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Mr. Rowe has told us, that he derived the principal anecdotes in his account of Shakspeare, from Betterton the player, whose zeal had induced him to visit Stratford, for the sake of procuring all possible intelligence concerning a poet to whose works he might justly think himself under the strongest
not a single writer so much as hints at the custom of riding to them, or at the practice of having horses held during the hours of exhibition. Some allusion to this usage, (if it had existed) must, I think, have been discovered in the course of our researches after contemporary fashions. Let it be remembered too, that we receive this tale on no higher authority than that of Cibber's Lives of the Poets, Vol. I. p. 130. "Sir William Davenant told it to Mr. Betterton, who communicated it to Mr. Rowe," who (according to Dr. Johnson) related it to Mr. Pope. Mr. Rowe (if this intelligence be authentick) seems to have concurred with me in opinion, as he forbore to introduce a circumstance so incredible into his Life of Shakspeare. As to the book which furnishes the anecdote, not the smallest part of it was the composition of Mr. Cibber, being entirely written by a Mr. Shiells, amanuensis to Dr. Johnson, when his Dictionary was preparing for the press. T. Cibber was in the King's Bench, and accepted of ten guineas from the booksellers for leave to prefix his name to the work; and it was purposely so prefixed as to leave the reader in doubt whether himself or his father was the person designed.
The foregoing anecdote relative to Cibber's Lives, &c. I received from Dr. Johnson. See, however, The Monthly Review, for December, 1781, p. 409. STEEVENS.
Mr. Steevens in one particular is certainly mistaken. To the theatre in Blackfriars I have no doubt that many gentlemen rode in the time of Queen Elizabeth and King James I. From the Strand, Holborn, Bishopsgate Street, &c. where many of the nobility lived, they could indeed go no other way than on foot, or on horseback, or in coaches; and coaches till after the death of Elizabeth were extremely rare. Many of the gentry, therefore, certainly went to that playhouse on horseback. See the proofs, in the Essay above referred to.
This, however, will not establish the tradition relative to our author's first employment at the playhouse, which stands on a very slender foundation. MALONE.
obligations. Notwithstanding this assertion, in the manuscript papers of the late Mr. Oldys it is said, that one Bowman (according to Chetwood, p. 143, "an actor more than half an age on the London theatres") was unwilling to allow that his associate and contemporary Betterton had ever undertaken such a journey. Be this matter as it will, the following particulars, which I shall give in the words of Oldys, are, for aught we know to the contrary, as well authenticated as any of the anecdotes delivered down to us by Rowe.
Mr. Oldys had covered several quires of paper with laborious collections for a regular life of our author. From these I have made the following extracts, which (however trivial) contain the only
- it is said, that one Bowman-was unwilling to allow that his associate and contemporary Betterton had ever undertaken such a journey.] This assertion of Mr. Oldys is altogether unworthy of credit. Why any doubt should be entertained concerning Mr. Betterton's having visited Stratford, after Rowe's positive assertion that he did so, it is not easy to conceive. Mr. Rowe did not go there himself; and how could he have collected the few circumstances relative to Shakspeare and his family, which he has told, if he had not obtained information from some friend who examined the Register of the parish of Stratford, and made personal inquiries on the subject?
"Bowman," we are told, "was unwilling to believe," &c. But the fact disputed did not require any exercise of his belief. Mr. Bowman was married to the daughter of Sir Francis Watson, Bart. the gentleman with whom Betterton joined in an adventure to the East Indies, whose name the writer of Betterton's Life in Biographia Britannica has so studiously concealed. By that unfortunate scheme Betterton lost above 2000l. Dr. Ratcliffe 6000l. and Sir Francis Watson his whole fortune. On his death soon after the year 1692, Betterton generously took his daughter under his protection, and educated her in his house. Here Bowman married her; from which period he continued to live in the most friendly correspondence with Mr. Betterton, and must have known whether he went to Stratford or not. Malone.
circumstances that wear the least appearance of novelty or information; the song in p. 62 excepted.
"If tradition may be trusted, Shakspeare often baited at the Crown Inn or Tavern in Oxford, in his journey to and from London. The landlady was a woman of great beauty and sprightly wit, and her husband, Mr. John Davenant, (afterwards mayor of that city,) a grave melancholy man; who, as well as his wife, used much to delight in Shakspeare's pleasant company. Their son young Will. Davenant (afterwards Sir William) was then a little school-boy in the town, of about seven or eight years old, and so fond also of Shakspeare, that whenever he heard of his arrival, he would fly from school to see him. One day an old townsman observing the boy running homeward almost out of breath, asked him whither he was posting in that heat and hurry. He answered, to see his god-father Shakspeare. There's a good boy, said the other, but have a care that you don't take God's name in vain. This story Mr. Pope told me at the Earl of Oxford's table, upon occasion of some discourse which arose about Shakspeare's monument then newly erected in Westminster Abbey;"
of about seven or eight years old,] He was born at Oxford in February 1605-6. MALONE.
Shakspeare's monument then newly erected in Westminster Abbey ;]" This monument," says Mr. Granger, was erected in 1741, by the direction of the Earl of Burlington, Dr. Mead, Mr. Pope, and Mr. Martyn. Mr. Fleetwood and Mr. Rich gave each of them a benefit towards it, from one of Shakspeare's own plays. It was executed by H. Scheemaker, after a design of Kent.
"On the monument is inscribed-amor publicus posuit. Dr. Mead objected to amor publicus, as not occurring in old classical
and he quoted Mr. Betterton the player for his authority. I answered, that I thought such a story might have enriched the variety of those choice
inscriptions; but Mr. Pope and the other gentlemen concerned insisting that it should stand, Dr. Mead yielded the point, saying, "Omnia vincit amor, nos et cedamus amori."
"This anecdote was communicated by Dr. Lort, late Greek Professor of Cambridge, who had it from Dr. Mead himself."
It was recorded at the time in The Gentleman's Magazine for Feb. 1741, by a writer who objects to every part of the inscription, and says it ought to have been, "G. S. centum viginti et quatuor post obitum annis populus plaudens [aut favens] posuit."
The monument was opened Jan. 29, 1741. Scheemaker is said to have got 300l. for his work. The performers at each house, much to their honour, performed gratis; and the Dean and Chapter of Westminster took nothing for the ground. The money received by the performance at Drury Lane, amounted to above 2001. the receipts at Covent Garden to about 1001. These particulars I learn from Oldys's MS. notes on Langbaine.
The scroll on the monument, as I learn from a letter to my father, dated June 27, 1741, remained for some time after the monument was set up, without any inscription on it. This was a challenge to the wits of the time; which one of them accepted by writing a copy of verses, the subject of which was a conversation supposed to pass between Dr. Mead and Sir Thomas Hanmer, relative to the filling up of the scroll. I know not whether they are in print, and I do not choose to quote them all. The introductory lines, however, run thus:
"To learned Mead thus Hanmer spoke,
"And fit for Shakspeare to point at;" &c. MALONE.
At Drury Lane was acted Julius Cæsar, 28 April, 1738, when a prologue written by Benjamin Martyn, Esq. was spoken by Mr. Quin, and an epilogue by James Noel, Esq. spoken by Mrs. Porter. Both these are printed in The General Dictionary. At Covent Garden was acted Hamlet, 10th April, 1739, when a prologue written by Mr. Theobald, and printed in The London Magazine of that year, was spoken by Mr. Ryan. In the newspaper of the day it was observed that this last representation was far from being numerously attended. REED.
fruits of observation he has presented us in his preface to the edition he had published of our poet's works. He replied-" There might be in the garden of mankind such plants as would seem to pride themselves more in a regular production of their own native fruits, than in having the repute of bearing a richer kind by grafting; and this was the reason he omitted it.
The same story, without the names of the persons, is printed among the jests of John Taylor the Water-poet, in his works, folio, 1630, p. 184, N° 39 and, with some variations, may be found in one of Hearne's pocket books.
and this was the reason he omitted it.] Mr. Oldys might have added, that he was the person who suggested to Mr. Pope the singular course which he pursued in his edition of Shakspeare. "Remember," says Oldys in a MS. note to his copy of Langbaine, Article, Shakspeare, "what I observed to my Lord Oxford for Mr. Pope's use, out of Cowley's preface." The observation here alluded to, I believe, is one made by Cowley in his preface, p. 53, edit. 1710, 8vo: "This has been the case with Shakspeare, Fletcher, Jonson, and many others, part of whose poems I should presume to take the boldness to prune and lop away, if the care of replanting them in print did belong to me; neither would I make any scruple to cut off from some the unnecessary young suckers, and from others the old withered branches; for a great wit is no more tied to live in a vast volume, than in a gigantick body; on the contrary it is commonly more vigorous the less space it animates, and as Statius says of little Tydeus,
totos infusa per artus,
"Major in exiguo regnabat corpore virtus."
Pope adopted this very unwarrantable idea; striking out from the text of his author whatever he did not like: and Cowley himself has suffered a sort of poetical punishment for having suggested it, the learned Bishop of Worcester [Dr. Hurd] having pruned and lopped away his beautiful luxuriances, as Pope, on Cowley's suggestion, did those of Shakspeare. MALONE.
The same story-may be found in one of Hearne's pocket books.] Antony Wood is the first and original author of the anec