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BUST At STRATFord UPON Avon.
IN point of time, rather preceding Droeshout's print, is the bust on our poet's monument at his native Stratford. With the accompaniments to this effigy of Shakspeare I have nothing to do. The death's head, as in this case it indicates only the common dissolution of the frame, is no object of terror; and the two cherubs with the spade and inverted torch, only demonstrate the ambition of the artist to display the emblematic stores of his art. In the bust itself we have a deep interest, because it was no doubt erected at the charge of his son-in-law, Dr. Hall, a learned physician; and it is to be presumed that he would take care it should offer more than a general resemblance to his illustrious relation. The bust, was coloured; and though we should now look upon such a style of art to be barbarous, there is plenty of proof that such a practice was not unknown to the great sculptors of antiquity. Tradition conveys to us the knowledge, that the eyes were of a light hazel colour, the hair and beard auburn. The doublet in which he was dressed was of scarlet cloth, over which was thrown
a loose black gown without sleeves, such as our students of law
wear at dinner in the Middle Temple Hall. Perhaps the scarlet might be chosen for the doublet as it was the regular uniform of the King's Comedians, or the whole dress refer to some office in the
Corporation of Stratford. At what precise date the monument was erected is not known— but in the year 1623 we find it thus alluded to by LeoNARD Digges”, in some verses addressed to the poet's memory, among the few tributes of that sort prefixed to the first folio edition of his plays.
* I find in Wood's Athenae Oxonienses, that Leonard Digges was about this time returned from his travels, and a resident in University College, but writing for the booksellers. Besides his translation of Claudian's Rape of Proserpine, he had published, the year preceding the appearance of the folio Shakspeare, a romance, from the Spanish of Cespedes, called Gerardo, or the Unfortunate Spaniard, in two parts, quarto, 1622. His verses to Shakspeare, both those quoted above, and a still longer poem, might have been composed at the request of the publishers of our poet's works; it is, however, possible, that they might proceed from his genuine admiration, and that he might have gone from Oxford to Stratford, and there have actually seen the monument to which he alludes. Digges died, it seems, in 1635, so that the latter poem on Shakspeare, which is prefixed to the spurious edition of his poems in 1640, must have been left behind among his papers in manuscript, if, as I rather incline to think, it had not made its appearance in some collection of verses, anterior to the poems in 1640. It is, however, full of curious matter relating to the stage and the professors of the drama, and merits our attention, as the declaration of a learned and judicious man with regard to the comparative attraction of Shakspeare. According to Digges, he neither borrowed one phrase from the Greeks, nor imitated the Latins; neither translated from vulgar languages, nor gleaned from other writers, nor solicited their contributions. He is the great support of the King's Company— the poetasters of the day are recommended to seek the Bull, or the Cockpit, or the Fortune, sure as they must be, to be condemned at the Blackfriars. Indeed Julius
Shakespeare, at length thy pious fellowes give
Fresh to all ages.
In the term brass, Mr. Digges might allude to the engraving in the folio, certainly upon that metal; it is however more probable, that he used the term in combination with that of marble, as usually entering into the composition of splendid funereal monuments in that age. The effigies of the deceased were frequently cast in brass, and beautifully finished by hand.
What injury the bust might have sustained in the hundred years
Caesar and Othello were the great favourites of those, who would not endure a line of Catiline and Sejanus; and though the Fox and Alchemist, long intermitted, could not absolutely be quite banished, yet they have scarce, when acted, defrayed the expence of the door-keepers and a sea-coal fire—when, let but Falstaff, and Hal, and Poins, or Benedick and Beatrice, or Malvolio, be announced, and the Cockpit, galleries and boxes, all were filled, and you could with difficulty find a room; such was the popularity of our poet, during the experience of
Mr. Digges—See the Poem itself. Malone's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 485, ed. 1821,