held by Dethick and Camden), that they had wrongfully given arms to certain
persons, twenty-three in number. The answer of Garter and Clarencieux, preserved
in the Herald's College, was presented on the 10th of May, 1602 ; and it appears
that John Shakspere was one of those named in the " libellous scroll," as the heralds
call it. Their answer as regards Shakspere is as follows : " ShaTcespere. It may as
well be said that Harely, who beareth gould a bend between two cotizes sables, and all
other that [bear] or and argent a bend sables, usurpe the coat of the Lo. Mauley. As
for the speare in bend, [it] is a patible difference ; and the person to whom it was
granted hath borne magestracy, and was justice of peace at Stratford-upon-Avon.
He maried the daughter arid heire of Arderne, and was able to maintain that estate."
The information, or "libellous scroll," was heard before Lord Howard and others
on the 1st of May, 1602. At that time John Shakspere had been dead six months.
The answer of the heralds points to the position of the person to whom the arms
were granted in 1599, when the shield of Shakspere was impaled with the ancient
arms of Arden of Wellingcote. In May, 1602, William Shakspere bore these joint
arms of his father and mother by virtue of the grant of 1599 ; and against him,
therefore, was the "libellous scroll" directed. He had bought a "place of lord-
ship" in the county of Warwick ; he was written down in all indentures, gentleman
and generosus ; he had a new coat of arms, it is true, but he claimed it through a
gentle ancestry. Was there any one in his immediate neighbourhood, a rich arid
proud man, who looked upon the acquisition of lands and houses by the poor player
with a self-important jealousy 1 Sir Thomas Lucy he who possessed Charlcote in
the days of William Shakspere's youth was dead. He died on the 6th of July,
1600 ; and it is probable that he who had looked with reverence upon the worthy
knight when, as a boy, he was unfamiliar with greatness, might have dropped a tear
upon his grave in the parish church of Charlcote. But another Sir Thomas Lucy,
who had just succeeded to large possessions, might have thought it necessary to make
an attempt to lower, in the eyes of his neighbours, the importance of the presump-
tuous man who, being nothing but an actor and a poet, had presumed to write
himself gentleman. In the first copy of "The Merry Wives of Windsor" there is
not a word about the dignities of Justice Shallow, his old coat, or his quarters.
[Monument of Sir Thomas Lucy.]
Those passages first appeared in the folio of 1623. They probably existed when the
play was acted before James in November, 1604 :
" Shallow. Sir Hugh, persuade me not ; I will make a Star-chamber matter of it : if he were
twenty Sir John Falstaffs, he shall not abuse Robert Shallow, esquire.
Slender. In the county of GHoster, justice of peace, and coram.
Shal. Ay, cousin Slender, and cust-alorum.
Slen. Ay, and ratolorum too ; and a gentleman born, master parson j who writes himself arnii-
gero ; in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, armigefo.
Shal. Ay, that I do ; and have done any time these three hundred years.
Slen. All his successors, gone before him, have done 't ; and all his ancestors, that come after
him, may : they may give the dozen white luces in their coat.
Shal. It is an old coat.
Evans. The dozen white louses do become an old coat well ; it agrees well, passant : it is a
familiar beast to man, and signifies love.
Shal. The luce is the fresh fish ; the salt fish is an old coat."
The allusion of the dozen white luces cannot be mistaken. " Three luces hauriant,
argent," are the arms of the Lucys. The luce is a pike " the fresh fish," but
the pike of the Lucys, as shown in their arms in the church window of Charlcote,*
are hauriant, springing, the heraldic term applied to fish ; saltant being the term
applied to quadrupeds in the same attitude. This is the salt or saltant fish of
Shallow. The whole passage is a playful satire upon the solemn pretensions of one
with three hundred years of ancestry boasting of his " old coat." The " dozen white
louses" (the vulgarism covered by the Welshman's pronunciation) points the appli-
cation of the satire with a personality which, coming from one whose habitual
practice was never to ridicule classes or individuals, shows that it was a smart
return for some insult or injury. The old coat, we believe, could not endure the
* See Dugdale's " Warwickshire," p. 401.
290 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV.
neighbourhood of the new coat. The "dozen white luces" could not leap in the
same atmosphere in which the " spear in bend" presumed to dwell. We can un-
derstand the ridicule of the old coat in the second copy of " The Merry Wives of
Windsor," without connecting it with the absurd story of the prosecution for deer-
stealing by the elder Sir Thomas Lucy. The ballad attributed to Shakspere is clearly
a modern forgery, founded upon the passage in " The Merry Wives of Windsor."
If the ridicule of the " old coat " had been intended to mark Shakspere's sense of
early injuries, it would have appeared in the first copy of that play, when the feeling
which prompted the satire was strong, because the offence was recent. It finds a
place in the enlarged copy of that comedy, produced, there can be little doubt, at a
period when some one had prompted an attack upon the validity of the armorial
honours which were granted to his father ; attacking himself, in all likelihood, in
the insolent -spirit of an aristocratic provinciality. The revenge is enduring ; the
subject of the revenge is forgotten. The antiquarian microscope has discovered that,
in 1602, Sir Thomas Lucy (not the same who punished Shakspere " for stealing his
deer," because lie died in 1600*) sent Sir Thomas Egerton the present of a buck,
on the very occasion when the " Othello" of Shakspere was presented before Queen
Elizabeth at Harefield. Whatever might be the comparative honours of William
Shakspere and the Knight of Charlcote at the beginning of the seventeenth century,
this fact furnishes a precise estimate of their relative importance for all future times.
Posterity has settled the debate between the new coat and the old coat by a very
With the exception of this piece of ridicule in " The Merry Wives of Windsor,"
we know not of a single personality which can be alleged against Shakspere, in an
age when his dramatic contemporaries, especially, bespattered their rivals and their
enemies as fiercely as any modern paragraph writer. But vulgar opinion, which is
too apt most easily to recognise the power of talent in its ability to inflict pain
which would scarcely appreciate the sentiment,
" 0, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength \ but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant"
has assigned to Shakspere a performance which has the quality, extraordinary as
regards himself, of possessing scurrility without wit. It is something lower in the
moral scale even than the fabricated ballad upon Sir Thomas Lucy ; for it exhibits a
wanton and unprovoked outrage upon an unoffending neighbour, in the hour of con-
vivial intercourse. Howe tells the story as if he thought he were doing honour to
the genius of the man whose good qualities he is at the same moment recording :
" The latter part of his life was spent, as all men of good sense will wish theirs may
be in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends. He had the good
fortune to gather an estate equal to his occasion, and, in that, to his wish ; and is
said to have spent some years before his death at his native Stratford. His pleasur-
able wit and good nature engaged him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the
friendship, of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. Amongst them, it is a story still
remembered in that country that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe, an
old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and usury : it happened, that in a
pleasant conversation amongst their common friends, Mr. Combe told Shakspeare, in
a laughing manner, that he fancied he intended to write his epitaph, if he happened
to outlive him, and since he could not know what might be said of him when he was
* See ''Egerton Papers," published by the Camden Society, p. 350, in which this fact is over-
dead, he desired it might be done immediately, upon which Shakspeare gave him
these four lines :
' Ten in the hundred lies here ingrav'd ;
'T is a hundred to ten his soul is not sav'd :
If any man ask, Who lies in this tomb]
Oh ! Oh quoth the devil, 't is my John-a-Combe.'
But the sharpness of the satire is said to have stung the man so severely, that he
never forgave it." Certainly this is an extraordinary illustration of Shakspere's
"pleasurable wit and good nature" of those qualities which won for him the name
of the " gentle Shakspere ; " which made Jonson, stern enough to most men, pro-
claim " He was honest, and of an open and free nature," and that his " mind and
manners" were reflected in his " well-turned and true-filed lines." John-a-Combc
never forgave the sharpness of the satire ! And yet he bequeathed by his last will
" To Mr. William Shakspere, five pounds." Aubrey tells the story with a difference :
" One time, as he was at the tavern at Stratford-upon-Avon, one Combes, an old
rich usurer, was to be buryed, he makes there this extemporary epitaph;" and then
he gives the lines with a variation, in which "vows" rhymes to "allows," instead
of "sav'd" to "ingrav'd."
Of course, following out this second story, the family of John Combe resented the
insult to the memory of their parent, who died in 1614 ; and yet an intimacy sub-
sisted between them even till the death of Shakspere, for in his own will he bequeaths
to the son of the usurer a remarkable token of personal regard, the badge of a gen-
tleman : " To Mr. Thomas Combe my sword." The whole story is a fabrication.
Ten in the hundred was the old name of opprobrium for one who lent money. To
receive interest at all was called usury. " That ten in the hundred was gone to the
devil," was an old joke, that shaped itself into epigrams long before the death of
John Combe; and in the "Remains of Richard Brathwaite," printed in 1618, we
have the very epitaph assigned to Shakspere, with a third set of variations, given as
WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY.
[Ancient Hall in the College.]
a notable production of this voluminous writer : " Upon one John Combe, of Strat-
ford-upon-Avon, a notable usurer, fastened upon a Tombe that he had caused to be
built in his Lifetime." The lie direct is given by the will of John Combe to this
third version of the lines against him ; for it directs that a convenient tomb shall
be erected one year after his decease. John Combe was the neighbour and without
doubt the friend of Shakspere. His house was within a short distance of New Place,
being upon the site of the ancient College, and constructed in part out of the offices
of that monastic establishment.* It was of John Combe and his brother that
Shakspere made a large purchase of land in 1602. The better tradition survived
the memory of Howe's and Aubrey's epitaph ; and before the mansion was pulled
down, the people of Stratford delighted to look upon the Hall where John Combe
had listened to the " very ready and pleasant smooth wit " t of his friend " the
immortal Shakspere," as the good folks of Stratford always term their poet. It was
here that the neighbours would talk of " pippins " of their " own grafting," of a fine
"dish of leathercoats," "how a good yoke of bullocks at Stamford Fair ? " "how
a score of ewes now ? " The poet had brought with him from London a few of the
* This fine old building, we regret to say, was taken down in 1799. f Aubrey.
CHAP. III.J REST. 293
new mulberry plants. There was one at New Place, and one at the College. Which
throve best ? Should they ever raibe silk-worms upon the leaves, and give a new
manufacture to Stratford 1 The King was sanguine about the success of his mulberry-
tree project, for he procured plants from France, and dispersed them through the
kingdom ; but they doubted.* The poet planted his mulberry-tree for the ornament
of his " curious knotted garden ; " little dreaming that his very fame in future times
should accelerate its fall.
It would be something if we could now form an exact notion of the house in
which Shakspere lived ; of its external appearance, its domestic arrangements.
Dugdale, speaking of Sir Hugh Clopton, who built the bridge at Stratford and
repaired the chapel, says : " On the north side of this chapel was a fair house,
built of brick and timber, by the said Hugh, wherein he lived in his later days, and
died." This was nearly a century before Shakspere bought the "fair house," which,
in the will of Sir Hugh Clopton, is called the "great house." Theobald says that
Shakspere, " having repaired and modelled it to his own mind, changed the name to
New Place." Malone holds that this is an error : " I find from ancient documents
that it was called New Place as early at least as 1565." The great house, having
been sold out of the Clopton family, was purchased by Shakspere of William Under-
hill, Esq. Shakspere by his will left it to his daughter, Mrs. Hall, with remainder
to her heirs male, or, in default, to her daughter Elizabeth and her heirs male, or the
heirs male of his daughter Judith. Mrs. Hall died in 1649 ; surviving her husband
fourteen years. There is little doubt that she occupied the house when Queen
Henrietta Maria, in 1643, coming to Stratford in royal state with a large army,
resided for three weeks under this roof. The property descended to her daughter
Elizabeth, first married to Mr. Thomas Nash, and afterwards to Sir Thomas Barnard.
She dying without issue, New Place was sold in 1675, and was ultimately re-purchased
by the Tlopton family. Sir Hugh Clopton, in the middle of the eighteenth century,
resided there. The learned knight thoroughly repaired and beautified the place, as
the local historians say, and built a modern front to it. This was the first stage of
its desecration. After the death of Sir Hugh, in 1751, it was sold to the Rev.
Francis Gastrell, in 1753.
The total destruction of New Place in 1757, by its then possessor, is difficult to
account for upon any ordinary principles of action. Malone thus relates the story:
' The Rev. Mr. Gastrell, a man of large fortune, resided in it but a few years, in
consequence of a disagreement with the inhabitants of Stratford. Every house in
that town that is let or valued at more than 40s. a-year is assessed by the overseers,
according to its worth and the ability of the occupier, to pay a monthly rate toward
the maintenance of the poor. As Mr. Gastrell resided part of the year at Lichfield,
he thought he was assessed too highly ; but being very properly compelled by the
magistrates of Stratford to pay the whole of what was levied on him, on the prin-
ciple that his house was occupied by his servants in his absence, he peevishly
declared, that that house should never be assessed again : and soon afterwards
pulled it down, sold the materials, and left the town. Wishing, as it should seem,
to be ' damn'd to everlasting fame,' he had some time before cut down Shakspere's
celebrated mulberry-tree, to save himself the trouble of showing it to those whose
admiration of our great poet led them to visit the poetic ground on which it stood."
The cutting down of the mulberry-tree seems to have been regarded as the chief
offence in Mr. Gastrell's own generation. His wife was a sister of Johnson's corre-
spondent, Mrs. Aston. After the death of Mr. Gastrell, his widow resided at
Lichfield ; and in 1776, Boswell, in company with Johnson, dined with the sisters.
* See Howes's Continuation of Stow's " Chronicle/' p. 894.
294 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV.
Boswell on this occasion says, "I was not informed till afterwards, that Mrs.
GastrelTs husband was the clergyman who, while he lived at Stratford-upon-Avon,
with Gothic barbarity cut down Shakspcre's mulberry-tree, and, as Dr. Johnson told
me, did it to vex his neighbours. His lady, I have reason to believe on the same
authority, participated in the guilt of what the enthusiasts of our immortal bard
deem almost a species of sacrilege." The mulberry- tree was cut down in 1756 ;
was sold for firewood ; and the bulk of it was purchased by a Mr. Thomas Sharpe,
of Stratford-upon-Avon, clock and watchmaker, who made a solemn affidavit some
years afterwards, that out of a sincere veneration for the memory of its celebrated
planter he had the greater part of it conveyed to his own premises, and worked it
into curious toys and useful articles. The destruction of the mulberry-tree, which
the previous possessor of New Place used to show with pride and veneration, enraged
the people of Stratford ; and Mr. Wheler tells us that he remembers to have heard
his father say that, when a boy, he assisted in the revenge of breaking the reverend
destroyer's windows. The hostilities were put an end to by the Rev. Mr. Gastrell
quitting Stratford in 1757 ; and, upon the principle of doing what he liked with his
own, pulling the house to the ground in which Shakspere and his children had lived
There is no good end to be served in execrating the memory of the man who
deprived the world of the pleasure of looking upon the rooms in which the author
of some of the greatest productions of human intellect had lived, in the common
round of humanity of treading reverentially upon the spot hallowed by his presence
and by his labours. It appears to us that this person intended no insult to the
memory of Shakspere ; and, indeed, thought nothing of Shakspere in the whole
course of his proceedings. He bought a house, and paid for it. He wished to
enjoy it in quiet. People with whom he could not sympathize intruded upon him
to see the gardens and the house. In the gardens was a noble mulberry-tree.
Tradition said it was planted by Shakspere ; and the professional enthusiasts of
Shakspere, the Garricks and the Macklins, had sat under its shade, during the occu-
pation of one who felt that there was a real honour in the ownership of such a place.
The Rev. Mr. Gastrell wanted the house and the gardens to himself. He had that
strong notion of the exclusive rights of property which belongs to most Englishmen,
and especially to ignorant Englishmen. Mr. Gastrell was an ignorant man, though
a clergyman. We have seen his diary, written upon a visit to Scotland three years
after the pulling down of New Place. His journey was connected with some elec-
tioneering intrigues in the Scotch boroughs. He is a stranger in Scotland, and he
goes into some of its most romantic districts. The scenery makes no impression
upon him, as may be imagined ; but he is scandalized beyond measure when he
meets with a bad dinner and a rough lodging. He has just literature enough to
know the name of Shakspere ; but in passing through Torres and Glamis he has not
the slightest association with Shakspere's "Macbeth." A Captain Gordon informs his.
vacant mind upon some abstruse subjects, as to which we have the following
record : " He assures me that the Duncan murdered at Torres was the same person
that Shakspere writes of." There scarcely requires any further evidence of the
prosaic character of his mind ; and if there be some truth in the axiom of Shaks-
" The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils,"
we hold, upon the same principle, that the man who speaks in this literal way of the
" person that Shakspere writes of," was a fit man to root up Shakspere's mulberry-
CHAP. III.] REST. 295
tree, and pull down his house, being totally insensible to the feeling that he
was doing any injury to any person but himself, and holding that the wood
and the stone were his own, to be dealt with at his own good pleasure.
It is a singular fact that no drawings or prints exist of New Place as
Shakspere left it, or at any period before the alterations by Sir Hugh
Clopton. It is a more singular fact that although Garrick had been there
only fourteen years before the destruction, visiting the place with a feeling
of veneration that might have led him and others to preserve some
memorial of it, there is no trace whatever existing of what New Place
was before 1757. The representation of "New Place" given in some
variorum editions of Shakspere, is unquestionably a forgery. A modern
house is now built upon the spot. Part of the site is still a pleasant place
of garden and bowling-green.
The register of marriages at Stratford-upon-Avon, for the year 1607,
contains the following entry :
"John Hall, gentleman, and Susanna Shaxspere."
Susanna, the eldest daughter of William Shakspere, was now twenty-four
years of age. John Hall, gentleman, a physician settled at Stratford, was
in his thirty-second year. This appears in every respect to have been a
propitious alliance. Shakspere received into his family a man of learning
and talent. Dr. Hall lived at a period when medicine was throwing off
the empirical rules by which it had been too long directed ; and a school
of zealous practitioners were beginning to rise up who founded their
success upon careful observation. It was the age which produced the
great discoveries of Harvey. Shaksperc's son-in-law belonged to this school
of patient and accurate observers. He kept a record of the cases which
came under his care ; and his notes, commencing in the year 1617, still
exist in manuscript. The minutes of his earlier practice are probably
lost. The more remarkable of the cases were published more than twenty
years after his death, being translated from the original Latin by James
Cooke, and given to the world under the title of " Select Observations
on English Bodies, or Cures in desperate Diseases." This work went
through three editions.
[Signature of Dr. Hall.]
The season at which the marriage of Shakspere's elder daughter took
place would appear to give some corroboration to the belief that, at this
period, he had wholly ceased to be an actor. It is not likely that an
event to him so deeply interesting would have taken place during his
absence from Stratford. It was the season of performances at the Globe ;
when the eager multitude who crowded the pit might look up through
the open roof upon a brilliant sky ; and when the poet, whose productions were
the chief attraction of that stage, might rejoice that he could wander in the free
woods, and the fresh fields, from the spring time,
" When proud-pied April, dress'd in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,"
WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY.
to the last days of autumn, when he saw
" The summer's green all girded tip in sheaves,
Born on the bier with white and bristly beard."
A pleasanter residence than Stratford, independent of all the early associations
which endeared it to the heart of Shakspere, would have been difficult to find as a
poet's resting-place. It was a town, as most old English towns were, of houses
amidst gardens. Built of timber, it had been repeatedly devastated by fires. In
1594 and 1595 a vast number of houses had been thus destroyed ; but they were
probably small tenements and hovels. New houses arose of a better order ; and
one still exists, bearing the date on its front of 1596, which indicates something of
the picturesque beauty of an old country town before the days arrived which, by one
accord, were to be called elegant and refined their elegance and refinement chiefly
consisting in sweeping away our national architecture, and our national poetry, to
substitute buildings and books which, to vindicate their own exclusive pretensions
to utility, rejected every grace that invention could bestow, and in labouring for a
[House in the High Street, Stratford.]
dull uniformity lost even the character of proportion. Shakspere's own house was
no doubt one of those quaint buildings which were pulled down in the last genera-
tion, to set up four walls of plain brick, with equi-distant holes called doors and
windows. His garden was a spacious one. The Avon washed its banks : and
within its enclosures it had its sunny terraces and green lawns, its pleached alleys
and honeysuckle bowers. If the poet walked forth, a few steps brought him into