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But Spenser himself, 'tis well known, quitted.
the stage of life in the year 1598; and, five years after this, we find Shakespeare's name among the actors in Ben Johnson's Sejanus, which first made its appearance in the year 1603. Nor, surely, could he then have any thoughts of retiring, since that very year, a licence under the privy-seal was granted by King James I. to him and Fletcher, Burbage, Phillips, Hemings, Condel, &c. authorizing them to exercise the art of playing Comedies, Tragedies, &c. as well at their usual house called the Globe on the other side of the water, as in any other parts of the kingdom, during his majesty's pleasure': (a copy of which licence is preserved in Rymer's Federa.) Again, it is certain, that Shakespeare did not exhibit his Macbeth, till after the union was brought about, and till after King James I. had begun to touch for the evil: for it is plain, he has inserted compliments, on both those accounts, upon his royal master in that tragedy. Nor, indeed, could the number of the dramatic pieces be produced, admit of his retiring near so early as that period. So that what Spenser there says, if it relate at all to Shakespeare, must hint at some occasional recess he made for a time upon a disa gust taken: or the Willy, there mentioned, must relate to some other favourite Poet. I believe, we may fafely determine that he had not quitted in the year 1610.
For in his Tempeft, our aua" thor makes mention of the Bermuda Islands,
which were unknown to the English, till in '1609, Sir John Summers made a voyage to NorthAmerica, and discovered them: and afterwards invited some of his countrymen to settle a plantation there. That he became the private gentleman, at least three years before his decease, is pretty obvious from another circumstance: I mean, from that remarkable and well-known Story, which Mr. Rowe has given us of our author's intimacy with Mr. John Combe, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and usury: and upon whom Shakespeare made the following facetious epitaph. Ten in the hundred lies here ingravid, 'Tis a hundred to ten his soul is not sav'd; If any man ask who lies in this tomb, Oh! oh! quoth the devil, 'tis my Jobn-a-Combe.
This farcastical piece of wit was, at the gendeinan's own request, thrown out extemporally in his company. And this Mr. John Combe I take to be the same, who, by Dugdale in his antiquities of Warwickshire, is said to have died in the year 1614, and for whom at the upper end of the quire, of the guild of the holy cross at Stratford, a fair monument is erected, having a statue thereon cut in alabaster, and in a gown, with this Epitaph. “Here lyeth interred the body of 6 John Combe, Esq; who died the 10th of July, 56.1014, who bequeathed several annual charities to the parish of Stratford, and 1001. to be lent 4 to fifteen poor tradesmen from three years to
three years, changing the parties every third “ year, at the rate of fifty shillings per Annum, as the increase to be distributed to the almes
The donation has all the air of a rich and sagacious usurer,
Shakespeare himself did not survive Mr. Combe long, fer he died in the year 1616, the 53d of, his age. He lies buried on the north side of the chancel in the great church at Stratford; where, a monument, decent enough for the tiine, is erected to him, and placed against the wall. He is represented under an arch in a sitting posture, a cushion fpread before him, with a pen in his right hand, and his left rested on a scroul of, paper. The Latin distich, which is placed un-, der the cushion, has been given us by Mr. Pope, or his graver, in this manner. INGENIO Pylium; Genio Socratem, Arte Maronem,
I confess, I don't conceive the difference betwixt ingeniô and geniô in the first verse. They seem to me'initirely fynonomous Terms; nor was the Pylian sage Neffor celebrated for his ingenuity, but for an experience and judgment owing to his long age. Dugdale in his antiquities of Warwicka Jhire, has copied this diftich with a distinction which Mr. Rowehas followed, and which certainly restores us the true meaning of the epitaph. ;
UDICIO Pylium, Genio Socratem, &c.
In 1614, the greater part of the town of Stratford was consumed by fire; but our Shakespeare's house, among some others, escaped the flames. This House was first built by Sir Hugh Clopton, a younger brother of an ancient family in that neighbourhood, who took their name from the manor of Clopton. Sir Hugh was sheriff of London in the reigri of Richard III. and Lori'-mayor in the reign of King Henry VII. To this gentleman the town of Stratford is indebted for the fine ftone-bridge, consifting of fourteen arches, which at an extraordinary expence he built over the Avon, together with a cause-way running at the west-end thereof; as also for rebuilding the chapel adjoining to his house, and the cross ille in the church there. It is remarkable of him, that, though he lived and died a bachelor, among the other extensive charities which he left both to the city of London and town of Stratford, he bequeathed considerable legacies for the marriage of poor maidens of good name and fame both in London and at Stratford. Notwithstanding which large donations in his life, and bequests at his death, as he had purchased the manner of Clopton, and all the estate of the family, so he left the faine again to his elder brother's son with a very great addition: (a proof, how well beneficence and economy may walk hand in hand in wise
families :) Good part of which estate is yet in the possession of Edward Clopton, Esq; and Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt. lineally descended from the elder brother of the first Sir Hugh: Who particularly bequeathed to his nephew, by his will, his house, by the name of his Great-house in Stratford.
The estate had now been fold out of the Clopton family for above a century, at the time when Shakespeare became the purchaser : who, having repaired and modelled it to his own mind, changed the name to New-place; which the manfion-house, since erected upon the same spot, at this day retains. The house and lands, which attended it, continued in Shakespeare's descendants to the time of the Restoration : when they were repurchased by the Clopton family, and the mansion now belongs to Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt. To the favour of this worthy gentleman I owe the knowledge of one particular, in honour of our poet's once dwelling-house, of which, I presume, Mr. Rowe never was apprized. When the civil war raged in England, and King Charles the First's Queen was driven by the necessity of affairs to make a recess in Warwickshire, the kept her Court for three weeks in New-plaće. We may reasonably suppose it then the best private house in the town; and her Majesty preferred it to the College, which was in the poffeffion of the Combe-Family, who did not so strongly favour the King's party.