James Balfour Paul.

The Scots peerage; founded on Wood's edition of Sir Robert Douglas's peerage of Scotland; containing an historical and genealogical account of the nobility of that kingdom online

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Shakespeare's London



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SHAKESPEARE'S LONDON



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If some enchanter should offer to recover for me a single hour of the
irrecoverable past, I think I should choose to be placed among the
audience at the Globe Theatre, in or about the year 1600, with liberty
to run round between the acts and interview the author-actor-manager,
Master Shakespeare, in his tiring room. For this I would give — one
can afford to be lavish in bidding for the inconceivable — say a year of
my life. There is nothing more difficult than to form a vivid and
satisfactory picture of the material conditions under which Shake-
speare worked ; and there is nothing more fascinating than the attempt
to do so. — William Archer.

Ich miisste den ganzen Guide of London abschreiben, wenn ich die
Orte anftthren wollte, wo mir dort Shakespeare in Erinnerung gebracht
wurde. — Heinrich Heine.



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SHAKESPEARE'S LONDON

A COMMENTARY ON SHAKESPEARE'S

LIFE AND WORK IN

LONDON

A NEW EDITION
WITH A CHAPTER ON WESTMINSTER AND AN
ITINERARY OF SITES AND RELIQUES

BY

THOMAS FAIRMAN ORDISH, F.S.A.

AUTHOR OF
"EARLY LONDON THEATRES"



" Souls of poets dead and gone
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern ?*'

—Keats.



LONDON

J. M. DENT & CO., ALDINE HOUSE, W.C.
1904



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All rights reserved.



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\ *~1 ^



vi PREFACE

never made to those devoid of the sense and the
perception of "the spirit of place." It came
suddenly to Wordsworth on Westminster Bridge,
when the poet of remote lakes and tranquil hillsides
conceived that sonnet which expresses so beautifully
the wonder and the mystery of every day existence
in a great city. The spirit breathes in the pages of
Charles Dickens, and it appears not infrequently in
those of Thackeray. In several of the novels of
Benjamin Disraeli it speaks in eloquent and graphic
descriptions of London scenes. Among leading
contemporaries none is more happily endowed in
this respect than the Earl of Rosebery, to whom the
topic of London is ever fertile of anecdote, original
comment and freshness of view. The recent address
in which his lordship described the spiritual aspect
of London and dwelt on "the unity, the splendour,
and the historic association of London as a whole,"
was not the least striking of his utterances on this
theme.

The interest of London in relation to Shakespeare
was revealed to Douglas Jerrold, witness his Essay
on Bankside ; to Charles Knight as is amply shown
in his History of London; but perhaps to none
more strikingly in that earlier period than to the



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viii PREFACE

places in his English Historical plays. The study
of Nature as it existed within and around London
in the time of Shakespeare, and the demonstration
that beneath the masquerade of foreign names in
the Comedies lay tacitly the . familiar scenes of
England and of London, may be indicated as the
special contribution made by the present work. In
its enlargement of the view of Shakespeare's London,
the chapter on the Comedies is probably the more
important; and here the obligations of the author
to a fellow-labourer are conspicuous, and have been
acknowledged in the text with sincere appreciation.
Since this volume was published in 1897, the
biography by Dr Sidney Lee has placed the
authentic facts of the poet's life within the reach
of all, and on several points touching the personal
history of Shakespeare in the ensuing pages, the
reader will do well to consult that admirable work.
There have been many changes since Heine made
his excursions in Shakespeare's London. But al-
though we miss many links which Heine found,
the data for the mental reconstruction of Shake-
speare's London have become immensely increased.
One precious personal link was discovered after
Heine's sojourn in London, the Davenant bust



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x PREFACE

cautionary note. But in the Athenaum for March
26 of this year appeared a communication from Prof.
J. W. Hales, on " The London Residences of Shake
speare," which seems to establish what was already
stated in these pages, viz., that Shakespeare resided
at one time at St Helens, and at another in the
liberty of the Clink on Bankside.

An Itinerary is a barren thing without some
historical imagination. It needs not to be a Heine
or a Douglas Jerrold, a Besant or a Rosebery to find
an interest in following up the clues to history which
London affords, but if the study is to be fruitful
there must be some exercise of imaginative vision.
There are few better lessons in English history.
When the half holidays fall on rainy days there
are the museums available and accessible. But on
fine spring days young scholars might be encouraged
to learn something of the history which may be
read in the stones of London and localised in the
names of sites and places. The association of
Shakespeare with London leads towards that en-
nobling perception which Heine described, and that
spiritual aspect of the vast city to which Lord
Rosebery has pointed.



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xiv ILLUSTRATIONS

Modern Plan of Curtain Road, Shore,
ditch, shewing slte of the curtain
Theatre . . . . ■ . • . . 285

Heminge and Condell Monument (Photo-
gravure) To face page 290

Modern Plan of Bankside, shewing Sites
of the Globe Theatre, the Rose
Theatre, and the Bear Garden . „ 298

Ditto, shewing Site of the Pike Garden „ 300

Modern Plan of Christchurch, Black-
friars Road, shewing Site of Paris
Garden 302

The Falcon Inn To face page 304

Modern Plan of the Blackfriars Precinct,

shewing Site of the Theatre, etc. . . 309

Ditto of Queen Victoria Street and
Carter Lane, shewing Sites of the
Wardrobe, Bell Yard, etc. . To face page 310



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CHAPTER I

A GENERAL VIEW

" Shakespeare's London " : no similar combina-
tion of words would describe so precisely the subject
of these pages. " London in Shakespeare's Lifetime "
would indicate a range too extensive for a book of
these dimensions, while "The London of Shake-
speare" would suggest only a commentary on the
London scenes and allusions in Shakespeare's plays.
It is with London as it concerned the life and
work of Shakespeare that we have to do; the
London in which he earned his living by doing the
work that, after three hundred years, is recognised as
the unsurpassed achievement of English literature.
The importance of this subject has not been over-
looked; many editors and earnest students have
been before us, with their contributions of illustra-
tions of various kinds designed to throw light upon
the conditions amid which the genius of Shakespeare
emerged. It may be said that the idea of environ-
ment has become a mental habit of our time. We
are not content to accept any man as a portent ; we
view him as a product. In the case of Shakespeare,
a



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2 SHAKESPEARE'S LONDON

however, the academic view has been tempered by a
warm personal interest It has, indeed, been a frequent
cause of wistful regret that we have no description
of Shakespeare as he lived, no word-portrait, no stray
allusions as to his habits and ways or aspect — those
things that affectionate homage naturally seeks for —
details which could be built up into a conception of
the man as he was amongst his fellow-men. This is
what our sentiment yearns for — all the more because
the memorials published after his death, concerned
as they are rather with the works than their author,
nevertheless contain indications of a personality and
character of singular sweetness and charm. This im-
pression must suffice, and refusing (as so many do
with some indignation) to take the warrant of the
Droeshout portrait, each of us is at liberty to form
his own mental image of the person of Shakespeare.
The image of his mind survives for all time, and
there be those who deem this sufficient But the
merely human reader, because he is grateful, longs
for some memory-picture which shall answer, in some
manner, to a name that is associated with ideas of
immense benefaction.

We will not offer a stone where bread is demanded.
We will not, in the disengaged tone of the scientist,



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A GENERAL VIEW 3

say: Here, we offer you a study of Shakespeare's
environment ; come, view him as a product of his
time. Nor do we, as a sculptor might do, offer you
the death-mask of his form and feature, as the equiva-
lent of a portrait. A cold examination of the London
in which Shakespeare abode and wrote would furnish
such a mask; a careful study of Elizabethan London,
with its social ways and conditions, would help us to
understand Shakespeare as a product. But this would
not satisfy the reader who rises from his perusal of
the plays, and exclaims in wonder (as who has not),
Did the Elizabethans know this man for the genius
he was ? What were the circumstances under which
these plays were written and produced ?

The mould of Shakespeare (if we possessed it)
could not, of itself, give the impression of the living
man ; the most painstaking account of London topo-
graphy would not show us Shakespeare musing amid
the ruins within the precinct of St Helen's, or walking
observantly in the streets, or peeping from behind the
arras in the Globe Theatre, to see if Lord South-
ampton had come to see his new play. Such im-
pressionist realisations must appertain to the reader's
imagination for the most part. The present excur-
sion to Shakespeare's London has for its cicerone



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4 SHAKESPEARE'S LONDON

one who has some definite ideas touching his duties
to the party under his charge. The facts may be so
stated as to suggest pictures, but the facts themselves
are of the most importance ; and there is a great
deal to demand our attention within the limits at
our disposal.

Let us pass over the moment of Shakespeare's
arrival in London in 1585, a fugitive of twenty-one
years of age, and contemplate him after the first
anxieties had been overcome, and he had found
employment at the theatres. Here we are in the
region of fact, not fancy. A young man from a
provincial town engaged as prompter's assistant
at a theatre, his duties probably involving the copy-
ing of plays for the use of the actors ; what were
his surroundings ? what were the circumstances and
conditions which existed objectively to this subjec-
tive and unrevealed genius ?

The first thing to be realised is the size of Shake-
speare's London. In our time London has become
so extended, that its original limits — the walls of the
city — have become almost as obliterated in conscious-
ness as the walls themselves are in fact. The circuit
of the walls may be approximately realised by recalling
the names of the principal gates which gave egress



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6 SHAKESPEARE'S LONDON

cattle." There were inconsiderable suburbs on the
north; on the north-west there were streets and
dwellings around Smithfield and Clerkenwell, but
the chief extension was along the river, east and
west. A continuous line of buildings stretched from
Temple Bar to Westminster, along the river front,
consisting chiefly of palaces and mansions. On the
east, from the Tower, stretched a tapering finger of
dwellings beyond Ratcliffe. Stow greatly deprecated
these additions on the east side. He remarks that
from the precinct of St Katherine's by the Tower to
Wapping, " was never a house standing within these
forty years ; " but alas ! now a continual street
reached, " almost to Ratcliffe, a good mile from the
Tower." Tenements in place of trees was an ex-
change of which Stow did not approve. "There
hath been of late," he says, " in place of elm-trees,
many small tenements raised towards Ratcliffe ; and
Ratcliffe itself hath been also increased in building
eastward, in place where I have known a large high-
way, with fair elm-trees on both sides, that the same
hath now taken hold of Lime Hurst, or Lime Host,
corruptly called Lime House, sometime distant a
mile from Ratcliffe." On the south, there was a
fringe of building along the river bank, at the back



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S SHAKESPEARE'S LONDON

fields at home; he would take a walk into the country.
He would find a forest of Arden on the heights of
Hampstead and Highgate ; he could take part in a
sheep-shearing celebration at even a less distance.
As he walked through the city on business bent, a
flock of wild duck or teal might wing over his head
with outstretched necks, taking flight from the marshes
on the north of the city, to the river or the marshes
on the south between Paris Garden and Lambeth.
One of the most delightful features of the city itself,
the city within the walls, was the spacious garden
attached to most of the ancient houses ; these gardens
were well stocked with fruit-trees, and with flower-
beds, cultivated for " garnishing the chambers " of the
citizens' dwellings. The citizen in his warehouse or
living room could hear the note of the piratical black-
bird among his fruit, or the song of the thrush, or the
linnet's pretty warble. If Shakespeare had his lodg-
ing in the precinct of St Helen's, Bishopgate, he would
doubtless hear the cuckoo,

" When daisies pied and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight"

Or if (as we believe he did at one time) he dwelt on



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A GENERAL VIEW 9

the Surrey side, near the Bear Garden, the note of
Philomel, " the winged Dryad " might reach him from
among the trees as he lay sleepless and in thought
some summer night :

" When to the sessions of sweet silent thought n

he summoned up remembrance of things past. Nature
was ever calling to Shakespeare, by ear and eye, while
he lived and worked in London.

But there were other and scarcely less important
appeals to Shakespeare's genius. In and around the
city were the precincts of dissolved priories and other
religious houses : the chapel or some portion thereof
generally saved for the purposes of the reformed
worship ; for the rest, stately ruins, cloisters, garden
walks, grassy slopes and trees ; here and there portions
of the old buildings converted into dwellings, occa-
sionally new houses erected on the garden spaces, in
the words of Stow, " for the lodgings of noblemen,
strangers born, and others." At the Theatre in Holy-
well, at the playhouse in Blackfriars, Shakespeare
would be surrounded by these evidences of a past,
not remote to him, when one of the bulwarks of
London, against King and Barons alike, more strong
than the wall of the city, was the secure existence of



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io SHAKESPEARE'S LONDON

these ecclesiastical demesnes outside the defences,
from point to point round the wall, as well as within
the gates. There were those living in 1590 who
could have described to him the aspect of London
before the Reformation; and the London which
elderly men described to him as the London of their
youth was very little changed from the London of the
Plantagenets and the wars of the Roses. There was
the Tower, and the stories of its hapless victims lived
on men's tongues as well as in the Chronicles. In
various quarters of the city were large houses, for-
saken or turned into tenements, which had once been
the town mansions of nobles whose names figured in
these stories, whose descendants had built themselves
dwellings outside the walls in more secure times,
mostly to the west along the Strand, the Savoy,
Whitehall and Canon Row. This contrast between
past and present was vividly suggested to Shakespeare,
for to these sumptuous dwellings of the new order
the business of his calling would sometimes take him
and his fellows, and here he beheld the splendour
and pride of circumstance which was the atmosphere
of the Elizabethan noble. Strong and new life upon
a background of heaped remains of a recent past :
this was what greeted Shakespeare on every hand.



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12 SHAKESPEARE'S LONDON

with the character of Camden, and we must suppose
that his patriotism only coloured his mode of ex-
pression when he wrote: "A man would say that
seeth the shipping there, that it is, as it were, a
very wood of trees disbranched to make glades and
let in light : so shaded it is with masts and sailes."

The most significant, as it was the most con-
spicuous, of the new buildings in Shakespeare's
London, was the bourse built by Sir Thomas
Greshara, which the Queen with her wonted tact,
had inaugurated in person by the name of the
Royal Exchange. This was the emblem of the
new commercial era which has continuously de-
veloped ever since, first slowly, and by leaps and
bounds in the nineteenth century. Viewed in
relation to Shakespeare the significance of the new
conditions is readily seen. A settled government;
the Queen resident at Whitehall or Greenwich,
when not making "progresses"; the Queen's nobility
attracted by the royal sunshine to new palaces west-
ward ; her nobles vieing with each other to provide
her entertainment and amusement : result, Lord
Leicester's company of players, to which emulation
speedily added others. Then came the playhouse —
a new kind of building almost as significant as the



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14 SHAKESPEARE'S LONDON

composition. But all these opportunities would
have been vain, without genius : there are limits
beyond which Shakespeare cannot be viewed as
a product.

It is probable that had it been adequately known
how many-sided was the life of London as it pre-
sented itself to Shakespeare, how full of variety in
a small compass, some of the books that have been
written to prove he was a lawyer or some other
profession ; that he must have been on the continent,
especially to Italy; that he must have made an
ocean voyage in a ship, or what not, might not
have se^n the light, which would be regrettable,
for there is no honest or sanje book on the subject
of Shakespeare which is not worth reading. We
need not study Hakluyt's voyages to know where
Shakespeare learned his sea-lore, or whence he
derived those stories of ocean travel and mishap
which we find in the Comedy of Errors, in the
Winter's Tale, in Twelfth Night, in the Tempest.
We need not go beyond Shakespeare's London for
these. East of the bridge, on both sides of the
river, but especially the Middlesex side, as far as
Ratcliff and beyond to Limehouse, were the resorts
of sailors, and the purveyors and victuallers of ships.



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A GENERAL VIEW 15

Here could be met men who had sailed with Drake
or with Raleigh. Drake's old ship was there, and
is frequently alluded to in the literature of the time,
notably by Hentzner, although it is characteristic of
Shakespeare's method that he does not allude to
it by name. But compare the artistic result of
Shakespeare's creation in his marine scenes with that
of Eastward Hoe> a contemporary play in which
Drake's ship and the humours of the pool of London
have their part. There simply is no comparison,
although it is probable that Eastward Hoe was
vastly entertaining to the Elizabethans. The one
is ore, the other refined gold.

The river Thames was the chief highway of
Shakespeare's London. The royal barge conveyed
the Queen from Whitehall to her palace at Green-
wich, followed by a procession of barges and boats
bedecked and trimmed with flags and streamers,
bearing her ladies and attendants, the royal body-
guard, halberdiers, and officers of the royal house-
hold. When nobles paid their visits of ceremony,
they went by boat or barge. Merchants on business,
from wharf to wharf, from Paul's to the Tower or
beyond, went by water, or if their business lay in
Southwark, they used one of the numerous ferries in



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16 SHAKESPEARE'S LONDON

i

preference to the Bridge. Pleasure-seekers crossed
by ferry from the city to the theatres and other
diversions of Paris Garden and the Bankside; or
they hired wherries at the nearest stairs and were
rowed across. There were thousands of watermen
earning their living by hire on the silent highway;
and these watermen or scullers were recruited from
the mariners of England. From this source stories
of foreign ports or cities would come to Shakespeare's
ears almost without his seeking. It is probable,
too, that even before the publication of his poems,
and consequent personal conversation with Lord
Southampton, Lord Pembroke and others, he had
oppoi tunities of hearing young gallants, who
made the "tour" in accordance with a custom of
the time, comparing notes on their experiences in
Germany, in Paris, or in the Italian cities. And
thus the names of Padua, and Messina, of Verona,
of Milan, of Mantua, with their associations of
romance and distance, may have struck upon the
ear of Shakespeare, amid London surroundings,
while the creations of his genius were taking form
and shape. Of one proud city he would doubtless


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryJames Balfour PaulThe Scots peerage; founded on Wood's edition of Sir Robert Douglas's peerage of Scotland; containing an historical and genealogical account of the nobility of that kingdom → online text (page 1 of 18)