« הקודםהמשך »
lector of the valuable manuscripts in the British Museum known as the Cottonian Library) goes to London, and becomes a member of the Society of Antiquaries, who merely meet for the mutual instruction of each other, not being yet formally enrolled ; and James VI. of Scotland rushes into print with his “Essays of a Prentise in the Divine Art of Poesy.” The city of London are about to furnish Elizabeth with four thousand men, and arms, and John Stow acts as one of the collectors of the charges. Philip Stubs publishes his “ Anatomy of Abuses,” to which we are indebted for the most graphic description of our old English May-games, which, to the puritanical mind of that writer, seem sins worthy of eternal damnation. His description of the May-games, as given below, is the only thing that will keep his name from oblivion. Little does he think that his description of the innocent hilarity that he is so unjustly attacking will alone keep his memory green !” Whatever excesses the people might be guilty of at times in their pastimes, I do not believe with Philip Stubs, that wholesale prostitution was one of them. To my mind, the old English May-games stand out from amongst some others of the amusements of the people, like an Alfred the Great amongst our English monarchs. But let us hear friend Stubs :
“ Against May.day, Whit-Sunday, or some other time of the year, every parish. town, or village assemble themselves, both men, women, and children, and either altogether, or dividing themselves into come panies, they go some to the woods and groves, some to the hills and mountains, some to one place, some to another, where they spend all the night in pleasant pastimes; and in the morning they return, bring. ing with them birch boughs and branches of trees to deck their assem. blies withal. But their chiefest jewel they bring from thence is the May pole, which they bring home with great veneration, as thus;-they have twenty or forty yoke of oxen, every ox having a sweet nosegay of flowers tied to the tip of his horns, and these uxen draw home the May.pole, their stinking idol rather, which they covered with flowers and herbs, bound round with strings from the top to the bottom, and sometimes it was painted wiith variable colours, having two or three hundred men, women, and children, following it with great devotion, And thus equipped, it was reared with handkerchiefs and flags streaming on the top; they straw the ground round abont it; they bind green boughs about it; they set up Summer-halls, bowers, and arbours hard by it ; and then fall they to banqueting and feasting, to leaping and dancing about it, as the heathen people did at the dedication of their idols. I have had it credibly reported, by men of great gravity, that of forty, threescore, or an hundred maids going to the wood, there have scarcely the third part of them relurned home again as they went."
Such is the account of Stubs, as quoted by Strutt; who, however, gives the date of the publication as ten years later. I have, however, preferred the date given by a later writer, J. Ogden, in his notes to the “Midsummer Night's Dream," where a part of the above extract is given. As Timperley, in his useful but dreadfully defective « Dictionary of Printers and Printing," does not notice the work at all, I cannot tell in whom the error lies, but charitably suppose the more modern author to be right. Surely the editor of an expensively illustrated edition of Shakspere will not mislead me in such important things as dates! I think it but right to state, that the various dates of one event, given by different writers, have occasioned me more labour in the compilation of this little work, than the reader can well imagine. If, therefore, I am ever in error, once for all let it be my apology, that the fault is in my authorities rather than in myself.
There is an increase in the family of Williain and Anne Shakspere ; a son and daughter of their's being, in the month of February, baptized at Stratford-upon-Avon, by the names of Hamnet and Judith. Of these twin children, Hamnet, Shakspere's only son, died when only twelve years old ; and Judith was married only two months before her father's death, to a vintner at Stratford, named Thomas Quiney, by whom she had three children,“Shakspere, who died an infant, and Richard and Thomas, both buried in 1638-9; the former in his twenty-first, the latter in the nineteenth year of his age, without leaving any issue,” as Skottowe informs us; and he adds :—“Their mother, Judith, survived till February, 1661-2, when she had attained the advanced age of seventy-seven.”
Robert Brown, the nonconformist, now returns to England, and is excommnnicated by the bishop of Peterborough. Thomas Alfield, a Romish priest, and Thomas Webley, a dyer, after being tortured in prison, are executed at Tyburn, on the fifth of July, the former for introducing into the kingdom, some copies of a work by Dr. Allen, entitled, “A Modest Answer to the English Persecutors.' Hugh Taylor, a native of Durham, made priest by the Romish college at Rheims, and Marmaduke Bewes, married gentleman of Angram Grange, near Appleton, in Cleveland,” are also executed at York, on the twenty-sixth of November, for their religion. When will the nations of the world learn that religion is an affair between the soul of man and his Maker, over which penal law s have po power.
Sir Francis Drake, with twenty-one sail of men-of-war,
and land forces under the Earl of Carlisle, plunder St. Domingo, seize Carthagena, and arrive at the new colony of Virginia, in Florida, where Captain Lane and others sent out by Raleigh, being in great distress, are glad to be taken aboard the fleet,and return to England,—bringing, it is said, the tobacco-plant, for the first time, into England. Frobisher accompanies Drake in this expedition. John uvis finishes his third voyage in search of a northwest passage, but returns unsuccessful, after having sailed as far as 83 degrees of north latitude.
Peter Victorius, or Vettori, an eminent Italian scholar, who rendered good service to literature in his day, now dies at Florence, aged eighty-six years.
Besides being author of several Latin poems, orations, and letters, he collated and corrected several various editions of Greek and Latin writers, and wrote notes and commentaries to the works of Aristotle, Cicero, Euripides, Plato, Porphyry, Sallusi, Terence, Varro, and Xenophon. For upwards of forty years he had been Greek and Latin professor in the university of his native city, a post which Cosmos II. had appointed him to for his great learning and industry. He is buried at the public cost, with great splendour, as a mark of high regard.
William Drummond, of Hawthornden, a famous fellow in his day, is born this year. His friendship with Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton has since become well known, and he has left us writings of his own, both in prose and verse.—The wily diplomatist, Cardinal Richlieu, is also born this year, in Paris, on the fifth of September.
William Hunnis, chapel-master to Elizabeth, now publishes his “Handful of Honeysuckles," and his “Poor Widow's Mite;" but voluminous writings oft fail to rescue a man's name from oblivion, whilst one true poem, however short, will succeed in doing so. Witness, for instance, Charles Wolfe's ode on the burial of Sir John Moore. Poor Hunnis seems indeed to have spent his midnight oil to little purpose, though rather happy in his titles.
Queen Elizabeth now licenses certain of the London merchants to trade to Barbary ; the Earl of Northumberland, who has been committed to the Tower on a charge of treason, is shot in his dungeon; the young Duke of Guise revives the League in France, to keep a protestant from the throne, and Elizabeth grants the Prince of Conde ten ships and fifty thousand crowns, to assist the huguenots.
SHAKSPERE'S TWENTY-THIRD YEAR.
WILLIAM SHAKSPERE, who doubtless, as Aubrey tells 1586. us, was “naturally inclined to poetry and acting,'
goes to London, as is supposed, about this period. Those who suppose the John Shakspere, of Stratford-uponAvon, whose goods are ordered to be seized in execution, but have been previously disposed off, to be John Shakspero the father of our bard, may see in the breaking up of his father's house, and in the poverty in which adverse circumstances had then steeped the family, a motive power to propel the poet from his native place. Tradition says, that William Shakspere, with some other devil-may-care young fellows, went to kill a deer in the grounds of a neighbouring justice-of-the-peace, Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecot, with as little ceremony as Robin Hood would have done, and that the unfortunate poet was caught in the act, and so sharply reprimanded that he affixed a pasquinade on the park gates, which irritated the knight so much that he ordered the law to be put in force against the young deer-stealer, and this occasioned him to flee to London. If so, Shakspere might think of this incident in his own experience, when, in after years he made Hamlet tell Horatio :
“ And praised be rashness for it,- let us know,
Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well,
Hamlet, act v., scene 2nd. Charles Knight, whose judgment on everything relating to Shakspere is justly entitled to a careful consideration from every lover of the bard, would fain discountenance this tradition; but, for my part, I see no reason to doubt it. No man has done more to endear himself to every true votary of our English literature than Charles Knight; seeing that he has outdone all our other publishers put together (if we except the Messrs. Chambers) in opening the rich treasury of knowledge to the toiling millions of his countrymen. But he seems rather too squeamish in allowing to Skakspere any human failings at all: as though all our early dramatists were not a merry roystering crew ; good fellows enough in the rough, but guilty of all manner of mad excesses. Shakspere, in all probability, was more spotless than any of them; but all the legends of him
point him out as a merry grig, who acted from impulse rather than from cool calculation. What, if it be true that Shakspere, when a young man, slept dead drunk one night under a crab-tree near Bidford, and went a deerstealing for a spree another night; what, if it be true that he had some drinking-bouts in his latter years, and really shortened his days through taking intoxicating drinks to excess; if all this be as true as that he had his wife in the family-way before he married her; what does it all amount to? what does it prove? Simply this, that the greatest genius that ever spake our mother-tongue was only man of like passions as we are," and liable to equal follies, and that such is the deadly influence of the Circean cup, that the most gifted of our species cannot partake thereof without imminent danger. But that William Shakspere was ever an habitual drunkard, no man with common sense will for a moment suspect; for none but a sober brain could have given us such glorious revelations as his has done. But let us hear what Washington Irving has got to say about Charlecot and this deer-stealing business, in his genial “Sketch Book :".
“I had now visited the usual objects of a pilgrim's devotion, but I had a desire to see the old family seat of the Lucys at Charlecot, and to ramble through the park where Shakspere, in company with some of the roysters of Stratford, committed his youthful offence of deerstalking. In this hair-brained exploit, we are told that he was taken prisoner, and carried to the keeper's lodge, where he remained all night in doleful captivity. Whca brought into the presence of Sir Thomas Lucy, his treatment must have been galling and humiliating; for it so wrought upon his spirits as to produce a rough pasquinade, which was affixed to the park gate at Charlecot, The following is the only stanza extant of this lampoon
" " A parliament member, a justice of peace,
At home a poor scarecrow, at London an ass,
He thinks himself great;
Yet an ass in his state,
Then sing lousy Lucy, whatever befal it.' " This flagitious attack upon the dignity of the knight so incensed him, that he applied to a lawyer at Warwick, to put the severity of the law in force against the rhyming deer-stalker. Shakspere did not wait to brave the united puissance of a knight of the shire and a country attorney. He forthwith abandoned the pleasant banks of the Avon, and his paternal trade; wandered away to London ; became a ha on to the theatres; th an actor; and, finally, wrote fo the stage; and thus, through the persccution of Sir Thomas Lucy,