Page images

opinion of competent judges may be taken, the bust was executed from a cast taken after death. It was certainly coloured after life, and until it was painted over by Malone-a greater crime to Shakspeare's memory than Mr. Gaskill's destruction of the famous mulberry tree—it represented the poet exactly as he appeared to his contemporaries. The eyes were a bright hazel, the hair and beard auburn; the doublet was scarlet, covered with a loose black sleeveless gown. As in Droeshout's portrait, the forehead is remarkably high and broad ; in fact, the immense volume of the forehead is its most striking feature. The predominant characteristic of the whole is that of a composed, self-possessed, resolute, and vigorous Englishman, of a higher intellectual stamp than usual, but not so far removed from the general national type as we should have been inclined to expect from his writings.

of the several works of Shakspeare-plays and poemsthere were prior to 1616 in circulation, in all

, no fewer than between sixty and sixty-five editions. Some of these reached as many as six editions within a period of not more than twentyone years. This argues of itself an extensive popularity, especially when we reflect on the small number of the reading public of his day. If we take the lowest estimate of the editions (sixty), and suppose each issue to have consisted of the lowest possible paying number (300 say), we should have in circulation no fewer than 18,000 copies of the productions of the great dramatist in print during his lifetime.'* This ingenious computation applies only to the plays and poems printed before the first collected edition of Shakspeare's works in 1623. That folio contains thirty-six plays; one-half of these, so far as is known, never got beyond the footlights; and, therefore, we may presume, were printed by the editors of that volume from the author's manuscript. Among that number are to be found Macbeth,' • Timon of Athens,' Cymbeline,' The Tempest,' all the Roman plays, 'Twelfth Night,' and 'The Winter's Tale.'t


* "Shakespere, a Critical Biography,' by Samuel Neil, p. 59.

† The following is a list of the 4to. and their various editions, before the folio of 1623. The letter M is prefixed to those mentioned by Meres. M 1594. Titus Andronicus, entered at Stationers' Hall Feb. 6, 1594, first edition

not known to exist; 2nd ed. 1600; 3rd ed. 1611. 1595. Henry VI., Part III., 1595. M 1597. Romeo and Juliet, 1597, 1599, 1609 bis ? M Richard II., 1597, 1598, 1608 bis, 1615.

Richard III., 1597, 1598, 1602, 1605, 1612, 1621 ? 1622,
M 1598. Love's Labor': Lost, 1598.

Henry IV., Part I., 1598, 1599, 1604, 1608, 1613, 1622.
Henry IV., Part II., 1600.


[ocr errors]

No collected edition of Shakspeare's dramatic works appeared until 1623, seven years after the poet's death. The volume was ushered into the world by two of his former dramatic associates, John Heminge and Henrie Condell, to whom in conjunction with Burbage, the famous actor, Shakspeare had left in his will .26s. and 8d. a piece to buy them ringes.'* But Burbage died on March 16, 1619;t and if, as is not improbable, he had been originally associated with Heminge and Condell in preparing Shakspeare's dramatic works for the press, his death before the appearance of the volume prevented his name from being joined with theirs in their glorious task. Not one word appears in Shakspeare's will as to the disposal of his papers and manuscripts, or of his shares in the theatres, if

1600. Henry V., 1600, 1602, 1608.
M Merchant of Venice, 1600 bis.
M Midsummer Night's Dream, 1600 bis.
M? Much Ado about Nothing, 1600.

1602. Merry Wives of Windsor, 1602, 1619.
1603. Hamlet, 1603, 1604, 1605, 1611.
1605. Lear, 1608 bis.
1609. Pericles, 1609, 1611, 1619.

Troilus and Cressida, 1609 bis. 1622. Othello, 1622.

Contention of York and Lancaster. Old plays: Richard III., 1594; Taming of a Shrew, 1594, 1607. * And to my fellows, John Hemynges, Richard Burbage, and Henry Cundell, xxvj.s. viij.d. a piece, to buy them rings.'

† Burbage, or Burbadge, according to Malone, was one of the principal sharers of the Globe and Blackfriars theatres. In a letter written in 1613 (Harl. MSS. 7002), the actors at the Globe are called Burbadge's Company. In Jonson's · Masque of Christmas,' 1616, the year that is of Shakspeare's death, Venus, in the character of a deaf tire-woman, is made to say of Cupid: 'I could have had money enough for him, an I would have been tempted and have let him out by the week to the king's players. Master Burbage has been about and about with me, and so has old Master Hemings too; they have need of him.'-Shaksp. iii. 230, ed. 1803.

Heminge and Condell are said to have been printers as well as actors, but Malone thinks that there is no authority for this statement. Probably it arose from their connection with Shakspeare's printed works. At all events, had they been printers by occupation, it is reasonable to surmise that their names would have been found on the title pages of some of the earlier copies of Shakspeare's plays. All the payments made by the Treasurer of the Chamber in 1613, and subsequently, for plays performed at Court, are “to John Heminge and the rest of his fellows' (Malone, ib. 234). In his will Heminge directs that if a sufficient sum cannot be raised from his ordinary chattels towards the payment of his debts, a moiety of the profits which he has by lease in the several playhouses of the Globe and Black-friars’ shall be set aside for that purpose. In another legacy he says: 'I give and bequeath unto every my fellows and sharers, his Majesty's servants, which shall be living at the time of my decease, the sum of 108, a piece, to make them rings for remembrance of me.' Heminge died in 1630.

Henry Condell, whose name appears in the privy seal of James I., 1603, in conjunction with those of Shakspeare, Burbage, and Heminge, died in 1627. Malone thinks that both Burbage and Heminge were natives of Shottery, near Stratford (ib. 233).


at the time of his death he possessed any. If Ward's statement be true that Shakspeare during the closing years of his life furnished annually two plays for the stage,* if it be true that the poet's income was considerable, that he made no purchases of any moment after 1605, that he was besides in the very zenith of his fame and the most popular author of his times, it will be difficult to account for two things : how was it, if he sold the copyright of his plays to his fellows of the Globe and Blackfriars, that he was no richer in 1616 than in 1605 ? Or if he was richer, how did he dispose of his wealth? From the tithes which he had purchased at Stratford he derived an income of 1201. a year; not less than 4001. a year, according to our present computation. He was not careless or extravagant in his habits, had one daughter only, after 1607, and his wife dependent on his exertions. Did he then retain the copyright of his plays, in his own hands, during this later period of his life, intending to publish them himself

, like his contemporary Ben Jonson ? Or was he as indifferent to money as he is said to have been to literary fame? The former of these hypotheses is set at rest by the various documents produced by Mr. Halliwell and others, all of which go to show that the possession of the most transcendant genius is not incompatible with the virtues of economy, regularity, and despatch. His supposed indifference to literary fame finds no countenance in his writings, still less in the evidence of his contemporaries. Thus we find Chettle apologizing to Shakspeare as one of those who had taken offence at the disparaging remarks of Greene in his Groatsworth of Wit,' to the publication of which Chettle had been instrumental. Again, Heywood in his “Apology for Actors,' published in 1612, alluding to the trick of a publisher named Jaggard, who had brought out a copy of Venus and Adonis,' with two love epistles between Paris and Helen, under the general title, “by Wm. Shakespere,' says, in reclaiming his property : I must necessarily resent a manifest injury done me in that work by [its] taking the

That Ward's statement was not very far wrong will appear from the following considerations :-Shakspeare wrote in all 37 plays, including “Pericles. Meres mentions 12 plays as existing in 1598. If to these be added • Pericles' and the three parts of Henry VI., that would give 16; or 19 to be written in the seventeen years and few months following. From 1597 to 1605, or 1606, seven plays only, including the first sketch of Hamlet,' appear to have been published, five in 1600, one in 1602, and “Hamlet' in 1603. Between “Hamlet' and . Lear' five years elapsed (1602-1607) without any entry of Shakspeare's writings at Stationers' Hall. Had he ceased writing all that time, or ceased to attract publishers?

† That Shakspeare permitted inaccurate copies of his plays to be circulated in print is one thing, to assume that he must have done so from indifference to literary distinction is another. Moreover, in his case, as in that of many others, literary fame was money, to which he was certainly not indifferent,


two epistles of Paris to Helen and of Helen to Paris, and printing them in the name of another (Shakespere); which may put the world in opinion I might steal them from him; and he to do himself right hath since published them in his own name. But as I must acknowledge my lines not worthy his patronage under whom he hath published them, so the author I know [was] much offended with Mr. Jaggard, that altogether unknown to him presumed to make so bold with his name. Such words are not compatible with Shakspeare's presumed indifference to the fate of his writings.

With these remarks we return to the consideration of the first folio and Shakspeare's connection with it.

It is a very handsome volume, on which no expense has been spared in respect either of paper or type. It consists of 962 pages in double columns, not including the dedication, preface, or introductory verses. Taking 60 as the average number of lines in a column, the lines in all would amount to 116,402. All circumstances considered, it was one of the most sumptuous and expensive works which up to that time had appeared from the English press in the English language. For size, costliness, and beauty, there had been few works like it; certainly no works of fiction. So far therefore as concerned expenses of this kind, Heminge and Condell had not shown themselves unmindful of what was due to Shakspeare's memory.*

Nor in other respects had they shown themselves careless or inconsiderate in the execution of their task. 'It is not pretended even by those who have been most severe in condemning their labours that they omitted from their collection any genuine drama of Shakspeare, with the exception of Pericles.' Modern research from that time to this, sharpened with all the anxiety of achieving distinction which could not fail the man that discovered a single new play or even a few lines from the poet's pen, has added nothing to the list of the dramas as they have come down to us since the first edition by Heminge and Condell. Very few dramatic authors have been so fortunate in this respect; very few writings have been so much indebted to posthumous care. Supposing it were true that these editors admitted into their collection plays of doubtful authenticity, does any one imagine they would have done better if, like some of Shakspeare's more recent critics, they had rejected “Titus Andronicus,' the three parts of *Henry VI.,'or · Henry VIII.'?† Or if, laying down a theory of their own as to what was or was not worthy of their great contemporary, they had exercised a principle of selection according to their own principles of criticism, would they have deserved so well of posterity as they have done? We are under infinite obligations to them for what they did ; that obligation being no less than this—that whatever emanated from the poet's hand 'they would not willingly let die.' The work was a large one, and unusually costly. The poet's family could not undertake the task, and it is probable never would have done. *

* The sale of Foxe's Martyrs' was secured by government. Hollinshed's 'Chronicles' and the works of Sir Thomas More occupy the ext place in size. Then came the bulky translations and histories of Grimstone, North, and others, generally published by Islip or Bill, the royal printers. † Pericles' does not appear in the first folio.

The editors' labours could scarcely have been other than disinterested. We have but collected them (the plays],' they say in their dedication of the work to the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, 'and done an office to the dead, to procure his orphans guardians; without ambition either of self-profit or fame: only to keep the memory of so worthy a friend and fellow alive, as was our Shakspeare' Nor is there any reason for suspecting the sincerity of their statement. What pecuniary advantage was to be expected from so costly an enterprise ? The impression of the book could not have been large, and when the expenses of publishers and printers had been paid, very little profit would remain for the editors; if, indeed, editors in those cases received any remuneration.

What motives then could they have for undertaking so responsible a task beyond that of friendship for the dead? As we have said, Shakspeare left no directions in his will touching the disposal of his writings. Were they then acting in their corporate capacity as managers of the Globe Theatre, or merely as personal friends of the deceased, guided solely by the dictates of personal affection? Why publish in their corporate capacity that which could bring them little or no corporate profit? Why divulge to rival theatres dramas of which the exclusive copyright and privilege of acting were so valuable? Their language is scarcely susceptible of any other than one plain and obvious interpretation. They say in their Dedication: Since your Lordships have been pleased to think these trifles something

The only person competent to the task was Dr. Hall, the physician, married to the poet's eldest and favourite child, Susannah. But he seems to have been wholly indifferent to the fame of his great father-in-law. Yet Dr. Hall was not an unlettered man.

Shakspeare's widow died in 1623, the year when the first folio appeared ; Dr. Hali in 1635; his wife, Susannah, in 1649; their daughter Elizabeth, remembered with a legacy of 1001, in her grandfather's will, and afterwards Lady Barnard, in 1670. Judith, his other daughter (who signs but does not write her name), died in 1662; her husband some time later. Yet not one of them thought of recording a single fact or anecdote of their relative's life, or of preserving a scrap of his writing. Was it indifference or ingratitude? Or had Puritanism taught them to be ashamed of the name of Shakspeare?


« PreviousContinue »