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HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
THE BEQUEST OF
AND OF THE OTHER ILLUSTRIOUS SPIRITS OF
THE GOLDEN AGE OF ENGLAND,
WITH TRUE HUMBLENESS,
AND ENTIRE DEVOTEDNESS TO THE SUBCT,
ARE RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED,
AND VERY OBEDIENT SERVANT,
HERE BEGINNETH THE STORY
SHAKSPEARE AND HIS FRIENDS.
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,
By being peevish?
Soul of the age! Th' applause, delight,-the wonder of our stage! My Shakspeare, rise! BEN JONSON.
I PRYTHEE have patience, courteous reader the whilst I describe a certain chamber well worthy of most minute delineation—as thou wilt see anon-from its having been the retreat, or closet, or place retired from the public eye, in which the master spirit of his age, and the glory of all times to come, did first develop those right famous qualities from which the world hath received such infinite profit and delight. I will not trouble thee with a vain show of phrases architectural, which crabbed antiquarians do much affect; for I am not learned in the mystery of stone and timber; but what true heart and simple skill can do with language, will I essay, to give thee an accurate conception of a place that hath so many admirable recommendations to thy attention.
It was a room of no extraordinary dimensions, yet was it not stinted to space. The ceiling was of a moderate height, and the sides of the chamber were of oak, the panels of which were adorned with a goodly show of delicate tracery, like unto the folds of linen; and round the chimney-piece was a most liberal dis
play of carving, in fruits and foliage. A large vase of living flowers, that filled the chamber with a ravishing sweetness, stood beside the fire-dogs. One broad casement, composed of many little panes let into pieces of lead, looked out upon the river, and the centre part of it being open like a door, at divers times might be heard the mellow "ye, ho!" of the bargeman working his oar, as he piloted his heavy craft toward the city wharves; or, may hap, softened in the distance, the burden of a popular ballad, sung by a party of merry apprentices going a pleasuring on the water. At one end of the room there rested on the oak floor a large heavy press of dark walnut-tree wood, ornamented with rude carvings of Adam and Eve, and the tree of knowledge; and opposite stood an ancient bookcase, the shelves of which supported a number of famous black-letter volumes, folios and others, cased in parchment or roan bindings. On several narrow, high-backed chairs, of carved oak, might be seen different articles of apparel--a hat on one, a cloak on another, and mayhap, a rapier resting against a third. In one corner were sundry swords and a matchlock; in another, divers pieces of old armor. An empty tankard, and the remains of the morning repast, stood upon a large table in the centre of the chamber; and near the window, before a smaller table covered with papers, and in an antique arm-chair, sat its illustrious occupant.
Although his hose were ungartered, and his doublet had been left unbraced, his right noble countenance and worship
ful bearing left not the spectator opportu- | that hath just cast its skin; and," added nity to notice the negligence of his attire. he, with more emphasis, "art as useful His face, which was of a manly age- to any good purpose I'll be bound." two years short of thirty-had been inost providentially fashioned,-with a forehead of marvellous capacity-eyes mild, yet lively withal-a mouth impressed with a very amatory eloquence-and a beard of a perfect gravity. Nor were his limbs of a less favorable mould. In fact, he was a man of multitudinous good graces. I would there were more such. Many such there never can be, for admirable as he was in person, he was still more estimable in mind; and the union of these excellences in a like liberal proportion is of such rarity, that peradventure the example will last out the world. I am but a sorry limner; but had I the art of Master Holbein, of famous memory, I could not hope, in a portrait, to do him justice; nevertheless, as what the original hath done hath been so singularly well liked, I despair not that posterity will give him proper countenance. However, suffice it to say, he sat writing with a creditable diligence; ever and anon leaning against his seat, abstractedly as it were; and when he had sufficiently pondered on the matter with which he was in progress, his pen resumed its path along the paper with additional speed. Sometimes he would smile as he wrote, as if tickled with the creations of his own fancy; and once his humor seemed so touched with some palpable conceit, that he cast down the pen, and throwing himself back in his chair, did laugh right heartily. At other times, when he appeared to have written passages of a graver purport, which gave him more than passable satisfaction, he took the paper in his hand, and did read aloud, with a rich voice and a most felicitous expression; and of a verity, never was the air so filled with delectable thoughts. At this time there was heard a knocking at the door. "Come in!" exclaimed he; and thereupon entered one apparelled like a young gallant, with hat and feather of a goodly fashion, a delicate satin doublet, an excellent fine ruff, a cloak worn daintily on the shoulder, and a long rapier fastened to his side: trunks prettily cut and embroidered, with silk hose and ruffled boots.
Ah, Dick!" said he in the chair, laughingly, as he recognised the goodhumored features of his visiter, and scrutinizing his attire as he closed the door and was advancing into the room, I'faith thou lookest as fine as a snake
Will! Will! thou hast a most malignant wit!" cried the other, as he approached his friend with mock gravity, and shook him earnestly by the hand. But what thinkest thou of these braveries?" said he, standing as upright as he might, spreading out his cloak, and readjusting his hat. "I fancied that we, the queen's majesty's poor players, ought to dress as becomes the queen's majesty, and therefore have I robed myself anew. What thinkest thou of the cock of this hat? 'Tis in admirable conceit, is it not?-and the feather-doth it not hang marvellously well? Doth not this cloak become me infinitely? and the slashing of this doublet, is it not of the most superlative fashion?"
In truth, Dick," remarked his companion, drily, as he pushed back his chair to take a better view of his visiter, "I've seen many a jackdaw cut a finer figure?"
A plague on thy pestilent jests!" exclaimed the other with assumed indignation.
"But as thou askest for my opinion," he resumed, "I will tell thee. Didst thou wish to attire thyself as becometh the queen's majesty, thou shouldst have had recourse to the queen's majesty's wardrobe: for in honest truth, Dick, I do not think thy present dress would become that illustrious princess in the smallest degree"
"Oh thou pernicious varlet !" "As for the cock of thy hat, 'tis certainly in admirable conceit, or rather, the conceit is in it, for thy head is in it; and I do not flatter thee when I say there is no lack of conceit there."
"Perdition seize thy wit!"
"Thy feather doth hang marvellously well-i'faith I doubt much if thou wouldst hang better thyself."
Enough, enough, Will," eagerly exclaimed his associate, putting his hands together, as if begging for mercy; if thou hast any bowels of compassion, spare me."
"And if thou wert half as well slashed as thy doublet," continued his friend, inattentive to his remonstrance, "I think thou wouldst be in a much more superlative fashion than thou art now."
'O' my word, Will," said the other, laughing, as he took off his hat and flung himself into a chair," thou art all points, like a hedgehog, or like the naughty girl