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to have spent some years before his death at his native Stratford. His pleasurable wit and good
houses in Stratford, at 60l. a year, and his house, &c. in the Blackfriars, (for which he paid 1401.) at 201. a year, we have a rent-roll of 150l. per annum. Of his personal property it is not now possible to form any accurate estimate: but if we rate it at five hundred pounds, money then bearing an interest of ten per cent. Shakspeare's total income was 2001. per ann. In The Merry Wives of Windsor, which was written soon after the year 1600, three hundred pounds a year is described as an estate of such magnitude as to cover all the defects of its pos
"O, what a world of vile ill-favour'd faults
"Look handsome in three hundred pounds a year."
-to have spent some years before his death at his native Stratford.] In 1614 the greater part of the town of Stratford was consumed by fire; but our Shakspeare's house, among some others, escaped the flames. This house was first built by Sir Hugh Clopton, a younger brother of an ancient family in that neighbourhood. Sir Hugh was Sheriff of London in the reign of Richard III. and Lord Mayor in the reign of King Henry VII. By his will he bequeathed to his elder brother's son his manor of Clopton, &c. and his house, by the name of the Great House in Stratford. Good part of the estate is yet [in 1733] in the possession of Edward Clopton, Esq. and Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt. lineally descended from the elder brother of the first Sir Hugh.
The estate had now been sold out of the Clopton family for above a century, at the time when Shakspeare became the purchaser who having repaired and modelled it to his own mind, changed the name to New-Place, which the mansion-house, since erected upon the same spot, at this day retains. The house, and lands which attended it, continued in Shakspeare's descendants to the time of the Restoration; when they were re-purchased by the Clopton family, and the mansion now belongs to Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt. To the favour of this worthy gentleman I owe the knowledge of one particular in honour of our poet's once dwelling-house, of which I presume Mr. Rowe never was apprized. When the Civil War raged in England, and King
*To Shakspeare's income from his real and personal property must be added 2001. per ann. which he probably derived from the theatre, while he continued on the stage.
nature engaged him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship, of the gentlemen of
Charles the First's Queen was driven by the necessity of her af fairs to make a recess in Warwickshire, she kept her court for three weeks in New-Place. We may reasonably suppose it then the best private house in the town; and her Majesty preferred it to the College, which was in the possession of the Combe family, who did not so strongly favour the King's party. THEOBALD.
From Mr. Theobald's words the reader may be led to suppose that Henrietta Maria was obliged to take refuge from the rebels in Stratford-upon-Avon: but that was not the case. Shemarched from Newark, June 16, 1643, and entered Stratford-upon-Avon triumphantly, about the 22d of the same month, at the head of three thousand foot and fifteen hundred horse, with 150 waggons and a train of artillery. Here she was met by Prince Rupert, accompanied by a large body of troops. After sojourning about three weeks at our poet's house, which was then possessed by his grand-daughter Mrs. Nash, and her husband, the Queen went (July 13) to the plain of Keinton under Edge-hill, to meet the King, and proceeded from thence with him to Oxford, where; saysa contemporary historian," her coming (July 15) was rather to a triumph than a war.”
Of the College above mentioned the following was the origin. John de Stratford, Bishop of Winchester, in the fifth year of King Edward III. founded a Chantry consisting of five priests, one of whom was Warden, in a certain chapel adjoining to the church of Stratford on the south side; and afterwards (in the seventh year of Henry VIII.) Ralph Collingwode instituted four choristers, to be daily assistant in the celebration of divine service there. This chantry, says Dugdale, soon after its foundation, was known by the name of The College of Stratford-upon-Avon.
In the 26th year of Edward III. "a house of square stone" was built by Ralph de Stratford, Bishop of London, for the habitation of the five priests. This house, or another on the same spot, is the house of which Mr. Theobald speaks. It still bears the name of " The College," and at present belongs to the Rev. Mr. Fuller
After the suppression of religious houses, the site of the college was granted by Edward VI. to John Earl of Warwick and his heirs; who being attainted in the first year of Queen Mary, it reverted to the crown.
Sir John Clopton, Knt, (the father of Edward Clopton, Esq. and Sir Hugh Clopton,) who died at Stratford-upon-Avon in'
the neighbourhood. Amongst them, it is a story almost still remembered in that country that he
April, 1719, purchased the estate of New-Place, &c. some time after the year 1685, from Sir Reginald Forster, Bart. who married Mary, the daughter of Edward Nash, Esq. cousin-german to Thomas Nash, Esq. who married our poet's grand-daughter, Elizabeth Hall. Edward Nash bought it, after the death of her second husband, Sir John Barnard, Knight. By her will, which will be found in a subsequent page, she directed her trustee, Henry Smith, to sell the New-Place, &c. (after the death of her husband,) and to make the first offer of it to her cousin Edward Nash, who purchased it accordingly. His son Thomas Nash, whom for the sake of distinction I shall call the younger, having died without issue, in August, 1652, Edward Nash by his will, made on the 16th of March, 1678-9, devised the principal part of his property to his daughter Mary, and her husband Reginald Forster, Esq. afterwards Sir Reginald Forster; but in consequence of the testator's only referring to a deed of settlement executed three days before, without reciting the substance of it, no particular mention of New-Place is made in his will.
