« ÖncekiDevam »
learnt to regard such fulminations as a fiction, and as depending for nearly the whole of their influence on the ignorance and superstition of the age.
The successors of Innocent III. often appealed to his maxims; but the time to act upon them for the purposes of ambition had passed. Still they had their uses. They served to give an appearance of moderation and plausibility to the interferences of the papacy in matters deemed properly ecclesiastical; and it became an understood maxim with the Court of Rome, to be content with less power than formerly, if the power retained might only be made to be as productive as before in regard to revenue. So the habit of a low rapacity came by degrees into the place of the higher passion. The ecclesiastical history of England from this time to the commencement of the Reformation consists, in so far as the relation of this country to Rome is concerned, in a constant struggle on the part of the popes to enrich themselves as far as possible from the revenues of the English church, and on the part of the crown, the lay patrons, and the clergy generally, to protect themselves against this war of spoliation.
This great change in the temper and aspect of the papal system prepared the way for the humiliation which awaited it. Our national clergy had an obvious interest in endeavouring to sustain the European system. Hence it was not to be expected that the change which seemed inevitable would come speedily. Reform would long be resisted, even at the hazard of ruin. When do the crafty learn to be ingenuous ? When do the avaricious cease to be avaricious ? Such changes there may bebut how rare, how very rare? What will not an individual do, still more, what will not corporate bodies do, rather than submit to such self-crucifixion ? It is no marvel that men like Wycliffe, and Huss, and Jerome should give signs of the coming change-but as little marvellous is it, to those who look beneath the surface, that the course of this change should have been so unequal and so slow, and that even at last it should have had such limitations. What a great tendency in humanity has been long in constructing, it will be long in taking to pieces and casting utterly away. Such changes, like creation, have their stable laws, which determine their time, and mode, and result. Good men would fain be fast workers, but Providence is ever schooling them into two great lessons—to work and to wait. It is always to be remembered, that were the quicker production of good possible, then, from the same laws, the quicker production of evil must be possible. It is not possible to have facility in the one direction, without paying the cost of having it in the Contemporary Notices of Shakespeare.
other. The conservative power which belongs to human nature in such things, though disastrous when on the side of evil, is good when on the side of good. Could nations and continents be made to change their religion easily, we might expect them to change it very often, and that would be something of an inconvenience.
ART. VI.—The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakspere Unfolded. By
DELIA Bacon. With a Preface by NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, Author of The Scarlet Letter,' &c. London: Groombridge and Sons. 1857.
Humour is an excellent provision in human nature. There are hundreds of things at which one would have all the trouble and discomfort of being angry, were it not that, in consequence of this excellent provision, one can deal with them differently—can look at them on their humorous side, and get fun and laughter out of them. When, for example, an American lady, devoting her life to the expansion of a hint thrown out long ago by some foolish person, writes a large book to prove that Shakespeare was not a man but a committee—that the plays that go by his name were concocted by a secret society of advanced intellects, presided over by Raleigh and Bacon, who, having a philosophy of practical life to expound, which they dared not then divulge openly, took this way of disseminating it in quips, and cranks, and parables; it would be a waste of time and energy for any Cisatlantic critic to treat the thing seriously. And yet, to tell the truth, such absurd and meaningless interferences with the established historical beliefs of men do deserve a certain amount of social reprobation. Attempts of the kind, whether made honestly and in good faith or not, ought to receive no kind of encouragement whatever from society-not even the encouragement of being noticed. Of the lady herself in this case we shall say nothing. Her present book, which is offered as only the internal development of her theory, is a cloud of cobweb. We are inclined, however, to be rather severe on her sponsor, Mr. Hawthorne. He ought to know better. With the Atheneum we are inclined to say . O fie!' to him. Let him be assured that every sensible person who reads first the laudatory preface which he has prefixed to Miss Bacon's book, and then the book itself, will have to read the Scarlet Letter over again once or twice before recovering confidence in Mr. Hawthorne.
It is with no reference whatever to Miss Bacon's book, nor to its promised sequel, in which she announces the historical proof of her theory, but simply because the matter is independently interesting, that we propose in this article to collect and arrange, as nearly as possible in chronological order, the notices of Shakespeare and his writings which have come down to us from his contemporaries. We cannot profess to give them all; in many cases, too, our limits compel us to give references and abbreviations instead of the originals in full; we believe, however, that, such as it is, the list we shall present of contemporary notices of Shakespeare will be found more complete and continuous than any yet accessible. It is needless to say that we have laid the works of Mr. Collier, Mr. Halliwell, Mr. Knight, and others freely under contribution.
1. The first contemporary notice of Shakespeare is the entry of his baptism in the parish register of Stratford-on-Avon :
* 1564: April 26: Gulielmus, filius Johannes (for “Johannis'] Shakespeare.
This entry, as it may now be read in the Stratford register, is not the original entry written on the day of the baptism, but a copy written in the year 1600, when the old registers from 1558 onward were transcribed into a new book, and the vicar and four churchwardens certified the accuracy of the transcript by appending their signatures to every page of it. By that time Shakespeare was a man of sufficient note to make it of some interest to the Stratford people that any entries respecting him in particular should be rightly copied.
2. Overleaping eighteen years and seven months, during which we are to suppose the child growing up through boyhood into youth, we alight upon the next document relating to himself personally. This is his marriage-bond, discovered not very long ago in the Worcester registry. In this document, which is dated November 28, 1582, Fulk Sandells and John Richardson, both farmers of Stratford-on-Avon, become bound in forty pounds to two official persons named, the condition of the obligation being that 'if herafter there shall not appere any lawfull lett or impe"diment ... but that William Shagspere one thone partie and * Anne Hathwey of Stratford in the dioces of Worcester, maiden, ‘may lawfully solemnize matrimony together . . . and moreover if there be not at this present time any action, sute, quarrell or * demaund, moved or depending before any judge, ecclesiasticall
Contemporary Notices of Shakespeare.
161 or temporall
, for and concerning any such lawfull lett or impediment: and moreover if the said William Shagspere do not proceed to solemnizacion of mariadg with the said Anne Hathwey without the consent of hir frindes, and also if the said * William do, upon his owne proper costes and expenses, defend ‘ and save harmles the right reverend Father in God Lord John 'Bushop of Worcester and his offycers for licencing them the
said William and Anne to be maried together with once asking ‘of the bannes,' then the bond is to be void and of none effect. On the faith of this bond, we are to presume that Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway were married within a day or two after the date of it in some parish within the diocese of Worcester, not yet ascertained. Shakespeare was then eighteen years and seven months old; Anne Hathaway, as we know on other evidence, was eight years older. They were already really husband and wife—whether by that formality of 'troth-plight before witnesses, which was then, according to our antiquaries, still equivalent to legal sanction, must be left uncertain.
3 and 4. The next entries speak for themselves. They are the baptism entries of Shakespeare's three children in the Stratford register
1583: May 26: Susanna, daughter to William Shakspere.' * 1584 [1584-5]: February 2: Hamnet and Judeth, sonne and daughter to William Shakspere.' The second of these entries shows that Hamnet and Judith were twins. (By-the-bye, it is supposed by some to be uncertain whether Shakespeare's three children had not an aunt and two uncles younger than themselves. Shakespeare's father, John, lived till 1601, and his wife, Shakespeare's mother, till 1608; and in the Stratford register there are the baptism entries of * Ursula' in 1588, ‘Humphrey' in 1590, and ‘ Philippus' in 1591, all children of 'John Shakspere. As there are eight baptism entries prior to these, indubitably referring to the children of Shakespeare's father and mother, if these three referred to later comers of the same family, there were eleven children in all. As Rowe's statement is that there were ten children in the family, some have argued for the three additions born to the old couple after their precocious son William had made them grandfather and grandmother. Others have maintained the contrary, on the ground that there was then living in Stratford another John Shakespeare, a shoemaker, and that while the last three of the first eight are entered as children of Mr. John Shakespeare (these three having been born after he had attained the office of Chief Alderman), the three later additions are entered as children of NO. LI.
John Shakespeare, dropping the Mr., and were, therefore, presumably the shoemaker's. There is, however, another argument in the same direction. If the three extras were of the same family as the first eight, then, as the baptism entry of the first of the family, Shakespeare's eldest sister, Joan, is dated 1558, and the baptism entry of the questionable 'Philippus' is dated 1591, it would follow that there were thirty-three years between the first and the last birth in the family—a circumstance possible enough so far as the alderman was concerned, but which would have been somewhat inconvenient as regarded Mrs. Shakespeare. On the whole, then, we conclude that Shakespeare's children had no uncles or aunts younger than themselves, and that their youngest uncle was Edmund Shakespeare, born in 1580, or three years before Susanna.]
5. After trying, apparently without much success, to earn a livelihood for himself, bis wife, and his three children, as a schoolmaster, or lawyer's clerk, or something of that kind in or near Stratford, Shakespeare, in 1585 or 1586, comes up to London and connects himself with the Blackfriars Theatre. He is then twenty-one or twenty-two years of age. He does not take his wife and children with him, but leaves them in Stratford in the midst of their relatives on both sides—the Shakespeares and the Hathaways. So far as appears, also, he himself still regards Stratford as his home, and spends a part of every year there. During the greater part of every year, however, he is in London, working industriously as an actor and a playwriter, and rapidly making way. The next document, for example, exhibits him, while not yet twenty-six years of age, in the position of a sharer' in the Blackfriars Theatre. At that time, there were complaints against the London companies of players for meddling on the stage with matters of State and religion; and the document in question, which is dated November 1589, and was discovered by Mr. Collier among the papers of the Earl of Ellesmere, is a declaration to the Privy Council, that 'Her Majestie's poore playeres, James Burbadge, Richard Burbadge, John Laneham, Thomas Greene, Robert Wilson, John Taylor, Anth. Wadeson, Thomas Pope, George Peele, Augustine Phillipps, Nicholas * Towley, William Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Johnson, Baptiste Goodale, and Robert Armyn, being all of them sharers in the Blacke-Fryers play-house, have never given cause of displeasure in that they have brought into their playes maters of state and religion unfitt to be handled by them or to bee pre*sented before lewd spectators,' and therefore trust that they may be allowed to exercise their craft as before.
6. There can be little doubt that, from his first connexion with