« PreviousContinue »
they are so different that an acquaintance with one is little help to the recognition of another. In the first signature he writes Wm. for William. The second and third autographs have William written above Shakspere Who but an illiterate person would sign his name thus? In the last two signatures (being told perhaps that his name ought to be written on one line) he puts William before Shakspere; but the fourth William reads Willin. See now how differently each letter is formed in the name Shakspere, beginning with the initial:
Did anybody ever write the first letter of his name so differently? After four attempts to form a capital She succeeds tolerably well the fifth time. The second S, though of singular shape, appears to have been a customary one as early as 1598. (See examples of that year below.) Shakspere's first attempt to form the crooked letter is a failure, but the second passably good. So again in 1616, when he has a different form to copy, his first attempt is futile, the second is passable, and the third quite successful.
But in attempting the next letter he makes it worse every time:
With the letter a he is more successful, making it legible three times out of five:
a & 2, a a
But the attempt to form a k is a signal failure:
With the long s he succeeds best the first time, an worst the second and third :
The letter p is legible the first time, but grows worse and worse to the last :
It seems as if in the first attempt to sign his name in 1613 he thought it was complete when he made it end with s p e, but being reminded that it lacked a letter or two he undertook to add one by putting an a over the e thus:
The next time, which was probably the same day,” he seems to have written his name Shaksper, though the terminal letters are uncertain :
The third time he gets it more like Shakspoze: y? –
* The deed to Shakspere and two other trustees is dated March 10 and signed Henry Walker. The mortgage from Shakspere and the other trustees is dated March 11. But for some unaccountable reason a duplicate verbatim copy of the deed from Henry Walker is signed by William Shakspere. This duplicate is in the Library of the city of London; the mortgage is in the British Museum. The duplicate deed we suspect was signed after the mortgage. Hence the improvement in the autograph; it was probably Shakspere's second attempt to write. Compare it with the third.
The fourth time he seems to have tried to disguise the termination with awkward flourishes, making the letters totally illegible:
Finally, he omits the flourishes and comes nearer legibility, but still it is impossible to tell whether he meant to write ear, ere, or eare:
And now let the reader mark, that notwithstanding the orthodox spelling of the name from 1593 to 1616, and indeed up to the present time, was and is Shakespeare, there is no e in the first syllable and no a in the last, although some have imagined the letter a to exist in the last part of the final autograph.
We have said that these signatures are all that Shakspere is known to have written ; we ought to add that he prefixed to the last one the following scrawl:
2% Ž. /*
For a long time we puzzled over this. Could it be an attempt to write “25th of March,” the day of the execution of the will? At last we read the following in Hallowell-Phillipps's Shakspere:
“It may be observed that the words By me, which, the autograph excepted, are the only ones in the poet's handwriting known to exist, appear to have been penned with ordinary firmness.”
Presuming that the signatures were made in a sick bed, the author concedes that the words “By me” were penned with ordinary firmness. Very good; but could not almost any five-year-old boy do as well the first time !
In 1775 certain papers and legal instruments were published, attributed to Shakspere, Queen Elizabeth, and Southampton. In 1796 Edmund Malone proved them to be forgeries. Here is one of the forged autographs of Shakspere:
This is superior to any of the genuine ones, which in some degree it resembles. The letter a is pretty clearly written in the last syllable, as if the forger meant to establish the proper spelling of that part of the name. Malone, who at first pronounced the genuine orthography to be Shakspeare, subsequently declared Shakspere to be the poet's own mode of spelling his name beyond all doubt. But others do not accede to this decision, because they think there is an a in the last of the five
The solution of the whole mystery is in the fact that Shakspere was unable to write or even to spell his own Inanne.
In 1598 Richard Quiney addressed a letter to him asking for a loan of £30, and the name was written
In the same year among thirteen names of holders of corn in Stratford the last but one is Shakesper:
The form of the letter a in both these fac-similes
was peculiar to that time. It occurs in Shakspere's second autograph. Why did he thus vary the form * Probably because he followed the copy set for him. Note now the various spellings of his name: In 1582, as a bridegroom, Shagsper. In 1593 and 1594, as a poet, Shakespeare; and the same uniformly as a playwright from 1598 to 1623, but sometimes with a hyphen—Shake-speare. In 1596, as an inhabitant of Southwark, Shaksper. In 1598, as addressed by letter, Shackesper. In 1598, as owner of corn, Shakesper. In 1604, as plaintiff in a suit, Shexpere. In 1604 and 1605, as author of plays performed at. Whitehall before King James, Shaxberd. In 1609, as plaintiff in a suit, Shackspeare. In 1612, as plaintiff in a suit, Schackspeare. In 1614, as written by his cousin, Shakspear. In 1616, as twice written in his will, Shackspeare; but. in signing the same three times he omits the c in the first syllable, and it is impossible to tell what. the last three or four letters are. And although in the two Deeds of 1613 the name is written repeatedly Shakespeare, in signing them he omits the e in the first syllable both times, and varies the termination of the name, just as an illiterate. person would be likely to do. But there are more of these various spellings. All the records of Shakspere's lifetime have been hunted. up and printed. From these documents, consisting of deeds, bills of complaint, letters, poems, plays, etc., most of which especially concerned either the father or son or both—we extract the following spellings, giving the dates: