Francis Lieber.

Library of universal knowledge. A reprint of the last (1880) Edinburgh and London edition of Chambers' encyclopaedia, with copious additions by American editors (Volume 13) online

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Lee's pretensions, through an incident seemingly unfavorable. Owing to her British
origin, her denunciations against war, and her refusal to take the colonial oaths, Ann
was imprisoned for some time at Poughkeepsie, on suspicion of being a British spy.
Before she was let out of prison, in December, 1780, all the colonies had heard of "the
female Christ." In the following year, she started upon a missionary tour tiiDiigh New
England and adjacent colonies; she found the people every where curious to see her, and
she made not a few converts. She did not return to Water Vliet till S.'pt., 178J; and
about a year after, she died. Her death was a surprise to many of her followers,
who believed that she was to live among them forever; but her successors the Joseph
Meacham and Lucy Wright already mentioned to whom, on her death-bed, she had
made over the headship of the society, were ready with a theory accounting for it.
" Mother Ann," they said, could not die, and was not dead, and had not ceased to live
among her people. She had only withdrawn from tiie common sight; she was still visi-
ble to eyes exalted by the gift of grace; she had cast the dress of tlesh, and was now
clothed with a glory which concealed her from the world. So il would be with
every one of the saints in turn; but the spirit of those who "passed out of sight"
woul 1 remain near and be in union with the visible body of believers. This explana-
tion was generally accepted, and has become a vital part of the Shaker creed.

By Joseph Meacham and Lucy Wright, the successors of " Mother Ann," the Shak-
ers were gathered into settlements, ten in number; and a covenant was dr.iwn up
embracing the chief points of their creed, and of tiie social system since associated with
it. Their Inad was, of course, "Mother Ann" that is, Christ of whom Joseph and
Lucy were temporarily the representatives; elders and deacons, imk> and female, were
appointed; the institution of celibacy was confirmed; an;! a community of go >ds was
introduced. On the death of Joseph Meacham in i/79a, " Mother Lucy" became the solo
head of the society, and she governed it with ample powers for 25 years. S'.ie named a
female successor with the title of elderess; and the name of "mother" has not, since
that time, been applied to the female head of the community. Eleven societies Avere
formed between 1787 and 1793. Early iu the present century a remarkable religious
excitemant took place in Kentucky. The Shaker*, taking advantage of this movement,
sent three representatives thither, and received sufficient additions to found rive new
societies. (See Nordoff's Communistic Societies of the United tfttitfx. 1875.) The Shak-rs
were, at the census of 1870, about 3,500 in number, included in 18 societies; of which
three are in the state of New York, four in Massachusetts, two in New Hampshire, two
in Maine, one in Connecticut, four in Ohio, and two in Kentucky. Their numbers have
increased since 1S70; the influence of their opinions has extended; and 'the 18 separate
settlements continue to form a united and peaceful society.

Their doctrine has been to some extent developed as well as systematized since the
death of "Mother Ann." They believe that the kingdom of heaven lias come; that
Christ has come upon earth a second time, in the form of "Mother Ann," and that the
personal rule of God has been restored. Then they hold that the old law has been
abolished, and a new dispensation begun; that Adam's sin has been atoned; that man
has been made free of all errors except his own; that the curse has been taken away
from labor; that the earth and all that is on it will be redeemed. Believers, on going
"into union," die to ihe world, and enter upon a new life, which is not a mere change
of life, but a new order of being. For them, there is neither death nor marriage; what
seems death is only a change of form, a transfiguration which does not hide them from
the purified eyes of the saints; and in union, as in heaven, there is no marrying or giv-
ing in marriage the believer owes love to all the saints, but his love must be celibate in
spirit and in fact. The believer, living in union, is in heaven. The Shakers believe
that the earth, now freed from the curse of Adam, is heaven; they look for no resurrec-
tion besides that involved in living with them in "resurrection order." The believer,
upon entering into union, leaves behind all his earthly relationships and interests, just
as if he had been severed from them by death. And since to b> in union is heaven, the
Shakers hold that no attempts should be made by them to draw men into union: God,
they say, will draw to them those whom he has chosen at his own time. Those who
have " p-issed out of sisrht" are still in union; and the Shakers live in daily communion
with the spirits of the departed believers. The belief in a communion with angels and



Shakespeare.

spirits is no mere theory; it has a most important influence upon their lives; they pro-
fess to be more familiar with the dead than with the living. It being the work of the
saints to redeem tiie earth from the effects of the curse, labor is a sacred and priestly
function, especially when bestowed in making the earth yield her increase, and in devel-
oping her beauty. It should b;.- done in a spirit of love; the earth, they say, yields most
to those who love it; and love and labor will in time restore it to its primitive state.
According to Mr. Dixon, they bestow upon their gardens and fields the alfections which
other meu bestow upon family or worldly goods. Their country they regard only as it
is a part of the earth, which they love, and as the favored land in which God's kingdom
is tirst to be established. In its politics and its fortunes, they take no interest ; and,
indeed, their whole system is a protest against the existing constitihion of society, as
well as against the ordinary lives of men. Consistently with their belief in the second
appearance ot Christ in the form of a woman, the Shakers seem to believe that there is
a female as well as a male essence in the Godhead in the motherhood as well as the
fatherhood of God.

A Shaker settlement is, for convenience, divided into families, consisting of the
brothers and sisters, who live in the same houses, each governed by an elder and an
eldeivss. There are two orders of members, probationers and covenanters that is,
novices and full members. It is on becoming a covenanter that the Shaker puts his
property into the common stock. On entering upon residence, he becomes subject to
all the rules of the society; but he is free whether a covenanter or a probationer to
leave the body whenever he pleases. Both men and women wear a prescribed dress.
The men wear a sort of Arab sack, with a linen collar and no tie; an uuder-vest buttoned
to the throat, and falling below the thighs; loose trousers, rather short; and a broad-
brimmeJ hat, usually of straw. The women wear a small muslin cap, a while kerchief
round the chest and shoulders, a skirt dropping in a straight line from the waist to the
ankle, white socks, and shoes. Some latitude is allowed as to the maieriuls of the dress.
Men and women, it is' said, have the look of persons at peace with earth and heaven.
"Apart from a costume," says Mr. Hepworth Dixon, " neither rich in color nor comely
in make, the sisters have an air of sweetness and repose, which falls upon the spirit like
music shaken out from our village bells." \_Neic America, by W. Hepwonn Dixon
(Lond. 1867), from which the materials of this sketch liave in a great measure been
derived] All labor with their hands, both men and women; but the latter do only
indoor work. Every man, whatever his rank in the church, follows some manual occu-
pation, and most of them have more than one. Working not for gain, but with loving
care, and with the sense that they are exercising a priestly function, the Shakc'-s are
unrivajed among their neighbors in the arts to which they apply themselves, especially
the culture of their land, and the production of fruits and flowers. They pay <jreat
attention to ventilation and to all sanitary conditions; they live almost entirely upon
the produce of the soil, and drink only water; they employ no doctors ami hike no
drugs, and' are, nevertheless, among the healthiest of communities. Their society is
recruited jnostly by young men and girls; but, occasionally, married persons with their
children come "into union." and make, it is wiid, "very pretty Shakers." Husbands
and wives, when they have come " into union. "become as brothers and sisters: it would
be thought a weakness, says Mr. Dixon. and almost a sin. for them to feel any personal
happiness in each other's company they live for God alone, and their loveouirht to be
shed o i all th" saints alik' 1 . The education of the children attached to the society is the
work of the sisters, and they do it exceedingly well. The brother* and sisters take thrir
meals in .a common room, eating at six in the niorr.'ii'. r . at noon, and at six in the after-
noon. Their meals are taken in silence, any direction that has to be given beinir given
by a gesture or in a whisper. In their church-service, music bears a prominent pnrt:
the hymns and chants which are used being all of Shaker origin, communicated to
believers in dreams and reveries by the spirits with whom they have communion. A
deputation of Shakers visited England in 1871, and made many converts.

SHAKESPEARE, WII/UAM, the chief literary glory of England, was b. at Stratford-
on-Avon, in Warwickshire, it is believed, April 28, 1564. Certain it is. as vouched by
the parish register, that his baptism took place three days after, on the 26th. His father,
John 'Shakespeare, seems to have belonged by birth to the class of yeomen. His mother,
Mary Arden, was of more distinguished origin. She came of a good old Warwickshire
family; and when married, she brouirht to her husband as dower a property called
Asbies, 54 acres in extent, besides an interest in certain other lands at \Vilmecorc. and a
small sum of money. In a contemporary document, John Shakespeare is described as a
ylocer; and this trade, at that time a more important one than it has since become, there
is evidence to show that lie conjoined with thnt of. a farmer and rearer of slock. His
earlier career was one of 'steady prosperity, and the consideration in which he came to
be held as a citizen is shown in the fact of his having in 1569 been elected chief magis-
trate of Stratford. Of a family of four sons and four daughters born to him, William
was the third child. At the free grammar-school of Stratford there can be no doubt the
you:ig Shakespeare received his entire education. As to the precise character and
amount of this, then- lias been much con: rovc-rs>ial conjecture; some writers maintaining,
on the internal evidence of his works, that he must have enjoyed a thorough classical



397



Shakespeare



training, while others represent him as probably destitute of any such youthful advan-
tage. The celebrated "And though thou Inidtit sniidl Latin and less Greek" of his
friend Ben Jonson, which has been frequently quoted as certifying his almost utter
ignorance, seems, if anything, to tell the other way. It assures us that, of both lan-
guages, he knew something; as to hoir much of ( iilier he may have known, it affords us
scarce a ray of light, inasmuch as it is impossible for us even to guess at the amount of
classical attainment suliicieui, in the eyes of a scholar, and something of a pedant, like
Jonson, to entitle a man to the praise of having much Latin and Greek. What Ben
might contemptuously style "small Latin" was, in all probability, as it seems to us, a
fair working allowance of it.

Meantime, misfortune had overtaken, and more and more come to press heavily on
John Shakespeare; in consequence of which, Wiliim. now somewhat over 14, was
withdrawn from school, and set to do something for his living. How he was employed
from this time till his departure for London, it is impossible to make out with distinct-
ness. One tradition informs us that, for a time, he served as apprentice to a butcher;
and it is said that "when he killed a calf," the poetry of his nature prompted him to
ennoble the operation as he could to himself, by "doing it in a high style, and makirg a
speech " Unhappily, none of his speeches have come down to us, so that rather more
of a mythical atmosphere than might be wished surrounds this pursuit of the ideal
under difticuliies. But that he was for some time a butcher's assistant, is as likely to be
true as not. Another story has it. that for some years he was a school-mas'.er; whether
or not in birching his boys he dignified the act as in the calf's case, tradition lias omitted
to inform us. Both stories are not unlikely to be true; the fact of the matter probably
was, that in those years young Shakespeare lived miscellaneously as he could. Out of
the cloud of uncertainty which shrouds this period of his life, two facts, however,
emerge as beyond question his marriage, and the birih of his eldest born. As soon as
may be after Nov. 28, 1582 on which day the license was procured at Worcester
Shakespeare, a lively lad going 19, was married to Anne Hathaway of Shottery, a ham-
let some mile or so out of Stratford, a damsel about eight years older than himself; and
six months afterward a daughter was born to him, whose baptism bears record May 26,
1583. The obvious inference from this promptitude on the part of his spouse certain of
his admirers have sought to evade. It is said, and we believe it is certain, that a mere
betrothal before witnesses, to be followed within some reasonable undefined period by
the religious ceremony, was then and there held to constitute a valid marriage; and this,
it is conjectured, may in Shakespeare's case have, prefaced the more formal sanction.
And of course it may; the license of conjecture is unlimited; and all to whose comfort
in admiring a great genius it is essential to regard him at every point of his career as
also a pattern of everything that is proper, must of course be made welcome to this one.
The only other children born of the marriage were twins, a boy and a girl, baptized Feb.
2, 1585. The boy (Hamnet) did not survive his father, dying in his 12ih year.

As nearly as can be made out, in the year 1586, Shakespeare, then 22, left the
neighborhood of Stratford, and betook himself to London. A local tradition assigns
as his reason for doing so a mishap which befell him, and a little imprudence consequent
on it. The future poet, it is said, while out on a nocturnal poaching expedition in the
deer-park of a neighboring magnate, sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, was caught by the
keepers, kept for the night a prisoner, and arraigned before sir Thomas a justice of
peace in the morning. What passed is not recorded; but as the old rumor goes
whatever it was, it excited the ire of Shakespeare, who avenged himself, as a bard natu-
rally might, by circulating "a bitter ballad" in which the good knight was satirized.
A further prosecution was for this irreverence directed against him, to escape which it
was that he is said to have fled to London. No anecdote concerning Shakespeare has
been more widely accepted than this, or. on the whole, seems better to deserve accept-
ance. An obvious allusion to the Lucies of Charlecote in the Merry Wives of Windsor,
which identifies their coat of arms with that of justice Shallow, would of itself afford
strong confirmation of it. Further, Oldys. an antiquary who died in 1761, and had
busied himself much about materials for a life of Shakespeare, certifies the story on
something like fair evidence, and gives the first verse of the obnoxious pasquinade, as
remembered in the district. It is more coarse and scurrilous than witty; but inasmuch
as it would be easy to adduce passages from the admitted writings of Shakespeare in
which the coarseness to at least an equal extent preponderates over the wit, this will
scarcely of itself amount to proof that he could not possibly have been its perpetrator.
The indisposition which more lately has been shown to attach any credit to the talc,
seems to rest entirely on a foolish horror of admitting anything as possible in the con-
duct of the poet which might any way seem to conflict with the reverence now univer-
sally accorded to his genius.

N.) certain details have come down to us as to Shakespeare's earlier relations with
the London theater. According to one tradition, he was content at first to turn a penny
by holding horses at the door. According to another which seems in a natural sequence
with the foregoing we find him admitted inside on his promotion, though as yet only
in the humble capacity of prompter's attendant. What is certain in the matter is this,
that if at any time he was thus meanly occupied, it could have been only for a brief
period, as very speedily we have note of him as a man of some importance, at once



Shakespeare.

dramatist, actor, and shareholder in the Blackfrinrs theater. As an actor though, we
find one contemporary allusion to him as "excellent in the quality lie professes" he
seems at uo time to have shone especially, being rather respectable than eminent. As
dramatist, his magnificent powers \veje at once recognized, and in no long time had won
for him ike very foremost rank among the writers tor the stage of his time. The extra-
ordinary rapidity of his rise is shown in this indubitable reference to him in Spenser's
Tears of the Muxct, published as early as 1591, only some live years after Shakespeare's
arrival in London:

And he, the man whom Nature's self had made

To mock herself, and truih to imitate,

With kindly counter under mimic shade,

Our pleasant 'Nv illy, ah, is dead of late.

The reference here has indeed been surmised to point at sir Philip Sidney, by Spenser
elsewhere alluded to under the figure of Willy a shepherd; but the surmise is, on various
grounds inadmissible. The first two lines have the closest critical pertinence to the
character of Shakespeare's genius; as applied to that of Sidney, they are. by compari-
son, vague and unmeaning. Further, the "mimic shade " in the third line, together
with the whole context of the passage, makes it certain a dramatic writer is alluded to;
and this Siduey was not. Moreover, the stanza which follows, wherein of "that same
gentle spirit it is said that he

Doth rather choose to sit in idle cell,
Than so himself to mockery to sell,

must needs be held to indicate a man at the time living; and Sidney had died in 1586.
The "Ah, is dead of late !" which, literally taken, would suit Sidney, and not Shakes-
peare, mu-t, in the light of the succeeding couplet, be interpreted as referring to some
temporary remission on the part of the latter of his wonted dramatic productive-ness;
and this, if not otherwise to be accounted for, we might explain by supposing him at
this time engaged on his two elaborate poems, Venus and Adoni*, and Tim Rape of
Lnn-cce, published n:>t long af:erward. The year after (1592). we find a contemporary
and brother dramatist, Henry Chettle, making the anieiule to Shakespeare for an offense
given, hi terms most respectfully appreciatory of his excellences at once as s> .mail and an
author; and in 15'Jy, Francis Meres, in his "\ViCs Treiisury, writes of him as admittedly
the "most excellent among the English for both kinds of tragedy and comedy." We
have ample evidences besides of the unrivaled acceptance his works obtained from all
classes; not only we e they in the wider sense popular, but they brought him special
marks of favor and approval from queen Elizibeth and her successor. James who is
?ai 1 to have honored the poet with an " amicable letter " fr.>m his own hand and pro-
cured him the patronage and friendship of some of the most accomplished men of rank
of the time, mare notal'ly, Henry Wriothesley. earl of Southampton, to whom he dedi-
cated his Vtim* <tnl Adonis, and Ripa of Lutrece ; and William Herbert, earl of
Pembroke, commonly held to be the "Mr. W. H." to whom, as their "only begetter,"
his Sonnet* are addressed.

Shakespeare was plainly as men of consummate genius mostly are a man of shrewd
solid business ability; and throughout, his material prosperity kept pace with the growth
of his poetical reputation. He became early, as we saw, a considerable shareholder in
the lihicltfriars theater. In the Globe, subsequently erected, he was also a part pro-
prietor. To both Ii3 contributed dramas, and from his gains in the triple capacity of
actor, author, and sharer of the general profits, he rapidly amassed a fortune. His
local attachments were strong, and it seems to have become, ashiswral.h increased,
one ma- n object of his ambition to settle himself as a substantial country gentleman in
his native district, to which annually he made a visit. We find him, with this view,
from tim to time making purchases there of house and landed property. By and by,
his visits to Stratford became more and more frequent; and it is positively certain mat
previous to tlu year 1613, lie had ceased to reside in London, and finally established
himself at Stratford. Of his last years there spent, further than that they lapsed peace-
fully iu honor, and the exercise of a liberal and kindly hospitality, nearly nothing is
known. There is evidence of his having more or less occupied himself in agricultural
pui-suits, and good reason to believe that, though withdrawn from other active concern-
ment with the stag*-, he still continued to write for it. His death took place on his 5M
birth lay, the 2 ki of April, 1616. In the diary of a Mr. Ward, the v:c;ir of Stratford, writ-
ing apud 10 j(), the cause of it is thus given: " Shakespeare. Drayton, and Ben Jonson
had a merry meeting, and. it seems, drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a fever
then contracted;" but that of this drinking the poet's death was a consequence is at
best a doubtful inference.

That Shakespeare erred and sinned at times like others, we know from the passionate
confessions of his Stinnett, in considerable portions of which the self -reference is too plain
be denied; but, lhat, whatever his occasional frailties, he was essentially a man of noble and
estimable character, I here is a complete concurrence of testimony. He was obviously of
most kin ily and lovable dispositions; his " pleasurable wit ami good nature" made; him
deligtitful,as a companion; and it was as "gentle Will Shakespeare" that he was famil-
iarly known to his contemporaries. In particular, with his associates and rivals in
writing for the stage, his relations would seem to have been of the most cordial and



Shakespeare.

I

even endearing kind. The gruff Ben Jonson writes of him after his death: " lie was
honest, and of an open and tree nature," assures us that in "his well-turned and true-
tiled lines" we see but an authentic reflex of his beautiful "mind anil manners;" and
avers that he "honors his memory only on this side idolatry." As a slight shadow on
this pleasing picture, it has been shrewdly surmised that he was not very happy with
h : s wife. Evidence of this has been sought in certain passages in his dramas; but obvi-
ously any inference from these is most precarious. The i:eg!ect, of her in his will,
except in one curt clause interlined, dismissing her with a legacy of "his sccond-bost
bed," migl* well seen) much more decisive, till Mr. Charles Knight greatly reduced its
importance by showing that, the will apart, by the mere operation of the English law,
the poet's widow wa- entitled to d<ncei\ and thus amply provided for. There is thus
{tliough the query of why second-best, if a bed at all was to be left her, may perhaps
have a certain pertinence) no very linn basis of proof for the domestic unhappiness of
JShakespeare. Still, if anything in his life is certain, it is this, that, spending great part
of his time in London, the poet did not rind it essential to his felicity there to have the
society of his wife; as probably she, on the other hand, though her husband had gone to
the metropolis, was content to abide in Stratford, since it seemed to him the de>irable
arrangement. It is fair, we think, to infer from this that the affection subsisting be-
tween the two was a little on the hither side of enthusiasm.

To discourse here at this date of the genius of Shakespeare would be only to promul-
gate platitudes. The lofty eulogy of Dryden "He was the man who, of all modern
and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul" h;.s since
been generally acquiesced in. As dramatist, he is admittedly in the world without* peer;



Online LibraryFrancis LieberLibrary of universal knowledge. A reprint of the last (1880) Edinburgh and London edition of Chambers' encyclopaedia, with copious additions by American editors (Volume 13) → online text (page 92 of 203)