Page images

Shakespeare and Rowley. Mr Tucker Brooke summarily disposes of the claims of this play with these words :

"The disjointed nature of the plot, moreover, the foolish and immature morality of the Modestia scenes, and the repeated appeals to the cheap make-shifts of sorcery and divination stamp it as distinctly unshakespearean.'

Quite so; but Rowley may be saddled with all this and more, and yet Shakespeare's hand, as in Titus Andronicus,' may show itself in a few touches. Madden, in his admirable Diary of Master William Silence,' quotes some passages relating to sport; and there are also lines which have a touch of Shakespeare, like

[ocr errors]

'A wife is a dish soon cloys;

What's mine in her speaks yours' (1, 1, 38-45).

'I see he will marry her, he speaks so like a husband'

(II, 1, 141). 'Till the great Sessions come, when death the crier Will surely summons us and all t' appear

To plead us guilty and our bail to clear' (III, 2, 43).
'Bright Victory herself fights on our part,

And buckled in a golden beaver rides
Triumphantly before us' (IV, 4, 1).

There is much wit too in the clown of the play. One thing is certain-the doubtful plays of Shakespeare merit more attention than they have hitherto received. But, apart from these, can we trace any other plays likely to be Shakespeare's, which have not come down to us? Vulcan has undoubtedly been a deity inimical not only to Jonson but to his greater contemporary. The fire at the Globe Theatre on June 29, 1613, when 'Henry VIII,' under the name 'All is True,' was being acted, may or may not have destroyed some playhouse copies.' On July 9, in the following year, there was a disastrous fire at Stratford. In 1620, Ben Jonson's house, with its library-and he must have had letters and papers of Shakespeare's-was burnt. The Fire of London must have consumed innumerable MSS. and papers; and the Cottonian library, collected in Shakespeare's lifetime, was devastated by fire in 1731. Two years later

* Sir Henry Wotton says nothing of this sort perished.

Theobald refers to a tradition lately recorded in print, that two large chests of loose papers and MSS. relating to Shakespeare, being in the hands of an ignorant baker of Warwick, who married one of the descendants of the Shakespeare family, were carelessly scattered about as garret litter and lumber, to the particular knowledge of the late Sir William Bishop, till they were all consumed in the general fire and destruction of the town (in 1694).

Samuel Ireland, a more suspicious witness, tells a similar tale of MSS. at Clopton House about 1805, burnt by a tenant named Williams, who, on inquiry for such relics being made, said, 'I wish you had arrived sooner ; it isn't a fortnight since I destroyed several baskets full of letters and papers to clear a small chamber for some partridges I want to bring up; and as for Shakespeare, there were many bundles with his name wrote on them. Why, it was in this very fire-place I made a roaring bonfire of them.' His wife being called in told the same tale, adding, 'There now! I told you not to burn them, as they might be of consequence.' But we naturally ask why these papers were left in the hands of a tenant, and how he had a right to make away with them? Nor could they well have escaped the notice of Malone, Wheler, and other searchers.

However, we do know that by the gross carelessness of an antiquary, John Warburton (1683-1759), who unfortunately had a hobby for collecting MS. copies of Elizabethan and Jacobean plays, some priceless MSS. were allowed to be burnt about 1730 by his still more careless and ignorant cook. The owner of these treasures seems to have left not even any account of them beyond a bare list. He appears to have had in MS. besides the 'Maiden's Holiday' by Marlowe and Day, a drama by Greene, a tragedy of Chapman's, several plays by Rowley, many by Massinger, one or two anonymous, and three Shakespeare plays, viz. one unnamed, 'Duke Humphrey' and 'Henry I,' which is attributed to him in conjunction with Robert Davenport.

There is still another play attributed to Shakespeare conjointly with Fletcher. It was twice produced at Court in 1613, just when we know that the same two poets collaborated on 'Henry VIII.' Moseley in 1653 obtained a licence for its publication. No doubt the

disturbed state of the country during the Civil War, and the subsequent ascendency of the Puritans, lost us this and other plays. The plot of the play was taken from the 'Cardenio' in Don Quixote, first introduced to English readers by Shelton in 1612. Theobald in 1727 claimed, but falsely, to have published this play under the title of The Distrest Lovers,' or 'The Double Falsehood.' It is on the same subject, but bears no trace of Shakespeare's or Fletcher's hand. Theobald affirmed that he had three MS. copies of it, one more than sixty years old, formerly belonging to Betterton the actor, and in the handwriting of Downes the stage prompter. A play still exists in a German version under the title of 'Cardenio und Celinde.'*

Manuscript copies of Shakespeare's existing plays are very rare. Joseph Strutt the antiquary, who died in 1803, had at one time in his possession a MS. copy of 'Timon' dated 1600; but this appears to be the one which is now in the South Kensington Museum, and is not Shakespeare's play of the same name. A copy of the two parts of 'Henry IV,' written about 1610 by Sir Edward Dering of Surrenden in Kent, came to light in 1844; and a late MS. of the Merry Wives' was purchased by Halliwell-Phillipps from the poet Procter in 1842. It dates from about 1660. Both have important variations from the received text, and the former was apparently from a playhouse copy.

[ocr errors]

A little note-book of Old English Poetry, dated between 1585 and 1590, with the autograph of Anne Cornwalys, contains the verses, When as thine eye,' which stand nineteenth in the Passionate Pilgrim.' This is the earliest MS. of any portion (if this be one) of Shakespeare's works now extant. There is said also to be in existence a MS. contemporary copy of the music to the Willow, willow' song in Othello.' All these, except the first and the last mentioned, were in the unique collection at Warwick Castle. But this, like too many invaluable Shakespeareana, is now practically beyond our reach.

[ocr errors]


See Carew Hazlitt, p. 126. But it has no Shakespearean characteristics whatever.


JOSEPH ADDISON was born on May 1, 1672, and died on June 17, 1719. Thus he lived through the last thirteen years of Charles the Second, the whole of the reigns of James the Second, William the Third, and Anne, and the first five years of George the First. But his memory is chiefly associated with the age of Queen Anne, because that period coincided with the maturity of his genius and witnessed the production of the writings on which his fame securely rests. These writings comprise above all the papers contributed by him to the 'Tatler' and the 'Spectator,' which ran successively, with breaks of about twenty months, from April 12, 1709, to Dec. 20, 1714.

[ocr errors]

While the whole of the Tatler' and the greater part of the 'Spectator' were appearing, the war with France was still dragging out its weary length to a somewhat indecisive and inglorious close; and Addison makes frequent references to it. He says that news of the war were cried through London with the same precipitation as a fire; that a bloody battle alarmed the town from one end to another in an instant; and that every motion of the French was published in so great a hurry that you might think the enemy were at the gates. News of a great victory were proclaimed to the whole city by the roar of guns from the Tower. In one of his papers Addison professes to have been appropriately wakened from a dream of Fame by the noise of the cannon fired for the taking of Mons. As the ports of France were closed to English traffic during the war, news of military operations in Flanders and Germany reached England only by the mail from Holland; hence the conspicuous place which the Dutch mail takes in the periodical literature of that age. And as the packet-boat came from the east, and it was long before the invention of steamers, the mail could not arrive so long as the wind sat in the west; accordingly we read that a westerly wind kept the whole town in suspense.

The places where, in Addison's time, people met to discuss the news were the clubs and especially the coffee-houses. Never was the drinking of coffee more fashionable than in his day. The custom was then of comparatively recent origin. When John Evelyn was a

fellow-commoner of Balliol College, Oxford, where he was admitted on May 10, 1637, he saw coffee drunk for the first time by a certain Greek named Nathaniel Conopios, who had been sent on a mission from Greece by Cyril, the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Many coffee-houses are mentioned in the Tatler' and the 'Spectator.' They differed not only in situation but in the class of persons who frequented them, some being the favourite haunts of politicians, others of authors,' others of men of fashion, and so forth. The most famous of all was Will's, which took its name from Will Urwin, who kept it. It was the corner house on the north side of Russell Street, at the end of Bow Street, in Covent Garden. The coffee-house owed its reputation to Dryden, who frequented it habitually, gathering the wits of London about him and holding forth on literary topics in his later years with the authority of an acknowledged master. In Addison's day Will's was still pre-eminently the resort of authors. When false news of the death of Louis XIV arrived in London and set all the coffee-house politicians agog, Addison professes to have called in at Will's and to have found that the discourse of the critics had wandered from the death of the French king to those of Monsieur Boileau, Monsieur Racine, and Monsieur Corneille, and several other poets. whom they regretted as persons who, if only they had been alive, would have obliged the world with very noble elegies on the death of so great a prince and so eminent a patron of learning.

The coffee-house most frequented by politicians in those days seems to have been the St James's. It was

the last house but one on the south-west corner of St James's Street, where it stood down to 1806. When the rumour of the French king's death was afloat, and the 'Spectator' desired to ascertain the truth of it, he began, he says, as near the fountain-head as possible by looking in at the St James's, where he found the whole outer room in a buzz of politics. The speculations were very indifferent towards the door, but improved in quality as you approached the steam of the coffee-pot in the inner room, where he heard the whole Spanish monarchy disposed of, and all the line of the Bourbons provided for in less than a quarter of an hour. Pursuing

« PreviousContinue »