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eminent writers of England, Mr. John Aubrey, collected some concerning Shakspeare, which I shall have occasion to mention more particularly hereafter. · But the person from whom we should probably have derived the most satisfactory intelligence concerning our poet's theatrical history, was his contemporary, and fellow comedian, Thomas Heywood, had he executed a work which he appears to have long had in contemplation. In the margin of Braithwaite's Survey of Histories, 4to. 1614, I find the following note: “ Homer, an excellent and heroicke poet, shadowed only, because my judicious friend, Maister Thomas Heywood, hath taken in hand, by his great industry, to make a general, though summary, description of all the poets.” Heywood himself, twenty years afterwards, mentions the same scheme, in a note to his Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels, folio, 1635, p. 245, in which he says, that he intends “ to commit to the publick view, The Lives of the Poets, foreign and modern, from the first before Homer, to the novissimi and last, of what nation or language soever ;” but, unfortunately, the work was never published. Browne, the pastoral poet, who was also Shakspeare's contemporary, had a similar intention of writing the Lives of the English Poets ; which, however, he never executed.
Though, between 1640 and 1670, the Lives of Hooker, Donne, Wotton, and Herbert, were given to the publick by Isaac Walton, and in 1679 some account of Spencer was prefixed to a folio edition of his works, neither the booksellers, who republished our author's plays in 1664 and 1665, employed any person to write the Life of Shakspeare ; nor did Dryden, though a warm admirer of his productions, or any other poet, collect any materials for such a work, till Mr. Rowe, about the year 1707, undertook an edition of his plays. Unfortunately, that was not an age of curiosity or inquiry: for Dryden might have obtained some intelligence from the old actors, who died about the time of the Restoration, when he was himself near thirty years old ; and still more authentick accounts from our poet's grand-daughter, Lady Barnard, who did not die till 1670. His sister, Joan Hart, was living in 1646; his eldest daughter, Susanna Hall, in 1649; and his second daughter, Judith Queeny, in 1662.
Of those who were not thus nearly connected with our poet, a large list of persons presents itself, from whom, without doubt, much intelligence concerning him might have been obtained, between the time of the publication of the second folio edition of his works, in 1632, and of Mr. Rowe's Life, in 1709.
Francis Meres, who will be more particularly mentioned hereafter, and who appears to have been well acquainted with the stage, when our author first appeared as a dramatick writer, lived till 1646.
Richard Braithwaite, a very voluminous poet, was born in 1588, and commenced a writer some years before the death of Shakspeare. Having once, as it should seem, had thoughts of compiling a history of the English poets, he probably was particularly anxious to learn all such circumstances as might be most conducive to such an undertaking. He died in 1673, at the age of eighty-five. To him may be added, 1. Dr. Jasper Mayne; 2. Penelope Lady Spencer ; 3. John, the second Lord Stanhope; 4. Sir Aston Cockaine; 5. William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle; and, 6. Frances Countess of Dorset; who all died between the time of the Restoration and the year 1695; and Sir Robert Atkins, Sir Richard Verney, and Sir William Bishop, whose lives were extended to the beginning of the eighteenth century. .
Jasper Mayne, who had written two papers of verses on our author, in 1623, lived till 1671.
Penelope Lady Spencer, who died in 1667, sixtynine years old, probably had heard, in her youth, some particulars concerning Shakspeare, from her father, his great patron.
Not only the age of John, the second Lord Stanhope, but the papers which he must have derived from his father, the first Lord, must have furnished him with many curious particulars respecting the plays of Shakspeare and his contemporaries. Sir John Stanhope, the first Lord Stanhope, was appointed, in 1595, Treasurer of the Chambers, through whose hand passed all money disbursed for plays exhibited at Court; and continued possessed of this office till March, 1620-21, when he died. His son, the second Lord, was born in 1595; was made a Knight of the Bath in 1610; and lived to the age of eighty-three, dying in 1677.
How conversant Sir Aston Cockaine was with the history of our poets, particularly the dramatick poets, his own works abundantly prove. He was born in 1606, and died in 1684, in the seventy-eighth year of his age.
William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, himself a dramatick poet, and a patron of Ben Jonson, in the latter days of that writer, could hardly have failed to have heard much of Shakspeare, in his youth. He was born in 1592, made a Knight of the Bath in 1610, and died on Christmas-day, 1676, at the age of eighty-four. At the time of Shakspeare's death, he was twenty-four years old,
Frances, the wife of Richard, the fifth Earl of Dorset, and mother of Charles Earl of Dorset, the patron of Dryden, was, according to tradition, extremely intimate with Sir John Suckling, a professed admirer of our poet. This lady, who was born in 1619 or 1620, and married in 1637, lived till 1693.
Some account of Shakspeare's domestick habits and private life, it may be presumed, might have been obtained from Sir William Bishop, of Bridgetown, adjoining Stratford upon Avon, who was born in 1626, and died there in 1700. His father, Sir Richard Bishop, who might have been personally acquainted with the poet, was born in 1585, and died at Bridgetown, in 1673, at the age of eighty-eight.
Sir Robert Atkins, Knight of the Bath, and Chief Baron of the Exchequer, died in 1709, at the great age of eighty-eight. Being fond of antiquarian researches, he, doubtless, was not inattentive to the history of our early poets; and being himself born in 1621, five years only after Shakspeare's death, had an opportunity of learning many particulars concerning him, from his father, who was born in 1588, and died in 1669, at the age of eighty-two.
To these numerous sources of information may be added one more, whence even Mr. Rowe himself might probably have obtained much information, in 1708, when he was collecting materials for his Life of Shakspeare; I mean Sir Richard Verney, of Compton Murdock, about eight miles from Stratford, the first Lord Willoughby de Broke. He was born in January, 1621-2, and survived the publication of Mr. Rowe's edition of Shakspeare, dying at the great age of ninety, July 18, 1711. He is described by Wright, in his History of Rutlandshire, as “ a true lover of antiquities, and a worthy Mæcenas;” and without doubt had, in his early days, made some inquiries concerning his illustrious countryman, from his father, who was born in 1588, and died in 1642, when Sir Richard was twenty years old. His grandfather, Sir Richard Verney, who was born in 1563, and died in 1630, often sat in commission, as a Justice of Peace, at Stratford, before Shakspeare removed to London. He married a daughter of Sir Fulke Greville, the elder, who was many years Recorder of Stratford; and his mother was Jane, one of the sisters of Sir Thomas Lucy, Shakspeare's supposed prosecutor.
That almost a century should have elapsed, from the time of his death, without a single attempt having been made to discover any circumstance which