I am cloth'd in steel;
And, spite of all the rupture of the sea,
This jewel holds his biding on my arm;
Unto thy value will I mount myself
Upon a courser, whose delightful steps
Shall make the gazer joy to see him tread."[273:B]

The same rapid transition of the passions, and the same subjection to uncontrolled emotions mark his future course; the supposed deaths of his wife and daughter immerse him in the deepest abstraction and gloom; he is represented, in consequence of these events, as

"A man, who for this three months hath not spoken
To any one, nor taken sustenance
But to prorogue his grief."[273:C]

[274]We are prepared therefore to expect, that the discovery of the existence of these dear relatives should have a proportionate effect on feelings thus constituted, so sensitive and so acute; and, accordingly, the tide of rapture rolls in with overwhelming force. Nothing, indeed, can be more impressively conducted than the recognition of Marina; it is Shakspeare, not in the infancy of his career, but approaching to the zenith of his glory.—Conviction on the part of Pericles is accompanied by a flood of tears; why, says his daughter,

——————— "Why do you weep? It may be
You think me an impostor.——
Per. O Helicanus, strike me, honour'd sir;
Give me a gash, put me to present pain;
Lest this great sea of joys rushing upon me,
O'erbear the shores of my mortality,
And drown me with their sweetness. O, come hither,—
Thou that was born at sea, buried at Tharsus,
And found at sea again!—O Helicanus,
Down on thy knees, thank the holy gods."[274:A]

Nature appeals here to the heart in a tone not to be misunderstood.

Ecstasy, however, cannot long be borne, the feeble powers of man soon sink beneath the violence of the emotion, and mark how Shakspeare closes the conflict:

"Per. ——————— I embrace you, sir.
Give me my robes; I am wild in my beholding.
O heavens bless my girl! But hark, what musick?—
Tell Helicanus, my Marina, tell him
————————— for yet he seems to doubt,
How sure you are my daughter.—But what musick?
Her. My lord, I hear none.
Per. None?
The musick of the spheres: list, my Marina.—
Most heavenly musick:
It nips me unto list'ning, and thick slumber
Hangs on mine eye-lids; let me rest.
(He sleeps.)"[274:B]

[275]It might be imagined that the above scene would almost necessarily preclude any chance of success in the immediately subsequent detail of the discovery of Thaisa; but the poet has contrived, notwithstanding, to throw both novelty and interest into this the final dénouement of the play. Pericles, aided by the evidence of Cerimon, recognises his wife in the character of high Priestess of the Temple of Diana at Ephesus; the acknowledgment is thus pathetically painted:—

"Per. ——— No more, you gods! your present kindness
Makes my past miseries sport: You shall do well,
That on the touching of her lips I may
Melt, and no more be seen. O come, be buried
A second time within these arms.
Marina. My heart
Leaps to be gone into my mother's bosom.
(Kneels to Thaisa.
Per. Look, who kneels here! Flesh of thy flesh, Thaisa;
Thy burden at the sea, and call'd Marina,
For she was yielded there.
Thaisa. Bless'd and mine own!"[275:A]

To the many amiable and interesting female characters with which the undisputed works of our poet abound, may be added the Marina of this drama, who, like Miranda, Imogen, and Perdita, pleases by the gentleness, and artless tenderness of her disposition; though it must be allowed that Marina can only be considered as a sketch when compared with the more highly finished designs of our author's maturer pencil; it is a sketch, however, from the hand of a master, and cannot be mistaken.

Pericles commits his infant daughter, accompanied by her nurse Lychorida, to the protection of Cleon and Dionyza:—

"Per. Good Madam, make me blessed in your care
In bringing up my child.
Dion. I have one myself,
Who shall not be more dear to my respect,
Than your's, my lord.
[276]Per. Madam, my thanks and prayers.
Cleon. We'll bring your grace even to the edge o'the shore;
Then give you up to the mask'd Neptune, and
The gentlest winds of heaven.
Per. I will embrace
Your offer. Come, dear'st Madam.—O, no tears.
Lychorida, no tears:
Look to your little mistress, on whose grace
You may depend hereafter."[276:A]

The affectionate attachment of Marina to this friend of her infancy, and her deep-felt sorrow for her loss, advantageously open her character in the first scene of the fourth act, where she is introduced strewing the grave of Lychorida with flowers.

"Enter Marina, with a Basket of Flowers.
Mar. No, no, I will rob Tellus of her weed,
To strew thy green with flowers: the yellows, blues,
The purple violets, and madrigolds,
Shall, as a chaplet, hang upon thy grave,
While summer days do last. Ah me! poor maid,
Born in a tempest, when my mother died,
This world to me is like a lasting storm,
Whirring me from my friends;"[276:B]

a passage, the leading idea of which, Shakspeare has transplanted with the same pleasing effect into his Cymbeline.[276:C]

Scarcely has Marina lamented the decease of her faithful attendant, when envy and malignity conspire against her life in the bosom of one who ought to have been her surest safeguard against misfortune. Dionyza, perceiving her own daughter eclipsed by the beauty and [277]accomplishments of her ward, resolves upon her destruction, and bribes a wretch, named Leonine, to the commission of the deed. The dialogue which takes place on this occasion, between the ruffian and his intended victim, places the artless simplicity of the latter in a very pleasing point of view.

"Leon. Come, say your prayers speedily.
Mar. What mean you?
Leon. If you require a little space for prayer,
I grant it: Pray; but be not tedious,
For the gods are quick of ear, and I am sworn
To do my work with haste.
Mar. Why, will you kill me?
Leon. To satisfy my lady.
Mar. Why would she have me killed?
Now, as I can remember,
I never did her hurt in all my life;
I never spake bad word, nor did ill turn
To any living creature: believe me,
I never kill'd a mouse, nor hurt a fly:
I trod upon a worm against my will,
But I wept for it. How have I offended,
Wherein my death might yield her profit, or
My life imply her danger?
Leon. My commission
Is not to reason of the deed, but do it.
Mar. You will not do't for all the world, I hope.
You are well favour'd, and your looks foreshow
You have a gentle heart. I saw you lately,
When you caught hurt in parting two that fought:
Good sooth, it show'd well in you; do so now:
Your lady seeks my life; come you between,
And save poor me, the weaker."[277:A]

Marina snatched from this villain by the sudden intervention of pirates, is sold by them to the keeper of a brothel at Mitylene, a situation which appears to her still more dreadful than that from which she has so narrowly escaped. She laments that Leonine had [278]not executed his orders, or that the pirates had not thrown her overboard, and exclaims in language equally beautiful and appropriate,—

"——————— O that the good gods
Would set me free from this unhallow'd place,
Though they did change me to the meanest bird
That flies i' the purer air."[278:A]

Indebted to her talents and accomplishments, which she represents to her purchasers as more likely to be productive than the wages of prostitution, she is allowed to quit the brothel uninjured, but under a compact to devote the profits of her industry and skill to the support of her cruel oppressors.

The mild fortitude and resignation which she exhibits during this humiliating state of servitude, and the simple dignity which she displays in her person and manners, are forcibly delineated in the following observations of Pericles, who, roused from his torpor by her figure, voice, and features, and interested in her narrative, thus addresses her:—

"Pr'ythee speak;
Falseness cannot come from thee, for thou look'st
Modest as justice, and thou seem'st a palace
[279]For the crown'd truth to dwell in:—"yea" thou dost look
Like Patience, gazing on king's graves and smiling
Extremity out of act:"[279:A]

a picture which is rendered yet more touching by a subsequent trait; for Lysimachus informs us

"———————— she would never tell
Her parentage; being demanded that,
She would sit still and weep."[279:B]

To this delightful sketch of female tenderness and subdued suffering, nearly all the interest of the last two acts is to be ascribed, and we feel, therefore, highly gratified that sorrows so unmerited, and so well borne, should, at length, terminate not only in repose, but in positive happiness. The poet, indeed, has allotted strict retributory justice to all his characters; the bad are severely punished, while in Pericles and his daughter, we behold

"Virtue preserv'd from fell destruction's blast,
Led on by heaven, and crown'd with joy at last."[279:C]

[280]To whom, may it now be asked, if not to Shakspeare, can this play with any probability be given? Has not the above slight analysis of its two principal characters, with the quotations necessarily adduced, fully convinced us, that in style, sentiment, and imagery, and in the outline and conception of its chief female personage, the hand of our great master is undeniably displayed?

We presume, therefore, both the external and internal evidence for much the greater part of this play being the composition of Shakspeare may be pronounced complete and unanswerable; and it now only remains to enquire, if there be sufficient ground for considering Pericles, as we have ventured to do in this arrangement, as the FIRST dramatic production of our author's pen.

It is very extraordinary that the positive testimony of Dryden as to the priority of Pericles, especially if we weigh well the import of the context, should ever have admitted of a moment's doubt or controversy. Nothing can, we think, be more plainly declaratory than the lines in question, which shall be given at length:—

[281]"Your Ben and Fletcher in their first young flight,
Did no Volpone, no Arbaces write:
But hopp'd about, and short excursions made
From bough to bough, as if they were afraid;
And each were guilty of some Slighted Maid.
Shakspeare's own muse his Pericles FIRST bore;
The Prince of Tyre was elder than The Moor:
'Tis miracle to see a first good play;
All hawthorns do not bloom on Christmas-day.
A slender poet must have time to grow,
And spread and burnish, as his brothers do:
Who still looks lean, sure with some p— is curst,
But no man can be Falstaff fat at first."[281:A]

This passage, if it mean any thing, must imply, not only from the bare assertion of one line, but from all the accessory matter, that Pericles was the first young flight of Shakspeare, that it was the first offspring of his dramatic muse, his first play. That this was the meaning of Dryden, and not merely that Pericles was produced before Othello, will be further evident from recollecting the occasion of the Prologue whence these lines are taken. It was written to introduce the first play of Dr. Charles D'Avenant, then only nineteen years of age, and the bard expressly calls it "the blossom of his green years," the "rude essay of a youthful poet, who may grow up to write," expressions which can assimilate it with Pericles only on the supposition that the latter was, like Circe, a firstling of dramatic genius.

That Dryden, who wrote this prologue in 1675, possessed, from his approximation to the age of Shakspeare, many advantages for ascertaining the truth, none will deny. When the former had attained the age of twenty, the latter had been dead but thirty-five years, and the subsequent connection of the modern bard with the stage, and his intimacy with Sir William D'Avenant, who had produced his first play in 1629, and had been well acquainted with Heminge and the surviving companions of Shakspeare, would furnish him with sufficient [282]data for his assertion, independent of any reliance on the similar declarations of Shepherd and Tatham.

Taking the statement of Dryden, therefore, as a disclosure of the fact, it follows, of course, from what has been previously said on the epoch of Shakspeare's commencement as a dramatic writer, that Pericles must be referred to the autumn of the year 1590, an assignment which the consideration of a few particulars will tend to corroborate.

In the first place, it may be remarked, that the numerous dumb shows of this play, are of themselves a striking presumptive proof of its antiquity, indicating that Shakspeare, who subsequently laughed at these clumsy expedients, thought it necessary, at the opening of his career, to fall in with the fashion of the times, with a fashion which had reigned from the earliest establishment of our stage, which was still in vogue in 1590, but soon after this period became an object of ridicule, and began to decline.

Mr. Malone has remarked, that from the manner in which Pericles is mentioned in a metrical pamphlet, entitled Pimlyco or Runne Red-cap, 1609, there is reason to conclude that it is coëval with the old play of Jane Shore[282:A]; and this latter being noticed by Beaumont and Fletcher in conjunction with The Bold Beauchamps[282:B], a production which D'Avenant classes, in point of age, with Tamburlaine and Faustus[282:C], pieces which appeared in or before 1590, he infers, [283]perhaps not injudiciously, that Pericles has a claim to similar antiquity, and should be ascribed to the year 1590.[283:A]

But a still stronger conclusion in favour of the date which, we think, should be assigned to Pericles, may be drawn from a suggestion of Mr. Steevens, which has not perhaps been sufficiently considered. This gentleman contends, that Shakspeare's Prince of Tyre was originally named Pyroclés, after the hero of Sidney's Arcadia, the character, as he justly observes, not bearing the smallest affinity to that of the Athenian statesman. "It is remarkable," says he, "that many of our ancient writers were ambitious to exhibit Sidney's worthies on the stage: and when his subordinate agents were advanced to such honour, how happened it that Pyrocles, their leader, should be overlooked? Musidorus (his companion), Argalus and Parthenia, Phalantus and Eudora, Andromana, &c. furnished titles for different tragedies; and perhaps Pyrocles, in the present instance, was defrauded of a like distinction. The names invented or employed by Sidney, had once such popularity, that they were sometimes borrowed by poets who did not profess to follow the direct current of his fables, or attend to the strict preservation of his characters.—I must add, that the Appolyn of the Story-book and Gower could have been rejected only to make room for a more favourite name; yet, however conciliating the name of Pyrocles might have been, that of Pericles could challenge no advantage with regard to general predilection.—All circumstances therefore considered, it is not improbable that our author designed his chief character to be called Pyrocles, not Pericles, however ignorance or accident might have shuffled the latter (a name of almost similar sound) into the place of the former."[283:B]

The probability of this happy conjecture will amount almost to certainty, if we diligently compare Pericles with the Pyrocles of the Arcadia; the same romantic, versatile, and sensitive disposition is [284]ascribed to both characters, and several of the incidents pertaining to the latter are found mingled with the adventures of the former personage, while, throughout the play, the obligations of its author to various other parts of the romance may be frequently and distinctly traced, not only in the assumption of an image or a sentiment, but in the adoption of the very words of his once popular predecessor, proving incontestably the poet's familiarity with and study of the Arcadia to have been very considerable.[284:A]

Now this work of Sidney, commenced in 1580, was corrected and published by his sister the Countess of Pembroke, in 1590, and the admiration which it immediately excited would naturally induce a young actor, then meditating his first essay in dramatic poetry, instantly to avail himself of its popularity, and, by appropriating the appellation of its principal hero, fix the attention of the public. That Shakspeare long preserved his attachment to the Arcadia, is evident from his King Lear, where the episode of Gloster and his sons is plainly copied from the first edition of this romance.[284:B]

The date assigned to Pericles, on this foundation, being admitted, it follows of course, that Shakspeare could not have had time to improve upon the sketch of a predecessor; and yet from the texture of some parts of the composition, we are compelled to infer, that in this first effort in dramatic poetry, he must have condescended to accept the assistance of a friend, whose inferiority to himself is distinctly visible through the greater part of the first two acts, a position the probability of which seems to have induced Mr. Steevens to yield his assent to Dryden's assertion. "In one light, indeed, I am ready," remarks this acute commentator, "to allow Pericles was our poet's first attempt. Before he was satisfied with his own strength, and [285]trusted himself to the publick, he might have tried his hand with a partner, and entered the theatre in disguise. Before he ventured to face an audience on the stage, it was natural that he should peep at them through the curtain."[285:A]

The objections which have been made to this priority of Pericles in point of time, may be reduced to three, of which the first is drawn from the non-enumeration of the play by Meres, when giving a list of our poet's dramas, in 1598.[285:B] But if it were the object of Shakspeare and his coadjutor to lie concealed from the public eye, of which there can be little doubt, since the former, as hath been remarked, having never owned his share in it, or supposing it to be forgotten, was afterwards willing to profit by the most valuable lines and ideas it contained[285:C], the omission of Meres is easily accounted for; yet granting that our author had been well known as the chief writer of Pericles, the validity of the objection is not thereby established, for we find in this catalogue neither the play of King Henry the Sixth, in any of its parts, nor the tragedy of Hamlet, pieces undoubtedly written and performed before the year 1598.

A second objection is founded on the title-page of the first edition of Pericles, published in 1609, where this drama is termed "the late and much admired play."[285:D] It is obvious that from a word so indefinite in its signification as late, whether taken adverbially or adjectively, nothing decisive can result. To a play written eighteen years before, the lexicographic definitions of the term in question, namely, in times past, not long ago, not far from the present, may, without doubt, justly apply; but we must also add, that it is uncertain whether the word is meant to refer to the period of the composition of the play, or to the date of its last representation; lately performed being most probably the sense in which the editor intended to be understood.

[286]Lastly, Mr. Douce is of opinion that three of the devices of the knights in act the second, scene the second, of Pericles, are copied from a translation of the Heroicall Devises of Paradin and Symeon, printed in 1591, which, if correct, would necessarily bring forward the date of the play either to this or the subsequent year; but from this difficulty we are relieved even by Mr. Douce himself, who owns that two out of the three are to be found in Whitney's Emblems, published in 1586, a confession which leads us to infer that the third may have an equally early origin.[286:A]

From the extensive survey which has now been taken of the merits and supposed era of this early drama, the reader, it is probable, will gather sufficient data for concluding that by far the greater part of it issued from the pen of Shakspeare, that it was his first dramatic production, that it appeared towards the close of the year 1590, and that it deserves to be removed from the Appendix to the editions of Shakspeare, where it has hitherto appeared, and incorporated in the body of his works.

2. Comedy of Errors, 1591. That this play should be ascribed to the year 1591, and not to 1593, or 1596, has, we think, been fully established by Mr. Chalmers[286:B], to whom, therefore, the reader is referred, with this additional observation, that, from an account published in the British Bibliographer, of an interlude, named Jacke Jugeler, which was entered in the Stationers' books in 1562-3, it appears that the Menæchmi of Plautus, on which this comedy is founded, "was, in part at least, known at a very early period upon the English stage[286:C]," a further proof that versions or imitations of it had been in existence long prior to Warner's translation in 1595.

