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place and time appointed,) gone to a neighbouring fair, on a similar intent with that which brought them there. Being thus disappointed, they were obliged to take up with the Sippers, whom they found assembled in that village, and whom they held in great contempt. On trial, however, the Stratfordians proved to be so unequal to the combat, that they were obliged to yield; and while they had the power they scampered off towards home. Unfortunately, our great Shakspeare's head, and that of one of his companions, not being of quite so hard a temperament as those of their companions in drinking, they found themselves unable to proceed farther, and, laying themselves down, they took up their abode, for the night, under the shelter of a large wide-spreading crab-tree. When they awoke in the morning, his friend proposed that they should return to the place of combat; but, probably, being wearied of his company, he refused; therefore, he exclaimed,
Piping Pebworth, dancing Marston,
The rhymes are, certainly, not so exact as he would have produced in his closet, but, as field measures, they are well enough; and the epithets are strongly characteristic of his manner, being peculiarly and happily applied to the several villages from whence the miscellaneous company of Sippers had proceeded.
This celebrated tree, we believe, is still standing, and is known, far and near, by the name of Shakspeare's Crab-tree. The anecdote was well authenticated by a clergyman, a native of Warwickshire, who died at Stratford above sixty years ago.
WHEN public opinion had begun to assign to Shakspeare the very high station which he was thenceforward destined to maintain in the dramatic literature of our country, he became the promising object of fraud and imposture. This, in fact, he had not altogether escaped even in his own days; but he had either the spirit or the policy to despise it. Mr. Malone has given a list of fourteen plays ascribed to him, either by the editors of the two later folio editions of his works (1664 and 1685,) or by the compilers of
ancient catalogues; but it was reserved for modern impostors to avail themselves, to an almost unparalleled extent, of the obscurity in which his history is involved, and of the unequalled popularity of his name.
In the year 1751, a book was published, entitled "A compendious or brief examination of certayne ordinary complaints of divers of our countrymen in those our days; which, although they are in some parts unjust and frivolous, yet are they all, by way of dialogue, thoroughly debated and discussed by William Shakspeare, gentleman." This book was originally published in 1581; but Dr. Farmer has clearly proved, that the initials, W. S., the only authority for attributing it to Shakspeare in the reprinted edition, meant William Stafford.
Theobald, one of the early editors of our immortal bard, and who, according to Dr. Johnson, "by the good luck of having Pope for his enemy, has escaped, and escaped alone, with reputation, from this undertaking," was desirous of palming upon the world a play, called "The Double Falsehood," as a posthumous production of Shakspeare. The arguments which he made use of with this view, are thus humorously
stated in the Scribblerian notes to the Dunciad; "First, that the MS. was above sixty years old; secondly, that, once, Mr. Betterton had it, or he hath heard so; thirdly, that somebody told him, the author gave it to a bastard daughter of his; but fourthly, and above all, "that he has a great mind every thing that is good in our tongue should be Shakspeare's." The celebrated author of the notes then goes on in a strain of ridicule, to assign new readings to various passages of the play, in a style very similar to that of Theobald himself, in his attempts on the genuine text of Shakspeare. This palpable imposition was, however, speedily detected; or, rather, no general impression of its authenticity was ever created.
In 1770, there was reprinted, at Feversham, an old play called " The tragedy of Arden of Feversham, and Black Will," (on which is founded Lillo's play of " Arden of Feversham,") with a preface, in which, without the smallest foundation, it was attributed to Shakspeare, who certainly had nothing to do with its composition.
But these were trifles, compared to the attempt made in 1795-6, when, besides a vast mass of prose and verse, letters, &c., pretendedly in
the hand-writing of Shakspeare, and his correspondents, an entire play, entitled, "Vortigern and Rowena," was not only brought forward, to the astonishment of the admirers of Shakspeare, accredited by the opinions of some of the most eminent literary men of the day, but actually performed on the Drury-Lane stage, whence the good sense of the audience speedily compelled it to take flight. It would be unnecessary to expatiate on the merits of this play, which Mr. Steevens has characterized as "the performance of a madman without a lucid interval," or to enter more at large into the nature of this fraud, of which we have already given a sufficiently copious account.
It produced, between Mr. Malone and Mr. George Chalmers, a very interesting controversy, which, although mixed with much personal asperity, was extended into inquiries into the history and antiquities of the stage, from which future critics and historians have derived considerable information.
THE stages and Theatres of the Greeks and