Page images

like that of the lines quoted above, belongs to
this side of the Atlantic:

"Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear
Thy wit or lore to scribble here;
Blessed are they that rightly con him,
And curs'd be they that comment on him."

A melancholy fate had nearly befallen the
names and inscriptions upon the walls and ceil- ]
ing. The old lady "with keen blue eye and
frosty complexion" getting into a quarrel with
her landlord about the rent, which threatened to
swallow up the profits of showing the place, with
a coat of white-wash soon extinguished these in-
teresting reminiscences. Most fortunately, how-
ever, in her haste she omitted to put in size,
which allowed the coating to be washed off and
the writing restored. An eminent commentator
on Shakspeare, who visited Stratford in the year
1820, for the purpose of gathering traditions, -
states that he saw the old lady, then upward of
threescore and ten. "She claimed a descent
from Shakspeare, and had evidently inherited a
full share of his love of the drama. Her high
ancestral feeling displayed itself by her saying,
I lorites plays, and producing a tragedy called
'The Battle of Waterloo."' As regards her syn- I
tax, she seems to have been what the French
crities were wont to call her great progenitor,
'' A wild, irregular genins."


some sixty years since—was thrown into the chureh-yard. This beautiful relic of the olden time was afterward removed by the parish clerk to foim a trough of a pump at his cottage. From the parish clerk it passed into the hands of the late Captain Saunders; and from his possession came into that of the present owner, a builder of Stratford.

Our next visit was to the house of a Shakspcarinn antiquary, where we saw various objects of interest, and many rare editions of the poet's works, including the two first, published in 1623 and 1,632. A letter written by Richard Quyny, whose son afterward was married to Shakspeare's youngest daughter, addressed "To my loving countryman, Mr. William Shakspeare," was an

object of the deepest interest to us. The burden of the epistle is, that the writer stands in need of the kind offices of his friend, and solicits the loan of thirty pounds. We have evidence that the letter was received and opened by Shakspeare, as a charge appears a few weeks later in Quyny's account-book of " £30 returned to Mr. William Shakspeare."

Among the few articles of furniture in the house—none of which can be considered as belonging to the home of Shakspeare—is a chair whose history has been admirably drawn by Washington Irving in the following words:

"The most favorite object of curiosity, however, is Shakspeare's chair. It stands in the chimney corner of a small gloomy chamber, just behind what was his father's shop. Here he may many a time have sat, when a boy, watching the slowly-revolving spit with all the longing of an urehin, or of an evening listened to the cronies and gossips of Stratford dealing forth churehyard tales and legendary aneedotes of the troublesome times of England. In this chair it is the custom of every one that visits the house to j sit; whether this be done with the hope of imbib- I ing any of the inspiration of the bard I am at a low to say—I merely mention the fact; and

mine hostess privately assured me that though we brought away an impression, was Shakspeare's built of solid oak, such was the fervent zeal of signet ring, the only existing article that belongdevotees that it had to be new-bottomed at least ed to him except Quyny's epistle. It was found once in three years. It is worthy of notice, also, near the Stratford chureh-yard, and is deemed in the history of this remarkable chair, that it an undoubted relic. Its owner informed us that



Another object of equal interest, and of which

partakes something of the volatile nature of the Santa Casa of Loretto, or the flying chair of the Arabian enchanter, for though sold to a Russian princess, yet, strange to say, it has found its way back again to the old chimney corner."

