“It was an ancestor of my husband who brought out the famous Shakspeare.”
These words were really spoken, and were repeated in conversation as most ridiculous. Certainly such was very far from the lady’s intention; and who knows to what extent they are true?
The frolic of Shakspeare in deer-stealing was the cause of his Hegira; and his connection with players in London was the cause of his writing plays. Had he remained in his native town, his ambition had never been excited by the applause of the intellectual, the popular, and the powerful, which, after all, was hardly sufficient to excite it. He wrote from the same motive as he acted,—to earn his daily bread. He felt his own powers; but he cared little for making them felt by others more than served his wants.
The malignant may doubt, or pretend to doubt, the authenticity of the Examination here published. Let us, who are not malignant, be cautious of adding anything to the noisome mass of incredulity that surrounds us; let us avoid the crying sin of our age, in which the “Memoirs of a Parish Clerk,” edited as they were by a pious and learned dignitary of the Established Church, are questioned in regard to their genuineness; and even the privileges of Parliament are inadequate to cover from the foulest imputation—the imputation of having exercised his inventive faculties—the elegant and accomplished editor of Eugene Aram’s apprehension, trial, and defence.
Indeed, there is little of real history, excepting in romances. Some of these are strictly true to nature; while histories in general give a distorted view of her, and rarely a faithful record either of momentous or of common events.
Examinations taken from the mouth are surely the most trustworthy. Whoever doubts it may be convinced by Ephraim Barnett.
The Editor is confident he can give no offence to any person who may happen to bear the name of Lucy. The family of Sir Thomas became extinct nearly half a century ago, and the estates descended to the Rev. Mr. John Hammond, of Jesus College, in Oxford, a respectable Welsh curate, between whom and him there existed at his birth eighteen prior claimants. He took the name of Lucy.
The reader will form to himself, from this “Examination of Shakspeare,” more favourable opinion of Sir Thomas than is left upon his mind by the dramatist in the character of Justice Shallow. The knight, indeed, is here exhibited in all his pride of birth and station, in all his pride of theologian and poet; he is led by the nose, while he believes that nobody can move him, and shows some other weaknesses, which the least attentive observer will discover; but he is not without a little kindness at the bottom of the heart,- -a heart too contracted to hold much, or to let what it holds ebulliate very freely. But, upon the whole, we neither can utterly hate nor utterly despise him. Ungainly as he is. —