On the Stratford Monument

by M. H. Spielmann

(From M. H. Spielmann, "Shakespeare's Portraiture," in Studies in the First Folio (Oxford University Press, 1924))

Of course, the design of a bust, really a half-length statue, set in its niche -- especially in the case of a writing-man at his occupation -- was in its way almost a hackneyed form of sepulchral monument -- almost a cliche. For example, you will remember the monument of the chronicler, John Stow, set up by his widow in St. Andrew Undershaft in the City, in 1605, from twelve to seventeen years before Shakespeare's was erected in Stratford-upon-Avon. We see him writing. Nearly one hundred years before, that of Dean Colet of St. Paul's -- seated in a niche with his hands before him on a book -- was erected in Old St. Paul's; while there, also, was the not dissimilar monument of Alexander Nowell, Dean forty years later, done in 1601, with the hands upon just such a cushion before him; and others are to be found about the country, in Canterbury Cathedral and elsewhere. They are all based on much earlier examples of analogous portraiture, such for example as Boticelli's painting, of 1480, in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence, showing St. Augustine seated in a niche, writing, quill in hand (very like the Stow monument); and the portrait of Bishop Stokesley, at Windsor, wrongly attributed to Holbein, but painted before 1533; and numerous others that might be quoted.

In view of the argument which I am about to develop, I ask you to observe Stow's head -- and then the head which the engraver Pye, in collusion with the draughtsman Neale, made of it only 100 years ago -- to say nothing of the ermine, gratuitously thrown in. And yet these artists were in London and could easily have secured correctness had they wished. It illustrates engravers' disloyal indifference to accuracy, until the advent of photography brought truth along with it, and swept the fraudulent draughtsman and engraver from the field.

Is not all this sufficient proof that publishers and engravers, down to the early nineteenth century, cared nothing for truth of rendering, unless circumstances compelled?

As with all of these, so with the Stratford Monument and Bust.

After 1616, but not later than 1622, the Stratford Monument, of a design kindred to those already mentioned, was erected -- it is assumed, but without any positive evidence -- to the order of Shakespeare's son-in-law, Dr. John Hall. In any case, it must have had the approval of Mistress Shakespeare and her family, and have received and withstood the criticism of Shakespeare's friends and associates. According to Sir William Dugdale it was the work of Garratt Janssen of Johnson, the Anglo-Flemish tomb-maker of Southwark, whose father had been resident in London since 1567.

In style it is a work of the pure Jacobean renaissance and manifestly of the time. It has beauty of design, and is characteristic alike in detail and proportion -- an harmonious and compact whole.

The mantling about the shield is contemporary in style, and the whole exactly what we are accustomed to find from the tomb-makers of the period, among whom Nicholas Stone, working in conjunction with Bernard Janssen -- probably a kinsman of Garratt -- is a noteworthy example. The same details reappear constantly in their work, both Bernard's and Garratt's, in a whole series of tombs and monuments, and we need go no farther than the Charterhouse and look there at the tomb of the pious founder, Thomas Sutton, to recognize that such details, both architectural and sculptural, were, as it were, stereotyped in the work of these leaders of their craft -- stock designs used by the three men.

A noteworthy feature is the cherub-like boys who sit up aloft. It is important to note that these little figures, unfinished at the back, are carved in one piece with the little mounds on which they sit -- the one on the left holds a spade, the other an inverted, extinguished torch, one hand resting upon a skull -- intended to represent Labour and Rest -- not symbols of mortality, as one would suppose. This ancient piece of classic symbolism is frequently to be seen in the work of Stone and others. These figures, which I have examined closely on the several occasions on which I have been permitted to go up and take measurements of the work in its many details, are quite manifestly early seventeenth-century work; they not only bear the impress of the sentiment of the time, but their surface and texture bring further witness. They are not attached to the monument, but are movable. The material of which the monument is composed is white marble, with black touchstone inlaid in slabs, and beneath there is the support of the usual alabaster brackets -- that is to say, the two outside brackets are of alabaster, the middle one, replacing an original now lost, is badly painted in imitation of alabaster.

It was, of course, to this monument that the very minor poet, Leonard Digges, alluded when to the First Folio he contributed his awkward but very sincere and honest verses of homage comprised in the oft-quoted lines beginning:

            Shake-speare, at length thy pious fellowes give
            The world thy Workes: thy Workes, by which, out-live
            Thy Tombe, thy name must: when that stone is rent,
            And Time dissolves thy Stratford Moniment,
            Here we alive shall view thee still. This Booke,
            When Brasse and Marble fade, shall make thee looke
            Fresh to all Ages: when Posteritie
            Shall loath what's new, thinke all is prodegie
            That is not Shake-speares.

This sentiment was not infrequently expressed in epitaphs on men of letters. For example, the epitaph on Drayton's tomb in Westminster Abbey (attributed alike to Quarles and Ben Jonson) invokes the "pious marble" of its monument:

            And when thy ruins shall disclaim
            To be the treasure of his name, --
            His name that cannot fade, shall be
            An everlasting monument to thee.

Within recent years the misdirected critical spirit which is afoot has attempted to upset the authenticity of the bust and monument as we know them, on the slender basis, firstly, of the absurd plate in Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire, and the irresponsible imitations of it; and secondly, of certain repairs made in 1748; and the error has been so widely repeated and seized upon, both by the unwary and by the Shakespeare-haters that I must ask to be allowed a moment or two in which to remove the misconception.

In 1656 Sir William Dugdale published his great Warwickshire, which was declared to be his masterpiece (up to that time) and to stand at the head of all our county histories; and Dr. Whitaker reminded his readers that Dugdale's "scrupulous accuracy ranked as legal evidence."

Personally, on many points on which I have consulted Dugdale, both text and illustrations -- I have found him inaccurate on simple matters of fact. Not only does he assert that Combe's monument, close by, is of alabaster whereas it is of sandstone, but, among other things, he transcribes inaccurately as to spelling the inscriptions on Shakespeare's monument and gravestone, and on the gravestones of the Shakespeare family in the chancel of the church.

Dr. William Thomas edited the second edition of the Warwickshire in 1730, and complained that he found to his "great surprise (when his own work was finished) that the account which Sir William Dugdale had given [of certain parishes] was very imperfect" -- that a register was confused, another wholly omitted, others reversed, also epitaphs and coats-of-arms in churches passed over; but he excuses Dugdale by saying that they were done by persons he hired "who took them down as they pleased themselves to spare their own pains." That is to say, Dugdale was at the mercy of his assistants. And in 1730 a vitriolic book of 250 pages was published by Charles Hornby violently attacking Dugdale's very numerous mistakes in his Baronage of England (1675-6, 3 volumes).

Could it well have been otherwise? The amazingly industrious Dugdale was the busiest of writers and compilers, and great works -- monumental works -- stiff with facts, figures, lists, and so forth, came from him in quick succession. In 1656, with the help of Sir Symon Archer, appeared his Antiquities of Warwickshire with 812 folio pages. In 1655 -- a year before -- had appeared the first volume of his tremendous Monasticon Anglicanum with 1,150 folio pages -- the book which was accepted as "circumstantial evidence in the Courts." Only two years later was published his great History of St. Paul's Cathedral [with its ludicrous discrepancies, as to its measurements, between himself and his illustrator Hollar] [note 1] -- all these works with many plates -- and in 1662 another important work, History of Imbanking and Drainage, followed four years afterwards by Origines Juridiciales, and another great folio. Rarely, if ever, has such a series of works -- packed with records and details, facts, dates, names, armorial shields, inscriptions, and the like -- the result of wide and deep research and amazing industry -- fallen from one pen, or one editorship, in the course of ten years. The Monasticon is full of engraved plates, most of them of cathedrals and churches, many grotesquely false, as for example, those in which Exeter and York Cathedrals are shown with semicircular-headed windows and doors instead of Gothic, proportions incorrect, and kindred misrepresentations in others. Are we to take these plates as evidence that the Cathedrals have been endowed with a different order of architecture since the plates were published?

The fact is that Dugdale, who concentrated his attention mainly on armorial bearings and monuments and cared little for portrait-busts and architecture, was victimized both by his helpers and his artists, at the head of whom was Hollar, with his assistants Gaywood, Daniel King (whom Hollar himself called "an ignorant silly knave"), Dudley, Carter, and several more. Hollar, whom Dugdale invited to England on a second visit in 1652, has been undeservedly vaunted, as much as Dugdale, for his invariable fidelity and accuracy. Infallibility was claimed for him. Walpole said "he had no rival in point of truth to nature and art," and Gilpin alluded to "his great truth" and "exact reproduction." But truthful as he was in still-life subjects and certain topographical plates, Hollar was as fallible as his employer, and as hard-worked. [note 2] As diligent as Dugdale, he was the busiest of artists. He is credited with 2,400 plates (many large and elaborate), or forty-eight plates a year -- about one a week, for fifty years; he was so busy that he cared not much more for troublesome accuracy than others of his time and class -- who cared next to nothing. In 1644 the Mercurius Civicus (the first English illustrated paper) gave a portrait in four successive weekly numbers of Prince Maurice, Prince Rupert, the Marquess of Newcastle, and Sir Thomas Fairfax -- and it was the same portrait each time, and nothing changed but the name; so that "near enough" was the motto of the time. [note 3] For the plates to this Monasticon and other works, the artists would make rough sketches and written notes, or use another man's, and, returned to London -- on such occasions as they left it -- work all up together at home as best they could -- from memory sometimes, as there is ample evidence -- confusing parts, and even monuments and Orders of architecture. They could not be expected to be more accurate than Dugdale himself.

Now Hollar was the chief engraver of the Warwickshire; and as the Shakespeare monument we know does not agree with the plate in Dugdale, it has been innocently assumed and asserted as fact by persons unfamiliar with the ways of the earlier engravers, that the Stratford monument as we know it, and as it is here before us, is another, a different, monument and not the original -- inasmuch as the proportions, as well as the details, are wholly different, and the bust presents no similarity whatsoever. This belief pathetically recalls the peasant's faith in the printed word because it is "in the papers."

Very well. Let me produce some further evidence. Most of us know the statue of Charles I by Hubert Le Sueur, of 1633, looking towards Whitehall, with its splendid contemporary base (wrongly attributed to Grintling Gibbons -- it was carved by Joshua Marshall). The king holds his baton in his right hand, and the horse, his head turned aside, holds up his right fore-leg. Now, in Hollar's engraving of it the pedestal is unrecognizable; the King still holds his baton in his right hand, but the horse, with his head straight forward, holds up his left fore-leg instead of the right. Therefore, according to modern reasoning this whole monument must be new; the pedestal as well -- for this, without decoration, is only half the height, though in plan it is fairly correct. It is clearly meant for the pedestal. As it happens, however, certain contemporaries of Hollar show the monument correctly. But Dugdale was a Warwickshire man, and had great pride in Shakespeare (as his book shows), so that, it is suggested, he would take pains to have the monument and effigy correctly drawn -- more especially, we are told, as all the monuments in Stratford Church except Shakespeare's are rendered with accuracy. As a matter of fact, only two others in the church were engraved, both of them faultily -- one of them grotesquely so.

The first of these is the Clopton monument. You see the attitudes of the small figures on the frieze representing Clopton's children, and below the figure of the knight beside his wife, his head resting on his helmet, the crest of which is away from us, and the opening towards us. In the Dugdale plate the helmet is reversed, although it is carved out of one piece of alabaster with the figure; and the gauntlet beside the knight's leg, into which the scabbard disappears, is omitted altogether. There are other striking differences. It is clear that the sketches taken in Stratford were insufficient to provide for a correct plate to be engraved later on in London, supposing that accuracy was sincerely desired.

Far more reckless are the errors to be found in the Carew monument. Here the lady lies on the outside, the husband inside. We note the angels standing upon the projecting cornices at the sides; the horizontal shape of all the three panels bearing inscriptions and of the frieze at the bottom -- powder-barrels to the left; and to the right, cannon pointing to the right --in allusion to Carew being Master of Ordnance.

But in Dugdale's plate the proportion is utterly different. Elongated pinnacles (exactly such as we see in the monument of Alexander Nowell in Dugdale's St. Paul's Cathedral, also engraved under the direction of Hollar) take the place of the figures; the arms at the top are much reduced in size; the artist has left himself room for only two panels and so omits the third. He reverses the positions of the figures. He puts the knight outside, his body directed the other way; and in the frieze, while he retains the powder-barrels in their proper position, he points the cannon the other way round -- to the left; and every other single detail, when examined carefully, is seen to differ from the original. It all shows lack of memory as to objects although a vague idea of facts is untidily retained.

We find equal inaccuracy in the equally "impeccable" Vertue whose artistic honesty Walpole so warmly extols to the disadvantage of the Dutchman, Houbraken -- Vertue's collaborator in Birch's Heads of Illustrious Persons (1747), and as an engraver vastly his superior. Yet the enemies of the Shakespeare monument have not presumed to claim these Clopton and Carew monuments also as modern substitutions. They slur the facts over, and fix only upon the Dugdale engraving, which most probably was from the graver of Gaywood, already named as one of the ill-paid hacks employed by the publishers to engrave on brass or copper plates from sketches supplied to them.

Let us take the page in Dugdale of 1656 which shows the Clopton monument above, and Shakespeare's below, as first published to the world. We see at once the lamentable proportions of the monument as here misrepresented, while the style inclines to Baroque -- a style some twenty or thirty years later than Shakespeare's death, but already sprung into existence when the Warwickshire was published. It therefore gives itself the lie. We see the poor design of the shield and mantling, the ridiculous boys cut off their mounds and perched insecurely on the edge of the cornice, little architectural in sentiment -- the one holding aloft a spade, the other an hour-glass, as shown, totally unsculptural in effect. The arch is of a different form, perhaps to allow the wide space necessary for the unauthentic, stuck-out elbows of the figure. The portrait is no portrait at all: it shows us a sickly, decrepit old gentleman, with a falling moustache, much more than fifty-two years old. Had Shakespeare really been such in his last illness would the London sculptor have so rendered him? Do sculptors, in their monuments, represent the great departed in their dying state, pressing pillows to their stomachs? Yet both hands are here upon a cushion which, for no reason, except perhaps abdominal pains, is hugged against what dancing-masters euphemistically term the "lower chest," and the whole is supported not by brackets but by three small feet, standing upon the ground. Other hack engravers followed this wretched performance, of course for other publishers, each one copying the last, instead of contradicting it by taking the trouble, and incurring the expense, of the journey to Stratford to sketch for themselves; wherefore their imitations, in spite of the differences of their own, made for the purpose of avoiding charges of plagiarism (believing their "original" to be correct), have actually been accepted as confirmatory evidence by those unskilled in the ways of hack engravers and adventurer-publishers of Dugdale's day.


Note 1 "...Dugdale, with a minute and apparent exactness, states the length at 690 feet, and this measurement has been repeated by every subsequent writer to the present day. It is remarkable that this does not correspond with the plan, laid out to scale, which accompanies Dugdale's description." (William Longman, A History of the Three Cathedrals dedicated to St. Paul in London, London, 1873 (p.29).)

Note 2 "...It must be stated, in justification of the bold attempt to represent [Old] St. Paul's more correctly than was done by Hollar, who actually saw the building, that Hollar's plates are full of evident inaccuracies. One plate contradicts another, and, indeed, scarcely two of them agree, as will be seen by the appendix to this chapter." -- William Longman, op. cit., pp.37-40. Then follows a list, a page and a half long, of Hollar's obvious blunders -- contradictions of himself, of established facts, and of Dugdale's statements.

Note 3 So, too, in William Jaggard's small folio: A View of all the Right Honorable Lord Mayors of this Honorable Citty of London (1601), of which the only recorded copy was sold in the Britwell Court Library sale of the 2nd of April, 1924, "eleven woodcut portraits alone are used for the forty-five Lord Mayors, most of them appearing several times."

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