COLONEL JOHN A. JOYCE
Author of "Checkered Life," "Peculiar Poems," "Zig-Zag," "Jewels of Memory," "Complete Poems," "Oliver Goldsmith," "Edgar Allan Poe," "Brick-bats and Bouquets," "Beautiful Washington," "Songs," etc.
Nations unborn, adown the tides of time Shall keep thy name and fame and thought sublime, And o'er the rolling world from age to age Thy characters shall thrill the mimic stage!
PUBLISHED BY BROADWAY PUBLISHING COMPANY 835 BROADWAY, NEW YORK
Copyrighted, in 1904.
COLONEL JOHN A. JOYCE
All Rights Reserved.
I dedicate this book to the reader who has energy enough to borrow it, bullion enough to buy it, and brains enough to understand its philosophy, with the fervent hope that posterity may reap, thresh and consume the golden grain of my literary harvest.
J. A. J.
It would be a flagrant presumption and a specimen of magnificent audacity for any man, but myself, to attempt, to give anything new about the personal and literary character of William Shakspere!
I speak of William as I knew him, child, boy and man, from a spiritual standpoint, living with him in soul-lit love for three hundred and forty years!
Those who doubt my dates, facts and veracity are to be pitied, and have little appreciation of romantic poetry, comedy, tragedy and history!
It is well known among my intimate friends, that I sprang from the race of Strulbugs, who live forever, originating on the island of Immortality, on the coast of Japan—more than a million years ago.
I do not give the name of the play, act or scene, in head or foot lines, in my numerous quotations from Shakspere, designedly leaving the reader to trace and find for himself a liberal education by studying the wisdom of the Divine Bard.
There are many things in this volume that the ordinary mind will not understand, yet I only contract with the present and future generations to give rare and rich food for thought, and cannot undertake to furnish the reader brains with each book!
J. A. J.
Page Sweepstakes ix
CHAPTER I. Birth. School Days. Shows 1
CHAPTER II. Launched. Apprentice Boy. Ambition 11
CHAPTER III. Farm. Life. Sporting. Poaching on Lucy 19
CHAPTER IV. In Search of Peace and Fortune 27
CHAPTER V. London. Its Guilt and Glory 37
CHAPTER VI. Taverns. Theatres. Variegated Society 45
CHAPTER VII. Theatrical Drudgery. Compositions 53
CHAPTER VIII. Growing Literary Renown. Royal Patrons 61
CHAPTER IX. Bohemian Hours. Westminster Abbey. "Love's Labor's Lost" 73
CHAPTER X. Queen Elizabeth. War. Shakspere in Ireland 82
CHAPTER XI. Rural England. "Romeo and Juliet" 91
CHAPTER XII. "Julius Caesar" 110
CHAPTER XIII. Two Tramps. By Land and Sea 130
CHAPTER XIV. Windsor Park. "Midsummer Night's Dream" 156
CHAPTER XV. The Jew. Shylock. "Merchant of Venice" 175
CHAPTER XVI. The Supernatural. "Hamlet" 202
CHAPTER XVII. Death of Queen Elizabeth. Coronation of King James 233
CHAPTER XVIII. Shakspere as Monologist. King James 244
CHAPTER XIX. Stratford. Shakspere's Death. Patriotism Down the Ages 270
* * * * *
Autograph Letter of Shakspere xxiii
Autograph Poem of Shakspere 170
Autograph Letter of King James 248
Autograph Epitaph of Shakspere 280
Shakspere was the greatest delver into the mysterious mind of man and Nature, and sunk his intellectual plummet deeper into the ocean of thought than any mortal that ever lived, before or after his glorious advent upon the earth. He was a universal ocean of knowledge, and the ebb and flow of his thoughts pulsated on the shores of every human passion.
He was a mountain range of ideals, and has been a quarry of love, logic and liberty for all writers and actors since his day and age, out of which they have built fabrics of fame.
No matter how often and numerous have been the "blasts" set off in his rocky foundations, the driller, stone mason and builder of books have failed to lessen his mammoth resources, and every succeeding age has borrowed rough ashlers, blocks of logic and pillars of philosophy from the inexhaustible mine of his divine understanding.
He was an exemplification and consolidation of his own definition of greatness:
"Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them."
The poet finds in Shakspere a blooming garden of perennial roses, the painter finds colors of heavenly hues, the musician finds seraphic songs and celestial aspirations, the sculptor finds models of beauty and truth, the doctor finds pills and powders of Providence, the lawyer finds suits and briefs of right and reason, the preacher finds prophecies superior to Isaiah or Jeremiah, the historian finds lofty romance more interesting than facts and the actor "struts and frets" in the Shaksperian looking-glass of to-day, in the mad whirl of the mimic stage, with all the pomp and glory of departed warriors, statesmen, fools, princes and kings.
Shakspere was grand master of history, poetry and philosophy—tripartite principles of memory, imagination and reason. He is credited with composing thirty-seven plays, comedies, tragedies and histories, as well as Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, The Lovers' Complaint, The Passionate Pilgrim and one hundred and fifty-four classical sonnets, all poems of unrivaled elegance.
What a royal troop of various and universal characters leaped from the portals of his burning brain, to stalk forever down the center of the stage of life, exemplifying every human passion!
Shakspere never composed a play or poem without a purpose, to satirize an evil, correct a wrong or elevate the human soul into the lofty atmosphere of the good and great. His villains and heroes are of royal mold, and while he lashes with whips of scorn the sin of cupidity, hypocrisy and ingratitude, he never forgets to glorify love, truth and patriotism.
Virtue and vice are exhibited in daily, homespun dress, and stalking abroad through the centuries, the generous and brave nobility of King Lear, Caesar, Othello, and Hamlet, will be seen in marked contrast to Shylock, Brutus, Cassius, Iago, Gloster and Macbeth. His fools and wits were philosophers, while many of his kings, queens, dukes, lords and ladies were sneaks, frauds and murderers.
Vice in velvet, gold and diamonds, suffered under the X-rays of his divine phrases, while virtue was winged with celestial plumes, soaring away into the heaven of peace and bliss. He was the matchless champion of stern morality, and the interpreter of universal reason.
Shakspere was a multifarious man, and every glinting passion of his soul found rapid and eloquent expression in words that beam and burn with eternal light. The stream of time washes away the fabrics of other poets, but leaves the adamantine structure of Shakspere erect and uninjured.
Being surcharged, for three hundred and forty years, with the spirit and imagination of Shakspere, I shall tell the world about his personal and literary life, and although some curious and unreasonable people may not entirely believe everything I relate in this volume, I can only excuse and pity their judgment, for they must know that the Ideal is the Real!
The intellectual pyramids of his thought still rise out of the desert wastes of literary scavengers and loom above the horizon of all the great writers and philosophers that preceded his advent on the globe.
The blunt, licentious Saxon words and sentences in the first text of Shakspere, have been ruthlessly expurgated by his editorial commentators, adding, no doubt, to the beauty and decency of the plays, but sadly detracting from their original strength.
Pope, Jonson, Steevens and even Malone have made so many minute, technical changes in the Folio Plays of 1623, printed seven years after the death of Shakspere, that their presumptive elucidation often drivels into obscurity.
Editorial critics, with the best intention, have frequently edited the blood, bone and sinews of the original thought out of the works of the greatest authors. While attempting to simplify the text for common, rough readers, they mystify the matter by their egotistical explanation, and while showing their superior research and classical learning, they eliminate the chunk logic force of the real author.
For thirty years Shakspere studied the variegated book of London life, with all the human oddities, and when spring and summer covered the earth with primroses, flowers and hawthorn blossoms, he rambled over domestic and foreign lands, through fields, forests, mountains and stormy seas.
With the fun of Falstaff, the firmness of Caesar, the generosity of King Lear and the imagination of Hamlet, Shakspere also possessed the love-lit delicacy of Ophelia, Portia and Juliet, reveling familiarly with the spirits of water, earth and air, in his kingdom of living ghosts. He borrowed words and ideas from all the ancient philosophers, poets and story tellers, and shoveling them, pell-mell, into the furnace fires of his mammoth brain, fused their crude ore, by the forced draught of his fancy, into the laminated steel of enduring form and household utility.
The rough and uncouth corn of others passed through the hoppers of Shakspere's brain and came out fine flour, ready for use by the theatrical bakers. With the pen of pleasure and brush of fancy he painted human life in everlasting colors, that will not fade or tarnish with age or wither with the winds of adversity. The celestial sunlight of his genius permeated every object he touched and lifted even the vulgar vices of earth into the realms of virtue and beauty.
Shakspere was an intellectual atmosphere that permeated and enlivened the world of thought. His genius was as universal as the air, where zephyr and storm moved at the imperial will of this Grand Master of human passions.
Principles, not people, absorbed the mammoth mind of Shakspere, who paid little attention to the princes and philosophers of his day. Schools, universities, monks, priests and popes were rungs in the ladder of his mind, and only noticed to scar and satirize their hypocrisy, bigotry and tyranny with his javelins of matchless wit. The flower and fruit of thought sprang spontaneously from his seraphic soul.
He flung his phrases into the intellectual ocean of thought, and they still shine and shower down the ages like meteors in a midnight sky. Like the busy bee, he banqueted on all the blossoms of the globe and stored the honey of his genius in the lofty crags of Parnassus.
Shakspere and Nature were confidential friends, and, while she gave a few sheaves of knowledge to her other children, the old Dame bestowed upon the "Divine" William the harvest of all the ages.
Shakspere's equipoise of mind, placidity of conduct and control of passion rendered him invulnerable to the shafts of envy, malice and tyranny, making him always master of the human midgets or vultures that circled about his pathway.
One touch from the brush of his imagination on the rudest dramatic canvas illuminated the murky scene and flashed on the eye of the beholder the rainbow colors of his matchless genius.
Ben Jonson, Greene, Marlowe, Fletcher and Burbage gazed with astonishment at the versatility of his poetic and dramatic creations, and while pangs of jealousy shot athwart their envious souls, they knew that the Divine Bard was soaring above the alpine crags of thought, leaving them at the foothills of dramatic venture.
He played the role of policy before peasant, lord and king, and used the applause and brain of each for his personal advancement, and yet he never sacrificed principle for pelf or bedraggled the skirts of virtue in the gutter of vice.
The Divine William knew more about everything than any other man knew about anything! He had a carnivorous and omnivorous mind, with a judicial soul, and controlled his temper with the same inflexible rule that Nature uses when murmuring in zephyrs or shrieking in storms, receding or advancing in dramatic thought, as peace or passion demanded.
He seemed at times to be a medley of contradictions, and while playing virtue against vice, the reader and beholder are often left in doubt as to the guilt or glory of the contending actors. He puts words of wisdom in the mouth of a fool, and foolish phrases in the mouth of the wise, and shuttlecocked integrity in the loom of imagination.
William was the only poet who ever had any money sense, and understood the real value of copper, silver, gold, jewels and land. His early trials and poverty at Stratford, with the example of his bankrupt father was always in view, convincing him early in life that ready money was all-powerful, purchasing rank, comfort and even so-called love.
Yet he only valued riches as a means of doing good, puncturing the bladder of bloated wealth with this pin of thought:
"If thou art rich, thou art poor; For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows, Thou bearest thy heavy riches but a journey, And Death unloads thee!"
He noticed wherever he traveled that successful stupidity, although secretly despised, was often the master of the people, while a genius with the wisdom of the ages, starved at the castle gate, and like Mozart and Otway, found rest in the Potter's field.
No Indian juggler could mystify the ear and eye and mind of an audience like Shakspere, for, over the crude thoughts of other dramatic writers he threw the glamour of his divine imagination, making the shrubs, vines and briers of life bloom into perpetual flowers of pleasure and beauty.
With his mystic wand he mesmerized all, And peasants transformed to kings; While age after age in cottage and hall, He soars with imperial wings.
No one mind ever comprehended Shakspere, and even all the authors and readers that sauntered over his wonderful garden of literary flowers and fruits have but barely clipped at the hedge-rows of his philosophy, culling a few fragmentary mementos from his immortal productions.
Shakspere's chirography was almost as variable as his mind, and when he sat down to compose plays for the Globe and Blackfriars theatres, in his room adjacent to the Miter Tavern, he dashed off chunks of thought for pressing and waiting actors and managers, piecing them together like a cabinet joiner or machinist.
In all his compositions he used, designedly, a pale blue ink that evaporated in the course of a year, and the cunning actors and publishers, who knew his secret, copied and memorized and printed his immortal thoughts. He kept a small bottle of indelible ink for ideals on parchment for posterity.
I have often found his room littered and covered with numbered sheets of scenes and acts, ready for delivery to actors for recital, and many times the sunset over London would run its round to sunrise and find William at his desk in the rookery, hammering away on the anvil of thought, fusing into shape his divine masterpieces.
Shakspere's bohemian life was but an enlarged edition of his rural vagabond career through the fields and alehouses of Warwickshire. He only needed about four hours' sleep in twenty-four, but when composition on occasion demanded rapidity, he could work two days and rise from his labor as fresh as a lark from the flowery bank of Avon.
Most of the great writers of antiquity patterned after greater than themselves, but Shakspere evolved from the illuminated palace of his soul the songs and sentiments that move the ages and make him the colossal champion of beauty, mercy, charity, purity, courage, love and truth.
There are more numerous nuggets of thought in the works of Shakspere than in all the combined mass of ancient and modern literature.
The various bibles, composed and manufactured by man, cannot compare in variety, common sense and eloquence, with the productions of the Immortal Bard.
All the preachers, bishops, popes, kings, and emperors that have ever conjured up texts and creeds for dupes, devotees and designers to swallow without question, have never yet sunk the plummet of reason so deep in the human heart as the butcher boy of Stratford!
Shakspere was the most industrious literary prospector and miner of any land or time, throwing his searchlight of reason into the crude mass of Indian, Assyrian, Persian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Frank, German, Russian and Briton lore, and forthwith appropriated the golden beauties of each nation, leaving behind the dross of vice and vulgarity.
Marlowe, Burbage, Peele, Chapman, Greene and Jonson composed many fine physical and licentious dramas, pandering to the London groundlings, bloated wealth and accidental power; but Shakspere threw a spiritual radiance over their brutal, sordid phrases and elevated stage characters into the realm of romantic thought, pinioned with hope, love and truth. His sublime imagination soared away into the flowery uplands of Divinity, and plucked from the azure wings of angels brilliant feathers of fancy that shall shine and flutter down the ages.
He flung his javelin of wit through the buckler of ignorance, bigotry and tyranny, exposing their rotten bodies to the ridicule and hate of mankind.
In lordly language he swept over the harp strings of the heart with infinite expression and comprehension of words, leaving in his intellectual wake a multifarious heritage of brain jewels. He flew over the world like a swarm of bees, robbing all the fields of literature of their secret sweets, storing the rich booty of Nature in the honeycomb of his philosophic hive.
Through his brain the variegated paraphernalia of Nature, in field, forest, vale, mount, river, sea and sky were illuminated with a divine radiance that shall shine forever and grow greater as mankind grows wiser.
Shakspere has paid the greatest tribute of respect of any writer to women. While he gives us a few scolding, licentious, cruel, criminal women, like Dame Quickly, Katharina, Tamora, Gertrude and Lady Macbeth, he gives us the beautiful, faithful, loving characters of Isabella, Juliet, Desdemona, Perdita, Helena, Miranda, Imogen, Ophelia and Cordelia, whose love-lit words and phrases shine out in the firmament of purity and devotion like morning stars in tropic skies.
Shakspere studied all trades and professions he encountered in daily contact with mankind. He thought what he was and was what he thought! To him a sermon was a preacher, a writ a lawyer, a pill a doctor, a sail a sailor, a sword a soldier, a button a tailor, a nail a carpenter, a hammer a blacksmith, a trowel a stone mason, a pebble a geologist, a flower a botanist, a ray of light an astronomer, and even a word gave him ample suggestion to build up an empire of thought.
He sailed upon the tides and currents of the human heart, and steered through the cliffs and caverns of the brain with greater glory than those who sought the golden "fleece" among the enchanting waters of Ionian isles.
Shakspere conjured the characters of his plays from elemental principles, measures not men, breathing and acting in his divine atmosphere. It is strange and marvelous that he never wrote a line about the great men that lived and wrote in his day and age, although Cervantes, Rubens, Camoens, Bruno, Drake, Raleigh, Calderon, Corneille, Rembrandt, Kepler, Galileo, Montaigne, Beaumont and Fletcher, Sidney, Marlowe, Bacon and Ben Jonson were contemporaneous authors, poets, dramatists, navigators, soldiers, astronomers and philosophers.
Licentious phrases and actions were universal in Shakspere's time, and from the corrupt courts of King Henry the Eighth, Elizabeth and King James, to the cot of the peasant and trail of the tavern, morality hid her modest head and only flourished among the puritans and philosophers who kept alive the flame of love and liberty.
Dryden, Spenser, Sidney, Marlowe and Jonson infected literature with a species of eloquent vulgarity, and Shakspere, willing to please, readily infused into his various plays sensuous phrases to catch the rabble cheers and purpled applause. While he worshiped nature, he never failed to bend the knee for ready cash, and often paid fulsome tribute to lords and ladies, who flattered his vanity and ministered to his "itching palm."
Physical passion, mental license and social tyranny ruled in home, church and state, where Rome and Reformation struggled viciously for the mastery.
There are nuggets of golden thought still scattered through the plays of Shakspere that no author or actor has ever discovered, and although they have read and repeated his lines, for more than three hundred years, there has been no brain able and brilliant enough to delve into or explain the secret caves of Shaksperian wit. Human sparrows cannot know the eagle flights of divine philosophy.
The golden gilt of imagination decorated his phrases and the lambent light of his philosophy shone like the rosy dawn upon a field of variegated wild flowers. The hut and the cottage were transformed into lordly castles while the rocks and the hills became ranges of mountain, whose icy pinnacles reflected back the shimmering light of suns and stars.
Shakspere was a man of universal moods and like a chameleon took color and force from every object he touched. The draughts he took from the deep flowing wells of nature made no diminution in the volume of his thought, that rushed through his seething brain like an underground cataract filled from eternal springs.
