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For fent hypothesis is built on an uncertain foundation. All I mean to say is, that he appears to me to have written more immediately from the heart on the subject of jealousy, than on any other; and it is therefore not improbable he might have felt it. The whole is mere conjecture. MALONE.
As all that is known with any degree of certainty concerning Shakspeare, is-that he was born at Stratford upon Avon,-mar. ricd and had children there,- went to London, where he commenced a&tor, and wrote poems and plays, -returned to Stratford, made bis will, died, and cvas buried, - I must confess my readiness to com. bat every unfounded suppofition respecting the particular occur. rences of his life *.
Itake the same opportunity to avow my disbelief that Shakspeare was the author of Mr. Combe's Epitaph, or that it was written by any other person at the request of that gentleman. If Betterton the player did really visit Warwickshire for the sake of collecting anecdotes relative to our author, perhaps he was too easily fatisfied with such as fell in his way, without making any rigid search into their authenticity. It appears also from a following copy of this infcription, that it was not ascribed to Shakspeare lo early as two years after his death. Mr. Reed of Staple Inn obligingly pointed it out to me in the Remains &c. of Richard Brathwaite, 1618; and as his edition of our epitaph varies in some measure from the later one published by Mr. Rowe, I shall not hesitate to transcribe it : “ Upon one John Combe of Stratford upon Aven, a notable Usurer,
fastened upon a Tombe that he bad caused to be built in his Life Time.
“ Ten in the hundred must lie in his grave,
“ Oh (quoin the divell) my John a Combe." Here it may be observed that, ftri&tly speaking, this is no jocular epitaph, but a malevolent prediction ; and Braithwaite's copy is surely more to be depended on (being procured in or before the year 1618) than that delivered to Betterton or Rowe, almost a century afterwards. It has been already remarked, (see Mr. Malope's Supplemental observations on the last edition of Shakspeare, p. 67.) that two of the lines said to have been produced on this occasion, were printed as an epigram in 1608, by H. P. Gent, and are likewife found in Camden's Remains, 1614. I may add, that a usurer's solicitude to know what would be reported of him when he was dead, is not a very probable circumstance; neither was Shakspeare of a disposition to compose an invective, at once so bitter and uncharitable, during a pleasant conversation among the common friends (See
For there can live no hatred in thine eye,
The misapprehenfion of Oldys may be naturally accounted for, and will appear venial to those who examine the two Sonnets before us. From the complaints of inconftancy, and the praises of beauty, contained in them, they should seem at first fight to be addressed by an inamorato to a mistress. Had our antiquarian informed himself of the tendency of such pieces as precede and fol. low, he could not have failed to discover his mistake.
Whether the wife of our author was beautiful, or otherwise, was a circumstance beyond the investigation of Oldys, whose cola lections for his life I have perused; yet surely it was natural to impute charms to one who could engage and fix the heart of a young of such uncommon elegance of fancy.
That our poet was jealous of this lady, is likewise an unwarrantable conjecture. Having, in times of health and prosperity, provided for her by settlement, (or knowing that her father had already done fo) 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
• Receiv'd him to the arms of Belvidera.” His momentary forgetfulness as to this matter, must be imputed to disease. He has many times given support to the sentiments of others, let him speak for once in his own defence :
" Infirmity doth still neglect all office
" To suffer with the body." Mr. Malone therefore ceases to argue with his usual candour, when he
takes the indispos'd and fickly fit " For the found man.”
The Rowe's Life &c.) of himself and a gentleman, with whose family he lived in such friendship, that at his death he bequeathed his Sword to Mr. Thomas Combe as a legacy. A miser's monument indeed, constructed during his life time, might be regarded as a challenge to satire; and we cannot wonder that anonymous lampoons Thould have been affixed to the marble designed to convey the chasacter of such a being to posterity.--I hope I may be excused for this attempt to vindicate Shakspeare from the imputation of having poisoned the hour of confidence and festivity, by producing the feverest of all censures on one of his company. I am unwilling, in short, to think he could so wantonly and lo publickly have expressed his doubts concerning the salvation of one of bis fellow-creatures,
In many's looks the false heart's history
But The perfect health mentioned in the will, (on which Mr, Malone relies in a subsequent note) was introduced as a thing of course by the attorney who drew it up; and perhaps our author was not fufficiently recovered during the remaining two months of his life to attempt any alterations in this his last work. It was also natural for Shakspeare to have chofen his daughter and not his wife for an executrix, because the latter, for reasons already given, was the leaft interested of the two in the care of his effects.