As the Comedy of Errors is one of the few plays of Shakspeare mentioned by Meres in 1598, and as we shall have occasion to refer more than once to the catalogue of this critic, it will be necessary, before we proceed farther in our arrangement, to give a transcript of [287]this short but interesting article. It is taken from his "Palladis Tamia. Wit's Treasury. Being the second part of Wit's Common Wealth," 1598, and from that part of it entitled "A comparative discourse of our English Poets, with the Greeke, Latine, and Italian Poets."

"As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for comedy and tragedy among the Latines, so Shakspeare, among ye English, is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage; for comedy, witness his Gẽtlemẽ of Verona, his Errors, his Love Labor's Lost, his Love Labour's Wonne, his Midsummer's-Night Dreame, and his Merchant of Venice: for tragedy, his Richard the 2. Richard the 3. Henry the 4. King John, Titus Andronicus, and his Romeo and Juliet."[287:A]

Some of the commentators, and more particularly Ritson and Steevens, have positively pronounced this play to have been originally the composition of a writer anterior to Shakspeare, and that it merely received some embellishments from our poet's pen: "On a careful revision of the foregoing scenes," says the latter gentleman, "I do not hesitate to pronounce them the composition of two very unequal writers. Shakspeare had undoubtedly a share in them; but that the entire play was no work of his, is an opinion which (as Benedick says) 'fire cannot melt out of me; I will die in it at the stake.' Thus, as we are informed by Aulus Gellius, lib. iii. cap. 3. some plays were absolutely ascribed to Plautus which in truth had only been (retractatæ et expolitæ) retouched and polished by him."[287:B]

We have frequently occasion to admire the wit, the classical elegance, and the ingenuity of Mr. Steevens, but we have often also to regret the force of his prejudices, and the unqualified dogmatism of his critical opinions. That the business of the Comedy of Errors is better calculated for farce than for legitimate comedy, cannot be [288]denied; and it must also be confessed that the doggrel verses attributed to the two Dromios, contribute little to the humour or value of the piece; but let us, at the same time, recollect, that the admission of the latter was in conformity to the custom of the age in which this play was produced[288:A], and that the former, though perplexed and somewhat improbable[288:B], possesses no small share of entertainment.

This drama of Shakspeare is, in fact, much more varied, rich, and interesting in its incidents, than the Menæchmi of Plautus; and while in rigid adherence to the unities of action, time, and place, our poet rivals the Roman play, he has contrived to insinuate the necessary previous information for the spectator, in a manner infinitely more pleasing and artful than that adopted by the Latin bard, for whilst Plautus has chosen to convey it through the medium of a prologue, Shakspeare has rendered it at once natural and pathetic, by placing it in the mouth of Ægeon, the father of the twin brothers.

In a play of which the plot is so intricate, occupied in a great measure by mere personal mistakes, and their whimsical results, no elaborate developement of character can be expected; yet is the portrait of Ægeon touched with a discriminative hand, and the pressure of age and misfortune is so painted, as to throw a solemn, dignified, and impressive tone of colouring over this part of the fable, contrasting well with the lighter scenes which immediately follow, a mode of relief which is again resorted to at the close of the drama, where the re-union of Ægeon and Æmilia, and the recognition of their children, produce an interest in the denouëment, of a nature more affecting than the tone of the preceding scenes had taught us to expect.

As to the comic action which constitutes the chief bulk of this piece, if it be true that to excite laughter, awaken attention, and fix [289]curiosity, be essential to its dramatic excellence, the Comedy of Errors cannot be pronounced an unsuccessful effort; both reader and spectator are hurried on to the close, through a series of thick-coming incidents, and under the pleasurable influence of novelty, expectation, and surprise; and the dialogue, so far from betraying the inequalities complained of by Ritson and Steevens, is uniformly vivacious, pointed, and even effervescing. Shakspeare is visible, in fact, throughout the entire play, as well in the broad exuberance of its mirth, as in the cast of its more chastised parts, a combination of which may be found in the punishment and character of Pinch the pedagogue and conjurer, who is sketched in the strongest and most marked style of our author.

If we consider, therefore, the construction of the fable, the narrowness of its basis, and that its powers of entertainment are almost exclusively confined to a continued deception of the external senses, we must confess that Shakspeare has not only improved on the Plautian model, but, making allowance for a somewhat too coarse vein of humour, has given to his production all the interest and variety that the nature and the limits of his subject would permit.

3. Love's Labour's Lost: 1591. In the first edition of Mr. Malone's Chronological Essay on Shakspeare's Plays, which was published in January, 1778, the year 1591 is the date assigned to this drama, an epoch, which, in the re-impression of 1793, was changed in the catalogue for the subsequent era of 1594, though the reasons given for this alteration appeared so inconclusive to the chronologist himself, that he ventures in the text merely to say,—"I think it probable, that our author's first draft of this play was written in or before 1594[289:A]," a mode of expression which leaves as much authority to the former as the latter date. In short, the only motive brought forward for the present locality of this piece in Mr. Malone's list, where it appears posterior to A Midsummer-Night's Dream, the [290]Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of the Shrew, is, that there is more attempt at delineation of character in it than in either the first or second of the plays just mentioned[290:A], a reason which loses all its weight the moment we seriously contrast this comedy with its supposed predecessors, for who would then think of assigning to the very slight sketches of Biron and Katharine, any mark of improvement, either in poetic or dramatic strength, over the imaginative powers of the Midsummer-Night's Dream, or the strong, broad, and often characteristic outlines of The Taming of the Shrew!

The construction, indeed, of the whole play, the variety of its versification, the abundancy of its rhymes, and the length and frequency of its doggrel lines, very clearly prove this comedy to be one of our author's very earliest compositions; indications which originally disposed Mr. Malone to give it to the year which we have adopted, and which induced Mr. Chalmers to assign it to 1592, though why he prefers this year to the preceding does not appear.

Of Love's Labour's Lost, as it was performed in the year 1591, we possess no exact transcript; for, in the oldest edition which has hitherto been found of this play, namely that of 1598, it is said in the title-page to be newly corrected and augmented, with the further information, that it had been presented before Her Highness the last Christmas; facts which show, that we are in possession not of the first draft or edition of this comedy, but only of that copy which represents it as it was revived and improved for the entertainment of the Queen, in 1597.

The original sketch, whether printed or merely performed, we conceive to have been one of the pieces alluded to by Greene, in 1592, when he accuses Shakspeare of being an absolute Johannes fac-totum of the stage, primarily and principally from the mode of its execution, which, as we have already observed, betrays the earliness of its source in the strongest manner; secondarily, that, like Pericles, it occasionally copies the language of the Arcadia, then with all the attractive [291]novelty of its reputation in full bloom[291:A], and thirdly, that in the fifth act, various allusions to the Muscovites or Russians, seem evidently to point to a period when Russia and its inhabitants attracted the public consideration, a period which we find, from Hackluyt[291:B], to have occupied the years 1590 and 1591, when, as Warburton and Chalmers have observed, the arrangement of Russian commerce engaged very particularly the attention, and formed the conversation, of the court, the city, and the country.[291:C]

It may be also remarked, that while no play among our author's works exhibits more decisive marks of juvenility than Love's Labour's Lost, none, at the same time, is more strongly imbued with the peculiar cast of his youthful genius; for in style and manner, it bears a closer resemblance to the Venus and Adonis, the Rape of Lucrece, and the earlier Sonnets, than any other of his genuine dramas. It presents us, in short, with a continued contest of wit and repartee, the persons represented, whether high or low, vying with each other, throughout the piece, in the production of the greatest number of jokes, sallies, and verbal equivoques. The profusion with which these are every-where scattered, has, unfortunately, had the effect of throwing an air of uniformity over all the characters, who seem solely intent on keeping up the ball of raillery; yet is Biron now and then discriminated by a few strong touches, and Holofernes is probably the portrait of an individual, some of his quotations having justly induced the commentators to infer, that Florio, the author of First and Second Fruits, dialogues in Italian and English, and of a Dictionary, entitled A World of Words, was the object of the poet's satire.

If in dramatic strength of painting this comedy be deficient, and it appears to us, in this quality, inferior to Pericles, we must, independent of the vivacity of its dialogue already noticed, acknowledge, [292]that it displays several poetical gems, that it contains many just moral apophthegms, and that it affords, even in the closet, no small fund of amusement; and here it is worthy of being remarked, and may, indeed, without prejudice or prepossession, be asserted, that, even to the earliest and most unfinished dramas of our poet, a peculiar interest is felt to be attached, not arising from the fascination of a name, but from an intrinsic and almost inexplicable power of pleasing, which we in vain look for in the juvenile plays of other bards, and which serves, perhaps better than any other criterion, to ascertain the genuine property of Shakspeare; it is, in fact, a touchstone, which, when applied to Titus Andronicus, and what has been termed the First Part of Henry the Sixth, must, if every other evidence were wanting, flash conviction on our senses.

4. King Henry the Sixth: Part the First: 1592;

5. King Henry the Sixth: Part the Second: 1592:

It will be immediately perceived that this arrangement is intended to exclude what has very improperly, in modern times, been ascribed to Shakspeare as the First Part of HIS King Henry the Sixth. The spuriousness of this part, indeed, has been so satisfactorily proved by Mr. Malone, that no doubt can be supposed any longer to rest on the subject; and, if any lingered, it would be still further shaken by what has since transpired; for, from the discovery of Mr. Henslowe's Accounts, at Dulwich College, it appears that this play was never entitled, as Mr. Malone had conjectured, to its present appellation, but was simply styled as it is here entered, Henry the Sixth, and had no connection with the subsequent plays of Peele and Marlowe on the same reign. The entry is dated the 3d of March, 1591, and the play being the property of Lord Strange's company, and performed at the Rose theatre, with neither of which Shakspeare had, at any time, the smallest connection, render the external testimony still more confirmatory of Mr. Malone's position, as to the antiquity, priority, and insulated origin of this drama.[292:A] The internal evidence, [293]however, is quite sufficient for the purpose; for the hand of Shakspeare is nowhere visible throughout the entire of this "Drum-and-trumpet-Thing," as Mr. Morgan has justly termed it.[293:A] Yet that our author, subsequent to his re-modelling The first Part of the Contention, and The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of Yorke, might alter the arrangement, or slightly correct the diction of this play, is very possible,—an interference, however trivial, which probably induced the editors of the first folio, from the period in which this design was executed, to register it with Shakspeare's undisputed plays, under the improper title of The Third Part of King Henry the Sixth.[293:B]

As this drama therefore, which we hold to contain not ten lines of Shakspeare's composition, was, when originally produced, called The Play of Henry the VI., and in 1623, registered The Third Part of King Henry the VI.; though, in the folio published during the same year, it was then for the first time named the first part, would it not be allowable to infer, that the two plays which our poet built on the foundations of Marlowe, or perhaps Marlowe, Peele, and Greene, though not printed before they appeared in the folio, were yet termed, not as they are designated in the modern editions, the second and third parts, but as we have here called them, the first and second parts? Such, in fact, appears to have been the case; for, since the publication of Mr. Malone's Essay, an entry on the Stationers' Registers has been discovered[293:C], made by Tho. Pavier, and dated [294]April, 19th, 1602, of "The 1st and 2d pts of Henry VI. ij. books[294:A];" which entry, whether it be supposed to apply to the original Contention and True Tragedy, or to an intended edition of the same plays as altered by Shakspeare, clearly proves, that this designation of first and second was here given either to the primary or secondary set of these two plays, and, if applied to one set, would necessarily be applicable to, and used in speaking of, the other.

These two plays then, founded on The First Part of the Contention of the Two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, and on the Second, or The true Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, written by Marlowe and his friends about the year 1590[294:B], we conceive to have been brought forward by Shakspeare with great and numerous improvements, in 1592.

The vacillation of the commentators in determining the era of our author's two parts of Henry the Sixth, has been very extraordinary. The year 1592 was fixed upon in 1778; this, in 1793, was changed to 1593, or 1594; and in 1803, to 1591; while Mr. Chalmers, in 1799, had adopted the date of 1595!

That these plays had received their new dress from the hand of Shakspeare, previous to September, 1592, is, we think, irreversibly established by Greene's parody, in his Groatsworth of Wit, on a line in the second of these productions, an allusion which, with the context, can neither be set aside nor misapplied: that they were thus re-modelled in 1592, rather than in 1591, will appear highly probable, when we reflect that, in the passage where this parody is found, Shakspeare is termed, in reference to the stage, an absolute Johannes factotum, an epithet which, as we have before remarked, [295]implies that our poet had written and altered several pieces before that period, and had the two parts of Henry the Sixth been early in the series, that is, immediately subsequent to Pericles, the indignation of Greene, no doubt, had been sooner expressed; for we find him writing with great warmth, under a sense of recent injury, and under the pressure of mortal disease; "albeit weakness," says he, "will scarce suffer me to write;" a time which certainly would not have been chosen for the annunciation of his anger, had the supposed offence been given, and it must have been known as soon as committed, a year or two before. We feel confident, therefore, from this chain of argument, that the two parts of Henry the Sixth included in our catalogue, were not brought on the stage before 1592, and then only just in time to enable poor Greene to express his sentiments ere he left this sublunary scene.

The plan which Mr. Malone has adopted in printing these plays, that of distinguishing the amended and absolutely new passages from the original and comparatively meagre text of Marlowe and his coadjutors, seems to have been caught from a hint dropped by Mr. Maurice Morgan, who, speaking of these two parts of Henry VI., observes, that "they have certainly received what may be called a thorough repair.—I should conceive, it would not be very difficult to feel one's way through these plays, and distinguish every where the metal from the clay."[295:A]

It will not be denied that the task thus suggested, has been carried into execution with much skill and discrimination, and furnishes a curious proof of the plastic genius and extraordinary powers of adaptation with which our poet was gifted in the very dawn of his career. Compared with the pieces which he had hitherto produced, a style of far greater dignity, severity, and tragic modulation, was to be formed, and accordingly those portions of these plays which emanated solely or in a high degree from the mind of Shakspeare, [296]will be found in many instances even not inferior to the best parts of his latest and most finished works, while, at the same time, they harmonise sufficiently with the general tone of his predecessors, to preclude any flagrant breach of unity and consistency in the character of the diction and versification, though, to a practised critic, the superiority of our author, both in the fluency of his metre, and the beauty and facility of his expression, may be readily discerned.

Contrary to the common opinion, a strong and correct delineation of character appears to us the most striking feature in the two parts of this historical drama. That sainted, but powerless phantom, Henry of Lancaster, interests our feelings, notwithstanding the imbecillities of his public conduct, by the pious endurance of his sufferings, and the philosophic pathos of his sentiments. How much his patient sorrow and plaintive morality, depicted as they are amid the desolations of warfare, arrest and fascinate our attention by the power of contrast, perhaps no apathy can refuse to acknowledge. Mournfully sweet, indeed, are the strains which flow from this unhappy monarch, when, for an instant retired from the horrors of the Field of Towton, he pours forth the anguish of his soul, and closes his reflections with a picture of rural repose, glowing with such a mellow and lovely light amid the shades of regal misery which surround it, as to awaken sensations that steal through the bosom with a holy and delicious warmth.

Between this character, and that of Richard of Gloucester in the same play, what a strength of contrast! so decided is the opposition, indeed, that not a shadow, not an atom of assimilation exists. The ferocious wickedness of this hypocritical and sarcastic villain is as vividly and distinctly drawn in the Second or Last Part of Henry the Sixth as in the tragedy of Richard the Third, the soliloquies in Acts the third and fifth as clearly developing the structure of his mind as any scene of the play distinguished by his regal title.

Nor do the other leading personages of these dramas exhibit less striking touches of the strong characterisation peculiar to our poet. The portraits of King Edward, and Queen Margaret, of the Dukes [297]of York and Warwick, of Humphrey of Gloster and Cardinal Beaufort, are alike faithful to history and to nature, while the death of the ambitious prelate is unparalleled for its awful sublimity, its terrific delineation of a tortured conscience; a scene, of which the impressions are so overpowering, that, to adopt the language of Dr. Johnson, "the superficial reader cannot miss them, the profound can image nothing beyond them."[297:A]

As these two parts, therefore, whether we consider the original text, or the numerous alterations and additions of Shakspeare, hold a rank greatly superior to the elder play of

"Henry the sixth in swaddling bands crown'd king,"

a production which, at the same time, offers no trace of any finishing strokes from the master-bard, it would be but doing justice to the original design of Shakspeare to insert for the future in his works only the two pieces which he remodelled, designating them as they are found in this arrangement, and which seems, indeed, merely a restoration of their first titles. This may the more readily be done, as there appears no necessary connection between the elder drama, and those of Shakspeare on the same reign; whereas between the two plays of our author, and between them and his Richard the Third, not only an intimate union, but a regular series of unbroken action subsists.

If, however, it should be thought convenient to have the old play of Henry the Sixth within the reach of reference, let it be placed in an Appendix to the poet's works, dislodging for that purpose the disgusting Tragedy of Titus Andronicus, which has hitherto, to the disgrace of our national literature, and of our noblest writer, accompanied every edition aspiring to be complete, from the folio of 1623 to the re-impression of 1813!

[298]5. A Midsummer-Night's Dream: 1593. In endeavouring to ascertain the order in which Shakspeare's plays were written, it would seem a duty, on the part of the chronologist, where no passage positively indicates the contrary, not to attribute to the poet the composition of several pieces during the course of the same year; for, admitting the fertility of our author to have been, what it unquestionably was, very great, still, without some certain date annihilating all room for conjecture, it would be a gross violation of probability to ascribe even to him the production of four or even three of his capital productions, and such productions too, in the space of but twelve months. This, however, has been done, in their respective arrangements, twice by Mr. Malone, and six times by Mr. Chalmers, the latter gentleman having allotted to our dramatist not less than seventeen plays in the course of only five years! Surely such an attribution is, of itself, sufficient to stagger the most willing credulity, particularly when we find that, during the course of this period, occupying the years 1595, 1596, 1597, 1598, and 1599, four such plays as the following are appropriated to one year, that of 1597,—Henry IV. the Second Part, Henry V., The Merchant of Venice, and Hamlet. Now as these pieces, so far from resembling the light and rapid sketches of Lopez de la Vega or of Heywood, are among the most elaborate of our author's productions, and as no data with any pretensions to certainty can be adduced for the assignment in question, we must be allowed, notwithstanding the ingenuity and indefatigable research of Mr. Chalmers, to doubt the propriety of his chronological system.[298:A]

Acting, therefore, on this idea, that where no decisive evidence to the contrary is apparent, not more than two plays should be [299]assigned to our bard in the compass of one year, and being firmly persuaded, from the argument which has been brought forward, that the two parts of Henry the Sixth were the product of the year 1592, while, at the same time, we agree with the majority of the commentators in considering the Midsummer-Night's Dream as an early composition, it has been thought most consonant to probability to give to the latter, in lieu of the epoch of 1592, or 1595, or 1598, its present intermediate station; and this has been done, even though the plays on Henry the Sixth, being built on the basis of other writers, cannot be supposed to have occupied so much of the poet's time as more original efforts.

The Midsummer-Night's Dream, then, is the first play which exhibits the imagination of Shakspeare in all its fervid and creative power; for though, as mentioned in Meres's catalogue, as having numerous scenes of continued rhyme, as being barren in fable, and defective in strength of character, it may be pronounced the offspring of youth and inexperience, it will ever in point of fancy be considered as equal to any subsequent drama of the poet.

There is, however, a light in which the best plays of Shakspeare should be viewed, which will, in fact, convert the supposed defects of this exquisite sally of sportive invention into positive excellence. A unity of feeling most remarkably pervades and regulates their entire structure, and the Midsummer-Night's Dream, a title in itself declaratory of the poet's object and aim, partakes of this bond, or principle of coalescence, in a very peculiar degree. It is, indeed, a fabric of the most buoyant and aërial texture, floating as it were between earth and heaven, and tinted with all the magic colouring of the rainbow,

"The earth hath bubbles as the water has,
And this is of them."

In a piece thus constituted, where the imagery of the most wild and fantastic dream is actually embodied before our eyes, where the principal agency is carried on by beings lighter than the gossamer, and smaller than the cowslip's bell, whose elements are the [300]moon-beams and the odoriferous atmosphere of flowers, and whose sport it is

"To dance in ringlets on the whistling wind,"

it was necessary, in order to give a filmy and consistent legerity to every part of the play, that the human agents should partake of the same evanescent and visionary character; accordingly both the higher and lower personages of this drama are the subjects of illusion and enchantment, and love and amusement their sole occupation; the transient perplexities of thwarted passion, and the grotesque adventures of humorous folly, touched as they are with the tenderest or most frolic pencil, blending admirably with the wild, sportive, and romantic tone of the scenes where

"Trip the light fairies and the dapper elves,"

and forming together a whole so variously yet so happily interwoven, so racy and effervescent in its composition, of such exquisite levity and transparency, and glowing with such luxurious and phosphorescent splendour, as to be perfectly without a rival in dramatic literature.

Nor is this piece, though, from the nature of its fable, unproductive of any strong character, without many pleasing discriminations of passion and feeling. Mr. Malone asks if "a single passion be agitated by the faint and childish solicitudes of Hermia and Demetrius, of Helena and Lysander, those shadows of each other?"[300:A] Now, whatever may be thought of Demetrius and Lysander, the characters of Hermia and Helena are beautifully drawn, and finely contrasted, and in much of the dialogue which occurs between them, the chords both of love and pity are touched with the poet's wonted skill. In their interview in the wood, the contrariety of their dispositions is completely developed; Hermia is represented as

[301]————————— "keen and shrewd:
—— a vixen, when she went to school,
And, though but little, fierce,"

and in her difference with her friend, threatens to scratch her eyes out with her nails, while Helena, meek, humble, and retired, sues for protection, and endeavours in the most gentle manner to deprecate her wrath:

"I pray you, though you mock me, gentlemen,
Let her not hurt me: I was never curst;
I have no gift at all in shrewishness;
I am a right maid for my cowardice;
Let her not strike me:——
Good Hermia, do not be so bitter with me.
I evermore did love you, Hermia,
Did ever keep your counsels, never wrong'd you;—
And now, so you will let me quiet go,
To Athens will I bear my folly back,
And follow you no further: Let me go:
You see how simple and how fond I am."

And in an earlier part of this scene, where Helena first suspects that her friend had conspired with Demetrius and Lysander to mock and deride her, nothing can more exquisitely paint her affectionate temper, and the heartfelt pangs of severing friendship, than the following lines, most touching in their appeal, an echo from the very bosom of nature itself:—

"Injurious Hermia! most ungrateful maid!—
Is all the counsel that we two have shar'd,
The sister's vows, the hours that we have spent,
When we have chid the hasty-footed time
For parting us,—O, and is all forgot?
All school-day's friendship, childhood innocence?
We, Hermia, like two artificial gods,
Have with our neelds created both one flower,
Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion,
Both warbling of one song, both in one key;
As if our hands, our sides, voices, and minds,
Had been incorporate. So we grew together,
Like to a double cherry, seeming parted;
[302]But yet a union in partition,
Two lovely berries moulded on one stem:
So, with two seeming bodies, but one heart;—
And will you rent our ancient love asunder,
To join with men in scorning your poor friend?
It is not friendly, 'tis not maidenly:
Our sex, as well as I, may chide you for it;
Though I alone do feel the injury."

Of the Fairy Mythology which constitutes the principal and most efficient part of this beautiful drama, it is the more necessary that we should take particular notice, as it forms not only a chief feature of the superstitions of the age, but was, in fact, re-modelled and improved by the genius of our poet.

The utmost confusion has in general overshadowed this subject, from mixing the Oriental with the Gothic system of fabling, the voluptuous or monstrous Fairies of eastern and southern romance, with those of the popular superstition of the north of Europe; two races in all their features remarkably distinct, and productive of two very opposite styles both of imagery and literature.

The poets and romance writers of Spain, Italy, and France, have evidently derived the imaginary beings whom they term Fairies, whether of the benignant or malignant species, from the mythology of Persia and Arabia. The channel for this stream of fiction was long open through the medium of the crusades, and the dominion of the Moors of Spain, more especially when the language of these invaders became, during the middle ages, the vehicle of science and general information. Hence we find the strongest affinity between the Peri and Dives of the Persians, and the two orders of the Genii of the Arabians, and the Fairies and Demons of the south of Europe.

The Peri, or as the word would be pronounced in Arabic, the Fairi, of the Persians, are represented as females of the most exquisite beauty, uniformly kind and benevolent in their disposition, of the human form and size, and, though not limited to our transient existence, subject to death. They are supposed to inhabit a region of their own, to play in the plighted clouds, to luxuriate in the hues [303]of the rainbow, and to live upon the exhalations of the jessamine and the rose.[303:A]

Contrasted with these lovely essences, the Dives are described as males of the most hideous aspect and ferocious temper; in their stature, monstrous, deformed, and abominable; in their habits, wicked, cruel, and unrelenting.

Very similar in their attributes, but with less beauty and brilliancy in the delineation of the amiable species, were the good and bad Genii of the Arabians; and, as in Persia, a Genistan, or Fairy-land, was allotted to the benignant class.

From these sources, then, is to be deduced that tone of fiction which pervades the romantic and poetical literature of the warmer European climates, especially in all that relates to the fair and beautiful of Oriental conception. In the Fairies of Boiardo and Ariosto, in the metrical and prose romances of France and Spain, and in the Lays of Marie; in their Fata Morgana, Urgande, and Mourgue La Faye, and in the superhuman mistresses of Sir Launfale and Sir Gruelan, we readily discern their Persian prototype, the Peri, Mergian Banou.[303:B]

And to this cast of fiction, derived through the medium of the Italians, was Spenser indebted for the form and colouring which he has appropriated to his Fairies; beings, however, still more aloof from the Gothic popular elves than even the supernatural agents of the bards of Italy, as connecting with their orientalism, a continued allegorical, and, consequently, a totally abstract character.

For the origin, therefore, or prima stamina of the Fairies of Shakspeare, and of British popular tradition, we must turn to a very different quarter, even so far northward as to Scandinavia, the land of our Gothic progenitors. The establishment of the two kingdoms [304]of the Ostrogoths and Wisigoths, on the shores of the Euxine Sea, by colonies from the Scandick peninsula, took place at a very early period, and the consequence of these settlements was the speedy invasion and conquest of the southern provinces of the Roman empire; for Denmark and Germany having submitted to the arms of the Goths, these restless warriors seized upon Spain in 409, entered Italy and captured Rome in 410, invaded France in 412, and commenced their conquest of England in 447. Upon all these countries, but most permanently upon England, did they impose their language, and a large portion of their superstitions. Such were their influence and success, indeed, in this island, that they not only compelled us to embrace their religious rites, but totally superseded our former manners and customs, and planted for ever in our mouths a diction radically distinct from that to which we had been accustomed, a diction which includes to this day a vocabulary of terms relative to our poetical and superstitious creeds which is alike common to both nations.[304:A]

Long, therefore, ere the Arabians began to disseminate their literature from the walls of Cordova, were the Goths in full possession not only of the Spanish peninsula, where their empire attained its height in the year 500, but of the greater part of this island. The Moors, it is well known, did not enter Spain until 712, consequently the Scandinavian emigrants had the opportunity of three centuries in that fine country, for the gradual propagation of their poetical credulity. Long, also, before the Crusades, the second supposed source of oriental superstition, could produce their imagined effect, are we able to trace the Fairy Mythology of the Goths in all its essential features. The first Crusade, under Godfrey, terminated in the capture of Jerusalem in July 1099, and the speediest return of any of its adventurers may be ascribed to the year 1100; but so early as 863 do we find the belief of the Fairies established in Norway, and [305]even introduced into our own country at an epoch as remote as the year 1013. The metrical fragments of Thiodolf, bard to Harold Fairhair, who ascended the throne of Norway in 863, bear testimony to the first of these assertions. Thiodolf was an antiquary of such pre-eminence, that on his poetry was founded the early history of his country, and among the reliques of his composition is one recording an adventure of Svegder, the fourth King of Sweden, which clearly proves that Fairies and Fairy-land had even then become a portion of the popular creed. Svegder is represented as having made a vow to seek Fairy-land, and Odin, from whom he was descended. For this purpose he traverses, with twelve chosen companions, the wastes of the Greater Scythia; but, after consuming five years in vain in the pursuit, he returns home disappointed. In a second attempt, however, he is, unfortunately for himself, successful. In the east of Scythia rises suddenly from the plain so vast a mass of rock, that it assumes the appearance of an immense structure or palace. Passing by this pile with his friends, one evening after sunset, having freely enjoyed the pleasures of the banquet, Svegder was surprised to behold a Dwergur, a Fairy or Dwarf, sitting at the foot of the rock. Inflamed by wine, he and his companions boldly advanced towards the elf, who, then standing in the gates or portal of the pile, addressed the king, commanding him to enter if he wished to converse with Odin. The monarch, rushing forward, had scarcely passed the opening of the rock, when its portal closed upon him and the treacherous Fairy for ever![305:A]

[306]That the diminutive Being here introduced was of the race of Fairies, subsequently described in the Volupsa of Sæmund under the appellation of Duergs or Swart-Elves, and who were placed under the direction of two superiors called Motsogner and Durin[306:A], is evident from the Gothic original of Thiodolf's fragment, which opens by declaring that this being who guarded the entrance of the enchanted cave, was one of the followers of Durin, who shrank from the light of day; and then immediately classes him with the Dwergs[306:B], an appellative which the Latin translators have rendered by the terms pygmæi and nani, pygmies and dwarfs.

That the fairy mythology of the Goths must have been known to this island about the year 1013, appears from a song composed by Sigvatur, who accompanied Canute to England as his favourite bard, on the invasion of his father Swain at the above era. Sigvatur describes himself as warned away from a cottage by its housewife, who, sitting at the threshold, vehemently forbids his approach, as she was preparing a propitiatory banquet of blood for the Fairies, with the view of driving the war-wolf from her doors.[306:C] The word in the [307]original here used for the Fairies, is Alfa, Elves, a designation which we shall find in the Edda applied generically to the whole tribe, however distinct in their functions or mode of existence.

Not only can we prove, indeed, the priority and high antiquity of the Gothic fairy superstitions on the unquestioned authority of Thiodolf and Sigvatur, but we can substantiate also the very material fact, that the scattered features of this mythology were collected and formed into a perfect system nearly a quarter of a century before any of the first crusaders could return to Europe. About the year 1077, Sæmund compiled the first or Metrical Edda, containing, among other valuable documents, the "Voluspa," a poem whose language indicates a very remote origin[307:A], and where we find a minute and accurate description of the Duergar or Fairies, who are divided into two classes, of which the individuals are even carefully named and enumerated, a catalogue which is augmented in the Prose Edda composed by Snorro in 1215[307:B], and still further increased in the "Scalda," written, it is supposed, about a year or two afterwards.

Having thus endeavoured to show that the Fairy Superstitions of the Goths were possessed of an antiquity sufficiently great to have procured their propagation through the medium of Scandinavian conquest and colonisation, long anterior to any oriental source, and that the genius of eastern fabling, when subsequently introduced into the south, was of a character totally distinct from the popular superstition of the north of Europe, we hasten to place before the reader a short sketch of the genealogy, attributes, and offices of the Gothic [308]elves, in order that we may compare them with their poetical offspring, the popular fairies of Britain, and thence be able to appreciate the various modifications and improvements which the system received from the creative imagination of Shakspeare.

Under the term Norner the ancient Goths included two species of preternatural beings of a diminutive size, the Godar Norner, or Beneficent Elves, and the Illar Norner, or Malignant Elves. Among the earliest bards of Scandinavia, in the Voluspa, and in the Edda of Snorro, these distinctions are accurately maintained, though under various appellations, either alluding to their habits, their moral nature, or their external appearance. The most common nomenclature, or division, however, was into Liös-alfar, or Bright Elves, and Suart-alfar, or Dock-alfar Swart, or Black Elves, the former belonging to the Alfa-ættar, or tribe of alfs, fauns, or elves, the latter to the Duerga-ættar, or tribe of Dwarfs.[308:A]

The Alfs and Dwergs, therefore, the Fairies and the Dwarfs, or, in other words, the Bright and the Swart Elves of Scandinavia form, together with a somewhat larger species which we shall have occasion shortly to mention, the whole of the machinery of whose origin we are in search.

Of this Alfa-folch, Elfin-folk, or Fairy-people, the Liös-alfar, or Bright Elves, were supposed to be aërial spirits, of a beautiful aspect, sporting in the purest ether, and inhabiting there a region called Alf-heimur, Elf-ham, or Elf-home. Their intercourse with mortals was always beneficent and propitious, and when they presided at a nativity, happiness and prosperity were their boon.[308:A] They visited [309]the cottages of the virtuous and industrious poor, blessing and assisting their efforts[309:A], and danced in mazy rounds by moonlight on the dewy grass, to the sound of the most enchanting music, leaving on the sward circular and distinct traces of their footsteps of a beautiful and lively green, vestiges of what in the Swedish language was called the Elf-dans, a word which has been naturalised in our own tongue.[309:B] The bright elves were also considered as propitious to women in labour, and desirous of undertaking all the duties of the cradle[309:C]; in short, wherever a fairy of this species was found, whether in the palace, the cottage, or the mine, it was always distinguished by a series of kind or useful offices.

In almost every respect the reverse of this benevolent race were the Suart-alfar, or Swart Elves, who were neither spirits nor mortals, but of an intermediate nature, dwelling in the bowels of the earth, in mountains, caves, or barrows, of the same diminutive size as the bright elves, but unpleasing in their features, and though sometimes fair in their complexions, often dark and unlovely.[309:D] They were the [310]dispensers of misfortune, and consequently their attendance at a birth became the harbinger of a predominating portion of [310:A]evil; mischief, indeed, either in sport or anger, seems to have been their favourite employment. They, like those of the more friendly tribe, visited the surface of the earth at midnight, but the circular tracery of their revels was distinguished from the green ringlets of the beneficent kind, by the ground being burnt and blasted wherever their footsteps had been impressed.[310:B]

Among this species was also classed the Incubus, by the Scandinavians termed Mara, Meyar, or the Mare; by the Saxons Alf or Alp; by the Franconians Drud[310:C], a fairy who haunted those who slept, and oppressed them by sitting on their chest. This elf was likewise considered as exerting a baneful influence at noon-time over those who heedlessly gave themselves to sleep in the fields, and was deemed particularly dangerous, at this hour, to pregnant women.[310:D] To the mischievous power of these Swart-elves was also ascribed, by the Gothic nations, the loss or exchange of children, who were borne away from the parental roof previous to the rites of baptism, and oftentimes an idiotic or deformed bantling was substituted in the place of the stolen infant.[310:E] Generally were they found, indeed, spiteful and malicious in all their agency with mankind, whether in a playful or a serious mood; frequently injuring or destroying the [311]cattle, riding the horses, plaiting their manes in knots, terrifying and leading wandering or benighted peasants astray, by voices, cries, by peals of laughter or delusive lights.[311:A]

With all these evil propensities, however, they are uniformly represented by our Northern ancestors as singularly ingenious, and endowed with great mechanical skill, particularly that variety of the Suart-alfar termed Bergmanlein or Mountain-dwarfs, who were believed to inhabit caves and mines and barrows[311:B], and to be frequently and audibly employed in forging swords and armour of such excellent temper and strength as to be proof not only against the usual accidents of warfare, but against all the arts of magic and incantation.[311:C] This craft was denominated Duerga Smithi, or Fairy-Smithery[311:D], and was sometimes exercised in the formation of enchanted rings, and of automata which by the proper management of secret springs would transport their conductors through the air.[311:E] By the Swedes and Germans, also, these subterranean dwarfs, virunculi montani, were supposed to be sometimes busy in the laborious occupation of excavating the rocks, and to be occasionally useful to the miners in detecting latent veins of ore; but their agency was more generally deemed pernicious, and they were held to be the artificers of accident, [312]the raisers of exhalations, and the exploders of the fire-damp.[312:A] It should also be added, that, as the frequent inmates of barrows and sepulchral vaults, they were considered as the guardians of hidden treasures, which they protected under the form of diminutive old men with corrugated faces[312:B]; while as the haunters of the mine, they affected the dress of the workmen, appearing in a shirt or frock, with a leathern apron.[312:C]

Beside these two species of the fairy tribe, the Bright and Swart Elves, a larger kind was acknowledged by the ancient Germans, under the appellations of Guteli and Trulli, who were esteemed not only harmless, but so friendly to mankind, that they delighted in performing the domestic offices of the household, such as cleaning the dishes, bringing in wood, grooming the horses, &c.[312:D], labouring chiefly in the night-time, and often assuming the human stature, form, and garb.[312:E]

Such are the leading features of the Fairy Mythology of the Goths, which appears to have been introduced into Britain as early as the eleventh century, and to have gradually become a part of the popular creed, though subsequently modified by the influence of Christianity, by the intermixture of classical associations, the prevalence of feudal manners, and other causes. Accordingly, we find Gervase of Tilbury, in the thirteenth century, detailing, in his Otia Imperialia, many of the peculiar superstitions of the Scandinavian system as [313]common to this country; and in the following age, Chaucer, impressed with the high antiquity of these fables, refers even to the age of Arthur as the period of their full dominion:—

"In old Dayes of the King Artour
Of which that Bretons speken gret honour,
All was this Lond fulfilled of Faerie,
The Elf-Quene with hire jolie company
Daunsed full oft in many a grene mede,
This was the old opinion as I rede.
I speke of many hundred yeres agoe."[313:A]

After the death of Chaucer, indeed, who treated these beautiful credulities with a pleasant vein of ridicule, the fate of the Gothic System of Fairies seems to have been considerably different in two opposite quarters of our island; for, while in Scotland the original character of this mythology, and especially that of its harsher features, was closely preserved, it received in England, and principally through the medium of our great dramatic bard, a milder aspect, and a more fanciful and sportive texture. The dissimilarity thus resulting has been noticed by a late elegant tourist, who observes, that "the Scottish Fairy is described with more terrific attributes than are to be found in the traces of a belief in such beings in England[313:B];" a remark which is corroborated by Mr. Scott, who, after noticing this stricter retention of the ancient character of the Gothic Fairy in North Britain, assigns two causes for its occurrence, the enmity of the Presbyterian clergy to this supposed "light infantry of Satan," and the aspect of the country, "as we should naturally attribute," he adds, "a less malicious disposition, and a less frightful appearance, to the fays who glide by moon-light through the oaks of Windsor, than to those who haunt the solitary heaths and lofty mountains of the North."[313:C] In fact, while the English, through Shakspeare, seem chiefly to have adopted and improved that part of the Gothic Mythology [314]which relates to the Bright or Benignant race of Fairies, the Scotch have, with few exceptions, received and fostered that wilder and more gloomy portion of the creed which developes the agency and disposition of the Swart or Malignant tribe. A short detail, therefore, of the two systems, as they appear to have existed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, if compared with the features of the Scandinavian Mythology which we have just enumerated, will exhaust the subject of our present enquiry, placing the sources of our popular superstitions on these topics, and the poetical embellishments of Shakspeare, in a perspicuous point of view.

Of the Scottish Elves, two kinds have been uniformly handed down by tradition, the Fair and the Swart, but both are alike represented as prone to evil, and analogous therefore to the Illar Norner, or Evil Fairies of the Scandinavians. They were also often termed the Good Neighbours or People, as a kind of deprecatory compliment, in order to soften and appease the malignancy of their temper.[314:A] In a rare treatise written towards the close of the seventeenth century, by Mr. Robert Kirk, minister at Aberfoill, and entitled, "The Nature and Actions of the Subterranean, and for the most part, Invisible People, heretofoir going under the Name of Elves, Faunes, and Fairies, or the lyke, &c. &c.[314:B]," a very curious detail is given of the [315]Fairy Superstitions of Scotland, as they have prevailed in that country, from the earliest period to the year 1690, a work which we may safely take as our text and guide in delineating the character of the Scottish Fairy, as it existed in the days of Shakspeare.

To the gloomy and unhallowed nature and disposition of these North British Elves, Mr. Kirk bears the most unqualified testimony:—"These Siths or Fairies," he observes, "they call Sleagh Maith, or the Good People, it would seem, to prevent the dint of their ill Atempts, (for the Irish use to bless all they fear Harme of;) and are said to be of a middle Nature betuixt Man and Angel, as were Dæmons thought to be of old;—they are said to have no discernible Religion, Love, or Devotion towards God, the blessed Maker of all: they disappear whenever they hear his Name invocked, or the Name of Jesus, nor can they act ought at that Time after hearing of that sacred Name.—Some say their continual Sadnesse is because of their pendulous state, as uncertain what at the last Revolution will become of them, when they are locked up into ane unchangeable Condition; and if they have any frolic Fitts of Mirth, 'tis as the constrained grinning of a Mort-head, or rather as acted on a stage, and moved by another, ther (than?) cordially comeing of themselves."[315:A]

Of their dress and weapons he gives us the following account:—"Their Apparell is like that of the People and Countrey under which they live: so are they seen to wear Plaids and variegated Garments in the Highlands of Scotland, and Suanochs therefore in Ireland."[315:B]—"Their Weapons are most what solid earthly Bodies, nothing of Iron, but much of Stone, like to yellow, soft Flint-spa, shaped like a barbed Arrow-head, but flung like a Dairt, with great force. These Armes (cut by Airt and Tools it seems beyond humane) have somewhat of the Nature of Thunderbolt subtilty, and mortally wounding the vital Parts without breaking the skin."[315:C]

[316]This description of the weapons, garb, disposition, and nature of the Gaelic, Highland, or Scoto-Irish Fairies, equally applies to the more elegant race which haunted the cheerful and cultivated districts of Caledonia; for Mr. Cromek, painting the character of the Scottish Lowland Fairies, from the popular belief of Nithsdale and Galloway, tinges it with the same fearful attributes and mischievous propensities:—"They were small of stature," he relates, "exquisitely shaped and proportioned; of a fair complexion, with long fleeces of yellow hair flowing over their shoulders, and tucked above their brows with combs of gold. A mantle of green cloth, inlaid with wild flowers, reached to their middle;—green pantaloons, buttoned with bobs of silk, and sandals of silver, formed their under dress. On their shoulders hung quivers of adder slough, stored with pernicious arrows; and bows, fashioned from the rib of a man, buried where three Lairds' lands meet, tipped with gold, ready bent for warfare, were slung by their sides. Thus accoutred they mounted on steeds, whose hoofs would not print the new plowed land, nor dash the dew from the cup of a hare-bell. They visited the flock, the folds, the fields of coming grain, and the habitations of men;—and woe to the mortal whose frailty threw him in their power!—A flight of arrows, tipped with deadly plagues, were poured into his folds; and nauseous weeds grew up in his pastures; his coming harvest was blighted with pernicious breath,—and whatever he had no longer prospered. These fatal shafts were formed of the bog reed, pointed with white field flint, and dipped in the dew of hemlock. They were shot into cattle with such magical dexterity that the smallest aperture could not be discovered, but by those deeply skilled in fairy warfare, and in the cure of elf-shooting. Cordials and potent charms are applied; the burning arrow is extracted, and instant recovery ensues. The fairies seem to have been much attached to particular places. A green hill;—an opening in a wood;—a burn just freeing itself from the Uplands, were kept sacred for revelry and festival. The Ward-law, an ever green hill in Dalswinton Barony, was, in olden days, a noted Fairy tryste. But the Fairy ring being [317]converted into a pulpit, in the times of persecution, proscribed the revelry of unchristened feet. Lamentations of no earthly voices were heard for years around this beloved hill."[317:A]

The latter part of this quotation alludes to a very prominent part of Scottish fairy superstition, the haunts or habitations of the Elf-folk, and their Court or Fairy-land, a species of fiction which, as we have seen, makes a striking figure in the Scandinavian mythology, and probably furnished Chaucer with his adventure of [317:B]Sir Thopas. The local appropriation of Fairies, however, though common enough in England, has been more minutely marked and described in Scotland. Green hills, mountain-lakes, romantic glens, and inaccessible falls of water, were more peculiarly their favourite haunts, whilst the wilderness or forest wild was deemed the regular entrance to Elf-land or the Court of Faery. "There be many Places," says Kirk, "called Fairie-hills, which the Mountain People think impious and dangerous to peel or discover, by taking earth or wood from them;" and, speaking in another place of their habitations, he adds, they "are called large and fair, and (unless att some odd occasions) unperceaveable by vulgar eyes, like Rachland and other inchanted Islands, having fir Lights, continual Lamps, and Fires, often seen [318]without Fuel to sustain them," confirming the account by the instance of a female neighbour of his, who, being conveyed to Elf-land, "found the Place full of Light, without any Fountain or Lamp from whence it did spring."[318:A]

"Lakes and pits, on the tops of mountains," remarks Dr. Leyden, were "regarded with a degree of superstitious horror, as the porches or entrances of the subterraneous habitations of the fairies; from which confused murmurs, the cries of children, moaning voices, the ringing of bells, and the sounds of musical instruments, are often supposed to be heard. Round these hills, the green fairy circles are believed to wind, in a spiral direction, till they reach the descent to the central cavern; so that, if the unwary traveller be benighted on the charmed ground, he is inevitably conducted, by an invisible power, to the fearful descent."[318:B]

That a similar partiality was shown by these fairy people to the site of secluded waterfalls, is recorded in the Statistical Account of Scotland, where the minister of Dumfries, after describing a Linn formed by the water of the Crichup, as inaccessible to real beings, observes, that it had anciently been "considered as the habitation of imaginary ones; and at the entrance into it there was a curious Cell or Cave, called the Elf's Kirk, where, according to the superstition of the times, the imaginary inhabitants of the Linn were supposed to hold their meetings."[318:C]

But, independent of these numerous occasional residences of the fairy tribe, a firm belief in the existence of a fixed court, or Elf-land peculiarly so denominated, as the centre of their empire and the abode of their Queen, was so prevalent in Scotland, during the sixteenth century, as to have been acted upon in a court of justice. A woman named Alison Pearson having been convicted, on the 28th of May, 1586, of holding intercourse with and visiting the Queen of [319]Elf-land; "for hanting and repairing," says the indictment, "with the gude neighbours, and Queene of Elfland, thir divers years by past, as she had confest; and that she had friends in that court, which were of her own blude, who had gude acquaintance of the Queene of Elfland,—and that she was seven years ill handled in the Court of Elfland[319:A]," and for this notable crime was the poor creature burnt to death!

When such was the credulity of a bench of judges, we need not wonder that Fairy Land had become a professed article of the poetical creed, and that Lindsay in 1560, and Montgomery in 1584, should allude to it as a subject of admitted notoriety: thus the former, in his Complaynt of the Papingo, says

"Bot sen my spreit mon from my bodye go,
I recommend it to the Quene of Fary,
Eternally into her court to tarry
In wilderness amang the holtis hair;"[319:B]

and the latter, in his Flyting against Polwart, speaking of Hallow'een, tells us, that

"The king of Pharie and his court, with the elf queen,
With many elfish incubus was ridand that night."[319:C]

According to the Tale of the Young Tamlane, a poem in its original state coeval with the Complaynt of Scotland, and on the authority of the Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer, said also to be of considerable antiquity[319:D], Elf-land is represented as a terrestrial paradise, the opening of the road to which was in the desert

"Where living land was left behind;"

it is described as a "bonny road" "that winds about the fernie brae," [320]but the roaring of the sea is heard in the descent, and at length the traveller wades knee-deep through rivers of blood,

"For a' the blude that's shed on earth,
Rins thro' the springs o' that countrie;"[320:A]

yet, when arrived, the land is full of pleasantness, a garden of the loveliest green, self-illumined, and whose halls have roofs of beaten gold, and floors of purest chrystal.[320:B]

In conformity to these Scottish traditionary features of Fairy-land, and in reference to the popular tale of Thomas the Rhymer, who, daring to salute the Fairy Queen, was carried off in early life to this region of enchantment, and there broke the vow of silence enjoined on all who entered its precincts[320:C], Dr. Leyden has executed the following glowing picture:—

"The fairy ring-dance now, round Eildon-tree,
Moves to wild strains of elfin minstrelsy:
On glancing step appears the fairy queen;—
Or, graceful mounted on her palfrey gray,
In robes, that glister like the sun in May,
With hawk and hounds she leads the moon-light ranks,
Of knights and dames, to Huntly's ferny banks,
Where Rymour, long of yore, the nymph embraced,
The first of men unearthly lips to taste.
Rash was the vow, and fatal was the hour,
Which gave a mortal to a fairy's power!
A lingering leave he took of sun and moon;
—Dire to the minstrel was the fairy's boon!—
A sad farewell of grass and green-leaved tree,
The haunts of childhood doomed no more to see.
Through winding paths, that never saw the sun,
Where Eildon hides his roots in caverns dun,
They pass,—the hollow pavement, as they go,
Rocks to remurmuring waves, that boil below;
[321]Silent they wade, where sounding torrents lave
The banks, and red the tinge of every wave;
For all the blood, that dyes the warrior's hand,
Runs through the thirsty springs of Fairy land.
Level and green the downward region lies,
And low the cieling of the fairy skies;
Self-kindled gems a richer light display
Than gilds the earth, but not a purer day.
Resplendent crystal forms the palace wall;
The diamonds trembling lustre lights the hall:
But where soft emeralds shed an umber'd light,
Beside each coal-black courser sleeps a knight;
A raven plume waves o'er each helmed crest,
And black the mail, which binds each manly breast,
Girt with broad faulchion, and with bugle green—
Ah! could a mortal trust the fairy queen!
From mortal lips an earthly accent fell,
And Rymour's tongue confess'd the numbing spell:
In iron sleep the minstrel lies forlorn,
Who breathed a sound before he blew the horn."[321:A]

[322]No spell, however, could bind the Fairies themselves to their own domain; an eternal restlessness seems to have been their doom; "they remove," says Kirk, in a passage singularly curious, "to other Lodgings at the Beginning of each Quarter of the Year, so traversing till Doomsday, being imputent and (impotent of?) staying in one Place, and finding some Ease by so purning (journeying) and changing Habitations. Their chamœlion-lyke Bodies swim in the Air near the Earth with Bag and Bagadge; and at such revolution of Time, Seers, or Men of the Second Sight, (Fœmales being seldome so qualified) have very terrifying Encounters with them, even on High Ways; who therefoir uswally shune to travell abroad at these four Seasons of the Year, and thereby have made it a Custome to this day among the Scottish-Irish to keep Church duely evry first Sunday of the Quarter to sene or hallow themselves, their Corns and Cattell, from the Shots and Stealth of these wandering Tribes; and many of these superstitious People will not be seen in Church againe till the nixt Quarter begin, as if no Duty were to be learned or done by them, but all the use of Worship and Sermons were to save them from these Arrows that fly in the dark."[322:A]

Beside these quarterly migrations, an annual procession of the Fairy Court was supposed to take place on Hallowe'en, to which we have alluded in a former part of this work (vol. i. p. 342.), when describing the superstitions peculiar to certain periods of the year. A similar ceremony, though not upon so large a scale, was also believed, among the peasantry of Nithsdale, to occur at [322:B]Roodsmass; [323]but the most common appearance of the Fairy in Scotland, as elsewhere, was conceived to be by moon-light, dancing in a circle, and leaving behind either a scorched, or a deep green, ringlet; nor was the period of noon-day scarcely deemed less dangerous than the noon of night; for, during both, the Fairies were imagined to exert a baneful power; in sleep, producing the oppression termed the Night-mare[323:A], and, even at mid-day, weaving their pernicious spells, and subjecting to their power all who were tempted to repose on the rock, bank, hillock, or near the tree which they frequented.

Persons thus unfortunately situated, who had ventured within the fairy-circle after sunset, who had slept at noon upon a fairy-hill, or who, in an evil hour, had been devoted to the infernal powers, by the curses of a parent, were liable to be borne away to Elf-land for a period of seven years:—

"Woe to the upland swain, who, wandering far,
The circle treads, beneath the evening star!
His feet the witch-grass green impels to run,
Full on the dark descent, he strives to shun;
Till, on the giddy brink, o'erpower'd by charms,
The Fairies clasp him, in unhallow'd arms,
[324]Doom'd, with the crew of restless foot, to stray
The earth by night, the nether realms by day;
Till seven long years their dangerous circuit run,
And call the wretch to view this upper sun."[324:A]

Pregnant and child-bed women were considered, as in Germany, peculiarly in danger of being stolen by the Fairies at noon-day, and various preventive charms were adopted against this abstraction. "The Tramontains to this day," says Kirk, speaking of "Women yet alive, who tell they were taken away when in Child-bed to nurse Fairie Children," "put bread, the Bible, or a piece of Iron, in Women's Bed when travelling, to save them from being thus stolen."[324:B]

Of the capture and subjection of those who had been devoted by execration, several instances are related both by Scotch and English writers[324:C]; but the most general mode of abstraction practised by the Elvish race, was that of stealing or exchanging children, and so commonly was this species of theft apprehended in the Highlands of Scotland, that it was customary to watch children until the christening was over[324:D], under the idea, that the power of the Fairies, owing to the original corruption of human nature, was chiefly to be dreaded [325]in the interval between birth and baptism. The Beings substituted for the healthy offspring of man were apparently idiots, monstrous and decrepid in their form, and defective in speech; and when the Fairies failed to purloin or exchange the infant, in consequence of the vigilance of its parents, it was usually found breath-blasted, "their unearthly breath making it wither away in every limb and lineament, like a blighted ear of corn, saving the countenance, which unchangeably retains the sacred stamp of divinity."[325:A]

The cause assigned for this evil propensity on the part of the Fairies, was the dreadful obligation they were under, of sacrificing the tenth individual to the Devil every, or every seventh year; "the teind of them," says the indictment of Alison Pearson, "are tane to hell everie year[325:B]," while the hero of the Ballad entitled The Young Tamlane, exclaims:—

"And pleasant is the Fairy land;
But, an eiry tale to tell!
Ay, at the end o' seven years,
We pay the teind to hell."[325:C]

For the recovery of the unfortunate substitutes thus selected for the payment of their infernal tribute, various charms and contrivances were adopted, of which one of the most effectual, though the most horrible, was the assignment to the flames of the supposed changeling, which it was firmly believed would, in consequence of this treatment, disappear, and the real child return to the lap of its mother. "A beautiful child, of Caerlaveroc, in Nithsdale," relates Mr. Cromek from tradition, "on the second day of its birth, and before its baptism, was changed, none knew how, for an antiquated elf of hideous aspect. It kept the family awake with its nightly yells; biting the mother's breasts, and would neither be cradled or [326]nursed. The mother, obliged to be from home, left it in charge to the servant girl. The poor lass was sitting bemoaning herself,—'Wer't nae for thy girning face I would knock the big, winnow the corn, and grun the meal!'—'Lowse the cradle band,' quoth the Elf, 'and tent the neighbours, an' Ill work yere wark.' Up started the elf, the wind arose, the corn was chaffed, the outlyers were foddered, the hand mill moved around, as by instinct, and the knocking mell did its work with amazing rapidity. The lass, and her elfin servant, rested and diverted themselves, till, on the mistress's approach, it was restored to the cradle, and began to yell anew. The girl took the first opportunity of slyly telling her mistress the adventure. 'What'll we do wi' the wee diel?' said she. 'I'll wirk it a pirn,' replied the lass. At the middle hour of night the chimney-top was covered up, and every inlet barred and closed. The embers were blown up until glowing hot, and the maid, undressing the elf, tossed it on the fire. It uttered the wildest and most piercing yells, and, in a moment, the Fairies were heard moaning at every wonted avenue, and rattling at the window boards, at the chimney head, and at the door. 'In the name o'God bring back the bairn,' cried the lass. The window flew up; the earthly child was laid unharmed on the mother's lap, while its grisly substitute flew up the chimney with a loud laugh."[326:A]

Another efficacious mode of re-possessing either children or adults who had been borne away by the Fairies, depended upon watching their great annual procession or rade on Hallowe'en, within a year and a day of the supposed abstraction, and there seizing by force the hapless victim of their charms. This enterprise, however, which forms the chief incident in the Tale of the Young Tamlane, and has been mentioned in the first volume, required much courage and resolution for its successful performance, as the adventurer, regardless of all the terrors of the scene, and of all the appalling shapes which [327]the lost person was compelled to assume, had to hold him fast, under every transformation, and until the resources of fairy magic were exhausted. Thus Tamlane exclaims:—

"They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
An adder and a snake;
But had me fast, let me not pass,
Gin ye wad be my maik.
They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
An adder and an ask;
They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
A bale[327:A] that burns fast.
They'll turn me in your arms, Janet,
A red hot gad o' iron;
But had me fast, let me not pass,
For I'll do you no harm.—
And next they'll shape me in your arms,
A toad, but and an eel;
But had me fast, nor let me gang,
As you do love me weel.
They'll shape me in your arms, Janet,
A dove, but and a swan;
And last they'll shape me in your arms,
A mother-naked man:
Cast your green mantle over me—
I'll be myself again."—[327:B]

That part of the Scottish fairy system which relates exclusively to the abstraction of children, has been beautifully applied by Mr. Erskine, in one of his supplemental stanzas to Collins's Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland, where, continuing the Address of Collins to his friend Home, he thus proceeds:—

"Then wake (for well thou can'st) that wond'rous lay,
How, while around the thoughtless matrons sleep,
Soft o'er the floor the treacherous fairies creep,
And bear the smiling infant far away:
[328]How starts the nurse, when, for her lovely child,
She sees at dawn a gaping idiot stare!
O snatch the innocent from demons vilde,
And save the parents fond from fell despair!
In a deep cave the trusty menials wait,
When from their hilly dens, at midnight's hour,
Forth rush the airy elves in mimic state,
And o'er the moon-light heath with swiftness scour:
In glittering arms the little horsemen shine;
Last, on a milk-white steed, with targe of gold,
A fay of might appears, whose arms entwine
The lost, lamented child! the shepherds bold
The unconscious infant tear from his unhallow'd hold."[328:A]

Like the Dwergar or Swart-Elves of Scandinavia, the Scottish Fairies were also endowed with great mechanical powers; were often mischievously, though sometimes beneficially, active in mines, and were believed to be the guardians of hidden treasure. "The Swart Fairy of the Mine," says the Scotch Encyclopedia, "has scarce yet quitted our subterraneous works[328:B]," and Kirk speaks of "Treasure hid in a Hill called Sith-bhruaich, or Fayrie-hill."[328:C] It is amusing, indeed, to read the minute account which this worthy minister gives of the habits and occupations of his Siths or Fairies: thus, with regard to their speech, food, and work, he informs us that "they speak by way of whistling, clear, not rough"—"some are fed by only sucking into some fine spirituous Liquors, that peirce lyke pure Air and Oyl: others feid more gross on the Foyson or Substance of Corns and Liquors, or Corne itselfe that grows on the Surface of the Earth, which those Fairies steall away, partly invisible, partly preying on the Grain, as do Crowes and Mice:—their Food being exactly clean, and served up by pleasant children, lyke inchanted Puppets." "They are sometimes heard to bake Bread, strike Hammers, and to do such lyke Services within the litle Hillocks they most haunt.—Ther Women are said to Spine very fine, to Dy, to Tossue and [329]Embroyder: but whither it be as manuall Operation of substantiall refined Stuffs, with apt and solid Instruments, or only curious Cobwebs, impalpable Rain-bows, and a phantastic Imitation of the actions of more terrestricall Mortalls, since it transcended all the Senses of the Seere to discern whither, I leave to conjecture as I found it."[329:A]

It appears, also, from the same author, that the operations of the Fairies were considered as predictive of future events, and that those who were gifted with the privilege of beholding the process, formed their inferences accordingly. Of this he gives us the following singularly terrific instance:—"Thus a Man of the Second Sight, perceaving the Operations of these forecasting invisible People among us, (indulged thorow a stupendious Providence to give Warnings of some remarkable Events, either in the Air, Earth, or Waters) told he saw a Winding-shroud creeping on a walking healthful Persons Legs till it come to the Knee, and afterwards it come up to the Midle, then to the Shoulders, and at last over the Head, which was visible to no other Persone. And by observing the spaces of Time betwixt the severall Stages, he easily guess'd how long the Man was to live who wore the Shroud; for when it approached his Head, he told that such a Person was ripe for the Grave."[329:B]

Among the Scottish Fairies we must not forget to enumerate the Wee Brown Man of the Muirs, "a fairy," says Dr. Leyden, "of the most malignant order, the genuine duergar[329:C]," who dwelt beneath the heather bell, and whose favourite amusement it was to extract the brains from the skulls of those who slept within the verge of his power.[329:D]

[330]It is evident from the account now given of the Scottish Fairies, that they assimilate, in a very striking degree, in manners, disposition, and origin, with the Duergar or Swart tribe of the Scandick Elves; but that a peculiarly wild, and even terrific malignancy forms and distinguishes their character and agency, ascribable, in a great measure, to the intermixture of a severe Christian theology, which attributes to these poetical little beings a species of demoniacal nature. It is also not less remarkable, that the only friendly and benignant Elf in the fairy annals of North Britain, though founded, in some respects, on the domestic fairy of Germany, and still more nearly assimilated to the Portunus, and the spirit Grant of Gervase of Tilbury, possesses some features altogether peculiar to the country of its birth. Kirk, among his "fyve Curiosities in Scotland, not much observed elsewhere[330:A]," reckons, in the first place, "the Brounies, who in some Families are Drudges, clean the Houses and Dishes after all go to Bed, taking with him his Portion of Food, and removing befor Day-break."[330:B]

Of this singular race there appears to have been two kinds, a diminutive and a gigantic species. King James, in his Dæmonology, published in 1597, tells us, that "the spirit called Brownie, appeared like a rough man, and haunted divers houses without doing any evill, but doing as it were necessarie turnes up and downe the house; yet some were so blinded as to beleeve that their house was all the sonsier, as they called it, that such spirits resorted there[330:C];" and [331]Martin, speaking of the Isles of Shetland, remarks, that "a spirit by the country people called Browny, was frequently seen in all the most considerable Families in these Isles and North of Scotland, in the shape of a tall Man."[331:A] To this description of Brownie, Milton seems to have been indebted for his "drudging Goblin:"—

——————————— "the lubbar-fiend,
'Who' stretch'd out all the Chimney's length,
Basks at the fire his hairy strength."

But the most common tradition with regard to the Brownie is, that, in point of size, he was similar to the Fairy, though in his habits, temper, and equipment, widely different. He possessed neither the weapons, nor the hostile inclinations of his brother Elves; he despised their gay attire, but was notorious for an attachment to dainty food, being the guardian of the Dairy, the avowed protector of the Bee, and a constant sharer in the product of its industry. He loved to lurk in hollow trees during the day, or in the recesses of some old mansion, to the family of which he would attach himself for centuries, and perform, for the menials, during the night, the most laborious offices.

The most ample and interesting account of this kind-hearted elf has been given to us, from tradition, by Mr. Cromek, who describes the Scotch Brownie as "small of stature, covered with short curly hair, with brown matted locks, and a brown mantle which reached to the knee, with a hood of the same colour." After having finished his nightly work, which was usually done by the crowing of the first cock, he would then, relates Mr. Cromek, "come into the farm-hall, and stretch itself out by the chimney, sweaty, dusty, and fatigued. It would take up the pluff, (a piece of bored bour-tree for blowing up the fire) and, stirring out the red embers, turn itself till it was rested and dried. A choice bowl of sweet cream, with combs of honey, was set in an accessible place: this was given as its hire; and it was [334]willing to be bribed, though none durst avow the intention of the gift. When offered meat or drink, the Brownie instantly departed, bewailing and lamenting itself, as if unwilling to leave a place so long its habitation, from which nothing but the superior power of fate could sever it. A thrifty good wife, having made a web of linsey-woolsey, sewed a well-lined mantle, and a comfortable hood, for her trusty Brownie. She laid it down in one of his favourite haunts, and cried to him to array himself. Being commissioned by the gods to relieve mankind under the drudgery of original sin, he was forbidden to accept of wages or bribes. He instantly departed, bemoaning himself in a rhyme, which tradition has faithfully preserved:—

"A new mantle, and a new hood!—
Poor Brownie! ye'll ne'er do mair gude!"

"The prosperity of the family seemed to depend on them, and was at their disposal.—A place, called Liethin Hall, in Dumfriesshire, was the hereditary dwelling of a noted Brownie. He had lived there, as he once communicated, in confidence, to an old woman, for three hundred years. He appeared only once to every new master, and, indeed, seldom showed more than his hand to any one. On the decease of a beloved master, he was heard to make moan, and would not partake of his wonted delicacies for many days. The heir of the land arrived from foreign parts, and took possession of his father's inheritance. The faithful Brownie showed himself, and proffered homage. The spruce Laird was offended to see such a famine-faced, wrinkled domestic, and ordered him meat and drink, with a new suit of clean livery. The Brownie departed, repeating aloud and frequently these ruin-boding lines:—

"Ca, cuttie, ca!
A' the luck o' Liethin Ha'
Gangs wi' me to Bodsbeck Ha'."

"Liethin Ha' was, in a few years, in ruins, and 'bonnie Bodsbeck' flourished under the luck-bringing patronage of the Brownie.—

[335]"One of them, in the olden times, lived with Maxwell, Laird of Dalswinton, doing ten men's work, and keeping the servants awake at nights with the noisy dirling of its elfin flail. The Laird's daughter, says tradition, was the comeliest dame in all the holms of Nithsdale. To her the Brownie was much attached: he assisted her in love-intrigue, conveying her from her high-tower chamber to the trysting-thorn in the woods, and back again, with such light-heeled celerity, that neither bird, dog, nor servant awoke.

"He undressed her for the matrimonial bed, and served her so handmaiden-like, that her female attendant had nothing to do, not daring even to finger her mistress's apparel, lest she should provoke the Brownie's resentment. When the pangs of the mother seized his beloved lady, a servant was ordered to fetch the 'cannie wife,' who lived across the Nith. The night was dark as a December night could be; and the wind was heavy among the groves of oak. The Brownie, enraged at the loitering serving-man, wrapped himself in his lady's fur-cloak; and, though the Nith was foaming high-flood, his steed, impelled by supernatural spur and whip, passed it like an arrow. Mounting the dame behind him, he took the deep water back again, to the amazement of the worthy woman, who beheld the red waves tumbling around her, yet the steed's foot-locks were dry. 'Ride nae by the auld pool,' quo' she, 'lest we should meet wi' Brownie.'—He replied, 'Fear nae, dame, ye've met a' the Brownies ye will meet.'—Placing her down at the hall gate, he hastened to the stable, where the servant-lad was just pulling on his boots; he unbuckled the bridle from his steed, and gave him a most afflicting drubbing.—

"The Brownie, though of a docile disposition, was not without its pranks and merriment. The Abbey-lands, in the parish of New Abbey, were the residence of a very sportive one. He loved to be, betimes, somewhat mischievous.—Two lasses, having made a fine bowlful of buttered brose, had taken it into the byre to sup, while it was yet dark. In the haste of concealment, they had brought but one spoon; so they placed the bowl between them, and took a spoonful [336]by turns. 'I hae got but three sups,' cried the one, 'an it's a' done!' 'It's a' done, indeed,' cried the other. 'Ha, ha!' laughed a third voice, 'Brownie has gotten the maist o't.' He had judiciously placed himself between them, and got the spoon twice for their once."[336:A]

The character and leading features of this benevolent Fairy, have been concentrated in the following beautiful stanza by Mr. Erskine, who, in supplying the omissions of Collins, thus supposes himself addressing the friend of that exquisite poet:—

"—— See! recall'd by thy resistless lay,
Once more the Brownie shews his honest face.
Hail, from thy wanderings long, my much lov'd sprite,
Thou friend, thou lover of the lowly, hail!
Tell in what realms thou sport'st thy merry night,
Trail'st thy long mop, or whirl'st the mimic flail,
Where dost thou deck the much-disordered hall,
While the tired damsel in Elysium sleeps,
With early voice to drowsy workman call,
Or lull the dame while mirth his vigils keeps?
'Twas thus in Caledonia's domes, 'tis said,
Thou ply'dst the kindly task in years of yore:
At last, in luckless hour, some erring maid
Spread in thy nightly cell of viands store:
Ne'er was thy form beheld among their mountains more."[336:B]

From the thirteenth to the close of the sixteenth century, the Fairy Mythology of England, being derived from the same sources, and through the same medium as the Scottish System, which we have just delineated, the outlines of both will be found very similar. Thus in Gervase of Tilbury, in Chaucer, Lydgate, &c., even, with the exception of Spenser, down to R. Scot and Warner, whose "Albion's England" was printed, though not published, in 1586, the same ideas of fairy-land, the same infernal origin, and variety of species, the same mischievous and terrific character, and occasionally the same frolic and [337a]capricious wantonness, as the property of one particular genus, may be readily detected.[337a:A] But in 1593, when the Midsummer-Night's Dream was presented to the public, nearly the whole of this Mythology which, as founded on the Scandick superstitions, had been, though with a few modifications, so long prevalent both in England and Scotland, seems to have received such vast additions from the plastic imagination of our bard, as, though rebuilt on the traditions of the "olden time," justly to merit, by their novelty and poetic beauty, the title of the English System, in contradistinction to that which still lingers in the wilds of Scotland.

The Fairies of Shakspeare have been truly denominated the favourite children of his romantic fancy, and, perhaps, in no part of his works has he exhibited a more creative and visionary pencil, or a finer tone of enthusiasm, than in bodying forth "these airy nothings," and in giving them, in brighter and ever-durable tints, once more

"A local habitation and a name."

Of his unlimited sway over this delightful world of ideal forms, no stronger proof can be given, than that he has imparted an entire new cast of character to the beings whom he has evoked from its bosom, purposely omitting the darker shades of their character, and, whilst throwing round them a flood of light, playful, yet exquisitely soft and tender, endowing them with the moral attributes of purity and benevolence. In fact, he not only dismisses altogether the fairies of a malignant nature, but clothes the milder yet mixed tribe of his predecessors with a more fascinating sportiveness, and with a much larger share of unalloyed goodness.

[338a]The distinction between the two species he has accurately marked where Puck, under some apprehension, observes to Oberon, that the night is waning fast, that Aurora's harbinger appears, and that the "damned spirits all" are flitting to their beds, adding, that

"For fear lest day should look their shames upon,
They wilfully themselves exile from light,
And must for aye consort with black-brow'd night:"

to which Oberon immediately replies,—

"But we are spirits of another sort:
I with the morning's love have oft made sport
And, like a forester, the groves may tread,
Even till the eastern gate, all fiery red,
Opening on Neptune with fair blessed beams,
Turns into yellow gold his salt-green streams."[338a:A]

Of the originality of Shakspeare in the delineation of this tribe of spirits, or Fairies, nothing more is required in proof, than a combination or grouping of the principal features; a picture which, when contrasted with the Scandick system and that which had been built upon it in England and Scotland previous to his own time, will sufficiently show with what grace, amenity, and beauty, and with what an exuberant store of novel imagery, he has decorated these phantoms of the Gothic mythology.

The King and Queen of Faiery, who, in Chaucer, are identified with the Pluto and Proserpina of hell[338a:B], are, under the appellations of [337b]Oberon and Titania[337b:A], drawn by Shakspeare in a very amiable and pleasing light; for, though jealous of each other, they are represented as usually employed in alleviating the distresses of the worthy and unfortunate. Their benign influence, indeed, seems to have extended over the physical powers of nature; for Titania tells her Lord, that, in consequence of their jealous brawls, a strange distemperature had seized the elements:—

"The seasons alter; hoary-headed frosts
Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose;
And on old Hyem's chin, and icy crown,
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set: The spring, the summer,
The chiding autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries; and the 'mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which:
And this same progeny of evils comes,
From our debate, from our dissention;
We are their parents and original."[337b:B]

It appears even that the fairy-practice of purloining children, which, in every previous system of this mythology, had been carried on from malignant or self-interested motives, was in Titania the result of humanity and compassion: thus, when Oberon begs her "little changeling boy" to be his henchman, she answers—

"———— ——— ——— Set your heart at rest,
The fairy land buys not the child of me.
His mother was a vot'ress of my order:
And, in the spiced Indian air, by night,
Full often hath she gossip'd by my side;
And sat with me on Neptune's yellow sands,
Marking the embarked traders on the flood;
When we have laugh'd to see the sails conceive,
And grow big-bellied, with the wanton wind:
[338b]Which she, with pretty and with swimming gait,
(Following her womb, then rich with my young squire)
Would imitate; and sail upon the land,
To fetch me trifles, and return again,
As from a voyage, rich with merchandize.
But she, being mortal, of that boy did die:
And, for her sake, I do rear up her boy:
And, for her sake, I will not part with him."[338b:A]

The expression in this passage "being mortal," as applied to the changeling's mother, in contradistinction to the unchangeable state of the Fairies, may be added to Mr. Ritson's instances[338b:B] as another decisive proof of the immortality of Shakspeare's elves; but when that commentator asserts, that the Fairies of the common people "were never esteemed otherwise," he has gone too far, at least if he meant to include the people of Scotland; for Kirk expressly tells us, that the Scottish Fairies are mortal: "they are not subject," he remarks, "to sore Sicknesses, but dwindle and decay at a certain Period, all about ane Age;" and still more decidedly has he remarked their destiny, in answer to the question, "at what Period of Time do they die?"—"They are," he replies, "of more refyn'd Bodies and Intellectualls then wee, and of far less heavy and corruptive Humours, (which cause a Dissolution) yet many of their Lives being dissonant to right Reason and their own Laws, and their Vehicles not being wholly frie of Lust and Passion, especially of the more spirituall and hautie Sins, they pass (after a long healthy Lyfe) into ane Orb and Receptacle fitted for their Degree, till they come under the general Cognizance of the last Day."[338b:C]

Like the Liös-alfar or Bright Elves of the Goths, the Fairies of Shakspeare delighted in conferring blessings, in prospering the household, and in rendering the offspring of virtuous love, fortunate, fair, and free from blemish: thus the first fruit of the re-union of Oberon and Titania, is a benediction on the house of Theseus:—

[339]"Now thou and I are new in amity;
And will to-morrow midnight, solemnly,
Dance in duke Theseus' house triumphantly,
And bless it to all fair posterity;"[339:A]

an intention which is carried into execution at the close of the play, where this kind and gentle race, entering the mansion at midnight—

"Hand in hand, with fairy grace,"—

receive the following directions from their benevolent monarch:—

"Now, until the break of day,
Through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed will we,
Which by us shall blessed be;
And the issue, there create,
Ever shall be fortunate.
And the blots of nature's hand
Shall not in their issue stand;
Never mole, hare-lip, nor scar,
Nor mark prodigious, such as are
Despised in nativity,
Shall upon their children be.—
With this field-dew consecrate,
Every fairy take his gait;
And each several chamber bless,
Through this palace with sweet peace."[339:B]

How different this from the conduct and disposition of their brother elves of Scotland, of whom Kirk tells us, that "they are ever readiest to go on hurtfull Errands, but seldom will be the Messengers of great Good to Men."[339:C]

But not only were the Fairies of our bard the friends and protectors of virtue, they were also the punishers of guilt and sensuality; and, contrary to the then commonly entertained ideas of their infernal origin, [340]and anti-christian habits, were the avowed patrons of piety and prayer: "Go you," exclaims the personifier of one of these tiny moralists, addressing his companions, "black, grey, green and white,"

———————————— "Go—and where you find a maid,
That, ere she sleep, has thrice her prayers said,
Raise up the organs of her fantasy,
Sleep she as sound as careless infancy;
But those as sleep, and think not on their sins,
Pinch them, arms, legs, backs, shoulders, sides, and shins—
But, stay; I smell a man of middle earth:—
With trial-fire touch me his finger-end:
If he be chaste, the flame will back descend,
And turn him to no pain; but if he start,
It is the flesh of a corrupted heart:"

on the proof of his iniquity, they proceed to punishment, pinching him, and singing in scorn,

"Fye on sinful fantasy!
Fye on lust and luxury!" &c.[340:A]

This love of virtue, and abhorrence of sin, were, as attributes of the Fairies, in a great measure, if not altogether, the gifts of Shakspeare, at least if we regard their mythology at that time prevalent in Britain, whether we refer to the Scottish system, or to that which existed among our own poets from Chaucer to Warner, though our familiarity with the picture is now such, owing to the popularity of the original artist and the consequent number of his copyists on the same subject, that we assign it a date much anterior to its real source.

If the moral and benevolent character of these children of fancy be, in a great degree, the creation of Shakspeare, the imagery which he has employed in describing their persons, manners, and occupations, will be deemed not less his peculiar offspring, nor inferior in beauty, novelty, and wildness of painting, to that which the magic of his pencil has diffused over every other part of his visionary world. [341]Thus, in imparting to us an idea of the diminutive size of his Fairies, with what picturesque minutiæ has he marked his sketch! Speaking of the altercation between Oberon and Titania, he mentions, as one of its results, that

————————— "all their elves, for fear,
Creep into acorn cups, and hide them there:"[341:A]

and he delineates Ariel as sleeping in a cowslip's bell, as living merrily "under the blossom that hangs on the bough," and flying after summer mounted on the back of the bat.[341:B]

In accordance with this smallness of stature, are all their accompaniments and employments contrived, with the most admirable proportion and the most vivid imagination. Their dress tinted "green and white[341:C]," is constructed of the "wings of rear-mice[341:D]," and their wrappers of the "snake's enamelled skin[341:E];" the pensioners of their queen are "the cowslips tall[341:F];" her lacquies, Peas-blossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustard-seed[341:G]; her lamps the green lustre of the glow-worm[341:H]; and her equipage, one of the most exquisite pictures of frolic imagination, is thus minutely drawn:

"O, then, I see, queen Mab hath been with you.
—————————————— She comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies:—
Her waggon-spokes made of long spinner's legs;
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;
The traces, of the smallest spider's web;
The collars, of the moonshine's watry beams:
Her whip, of cricket's bone; the lash, of film:
[342]Her waggoner, a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid:
Her chariot is an empty hazel nut,
Maid by the joiner squirrel, or old grub,
Time out of mind the fairies' coach-makers."[342:A]

Of the various occupations and amusements assigned to the Fairies, the most constant which tradition has preserved, has been that of dancing at midnight, hand in hand in a circle, a diversion common to every system of this mythology, but which Shakspeare perhaps first described with graphic precision. The scenery selected for this sport, in which—

"To dance their ringlets to the whistling wind,"

was, we are told by Titania,

—— "on hill, in dale, forest, or mead,
By paved fountain, or by rushy brook,
Or on the beached margent of the sea,"[342:B]

and the light of the moon was a necessary adjunct to their festivity,—

"Ye elves —— —— you demy puppets, that
By moon-shine do the green-sour ringlets make
Whereof the ewe not bites."[342:C]

[343]These ringlets, the consequence of the fairy footing, our author has particularly noticed in the following lines, adding some striking imagery on the use to which flowers were applied by this sprightly race:—

—— "Nightly, meadow-fairies, look, you sing,
Like to the Garter's compass, in a ring:
The expressure that it bears, green let it be,
More fertile-fresh than all the field to see;
And, Hony soit qui mal y pense, write
In emerald tufts, flowers purple, blue, and white;
Like sapphire, pearl, and rich embroidery,
Buckled below fair knight-hoods bending knee:
Fairies use flowers for their charactery."[343:A]

To preserve the freshness and verdure of these ringlets by supplying them with moisture, was one of the occupations of Titania's train: thus a fairy in her service is represented as telling Puck—

"I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moones sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen
To dew her orbs upon the green."[343:B]

The general amusements of the tribe, independent of their moon-light dance, are very impressively and characteristically enumerated in the subsequent lines:—

"Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves;
And ye, that on the sands with printless foot
[344]Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him,
When he comes back;—and you, whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms; that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew."[344:A]

But the most astonishing display of the sportive and illimitable fancy of our poet on this subject, will be found in the ministration and offices ascribed to those Fairies who are employed about the person, or executing the mandates, of their Queen. It appears to have been the business of one of her retinue to attend to the decoration of her majesty's pensioners, the cowslips tall;

"In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear."[344:B]

Another duty, not less important, was to lull their mistress asleep on the bosom of a violet or a musk-rose:—

"I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows,
Where ox-lips and the nodding violet grows;
Quite over-canopied with lush woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania, some time of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight."[344:C]

And again, with still greater wildness of imagination, but with the utmost propriety and adaptation of imagery, are they drawn in the performance of similar functions:—

"Titania. Come, now a roundel and a fairy song;
Then, for the third part of a minute, hence;
Some, to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds;
Some, war with rear-mice for their leathern wings,
To make my small elves coats; and some keep back
[345]The clamourous owl, that nightly hoots, and wonders
At our quaint spirits: Sing me now asleep:
Then to your offices, and let me rest."

The song is equally in character, as it forbids, in admirable adherence to poetical truth and consistency, the approach of every insect or reptile, that might be deemed likely to annoy the repose of such a delicate and diminutive being, while Philomel is invoked to add her delicious chaunt to the soothing melody of fairy voices:—

"1 Fai. You spotted snakes, with double tongue,
Thorny hedge-hogs, be not seen;
Newts, and blindworms, do no wrong;
Come not near our fairy queen:
Philomel, with melody,
Sing in our sweet lullaby;
Lulla, lulla, lullaby; lulla, lulla, lullaby:
Never harm, nor spell nor charm,
Come our lovely lady nigh;
So, good night, with lullaby.
2 Fai. Weaving spiders, come not here;
Hence, you long-legg'd spinners, hence:
Beetles black, approach not near;
Worm, nor snail, do no offence.
Philomel, with melody, &c.
1 Fai. Hence, away; now all is well:
One, aloof stand sentinel.
[Exeunt Fairies. Titania sleeps."[345:A]

This scene, beautiful and appropriate as it is, is yet surpassed, in originality and playfulness of fancy, by the passage in which Titania gives directions to her attendants for their conduct to Bottom, to whom she had previously offered their assistance, promising that they should fetch him "jewels from the deep:"—

[346]"Be kind and courteous to this gentleman;
Hop in his walks, and gambol in his eyes;
Feed him with apricocks, and dewberries,
With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries:
The honey-bags steal from the humble bees,
And, for night tapers, crop their waxen thighs,
And light them at the fiery glow-worms eyes,
To have my love to bed, and to arise;
And pluck the wings from painted butterflies,
To fan the moon-beams from his sleeping eyes;
Nod to him, elves, and do him courtesies."[346:A]

The working of Oberon's enchantment on Titania, who "straight-way lov'd an ass," and led him to "her close and consecrated bower," and the interview between Bottom, her fairy majesty, and her train, though connected with so many supernatural imaginings, have been transferred to the canvas by Fuseli with a felicity which has embodied the very thoughts of Shakspeare, and which may on this subject be said to have placed the genius of the painter almost on a level with that of the poet, so wonderfully has he fixed the illusive creations of his great original.

To this detail of fairy occupation, must be added another feature, on which Shakspeare has particularly dwelt, namely, the attention of the tribe to cleanliness: thus Puck, on entering the palace of Theseus, exclaims,—

"———————— Not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallow'd house:
I am sent, with broom, before,
To sweep the dust behind the door:"[346:B]

and similar care and neatness are enjoined the elves who haunt the towers of Windsor:—

"—— About, about;
Search Windsor castle, elves, within and out:
[347]Strew good luck, ouphes, on every sacred room;—
The several chairs of order look you scour
With juice of balm, and every precious flower."[347:A]

No one could aspire to the favour and protection of the Fairies who was slovenly or personally impure; punishment, indeed, awaited all who thus offended; even the majesty of Mab herself condescended

"To bake the elf-locks in foul sluttish hair;"[347:B]

and Cricket, the fairy, being sent on a mission to the chimnies of Windsor, receives the following injunction:—

"Where fires thou find'st unraked, and hearths unswept,
There pinch the maids as blue as bilberry:
Our radiant queen hates sluts, and sluttery."[347:C]

In order to complete the picture of fairy superstition, as given us by Shakspeare, it remains to consider his description of Puck or Robin Good-fellow, the confidential servant of Oberon, an elf or incubus of a mixed and very peculiar character. This quaint, frolicksome, and often mischievous sprite, seems to have been compounded of the qualities ascribed by Gervase of Tilbury to his Goblin Grant, and to his Portuni, two species of dæmons whom he describes, both in name and character, as denizens of England; of the benevolent propensities attributed by Agricola to the Guteli, Cobali, or Brownies of Germany, and of additional features and powers, the gift and creation of our bard.

A large portion of these descriptions of the German writers, and of his countryman Gervase, Shakspeare would find in Reginald Scot, and from their union with the product of his own fancy, has arisen the Puck of the Midsummer-Night's Dream, a curious amalgamation of the fairy, the brownie, and the hob-goblin, whom Burton calls "a bigger [348]kind of fairy."[348:A] Scot's vocabulary of the fairy tribe is singularly copious, including not less than nine or ten appellations which have been bestowed, with more or less propriety, on this Proteus of the Gothic elves.—"In our childhood," he observes, "our mother's maids have so terrified us with—bull-beggers, spirits, urchens, elves, hags, fairies, satyrs, pans, faunes, sylens, kit with the cansticke, dwarfes, imps, nymphes, changlings, incubus, Robin Good-fellowe, the spoone, the mare, the man in the oke, the hell waine, the fier drake, the puckle Tom thombe, hob goblin, Tom tumbler, boneless, and such other bugs, that we are afraid of our owne shadowes."[348:B]

It is remarkable, however, that the Puck of Shakspeare is introduced by a term not found in this catalogue:—"Farewell, thou Lob of Spirits," says the fairy to him in their first interview,—a title which, as we shall perceive hereafter, could not be meant to imply, as Dr. Johnson supposed, either inactivity of body or dulness of mind, for Puck was occasionally swifter than the wind, and notorious, as the immediately subsequent passage informs us, for his shrewdness and ingenuity:—

"Either I mistake your shape and making quite,"

says the fairy, after bestowing the above title,

[349]"Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite,
Call'd Robin Good-fellow;"

and then proceeds to characterise him by the peculiarity of his functions:—

—————————————— "Are you not he,
That fright the maidens of the villagery;
Skim milk; and sometimes labour in the quern,
And bootless make the breathless housewife churn;
And sometime make the drink to bear no barm;
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that Hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck,
You do their work, and they shall have good luck:
Are you not he?"[349:A]

an interrogatory to which he replies in the following terms:—

———————————— "Thou speak'st aright;
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon, and make him smile,
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,
Neighing in likeness of a filly-foal:
And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted crab;
And, when she drinks, against her lips I bob,
And on her wither'd dew-lap pour the ale.
The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale,
Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me;
Then slip I from her bum, down topples she,
And tailor cries, and falls into a cough;
And then the whole quire hold their hips, and loffe;
And waxen in their mirth, and neeze, and swear
A merrier hour was never wasted there."[349:B]

The greater part of these frolics, indeed all but the last, may be traced in Gervase of Tilbury, Agricola, and Scot: the "misleading night-wanderers," for instance, "laughing at their harm," and "neighing in likeness of a filly foal," feats which Puck afterwards thus again enumerates,—

[350]"I'll follow you, I'll lead you about a round,
Through bog, through bush, through brake, through brier:
Sometime a horse I'll be, sometime a hound,
A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire;
And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and burn,
Like horse, hound, hog, bear, fire, at every turn,"[350:A]

are expressly attributed by Gervase to the goblins whom he has termed Grant and Portuni:—"Est in Anglia quoddam dæmonum genus, quod suo idiomate Grant nominant adinstar pulli equini anniculi, tibiis erectum oculis scintillantibus," &c.—"Cum—inter ambiguas noctis tenebras Angli solitarii quandoque equitant, Portunus nonnunquam invisus equitanti sese copulat, et cum diutius comitatur euntem, tandem loris arreptis equum in latum ad manum ducit, in quo dum infixos volutatur, portunus exiens cachinnum facit, et sic hujuscemodi ludibrio humanam simplicitatem deridet."[350:B]

The domestic offices and drudgery which Puck delighted to perform for his favourites, are mentioned by Lavaterus as belonging to his Fairies of the Earth; by Agricola to his Cobali and Guteli, and by Scot to his Incubi and Virunculi. Thus the first of these writers observes, in the words of the English translation of 1572, that "men imagine there be certayne elves or fairies of the earth, and tell many straunge and marvellous tales of them, which they have heard of their grandmothers and mothers, howe they have appeared unto those of the house, have done service, have rocked the cradell, and (which is a signe of good luck) do continually tary in the house[350:C];" and he subsequently gives us from Agricola the following passage:—"There be some (demons) very mild and gentle, whome some of the Germans call Cobali, as the Grecians do, because they be as it were apes and counterfeiters of men: for they leaping, and skipping for joy do laughe, and sæme as though they did many things, when in very dæde they doo nothing.—Some other call them Elves;—they are [351]not much unlike unto those whom the Germans call Guteli, bycause they sæme to beare good affection towards men, for they keepe horses, and do other necessary businesse."[351:A]

The resemblance which these descriptions bear both to the Brownie of the Scotch and the Puck of Shakspeare are very evident: but the combination and similitude are rendered still more apparent in the words of Scot; the "Virunculi terrei," says he, "are such as was Robin good fellowe, that would supplie the office of servants, speciallie of maids; as to make a fier in the morning, sweepe the house, grind mustard and malt, drawe water, &c.[351:B];" and speaking of the Incubus, he adds:—"In deede your grandams maides were wont to set a boll of milke before him and his cousine Robin good-fellow, for grinding of malt or mustard, and sweeping the house at midnight: and you have also heard that he would chafe exceedingly, if the maid or good-wife of the house, having compassion on his nakednesse, laid anie clothes for him, beesides his messe of white bread and milke, which was his standing fee. For in that case he saith; What have we here? Hemten, hamten, here will I never more tread nor stampen."[351:C]

The lines in italics point out one of the most characteristic features of the Brownie, while the preceding parts, and the last word of the quotation, are in unison, both with the passages just transcribed from our poet, and with that expression of Puck, where, describing to Oberon the terror and dispersion of the rustic comedians, he says—

"And, at our stamp, here o'er and o'er one falls."[351:D]

It may be also remarked, that the idea of fixing "an ass's nowl" on Bottom's head, is most probably taken from Scot, who gives us a very curious receipt for this singular metamorphosis.[351:E]

[352]So far, then, the Puck of Shakspeare is in conformity with the tales of tradition, and of preceding writers; he is the "Goblin fear'd in field and town[352:A]," who loves all things best "that befal preposterously[352:B]," and who, even when the poet wrote, had not ceased to excite apprehension; for Scot hath told us, nine years before the era of the Midsummer-Night's Dream, that Robin Good-fellowe ceaseth now to be much feared.[352:C]

But to these traits of customary character, Shakspeare has added some which greatly modify the picture, and which have united to the "drudging goblin," and to the demon of mischievous frolic, duties and functions of a very different cast. He is the messenger[352:D], and trusty servant[352:E] of the fairy king, by whom, in these capacities, he is called gentle[352:F] and good[352:G], and he combines with all his hereditary attributes, the speed, the legerity, and the intellectual skill of the highest order of the fairy world. Accordingly when Oberon says—

"Fetch me this herb: and be thou here again,
Ere the leviathan can swim a league;"

[353]he replies,

"I'll put a girdle round about the earth
In forty minutes;"[353:A]

and again, on receiving commission from the same quarter:—

"Obe. About the wood go swifter than the wind:
Puck. I go, I go; look, how I go;
Swifter than arrow from the Tartar's bow."[353:B]

Upon the whole we may be allowed, from the preceding dissertation, to consider the following series of circumstances as entitled to the appellation of facts: namely, that the patria of our popular system of fairy mythology, was the Scandinavian Peninsula; that, on its admission into this country, it gradually underwent various modifications through the influence of Christianity, the introduction of classical associations, and the prevalence of feudal manners; but that, ultimately, two systems became established; one in Scotland, founded on the wild and more terrific parts of the Gothic mythology, and the other in England, built, indeed, on the same system, but from a selection of its milder features, and converted by the genius of Shakspeare into one of the most lovely creations of a sportive imagination. Such, in fact, has been the success of our bard in expanding and colouring the germs of Gothic fairyism; in assigning to its tiny agents, new attributes and powers; and in clothing their ministration with the most light and exquisite imagery, that his portraits, in all their essential parts, have descended to us as indissolubly connected with, and indeed nearly, if not altogether, forming, our ideas of the fairy tribe.

The canvas, it is true, which he stretched, has been since expanded, and new groupes have been introduced; but the outline and the mode of colouring which he employed, have been invariably followed. It [354]is, in short, to his picture of the fairy world, that we are indebted for the Nymphidia of Drayton[354:A]; the Robin Goodfellow of Jonson[354:B]; the miniatures of Fletcher and Browne[354:C]; the full-length portraits of Herrick[354:D]; the sly allusions of Corbet[354:E], and the spirited and picturesque sketches of Milton.[354:F]

To Shakspeare, therefore, as the remodeller, and almost the inventor of our fairy system, may, with the utmost propriety, be addressed the elegant compliment which Browne has paid to Occleve, certainly inappropriate as applied to that rugged imitator of Chaucer, but admirably adapted to the peculiar powers of our bard, and delightfully expressive of what we may conceive would be the gratitude, were such testimony possible, of these children of his playful fancy:—

"Many times he hath been seene
With the faeries on the greene,
And to them his pipe did sound
As they danced in a round;
Mickle solace would they make him,
And at midnight often wake him;
[355]And convey him from his roome
To a fielde of yellow broome,
Or into the meadowes where
Mints perfume the gentle aire,
And where Flora spreads her treasure,
There they would beginn their measure.
If it chanc'd night's sable shrowds
Muffled Cynthia up in clowds,
Safely home they then would see him,
And from brakes and quagmires free him.
There are few such swaines as he
Now a days for harmonie."[355:A]


[256:A] Part II. chapter 1.

[256:B] Part II. chapter 2.

[256:C] In his Discourse on English Poetry.

[256:D] In his Art of English Poesy.

[257:A] In his Apology for Poetry.

[257:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 213.

[257:C] Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 286; and Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, p. 272. note.

[257:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 237.

[257:E] Ibid. vol. xiv. p. 217.

[258:A] Part II. chap. 1.

[259:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xiv. p. 43. Act i. sc. 4.

[262:A] "20th May, 1608.

"Edw. Blunt] Entered under t'hands of Sir Geo. Bucke, Kt. and Mr. Warden Seton, a book called: The booke of Pericles Prynce of Tyre."

"A book by the like authoritie, called Anthony and Cleopatra." Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, pp. 488, 489. By a somewhat singular mistake, the second of May is mentioned by Mr. Malone, as the date of the entry of Pericles; vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p. 147.

[263:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p. 148. The four quarto editions of Pericles are dated, 1609, 1619, 1630, and 1635.

[263:B] British Bibliographer, vol. i. p. 533.

[263:C] Verses by J. Tatham, prefixed to Richard Brome's Jovial Crew or the Merry Beggars, 4to. 1652.

[264:A] Prologue to the tragedie of Circe, by Charles D'Avenant, 1677.

[265:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p. 389.

[265:B] Ibid. p. 403. 404. 411.

[266:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p. 390.

[266:B] Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 144.

[267:A] Monthly Review, New Series, vol. lxxvii. p. 158.

[267:B] Thus, in the prologue to a comedy entitled The Hog has lost his Pearl, 1614, the author, alluding to his own production, says,

———— "if it prove so happy as to please,
Well say, 'tis fortunate, like Pericles."

[268:A] As this is the only scene in the play which disgusts from its total dereliction of nature, a result at once decisive as to Shakspeare having no property in it; and as the mere omission of a few lines, not a word being either added or altered, will be sufficient to render the whole probable and inoffensive, I cannot avoid wishing that such curtailment might be adopted in every future edition.


Pentapolis. A Room in the Palace.

Enter Simonides and the Knights: Simonides reading a letter.

Knights. May we not get access to her, my lord?
Sim. 'Faith, by no means; it is impossible.
Knights. Though loath to bid farewell, we take our leaves.
Sim. So—
They're well dispatch'd; now to my daughter's letter:
She tells me here, she'll wed the stranger knight;
Well, I commend her choice;
And will no longer have it be delay'd.
Soft, here he comes:—I must dissemble it.

Enter Pericles.

Per. All fortune to the good Simonides!
Sim. To you as much, sir! I am beholden to you,
For your sweet musick this last night: my ears,
I do protest, were never better fed
With such delightful pleasing harmony.
Per. It is your grace's pleasure to commend;
Not my desert.
Sim.. Sir, you are musick's master.
Per. The worst of all her scholars, my good lord.
Sim. Let me ask one thing. What do you think, sir, of
My daughter?
Per. As of a most virtuous princess.
Sim. And she is fair too, is she not?
Per. As a fair day in summer; wondrous fair.
Sim. My daughter, sir, thinks very well of you;
Ay, so well, that——peruse this writing, sir.
Per. What's here!
A letter, that she loves the knight of Tyre?
'Tis the king's subtilty, to have my life.
O, seek not to intrap, my gracious lord,
A stranger and distressed gentleman,
That never aim'd so high, to love your daughter,
But bent all offices to honour her.
Sim. Thou hast bewitch'd my daughter, and thou art
A traitor.
Per. By the gods, I have not, sir.
Never did thought of mine levy offence;
Nor never did my actions yet commence
A deed might gain her love, or your displeasure.
My actions are as noble as my thoughts,
That never relish'd of a base descent.
I came unto your court, for honour's cause,
And not to be a rebel to her state;
And he that otherwise accounts of me,
This sword shall prove he's honour's enemy.
Sim. Now, by the gods, I do applaud his courage.
Here comes my daughter, she can witness it.

Enter Thaisa.

Yea, mistress, are you so perémptory?
(Addressing his daughter.
Will you, not having my consent, bestow
Your love and your affections on a stranger?—
Hear, therefore, mistress; frame your will to mine,—
And you, sir, hear you.—Either be rul'd by me,
Or I will make you—man and wife.—
And for a further grief,—God give you joy!
What, are you both agreed?
Thais. Yes, if you love me, sir.
(Addressing Pericles.
Per. Even as my life, my blood that fosters it.

Thus contracted, the scene would no longer excite the "supreme contempt" which Mr. Steevens expresses for it, adding in reference to its original state, "such another gross, nonsensical dialogue, would be sought for in vain among the earliest and rudest efforts of the British theatre. It is impossible not to wish that the Knights had horse-whipped Simonides, and that Pericles had kicked him off the stage."

[271:A] For the sake of perspicuity, I have substituted the word "knowledge," as synonymous with "cunning," the term in the original.

[272:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p. 181. Act i. sc. 2.

[273:A] Ibid. p. 213, 214. Act ii. sc. 1.

[273:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p. 221. Act ii. sc. 1.

[273:C] Ibid. p. 353. Act v. sc. 1.

[274:A] Reed's Shakspeare, p. 371. Act v. sc. 1.

[274:B] Ibid. vol. xxi. p. 374. Act v. sc. 1.

[275:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p. 384. Act v. sc. 3.

[276:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. pp. 284, 285. Act iii. sc. 4.

[276:B] Ibid. vol. xxi. pp. 297-299. Act iv. sc. 1.


—————————— "With fairest flowers,
While summer lasts, and I live here, Fidele,
I'll sweeten thy sad grave. Thou shalt not lack
The flower that's like thy face, pale primrose, nor
The azur'd hare-bell, like thy veins, no nor
The leaf of eglantine, whom not to slander
Out-sweeten'd not thy breath."

[277:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p. 305. Act iv. sc. 1.

[278:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p. 341. Act iv. sc. 6.—Much of the dialogue which passes among the worthless inhabitants of this bagnio, is seasoned with the strong and characteristic humour of Shakspeare. Boult, a servant of the place, being ordered to cry Marina through the market of Mitylene, describing her personal charms, is asked, on his return, how he found the inclination of the people, to which he replies,

"'Faith, they listened to me, as they would have hearkened to their father's testament. There was a Spaniard's mouth so watered, that he went to bed to her very description.

"Bawd. We shall have him here to-morrow with his best ruff on.

"Boult. To-night, to-night. But, mistress, do you know the French knight that cowers i' the hams?

"Bawd. Who? Monsieur Veroles?

"Boult. Ay; he offered to cut a caper at the proclamation; but he made a groan at it, and swore he would see her to-morrow."

Act iv. sc. 3.

"If," says Mr. Malone, alluding to the lines in Italics, "there were no other proof of Shakspeare's hand in this piece, this admirable stroke of humour would furnish decisive evidence of it."

[279:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. pp. 365, 366. Act v. sc. 1. The similar passage in Twelfth Night will occur to every one.

[279:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p 371. Act v. sc. 1.

[279:C] Ibid. p. 388.—Milton appears to have read Pericles with attention, and to have caught some of its phraseology, a circumstance strongly confirmatory of the genuineness of the play: thus Gower, in the opening lines, speaking of Antiochus, says,—

"This king unto him took a pheere,
Who died and left a female heir,
So buxom, blithe, and full of face,
As heaven had lent her all her grace;"

a passage which evidently hung on Milton's ear, when, in his L'Allegro, he is describing the uncertain origin of Euphrosyne:—

"Fill'd her with thee a daughter fair,
So buxom, blithe, and debonair."

Again, in the first edition of Lycidas, v. 157., a very significant epithet seems to have been copied from the same source:—

"Where thou perhaps under the HUMMING tide:"


"The belching whale,
And HUMMING water must o'erwhelm thy corpse."


It is remarkable, that when Milton, in his second edition, altered the word to whelming, he still clung to his former prototype.

The notice may appear whimsical or trifling, but I cannot help observing here, that a few lines of the initiatory address of Gower irresistibly remind me of some of the cadences of The Lay of the Last Minstrel; for instance, this contemporary of Chaucer, alluding to the antiquity of his song, says,—

"It hath been sung at festivals,
On ember-eves, and holy ales;
And lords and ladies of their lives,
Have read it for restoratives:—
If you, born in these latter times,
When wit's more ripe, accept my rhymes,
And that to hear an old man sing,
May to your wishes pleasure bring,
I life would wish, and that I might
Waste it for you, like taper-light."

[281:A] Prologue to the Tragedy of Circe, by Charles D'Avenant. 1675.


"Amazde I stood to see a crowd
Of civil throats stretch'd out so lowd:
(As at a new play) all the roomes
Did swarm with gentiles mix'd with groomes;
So that I truly thought all these
Came to see Shore or Pericles."

[282:B] "I was ne'er at one of these before; but I should have seen Jane Shore, and my husband hath promised me any time this twelvemonth to carry me to The Bold Beauchamps."—The Knight of the Burning Pestle.


—————— "There is an old tradition,
That in the times of mighty Tamburlaine,
Of conjuring Faustus, and The Beauchamps Bold,
Your poets used to have the second day."

A Playhouse to be Let.

[283:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 249.

[283:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. pp. 152, 153.

[284:A] Many instances of this kind have been pointed out by Mr. Steevens, in his notes on the play; namely, at pages 208. 213. 221. 227, 228. 258. 302.; and the list might be much enlarged by a careful collation of the two productions.

[284:B] Where the chapter is entitled "The pitifull state and story of the Paphlagonian unkinde king and his kinde sonne, first related by the sonne, then by the blind father."

[285:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p. 400.

[285:B] Vide Censura Literaria, vol. ix. p. 46.

[285:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p. 407. note.

[285:D] Ibid. p. 391. note.

[286:A] Vide Douce's Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. ii. pp. 127, 128.

[286:B] Supplemental Apology, pp. 274. et seq.

[286:C] Vol. i. pp. 398-400.

[287:A] For this paragraph, the reader is referred to p. 282. of the original edition, or to p. 46. of the ninth volume of the Censura Literaria.

[287:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx. p. 461. note.

[288:A] For specimens of the doggrel verse which preceded and accompanied the era of the Comedy of Errors, see Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx. pp. 462, 463.

[288:B] The addition of the twin servants to their twin masters, doubles the improbability, while it adds to the fund of entertainment.

[289:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 262.

[290:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 264.

[291:A] Vide Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, pp. 281, 282.; and Douce's Illustrations, vol. i. p. 238.

[291:B] Vol. i. p. 498-9, edit. 1598.

[291:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 151. note; and Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, p. 283.

[292:A] Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 355. note.

[293:A] An Essay on the Dramatic Character of Sir John Falstaff. 8vo. 1777, p. 49.

[293:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 241.—It is conjectured by Mr. Malone, that Shakspeare, for the advantage of his own theatre, having written a few lines in The First Part of King Henry VI., after his own Second and Third Part had been played, the editors of the first Folio conceived this a sufficient warrant for attributing it, along with the others, to him, in the general collection of his works. Vol. xiv. p. 259. His prior supposition, however, "that they gave it a place as a necessary introduction to the two other parts," especially if we consider the great popularity which it had enjoyed, and the general ignorance of the audience in historical lore, will sufficiently account, in those lax times of literary appropriation, for its insertion and attribution.

[293:C] The discovery was made by Mr. Chalmers, vide Supplemental Apology, p. 292.

[294:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 126.

[294:B] Mr. Malone, in his "Dissertation on King Henry VI." was of opinion, that the First Part of the Contention, &c. came from the pen of Robert Greene; (vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xiv. p. 257.) but in his "Chronological Order," he inclines to the supposition of Marlowe being the author of both Parts; (vol. ii. p. 246.) It is more probable, I think, from the language of the Groatsworth of Wit, that Marlowe, Greene, and Peele, were jointly concerned in their composition.

[295:A] Essay on the Dramatic Character of Falstaff, p. 49. note.

[297:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xiii. p. 307. note.

[298:A] See his Table, in Supplemental Apology, pp. 466, 467, where he tells us that in making it, he has been governed "rather by the influence of moral certainty, than directed by any supposed necessity of fixing some of the dramas to each year;" but where is the evidence that shall reconcile us to the necessity of passing over the years 1610, 1611, and 1612, without the production of a single play, and then ascribing to the year 1613, three such compositions, as The Tempest, The Twelfth-Night, and Henry VIII.?

[300:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 251.

[303:A] Vide Ouseley's Persian Miscellanies.

[303:B] The Lays of Lanval and Gruelan have been translated by Way in his Fabliaux, vol. i. p. 157. 177.; a description also of Mourgue La Faye may be found in the preceding tale, called The Vale of False Lovers, taken from the prose romance of Lancelot du Lac, 3 vols. folio. bl. l. Paris. 1520.

[304:A] Thus the Gothic terms Fegur, Alfur, Uitrur, Dwergur, Meyar, Pucke, Drot, are without doubt the prototypes of Fairy, Elf, Wight, Dwarf, Mare, Puck, and Trot.

[305:A] "Votum ille (Svegderus) nuncupavit, de Godheimo, vetustoque illo Othino quærendo. Duodecim viris comitatus, late per orbem vagabatur, delatusque in Tyrklandiam et in Svioniam Magnam, plurimos ibi reperit, sanguinis nexu sibi junctos. Huic peregrinatione quinque annos impendit, reduxque in Sveciam domi aliquam diu mansit.—Iterum Gudhemum quæsitum peregre profectus est Svegderus. In orientali plaga Svioniæ villa est ingens, dicta Stein, ibique positus lapis tantæ molis; ut domum ingentem magnitudine æquet. Quadam vespera post solis occasum, a poculis ad lectum progressurus Svegderus, vidit sub ingenti isto lapide sedentem pygmæum. Ille igitur ejusque comites, vino obruti, cum cursu lapidem petebant, in janua lapidis stans pygmæus, Svegderum jubet ingredi, si cum Othino colloqui vellet. Currit Svegderus in lapidam qui statim clauditur, nec rediit inde Svegderus."—Snor. Sturl. Hist. Reg. Norv. op. Schöning. vol. i. p. 18.


"Thar Motsogner
Mæstur vm ordenn
Dverga allra
En Durenn annar."

Volupsa, Stroph. 10.

There are two who possess sovereign power, Motsogner, who ranks first, and Durin, who otherwise acknowledges no peer.


"Enn dagsciar,
Durins nithia,
Salvaur dudur,
Svegde velti;
Tha er ei Stein,
Hin storgethi:
Dulsa konur,
Ept Dvergi hliop:"

a passage which has been thus translated by Peringskiöld:—"At lucifuga, Nanorum domicilii custos, Svegderum decepit, quando magnanimus ille rex, spe vana delusus, Nanum sequendo, &c."—Yrling. Sag. cap. xv. p. 15.

[306:C] The original is thus interpreted by Snorro:—"Ad nos ethnicos ac iram Odini veritos servule ne ingrediaris, inquit vidua; mulier fœda me mordacibus verbis impetens, se intus Alfis sacrificare dixit, foris vero lupis libare sanguinem mactatorum animalium."—Oläf. Helg. Haroldsons Saga. cap. 92. See also, Snorro apud Schöning, tom. ii. p. 124. Hafn. 1778.

[307:A] "Sæmundus tantum," says a learned commentator on the Voluspa, "qui literas Latinos induxit in Islandiam, e literis Runicis, hæc poëmata in literaturam vulgarem transtulit, non composuit, ut ipsa monumenta testantur."—Gudm. Andr. Not. in Volusp. Stroph. vi.

[307:B] Two chapters of the Edda of Snorro, Myth. 13. 15. are occupied by an illustrative enumeration of these Dvergi or Fairies, and the "Scalda" has catalogued nearly one hundred of the same race.

[308:A] "Sunt adhuc plures tales Norner ad hominum quemlibet in mundum natum venientes, ut dies illi determinent; harum quædam sunt divinæ, quædam ex faunorum (Alfa ættar) quædam ex nanorum genere (Duerga ættar).—Nornæ bonæ (Godar Norner) felicem tribuunt vitam, sed si quis sinistris premitur fatis, hoc malæ (Illar Norner) efficiunt.—Alia illic urbs Alfheimur vocatur (sc. faunorum mundus), quam incolunt illi qui Liös-alfar (sc. lucidi fauni) appellantur, sed Döck-alfar (sc. nigri fauni) viscera terræ inferiora tenent, et sunt prioribus illis valde dissimiles re et aspectu. Liösalfi sunt sole clariores; Döckalfi pice nigriores."—Resen. Edda Island. Myth. xv.

[309:A] "Sunt—Nymphæ albæDominæ bonæ, Itali Fatas, Galli Fees vocant; quarum adventu multum prosperitatis et rerum omnium copiam putarunt superstitiosæ anus domibus contingere quas frequentarint, et ideo domi suæ illis epulas instruxere."—Vide Kornmann Templ. Natur. part iii. cons. 12. p. 113.

[309:B] "In multis locis Septentrionalis regionis, præsertim nocturno tempore, suum saltatorium orbem cum omnium musarum consentu versare solent. Sed post ortum solem quandoque roscidis deprehenduntur vestigiis.—Hunc nocturnum ludum vocant incolæ Choream Elvarum."—Ol. Magn. Gent. Septent. lib. iii. c. 11. p. 107. Chorea Elvarum is here given as a translation of the Elf-dans of the Swedish language.

[309:C] "Fæminæ etiam parturientes olim hasce (sc. Godar Norner) precibus adibant ut facilius dolore ac onere levarentur; quemadmodum neque aniles fabulæ; desunt vulgo de spectris sub mulierum specie sexui parturienti opem ferentibus."—Keysler. de Mulierib. Fatid. sect. 23. p. 394.

"In the Northern Regions," says Loier, speaking of the Fairies, "the report is, that they have a care, and doe diligently attend about little infantes lying in the cradle; that they doe dresse and undresse them in their swathling clothes, and doe performe all that which carefull nurses can doe unto their nurse-children."—Peter le Loier, Treatise of Strange Sights and Apparitions, chap. ii. p. 19. 4to.

[309:D] "Svart-Alfar tenebrarum spiritus; verum hæc species Alforum putata est non esse mere spiritus, nec nudi homines, sed medium inter divos et mortales."—Comment in Volusp. (Str. xv.) ex Biblioth. Resenii.

[310:A] Vide note in p. 308.

[310:B] "Quandoque vero saltum adeo profunde in terram impresserant, ut locus, cui assueverant, insigni ardore orbiculariter peresus, non parit arenti redivivum cespite gramen."—Ol. Magn. Gent. Sept. l. iii. c. 2.

[310:C] "A Matribus sive Mair descendunt aniles nugæ; von der Nachtmar, fæminei sexus spectrum credunt somniantes pondere suo gravans, ut arctius inclusus spiritus ægre possit meare. Angli adpellant Nightmare.—Alp et Alf enim veteribus notat dæmonem montanum. Suecis et Anglis Elf est Franconiæ incolis Ephialtes etiam est die Drud."—Keysler de Mulierib. Fated. sect. 68. p. 497.

[310:D] "Meridianum adpellabatur, quod meridie magis infestum credebatur, unde hodie observant, ut puerperas hora meridiana non sinant esse solas, aut camera exire.—Sæpe tamen etiam pro ephialte vel Incubo usurpatur."—Keysler, sect. 68. p. 497.

[310:E] "Eratque hoc larvarum genus apprime infestum—infantibus lactentibus cunis ad huc inhærentibus."—Wier. De Præstig. Dæm. l. i. c. 16. p. 104.

[311:A] "Sese velut umbras—ostendunt, risusque atque inanes cachinnos, ludicraque præstigia et alia infinita ludibria, quibus infelices decipiunt, vocali sono confingunt."—Ol. Mag. De Gent. Septent. lib. vi. cap. 10.

"Dæmon in forma Viri Ignei, jam maximi, jam parvi sive Virunculi, noctu in campis oberrantis, et brevi hinc inde decurrentis, apparuit."—Becker. Spectrol. p. 120.

[311:B] "Inter cætera mira quædam referuntur de virunculis montanis, quos Bergmanlein vocant, nanorum forma et statura præditis." Vide Kircher. Mund. Subter. lib. viii. sect. 4. c. 4. p. 123.

"Alii nominant virunculos montanos—videntur autem esse seneciores, et vestiti more metallicorum, id est, vittato indusio, et corio circum lumbos dependente induti."—Vide Agricola de Animant. Sub. c. 37. p. 78.

[311:C] "Sunt gladii, aliaque arma, omnium præstantissima, ab Duergis fabricata, quæ omnia penetrare, nec arte magica hebetari credebantur."—Verel. in Hervar. Sag. cap. 7.

[311:D] Vide Verel. in Hervar. Sag. voce Duerga Smithi.

[311:E] See, in the Minor Voluspa, the Hildi-svini of Hyndla, a species of enchanted steed. Stroph. v. et vii.

[312:A] "Columnas frangendo—vel casu petrarum, fractione scalarum, provocatione fætorum, suffocatione ventorum, ruptora funiculorum, opprimunt aut conturbant."—Ol. Magn. de Gent. Septentr. lib. vi. cap. 10.

[312:B] They are sometimes represented as coining the money which they conceal or guard, "in pecunia abundant, quam cudunt ipsimet."—Theophr. Philos. Sag. lib. i. p. 591. ed. Gen. 1658.

[312:C] "Corio circumlumbos dependente."—Vide note B in p. 311.

[312:D] "Trulli, et Guteli; qui et in famulitio viris et fœminis inserviunt conclavia scopis purgant, patinas mundant, ligna portant, equos curant."—Vide Tholossani, lib. vii. cap. 14.

[312:E] "In effigie humana," says Olaus Magnus, "accommodare solent ministeriis hominum, nocturnis horis laborando, equosque et jumenta curando."—De Gent. Sept. lib. iii. c. 11. p. 107.

[313:A] Chaucer apud Chalmers, English Poets, vol. i. p. 51. col. 1.

[313:B] Stoddart's Remarks on Local Scenery and Manners in Scotland, vol. ii. p. 66.

[313:C] Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, 1st edit. vol. ii. p. 213.

[314:A] "Perhaps this epithet," says Mr. Scott, "is only one example, among many, of the extreme civility which the vulgar in Scotland use towards spirits of a dubious, or even a determinedly mischievous nature. The arch-fiend himself is often distinguished by the softened title of the "good-man." This epithet, so applied, must sound strange to a southern ear; but, as the phrase bears various interpretations, according to the places where it is used, so, in the Scotish dialect, the good man of such a place, signifies the tenant, or life-renter, in opposition to the laird, or proprietor. Hence, the devil is termed the good-man, or tenant, of the infernal regions. There was anciently a practice in Scotish villages, of propitiating this infernal being, by leaving uncultivated a croft, or small inclosure, of the neighbouring grounds, which was called the good-man's croft. By doing so, it was their unavowed, but obvious intention, to avert the rage of Satan from destroying their possessions."—Minstrelsy, vol. ii. p. 216.

[314:B] Of this curious work, a hundred copies of which have lately been reprinted, the first title is termed, "An Essay on the Nature," &c.; and the second "Secret Commonwealth; or, A Treatise displayeing the Chiefe Curiosities as they are in Use among diverse of the People of Scotland to this Day;—Singularities for the most Part peculiar to that Nation." 4to. 1691.

[315:A] Kirk's Essay, pp. 1. 7, 8, 9, reprint.

[315:B] Ibid. p. 6.

[315:C] Ibid. p. 10.

[317:A] Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song, 8vo. 1810. pp. 295, 296, 297.

[317:B] The resemblance between the search of Svegder for Godheim or Fairy-land, and the object of Sir Thopas's expedition, cannot but strike the reader:—

"In his sadel he clombe anon,
And pricked over stile and ston
An elf quene for to espie;
Til he so long had riden and gone
That he fond, in a privie wone,
The countree of Faërie.
Wherein he saughte north and south,
And often spired with his mouth,
In many a foreste wilde;
For in that countree nas ther non,
That to him dorst ride or gon,
Neither wif ne childe."

Cant. Tales, apud Tyrwhitt, v. 13726.

[318:A] Essay, pp. 5. 12. 18.

[318:B] "Scenes of Infancy: descriptive of Teviotdale," 1st edit. 12mo. p. 161.

[318:C] Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, vol. xiii. p. 245.

[319:A] Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, vol. ii. p. 206. 1st edit.

[319:B] Lindsay's Works, 1592, p. 222.

[319:C] Watson's Collection of Scots Poems, 1709, part iii. p. 12.

[319:D] Vide Scott's Minstrelsy, vol. ii. p. 250. note.

[320:A] Thomas The Rhymer, part i., Scott's Minstrelsy, vol. ii. pp. 253, 254.

[320:B] Tale of the Young Tamlane, Minstrelsy, vol. ii. p. 235.


"If you speak word in Elflyn land,
Ye'll ne'er get back to your ain countrie."

Thomas the Rhymer; Minstrelsy, vol. ii. p. 253.

[321:A] Scenes of Infancy, book ii. pp. 71-73. This poem abounds in passages of exquisite pathos and splendid imagination. The book, whence the lines just quoted are taken, closes with the following apostrophe to Mr. Scott:—

"O Scott! with whom, in youth's serenest prime,
I wove, with careless hand, the fairy rhyme,
Bade chivalry's barbaric pomp return,
And heroes wake from every mouldering urn!
Thy powerful verse, to grace the courtly hall,
Shall many a tale of elder time recall,
The deeds of knights, the loves of dames, proclaim,
And give forgotten bards their former fame.
Enough for me, if Fancy wake the shell,
To eastern minstrels strains like thine to tell;
Till saddening memory all our haunts restore,
The wild-wood walks by Esk's romantic shore,
The circled hearth, which ne'er was wont to fail
In cheerful joke, or legendary tale,
Thy mind, whose fearless frankness nought could move,
Thy friendship, like an elder brother's love,
While from each scene of early life I part,
True to the beatings of this ardent heart,
When, half-deceased, with half the world between,
My name shall be unmentioned on the green,
When years combine with distance, let me be,
By all forgot, remembered yet by thee!"

If Mr. Scott, yielding to this appeal, would present us with a complete edition of the poetical works, together with a life, of his lamented friend, who was not less remarkable for his learning than his genius, he would confer no trifling obligation on the literary world.

[322:A] Kirk's Essay on Fairies, pp. 2, 3.

[322:B] A remarkable instance of the continuance of this superstition, even in the present day, is recorded by Mr. Cromek, to whom an old woman of Nithsdale gave the following detail, "with the artless simplicity of sure belief." "I' the night afore Roodsmass," said she, "I had trysted wi' a neeber lass, a Scots mile frae hame, to talk anent buying braws i' the fair:—we had nae sutten lang aneath the haw-buss, till we heard the loud laugh o' fowk riding, wi' the jingling o' bridles, an' the clanking o' hoofs. We banged up, thinking they wad ryde owre us;—we kent nae but it was drunken fowk riding to the fair, i' the fore night. We glowred roun' and roun', an' sune saw it was the Fairie fowk's Rade. We cowered down till they passed by. A learn o' light was dancing owre them, mair bonnie than moon-shine: they were a wee, wee fowk, wi' green scarfs on, but ane that rade foremost, an' that ane was a gude deal larger than the lave, wi' bonnie lang hair bun' about wi' a strap, whilk glented lyke stars. They rade on braw wee whyte naigs, wi' unco lang swooping tails, an' manes hung wi' whustles that the win' played on. This, an' their tongue whan they sang, was like the soun of a far awa Psalm. Marion an' me was in a brade lea fiel' whare they cam by us, a high hedge o' bawtrees keep it them frae gaun through Johnnie Corrie's corn;—but they lap a' owre't like sparrows, an' gallop't into a greene knowe beyont it. We gade i' the morning to look at the tredded corn, but the fient a hoof mark was there, nor a blade broken."—Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song, pp. 298, 299.

[323:A] Vide Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, vol. ii. p. 214.; and Tyrwhitt's Note on Canterbury Tales, v. 6437.

[324:A] Leyden's Scenes of Infancy, p. 24.