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Shakspere 1558, '62, '63, '64, '66, '69, 71, ’79, 80, '83,
daughter Susanna in 1642 disputed the unmistakable handwriting of her deceased husband in such a manner as to betray her illiteracy. Mr. C. F. Gunther, of Chicago, claims to have obtained a copy of the Shakspere Folio of 1632, (i.e., the second Folio,) containing the author's autograph pasted on a fly-leaf, underneath which is written: “The works of William Shakespeare. Born in April, 1564, and died in April, 1616. JOHN WARD.” And on the same fly-leaf is pasted a letter from Charles Godwin, of Bath, dated February 16, 1839, to Dr. Charles Severn, of London, who was then editing “The Diary of the Rev. John Ward, A. M.,” Vicar of Stratford-upon-Avon from 1648 to 1679. The book is said to have been owned by a Mormon, and is supposed to have been brought from England by an emigrant to Utah. Aside from the impossibility of such an autograph escaping from England to the wilds of America and remaining undiscovered so many years, the fac-simile in the Chicago Current of May 23, 1885, betrays most certain evidence of fraud. Compare it with the five genuine scrawls of Shakspere. It is so exact a copy of the last signature to the will as to indicate that it was traced therefrom. Shakspere's last signature:
This close resemblance in so clumsy an autograph would be extraordinary, if not impossible; but how easy to forge it by first tracing it lightly with a pencil and then completing it with a pen. Here is a hair-line tracing of the spurious over the genuine autograph :
Even the most illiterate man who is obliged often to sign his name, will do it uniformly, so that when you have seen his signature once you will know it again. For example, take the following autographs:
WASHINGTON, D. C., May 31, 1885.
The undersigned, aged 78 years, wrote the above autographs in presence of the two subscribing witnesses. And he never wrote and cannot write anything but his name, though he can read print with ease. And he further says that he learned to write his name in the course of one month in the administration of President Polk (1845–'9,) while serving as a Capitol policeman; otherwise he would have been obliged to sign the pay-roll with his cross.
Witness: A. WATson, JOHN W. SMITH. WM. HENRY BURR. Bacon required a mask, and he found it in the illiterate play-actor Shakspere.
NO TRUE LIKENESS OF SHAKSPERE.
The likeness of Shakspere in the Folio of 1623 has frequently been called “an abominable libel on humanity.” And yet its fidelity is certified by Ben Jonson in laudatory lines. Jonson was Bacon's friend and enthusiastic admirer. If there was an original portrait of that wooden face it has never been found. If there was a better likeness of Shakspere in existence why was it not reproduced in that famous Folio 2 The same ugly engraving reappeared in all the later editions up to 1685.
The bust on the monument at Stratford was first noticed in 1623. It was not taken from life, and is unlike any picture of Shakspere. It presents him in the act of composition, and “the vis comica,” says Boaden, “so broadens his countenance, that it is hardly a stretch of fancy to suppose him in the actual creation of Falstaff himself.” More likely, we should say, Falstaff was Shakspere—Fall-staff, Shake-spear.
The most familiar pictures of Shakspere are very different from either of these, and generally far more intellectual and refined. They are pretended copies of what is called the Chandos portrait, but are not much like it. The Chandos picture was painted by an unknown artist, and has been altered by a later hand. It is said to have been owned by Sir William Davenant, who died in 1668; and he is said to have obtained it from an actor named Joseph Taylor, who died about 1653 at the age of 70. This we gather from Boaden’s “Portraits of Shakspere,” 1824. But now comes a further statement purporting to be written in Mr. Gunther's Folio, by one Charles Lomax, in 1781, as follows:
“The only original picture now extant of Shakespeare was painted by Joseph Taylor, one of the actors,” &c.
The rest of the pretended information agrees with what we find in Boaden's book, which has a picture taken from the Chandos portrait quite different from those we generally see, and not much like the Droeshout engraving in the Shakspere: Folio.
Shakspere probably never had a portrait taken.
THE SONNETS OF SHARSHERE
FRANCIS BACON TO THE EARL OF ESSEX AND HIS BRIDE, A. D. 1590.
“The mystery of the Sonnets will never be unfolded.”
** All is supposition; the mystery is insoluble.”
The mystery unfolded by W. H. BURR, July 31, 1883.
The first published poem of Shakspere, so far as known, was “Venus and Adonis,” in 1593. It was dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, then about twenty years of age. Five or six editions were called for in nine years. The “Sonnets” did not appear till 1609. The latter poem has 154 stanzas of 14 lines each; the first 126 are addressed to a beautiful and ardently beloved youth; the remainder to the young man's betrothed.
As to the merits of the composition, the American Cyclopedia says:
“These ‘Sonnets,’ though deformed with occasional conceits, far surpass all other poems of their kind in our own language, or perhaps any other.”
The dedication is in these words:
“To the onlie begetter of these insuing Sonnets | Mr. W. H. all happinesse and that eternitie | promised by our ever
living poet | wisheth the well-wishing adventurer in setting forth T. T.”