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As every circumstance relative to our author is, however minute, possessed of interest, the following particulars and conversation concerning a negociation for the enclosure of some land near Stratford in 1614, and which were first communicated to the public by Mr. Wheler, shall be given in that gentleman's own words.
“ About the year 1614,” he relates, “ there was an intention of inclosing Welcombe field, in this parish, where part of Shakspeare's landed property lay, which he had purchased in 1602 of William and John Combe, and over which field the tithes extended, of which he purchased a moiety in 1605. Shakspeare was therefore doubly interested in this inclosure; and from some memorandums or notes commenced in London, but concluded at Stratford, by Thomas Green, Esq. (the owner of part of the tithes, perhaps the other moiety,) a relation of Shakspeare's, the following particulars of his conversation with Shakspeare are extracted.
• Rec. 16. No. 1614, at 4 o'clock afr. noon, a Lre. from Mr. Bayly, and Mr. Alderman, (the Bailif and chief Alderman of Stratford-uponAvon,) dated 12. No. 1614, touchyng the inclosure busynes.'
• Jovis 17. No. (1614) My Cosen Shakspeare comyng yesterday to town, I went to see him how he did. He told me that they (the parties wishing to inclose) assured him they ment to inclose no further than to Gospel bush, and so upp straight (leaving out pt. of the Dyngles to the field,) to the gate in Clopton hedg and take in Salisbury's peece; and that they mean in Aprill to svey. the land and then to gyve satisfaccion and not before: and he and Mr. Hall, (Shakspeare's son-in-law, probably present) say they think yr. (there) will be nothyng done at all.'
“ Mr. Green, (the common clerk to this corporation, who were adverse to the inclosure) returned to Stratford at the latter end of November, or beginning of December, 1614, and continued his notes until the 23d of December; upon which day it appears that letters were written by the corporation to Shakspeare and to Mr. Manwaring, (another proprietor, resident in London,) both of whom seem to have been desirous of inclosing. Mr. Green's memorandum, as
far as it can be transcribed, being almost illegible and the paper somewhat damaged, is as follows:
“ 6 23. Dec. (1614.) a Hall. Lres. wrytten, one to Mr. Manyringanother to Mr. Shakspeare, with almost all the company's hands to eyther. I also wrytte myself to my Csn. (Cousin) Shakspear, the coppyes of all our
then also a note of the inconvenyences wold by the inclosure.'
“ From a copy of the corporations letter to · Arthur Mannering, Esq.' (then residing at the Lord Chancellor's house, perhaps in some official capacity) as noticed by Green to have been written on the 23d of December, 1614, ft appears that he was apprized of the injury to be expected from the intended inclosure; reminded of the damage that Stratford, then • lying in the ashes of desolation,' had sustained from recent fires; and entreated to forbear the inclosure. The letter written to Shakspeare, the author has not been sufficiently fortunate to discover ; but it was probably to the same effect. A petition was presented from the corporation to the Lords of the Privy Council, requesting their injunction to William Combe, Esq. of Stratford College, then High Sheriff of this County; who, being proprietor of considerable estates at Welcombe, was desirous of an inclosure. Nothing, however, was done, as Shakspeare had surmised; and the fields remained
until the Early in 1616 our poet married his youngest daughter Judith to Mr. Thomas Quiney, a yintner in Stratford. The ceremony took place on February the 10th, 1616, the bridegroom being four years older than the bride, who had, however, completed her thirty-second year.
The daughters of Shakspeare appear to have been, like those of Milton, ignorant of the art of writing ; Judith, at least, in attesting a deed still extant, being under the necessity of making her mark, which is accompanied by the explanatory appendage of “ Signum
year 1774.” *
* Wheler's Guide to Stratford, pp. 22–25.
Judeth Shakspeare." The omission, however, is less extraordinary in the days of Shakspeare than in those of his great successor ; the education of women, during the reigns of Elizabeth and James, being in general calculated, with a few splendid exceptions, principally in the upper classes of society, for the discharge of mere domestic duties; and when, to be able to read was considered as a very distinguishing accomplishment.
The fruit of this marriage was three sons, Shakspeare, Richard, and Thomas Quiney; the first dying in his infancy, the second in his twenty-first year, and the third in his twentieth year; so that, as Elizabeth, the daughter of Susanna, by Dr. Hall, had no issue by her two husbands, Thomas Nash, Esq. and Sir John Barnard, she proved the last lineal descendant of her grandfather.
It was very shortly after the marriage of Judith, that our author, being in perfect health and memory, deemed it necessary to make his Will; a document which appears to have been drawn up on the 25th of February, 1616, though not executed until the 25th of the following month. +
That the event, for which this was a proper preparatory act, should so rapidly have followed, could be little in the contemplation of one who had not reached his fifty-second year, and who, according to his own account, was in perfect health and memory. Yet we may venture to infer, from what tradition has left us of his life and character, that few were better prepared for the transition, that few could be found, over whom, when the event had occurred, with more justice might it be said,
“ After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well !”
Vide Wheler's Guide, p. 21. + “ February,” says Mr. Malone, “ was first written, and afterwards struck out, and March written over it.” — Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 154. .
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.
The death of Shakspeare, of which the closing paragraph the last chapter had afforded us an intimation, took place on Tuesday, the 23d of April, 1616, on his birth-day, and when he had, exactly completed his fifty-second year. It is remarkable, that on the same day expired, in Spain, his great and amiable, contemporary, Cervantes ; the world being thus deprived, nearly at the same moment, of the two most original writers which modern Europe has produced.
s That not the smallest account of the disease which terminated so valuable a life, should have been transmitted to posterity, is perhaps equally, singular ; and the more so, as our poet was, no doubt, attended by his son-in-law, Dr. Hall, who was then forty years of age ; and who should have recollected, that the circumstances which led to the dissolution of such a man, had, whether professionally important or not, a claim to preservation and publicity. But the
age was a most incurious one, as to the personal history of literary men ; and Hall, who left for publication a manuscript collection of cases, selected from not less than a thousand diseases, has omitted the only one which could have secured to his work any permanent interest or value. *
On the second day after his decease, the remains of Shakspeare
• These Cases were afterwards translated from the original Latin by James Cooke, a Surgeon at Warwick, under the title of “ Select Observations on English Bodies; or Cures, both empericall and historical, performed upon very eminent persons in desperate diseases." London, 1657. 12mo.
were committed to the grave; being buried on the 25th of April, on the north side of the chancel of the great church of Stratford.
Fortunately, some light has been thrown upon the domestic circumstances of the poet, by the preservation of his Will, yet extant in the Prerogative Court, and which, though often published, we have again introduced, as a necessary appendage to our work.
The most striking features in this document, are the apparent neglect of his wife, and the favouritism exhibited with regard to his eldest daughter. Mrs. Shakspeare, indeed, was so entirely forgotten in the original Will, that the only bequest which her husband makes her, of his “ second best bed, with the furniture,” is introduced by an interlineation.
This omission, and the trifling nature of the legacy, have given birth to some conjectures on the part of his biographers and commentators. Oldys, misapplying the language of one of his sonnets, has hinted, that the poet entertained some doubts as to the fidelity of his beautiful wife; an intimation which soon after occasioned a curious controversy between Messrs. Steevens and Malone; the latter impeaching, and the former defending the conjugal affection of their bard. “ His wife had not wholly escaped his memory," observes Mr. Malone; “ he had forgot her, — he had recollected her, — but so recollected her, as more strongly to mark how little he esteemed her; he had already (as it is vulgarly expressed,) cut her off, not indeed with a shilling, but with an old bed.” 6. That our poet was jealous of this lady,” remarks Mr. Steevens, “ is an unwarrantable conjecture. Having, in times of health and prosperity, provided for her by settlement, (or knowing that her father had already done so,) he bequeathed to her at his death, not merely an old piece of furniture, but perhaps, as a mark of peculiar tenderness,
“ The very bed that on his bridal night
Received him to the arms of Belvidera.” *
* Malone's Supplement, vol. i. pp. 653. 657.655.