Citation and Examination of William Shakspeare
by Walter Savage Landor
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"'My dear youth, do not carry the stone of Sisyphus on thy shoulder to pave the way to disappointment. If thou writest but indifferent poetry none will envy thee, and some will praise thee; but nature, in her malignity, hath denied unto thee a capacity for the enjoyment of such praise. In this she hath been kinder to most others than to thee; we know wherein she hath been kinder to thee than to most others. If thou writest good poetry many will call it flat, many will call it obscure, many will call it inharmonious; and some of these will speak as they think; for, as in giving a feast to great numbers, it is easier to possess the wine than to procure the cups, so happens it in poetry; thou hast the beverage of thy own growth, but canst not find the recipients. What is simple and elegant to thee and me, to many an honest man is flat and sterile; what to us is an innocently sly allusion, to as worthy a one as either of us is dull obscurity; and that moreover which swims upon our brain, and which throbs against our temples, and which we delight in sounding to ourselves when the voice has done with it, touches their ear, and awakens no harmony in any cell of it. Rivals will run up to thee and call thee a plagiary, and, rather than that proof should be wanting, similar words to some of thine will be thrown in thy teeth out of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

"'Do you desire calm studies? Do you desire high thoughts? Penetrate into theology. What is nobler than to dissect and discern the opinions of the gravest men upon the subtlest matters? And what glorious victories are those over Infidelity and Scepticism! How much loftier, how much more lasting in their effects, than such as ye are invited unto by what this ingenious youth hath contemptuously and truly called

"The swaggering drum, and trumpet hoarse with rage."

And what a delightful and edifying sight it is, to see hundreds of the most able doctors, all stripped for the combat, each closing with his antagonist, and tugging and tearing, tooth and nail, to lay down and establish truths which have been floating in the air for ages, and which the lower order of mortals are forbidden to see, and commanded to embrace. And then the shouts of victory! And then the crowns of amaranth held over their heads by the applauding angels! Besides, these combats have other great and distinct advantages. Whereas, in the carnal, the longer ye contend the more blows do ye receive; in these against Satan, the more fiercely and pertinaciously ye drive at him, the slacker do ye find him; every good hit makes him redden and rave with anger, but diminishes its effect.

"'My dear friends, who would not enter a service in which he may give blows to his mortal enemy, and receive none; and in which not only the eternal gain is incalculable, but also the temporal, at four-and-twenty, may be far above the emolument of generals, who, before the priest was born, had bled profusely for their country, established her security, brightened her glory, and augmented her dominions?'"

At this pause did Sir Thomas turn unto Sir Silas, and asked, -

"What sayest thou, Silas?"

Whereupon did Sir Silas make answer, -

"I say it is so, and was so, and should be so, and shall be so. If the queen's brother had not sopped the priests and bishops out of the Catholic cup, they could have held the Catholic cup in their own hands, instead of yielding it into his. They earned their money; if they sold their consciences for it, the business is theirs, not ours. I call this facing the devil with a vengeance. We have their coats; no matter who made 'em,—we have 'em, I say, and we will wear 'em; and not a button, tag, or tassel, shall any man tear away."

Sir Thomas then turned to Willy, and requested him to proceed with the doctor's discourse, who thereupon continued:-

"'Within your own recollections, how many good, quiet, inoffensive men, unendowed with any extraordinary abilities, have been enabled, by means of divinity, to enjoy a long life in tranquillity and affluence?'

"Whereupon did one of the young gentlemen smile, and, on small encouragement from Doctor Glaston to enounce the cause thereof, he repeated these verses, which he gave afterward unto me:-

"'In the names on our books Was standing Tom Flooke's, Who took in due time his degrees; Which when he had taken, Like Ascham or Bacon, By night he could snore and by day he could sneeze.

"'Calm, pithy, pragmatical, {164a} Tom Flooke he could at a call Rise up like a hound from his sleep; And if many a quarto He gave not his heart to, If pellucid in lore, in his cups he was deep.

"'He never did harm, And his heart might be warm, For his doublet most certainly was so; And now has Torn Flooke A quieter nook Than ever had Spenser or Tasso.

"'He lives in his house, As still as a mouse, Until he has eaten his dinner; But then doth his nose Outroar all the woes That encompass the death of a sinner.

"'And there oft has been seen No less than a dean To tarry a week in the parish, In October and March, When deans are less starch, And days are less gleamy and garish.

"'That Sunday Tom's eyes Look'd always more wise, He repeated more often his text; Two leaves stuck together, (The fault of the weather) And . . . THE REST YE SHALL HEAR IN MY NEXT.

"'At mess he lost quite His small appetite, By losing his friend the good dean; The cook's sight must fail her! The eggs sure are staler! The beef, too!—why, what can it mean?

"'He turned off the butcher, To the cook could he clutch her, What his choler had done there's no saying - 'T is verily said He smote low the cock's head, And took other pullets for laying.'

"On this being concluded, Doctor Glaston said he shrewdly suspected an indigestion on the part of Mr. Thomas Flooke, caused by sitting up late and studying hard with Mr. Dean; and he protested that theology itself should not carry us into the rawness of the morning air, particularly in such critical months as March and October, in one of which the sap rises, in the other sinks, and there are many stars very sinister."

Sir Thomas shook his head, and declared he would not be uncharitable to rector, or dean, or doctor, but that certain surmises swam uppermost. He then winked at Master Silas, who said, incontinently, -

"You have it, Sir Thomas! The blind buzzards! with their stars and saps!"

"Well, but Silas! you yourself have told us over and over again, in church, that there are arcana."

"So there are,—I uphold it," replied Master Silas; "but a fig for the greater part, and a fig-leaf for the rest. As for these signs, they are as plain as any page in the Revelation."

Sir Thomas, after short pondering, said, scoffingly, -

"In regard to the rawness of the air having any effect whatsoever on those who discourse orthodoxically on theology, it is quite as absurd as to imagine that a man ever caught cold in a Protestant church. I am rather of opinion that it was a judgment on the rector for his evil-mindedness toward the cook, the Lord foreknowing that he was about to be wilful and vengeful in that quarter. It was, however, more advisedly that he took other pullets, on his own view of the case, although it might be that the same pullets would suit him again as well as ever, when his appetite should return; for it doth not appear that they were loath to lay, but laid somewhat unsatisfactorily.

"Now, youth," continued his worship, "if in our clemency we should spare thy life, study this higher elegiacal strain which thou hast carried with thee from Oxford; it containeth, over and above an unusual store of biography, much sound moral doctrine, for those who are heedful in the weighing of it. And what can be more affecting than -

'At mess he lost quite His small appetite, By losing his friend the good dean'?

And what an insight into character! Store it up; store it up! SMALL APPETITE, particular; GOOD DEAN, generick."

Hereupon did Master Silas jerk me with his indicative joint, the elbow to wit, and did say in my ear, -

"He means DEANERY. Give me one of those bones so full of marrow, and let my lord bishop have all the meat over it, and welcome. If a dean is not on his stilts, he is not on his stumps; he stands on his own ground; he is a noli-metangeretarian."

"What art thou saying of those sectaries, good Master Silas?" quoth Sir Thomas, not hearing him distinctly.

"I was talking of the dean," replied Master Silas. "He was the very dean who wrote and sang that song called the Two Jacks."

"Hast it?" asked he.

Master Silas shook his head, and, trying in vain to recollect it, said at last, -

"After dinner it sometimes pops out of a filbert-shell in a crack; and I have known it float on the first glass of Herefordshire cider; it also hath some affinity with very stiff and old bottled beer; but in a morning it seemeth unto me like a remnant of over-night."

"Our memory waneth, Master Silas!" quoth Sir Thomas, looking seriously. "If thou couldst repeat it, without the grimace of singing, it were not ill."

Master Silas struck the table with his fist, and repeated the first stave angrily; but in the second he forgot the admonition of Sir Thomas, and did sing outright, -

"Jack Calvin and Jack Cade, Two gentles of one trade, Two tinkers, Very gladly would pull down Mother Church and Father Crown, And would starve or would drown Right thinkers.

"Honest man! honest man! Fill the can, fill the can, They are coming! they are coming! they are coming! If any drop be left, It might tempt 'em to a theft - Zooks! it was only the ale that was humming."

"In the first stave, gramercy! there is an awful verity," quoth Sir Thomas; "but I wonder that a dean should let his skewer slip out, and his fat catch fire so wofully, in the second. Light stuff, Silas, fit only for ale-houses."

Master Silas was nettled in the nose, and answered, -

"Let me see the man in Warwickshire, and in all the counties round, who can run at such a rate with so light a feather in the palm of his hand. I am no poet, thank God! but I know what folks can do, and what folks cannot do."

"Well, Silas," replied Sir Thomas, "after thy thanksgiving for being no poet, let us have the rest of the piece."

"The rest!" quoth Master Silas. "When the ale hath done with its humming, it is time, methinks, to dismiss it. Sir, there never was any more; you might as well ask for more after Amen or the see of Canterbury."

Sir Thomas was dissatisfied, and turned off the discourse; and peradventure he grew more inclined to be gracious unto Willy from the slight rub his chaplain had given him, were it only for the contrariety. When he had collected his thoughts he was determined to assert his supremacy on the score of poetry.

"Deans, I perceive, like other quality," said he, "cannot run on long together. My friend, Sir Everard Starkeye, could never overleap four bars. I remember but one composition of his, on a young lady who mocked at his inconsistency, in calling her sometimes his Grace and at other times his Muse.

'My Grace shall Fanny Carew be, While here she deigns to stay; And (ah, how sad the change for me!) My Muse when far away!'

And when we laughed at him for turning his back upon her after the fourth verse, all he could say for himself was, that he would rather a game at ALL FOURS with Fanny, than OMBRE and PICQUET with the finest furbelows in Christendom. Men of condition do usually want a belt in the course."

Whereunto said Master Silas, -

"Men out of condition are quite as liable to lack it, methinks."

"Silas! Silas!" replied the knight, impatiently, "prithee keep to thy divinity, thy strong hold upon Zion; thence none that faces thee can draw thee without being bitten to the bone. Leave poetry to me."

"With all my heart," quoth Master Silas, "I will never ask a belt from her, until I see she can afford to give a shirt. She has promised a belt, indeed,—not one, however, that doth much improve the wind,—to this lad here, and will keep her word; but she was forced to borrow the pattern from a Carthusian friar, and somehow it slips above the shoulder."

"I am by no means sure of that," quoth Sir Thomas. "He shall have fair play. He carrieth in his mind many valuable things, whereof it hath pleased Providence to ordain him the depository. He hath laid before us certain sprigs of poetry from Oxford, trim as pennyroyal, and larger leaves of household divinity, the most mildly-savoured,— pleasant in health and wholesome in sickness."

"I relish not such mutton-broth divinity," said Master Silas. "It makes me sick in order to settle my stomach."

"We may improve it," said the knight, "but first let us hear more."

Then did William Shakspeare resume Dr. Glaston's discourse.

"'Ethelbert! I think thou walkest but little; otherwise I should take thee with me, some fine fresh morning, as far as unto the first hamlet on the Cherwell. There lies young Wellerby, who, the year before, was wont to pass many hours of the day poetising amid the ruins of Godstow nunnery. It is said that he bore a fondness toward a young maiden in that place, formerly a village, now containing but two old farm-houses. In my memory there were still extant several dormitories. Some love-sick girl had recollected an ancient name, and had engraven on a stone with a garden-nail, which lay in rust near it, -


I entered these precincts, and beheld a youth of manly form and countenance, washing and wiping a stone with a handful of wet grass; and on my going up to him, and asking what he had found, he shewed it to me. The next time I saw him was near the banks of the Cherwell. He had tried, it appears, to forget or overcome his foolish passion, and had applied his whole mind unto study. He was foiled by his competitor; and now he sought consolation in poetry. Whether this opened the wounds that had closed in his youthful breast, and malignant Love, in his revenge, poisoned it; or whether the disappointment he had experienced in finding others preferred to him, first in the paths of fortune, then in those of the muses,—he was thought to have died broken-hearted.

"'About half a mile from St. John's College is the termination of a natural terrace, with the Cherwell close under it, in some places bright with yellow and red flowers glancing and glowing through the stream, and suddenly in others dark with the shadows of many different trees, in broad, overbending thickets, and with rushes spear-high, and party-coloured flags.

"'After a walk in Midsummer, the emersion of our hands into the cool and closing grass is surely not the least among our animal delights. I was just seated, and the first sensation of rest vibrated in me gently, as though it were music to the limbs, when I discovered by a hollow in the herbage that another was near. The long meadow-sweet and blooming burnet half concealed from me him whom the earth was about to hide totally and for ever.

"'Master Batchelor,' said I, 'it is ill-sleeping by the water-side.'

"'No answer was returned. I arose, went to the place, and recognised poor Wellerby. His brow was moist, his cheek was warm. A few moments earlier, and that dismal lake whereunto and wherefrom the waters of life, the buoyant blood, ran no longer, might have received one vivifying ray reflected from my poor casement. I might not indeed have comforted—I have often failed; but there is one who never has; and the strengthener of the bruised reed should have been with us.

"'Remembering that his mother did abide one mile further on, I walked forward to the mansion, and asked her what tidings she lately had received of her son. She replied that, having given up his mind to light studies, the fellows of the college would not elect him. The master had warned him beforehand to abandon his selfish poetry, take up manfully the quarterstaff of logic, and wield it for St. John's, come who would into the ring. "'We want our man,'" said he to me, "'and your son hath failed us in the hour of need. Madam, he hath been foully beaten in the schools by one he might have swallowed, with due exercise.'"

"'"I rated him, told him I was poor, and he knew it. He was stung, and threw himself upon my neck, and wept. Twelve days have passed since, and only three rainy ones. I hear he has been seen upon the knoll yonder; but hither he hath not come. I trust he knows at last the value of time, and I shall be heartily glad to see him after this accession of knowledge. Twelve days, it is true, are rather a chink than a gap in time; yet, O gentle sir, they are that chink which makes the vase quite valueless. There are light words which may never be shaken off the mind they fall on. My child, who was hurt by me, will not let me see the marks."

"'"Lady," said I, "none are left upon him. Be comforted! thou shalt see him this hour. All that thy God hath not taken is yet thine." She looked at me earnestly, and would have then asked something, but her voice failed her. There was no agony, no motion, save in the lips and cheeks. Being the widow of one who fought under Hawkins, she remembered his courage and sustained the shock, saying calmly, "God's will be done! I pray that he find me as worthy as he findeth me willing to join them."

"'Now, in her unearthly thoughts she had led her only son to the bosom of her husband; and in her spirit (which often is permitted to pass the gates of death with holy love) she left them both with their Creator.

"'The curate of the village sent those who should bring home the body; and some days afterward he came unto me, beseeching me to write the epitaph. Being no friend to stonecutters' charges, I entered not into biography, but wrote these few words:-


"Poor tack! poor tack!" sourly quoth Master Silas. "If your wise doctor could say nothing more about the fool, who died like a rotten sheep among the darnels, his Latin might have held out for the father, and might have told people he was as cool as a cucumber at home, and as hot as pepper in battle. Could he not find room enough on the whinstone, to tell the folks of the village how he played the devil among the dons, burning their fingers when they would put thumbscrews upon us, punching them in the weasand as a blacksmith punches a horse-shoe, and throwing them overboard like bilgewater?

"Has Oxford lost all her Latin? Here is no capitani filius; no more mention of family than a Welchman would have allowed him; no hic jacet; and, worse than all, the devil a tittle of spe redemptionis, or anno Domini."

"Willy!" quoth Sir Thomas, "I shrewdly do suspect there was more, and that thou hast forgotten it."

"Sir!" answered Willy, "I wrote not down the words, fearing to mis- spell them, and begged them of the doctor, when I took my leave of him on the morrow; and verily he wrote down all he had repeated. I keep them always in the tin-box in my waistcoat-pocket, among the eel-hooks, on a scrap of paper a finger's length and breadth, folded in the middle to fit. And when the eels are running, I often take it out and read it before I am aware. I could as soon forget my own epitaph as this."

"Simpleton!" said Sir Thomas, with his gentle, compassionate smile; "but thou hast cleared thyself."


"I think the doctor gave one idle chap as much solid pudding as he could digest, with a slice to spare for another."


"And yet after this pudding the doctor gave him a spoonful of custard, flavoured with a little bitter, which was mostly left at the bottom for the other idle chap."

Sir Thomas not only did endure this very goodnaturedly, but deigned even to take in good part the smile upon my countenance, as though he were a smile collector, and as though his estate were so humble that he could hold his laced bonnet (in all his bravery) for bear and fiddle.

He then said unto Willy,

"Place likewise this custard before us."

"There is but little of it; the platter is shallow," replied he; "'t was suited to Master Ethelbert's appetite. The contents were these:

"'The things whereon thy whole soul brooded in its innermost recesses, and with all its warmth and energy, will pass unprized and unregarded, not only throughout thy lifetime but long after. For the higher beauties of poetry are beyond the capacity, beyond the vision of almost all. Once perhaps in half a century a single star is discovered, then named and registered, then mentioned by five studious men to five more; at last some twenty say, or repeat in writing, what they have heard about it. Other stars await other discoveries. Few and solitary and wide asunder are those who calculate their relative distances, their mysterious influences, their glorious magnitude, and their stupendous height. 'T is so, believe me, and ever was so, with the truest and best poetry. Homer, they say, was blind; he might have been ere he died,—that he sat among the blind, we are sure.

"'Happy they who, like this young lad from Stratford, write poetry on the saddle-bow when their geldings are jaded, and keep the desk for better purposes.'

"The young gentlemen, like the elderly, all turned their faces toward me, to my confusion, so much did I remark of sneer and scoff at my cost. Master Ethelbert was the only one who spared me. He smiled and said, -

"'Be patient! From the higher heavens of poetry, it is long before the radiance of the brightest star can reach the world below. We hear that one man finds out one beauty, another man finds out another, placing his observatory and instruments on the poet's grave. The worms must have eaten us before it is rightly known what we are. It is only when we are skeletons that we are boxed and ticketed, and prized and shewn. Be it so! I shall not be tired of waiting.'"

"Reasonable youth!" said Sir Thomas; "yet both he and Glaston walk rather A-STRADDLE, methinks. They might have stepped up to thee more straightforwardly, and told thee the trade ill suiteth thee, having little fire, little fantasy, and little learning. Furthermore, that one poet, as one bull, sufficeth for two parishes, and that where they are stuck too close together they are apt to fire, like haystacks. I have known it myself; I have had my malignants and scoffers."


"I never could have thought it!"


"There again! Another proof of thy inexperience."


"Mat Atterend! Mat Atterend! where wert thou sleeping?"


"I shall now from my own stores impart unto thee what will avail to tame thee, shewing the utter hopelessness of standing on that golden weathercock which supporteth but one at a time.

"The passion for poetry wherewith Monsieur Dubois would have inspired me, as he was bound to do, being paid beforehand, had cold water thrown upon it by that unlucky one, Sir Everard. He ridiculed the idea of male and female rhymes, and the necessity of trying them as rigidly by the eye as by the ear,—saying to Monsieur Dubois that the palate, in which the French excel all mortals, ought also to be consulted in their acceptance or rejection. Monsieur Dubois told us that if we did not wish to be taught French verse, he would teach us English. Sir Everard preferred the Greek; but Monsieur Dubois would not engage to teach the mysteries of that poetry in fewer than thirty lessons,—having (since his misfortunes) forgotten the letters and some other necessaries.

"The first poem I ever wrote was in the character of a shepherd, to Mistress Anne Nanfan, daughter of Squire Fulke Nanfan, of Worcestershire, at that time on a visit to the worshipful family of Compton at Long Compton.

"We were young creatures,—I but twenty-four and seven months (for it was written on the 14th of May), and she well-nigh upon a twelve- month younger. My own verses, the first, are neither here nor there; indeed, they were imbedded in solid prose, like lampreys and ram's-horns {181a} in our limestone, and would be hard to get out whole. What they are may be seen by her answer, all in verse:-

"'Faithful shepherd! dearest Tommy! I have received the letter from ye, And mightily delight therein. But mother, SHE says, "Nanny! Nanny! HOW, BEING STAID AND PRUDENT, CAN YE THINK OF A MAN AND NOT OF SIN?"

"Sir shepherd! I held down my head, And "MOTHER! FIE, FOR SHAME!" I said; All I could say would not content her; Mother she would for ever harp on't, "A MAN'S NO BETTER THAN A SARPENT, AND NOT A CRUMB MORE INNOCENTER."'

"I know not how it happeneth; but a poet doth open before a poet, albeit of baser sort. It is not that I hold my poetry to be better than some other in time past, it is because I would shew thee that I was virtuous and wooed virtuously, that I repeat it. Furthermore, I wished to leave a deep impression on the mother's mind that she was exceedingly wrong in doubting my innocence.


"Gracious Heaven! and was this too doubted?"


"Maybe not; but the whole race of men, the whole male sex, wanted and found in me a protector. I shewed her what I was ready to do."


"Perhaps, sir, it was for that very thing that she put the daughter back and herself forward."


"I say not so; but thou mayest know as much as befitteth, by what follows:-

"'Worshipful lady! honoured madam! I at this present truly glad am To have so fair an opportunity Of saying I would be the man To bind in wedlock Mistress Anne, Living with her in holy unity.

"'And for a jointure I will gi'e her A good two hundred pounds a year Accruing from my landed rents, Whereof see t'other paper, telling Lands, copses, and grown woods for felling, Capons, and cottage tenements.

"'And who must come at sound of horn, And who pays but a barley-corn, And who is bound to keep a whelp, And what is brought me for the pound, And copyholders, which are sound, And which do need the leech's help.

"'And you may see in these two pages Exact their illnesses and ages, Enough (God willing) to content ye; Who looks full red, who looks full yellow, Who plies the mullen, who the mallow, Who fails at fifty, who at twenty.

"'Jim Yates must go; he's one day very hot, And one day ice; I take a heriot; And poorly, poorly's Jacob Burgess. The doctor tells me he has pour'd Into his stomach half his hoard Of anthelminticals and purges.

"'Judith, the wife of Ebenezer Fillpots, won't have him long to tease her; Fillpots blows hot and cold like Jim, And, sleepless lest the boys should plunder His orchard, he must soon knock under; Death has been looking out for him.

"'He blusters; but his good yard land Under the church, his ale-house, and His Bible, which he cut in spite, Must all fall in; he stamps and swears And sets his neighbours by the ears - Fillpots, thy saddle sits not tight!'

"The epitaph is ready:-


"'And he who lent my lord his wife Has but a very ticklish life; Although she won him many a hundred, 'T won't do; none comes with briefs and wills, And all her gainings are gilt pills From the sick madman that she plundered.

"'And the brave lad who sent the bluff Olive-faced Frenchman (sure enough) Screaming and scouring like a plover, Must follow—him I mean who dash'd Into the water and then thrash'd The cullion past the town of Dover.

"'But first there goes the blear old dame Who nurs'd me; you have heard her name, No doubt, at Compton, Sarah Salways; There are twelve groats at once, beside The frying-pan in which she fried Her pancakes. Madam, I am always, etc., Sir THOMAS LUCY, Knight.'

"I did believe that such a clear and conscientious exposure of my affairs would have brought me a like return. My letter was sent back to me with small courtesy. It may be there was no paper in the house, or none equalling mine in whiteness. No notice was taken of the rent-roll; but between the second and third stanza these four lines were written, in a very fine hand:-

"'Most honour'd knight, Sir Thomas! two For merry Nan will never do; Now under favour let me say 't, She will bring more herself than that.'

I have reason to believe that the worthy lady did neither write nor countenance the same, perhaps did not ever know of them. She always had at her elbow one who jogged it when he listed, and although he could not overrule the daughter, he took especial care that none other should remove her from his tutelage, even when she had fairly grown up to woman's estate.

"Now, after all this condescension and confidence, promise me, good lad, promise that thou wilt not edge and elbow me. Never let it be said, when people say, SIR THOMAS WAS A POET WHEN HE WILL EDIT,—SO IS BILL SHAKSPEARE! It beseemeth not that our names do go together cheek by jowl in this familiar fashion, like an old beagle and a whelp, in couples, where if the one would, the other would not."


"Sir, while these thoughts are passing in your mind, remember there is another pair of couples out of which it would be as well to keep the cur's neck."


"Young man! dost thou understand Master Silas?"


"But too well. Not those couples in which it might be apprehended that your worship and my unworthiness should appear too close together; but those sorrowfuller which peradventure might unite Master Silas and me in our road to Warwick and upwards. But I resign all right and title unto these as willingly as I did unto the other, and am as ready to let him go alone."


"If we keep wheeling and wheeling, like a flock of pigeons, and rising again when we are within a foot of the ground, we shall never fill the craw."


"Do thou then question him, Silas."


"I am none of the quorum; the business is none of mine."

Then Sir Thomas took Master Silas again into the bay window, and said softly, -

"Silas, he hath no inkling of thy meaning. The business is a ticklish one. I like not overmuch to meddle and make therein."

Master Silas stood dissatisfied awhile, and then answered, -

"The girl's mother, sir, was housemaid and sempstress in your own family, time back, and you thereby have a right over her unto the third and fourth generation."

"I may have, Silas," said his worship, "but it was no longer than four or five years agone that folks were fain to speak maliciously of me for only finding my horse in her hovel."

Sir Silas looked red and shiny as a ripe strawberry on a Snitterfield tile, and answered somewhat peevishly, -

"The same folks, I misgive me, may find the rogue's there any night in the week."

Whereunto replied Sir Thomas, mortifiedly,

"I cannot think it, Silas! I cannot think it."

And after some hesitation and disquiet, -

"Nay, I am resolved I will not think it; no man, friend or enemy, shall push it into me."

"Worshipful sir," answered Master Silas, "I am as resolute as any one in what I would think and what I would not think, and never was known to fight dunghill in either cockpit.

"Were he only out of the way, she might do duty, but what doth she now?

"She points his young beard for him; persuading him it grows thicker and thicker, blacker and blacker; she washes his ruff, stiffens it, plaits it, tries it upon his neck, removes the hair from under it, pinches it with thumb and fore-finger, pretending that he hath moiled it, puts her hand all the way round it, SETTING IT TO RIGHTS, as she calleth it -

"Ah, Sir Thomas! a louder whistle than that will never call her back again when she is off with him."

Sir Thomas was angered, and cried tartly, -

"Who whistled? I would know."

Master Silas said submissively, -

"Your honour, as wrongfully I fancied."

"Wrongfully, indeed, and to my no small disparagement and discomfort," said the knight, verily believing that he had not whistled; for deep and dubious were his cogitations.

"I protest," went he on to say, "I protest it was the wind of the casement; and if I live another year I will put a better in the place of it. Whistle indeed—for what? I care no more about her than about an unfledged cygnet,—a child, {189a} a chicken, a mere kitten, a crab-blossom in the hedge."

The dignity of his worship was wounded by Master Silas unaware, and his wrath again turned suddenly upon poor William.

"Hark-ye, knave! hark-ye again, ill-looking stripling, lanky from vicious courses! I will reclaim thee from them; I will do what thy own father would, and cannot. Thou shalt follow his business."

"I cannot do better, may it please your worship!" said the lad.

"It shall lead thee unto wealth and respectability," said the knight, somewhat appeased by his ready compliancy and low, gentle voice. "Yea, but not here,—no witches, no wantons (this word fell gravely and at full-length upon the ear), no spells hereabout.

"Gloucestershire is within a measured mile of thy dwelling. There is one at Bristol, formerly a parish-boy, or little better, who now writeth himself GENTLEMAN in large, round letters, and hath been elected, I hear, to serve as burgess in parliament for his native city; just as though he had eaten a capon or turkey-poult in his youth, and had actually been at grammar school and college. When he began, he had not credit for a goat-skin; and now, behold ye! this very coat upon my back did cost me eight shillings the dearer for him, he bought up wool so largely."


"May it please your worship! if my father so ordereth, I go cheerfully."


"Thou art grown discreet and dutiful. I am fain to command thy release, taking thy promise on oath, and some reasonable security, that thou wilt abstain and withhold in future from that idle and silly slut, that sly and scoffing giggler, Hannah Hathaway, with whom, to the heartache of thy poor, worthy father, thou wantonly keepest company."

Then did Sir Thomas ask Master Silas Gough for the Book of Life, bidding him deliver it into the right hand of Billy, with an eye upon him that he touch it with both lips,—it being taught by the Jesuits, and caught too greedily out of their society and communion, that whoso toucheth it with one lip only, and thereafter sweareth falsely, cannot be called a perjurer, since perjury is breaking an oath. But breaking half an oath, as he doth who toucheth the Bible or crucifix with one lip only, is no more perjury than breaking an eggshell is breaking an egg, the shell being a part, and the egg being an integral.

William did take the Holy Book with all due reverence the instant it was offered to his hand. His stature seemed to rise therefrom as from a pulpit, and Sir Thomas was quite edified.

"Obedient and conducible youth!" said he. "See there, Master Silas! what hast thou now to say against him? Who sees farthest?"

"The man from the gallows is the most likely, bating his nightcap and blinker," said Master Silas, peevishly. "He hath not outwitted me yet."

"He seized upon the Anchor of Faith like a martyr," said Sir Thomas, "and even now his face burns red as elder-wine before the gossips."


"I await the further orders of your worship from the chair."


"I return and seat myself."

And then did Sir Thomas say with great complacency and satisfaction in the ear of Master Silas, -

"What civility, and deference, and sedateness of mind, Silas!"

But Master Silas answered not.


"Must I swear, sirs?"


"Yea, swear; be of good courage. I protest to thee by my honour and knighthood, no ill shall come unto thee therefrom. Thou shalt not be circumvented in thy simpleness and inexperience."

Willy, having taken the Book of Life, did kiss it piously, and did press it unto his breast, saying,

"Tenderest love is the growth of my heart, as the grass is of Alvescote mead.

"May I lose my life or my friends, or my memory, or my reason; may I be viler in my own eyes than those men are—"

Here he was interrupted, most lovingly, by Sir Thomas, who said unto him, -

"Nay, nay, nay! poor youth! do not tell me so! they are not such very bad men, since thou appealest unto Caesar,—that is, unto the judgment-seat."

Now his worship did mean the two witnesses, Joseph and Euseby; and, sooth to say there be many worse. But William had them not in his eye; his thoughts were elsewhere, as will be evident, for he went on thus:-

"—if ever I forget or desert thee, or ever cease to worship {193a} and cherish thee, my Hannah!"


"The madman! the audacious, desperate, outrageous villain! Look-ye, sir! where he flung the Holy Gospel! Behold it on the holly and box boughs in the chimney-place, spreaden all abroad, like a lad about to be whipped!"


"Miscreant knave! I will send after him forthwith!

"Ho, there! is the caitiff at hand, or running off?"

Jonas Greenfield the butler did budge forward after a while, and say, on being questioned, -

"Surely, that was he! Was his nag tied to the iron gate at the lodge, Master Silas?"


"What should I know about a thief's nag, Jonas Greenfield?"

"And didst thou let him go, Jonas,—even thou?" said Sir Thomas. "What! are none found faithful?"

"Lord love your worship," said Jonas Greenfield; "a man of threescore and two may miss catching a kite upon wing. Fleetness doth not make folks the faithfuller, or that youth yonder beats us all in faithfulness.

"Look! he darts on like a greyhound whelp after a leveret. He, sure enough, it was! I now remember the sorrel mare his father bought of John Kinderley last Lammas, swift as he threaded the trees along the park. He must have reached Wellesbourne ere now at that gallop, and pretty nigh Walton-hill."


"Merciful Christ! grant the country be rid of him for ever! What dishonour upon his friends and native town! A reputable wool- stapler's son turned gipsy and poet for life."


"A Beelzebub; he spake as bigly and fiercely as a soaken yeoman at an election feast,—this obedient and conducible youth!"


"It was so written. Hold thy peace, Silas!"



Twelve days are over and gone since William Shakspeare did leave our parts. And the spinster, Hannah Hathaway, is in sad doleful plight about him; forasmuch as Master Silas Cough went yesterday unto her, in her mother's house at Shottery, and did desire both her and her mother to take heed and be admonished, that if ever she, Hannah, threw away one thought after the runagate William Shakspeare, he should swing.

The girl could do nothing but weep; while as the mother did give her solemn promise that her daughter should never more think about him all her natural life, reckoning from the moment of this her promise.

And the maiden, now growing more reasonable, did promise the same. But Master Silas said,



Hannah screamed, and swooned, the better to forget him. And Master Silas went home easier and contenteder. For now all the worst of his hard duty was accomplished,—he having been, on the Wednesday of last week, at the speech of Master John Shakspeare, Will's father, to inquire whether the sorrel mare was his. To which question the said Master John Shakspeare did answer, "YEA."

"ENOUGH SAID!" rejoined Master Silas.


May the Lord in his mercy give the lad a good deliverance, if so be it be no sin to wish it!

October 1, A. D. 1582.



{8a} Quicken, bring to life.

{8b} Debtors were often let out of prison at the coronation of a new king; but creditors never paid by him.

{21a} The word here omitted is quite illegible. It appears to have some reference to the language of the Highlanders. That it was rough and outlandish is apparent from the reprimand of Sir Thomas.

{29a} By this deposition it would appear that Shakspeare had formed the idea, if not the outline, of several plays already, much as he altered them, no doubt, in after life.

{39a} The greater part of the value of the present work arises from the certain information it affords us on the price of small needles in the reign of Elizabeth. Fine needles in her days were made only at Liege, and some few cities in the Netherlands, and may be reckoned among those things which were much dearer than they are now.

{39b} Mr. Tooke had not yet published his Pantheon.

{44a} This was really the case within our memory.

{45a} It was formerly thought, and perhaps is thought still, that the hand of a man recently hanged, being rubbed on the tumour of the king's evil, was able to cure it. The crown and the gallows divided the glory of the sovereign remedy.

{46a} And yet he never did sail any farther than into Bohemia.

{50a} Smock, formerly a part of the female dress, corresponding with shroud, or what we now call (or lately called) shirt of the man's. Fox, speaking of Latimer's burning, says, "Being slipped into his shroud."

{50b} Faith nailing the ears is a strong and sacred metaphor. The rhyme is imperfect,—Shakspeare was not always attentive to these minor beauties.

{53a} Shakspeare seems to have profited afterward by this metaphor, even more perhaps than by all the direct pieces of instruction in poetry given him so handsomely by the worthy knight. And here it may be permitted the editor to profit also by the manuscript, correcting in Shakspeare what is absolute nonsense as now printed:-

"VAULTING ambition that o'erleaps ITSELF."

It should be its SELL. SELL is SADDLE in Spenser and elsewhere, from the Latin and Italian.

This emendation was shewn to the late Mr. Hazlitt, an acute man at least, who expressed his conviction that it was the right reading, and added somewhat more in approbation of it.

{55a} It has been suggested that this answer was borrowed from Virgil, and goes strongly against the genuineness of the manuscript. The Editor's memory was upon the stretch to recollect the words; the learned critic supplied them:-

"Solum AEneas vocat: et vocet, oro."

