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Raleigh was enchanted with the poem. He was just returned from a voyage to Portugal, and was now bound for England. He was, it appears, himself weary of his own location, for he soon after sold it to the Earl of Cork. He pressed Spenser to accompany him, put his poem to press, and by means of its fame to win the more earnest patronage of Queen Elizabeth.
"When thus our pipes we both had wearied well,
That banished had myself, like wight forlore,
Into that waste, where I was quite forgot.
The which to leave, thenceforth he counselled me,
And wend with him, his Cynthia to see;
Whose grace was great, and bounty most rewardful.
Here it comes out that, however much more clothed with trees, and however much better this spot was in Spenser's days, it was still a waste where he was forgot," a place into which Raleigh considered his friend as banished, and as unfit for any "man in whom was aught regardful." He left it, published his poem, tried court expectation and attendance once more, but found them still more bitter and sterile than his Irish wilderness, and came back.
When we hear Kilcolman described by Spenser's biographers as "romantic and delightful," it is evident that they judged of it from mere fancy; and when writers about him talk of the Mulla "flowing through his grounds," and "past his castle," they give the reader a most erroneous idea. The castle, it must be remembered, is on a wide plain; the hills are at a couple of miles or more distant; and the Mulla is two miles off. We see nothing at the castle but the wide boggy plain, the distant naked hills, and the weedy pond under the castle walls. Such is Kilcolman.
Here the poet was startled at midnight from his dreams by the sound of horses' hoofs beating in full gallop the stony tracks of the dale, and by a succeeding burst of wild yells from crowding thousands of infuriated Irish. Fire was put to the castle, and it was soon in flames. Spenser, concealed by the gloom of one side of the building, contrived to escape with his wife, and most probably his three boys and girl, as they were saved, and lived after him, but the youngest child in the cradle perished in the flames, with all his property and unpublished poems. On a second visit to England he had published three more books of his Faerie Queene; and there is a story of the remaining six being lost by his servant, by whom they were sent to England. This could not be the fact, as he had himself but recently returned from the publication of the second three. Probably the rumour arose from some other MSS. lost in that manner. Fleeing to England, distracted at the fate of his child and his property, he lied there, heart-broken and in poverty, at an inn or lodging-house in King Street, Westminster, and was buried in Westminster Abbey,
at the expense of the Earl of Essex; "his hearse attended," says Camden, "by poets, and mournful elegies and poems, with the pens that wrote them, thrown into his tomb."
There is much that we naturally are anxious to know connected with the final fate and family of Spenser. How his children actually escaped? What became of them, and their claim on the property? When the property of Kilcolman was lost to the poet's descendants? Of all this next to nothing is known. The literati of that age do not seem to have given themselves any trouble to preserve the facts of the history of their illustrious cotemporaries. Shakspeare and Spenser were left to the cold keeping of careless tradition. The particulars, beyond what we have already given, are very few.
Spenser's widow returned to Ireland, and there brought up her children. Of these Sylvanus, as eldest son, inherited Rennie and Kilcolman. It appears that he found some difficulty with his mother, Spenser's widow, who married again, to a Roger Seckerstone, and was obliged to petition the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, to obtain from his mother and her new husband documents belonging to his estate, which they withheld. He married, as already stated, Ellen Nagle, of Monanimy, south of Kilcolman, of a Catholic family, a circumstance which had a great effect on the fortunes of their descendants, as connecting them with the unsuccessful party in the troubles of Ireland. His eldest son died without issue, and his second son, William, succeeded to Kilcolman. The property of William, being seized on by the Commonwealth party, was ordered to be restored to him by Cromwell, but is supposed to have only been regained at the Restoration. He had three other grants of land in the counties of Galway and Roscommon; in the latter, the estate of Ballinasloe. At the Revolution he joined King William, who for his services granted him the estate of his cousin Hugoline, of Rennie. This Hugoline was the son of Peregrine, the poet's youngest son, who had Rennie made over to him by his eldest brother, Sylvanus. Hugoline took part with his Catholic relatives, and siding with King James at the Revolution, was outlawed, and his property at Rennie made over to his cousin William. Thus the descendants of Sylvanus, or the eldest son of the poet, became the only known posterity of the poet. The descendants of William, and therefore of Sylvanus Spenser, the elder male line, possessed Rennie till 1734, soon after which this line became extinct. There are still in Ireland persons claiming to be descendants, by the mother's side, from Spenser; and the Travers, of Clifton, near Cork, are lineal descendants of Spenser's sister Sarah and John Travers, a friend of the poet's, who accompanied him to Ireland, and had the townlands of Ardenbone and Knocknacaple given to him by Spenser as his sister's marriage dowry. The descendants of this sister number amongst many distinguished families of Ireland, those of the Earls of Cork and Orrery, Earl Shannon, Lord Doneraile, Earl of Clanwilliam, etc.
The fame of Spenser is not quite rooted out of the minds of the neighbouring peasantry. I inquired of an old man and his family,
who live close by the castle, to whom that castle formerly belonged, and they replied, "To one Spenser."
"Who was he?"
"They could not tell: they only knew that many officers from Fermoy, and others, came to see the place."
Aye, I have heard of him," I added. "He was an Englishman, and the Irish burnt him out of the castle, and he fled to England." "Oh no! nothing of the kind. He lived and died there, and was buried just below the castle, which used to be a churchyard. Bones are often dug up, and on the western side of the mound there had been a nunnery.'
In fact, they knew nothing accurately, but, like the people at Lissoy, with regard to Goldsmith, would insist on his death and burial on the spot.
But the desolated spot possesses an interest stronger than the possession of the poet's dust. It was the scene of his happiest hours-hours of love and of inspiration. Here the Faerie Queene grew in heavenly zeal, and here it was suddenly arrested by the howl of savage vengeance, and the flames which wrapt the poet's heart
"Ah! what a warning for a thoughtless man,
Which it hath witnessed; render back the echo
Of the sad steps by which it hath been trod."-- Wordsworth
THERE are two reasons why I proposed to omit the homes and haunts of Shakspeare from the present volume; the first, because I have found it impossible to include the dramatic poets in the compass of it, and must reserve them for a future one; and the second, because I have already, in my Visits to Remarkable Places (vol. i.), devoted a considerable article to almost the only place where his homes and haunts still remain, Stratford-upon-Avon. A very little reflection, however, convinced me that an entire omission of the haunts of this great national poet from this work, would be received as a disappointment by a numerous class of readers. Shakspeare is not merely a dramatic poet. Great and peerless as is his dramatic fame, the very elements not of dramatic art and fame alone, but of universal poetry, and that of the highest order, are so diffused throughout all his works, that the character of poet soars above the character of dramatist in him, like some heaven-climbing tower above a glorious church. Every line, almost every word, is a living mass of poetry; these are scattered through the works of all authors as such exponents of their deepest sentiments as they cannot command themselves. They are like the branches, the buds, the flowers and leaves of a great tree of poetry making a magnificent whole, and rich and beautiful as
nature itself, down to its minutest portions. To leave out Shakspeare were indeed to play Hamlet with the part of Hamlet himself omitted; it were to invite guests, and allow the host to absent himself. In the Walhalla of British poetry, the statue of Shakspeare must be first admitted and placed in the centre, before gradations and classifications are thought of. He is the universal genius, whose presence and spirit must and will pervade the whole place.
And yet, where are the homes and haunts of Shakspeare in London? Like those of a thousand other remarkable men, in the accidents and the growth of this great city, they are swept away. Fires and renovation have carried everything before them. If the fame of men depended on bricks and mortar, what reputations would have been extinguished within the last two centuries in London! In no place in the world have the violent necessities of a rapid and immense development paid so little respect to the "local habitations" of great names.
We may suppose that Shakspeare, on his coming up to London, would reside near the theatres where he sought his livelihood. The first appears to have been that of Blackfriars. It has long been clean gone, and its locality is now occupied by Playhouse-yard, near Apothecaries' Hall, and the dense buildings around. Playhouse-yard derives its name from the old playhouse. In Knight's London, it is suggested that this theatre might be pulled down soon after the permanent close of the theatres during the Commonwealth, by the Puritans; but the real old theatre of Shakspeare must, had that not been the case, have perished entirely in the fire of London, which cleared all this ground, from Tower-street to the Temple. If Shakspeare ever held horses at a theatre-door on his first coming to town, it would be here, for here he seems to have been first engaged. The idea of his holding horses at a theatre-door, bold and active fellow as he had shown himself in his deer-stealing exploits, and with friends and acquaintances in town, has been scouted, especially as he was then a full-grown man of twenty-three. The thing, however, is by no means improbable. Shakspeare was most likely as independent as he was clever and active. On arriving in town, and seeing an old acquaintance, Thomas Green, at this theatre, he might, like other remarkable men who have made their way to eminence in London, be ready to turn his hand to anything till something better turned up. Green, who was a player, might be quite willing to introduce Shakspeare into that character and the theatre; but it had yet to be proved that Shakspeare could make an actor of himself, and till opportunity offered, what so likely to seize the attention of a hanger about the theatre, as the want of a careful horse-holder for those who came there in such style, which it appears was then common enough. We have the statement from Sir William Davenant, and therefore from a cotemporary, admirer, and assumed relative. We are told that the speculation was not a bad one. Shakspeare, by his superior age and carefulness, soon engrossed all this business, and had to employ those boys who had before been acting on their own account, as his subordinates; whence they acquired, and retained