« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
Stratford lost an indifferent wool.comber, and the world gained an finmortal poet. He retained, however, for a long time, a sense of the harsh treatment of the lord of Charlecot, and revenged himself in his writings; but, in the sportive way of a good-natured mind. Sir Thomas is said to be the original of Justice Shallow, and the satire is slily fixed upon him by the justice's armorial bearings, which, like those of the knight, had white lucess in the quarterings.
" Various attempts have been made by his biographers to soften and explain away this early transgression of the poet; but I look upon it as one of those thoughtless exploits natural to his situation and turn of mind. Shakspere, when young, had doubtless all the wildness and irregularity of an ardent, undisciplined, and undirected genius. The poetic temperament has naturally something in it of the vagabond. When left to itself, it runs loosely and wildly, and delights in everything eccentric and licentious. It is often a turn of a die, in the gambling freaks of fate, whether a natural genius shall turn out a great rogue or a great poet: and had not Shakspere's mind fortu. Tiately taken a literary bias, he might have as daringly transcended all civil, as he has all dramatic laws.
“I have little doubt that, in early life, when running, like an unbroken colt, about the neighbourhood of Stratford, he was to be found in the company of all kinds of odd anomalous characters; that he associated with all the mad.caps of the place, and was one of those urchins, at mention of whom old men shake their heads, and predict that they will one day come to the gallows. To him the poaching in Sir Thomas Lucy's park was doubtless like a foray to a Scottish knight, and struck his eager, and as yet untamed, imagination, as sumething delightfully adventurous,t
*“ The luce is a pike or jack, and abounds in the Avon, about Charlecot."
+"A proof of Shakspere's random habits and associates in his youthful days may be found in a traditionary anccdote, picked up at Stratford by the elder Ireland, and mentioned in his • Picturesque Views on the Avon.'
“ About seven miles from Stratford lies the thirsty little market. town of Bidford, famous for its ale. Two societies of the village yeomanry used to meet, under the appellation of the Bidford topers, and to challenge the lovers of good ale of the neighbourlng villages to a contest of drinking. Among others, the people of Stratford were called out to prove the strength of their heads; and in the number of the champions was Shakspere, who, in spite of the proverb, that they who drink beer will think beer,' was as true to his ale as Falstaff to his sack. The chivalry of Stratford was staggered at the first onset, and sounded a retreat, while they had yet legs to carry them off the field. They had gcarcely marched a mile, when their legs failing them, they were forced to lie down under a crab tree, where they passed the night. It is still standing, and goes by the name of Shak. spere's tree.
“ In the morning his companions awaked the bard, and proposed returning to Bidford, but he declined, saying he had had enough, having drank with
“The old mansion of Charlecot and its surrounding park still remain in the “possession of the Lucy family, and are peculiarly interesting from being connected with this whimsical but eventful cir. cumstance in the scanty history of the bard. As the house stood at little more than three miles from Stratford, I resolved to pay it a pedestrian visit, that I might stroll leisurely through some of those scenes from which Shakspere must have derived his earliest ideas of rural imagery.
My route, for a part of the way, lay in sight of the Avon, which made a variety of the most fanciful doublings and windings through a wide and fertile valley; sometimes glittering from among willows, which fringed its borders : sometimes disappearing among groves, or beneath green banks; and sometimes rambling out into full view, and making an azure sweep round a slope of mea. dow land. This beautiful bosom of country is called the Vale of the Red Horse. A distant line of undulating blue hills seems to be its boundary, whilst all the soft intervening landscape lies in a manner enchained in the silver links of the Aron.
“ After pursuing the road for about three miles, I turned off into a foot path, which led along the borders of fields, and under hedge. rows, to a private gate of the park; there was a stile, however, for the benefit of the pedestrian ; there being a right of way through the grounds.
I now found myself among noble avenues of oaks and elms, whose vast size bespoke the growth of ceuturies. The wind sounded solemnly among their branches, and the rooks cawed from their hereditary nests in the tree tops. The eye ranged through a long lessening vista, with nothing to interrupt the view but a distant statue, and a vagrant deer stalking like a shadow across the opening.
It was from wandering in early life among this rich scenery, and about the romantic solitudes of the adjoining park of Fullbroke, which then formed a part of the Lucy estate, that some of Shakspere's commentators have supposed he derived his noble forest meditations of Jaques, and the enchanting woodland pictures in As You Like It,' • • I had now come in sight of the house, It is a large building of brick, with stone quoins, and is in the Gothio style of Queen Elizabeth's day, having been built in the first year of her reign.
The exterior remains very nearly in its original state, and may be con sidered a fair specimen of the residence of a wealthy country gentleman of those days. A great gateway opens from the park into a kind of court-yard in front of the house, ornamented with a gr ass plot, shrubs, and flower.beds. The gateway is in imitation of the ancient barbican ; being a kind of out-post, and flanked by towers ; though evidently for mere ornament, instead of defence. The front of the house is completely in the old style; with stone. shafted casements, a great bow.window of heavy stone-work, and a
"Piping Pehworth, dancing Marston,
Haunted Hillbro', hungry Grafton,
Beggarly Broom, and drunken Bidford.' " • The villages here alluded to,' says Ireland, still bear the epi. thets thus given them : the people of Pebworth are still famed for their skill on the pipe and tabor, Hillborough is now called Haunted Hillborough, and Grafton is famous for the poverty of the soil.' *
portal with armorial bearings over it, carved in stone. At each corner of the building is an octagon tower, surmounted by a gilt ball and weathercock. The Avon, which winds through the park, makes a bend just at the foot of a gently-sloping bank, which sweeps down from the rear of the house. Large herds of deer were feeding or reposing upon its borders ; and swans were sailing majestically upon its bosom,
I regretted to find that the ancient furniture of the hall had disappeared ; for I had hoped to meet with the stately elbow.chair of carved oak, in which the country squire of former days was wont to sway the sceptre of empire over his rural domains ; and in which it might be presumed the redoubted Sir Thomas sat enthroned in awful state, when the recreant Shakspere was brought before him. As I like to deck out pictures for my own entertainment, I pleased myself with the ide that this very hall had been the scene of the unlucky bard's examination, on the morning after his captivity in the lodge. I fancied to myself the rural potentate, surrounded by his body-guard of butlers, pages, and blue-coated serving. men with their badges; while the luckless culprit was brought in, forlorn and chapfallen, in the custody of gamekeepers. huntsmen, and whippers. in, and followed by a rabble rout of country clowns. I fancied bright faces of curious housemaids peeping from the half-opened doors ; while from the gallery the fair daughters of the knight leaned gracefully forward, eyeing the youthful prisoner with the pity that dwells in womanhood.' Who would have thought that this poor varlet, thus trembling before the • brief authority' of a country squire, and the sport of rustic boors, was soon to become the delight of princes; the theme of all tongues and ages; the dictator to the human mind; and was to confer immortality on his oppressor by a caricature and a lampoon!"