Fresh from the mint of his mind fell the clinking, golden coin of universal value, bearing the glowing stamp of his genius, unrivaled in the annals of time. Since he wrote and acted, no man ever understood the depths of his wit and logic, or the height of his imagination and philosophy. The human mackerel cannot know the human whale.
Shallow, presumptive college bookworms, arrogant librarians and classical compilers, have attempted to explain his plays and sonnets, in footnotes, but they have only been entangled in the briers and flowers of his fancy, finding themselves suffocated at last, in the luxurious fields of his eloquent rhetoric and universal wisdom.
School-teachers, professors, priests, preachers, popes, and princes are brushed aside by the cutting phrases of Shakspere and go down to earth like grass before the scythe of this rustic reaper. They are dumfounded by his matchless mysterious logic. Religion, law and medicine are pitchforked about by the Divine William on the threshing floor of his literary granary, where he separates wheat from chaff, instanter, leaving the beholder mystified by the splendid result.
Viewing the great minds of the world from Homer to Humboldt, Shakspere never had an equal or superior, standing on the pinnacle of the pyramid of human renown, and lifting his mammoth mental form above the other philosophers of the earth as Mount St. Elias soars above its brother peaks.
Distance lends a wizard enchantment to his lofty form and down the rolling ages his glory will grow greater until the whole universe is luminous with the dazzling lights of his eternal fame.
Such god-like men shall never die; They shine as suns in tropic sky, And thrill the world with truth and love Derived from nature far above.
Shakspere's mind was pinioned with celestial imagination, and his rushing flight circled the shores of omnipotence. He taught us that ignorance was a crime, a murky night without a single star to light the traveler on his weary way.
Those who have attempted to fathom the depths of the Shaksperian ocean of thought, have only rounded the rim or skimmed over the surface of its illimitable magnificence. Tossed about by the billows of Shakspere's brain, for three hundred and forty years mankind like a ship in a storm, still wonders and runs on the reefs of his understanding, to be wrecked in their vain calculation of his divine wisdom.
Leaving the beaten paths of oriental and middle age writers, he dashed deep into the forest of nature and surveyed for himself a new dominion of thought, that has never been occupied before or since his birth. Like a comet of universal light, he shines over the world with the warm glow of celestial knowledge.
With the tuning key of his matchless genius he struck the chords of sorrow to their inmost tone and played on the heart strings of joy with the tender vibrations of an aeolian harp, trembling with melodious echoes among the wild flowers of ecstatic passion.
And to clap the climax and fathom the logic of love, he eloquently exclaims:
"Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds!"
J. A. J.
Shakspere: Personal Recollections
BIRTH. SCHOOL DAYS. SHOWS.
"One touch of Nature makes the whole world kin."
William Shakspere was born on the 23d of April, 1564, at the town of Stratford, on the river Avon, Warwickshire County, England; and died in the same town on the 23d of April, 1616, exactly fifty-two years of age, the date of his birth being the date of his death, a remarkable coincidence of spiritual assimilation.
For several centuries, his ancestors served their king and crown in war and peace; and were noted in their day and age as country "gentlemen," a term much more significant then than now, when even dressed up "dandy" frauds may lay claim to this much-abused title.
The grandfather of Shakspere fought on Bosworth Field with King Henry the Seventh, and was rewarded for his military service, leaving to his son John, the father of the "Divine" William, influence enough to secure the position of a country squire and made him bailiff and mayor of the town of Stratford.
John Shakspere, in addition to his judicial duties, dabbled in trade as a wool dealer and glove maker, and when he lost influence and office he resorted to the business of a butcher to secure bread, meat and shelter for his large family.
He married the youngest daughter of Robert Arden, a very beautiful girl of Wilmcote, a small village three miles from Stratford. When Arden died, Mary, his favorite daughter, was bequeathed thirty-six dollars, and a small farm of fifty acres, near the town of Snitterfield. Good inheritance for that age.
The Arden family were strict Roman Catholics; and Edward Arden, high sheriff of Warwickshire, was executed in 1583, for plotting against her majesty, Queen Elizabeth. Those were lively days, when the followers of the Pope and King Henry the Eighth, banished, burned and hung presumptive heretics for opinion's sake! The lechery and greed of King Hal was the primary cause of his separation from papal authority, augmenting the Reformation by licentious royalty.
John Shakspere and Mary, his good wife, did not seem to have much of an education, for in signing deeds of conveyance, they only made their mark like thousands of the yeomanry of England.
Shakspere was a very common name in Warwickshire and the surrounding counties, and while the "Divine" William glorified the whole race, there were others of his name who fought for king and crown.
John Shakspere had ten children, with the affectionate assistance of Mary Arden. Seven daughters and three boys, William being the third child and the most active and robust. Several of the flock died, thereby reducing the trials and expenses of the household; the "old man" seeming to be one of those ancient "Mulberry Sellers," that was forever making "millions" in his mind, and chasing gold bags at the west end of rainbows!
For many years he persistently applied to the College of Heralds for a "coat of arms;" and finally in the year of 1599, a picture of a "shield" with a "spear" and "falcon," rampant, was awarded to the Shakspere family, all through the growing influence of the actor and author William, who had become famous and wealthy. John Shakspere did not enjoy the glory of his "coat of arms" very long, for we find that he died in September, 1601, and was buried on the 8th of that month, at the old church in Stratford, and his brave old wife, the mother of William Shakspere, followed him to the tomb on the 9th of September, 1608.
I first met Will Shakspere on the 23d of April, 1571, at the old log and board schoolhouse at the head of Henley street, Stratford, on the river Avon. It was a bright, sunny day, and Mr. Walter Roche, the Latin master, was the autocrat of the scholastic institution, afterwards succeeded by Thomas Hunt.
Will Shakspere and myself happened to be born on the same day, and our first entrance at the temple of knowledge marked exactly the seventh milestone of our fleeting years.
Will was a very lusty, rollicking boy and was as full of innocent mischief as a pomegranate is of seeds. He was handsome and bright, wearing a thick suit of auburn curls, that rippled over his shoulders like a waterfall in the sunshine. His eyes were very large, a light hazel hue, that glinted into blue when his soul was stirred by passion. His forehead was broad and high, even as a boy, rounding off into that "dome of thought" that in later years, when a six-foot specimen of splendid manhood caused him to conjure up such a universal group of immortal characters.
His nose was long and high, but symmetrical, and his distended nostrils, when excited at play, would remind you of a Kentucky racehorse in motion. His voice was sonorous and musical, and when stirred by passion or pleasure it rose and fell like the sound of waves upon a stormy or summer sea. His lips were red and full, marked by Nature, with the "bow of beauty," and when his luminous countenance was flushed with celestial light, he shot the arrows of love-lit glances around the schoolroom and fairly magnetized the boys, and particularly the girls, with the radiant influence of his unconscious genius.
Will was a constant source of anxiety and wonder to the teacher, who often marked him as the scapegoat to carry off the surface sins of sneaking and cowardly pupils. Corporal punishment was part of school discipline, and William and myself got our share of the rule and rod.
Through all the centuries, in youth and age, private and public, the scapegoat has been the real hero in all troubles and misfortunes. He seems to be a necessary mortal, but while persecution relentlessly pursues him, he almost invariably triumphs over his enemies, and when even devoted to the prison, the stake or the scaffold, as a martyr, he triumphs over the grave and is monumented in the memory of mankind for his bravery and silent self-sacrifice!
For seven school years Will and myself were daily companions. Spring, with its cowslips and primroses, and hawthorn blossoms, found us rambling through the woods and fields, and angling for the finny tribe disporting in the purling waters of the crystal Avon.
Summer brought its grain and fruits, with boys and girls scrambling over hedges, fences, stiles and brooks, in search of berries and ripe apples; autumn with its nuts, birds and hares, invited us to hunting grounds, along the rolling ridges and the dense forest of Arden, even poaching on the domain of Sir Thomas Lucy and the royal reaches of Warwick Castle, and old winter with his snowy locks and whistling airs brought the roses to our young cheeks, skipping and sporting through his fantastic realm like the snow birds whirling in clumps of clouds across the withered world.
Looking back over the fields, forests and waters of the past through the variegated realms of celestial imagination, I behold after the lapse of more than three centuries of human wrecks, the brilliant boys and glorious girls I played with in childhood years—still shining as bright and fresh as the flowers and fruits of yesterday!
"For we are the same our fathers have been, We see the same sights our fathers have seen, We drink the same streams and view the same sun, And run the same course our fathers have run!"
I remember well the first time Will and myself attended a theatrical performance. It was on the first of April, 1573, when we were about nine years of age.
A strolling band of comic, and Punch and Judy players had made a sudden invasion of Stratford and established themselves in the big barn of the old Bear Tavern on Bridge street.
The town was alive with expectation and the school children were wild to behold the great play of "The Scolding Wife," which was advertised through the streets, in the daytime, by a cartload of bedizened harlequins, belaboring each other with words and gestures, the wife with bare arms, short dress and a bundle of rods, standing rampant over the prostrate form of a drunken husband.