Sir John Clopton had bought it from Sir Reginald Forster, he gave it by deed to his younger son, Sir Hugh, who pulled down our poet's house, and built one more elegant on the same spot.
In May, 1742, when Mr. Garrick, Mr. Macklin, and Mr. Delane visited Stratford, they were hospitably entertained under Shakspeare's mulberry-tree, by Sir Hugh Clopton. He was a barrister at law, was knighted by George the First, and died in the 80th year of his age, in Dec. 1751. His nephew, Edward Clopton, the son of his elder brother Edward, lived till June, 1753.
The only remaining person of the Clopton family now living (1788), as I am informed by the Rev. Mr. Davenport, is Mrs. Partheriche, daughter and heiress of the second Edward Clopton above mentioned. "She resides," he adds, "at the family mansion at Clopton near Stratford, is now a widow, and never had any issue."
The New Place was sold by Henry Talbot, Esq. son-in-law and executor of Sir Hugh Clopton, in or soon after the year 1752, to the Rev. Mr. Gastrell, a man of large fortune, who resided in it but a few years, in consequence of a disagreement with the inhabitants of Stratford. Every house in that town that is let or valued at more than 40s. a year, is assessed by the overseers, according to its worth and the ability of the occupier,
had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and
to pay a monthly rate toward the maintenance of the poor. As Mr. Gastrell resided part of the year at Lichfield, he thought he was assessed too highly; but being very properly compelled by the magistrates of Stratford to pay the whole of what was levied on him, on the principle that his house was occupied by his servants in his absence, he peevishly declared, that that house should never be assessed again; and soon afterwards pulled it down, sold the materials, and left the town. Wishing, as it should seem, to be "damn'd to everlasting fame," he had some time before cut down Shakspeare's celebrated mulberry-tree, to save himself the trouble of showing it to those whose admiration of our great poet led them to visit the poetick ground on which it stood.
That Shakspeare planted this tree, is as well authenticated as any thing of that nature can be. The Rev. Mr. Davenport informs me, that Mr. Hugh Taylor, (the father of his clerk,) who is now eighty-five years old, and an alderman of Warwick, where he at present resides, says, he lived when a boy at the next house to New-Place; that his family had inhabited the house for almost three hundred years; that it was transmitted from father to son during the last and the present century; that this tree (of the fruit of which he had often eaten in his younger days, some of its branches hanging over his father's garden,) was planted by Shakspeare; and that till this was planted, there was no mulberry-tree in that neighbourhood. Mr. Taylor adds, that he was frequently, when a boy, at New-Place, and that this tradition was preserved in the Clopton family, as well as in
There were scarce any trees of this species in England till the year 1609, when by order of King James many hundred thousand young mulberry-trees were imported from France, and sent into the different counties, with a view to the feeding of silkworms, and the encouragement of the silk manufacture. See Camdeni Annales ab anno 1603 ad annum 1623, published by Smith, quarto, 1691, p. 7; and Howes's Abridgment of Stowe's Chronicle, edit. 1618, p. 503, where we have a more particular account of this transaction than in the larger work. A very few mulberry-trees had been planted before; for we are told, that in the preceding year a gentleman of Picardy, Monsieur Forest, "kept greate store of English silkworms at Greenwich, the which the king with great pleasure came often to see them worke; and of their silke he caused a piece of taffata to be made."
usury: it happened, that in a pleasant conversation amongst their common friends, Mr. Combe told Shakspeare in a laughing manner, that he fancied he intended to write his epitaph, if he happened to out-live him; and since he could not know what might be said of him when he was dead,
Shakspeare was perhaps the only inhabitant of Stratford, whose business called him annually to London; and probably on his return from thence in the spring of the year 1609, he planted this tree.
As a similar enthusiasm to that which with such diligence has sought after Virgil's tomb, may lead my countrymen to visit the spot where our great bard spent several years of his life, and died; it may gratify them to be told that the ground on which The New-Place once stood, is now a garden belonging to Mr. Charles Hunt, an eminent attorney, and town-clerk of Stratford. Every Englishman will, I am sure, concur with me in wishing that it may enjoy perpetual verdure and fertility:
In this retreat our SHAKSPEARE'S godlike mind
And Nature here display eternal spring! MALONE.
that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe,] This Mr. John Combe I take to be the same, who, by Dugdale, in his Antiquities of Warwickshire, is said to have died in the year 1614, and for whom at the upper end of the quire of the guild of the holy cross at Stratford, a fair monument is erected, having a statue thereon cut in alabaster, and in a gown, with this epitaph: "Here lyeth interred the body of John Combe, Esq. who departing this life the 10th day of July, 1614, bequeathed by his last will and testament these sums ensuing, annually to be paid for ever; viz. xx. s. for two sermons to be preach'd in this church, and vi. 1. xiii. s. iv. d. to buy ten gownes for ten poore people within the borough of Stratford; and 100l. to be lent to fifteen poore, tradesmen of the same borough, from three years to three years, changing the parties every third year, at the rate of fifty shillings per annum, the which increase he appointed to be distributed towards the relief of the almes-poor there." The donation has all the air of a rich and sagacious usurer.