The tastefully-designed ancient font which we saw in a neighboring garden, now but a fragment, is supposed to have been used when the poet was christened, as it is known to have belonged to the Stratford Chureh at that date. It has a curious history. In the middle of the seventeenth century it was superseded and flung into the uharnel-honse, and when that was destroyed—

he purehased it of the finder—the wife of a mechanic—for about nine dollars, the value of the gold. It bears the initials W. S. counected by un ornamental string and tassels, the upper bow presenting a resemblance to the true lover's knot. Poor Hnydon the painter says, in a letter dated 1818, about the time of its discovery: "My dear Keats, I shall go mad! In a ficld at Stratfordon-Avon, that belonged to Shakspeare, they have found a gold ring and seal with the initials W. S. and a true lover's knot between. If this is not Shakspeare's whose is it? A true lover's knot! I saw an impression to-day, and am to have

one as soon as possible; as sure as you live and breathe, and that he was the first of beings, the seal belonged to him. 0 Lord!" Little doubt can exist that it was originally worn by Shakspeare, and that it is the ring that he lost before his death, and was not to be found when his will was executed, the word hand being substituted for seal in the original copy of that document. The true lover's knot indicates that the ring must have been a gift; and there is every reason to suppose that " the gentle Shakspeare" received it from sweet Anue Hathaway—she '' who had as much virtue as could

,. .. BACE OF


The Guild Chapel is a building of great an- [ tiquity. The guild to which this chapel belonged was an association partly for civil and partly for religious objects, and had its origin in the reign of Edward the First. The original chapel was erected by Robert do Stratford, in the year 1296. During the reign of Heury the Seventh it was taken down and the present structure erected on its site by Sir Hugh Clopton, a great benefactor to Stratford, and the person who built the before-mentioned bridge. The arehitecture ia pointed and in the perpendicular style of the Tudor period, and is a good specimen of the ecclesiastical arehitecture of that day. The interior of the building was originally decorated with a series of remarkable pictures, the principal being the legendary history of the Holy Cross. They were mutilated to a considerable extent at the Reformation. In this chapel at one time a school was held, and an order in the corporation books, dated 1594, directs "that there shall be no school kept in the chapel from this time following." The occupation of the chapel as a school-roora may have been temporary, but Shakspeare may have imbibed a portion of his learning within its sacred walls.

Around the Grammar School, a venerable pile adjoining the Guild Chapel, cluster many Shakspearian associations. It was founded during the reign of Edward the Fourth by Thomas Jollyffe,

[graphic][ocr errors]


who gave certain lands and tenements to maintain "a priest fit and able in knowledge to teach grammar freely to all scholars coming to the school in the said town to him, taking nothing of the scholars for their teaching." At a later date it was amply endowed by that most excellent prince, Edward VI. In Shakspcare's time the ascent was by a curious outer stairease, roofed with tile, which remained unaltered until quite recently. The interior of the school-room has undergone essential changes since its immortal pupil each day crossed its threshold with "shining morning face." The oaken roof, with its large supporting beams, is now hid from view by a ceiling of plaster work, and the desks are not those that were in use in the days of the youthful Shukspcare. An old worm-eaten oaken desk in a room below, which has sutt'ered greatly from the ravages of relic hunters, is still pointed out as the one used by William Shakspeare. The tradition that assigns it to Shakspeare may be very questionable; but let us not disturb the belief that at this old desk the poet daily sat and learned

"Smalt L»tine and less Greeke," and first began to discipline that wonderful mind that was to bequeath to the world those matchless productions that will endure "to the last syllabic of recorded time."

In this counection we wish to mention a pleasant aneedote, related by William Howitt. He says: "As I was walking through Stratford one morning I saw the master of the village school mustering his scholars to their tasks. I stopped, being pleased with the look of the old man, and said, 'You seem to have a considerable number of boys here; shall you raise another Shakspeare from among them, think you?' 'Why,' replied the master, 'I have a Shakspeare now in the school.' I knew that Shakspeare had no descendants beyond the third generation, and I was not aware that there was any of his family remaining. But it seems that the posterity of his sister, Joan Hart, who is mentioned in his will, still exist, part under the name of Hart at Tewsbury, and a family in Stratford of the name of Smith. 'I have a Shakspeare here,' said the master, with evident pride and pleasure. 'Here, boys, here.' He quickly mustered his laddish troop in a row, and said to mo, 'There now, Sir, can you tell which is a Shakspeare?' I glanced my eye along the line, and instantly fixing it on one boy, said, 'That is the Shakspeare.' 'You are right,' said the master. 'That is Shakspeare; the Shakspeare cast of countenance is there. That is William Shakspeare Smith, a lineal descendant of the poet's sister.'" Mr. Howitt adds: "It sounded strangely enough as I was passing along the street in the evening to hear some of the boys say one to another, 'That is the gentleman who gave Bill Shakspeare a shilling.'"



