« ForrigeFortsett »
Grammar-School of Stratford, we cannot with any certainty imagine him engaged in his daily tasks in the ancient room which is now the school-room. And yet the use of the chapel as a school, discontinued in 1595, might only have been a temporary use. A little space may be occupied in a notice of each building
The grammar-school is now an ancient room over the old town hall of Stratford ;—both, no doubt, offices of the ancient guild. We enter from the street into a court, of which one side is formed by the chapel of the Holy Cross. Opposite the chapel is a staircase, ascending which we are in a plain room, with a ceiling. But it is evident that this work of plaster is modern, and that above it we have the oak roof of the sixteenth century. In this room are a few forms and a rude antique desk.
The Chapel of the Guild is in great part a very perfect specimen of the plainer ecclesiastical architecture of the reign of Henry VII. ;—a building of just proportions and some ornament, but not running into elaborate decoration. The engraving below exhibits its street-front, showing the grammar-school beyond.
The interior now presents nothing very remarkable. But upon a general repair of the Chapel in 1804, beneath the whitewash of successive generations was discovered a series of most remarkable paintings, some in that portion of the building erected by Sir Hugh Clopton, and others in the far more ancient Chancel. A very elaborate series of coloured engravings has been published from these paintings, from drawings made at the time of their discovery by
Mr. Thomas Fisher. There can be little doubt, from the defacement of some of the paintings, that they were partially destroyed by violence, and all attempted to be obliterated in the progress of the Reformation. But that outbreak of zeal did not belong to the first periods of religious change; and it is most probable that these paintings were existing in the early years of Elizabeth's reign. When the five priests of the guild were driven from their home and their means of maintenance, the chapel no doubt ceased to be a place of worship; and it probably became the school-room, after the foundation of the grammar-school, distinct from the guild, under the charter of Edward VI. If it was the schoolroom of William Shakspere, those rude paintings must have produced a powerful effect upon his imagination. Many of them in the ancient Chancel constituted a pictorial romance—the history of the Holy Cross, from its origin as a tree at the Creation of the World to its rescue from the pagan Cosdroy, King of Persia, by the Christian King, Heraclius ;-and its final Exaltation at Jerusalem,-the anniversary of which event was celebrated at Stratford at its annual fair, held on the 14th of September. There were other pictures of Saints, and Martyrdoms; and one, especially, of the murder of Thomas à Becket, which exhibits great force, without that grotesqueness which generally belongs to our early paintings. There were fearful pictures, too, of the last Judgment; with the Seven Deadly Sins visibly portrayed,—the punishments of the evil, the rewards of the just. Surrounded as he was with the memorials of the old religion—with great changes on every side, but still very recent changes—how impossible was it that Shakspere should not have been thoroughly imbued with a knowledge of all that pertained to the faith of his ancestors ! One of the most philosophical writers of our day has said that Catholicism gave us Shakspere.* Not so, entirely. Shakspere belonged to the transition period, or he could not have been quite what he was. His intellect was not the dwarfish and precocious growth of the hot-bed of change, and still less of convulsion. His whole soul was permeated with the ancient vitalities—the things which the changes of institutions could not touch ; but it could bourgeon under the new influences, and blend the past and the present, as the “giant oak” of five hundred winters is covered with the foliage of one spring. Ť
* Carlyle— French Revolution.'
+ The foundation scholars of this grammar-school at present receive a complete classical education, so as to fit them for the university.—(Report of Commissioners.)
NOTE ON JOHN SHAKSPERE'S CONFESSION OF FAITH.
The thirteenth item of this strange production appears to us, in common with many other passages, to be conceived in that spirit of exaggeration which would mark the work of an imitator of the language of the sixteenth century, rather than the production of one habitually employing it :-“ Item, I, John Shakspear, do by this my last will and testament bequeath my soul, as soon as it shall be delivered and loosened from the prison of this my body, to be entombed in the sweet and amorous coffin of the side of Jesus Christ; and that in this life-giving sepulchre it may rest and live, perpetually enclosed in that eternal habitation of repose, there to bless for ever and ever that direful iron of the lance, which, like a charge in a censer, forms so sweet and pleasant a monument within the sacred breast of my Lord and Saviour.” Surely this raving is not the language of a man in earnest. Who then, can it be imagined, would fabricate this production in 1770? Mosely the bricklayer finds it in the roof of the house in which Shakspere was held to be born; and to whom, according to the story, does he give it? Not to the descendant of John Shakspere, the then owner of the house, but to Alderman Peyton, who transmits it to Malone through the Vicar of Stratford. Garrick's jubilee took place in 1769; but the farces enacted on that occasion were not likely to set people searching after antiquities or fabricating them. But previous to the publication of his edition of Shakspere, in 1790, Malone visited Stratford to examine the Registers and other documents. He appears to have done exactly what he pleased on this occasion. He carried off the Registers and the Corporation Records with him to London; and he whitewashed the bust of Shakspere, so as utterly to destroy its value as a memorial of costume. There was then a cunning fellow in the town, by name Jordan, who thought the commentator a fair mark for his ingenuity. He produced to bim a drawing of Shakspere's house, New Place, copied, as he said, from an ancient document, which Malone engraved as “ From a Drawing in the Margin of an Ancient Survey, made by order of Sir George Carew, and found at Clopton, near Stratford-upon-Avon, in 1786.” When the elder Ireland visited Stratford in 1795 the original drawing was “ lost or destroyed.” The same edition of Shakspere in which this drawing “ found at Clopton” is first presented to the world also first gives the Confession of Faith of John Shakspere, found in the roof of his house in Henley Street. We doubt exceedingly whether Jordan fabricated the one or the other : but there was a man who was quite capable of prompting both impositions, and of carrying them through; one upon whom the suspicion of fabricating Shaksperian documents strongly rested in his lifetime; one who would have rejoiced with the most malignant satisfaction in hoaxing a rival editor. We need not name him. It is evident to us that Malone subsequently discovered that he had been imposed upon : for in his posthumous Life of Shakspeare' he has not one word of allusion to this Confession of Faith; he not only omits to print it, but he suppresses all notice of it. He would sink it for ever in the sea of oblivion. In 1790 he produced it triumphantly with the conviction that it was genuine; in 1796 he had obtained documents to prove that it could not have been the composition of any one of the poet's family; but in the posthumous edition of 1821 the documents of explanation, as well as the Confession of Faith itself, are treated as if they never had been.
Let us pass over for a time the young Shakspere at his school-desk, inquiring not when he went from “The Short Dictionary' forward to the use of Cooper's Lexicon,' or whether he was most drilled in the 'Eclogues' of Virgil, or those of the “good old Mantuan.” Of one thing we may be well assured,—that the instruction of the grammar-school was the right instruction for the most vivacious mind, as for him of slower capacity. To spend a considerable portion of the years
of boyhood in the acquirement of Latin and Greek was not to waste them, as modern illumination would instruct us. Something was to be acquired, accurately and completely, that was of universal application, and within the boy's power of acquirement. The particular knowledge that would fit him for a chosen course of life would be an after acquirement; and, having attained the habit of patient study, and established in his own mind a standard to apply to all branches of knowledge by knowing one branch well, he would enter upon the race of life without being over-weighted with the elements of many arts and sciences, which it belongs only to the mature intellect to bear easily and grace