Fifes, drums and timbrels kept up a frantic noise, filling the bylanes and streets of Stratford with astonished country louts and tradesmen, until the fantastic parade ended in the wagon yard of the tavern.
The old barn had been rigged up as a rustic playhouse, the stage covering one end, elevated about three feet from the threshing floor. Curtains with daub pictures were strung across the stage, separated in the center and shifted backward and forward, as the varying scenes of the family play were presented for the hisses or cheers of the variegated audience.
The play consisted of three acts, showing the progress of courtship and marriage at the altar, country and town life with growing children, work, poverty, and final windup of the husband driven from home by the scolding wife, bruised in an alehouse, dead and followed to the graveyard by the Beadle, undertaker and a brindle dog.
The climax scene of the play exhibited the wife with a bundle of rods, surrounded by ragged children, driving out into a midnight storm the husband of her bosom, while peals of thunder and flashes of lightning brought goose pimples and shivers to the frightened audience.
The impression made upon the mind of William and myself did not give us a very hopeful view of married life, and while the haphazard working, drinking habits of the husband seemed to deserve all the punishment he received, the modesty, benevolence and beauty of woman was shattered in our young souls.
On our way home from the country-tragedy performance we were gladdened by the thought, that although the rude, vulgar, criminal passions of mankind were portrayed and enacted day by day all over the globe, we could look up into the star-lit heavens and see those glittering lamps of night shining with reflected light on the murmuring bosom of the Avon, as it flowed in peaceful ripples to the Severn and from the Severn to the sea. Nature soothed our young hearts, and soon, in the mysterious realms of sleep, we forgot the sorrows and poverty of earth, tripping away with angelic companions through the golden fields of celestial dreams.
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in our philosophy."
I shall never forget the great shows and pageants that took place in Warwickshire County, in July, 1575. All England was alive to the grand entrance of Queen Elizabeth to Kenilworth Castle, as the royal guest of her favorite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Proclamation had gone forth that all work be suspended, while yeoman, trader, merchant, doctor, lawyer, minister, lords and earls should pay a pilgrimage to Kenilworth and pay tribute to the Virgin Queen.
Stratford and the surrounding villages were aflame with enthusiasm, and as John Shakspere, the alderman and mayor, took great interest in theatricals and particularly those festivities inaugurated for the entertainment of royalty, he led a great concourse of devoted patriots through the forests of Arden, blooming parks of Warwick Castle on to the grand surroundings of Kenilworth, where the people en masse camped, sang, danced, took part in country plays, feasted and went wild for eighteen days, over the illustrious daughter of Henry the Eighth.
William and myself were among the enthusiastic revelers, and for boys of twelve years of age, we felt more cheer than any of the lads and lasses from Stratford, because our parents furnished us with milk white ponies, to pay tribute, and typify the virtue and chastity of the "Virgin Queen!" We did not particularly care about virtue or virginity, so we shared in the cakes and ale that were lavished in profusion to the rural multitude.
A high grand throne made out of evergreens and wild flowers was erected in the central park of Kenilworth, rimmed in by lofty elms, oaks and sycamores.
There, through the fleeting days and nights, the Queen and her royal suite of a thousand purpled cavaliers and bejeweled maids of honor, held court and viewed the ever-changing, living panorama evolved for their entertainment. The Queen looked like a wilderness of lace and variegated velvet, irrigated with a shower of diamonds.
On the 9th of July Queen "Bess" and her illuminated suite entered the Castle of Kenilworth, and the hands of the clock in the great tower pointed to the hour of two, where they remained until her departure, as invitation to a continual banquet.
The Earl expended a thousand pounds a day for the fluid and food entertainment of his guests, while woodland bowers and innumerable tents were scattered through the royal domain generously donated to man and maid by night and day. We boys and girls seldom went to bed.
Companies of circus performers, and theatrical artists, from London and other towns were brought down to the heart of Old Albion to swell the pleasure of the reigning Queen. Continual plays were going on, while horn, fife, bugle and drum lent music to the kaleidoscopic revel.
Dancing, hunting, hawking and archery parties, through the day, lent their antics to the scene, and when night came with bright Luna showing her mystic face, forest fires, rockets and illuminated balloons filled the air with celestial wonder, vieing with the stars in an effort to do universal honor to the "Virgin Queen!" That's what they called "Bess."
William and myself took part in several of the joint circus and theatrical performances, and at the conclusion of one of the plays—"Virtue Victorious," Queen Elizabeth called up William and a purple page named Francis Bacon, patted them on the head with her royal digits, and said they would soon be great men!
I must acknowledge that I felt a little envious at the encomium, not so much to William, as to the proud peacock, Bacon, who came in the train of the Queen.
At sunrise of the 27th of July, 1575, the festivities closed, and the royal cavalcade with a following of ten thousand loyal subjects, accompanied the ruling monarch to the borders of Warwickshire, with universal shouts and ovations on her triumphal march to London.
"I would applaud thee to the very echo, That should applaud again."
"All that glitters is not gold, Often you have heard that told; Many a man his life hath sold But my outside to behold!"
LAUNCHED. APPRENTICE BOY. AMBITION.
"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our Stars, But in ourselves that we are underlings."
Will Shakspere and myself left school when we were fourteen years of age. Our parents being reduced in worldly circumstances, needed the financial fruits of our labor.
Shakspere was bound to a butcher named John Bull, for a term of three years, while I was put at the trade of stone-cutting with Sam Granite for the same period.
Will was one of the finest looking boys in the town of Stratford, aristocratic by nature, large and noble in appearance, and the pride of all the girls in the county of Warwick; for his fame as a runner, boxer, drinker, dancer, reciter, speaker, hunter, swimmer and singer was well known in the surrounding farms and villages, where he had occasion to drive, purchase and sell meat animals for his butcher boss, John Bull. Shakspere's father assisted Bull in selling hides and buying wool.
In the winter of 1580, Will and myself joined a new thespian society, organized by the boys and girls of Stratford, with a contingent of theatrical talent from Shottery, Snitterfield, Leicester, Kenilworth and Coventry.
Strolling players, chartered by Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Leicester, often visited Stratford and the surrounding towns, infusing into the young, and even the old, a desire for that innocent fun of tragic or comic philosophy that wandering minstrels and circus exhibitions generate in the human heart.
Plays of Roman, Spanish and German origin, as well as those of Old Albion, were enacted on our rural stage, and although we had not the paraphernalia and scenery of the London actors, we made up in frantic enthusiasm what we lacked in artistic finish, and often in our amateur exhibitions at balls, fairs, races and May Day Morris dances, we "astonished the natives," who paid from a penny to sixpence to see and hear the "Stratford Oriental Theatrical Company."
Shakspere always took a leading part in every play, poem and declamation, but when an encore was given and a demand for a recitation on love, Will was in his natural element and gave the eager audience dashes from Ovid's Metamorphoses or Petrarch's Sonnets.
The local company had a large assortment of poetic and theatrical translations, and many of the boys and girls who had passed through the Latin school, could "spout" the rhythmic lines of Ovid, Virgil, Horace or Petrarch in the original language. And strange to say, the Warwickshire audience would cheer the Latin more than the English rendition, on the principle that the least you know about a thing the more you enjoy it! Thus pretense and ignorance make a stagger at information, and while fooling themselves, imagine that they fool their elbow neighbor!
Shakspere had a most marvelous memory, and his sense of taste, smell, feeling, hearing and particularly seeing was abnormally developed, and constant practice in talking and copying verses and philosophic sentences made him almost perfect in his deductions and conclusions. He was a natural orator, and impressed the beholder with his superiority.
He had a habit of copying the best verses, dramatic phrases and orations of ancient authors, and then to show his superiority of epigrammatic, incisive style, he could paraphrase the poems of other writers into his own divine sentences, using the crude ore of Homeric and Platonic philosophy, resolving their thoughts into the best form of classic English, lucid, brave and blunt!
I have often tested his powers of lightning observation with each of us running by shop windows in Stratford, Oxford or London, and betting a dinner as to who could name the greatest number of objects, and he invariably could name correctly three to my one. In visiting country farmers in search of cattle, sheep or pigs he could mount a stone fence or climb a hedge row gate, and by a glance over the field or meadow, give the correct number of animals in sight.
He was a wonder to the yeomanry of Warwickshire and the surrounding counties, and when he had occasion to rest for the night at farm houses or taverns, he was the prime favorite of the rural flames or bouncing, beaming barmaid. The girls went wild about him. The physical development of Shakspere was as noticeable as his mental superiority. Often when he ploughed the placid waters of the Avon, or buffeted the breakers of the moaning sea, have I gazed in rapture at his manly, Adonis form, standing on the sands, like a Grecian wrestler, waiting for the laurel crown of the Olympic games.
Great Shakspere was endowed with heavenly light; He read the book of Nature day and night, And delving through the strata of mankind Divined the thoughts that thrilled the mystic mind, And felt the pulse of all the human race, While from their beating heart could surely trace The various passions that inspire the soul Around this breathing world from pole to pole!