We wish it were in our power to present our readers with a view of the house in which Shakspeare lived after his retirement from London. We only know that it was the largest house in Stratford. The garden was spacious. The Avon washed its banks. Within its inclosures were sunuy terraces and green lawns, honey-suckle bowers, and flowers of all hues. Dugdale, speaking of Sir Hugh Clopton, who built the Stratford bridge and repaired the chapel, says, "On the north side of this chapel was a fair house, built of brick and timber by the said Hugh, wherein he lived in his later years." This "fair house" was purehased by Shakspeare. who repaired and modeled it to his own mind, and changed the name to "NewPlace." By his will he left it to his daughter, Mrs. Hall, with remainder to her heirs male, or in default, to her daughter Elizabeth and her heirs male, or the heirs male of his daughter Judith. Mrs. Hall died in 1649, and • here is little doubt but

that she occupied "New Place" when Queen Henriettafftlaria, in 1643, coming to Stratford in royal state, with a large army, resided for three weeks under her roof. The property descended to her daughter Elizabeth, first married to Mr. Thomas Nash, and afterward to Sir John Barnard. She dying without issue, New Place was sold, and ultimately fell into the hands of the Rev. Francis Gastrell, in 1757. Malone thus relates the story:

"The Rev. Mr. Gastrell, a man of large fortune, resided in it but a few years, in consequence of a disagreement with the inhabitants of Stratford. Every house in that town that is let or valued at more than forty shillings a year is assessed by the overseers, according to its worth and the ability of the occupier, to pay a monthly rate toward the maintenance of the poor. As Mr. Gastrell resided part of the time at Lichficld, he thought he was assessed too highly; but being very properly compelled by the magistrates of Stratford to pay the whole of w hat was levied upon him, on the principle that his house «as occupied by his servants during his absence, he peevishly declared that that house should never be assessed again; and soon afterward pulled it down, sold the materials, and left the town. Wishing, as it should seem, to be "damn'd to everlasting fame," he had some time before cut down Shakspeare's celebrated mulberry-tree, to save himself the trouble of showing it to those whose admiration of the great poet led them to i visit the poetic ground on which it stood."

The destruction of the mulberry-tree, .which the previous possessor of New Place had always shown w ith prideand pleasure, greatly euraged the good people of Stratford, and we were informed by the Shaksperian antiquary before mentioned "that he remembered hearing his father sny that he had, when a hoy, assisted in the revenge of breaking the reverend Vandal's windows."

[ocr errors]

Nothing now remains of what would have been the most interesting spot in Stratford but the site, and that has been divided and built upon. Of how much did that ignorant Englishman deprive the world by his Gothic barbarity? Under that roof Shakspeare composed the grandest of all his glorious creations — his Hamlet, Lear, Othello, and Macbeth, plays exhibiting his wonderful genins at its very point of culmination. Under that roof he spent the closing years of his too brief career, surrounded by his children and the loved scenes of his childhood. Who would not wish to have walked reverentially in those halls, hallowed by his presence and his labors?

We will now visit the tomb of Shakspeare, in the chancel of the chureh of the Holy Trinity—a spot possessing, m common with his birth-place, an interest to Britons and Americans that

does not belong to any other spot on the habita- I sponding to the upper portion, the transepts to ble globe. The approach to this venerable and the short arms, and the nave to the longest porpicturesque fane is through an avenue of beauti- tion. There are aisles on each side of the nave, ful lime-trees, clipped in such a manuer as to and a charnel-house formerly stood on the north form an arbor extending from the gateway of side of the chancel. Portions of this " solemn the chureh-yard to the poreh. The chureh is temple" belong to different ages. The tewer, built in the form of a cross, the chancel corre- which is in the Norman-Gothic style, is believed

to bens old as the days of William the Conqueror. Its height is eighty feet, and that of the graystone spire surmounting it eighty-five feet. The chancel, or choir—much the finest portion of ihc structure—was built about the middle of the fifteenth century, as a substitute for a more ancient one.

Passing into the chancel you see directly in front of the communion-rails the tombs of the Shakspeare family, which, in harmony with Christian usage, lie east and west; and on yom left as you face the altar, Shakspeare's monument. How soon it was placed there after the poet's death is not known, but that it was there before 1623 we can ascertain from Leonard Digges's verses prefixed to the first edition of Shakspeare's works. A half-length figure of Imboii Of Tub Ohukch. I "'ni is placed in a niche, which is arehed over




and fronted by Corinthian columns of black polished marble, with gilded capitals and bases. The arehitraves are of marble, and the arms of Shakspeare are supported above the entablature. The crest is a faleon grasping a golden spear, and the supporters are two boys in a sitting posture, representing Death and the Grave. The one on the right, emblematic of the former, holds an inverted toreh in one hand and rests the other on a skull. That on the left is figured holding a -pade, and turning its eyes toward the other, and 'in the apex above is another skull. The sculptor of the bust, the material of which is bluish limestone, was Gerard Johnson; it is supposed to have been made from a cast taken after death. It was originally painted from nature. The face and hands were flesh-colored, the eyes a light hazel, and the hair and beard auburn. The dress was a scarlet doublet slashed on the breast, over which was a loose black gown without sleeves. The upper part of the cushion was crimson, the lower green; the cord which bound it and the tassels were gilt. In 1748 the original colors were restored by an ancestor of Mrs. Fanuy Kemble. Malone, in an evil hour, was allowed to coat the bust, in 1793, with white paint; also the effigy of Shakspeare's friend, John Combe, who lies beside the altar. This act has been most justly stigmatized as one of '' unscrupulous insolence." Beneath the cushion on which the poet is writing is inscribed,


-Stay Passenger why goest thov by so fast?
Read if thov canst, whom enviovs Death hath plast
Within this monvin:mt, Shakspeare with whom
Q/ick natvre dide; whose name doth deck y' Tombe
Kar more than cost; sieth all y1 he hath writt
Leaves living art bvt page to serve his wit.

Obiit Ano Do>. 1616.

^EtatLs 53. die 23 Ap'.

There can be no doubt that this bust is the best portrait of "the gentle Shakspeare." The features are handsome and intelligent, but it is evident that such a head depended on its living expression, and that then it must have been eminently prepossessing.



The first of the grave-stones of the Shakspeare family is that of his wife, immediately beneath his monument. It is a flat stone, the surface injured by time, having a small brass plate let in it, with this inscription—here literally given, as are all the others:

Here lyeth interred the body of Anne
Wife of William Shakspeare, who depted
This life the 6 day of Avg. 1623, being of
The age of 67 yeares.
Vbera, tu mater, tn.lac vitanur. dedietl,
Vm mihi: pro tanto munere saxa dabo.
Quam mallem amoveat lapidem bonus Angel' ore'
Kxeat ut Christi corpus imago tun.
Sed nil vota valent, veniaa cito Christe resurget
Clausa licet tumulo mater, et cstra petit.

Next is the grave of William Shakspeare, on which lies a large slab of coarse stone with the following inscription, which has been attributed to the great dramatist. A peculiarity which it possesses over ordinary inscriptions is the abbreviation of the word that, and the grouping together of some of the letters after the fashion of n monogram:

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »