Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

and fince he could not know what might be faid of him when he was dead, he defired it might be done immediately; upon which Shakspeare gave him

thefe four verses:

Ten in the hundred lies here ingray'd; 6

'Tis a hundred to ten his foul is not fav'd:
If any man afk, Who lies in this tomb?

"Oh! ho! quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe.,,7

ing to Mr. Charles Hunt, an eminent attorney, and town-clerk of Stratford. Every Englishman will, I am fure, concur with me in wishing that it may enjoy perpetual verdure and fertility. In this retreat our SHAKSPEARE'S godlike mind With matchlefs fkill furvey'd all human kind. Here may each fweet that bleft Arabia knows, Flowers of all hue, and without thorn the rofe, To lateft time, their balmy odours fing,

5

And Nature here display eternal fpring! MALOne.

that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe,) This Mr. John Combe I take to be the fame, who by Dugdale, in his Antiquities of Warwickshire, is faid to have died in the year 1614, and for whom at the upper end of the quire of the guild of the holy crois at Stratford, a fair monument is erected, having a ftatue thereon cut in alabafter, and in a gown, with this epitaph.

Here lyeth interred the body of John Combe, Efq. who departing this life the 10th day of July, 1614, bequeathed by his laft will and teftament thefe fums enfuing, annually to be paid for ever; viz. xx. s. for two fermons to be preach'd in this church, and vi. I. xiii. s. iv. d. to buy ten gownes for ten poore people within the borough of Stratford; and 100l. to be lent to fifteen poore tradesmen of the fame borough, from three years to three years, changing the parties every third year, at the rate of fifty fhillings per annum, the which increase he appointed to be diftributed towards the relief of the almes-poor there. The donation has all the air of a rich and fagacious ufurer. THEOBALD.

6 Ten in the hundred lies here ingrav'd;) In The more the merrier, containing three fcore and odd headless epigrams, hot, (like the fooles bolis) among you, light where they will: By H. P. Gent. &c. 1608. I find the following couplet, which is almoft the fame as the two beginning lines of this Epitaph on John-a-Combe:

But the fharpness of the fatire is faid to have ftung the man so severely, that he never forgave it.3

FENERATORIS EPITAPHIUM.

«Ten in the hundred lies under this ftone,
"And a hundred to ten to the devil he's gone."

Again, in Wit's Interpreter, 8vo. 3d edit. 1671, p. 298:
"Here lies at least ten in the hundred,

Shackled up both hands and feet,

"That at such as lent mony gratis wondred,
The gain of ufury was fo fweet:

But thus being now of life bereav'n,

8

« 'Tis a hundred to ten he's scarce gone to heav'n.”

So, in Camden's Remains, 1614:

"Here lyes ten in the hundred,

In the ground faft ramm'd;

«Tis. an hundred to ten

"But his foule is damn'd." MALone.

STEEVENS.

7 Oh! ho! quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe.) The Rev. Francis Peck, in his Memoirs of the Life and Poetical Works of Mr. John Millon, 4to. 1740, p. 223, has introduced another epitaph (imputed on what authority is unknown) to Shakspeare. It is on Tom-a-Combe, alias Thin-beard, brother to this John, who is mentioned by Mr. Rowe.

« Thin in beard, and thick in purse ;

"Never man beloved worse;

He went to the grave with many a curfe

The devil and he had both one nurfe." STEEVENS.

I fufpect that thefe lines were fent to Mr. Peck by fome perfon that meant to impofe upon him. It appears from Mr. John Combe's will, that his brother Thomas was dead in 1614. John devifed the greater part of his real and perfonal eftate to his nephew Thomas Combe, with whom Shakspeare was certainly on good terms, having bequeathed him his fword.

Since I wrote the above, I find from the Register of Stratford, that Mr. Thomas Combe) the brother of John) was buried there, Jan. 22, 1609-10. MALONE..

[ocr errors]

the harpness of the fatire is faid to have fung the man fo feverely, that he never forgave it.) I take this opportunity to avow my difbelief that Shakspeare was the author of Mr.Combe's Epitaph, or that it was written by any other perfon at the request of that gentleman. If Betterton the player did really

He died in the 53d year of his age, and was

visit Warwickshire for the fake of collecting anecdotes relative to our author, perhaps he was too eafily fatisfied with fuch as fell in his way, without making any rigid fearch into their authenticity. It appears alfo from a following copy of this infcription, that it was not afcribed to Shakspeare fo early as two years after his death. Mr. Reed of Staple-Inn obligingly pointed it out to me in the Remains, &c. of Richard Braithwaite, 1618; and as his edition of our epitaph varies in some measure from the latter one published by Mr. Rowe, I fhall not hesitate to tranfcribe it:

Upon one John Combe of Stratford upon Avon, a notable Ufurer, faftened upon a Tombe that he had caused to be built in his Life Time:

Ten in the hundred muft lie in his grave,

"But a hundred to ten whether God will him have:
"Who then must be interr'd in this tombe?

Oh (quoth the divill) my John a Combe.»