My family and the Hathaway household were on familiar terms, for my father at times worked an adjoining estate at the edge of the village of Shottery, a straggling community of farmers and tradesmen, with the usual wheelwright, blacksmith shop, corn and meat store and alehouse attachments.
William, in his rural perambulations, often put up for the night at our cottage, and as there was generally some fun going on in the neighborhood after dark, I led him into many frolics with the boys and girls; and I can assure you he was a rusher with the fair sex, capturing the plums that fell from the tree of beauty and passion.
On a certain moonlight night, in the month of May, 1581, a large concourse of rural belles and beaux assembled at the home of John Dryden, washed by the waters of the Avon, and thrilled by the songs of the nightingales, thrushes and larks lending enchantment to the flitting hours.
Stratford, Snitterfield, Wilmcote and Shottery sent their contingent of roistering boys and girls to enjoy the moonlight lawn dance and rural feast set out under flowery bowers by the generous Dryden.
It would have done your heart good to see the variegated dresses, antics and faces of the happy rural belles. I see them as plain as ever in the looking-glass of memory. There is Laura Combs, plump and intelligent, Mary Scott, willowy and keen, Jennie Field, sedate and sterling, Mary Hall, musical and handsome, Annie Condell, modest and benevolent, Joyce Acton, witty and aristocratic, Lizzie Heminge, bouncing and beaming, Fannie Hunt, stately and kind, while Anne Hathaway, the big girl of the party, seemed to be the leader in all the innocent mischief of the evening.
William took a particular liking to the push and go of Anne, and she seemed to concentrate her gaze on his robust form at first sight. William asked me, as the friend of the family, to introduce him to Miss Hathaway, which I did in my best words, and away they went, on a hop, step and a jump through the Morris dance that was just then being enacted on the lawn.
The clarion notes of the farm cocks were saluting the rosy footsteps of the dawn when the various parties dispersed for home.
The last I saw of William he was helping Miss Hathaway over the rustic stile and hedge row that rimmed the old thatched cottage home of his new found flame.
It was a frigid day or night when William could not find something fresh and new among the fair sex, and like a king bee in a field of wild flowers, he sipped the nectar of love and beauty, and tossed carking care to the vagrant winds.
It was soon after this moonlight party that a picnic revel was given in the domain of Sir Hugh Clopton, near the old mill and stone bridge erected by that generous public benefactor.
The boys and girls of the town turned out en masse, and enjoyed the hawking, hunting, swimming, dancing, archery and boating that prevailed that day.
In the midst of the festivities, while a long line of rural beauties and beaux were prancing and rollicking on the bridge, a scream, and a flash of Dolly Varden dress in the river showed the struggling efforts of Anne Hathaway to keep her head above water.
One glance at the pride of his heart struggling for her life determined the soul of the athlete, when he plunged into the running stream, caught the arm of his adored as she was going down for the third time, and then with a few mighty sweeps of his brawny arm, he reached the shore and heaved her on the sands in an almost lifeless condition. She was soon restored, however, by her numerous companions, with only the loss of a few ribbons and bunches of hawthorn blossoms that William had tied in her golden hair that morning.
William was the hero of the day, and his fame for bravery rung on the lips of the Warwickshire yeomanry, while in the heart of Anne Hathaway devotion reigned supreme.
"There is no love broker in the world can more prevail in man's commendation with woman than report of valor."
The courtship of William and Anne was rapid, and although her father died only a few months before the 27th of November, 1582, license to marry was suddenly obtained through the insistence of the yeoman friends of the Hathaway family, Fulke-Sandells and John Richardson, who convinced the Lord Bishop of Worcester that one calling of the banns of matrimony was only necessary.
William left his home in Stratford immediately and took charge of Anne's cottage and farm, settling down as soon as one of his rollicking nature could realize that he had been virtually forced into marrying a buxom girl, eight years older than himself, and a woman of hot temper. Six months after marriage Susanna, his daughter was born, and about two years after, February 2d, 1585, his twin children Hammet and Judith were ushered into his cottage home, as new pledges of matrimonial felicity.
Things did not move on with William as happily after marriage as before, and while his wife did most of the work, the Bard of Nature preferred to shirk hard labor in field and wood, longing constantly to meet the "boys" at the tavern, or fish, sing, hunt and poach along the Avon.
Yoking Pegasus to a Flanders mare would be about as reasonable as joining a practical, honest woman with a poet!
Water and hot oil will not mix, and the fires of genius cannot be curbed or subdued by material surroundings. Beef cannot appreciate brains!
Anne was constantly sand papering William about his vagabond life, and holding up the picture of ruin for her ancestral estate, by his thoughtless extravagance and determination to attend to other people's business instead of his own. As the wife was senior and business boss, the Bard endured these curtain lectures with meekness and surface sorrow and promises of reformation, but, when out of her sight continued in the same old rut of playing the clown and philosopher for the public amusement.
"How hard it is to hide the spark of Nature!"
FARM LIFE. SPORTING. POACHING ON LUCY.
"Hanging and wiving go by destiny!"
The drudgery of farm work was not relished by Shakspere, and the spring of 1586 found the man of destiny more engaged in the sports of Stratford and surrounding villages than in the production of corn, cabbage, turnips and potatoes. Where fun was to be found William raised the auction and the highest bidder at the booths of vanity fair. He was athletic in mind and body, and forever like a cribbed lion or caged eagle, struggled to shake off his rural environments and dash away into the world of thought and action.
Home, with its practical, daily gad grind morality and responsibility, had no charm for William, and his stalwart wife made matters worse by her continual importunities to her vagabond husband to settle down with the muttonhead clodhoppers and tradesmen of Warwickshire. He was not built that way!
Her farm logic fell upon deaf ears, for while she was preaching hard work he was reading the love-lit flights of Ovid and pondering over the sugared sonnets of Petrarch and Sir Philip Sidney, living in the realms of Clio, Euterpe and Terpsichore, preparing even then his pathway to the great poems of Venus and Adonis, Lucrece, the sonnets and the immortal plays that were incubating in the procreant soul of the Divine Bard. He was his own schoolmaster, drawing daily draughts from the universal fountains of Nature.
And what a blessing it is to the public to have even a social scapegrace hatch out golden ideas for their education and amusement, notwithstanding the neglect of farm and family!
The greatest good to the greatest number is best for all time.
"God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform, He plants His footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm."
On the first of September, 1586, the lord high sheriff of Coventry invited the people to an archery and drinking contest.
Representatives from twenty-five villages and towns were selected, from the various working guilds and professions, to conquer or die (drunk) in the Queen's name for the honor of Old Albion.
Ceres, the Goddess of Harvest, had showered her riches on the fields and forests of Warwickshire, and to glorify her abundance, a great athletic and semimilitary carnival was thus given by the authorities to test the bravery, endurance and greatness of the sons of Saint George and the Dragon.
The beautiful, broad, undulating, winding highways, leading from Stratford, Warwick, Kenilworth and Birmingham to the ancient town of Coventry were filled with jolly pilgrims to pay devotion at the shrine of Hercules and Bacchus, with the influence of Venus as an ever-present incentive to passionate pleasure.
That bright September morning I well remember! Dame Nature was just donning her variegated gown of rustic-brown, while fitful airs from the realms of Jack Frost were painting the wild roses and forest leaves in cardinal hue, and the blackbird, thrush and musical nightingale flew low and sang hoarse, but continually, in their assemblages for migration to lands of sun and flowers.
From Kenilworth to Coventry the rural scenery is as various and beautiful as visions of a dream, and the undulating landscape by hill and dale, field and forest, river, marge, cottage, hall, church and castle, grouping themselves in shifting pictures of beauty and grandeur, where lofty elms and sycamores rise and bend their willowy arms to the passing breeze, indelibly impresses the beholder with a splendid kaleidoscopic view of English hospitality and agricultural cultivation.
The tall turrets of monasteries, castles and soaring church spires of Coventry looked luminous in the morning sunshine, while the brazen tongues of century bells rolled their mellifluous matin tones in voluminous welcome to the great multitude of revelers within her embattled walls and hospitable homes.
Promptly at nine o'clock in the morning, in the Leicester Park, twenty-five accoutered long bow men, in archery uniform, took their stand before the bull's eye targets two hundred yards away.
At the words "draw," "aim" and "fly" the whizzing arrows centered and shivered in the oak targets, and none hit the bull's but Will Shakspere of Stratford, who was proclaimed winner of the first prize, an ox, a barrel of sack and butt of wine, with the privilege of kissing every girl in the county.
The entire day was spent in all kinds of sports, and with roasts, joints, bread, pudding, sack, ale, gin, brandy and whiskey, the revelers did not break up until daylight, when all were laid under the table but William and his friends Burbage, Condell and Dick Field, who had come away from his printing house in London to witness one of the greatest rural sports of England.
Although Stratford was not a day's walk from Coventry, William and his friends did not succeed in getting back for three days, and often they traveled by the light of the moon believing it was the sun in midday splendor.
Anne Hathaway heard of William's official and social victory, not in the proud light of his Stratford and Shottery alehouse companions, but with a tongue like a gad, she proposed to lash him into shame as a husband or drive him from his cottage home to earn a living for his infant children.
William was a little dubious as to his reception, and in order to temper the storm to the "ambling lamb," he earnestly requested me to accompany him home, as a buffer to his contemplated reception, believing that Anne would mellow her words and actions in the presence of an old friend.
I respectfully declined his pressing invitation and twitted him on being afraid of a woman, when he plaintively exclaimed:
Anne Hath-a-way that gives me pain, She scolds both day and night; Her tongue goes pattering like the rain And speeds my outward flight; I'll soon be gone to London town And leave her house and land Where I will gain some great renown That she may understand.
I met William the next morning on his way to the Crown Tavern in search of a "Martini Cocktail," a new drink that an Indian from America had invented for Admiral Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh.
William bore the appearance of a man who had slept by a smoky chimney, or encountered the butt end of a threshing flail. He seemed sombre and muttered to himself:
"When sorrows come they come not single But in battalions!"
I joined him in liquidation at the tavern, for, to tell the truth, my throat felt like the rough edge of a buffalo robe, and my nerves trembled like aspen leaves in July.
When our usual village sports filed around the table, and glee and song once more prevailed, William began to soften in his statuesque attitude, and laughingly proposed that we "go a poaching" on the imprisoned animals and birds that Squire Lucy corraled for his special delectation, to the detriment of honest apprentices and pure-minded yeomanry.
His proposition was agreed to unanimously, and just as the sun tipped the treetops of the Charlecote domain, we had scared up a couple of fat deer, and sent our arrows through their trembling anatomy, and the number of hares, grouse and pigeons we slaughtered that evening kept the landlord of the Crown Tavern busy for two days to dish up to his jolly revelers.
In this escapade we only imitated the aristocratic students of Oxford College, who frequently made inroads into lordly domains and took some of the treasures that God and Nature intended for all men, instead of being hatched, bred and watched by impudent and cruel gamekeepers, employed by tyrannical landlords, in defiance of the natural rights of the people.
Even the fish in the Avon, Severn and Bay were registered and claimed by scrubs of royalty for their exclusive use, fine and imprisonment being imposed for hunting on the land and fishing in the streams that God made for all men.
These parliamentary laws should be voted or bulleted out of the statute books, and the people again inherit their inalienable rights.
My friend William was arrested by the malicious Lucy, and the gamekeeper, Tom Snap, swore to enough facts to exile, hang and quarter the Bard.
Through the influence of his father and John A. Combe, William, the chief culprit, was not imprisoned, but compelled to pay a fine of one pound ten.
He did not have but three shillings, yet the boys secretly passed the hat around in the court yard and tavern, and soon extricated our chum from the toils of Sir Thomas Lucy.
William did not have the courage to face his wife after a week's absence, and told me privately that he was going off instanter by the way of Oxford to London and seek his fortune.
I applauded his spunk and determination, and, at his solicitation willingly joined him in his eloquent rambles. My parents were both dead, and being of a bohemian tendency, my home has ever been on any spot of the earth where the sun rose or set. Pot luck suits me.
Natural freedom of body and mind has ever been my greatest delight and the artificial fashions and tyrannical laws of society I despise and defy, and shall to my dying day. My mind is my master.
Right is my religion and God is my instructor!
"I must have liberty Withal, as large a charter as the wind To blow on whom I please."
The evening before we left Stratford William wrote a short note to his wife and said that he would take her advice, leave the town, and seek his fortune in the whirlpool of grand old London.
I imagine that Anne was delighted to receive his impromptu note, for it left her one less mouth to feed; and William was equally satisfied to be relieved of the role of playing husband without any of the practical moral adjuncts.
In passing by the entrance gate to the lordly estate of Sir Thomas Lucy, or Justice Shallow, William nailed up the following poetic shot to the hot-headed old squire, which was read and copied the next morning, by all the market men going to town, and the tavern lads going to their country ploughs:
"The tyrant Thomas Lucy Lets no one go to mass, He's a squire for Queen Bess, And in Parliament an ass; Fair Charlecote is ruined By this bluffer of the state, And only his dependents Will dare to call him great. The deer and hares and pidgeons Are imprisoned for his use, Yet, poaching lads from Stratford Pluck this strutting, feathered goose."
IN SEARCH OF PEACE AND FORTUNE.
"Blessed are those whose blood And judgment are so commingled, That they are not a pipe for Fortune's finger 'To sound what stop she pleases.' 'Give me that man that is not passion's slave,' And I will wear him in my heart's core, Ay, in my heart of heart as I do thee."
Early on the morning of the 9th of September, 1586, William and myself took our departure from the Crown Tavern. The landlord, Tom Gill, gave us a bottle of his best gin and brandy to cheer us on our way to fame and fortune. Fannie Hill, the barmaid, threw kisses at us until we rounded the corner of the street leading to the old Grammar School. We carried blackthorn cudgels to protect us from gamekeepers, lords and dogs.
As we passed the modest cottage where William's parents resided, he impulsively broke away from my presence to bid a long farewell to his angelic mother, and soon again he was at my side, flushed with pride and tears, exclaiming in undertone:
A mother's love and fervent hope Are coined into our horoscope, And to our latest dying breath Her heart and soul are ours to death!
In his clutched hand he held four gold "sovereigns" that his fond mother had given him at parting to help him in the daily trials of life, when no other friend could be so true and powerful. Gold gilds success.
"Here, Jack, keep two of these for yourself, and if I should ever be penniless, and you have gold, I know you will aid me in a pinch. The wine nature of your soul needs no bush."
"We still have slept together, Rose at an instant, learned, played, eat together, And wherever we went like Juno's swans, Still we went coupled, and inseparable."
"William," said I, "memory with her indelible signet shall long imprint this generous act of yours upon my soul, and when hundreds of years have passed, I shall tell of the undying friendship of two bohemians, who, day and night, set their own fashion, created a world of their own, and lived ecstatically, oscillating between the blunders of Bacchus and the vanity of Venus!"
William's heart was heavy when turning his back on father, mother, brother, sister, wife and children, at the age of twenty-two.
We passed along the Clopton stone bridge, and as we tramped over Primrose Hill looking back at the roofs and spires of Stratford, glinting in the morning light, the Bard uttered this impulsive dash of eloquence:
Farewell, farewell! a sad farewell To glowing scenes of boyhood. Ye rocks, and rills and forests primeval List to my sighing soul, trembling on the tongue To vent its echoes in ambient air. No more shall wild eyed deer, Fretful hares, hawks and hounds Entrance mine ear and vision, Or frantically depart when Stealthy footsteps disturb the lark, Ere Phoebus' golden light Illuminates the dawn. Memory, many hued maiden, Oft in midnight hours Shall picture these eternal hills, And purling streams, rimmed by Vernal meadows; And pillowed even in the lap of misery Fantastic visions of thee Shall lull deepest woe to repose. And banqueting at yon alehouse, Nestling near blooming hedge and snowy Hawthorn, I shall live again In blissful dreams among the enchanting Precincts of the silver, serpentine Avon. To thee I lift my hands in prayer Disappearing, and pinioned with Hope; Daughter of Love and sunrise— Go forth to multitudinous London, And, "buckle fortune on my back" "To bear her burden," to successful, Lofty heights of mind illimitable.
With this apostrophe, we took a last look at the glinting gables and sparkling spires of Stratford, disappearing over the hill, our steps and faces turned to London town, that seething whirlpool of human woe and pleasure.
The air was cold and the country roads were rutty and muddy, but the autumn landscape was beautiful, in its gray and purple garb, while the notes of flitting wild birds chirped and sang from bush, hedge, field and forest, in a mournful monotone to the fading glory of the year.
The various birds chattered in clumps along the highway, and then would rise over our heads in flitting flocks, steering their course to the south and seemingly accompanying us on our wandering way to the great metropolis.
In our zigzag course we passed through the towns of Ettington, Oxhill, Wroxton, Woodstock, Eversham and Oxford.
It was near sunset when the lofty towers and steeples of ancient Oxford, the great site of classic lore, met our view. In our haste to enter the city before dark, we jumped a hedge fence, and stone wall, making a short cross-cut over the lordly domain of the Earl of Norfolk, and just as we were again emerging into the great road, a gamekeeper was seen approaching with a huge mastiff, who rushed upon us like a lion.
We were near a rough wall, and it appeared to both of us that unless we stood for immediate fight the dog would tear us to pieces.
The gamekeeper urged the dog in his barking, mad career, but just as he made a grand leap at William's throat, his blackthorn cudgel came down with a whirl and broke the forelegs of the mastiff, sending him to earth with a growl and roar that could be heard over the castle walls that loomed up in the evening gray. The gamekeeper aimed a blunderbuss at the Bard, but ere he could fire the deadly weapon, I jumped on the petty tyrant whelp, and cudgeled his face into a macerated beefsteak.
We then leaped the garden wall and rushed into the city crowd where the curtains of night screened us from dogs and licentious lords.
We found our way to the Crown Tavern, kept by Richard Devanant and his buxom black-eyed wife.
The old Boniface was jolly, but was in his physical and spiritual dotage, yet "Nell," his second wife, was the life of the place, being immensely popular with the Oxford students, who circled about the "Crown" in midnight hours, with hilarious independence, that defied the raids of beadles, watchmen and armed constabulary.
Those were gay and roystering days and nights when the greatest yeoman, tradesman, student, or lord, was the one who "drank his comrade under the table" and went away at sunrise like a lark, fluttering with dew from his downy wing, and soaring into the sky of beauty and action.
It was Saturday night when we pulled up at the old tavern, and there seemed to be a great crowd of town people celebrating some local event.
We soon found that the senior class of Oxonian students had conquered the senior class of Cambridge at a great game of inter-college football and the cheers and yells of Oxford bloods permeated the atmosphere until midnight.
A round table spread in the tavern hall was loaded with food and liquors, while songs and speeches were given with a vim, all boasting of the prowess and patriotism of Oxford.
A number of strolling players and boxers were introduced during the evening.
A young lord named Bob Burleigh, was president of the club, while Mat Monmouth was the spokesman, who called on the various students and actors to entertain the town roysters who dropped in to see the free and easy celebration of the football victory.
While drowning our grief and loneliness in pewter pots of ale at a side table, in a snug corner, who should slap William on the shoulder but Ned Sadler, our old schoolmate from Stratford. Ned was a jolly rake, and had been in London sporting with theatrical companies, and, as a citizen of the world, was perfectly at home wherever night overtook him.
At the height of the college banquet Mat Monmouth announced that the president of the Cambridge Boxing Club had just challenged the president of the Oxford Club to fight, under the King's rule, for a purse of twenty guineas.
A wild cheer rent the room, and instanter the chairs and tables were pushed aside, when Dick Milton and Jack Norfolk stepped into the improvised prize ring, made by the circling arms of the students.
Five rounds with gloves were to be fought, and the champion who knocked out his opponent three times, should be the victor.
Dick Milton, the Cambridge athlete, when "time" was called, rushed on Jack Norfolk, the Oxford man, with a blow that sent him over the circling arms and into the chairs.
Score one for Dick.
Time was called, and Jack, although a little dazed, leaped at his opponent, who dodged the rush, and with a quick turn got in a left-hander on Jack's neck, and pastured him again among the yelling bloods.
Score two for Dick.
When time was called for the third round, the Oxford man looked bleary and tremulous, but with that bull-dog courage that never deserts an Englishman, he threw himself on the Cambridge man with great force and both went down with a crash.
Dick shook his opponent off like a terrier would a rat, and standing erect at the end of the room, waited for the call of time.
Jack Norfolk did not respond to the call.
Score three for Dick. Victory!
Then the yell of the Cambridge students could be heard among the turrets and gables of classic Oxford, a recompense for their defeat at the afternoon football game.
Dick Milton, flushed with wine and victory, held aloft the purse of guineas, and challenged any man in the room to fight him three rounds.
There seemed to be no immediate response, but I noticed a flush in the face of William, who modestly rose in his six-foot form and asked if the challenge included outside citizens?
Dick immediately replied, "You, or anybody in England." William said he did not know much about fighting with gloves, but if the gentleman would consent to three rounds with bare knuckles he would be pleased to accommodate him at once.
"All right, toe the mark!"
Mat Monmouth called time.
Dick Milton made a tiger leap at William, and landed with his right eye on the right knuckles of the Stratford citizen. The quickness and science of the Bard was a great surprise to the Cambridge athlete, and when time was called he came up groggy with a funeral eye, on the defense, and not on the tiger attack.
Considerable sparring for place, and dodging about the human ring, was indulged in by Dick, but William foiled each blow, and as the Cambridge man inadvertently rubbed his swollen eye, the Bard landed a stinging blow on the left optic of Milton and sent him into the arms of the landlord.
When time was called, no response from the Cambridge champion was heard, and Mat Monmouth handed over the prize purse to William, when the Oxford lads cheered the Stratford stranger to the echo, and made him an honorary member of their athletic club.
"Screw your courage to the sticking place, And we will not fail."
At the second crow of the cock William and myself bid good-bye to the jolly Boniface and his fantastic spouse, who made a deep impression on the Bard. In fact, he was easily impressed when youth, beauty and pleasure reigned around, and had he been born in Kentucky, no blue ribbon stallion in the commonwealth could match his form, spirit or gait.
Apollo with his rosy footsteps lit up hill, meadow and lawn, and kissed away the sparkling dewdrops of bush and hedge, cheering us on our way through the towns of Thane, over the Chilton Hills, on to Great Marlow, Maidenhead and renowned Windsor, where forest and castle thrilled the beholder with admiration for the works of Nature and Art.
It was late in the afternoon when we entered the broad highway to Windsor, passing numerous yeomen and tradespeople on their way to and from the royal domain of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
In striding along, with hearts light and airy, we were suddenly startled by cries of frantic yells coming from the rear, and looking around beheld a wild, runaway horse, and an open wagon with two young girls screaming for help.
To see, think and act was always the way of William, and as the horse rushed by with wagon and girls, nearly clipping our legs off, the Bard made a leap for the tail board of the vehicle and landed in the midst of the frightened girls. He then, as if inspired with the impulse of a tiger, jumped on the back of the rushing animal, grabbed the trailing lines, and neck of the horse, and steered him into a huge box hedge row that skirted the castle walls of Windsor.
Every one went after the runaway to see the fate of the party; but strange to say, the horse was lodged high and dry in the hedge row, while William and the girls crawled out of the wreck without a scratch, soon recovering from the fear, trepidation and danger that but a moment before reigned supreme.
We put up for the night at the Red Lion Tavern, and you may be sure that William was the hero of the town.
Rose and Bess Montagle were the young ladies whose lives had been providentially saved, and their father was the head gamekeeper of Windsor.
William was invited for breakfast the next morning at the stone lodge to receive hearty thanks and reward for his heroic action in risking his life for the salvation of others; but the Bard excused himself, saying that he must start by daylight for his last stretch to London, and only asked from the young ladies a sprig of boxwood and lock of their golden hair.
At parting the father threw William a bag of gold, and the girls presented him with the tokens desired, in addition to impulsive bashful kisses.
We were off promptly by sunrise, and steering our course to Houndslow, Brentford, Kensington, and to the top of Primrose Hill, we first caught sight of the spires, domes, turrets, temples and palaces of multitudinous, universal London.
"London, the needy villain's general home, The common sewer of Paris and of Rome; With eager thirst by folly or by fate, Sucks in the dregs of each corrupted state."
LONDON. ITS GUILT AND GLORY.
"They say, best men are molded out of faults; And for the most, become much more the better For being a little bad."
It was on the 13th of September, 1586, that William and myself first feasted our eyes on the variegated wilderness of wood, mortar, stone and tile of wonderful London.
The evening was bright and clear, while a north-west wind blew away the smoky clouds that hovered over the city like a funeral pall, displaying to our view the silver sinuosities of old Father Thames, as he moved in sluggish grandeur by Westminster, Blackfriars Bridge, the Tower, and to Gravesend, on his way to the channel and the sea.
To get a grand view of the town, an old sexton advised us to climb the steeple steps of crumbling Saint Mary's, that once felt the tread of the Crusaders, and heard the chanting hymn of monks, nuns and friars five hundred years before.
Standing on a broken column of the old steeple, three hundred feet above Primrose Hill, William struck an attitude of theatrical fashion and uttered the following oratorical flight:
Glorious London! Leviathan of human greed; Palpitating hot-bed of iniquity and joy, Greek, Roman, Spanish, Saxon, Kelt, Scot, Pict, Norman and Dane Have swept over thee like winter storms; And the mighty Caesar, Julius of old, With a myriad of bucklered warriors And one hundred galleons of sailors Triple-oared mariners, defying wave and fate, Have ploughed the placid face of Father Thames, Startling the loud cry of hawk and bittern As his royal prows grated on thy strand, Or skimmed over the marshes of thy infancy. Yet, amid all the wrecks of human ambition Where Pagan, Jew, Buddhist, Turk and Christian Struggled for the mastery of gold and power, You still march forward, giant-like and brave, Facing the morning of progress and liberty, Carrying thy cross and crown to all lands— And with thy grand flotilla, chartered by Neptune Remain mistress of all the seas, defiant— The roar of thy cannon and drum beats Heard with pride and glory around the world! Sad, how sad, to think that the day will come When not a vestige of this wonderful mass Of human energy shall remain; Where the cry of the wolf, bat and bittern Shall only be heard, and Nature again Resume her rustic, splendid desolation! Cities older and far greater than this, Dreaming of everlasting endurance, Have been long since buried in desert sands, Or engulfed in the pitiless waves of ocean, Lost forever from the rusty records Of Time, the tyrant and tomb builder Of man, vain insect of a moment, Who promises himself immortality, And then disappears like the mist of mountains, Or wandering meteors that sparkle and darkle In the midnight of oblivion!
We quickly descended from the steeple, passed by Buckingham Palace, Regent Park, British Museum, through Chancery Lane into Fleet street, by Ludgate Hill, under the shadow of old battered Saint Paul's Church on to the Devil's Tavern, near Blackfriars Bridge, where we found gay and comfortable lodgings for the night, it being twelve o'clock when we shook hands with Meg Mullen, the rubicund landlady.
The Devil's Tavern was a resort for actors, authors, bohemians, lords and ladies, who did not retire early to their downy couches.
The night we arrived the tavern was crowded, as the Actors' Annual Ball was in progress, and many fair women and brave men belated by Bacchus could not find their way home, and were compelled to remain all night and be cared for by the host of the Devil.
I told "Meg" we were Stratford boys, come up to London to seek our fortune, and set the Thames afire with our genius.
Plucking the "rosy" dame aside, I informed her that William Shakspere was a poet, author, actor and philosopher; and, while he was posing over the counter, smiling at a blooming barmaid, he looked the picture of his own immortal Romeo. Meg told me in a quizzical tone that the town was full of poets and actors, and that the surrounding playhouses could hire them for ten shillings a week, with sack and bread and cheese thrown in every Saturday night.
After a hasty supper, I tossed Meg a golden guinea to pay score, as if it were a shilling, to convince her that we were of the upper crust of bohemians, not strollers from the Strand, or penny puppets from Eastcheap or Smithfield.
After passing back the change, Meg sent a gay and festive porter to light us to the top cock-loft of the tavern, five stairs up, among the windows and angled gables of the tile roof.
A tallow dip and coach candle lit up the room, which was large, containing two Roman couches with quilts, robes and blankets, a stout table, two oak chairs, a pewter basin, and a large stone jug filled with water.
The tavern seemed to be on the banks of the Thames, for we could see through the two large windows, flitting lights as if boats and ships were moving on the water, while across the bridge old Southwark could be seen in the midnight glare as if it were a field of Jack-o'-lanterns moving in mystic parade.
William and myself soon found rest in deep slumber, and wafted away into a dreamless realm, our tired bodies lay in the enfolding arms of Morpheus until the porter knocked at our door the next morning as the clock of the tower struck the hour of nine.
Our first sight of sunrise in London gave us great expectations of fame and fortune—for surely all we had was glowing expectations.
"Oft expectation fails, and most oft there Where most it promises; and oft it hits Where hope is coldest and despair most fits."
While William stood gazing out of the roof windows of the Devil's Tavern on the moving, meandering population of London as they passed below on lane, street and stream, by foot, car or boat, he heaved a long drawn sigh, turned to me and said, "Jack, what do you think of London?"
"I like its whirl, dash and roar, far better than mingling with the rural milk-sops and innocent maidens of Warwick. Here we can work and climb to the top of the ladder of fame, while you, dear Will, will not be battered in ear by crying kids and tongue-lashing spouse."
Brushing away a tear of sorrow, no doubt for the absence of loved ones at Stratford, he dashed down the stairs, and was soon in the jolly whirlpool of tavern loungers, where beaming Meg greeted us with a smiling face, having prepared in advance a fine breakfast, smoking hot from the busy kitchen of the Devil.
In passing out of the dining room, Meg led us through a back hall into a low, long room, where a number of "ladies" and "gentlemen" were assembled about a round table, playing "cut the card," "spring the top" and "throw the dice;" small piles of silver and gold stacked in front of each player, while the "King's Dealer," or fat Jack Stafford, lost or paid all bets on "call."
William and myself were incidentally introduced to the motley gang as young "bloods" from Warwick, who had just entered London for fame and fortune. The conclave rose with extreme politeness, and Jack as spokesman welcomed us to their bosoms (so to speak), and asked if we would not "sit up and take a hand."
I respectfully declined, but William, surcharged with sorrow or flushed with ambition, bethought of the guineas in his pocket and belt, and called for the "dice box." "Deuces" won double and "sixes" treble coin.
William, to the great amazement of the dealer, flung a guinea in the center pot, which was immediately tapped by Jack, while the others looked on in silent expectation.
Grasping the dice box, he whirled it in his grasp, rattling the "bones" in triumphant glee and threw on the table three "sixes," thus abstracting from the inside pocket of the "Gentleman" at the head of the table, twenty-seven guineas.
Pushing back the coin and dice box, William proposed another throw, which was smilingly consented to by the "child of Fortune," and grasping the box, the Bard clicked the "ivories" and flung on the table three aces, which by the rule of the game, gave all the coin to the "Royal" dealer.
William never winced or hesitated, but pulling from his waist a buckskin belt, threw it on the table, exclaiming, "There's fifteen guineas I wager on the next throw."
The polite Jack replied, "All right, sir, take your word for it."
William frantically said:
"I have set my life upon a cast, And will stand the hazard of the die!"
Then, with a round whirl, he threw three "aces" again, rose from the table and bolted out of the room like a shot from a blunderbuss.
I immediately followed in his footsteps and found him joking with the landlady about a couple of infant bull pups she was fondling in her capacious lap.
At this juncture, who should appear on the scene but Dick Field, the first cousin of William, who had been in London a few years engaged in the printing and publishing business.
If he had dropped out of the clouds William could not have been more pleased or surprised, and the feeling was reciprocal.
The printing shop of Field was only a short distance from the Devil's Tavern, and we were invited to visit the establishment. On our way we passed by the Blackfriars, Curtain, In Yard, Paris and Devil theatres, interspersed with hurdy-gurdy concert hall, sailor and soldier, gin and sack vaults, where blear-eyed belles and battered beaux vied with each other in fantastic intoxication.
Field did a lot of rough printing for the various theatres, issuing bill posters, announcing plays, and setting up type sheets for actors and managers, in their daily concerts and dramas for the public amusement.
As luck would have it, old James Burbage and his son Dick were waiting for Field, with a lot of dramatic manuscript that must be put in print at once.
We were casually introduced to the great theatrical magnate Burbage, as relatives from Stratford who were just then in search of work.
James Burbage gazed for a moment on the manly form of William and blurted out in his bluff manner, "What do you know?"
Quick as a flash William replied: "I know more than those who know less, and know less than those who know more."
"Sharp answer, 'boy.' See me to-morrow at the Blackfriars at noon."
We turned aside and left Field and Burbage to their business; while Dick Burbage, the gay theatrical rake, invited us across the way to the Bull's Head, where we irrigated our anatomy, and then returned to the printing shop.
Field informed me that he had given us a great setting up with old Burbage; and would see his partner Greene, the playwright, and add to our recommendation for energy and learning.
We were invited to dine with Field that evening at eight o'clock at the Boar's Head Tavern, where Dame Quickly dispensed the best food and fluid of the lower town, and where the wags and wits of all lands congregated in security.
"At the very witching time of night When church yards yawn and hell itself Breathes out contagion to this world."
TAVERNS. THEATRES. VARIEGATED SOCIETY.
"Man's evil manners live in brass; Their virtues we write in water."
The Boar's Head Tavern in Eastcheap was one of the oldest and best inns in London for free and easy rollicking mood, where prince and peasant, king or clown, papist or puritan were welcome night and day, provided they intended no wrong and kept good nature aglow even in their cups. Magistrate and convent prior would sometimes raid the tavern until their physical and financial wants were satisfied.
Dame Quickly, with ruffled collar, was the master spirit of the house, and had been its light and glory for thirty years. Her round, full face, fat neck and robust form was a constant invitation for good cheer, and her matchless wit was a marvel to the guests that nightly congregated through her three-story gabled stone monastery.
A tavern is the best picture of human folly, nature wearing no garb of hypocrisy.
You must know that the Boar's Head had once been the home of the "Blackfriars," then a residence of a bishop, a convent, a brewery, and finally fell into the hands of the grandfather of Dame Quickly, who bequeathed it to his posterity and the public as a depot for plum pudding, roast beef, lamb, birds, fish, ale, wine, brandy and universal pleasure. A boar's head, with a red light in its mouth was kept constantly burning from sunset to sunrise, where wandering humanity found welcome and rest.
Supper parties from the adjacent theatres filled the tavern in midnight hours, where actors, authors, politicians, statesmen and ladies of all hue, reveled in jolly, generous freedom, beneath the ever-present superintendence of buxom Dame Quickly.
"The gods are just, and oft our pleasant vices Make instruments to scourge us. Boys, immature in knowledge, Pawn their experience to their present pleasure."
The main bar, decorated with variegated lights and shining blue bottles and glasses, with pewter and silver mugs in theatrical rows, lent a kind of enchantment to the nightly scene. Round, square and octagonal oak tables were scattered through the various rooms, and rough leather lounges skirted the walls.
Promptly at eight o'clock William and myself passed the stony portals of the Boar's Head, and were ushered into the back ground floor dining room where we met our friend Field and a playwright named Christopher Marlowe, standing before a great open chimney, with a blazing fire and a splendid supper.
Field seemed to take great pride in making us acquainted with Marlowe, the greatest actor and dramatist of his day, whose plays were even then the talk and delight of London.
"Tamberlaine the Great" and "Dr. Faustus" had been successfully launched at the Blackfriars, and young Marlowe was in his glory, the wit and toast of the town. He was but twenty-five years of age, finely formed, a voluptuary, high jutting forehead, dark hazel eye, and a typical image of a bohemian poet. It was a toss up as to who was the handsomest man, William or Marlowe, yet a stranger, on close inspection could see glinting out of William's eye a divine light and flashing expression that ever commanded respect and admiration. He was unlike any other mortal.