The Editor could only reply, indeed weakly, that CALLING and WAITING are not exactly the same, unless when tradesmen rap and gentlemen are leaving town.

{66a} Here the manuscript is blotted; but the probability is that it was FISHMONGER, rather than IRONMONGER, fishmongers having always been notorious cheats and liars.

{70a} ON THE NAIL appears to be intended to express READY PAYMENT.

{72a} The Cordilleras are mountains, we know, running through South America. Perhaps a pun was intended; or possibly it might, in the age of Elizabeth, have been a vulgar term for HANGING, although we find no trace of the expression in other books. We have no clue to guide us here. It might be suggested that Shakspeare, who shines little in geographical knowledge, fancied the Cordilleras to extend into North America, had convicts in his time been transported to those colonies. Certainly, many adventurers and desperate men went thither.

{89a} In that age there was prevalent a sort of cholera, on which Fracastorius, half a century before, wrote a Latin poem, employing the graceful nymphs of Homer and Hesiod, somewhat disguised, in the drudgery of pounding certain barks and minerals. An article in the Impeachment of Cardinal Wolsey accuses him of breathing in the king's face, knowing that he was affected with this cholera. It was a great assistant to the Reformation, by removing some of the most vigorous champions that opposed it. In the Holy College it was followed by the SWEATING SICKNESS, which thinned it very sorely; and several even of God's vicegerents were laid under tribulation by it. Among the chambers of the Vatican it hung for ages, and it crowned the labours of Pope Leo XII., of blessed memory, with a crown somewhat uneasy.

{105a} Sir Thomas seems to have been jealous of these two towers, certainly the finest in England. If Warwick Castle could borrow the windows from Kenilworth, it would be complete. The knight is not very courteous on its hospitality. He may, perhaps, have experienced it, as Garrick and Quin did under the present occupant's grandfather, on whom the title of Earl of Warwick was conferred for the eminent services he had rendered to his country as one of the lords of the bedchamber to his Majesty George the Second. The verses of Garrick on his invitation and visit are remembered by many. Quin's are less known.

He shewed us Guy's pot, but the soup he forgot; Not a meal did his lordship allow, Unless we gnaw'd o'er the blade-bone of the boar, Or the rib of the famous Dun Cow.

When Nevile the great Earl of Warwick lived here, Three oxen for breakfast were slain, And strangers invited to sports and good cheer, And invited again and again.

This earl is in purse or in spirit so low, That he with no oxen will feed 'em; And all of the former great doings we know Is, he gives us a book and we read 'em.


STALE peers are but tough morsels, and 't were well If we had found the FRESH more eatable; Garrick! I do not say 't were well for HIM, For we had pluck'd the plover limb from limb.


{106a} Another untoward blot! but leaving no doubt of the word. The only doubt is whether he meant the MUZZLE of the animal itself, or one of those leathern muzzles which are often employed to coerce the violence of ferocious animals. In besieged cities men have been reduced to such extremities. But the MUZZLE, in this place, we suspect, would more properly be called the BLINKER, which is often put upon bulls in pastures when they are vicious.

{108a} This would countenance the opinion of those who are inclined to believe that Shakspeare was a Roman Catholic. His hatred and contempt of priests, which are demonstrated wherever he has introduced them, may have originated from the unfairness of Silas Gough. Nothing of that kind, we may believe, had occurred to him from friars and monks, whom he treats respectfully and kindly, perhaps in return for some such services to himself as Friar Lawrence had bestowed on Romeo,—or rather less; for Shakspeare was grateful. The words quoted by him from some sermon, now lost, prove him no friend to the filchings and swindling of popery.

{111a} It is a pity that the old divines should have indulged, as they often did, in such images as this. Some readers in search of argumentative subtility, some in search of sound Christianity, some in search of pure English undefiled, have gone through with them; and their labours (however heavy) have been well repaid.

{124a} Tilley valley was the favourite adjuration of James the Second. It appears in the comedies of Shakspeare.

{133a} Whoreson, if we may hazard a conjecture, means the son of a woman of ill-repute. In this we are borne out by the context. It appears to have escaped the commentators on Shakspeare.

Whoreson, a word of frequent occurrence in the comedies; more rarely found in the tragedies. Although now obsolete, the expression proves that there were (or were believed to be) such persons formerly.

The Editor is indebted to two learned friends for these two remarks, which appear no less just than ingenious.

{153a} Belly-ache, a disorder once not uncommon in England. Even the name is now almost forgotten; yet the elder of us may remember at least the report of it, and some, perhaps, even the complaint itself, in our school-days. It usually broke out about the cherry season; and in some cases made its appearance again at the first nutting.

{157a} Sir Thomas borrowed this expression from Spenser, who thus calls Queen Elizabeth.

{159a} Humboldt notices this.

{164a} Pragmatical here means only PRECISE.

{181a} It is doubtful whether Doctor Buckland will agree with Sir Thomas that these petrifactions are ram's-horns and lampreys.

{189a} She was then twenty-eight years of age. Sir Thomas must have spoken of her from earlier recollections. Shakspeare was in his twentieth year.

{193a} It is to be feared that his taste for venison outlasted that for matrimony, spite of this vow.


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