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· He died in the 53d year of his age,' and was
visit Warwickshire for the sake of collecting anecdotes relative to our author, perhaps he was too easily satisfied with such as fell in his way, without making any rigid search into their authenticity. It appears alfo from a following copy of this inscription, that it was not afcribed to Shaktpeare so early as two years after his death. Mr. Reed of Sta pie-inn obligingly pointed it out to me in the Remains, &c. of Richard Braithwaite, 1618; and as his edition of Jure; itaph varies in fome measure from the latter one published by Mr. Rowe, I shall not hesitate to tranfcribe it: 66 Upon one John Combe of Stratford upon Avon, a notable
Usurer, fastened upon a Iombe that he had caused to be built in his Life-Time :
- Ten in the hundred must lie in his grave,
54 Oh ( quoth the divill) my Jukn a Gombe.se Here it may be observed that, strict y speaking, this is na jocular epitaph, but a malevolent prediction; and Braithwaite's copy is surely 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 likewise found in Camden's Remains, 1614. I may add, that a usurer's solicitude to know what would be reported of him when he was dead, is not a very probable circumstance; neither was Shakspeare of a disposition to compose an invective, at once fo bitter and uncharitable, during a pleasant conversadion
among the common friends of himself and a gentleman, with whose family he lived in such friendship, that at his death he bequeathed his fword to Mr. Thomas Combe as a legacy. A miser's monument indeed, conilructed during his life-time, might be regarded as a challenge to fatire ; and we cannot wonder that anonymous lampoons should have been affixed to the marble designed to convey the character of fuch a being to posterity. · I hope I may be excused for this attempt to vindicate Shakspeare from the imputation of having poisoned the hour of confidence and festivity, by producing the feverest of all censures on one of his company.' I am unwilling, in short, buried on the north side of the chancel, in the
to think he could so wantonly and fo publickly have expressed his doubts concerning the salvation of one of his fellowcreatures. STEEVENS.
Since the above observations first appeared, (in a note to the edition of our author's Poems which I published in 1780,) I have obtained an additional proof of what has been advanced, in vindication of Shakspeare on this subject. It occurred to me that the will of John Combe might possibly throw fome light on this matter, and an examination of it some years ago furnished me with such evidence as renders the story recorded in Eraithwaite's Remains very doubtful; and fill more strongly proves that, whoever was the author of this epitaph, it is highly improbable that it should have been written by Shakspeare. 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 shall by my executors hereafter named, out of my goods and chattels fórstraysed, within one year after my decease, be fet over me, "
So much for Braithwaite's account of his having crected his own tomb in his life-time. That he had any quarrel with our author, or that Shakspeare had by any
act ftung him so severely that Mr. Combe never forgave him, appears equally void of foundation ; for by his will he bequeaths oto Mr. William Shakfpere Five Pounds." It is probable that they lived in intimacy, and that Mr. Combe had made fome purchase from cur poet; for he devises to his brother George, as the close or grounds known by the name of Parson's Close, alias Shakspere's Close. " It must be owned that Mr. Combe's will is dated Jan. 23, 1612-13, about eighteen months before his death ; and therefore the evidence now produced is not absolutely decisive, 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 such rupture should have taken place ; for if the supposed cause of offence had happened subsequently to the execution of the instrument, it is to be presumed that he would have revoked the legacy to Shakspeare: and the fame argument may be urged with respect 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-stone underneath is,
66 Good friend, 3 for Jesus' fake forbear
16 And curît be he that moves my bones.99 the elder, of the borough of Warwick, (who appears as a legatee and subscribing witness to Shakspeare's will, and therefore may be presumed a common friend, ) ten pounds; to his godson John Collins, (the son of Francis,) ten pounds; to Mrs. Susanna Collins (probably godmother to our poet's eldeit daughter) fix pounds, thirteen hillings, 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.
Our author, at the time of making his will, had it not in his power to shew any testimony of his regard for Mr. Combe, that gentleman being then dead; but that he continued a friendly correspondence with his family to the last, appears evidently (as Mr. Steevens has observed) 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 preserved by Rowe, and inserted with some 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 66 a fair monuments of considerable éxpence for those 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, some one of those persons (we may prefume) who had fuffered by Mr. Combe's feverity, gave vent to his fcelings in the fatirical composition preserved by Rowe; part of which, we have seen, was borrowed from epitaphs that had already been printed. - That Mr. Combe was a noney-lender, may be inferred from a clause in his will, in which he mentions his so good and just debtors ;* to every one of whom he remits 66 twenty shillings for every
twenty pounds, and so after this rate for a greater or lesser debt, , on their paying in to his executors what they owe.
Mr. Combe married Mrs. Rose Clopton, August 27, 1560 ; and therefore was probably, when he died, eighty years old, His property, from the description of it, appears to have been confiderable.
In justice to this gentleman it should be remembered, that in the language of Shakspeare's age an usurer did not mean one who took exorbitant, but any, intereit or usance for money ; which many then considered as criminal. The opprobrious term by which such a person was distinguished, Ten in the hundred, proves this ; forten per cent. was the ordinary interest of money. See Shakspeare's will. --Sir Philip Sidney directs by his will, made in 1586, that Sir Francis Wallingham shall put four thousand pounds which the testator bequeathed to his daughter, 66 to the best behoofe either by purchase of land or lease, or some other good and godly use, but in no case to let it
any usury at all.. MALONE. 9 He died in the 53d year of his age,! He died on his birth-day, April 23, 1616, and had exactly completed his fifty-second year. From Du Cange's Perpetual Almanack, Gloss, in v. Annus, (making allowance for the different style which then prevailed in England from that on which Du Cange's calculation was formed, ) it appears, that the 23d of April in that year was a Tuesday.
No account has been transmitted to us of the malady which at so early a period of life deprived England of its brightest ornament. The private note. book of his son-in-law Dr. Hall, * containing a short state of the cases of his patients, was a few years ago put into my hands by ny friend, the late Dr. Wright; and as Dr. Hall married our poet's daughter in the year 1607, and undoubtedly attended Shakspeare in his last illnefs, being then forty years old, I had hopes this book might have enabled me to gratify the publick curiosity on this fubje&. Butanluckily the earliest cafe recorded by Hall, is dated in 1617. He had probably filled fome other book with memorandums of his pradice in preceding years; which by some contingency may hereafter be found, and inform posterity of the particular
* Dr. Hall's pocket-book after his death fell into the hands of a surgeon of Warwick, who published a translation of it, (with some additions of his own) under the title of Select Observations on the English bodies of eminent perfons, in desperate diseases, &c. The third edition was printed in 1683.
çircumstances that attended the death of our great poct, From the 34th page of this book, which contains an account of a disorder under which his daughter Elizabeth laboured (about the year 1624,) and of the method of cure, it appears, that she was his only daughter; (Elizabeth Hall, filia mea unica, tortura oris defædata.) In the beginning of April in that year she visited London, and returned to Stratford on the 22d; an enterprise at that time 66 of great pith and moment,
While we lament that our incomparable poet was snatched from the world at a time when his faculties were in their full vigour, and before he was 's declined into the vale of
years, "2 let us be thankful that othis sweetest child of Fancy" did not perish while he yet lay in the cradle. He was born at Stratfordupon-Avon in April 1564; and I have this moment learned from the Register of that town that the plague broke out there on the 30th of the followingJune, and raged with such violence between that day and the last day of December, that two hundred and thirty-eight persons were in that period carried to the grave, of which number probably 216 died of that malignant distemper; and one only of the whole number refided, not in Stratford, but in the neighbouring town of Welcombe. From the 237 inhabitants of Stratford, whole names appear in the Register, twenty-one are to be subducted, who, it may be presumed, would have died in six months, in the ordinary courie of nature ; for in the five preceding years, reckoning, according to the style of that time, from March 25, 1559, to March 25, 1564, two hundred and twentyone persons were buried at Stratford, of whom 210 were townsmen : that is, of these latter 42 died each year, at an average. Supposing one in thirty-five to have died annually, the total number of the inhabitants of Stratford at that period was 1470 ; and confequently the plague in the laft fix months of the year 1564 carried off more than a seventh
of them, Fortunately for mankind it did not reach the house in which the infant Shakspeare lay ; for not one of that name appears in the dead lift,
May we suppose, that, like Horace, he lay secure and fearlefs in the midft of contagion and death, protected by the Muses to whom his future life was to be devoted, and covered over
facra Lauroque, collataque myrto, Non fine Diis animofas įafans. MALONE.