with the natural disposition of youth, strongest perhaps in the more imaginative, to
mingle in the recreations and sports of his neighbours with the most cordial spirit
of enjoyment, the Puritans were beginning to denounce every assembly of the people
that strove to keep up the character of merry England.
Stubbes, writing at this
exact epoch, says, describing " The manner of keeping of Wakesses," that " every
town, parish, and village, some at one time of the year, some at another, but so that
every one keep his proper day assigned and appropriate to itself (which they call
their wake-day), useth to make great preparation and provision for good cheer ; to
the which all their friends and kinsfolks, far and near, are invited." Such were the
friendly meetings in all mirth and freedom which the proclamation of Charles Calls
"neighbourhood." The Puritans denounced them as occasions of gluttony and
drunkenness. Excess, no doubt, was occasionally there. The old hospitality could
scarcely exist without excess. But it must not be forgotten that, whatever might
be the distinction of ranks amongst our ancestors in all matters in which "coat-
armour " was concerned, there was a hearty spirit of social intercourse, constituting
a practical equality between man and man, which enabled all ranks to mingle with-
out offence and without suspicion in these public ceremonials ; and thus the civili-
zation of the educated classes told upon the manners of the uneducated. There is
no writer who furnishes us a more complete picture of this ancient freedom of
intercourse than Chaucer. The company who meet at the Tabard, and eat the
victual of the best, and drink the strong wine, and submit themselves to the merry
host, and tell their tales upon the pilgrimage without the slightest restraint, are not
only the very high and the very humble, but the men of professions and the men
of trade, who in these latter days too often jostle and look big upon the debateable
land of gentility. And so, no doubt, this freedom existed to a considerable extent
even in the days of Shakspere. In the next generation, Herrick, a parish priest,
" Come, Anthea, let us two
Go to feast, as others do.
Tarts and custards, creams and cakes,
Are the junkets still at wakes :
Unto which the tribes resort,
Where the business is the sport."
With "the tribes" were mingled the stately squire, the reverend parson, and the
well-fed yeoman ; and, what was of more importance, their wives and daughters
there exchanged smiles and courtesies. The more these meetings were frowned upon
by the severe, the more would they be cherished by those who thought not that the
proper destiny of man was unceasing labour and mortification. Some even of the
most pure would exclaim, as Burton exclaimed after there had been a contest for
fifty years upon the matter, "Let them freely feast, sing, and dance, have their
* Rushworth's " Collections," quoted in Harris's " Life of Charles I."
114 WILLIAM SHAKSPEKE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II.
puppet-plays, hobby-horses, tabors, crowds, bagpipes, &c., play at ball and barley-
breaks, and what sports and recreations they like best ! "*
From sunrise, then, upon a bright summer morning, are the country people in
their holiday dresses hastening to Welford. It is the Baptist's day. There were
some amongst them who had lighted the accustomed bonfires upon the hills on the
vigil of the saint ; and perhaps a maiden or two, clinging to the ancient supersti-
tions, had tremblingly sat in the church-porch in the solemn twilight, or more
daringly had attempted at midnight to gather the fern-seed which should make
mortals " walk invisible." Over the bridges at Binton come the hill people from
Temple Grafton and Billesley. Arden pours out its scanty population from the
woodland hamlets. Bidford and Barton send in their tribes through the flat pastures
on either bank of the river. From Stratford there is a pleasant and not circuitous
walk by the Avon's side, now leading through low meadows, now ascending some
gentle knoll, where a long reach of the stream may be traced, and now close upon
the sedges and alders, with a glimpse of the river sparkling through the green.
u Jog on, jog on, the foot-path way,
And merrily hent the stile-a :
A merry heart goes all the day,
Your sad tires in a mile-a." f
The church-bells of Welford send forth a merry peal. There is cordial welcome in
every house. The tables of the Manor Hall are set out with a substantial English
breakfast ; and the farmer's kitchen emulates the same bounteous hospitality. In
a little while the church-tower sends forth another note. A single bell tolls for
matins. The church soon fills with a zealous congregation ; not a seat is empty.
The service for this particular feast is attended to with pious reverence ; and when
the people are invited to assist in its choral parts, they still show that, however the
national taste for music may have been injured by the suppression of the chauntries,
they are familiar with the fine old chaunts of their fathers, and can perform them
with spirit and exactness, each according to his ability, but the most with some
knowledge of musical science. The homily is ended. The sun shines glaringly
through the white glass of this new church ; and some of the Stratford people may
think it fortunate that their old painted windows are not yet all removed. J The dew
is off the green that skirts the churchyard ; the pipers and crowders are ready ; the
first dance is to be chosen. Thomas Heywood, one of Shakspere's pleasant con-
temporaries, has left us a dialogue which shows how embarrassing was such a
"'Jack. Come, what shall it be? ' Rogero? '
Jenkin. * Rogero 1 ' no ; we will dance ' The beginning of the world.'
Sisly. I love no dance so well as ' John, come kiss me now.'
Nicholas. I have ere now deserv'd a cushion ; call for the 'Cushion-dance.'
Roger. For my part, I like nothing so well as ' Tom Tyler.'
Jenkin. No ; we'll have ' The hunting of the fox.'
Jack. ' The hay, The hay ;' there's nothing like ' The hay.'
Jenkin. Let me speak for all, and we'll have 'Sellenger's round.' "
* " Anatomy of Melancholy," Part II., Sec. 2.
f " Winter's Tale," Act iv., Scene n. The music of this song is given in the " Pictorial Shak-
spere," and in Mr. Chappell's admirable collection of " English National Airs." We are indebted to
Mr. Chappell for many of the facts connected with our ancient music noticed in the present chapter.
J " All images, shrines, tabernacles, roodlofts, and monuments of idolatry are removed, taken
down, and defaced ; only the stories in glass windows excepted, which for want of sufficient store of
new stuff, and by reason of extreme charge that should grow by the alteration of -the same into
white panes throughout the realm, are not altogether abolished in most places at once, but by little
and little suffered to decay, that white glass may be provided and set up in their rooms." Harri-
son's " Description of England :" 1586.
" A Woman Killed with Kindness." 1600.
CHAP. VI.] THE WAKE. 115
Jenkin, who rejects " Rogero," is strenuous for " The Beginning of the World," and
he carries his proposal by giving it the more modern name of " Sellenger's Round.'
The tune was as old as Henry VIII. ; for it is mentioned in " The History of Jack of
Newbury," by Thomas Deloney, whom Kemp called the great ballad-maker : " In
comes a noise of musicians in tawny coats, who, taking off their caps, asked if they
would have any music ? The widow answered, 'No ; they were merry enough.
* Tut ! ' said the old man ; ' let us hear, good fellows, what you can do ; and play
me "The Beginning of the World.'" A quaint tune is this, by whatever name it be
known an air not boisterous hi its character, but calm and graceful ; a round
dance " for as many as will ;" who " take hands and go round twice, and back again,"
with a succession of figures varying the circular movement, and allowing the display
of individual grace and nimbleness :
" Each one tripping on his toe,
Will be here with mop and mowe." *
The countryfolks of Shakspere's time put their hearts into the dance ; and, as their
ears were musical by education, their energy was at once joyous and elegant. Glad
hearts are there even amongst those who are merely lookers-on upon this scene.
The sight of happiness is in itself happiness ; and there was real happiness in the
"unreproved pleasures" of the youths and maidens
" Tripping the comely country-round
With daffodils and daisies crown'd." f
If Jenkin carried the voices for " Sellenger's Round," Sisly must next be gratified
with " John, come kiss me now." Let it not be thought that Sisly called for a
vulgar tune. This was one of the most favourite airs of Queen Elizabeth's " Virginal
Book," and after being long popular in England it transmigrated into a " godly
song" of Scotland. The tune is in two parts, of which the first part only is in the
" Virginal Book," and this is a sweet little melody full of grace and tenderness. The
more joyous revellers may now desire something more stirring, and call for " Pack-
ington's Pound," as old perhaps as the days of Henry VIII., and which survived for
a couple of centuries hi the songs of Ben Jonson and Gay.$ The controversy about
players, pipers, and dancers has fixed the date of some of these old tunes, showing
us to what melodies the young Shakspere might have moved joyously in a round or
a galliard. Stephen Gosson, for example, sneers at " Trenchmore." But we know
that " Trenchmore" was of an earlier date than Gosson's book. A writer who
came twenty years after Gosson shows us that the " Trenchmore" was scarcely to
be reckoned amongst the graceful dances : " In this case, like one dancing the
'Trenchmore,' he stamped up and down the yard, holding his hips in his hands."
It was the leaping, romping dance, in which the exuberance of animal spirits delights.
Burton says "We must dance 'Trenchmore' over tables, chairs, and stools."
Selden has a capital passage upon " Trenchmore," showing us how the sports of the
country were adopted by the Court, until the most boisterous of the dancing delights
of the people fairly drove out " state and ancientry." He says, in his " Table Talk,"
" The Court of England is much altered. At a solemn dancing, first you had the
grave measures, then the corantoes and the galliards, and this kept up with cere-
mony ; and at length to 'Trenchmore' and the 'Cushion-dance:' then all the
company dances, lord and groom, lady and kitchen-maid, no distinction. So in our
* " Tempest," Act iv., Scene n. t Herrick's " Hesperides."
J See Ben Jonson's song in " Bartholomew Fair," beginning
" My masters, and friends, and good people, draw near."
Deloney's " Gentle Craft :" 1598.
116 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II.
Court in Queen Elizabeth's time, gravity and state were kept up ; in King James's
time things were pretty well ; but in King Charles's time there has been nothing
but ' Trenchmore,' and the ' Cushion-dance,' omnium gatherum, tolly polly, hoite
come toite." It was in this spirit that Charles II. at a court ball called for " Cuckolds
all arow," which he said was "the old dance of England."* From its name, and
its jerking melody, this would seem to be one of the country dances of parallel lines.
They were each danced by the people ; but the round dance must unquestionably
have been the most graceful. Old Burton writes of it with a fine enthusiasm :
" Joan's Placket," the delightful old tune that we yet beat time to, when the inspirit-
ing song of " When I followed a lass" conies across our memories, t would be a
favourite upon the green at Welford ; and surely he who in after-times said, " I did
think by the excellent constitution of thy leg it was formed under the star of a
galliard," might strive not to resist the attraction of the air of " Sweet Margaret,"
and willingly surrender himself to the inspiration of its gentle and its buoyant
movements. One dance he must take part in ; for even the squire and the squire's
lady cannot resist its charms, the dance which has been in and out of fashion for
two centuries and a half, and has again asserted its rights in England, in despite of
waltz and quadrille. We all know, upon the most undoubted testimony, that the
Sir Roger de Coverley who to the lasting regret of all mankind caught a cold at the
County Sessions, and died in 1712, was the great-grandson of the worthy knight of
Coverley, or Cowley, who "was inventor of that famous country-dance which is
called after him," with its graceful advancings and retirings, its bows and curtsies,
its chain figures, its pretty knots unravelled in simultaneous movement. In vain
for the young blood of 1580, might old Stubbes denounce peril to body and mind
in his outcry against the " horrible vice of pestiferous dancing." The manner in which
the first Puritans set about making people better, after the fashion of a harsh nurse to
a froward child, was very remarkable. Stubbes threatens the dancers with lameness
and broken legs, as well as with severer penalties ; but, being constrained to acknow-
ledge that dancing " is both ancient and general, having been used ever in all ages
as well of the godly as of the wicked," he reconciles the matter upon the following
principle : "If it be used for man's comfort, recreation and godly pleasure, privately
(every sex distinct by themselves), whether with music or otherwise, it cannot be
but a very tolerable exercise" We doubt if this arrangement would have been alto-
gether satisfactory to the young men and maidens at the Welford Wake, even if
Philip Stubbes had himself appeared amongst them, with his unpublished manu-
script in his pocket, to take the place of the pipers, crying out to them " Give
over, therefore, your occupations, you pipers, you fiddlers, you minstrels, and you
musicians, you drummers, you tabretters, you fluters, and all other of that wicked
brood." 1 1 Neither, when the flowing cup was going round among the elders to song
and story, would he have been much heeded, had he himself lifted up his voice,
exclaiming, " Wherefore should the whole town, parish, village, and country, keep
one and the same day, and make such gluttonous feasts as they do 1 " IT One young
man might have answered, " Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall
be no more cakes and ale ?"**
* Pepys's " Memoirs," first 8vo., vol. i., p. 359. f " Love in a Village."
J* " Twelfth Night," Act i., Scene in. "Spectator," Nos. 2 and 517.
|| " Anatomy of Abuses." ^[ Ibid. ** " Twelfth Night," Act n., Scene in.
CHARLCOTE : the name is familiar to every reader of Shakspere ; but it is not
presented to the world under the influence of pleasant associations with the world's
poet. The story, which was first told by Howe, must be here repeated : " An extra-
vagance that he was guilty of forced him both out of his country, and that way of
living which he had taken up ; and though it seemed at first to be a blemish upon
his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily proved the
occasion of exerting one of the greatest geniuses that ever was known in dramatic
poetry. He had, by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill
company, and, amongst them, some that made a frequent practice of deer-stealing
engaged him more than once in robbing a park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy,
of Charlcote, near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he
thought, somewhat too severely ; and, in order to revenge that ill usage, he made a
ballad upon him. And though this, probably the first essay of his poetry, be lost,
yet it is said to have been so very bitter, that it redoubled the prosecution against
him to that degree, that he was obliged to leave his business and family in Warwick-
118 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II.
shire for some time, and shelter himself in London." * The good old gossip Aubrey
is wholly silent about the deer-stealing and the flight to London, merely saying,
" This William, being inclined naturally to poetry and acting, came to London, I
guess about eighteen." But there were other antiquarian gossips of Aubrey's age,
who have left us their testimony upon this subject. The Reverend William Fulman,
a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, who died in 1688, bequeathed his papers
bo the Reverend Richard Davies of Sandford, Oxfordshire ; and on the death of Mr.
Davies, in 1708, these papers were deposited in the library of Corpus Christi.
Fulman appears to have made some collections for the biography of our English
poets, and under the name Shakspere he gives the dates of his birth and death.
But Davies, who added notes to his friend's manuscripts, affords us the following
piece of information : " Much given to all unluckiness, in stealing venison and
rabbits ; particularly from Sir Lucy, who had him oft whipped, and sometimes
imprisoned, and at last made him fly his native country, to his great advancement.
But his revenge was so great, that he is his Justice Clodpate and calls him a great
man, and that, in allusion to his name, bore three louses rampant for his arms."
The accuracy of this chronicler, as to events supposed to have happened a hundred
years before he wrote, may be inferred from his correctness in what was accessible
to him. Justice Clodpate is a new character ; and the three louses rampant have
diminished strangely from the " dozen white luces " of Master Slender. In Mr.
Davies's account we have no mention of the ballad through which, according to
Rowe, the young poet revenged his " ill usage." But Capell, the editor of Shakspere,
found a new testimony to that fact : " The writer of his ' Life,' the first modern,
[Rowe] speaks of a ' lost ballad,' which added fuel, he says, to the knight's before-
conceived anger, and * redoubled the prosecution ; ' and calls the ballad ( the first
essay of Shakespeare's poetry : ' one stanza of it, which has the appearance of
genuine, was put into the editor's hands many years ago by an ingenious gentleman
(grandson of its preserver), with this account of the way in which it descended to
him : Mr. Thomas Jones, who dwelt at Tarbick, a village in Worcestershire, a few
miles from Stratford-on-Avon, and died in the year 1703, aged upwards of ninety,
remembered to have heard from several old people at Stratford the story of Shake-
speare's robbing Sir Thomas Lucy's park ; and their account of it agreed with Mr.
Rowe's, with this addition that the ballad written against Sir Thomas by Shake-
speare was stuck upon his park-gate, which exasperated the knight to apply to a
lawyer at Warwick to proceed against him. Mr. Jones had put down in writing the
first stanza of the ballad, which was all he remembered of it, and Mr. Thomas Wilkes
(my grandfather) transmitted it to my father by memory, who also took it in
writing." t The first stanza of the ballad which Mr. Jones put down in writing as
all he remembered of it, has been so often reprinted, that we can scarcely be justified
in omitting it. It is as follows :
" A parliamente member, a justice of peace,
At home a poor scare-crowe, at London an asse ;
If lowsie is Lucy, as some volke miscalle it,
Then Lucy is lowsie, whatever befall it.
He thinkes himself greate,
Yet an asse is his state
We allowe by his eares but with asses to mate.
If Lucy is lowsie, as some volke miscalle it,
Sing lowsie Lucy, whatever befalle it."
But the tradition sprang up in another quarter. Mr. Oldys, the respectable anti-
* " Some Account of the Life of William Shakespear, written by Mr. Rowe."
f ""Notes and various Readings to Shakspere," Part III., p. 76.
CHAP. Vn.] CHARLCOTE. 119
quarian, has also preserved this stanza, with the following remarks : " There was a
very aged gentleman living in the neighbourhood of Stratford (where he died fifty
years since), who had not only heard from several old people in that town of Shak-
speare's transgression, but could remember the first stanza of that bitter ballad,
which, repeating to one of his acquaintance, he preserved it in writing, and here it
is, neither better nor worse, but faithfully transcribed from the copy, which his
relation very courteously communicated to me."* The copy preserved by Oldys
corresponds word by word with that printed by Capell ; and it is therefore pretty
evident that each was derived from the same source, the person who wrote down
the verses from the memory of the one old gentleman. In truth, the whole matter
looks rather more like an exercise of invention than of memory. Mr. De Quincey
has expressed a very strong opinion " that these lines were a production of Charles
II.'s reign, and applied to a Sir Thomas Lucy, not very far removed, if at all, from
the age of him who first picked up the precious filth : the phrase ' parliament
member' we believe to be quite unknown in the colloquial use of Queen Elizabeth."
But he has overlooked a stronger point against the authenticity of the ballad. He
says that "the scurrilous rondeau has been imputed to Shakspcare ever since the days
of the credulous Rowe." This is a mistake. Rowe expressly says the ballad is
" lost." It was not till the time of Oldys and Capell, nearly half a century after
Rowe, that the single stanza was found. It was not published till seventy years
after Rowe's " Life of Shakspeare." We have little doubt that the regret of Rowe
that the ballad was lost was productive not only of the discovery, but of the creation,
of the delicious fragment. By and by more was discovered, and the entire song
" was found in a chest of drawers that formerly belonged to Mrs. Dorothy Tyler, of
Shottery, near Stratford, who died in 1 7 78, at the age of 80." This is Malone's account,
who inserts the entire song in the Appendix to his posthumous " Life of Shakspeare,"
with the expression of his persuasion " that one part of this ballad is just as genuine
as the other ; that is, that the whole is a forgery." We believe, however, that the
first stanza is an old forgery, and the remaining stanzas a modern one. If the ballad
is held to be all of one piece, it is a self-evident forgery. But in the " entire song "
the new stanzas have not even the merit of imitating the versification of the first
attempt to degrade Shakspere to the character of a brutal doggrel-monger.
This, then, is the entire evidence as to the deer-stealing tradition. According to
Rowe, the young Shakspere was engaged more than once in robbing, a park, for which
he was prosecuted by Sir Thomas Lucy ; he made a ballad upon his prosecutor, and
then, being more severely pursued, fled to London. According to Davies, he was
much given to all unluckiness in stealing venison and rabbits ; for which he was
often whipped, sometimes imprisoned, and at last forced to fly the country.
According to Jones, the tradition of Rowe was correct as to robbing the park ; and
the obnoxious ballad being stuck upon the park-gate, a lawyer of Warwick was
authorised to prosecute the offender. The tradition is thus full of contradictions
upon the face of it. It necessarily would be so, for each of the witnesses speaks of
circumstances that must have happened a hundred years before his time. We must
examine the credibility of the tradition, therefore, by inquiring what was the state of
the law as to the offence for which William Shakspere is said to have been prose-
cuted ; what was the state of public opinion as to the offence ; and what was the
position of Sir Thomas Lucy as regarded his immediate neighbours.
The law in operation at the period in question was the 5th of Elizabeth, chapter
21. The ancient forest-laws had regard only to the possessions of the Crown ; and
therefore in the 32nd of Henry VIII. an Act was passed for the protection of " every
inheritor and possessor of manors, land, and tenements," which made the killing of
* MS. Notes upon Langbainc, from which Steevcns published the lines in 1778.
120 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II.
deer, and the taking of rabbits and hawks, felony. This Act was repealed in the
1st of Edward VI. ; but it was quickly re-enacted in the 3rd and 4th of Edward VI.
(1549 and 1550), it being alleged that unlawful hunting prevailed to such an extent
throughout the realm, in the royal and private parks, that in one of the king's parks
within a few miles of London five hundred deer were slain in one day. For the due
punishment of such offences the taking of deer was again made felony. But the