That Shakspeare has written with his utmost power on the subject of jealousy, is no proof that he had ever felt it. Because he has, with equal vigour, expreffed the varied aver. fions of Apemantus and Timon to the world, does it follow that he himself was a Cynic, or a wretch deserted by his friends ? Because he has, with proportionable strength of pencil, repre. sented the vindiétive cruelty of Shylock, are we to suppose he copied from a fiend-like original in his own bosom?
Let me add (respecting the four plays alluded to by Mr. Ma. lone) that in Cymbeline jealousy is merely incidental. In the Winter's Tale, and the Merry Wives of Windfor, the folly of it in studiously exposed. Othello alone is wholly built on the fatal consequences of that destructive paffion. Surely we cannot wonder that our author should have lavished his warmest colouring on a commotion of mind the moft vehement of all others; or that he should have written with sensibility on a subject with which every man who loves is in fome degree acquainted. Besides, of different pieces by the fame hand, one will prove the most highly wrought, though sufficient reasons cannot be affigned to account for its fuperiority:
No argument, however, in my opinion, is more fallacious than that which imputes the success of a poet to his interest in his subject. Accuracy of description can be expected only from a mind at rest. It is the unruffled lake that is a faithful mirror.
STEEVENS. Every author who writes on a variety of topicks will have sometimes occafion to describe what he has himself felt. To at. tribute to our great poet (to whose amiable manners all his contemporaries bear testimony) the morofeness of a cynick, or the
depravity In many's looks, the false beari's biftory Is writ,-) In Macheth a contrary tentiment is afferted:
- There is no art " To find the mind's construction in the face.” MALONE. Thus, in Gray's Church-yard Elegy:
And read their history in a nation's eyes.” STEEVENS.
But heaven in thy creation did decree,
How like Eve's apple doth thy beauty grow,
depravity of a murderer, would be to form an idea of him cona tradicted by the whole tenour of his character, and unsupported by any kind of evidence: but to suppole him to have felt a parfion which it is said " most men who ever loved have in some degree experienced," does not appear to me a very
wild travagant conjecture.
Our author's forgetfulness of his wife (from whatever cause it arose,) cannot well be imputed to the indi/posed and fickly fit; for, from an imperfect erasure in his Will (which I have seen) it apo pears to have been written (though not executed) 1440 months before his death ; and in the first paragraph he has himself told us that he was, at the time of makirig it, in perfect health ; words, which no honest attorney, I believe ever inserted in a Wills when the testator was notoriously in a contrary state. Any speculation on this subject is indeed unnecessary; for the various regulations and provisions of our author's Will show that at the time of making it he had the entire use of his faculties. Nor, supposing the contrary to have been the case, do I see what in the two succeeding months he was to recolleet or to alter. His wife had not wholly escaped his inemory; 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.
However, I acknowledge, it does not necessarily follow, that because he was inattentive to her in his Will, he was therefore jealous of her. He might not have loved her; and perhaps the might not have deserved his affection.
This note having already extended to too great a length, I shall only add, that I must still think that a poet's intimate knowledge of the passions and manners which he describes, will generally be of use to him; and that in some few cafes experience will give a warmth to his colouring, that were observation may. not fupply. No man, I believe, who had not felt the power of beauty, ever composed love-verses that were worth reading.
That in order to produce any successful compofition, the mind must be at ease, is, I conceive, an incontrovertible truth. I never supposed that Shakspeare wrote on the subject of jealousy during the paroxysm of the fit. MALONE. VOL. I.
For sweetest things turn soureft by their deeds ;
? They are the lords and owners of their faces,] So, in K. Joha:
" Lord of thy prefence, and no land beside." MALONE. ? Lillies that fefter, smell far worse than weeds.] This line is likewife found in the anonymous play of K. Edward III. 1599.
STEEVEXS. : 3 Naming thy name blesses an ill report.) The fame ideas offer in the speech of Ænobarbus to Agrippa in Antony and Cleopatra:
---For vileft things