The first verse of this satire is given by both Capell and Oldys, from different sources, as Washington Irving has quoted it.
says William Oldys, an antiquary and poet, who died in 1761, "a very aged gentleman, living in the neighbourhood of Stratford, (where he died fifty years since,) who had not only heard, from several old people in that town, of Shakspere's transgression, but could remember the first stanza of that bitter ballad, which repeating to one of his acquaintance, he preserved it in writing, and here it is, neither better nor worse, but faithfully transcribed from the copy, which his relation very courteously communicated to me.' According to Malone, the entire ballad was “ found in a chest of drawers that formerly belonged to Mrs. Dorothy Tyler, of Shottery, near Stratford, who died in 1778, at the age of eighty." I give the ballad entire, though the continuation is generally regarded as spurious, and Malone, De Quincey, and Knight, consider the whole a forgery. As it may interest the reader, however, here it is :
“A parliament member, a justice of peace,
At home a poor scarecrow, at London an ass,
" There was,
If lousy is Lucy, as some folks miscal it,
He thinks himself great,
Yet an ass in his state
If Lucy, etc.
If Lucy, etc
If Lucy, etc,
If Lucy, etc.
For Lucy, etc.
We'll sing lousy Lucy as long as we live ;
We'll sing lousy Lucy whatever befal it." Such is the lampoon ascribed to the youthful Shakspere. The first verse may be genuine, but the others are evidently by a later hand, who has been familiar with the tradition, and taken the circumstance of the ballad being deficient to commit another Shakspere forgery. There can be no doubt that a powerful enemy like Sir Thomas Lucy, would be a dreadful neighbour for the young bard; for doubtless by this time he had commenced “the sin of rhyme.” We have seen that he was familiar from his cradle with theatrical exhibitions ; we have seen that every day the demand for their services was increasing ; and, we are told, that some of the principal players were from Shakspere's own neighbourhood. What so probable, then, that the stage should at once present itself to his "mind's eye” as a means whereby he might obtain bread? Whatever was the immediate cause, certain it is that his well-beloved Stratford was no longer the place where he could find bread. They who have felt the ruthless hatred of country squires in our own day, can form some idea what a blight to the prospects of Shakspere, in his own locality, the enmity of a neighbouring justice would be, especially if, as Aubrey tells us, “he had been in his younger years a schoolmaster in the country." “How would it have cheered the spirit of the youthful bard,” says Washington Irving, “when, wandering forth in disgrace upon a doubtful world, he cast back a heavy look upon his paternal home, could he have foreseen that, before many years, he should return to it covered with renown; that his name should become the boast and glory of his native place ; that his ashes should be religiously guarded as its most precious treasure ; and that its lessening spire, on which his eyes were fixed in tearful contemplation, should one day become the beacon, towering amidst the gentle landscape, to guide the literary pilgrim of every nation to his tomb !"
There is a tradition related by Pope, and recorded by Dr. Johnson, regarding Shakspere's first connection with the theatre, which I give below :
“Coaches being yet uncommon, and hired coaches not at all in use, those who were too proud, too tender, or too idle to walk, went on horseback to any distant business or diversion. Many came on horseback to the play; and when Shakspere fled to London from the terror of a criminal prosecution, his first expedient was to wait at the door of the playhouse, and hold the horses of those that had no servants, that they might be ready again after the performance. In this office, he became so conspicuous for his care and readiness, that in a short time every man, as he alighted, called for Will Shakspere, and scarcely any other waiter was trusted with a horse, while Will Shakspere could be had. This was the first dawn of better fortune. Shakspere, finding more horses put into his hand than he could hold, hired boys to wait under his inspection, who, when Will Shakspere was called, were immediately to present themselves, —I'm Shakspere's boy, sir,' In time, Shakspere found higher employment; but as long as the practice of riding continued, the waiters that held the horses retained the appellation of Shakspere's boys.”
Master John Shakspere is about this time dismissed from the corporation of Stratford-upon-Avon, for neglect of attendance at the halls of the seven preceding years. -Tobacco is introduced into England by Master Ralph Lane, commander of Sir Walter Raleigh's Virginian colony, as noticed under the head of the preceding year. Thomas Cavendish, an eminent navigator, sails from Plymouth with three small vessels, but tarnishes his laurels by engaging in plundering the coasts of Chili, Peru, and New Spain, William Camden publishes his “History of the Ancient Inhabitants of Britain," in Latin ; a valuable work on history and topography, since enlarged and translated into English, by the title of “Britannia.” William Warner, an attorney of the Common Pleas, gives