Here it may be obferved that, itrictly speaking, this is no jocular epitaph, but a malevolent prediction; and Braithwaite's copy is furely more to be depended on (being procured in or before the year 1618) than that delivered to Betterton or Rowe, almost a century afterwards. It has been already remarked, that two of the lines faid to have been produced on this occafion, were printed as an epigram in 1608, by H. P. Gent, and are likewife found in Camden's Remains, 1614. I may add, that a ufurer's folicitude to know what would be reported of him when he was dead, is not a very probable circumstance; neither was Shakspeare of a difpofition to compofe an invective, at once fo bitter and uncharitable, during a pleasant converfation among the common friends of himfelf and a gentleman, with whofe family he lived in fuch friendship, that at his death he bequeathed his fword to Mr. Thomas Combe as a legacy. A mifer's monument indeed, conftructed during his life-time, might be regarded as a challenge to fatire; and we cannot wonder that anonymous lampoons fhould have been affixed to the marble defigned to convey the character of fuch a being to pofterity. I hope I may be excufed for this attempt to vindicate Shakspeare from the imputation of having poifoned the hour of confidence and feftivity, by producing the fevercft of all cenfures on one of his company. I am unwilling, in short,

buried on the north fide of the chancel, in the great

to think he could fo wantonly and fo publickly have expreffed his doubts concerning the falvation of one of his fellowcreatures. STEEVENS.

Since the above obfervations firft appeared, (in a note to the edition of our author's Poems which I publifhed in 1780, ) I have obtained an additional proof of what has been advanced, in vindication of Shakfpeare on this fubject. It occurred to me that the will of John Combe might poffibly throw fome light on this matter, and an examination of it fome years ago furnished me with fuch evidence as renders the ftory recorded in Braithwaite's Remains very doubtful; and fill more ftrongly proves that, whoever was the author of this epitaph, it is highly improbable that it should have been written by Shakspeare.

[ocr errors]

The very first direction given by Mr. Combe in his Will is, concerning a tomb to be erected to him after his death. My will is, that a convenient tomb of the value of threefcore pounds fhall by my executors hereafter named, out of my goods and chattels firftrayfed, within one year after my decease, be fet over me, " So much for Braithwaite's account of his having erected his own tomb in his life-time. That he had any quarrel with our author, or that Shakspeare had by any act ftung him fo feverely that Mr. Combe never forgave him, appears equally void of foundation; for by his will he bequeaths to Mr. William Shakfpere Five Pounds." It is probable that they lived in intimacy, and that Mr. Combe had made fome purchase from our poet; for he devifes to his brother George,

the clofe or grounds known by the name of Parson's Close, alias Shakfpere's Clofe." It must be owned that Mr. Combe's will is dated Jan. 28, 1612-13, about eighteen months before his death; and therefore the evidence now produced is not abfolutely decifive, as he might have erected a tomb, and a rupture might have happened between him and Shakspeare, after the making of this will: but it is very improbable that any fuch rupture fhould have taken place; for if the fuppofed caufe of offence had happened fubfequently to the execution. of the inftrument, it is to be prefumed that he would have revoked the legacy to Shakspeare: and the fame argument may be urged with refpect to the direction concerning his tomb. Mr. Combe by his will bequeaths to Mr. Francis Collins

church at Stratford, where a monument is placed
in the wall. On his grave-ftone underneath is,
Good friend, 3 for Jefus' fake forbear
To dig the duft inclofed here.

Bleft be the man that fpares these ftones,
And curft be he that moves my bones.",

the elder, of the borough of Warwick, (who appears as a legatee and fubfcribing witnefs to Shakspeare's will, and therefore may be prefumed a common friend,) ten pounds; to his godfon John Collins, (the fon of Francis,) ten pounds; to Mrs. Sufanna Collins, (probably godmother to our poet's eldeft daughter) fix pounds, thirteen fhillings, and four-pence; to Mr. Henry Walker, (father to Shakspeare's godfon,) twenty fhillings; to the poor of Stratford twenty pounds; and to his fervants, in various legacies, one hundred and ten pounds. he was buried at Stratford, July 12, 1614, and his will was proved, Nov. 10, 1615..

Γ

Our author, at the time of making his will, had it not in his power to fhew any teftimony of his regard for Mr. Combe, that gentleman being then dead; but that he continued a friendly correfpondence with his family to the laft, appears evidently (as Mr. Steevens has obferved) from his leaving his fword to Mr. Thomas Combe, the nephew, refiduary legatee, and one of the executors of John.

On the whole we may conclude, that the lines preferved by Rowe, and inferted with fome variation in Braithwaite's Remains, which the latter has mentioned to have been affixed to Mr. Combe's tomb in his life-time, were not written till after Shakspeare's death; for the executors, who did not prove the will till Nov. 1615, could not well have erected

a fair monument of confiderable expence for thofe times, till the middle or perhaps the end of the year 1616, in the April of which year our poet died. Between that time and the year 1618, when Braithwaite's book appeared, fome one of thefe perfons (we may prefume) who had fuffered by Mr. Combe's feverity, gave vent to his feelings in the fatirical compofition preferved by Rowe; part of which, we have feen, was borrowed from epitaphs that had already been printed. That Mr. Combe was a money-lender, may be inferred from a claufe in his will, in which he mentions his good and juft debtors; " to every one of whom he remits twenty fhillings for every

66

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »