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that part of the premises forming nearly the centre-that is, the butcher's shop, the kitchen behind, and the two rooms over-is the portion shown as Shakespeare's birth. place. Three small cottages have been built, within the last few years, in continuation of the tenement on the west. It will be seen, on reference to the bottom engraving, that there was a sign-board over the window of the butcher's shop: on each side of this board, the words, “ THE IMMORTAL SHAKESPEARE WAS BORN IN THIS HOUSE,” were painted.
It would appear that the town of Stratford, and the house in which the poet was born, were always objects of attraction to the admirers of Shakespeare ; but to David Garrick belongs the merit of exciting, more than any other individual had done up to his time, a due appreciation of the dramatist, and an interest in the place of his birth. Having paid several visits to Stratford, he projected and organised a splendid festival in honour of the bard, which was celebrated on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, the 6th, 7th, and 8th of September, 1769, and called the Jubilee. “An octagonal amphitheatre was erected on the Bancroft, close to the river Avon, which was capable of holding more than one thousand persons. The interior was arranged with much taste; but the most gratifying ornament was a statue of Shakespeare, cast at the expense of Garrick, and afterwards presented by him to the corporation, to be erected in a niche of the town-hall. The amusements consisted of a public breakfast at the town-hall; the performance of the oratorio of Judith, in the church of Stratford; a public ordinary at the amphitheatre; an assembly; a masquerade; the recitation, by Garrick, of an ode and oration in praise of Shakespeare ; an exbibition of fireworks; and a horse-race for a silver cup. The town was illuminated; cannon were fired; and bands of music paraded the streets. The concourse of persons of rank to assist in this poetical festival was so great, that many were not able to procure beds in the town, and are said to have been constrained to sleep in their carriages."* This festival has been since celebrated triennially; and the historian of the county tells us, that “it is visited by all classes of rank and fashion."
From the time of the jubilee, many were the pilgrimages made to “Shakespeare's birthplace :" and towards the close of the last century, when William Hart carried on the trade of a butcher in the little shop, an elderly female of the family was the “exhibitor" of the kitchen; and of the chamber over the shop, in which the birth took place. It was a gainful trade to her, for some time, to show this kitchen and the honoured bedroom. When she had to quit the premises, she did not leave Stratford with William Hart, but established herself on the opposite side of the street, where she endeavoured to attract visitors to see a number of relics wbich had, she pretended, belonged to Shakespeare. But she was in ill-odour. In a fit of resentment, the day before she quitted the ancient house, she whitewashed the walls of the bedroom, obliterating numerous autographs and mottoes with which they were covered. Attempts have been made to scrape off this outward coat, and to a certain extent they succeeded; but many of the names of those who by this means sought to perpetuate the memory of their visit to the drama's shrine, were completely effaced. The kitchen at this time, and for years previously, had, according to Samuel Ireland, "an appearance sufficiently interesting, abstracted from its claim to notice as relative to the bard. It was a subject very similar to those that so frequently employed the rare talents of Ostade, and therefore could not be deemed unworthy the pencil of an inferior artist. In the corner of the
* Smith's History of Warwickshire.
chimney stood an old oak chair, which had for a number of years received nearly as many adorers as the celebrated shrine of the Lady of Loretto. This relic was purchased in July, 1790, by the Princess Czartoryska, who made a journey to this place in order to obtain intelligence relative to Shakespeare. Being told that he often sat in this chair, she placed herself in it, and expressed an ardent wish to become its purchaser. She was informed, that it was not to be sold at any price; when, depositing a handsome gratuity for old Mrs. Hart, she left the place with apparent regret. About four months after, the anxiety of the princess could no longer be withheld; and her secretary was dispatched, express, as the fit agent to purchase this treasure at any rate. The sum of twenty guineas was the price fixed upon; and the secretary and the chair, with a proper certificate of its authenticity on stamped paper, set off in a chaise for London."
Washington Irving-whose name will ever be connected with the literature of the United States—was one of those who made a pilgrimage to the birthplace, and also to the tomb of Shakespeare, just before the former passed out of the hands of the Harts; and he has recorded the sensations which the visit occasioned. “My first visit,” he says, in his Sketch Book, “was to the house where Shakespeare was born; and where, according to tradition, he was brought up to his father's craft of wool-combing. It is a small, mean-looking edifice of wood and plaster; a true nesting-place of genius, which seems to delight in hatching its offspring in bye-corners. The walls of its squalid chambers are covered with names and inscriptions in every language, by pilgrims of all nations, ranks, and conditions, from the prince to the peasant; and present a simple but striking instance of the spontaneous homage of mankind to the great poet of nature. The house is shown by a garrulous old lady, with a frosty red face, lighted up by a cold blue anxious eye, and garnished with artificial locks of flaxen hair, curling from under an exceedingly dirty cap." Poor Mrs Hart;—she was no very congenial representative of the Shakespeare family. “She was peculiarly assiduous in exhibiting the relics, with which this, like all other celebrated shrines, abounds. Here was.the shattered stock of the very matchlock with which Shakespeare shot the deer on his poaching exploits. There, too, was his tobacco-box, which proves that he was a rival smoker of Sir Walter Raleigh ; the sword, also, with which he played Hamlet; and the identical lantern with which Friar Lawrence discovered Romeo and Juliet at the tomb. There was an ample supply, also, of Shake. speare's mulberry-tree, which seems to have extraordinary powers of self-multiplication ;" and, notwithstanding the sale to the Princess Czartoryska, a chair was still shown as Shakespeare's, and was, says Mr. Irving, “the most favourite object of curiosity. It stands in the chimney-nook of a small gloomy chamber, just behind what was his father's shop. Here he may, many a time, have sat when a boy, watching the slowly. revolving spit with all the longing of an urchin; or of an evening, listening to the cronies and gossips of Stratford, dealing forth churchyard tales and legendary anecdotes of the troublesome times of England. In this chair, it is the custom of every one that visits the house to sit: whether this be done with the hope of acquiring any of the inspiration of the bard, I am at a loss to say. I merely mention the fact; and mine hostess privately assured me, that, though built of solid oak, such was the feryent zeal of devotees, that the chair had to be new-bottomed at least once in three years. It is worthy of notice, also, in the history of this extraordinary chair, that it partakes something of the volatile nature of the Santa Casa of Loretto, or the flying chair of the Arabian enchanter; be tasugh soit some few years ago to a northern priscess, yet, strange to tell, it has kus ta var back again to the old chimney corder. I am always" adid the genit-Searted American, " of easy faita in such matters, and so erez willing to be deceived, where the deceit is pieasant, sad costs nothing. I am therefore a ready belieter ia rebe, 'egends, sed local speciates of goblins and great men; sod would adriae a travellers, who travel for their gratification, to be the same. What is it to as whether these stories be true or false, so long as we can persuade ourselves into the belief of them, and esiog all the charm of the reality."
Oar engraving exhibits the interior of the bedroom, as it existed about the time Washington Irving visited it, and some of the relies. The top vier shows the ebamber, is it appears when the visitor eaters it; that at the bottom, is its appearance when the back is placed towards the window. The centre engraving depicts one of the corners of the chamber. Fifty years later, after the Shakespeare Club had purchased the premises, they were visited by another celebrated American—this time a lady, Mrs. Beecher Stove. In the summer of 1853, this lady was at Stratford, and she approached it, influenced by thoughts of the poet and his times. “Deep down in our hearts," she writes, “we were going back to English days; the cumbrous, quaint, queer, old, picturesque times; the dim haunted times between cock-crowing and morning; those hours of national childhood, when popular ideas had the confiding credulity, the poetic vivacity, and versatile life which distinguish children from grown-up people." In this state of feeling the authoress of Uncle Tom's Cabin approached the birthplace of him who gave “ a local habitation and a name" to the vivid creations of his fancy. “She saw,” she says, “a good many old houses somewhat similar to it on the road, particularly resembling it in the manner of plastering, which shows all the timber on the outside." On arriving at the house, Mrs. Stowe and her friends passed from a lower room, up a rude flight of stairs, “ to the world-famed bedroom.” “The prints of this room," she writes, “ which are generally sold, allow themselves considerable poetical license; representing it, in fact, as quite an elegant apartment; whereas, though it is kept scrupulously neat and clean, the air of it is ancient and rude. The roughly plastered walls are so covered with names, that it seemed impossible to add another. The name of almost every modern genius, names of kings, princes, and dukes are shown here; and it is really curious to see by what devices some really insignificant personages have endeavoured to make their own names conspicuous in the crowd.” * * * “At the back of this room were some small bedrooms; and, what interested me most, a staircase leading up into a dark garret. I could not but fancy I saw a bright-eyed, curly-headed boy creeping up the stairs, zealous to explore the mysteries of that dark garret. There, perhaps, he saw the cat, with 'eyne of burning coal, crouching 'fore the mouse's hole.' Doubtless, in this old garret were wondrous mysteries to him; curious stores of old cast-off goods and furniture, and rats and mice, and cob-webs. I fancied the indignation of some old belligerent grandmother or aunt, who finds Willie up there watching a mouse-hole, with the cat, and hands him down straightway, grumbling that Mary did not govern that child better."*
Neither Irving nor Mrs. Stowe give any description which will convey a correct idea of the old house. We will avail ourselves of a few particulars from a local publication. “ Looking curiously, yet reverentially," writes Edwin Lees," at the old chambered
* Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands.