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Title: Shakespeare's Bones
 - The Proposal to Disinter Them, Considered in Relation to Their Possible Bearing on His Portraiture: Illustrated by Instances of Visits of the Living to the Dead
Author: Ingleby, C. M. (Clement Mansfield)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Shakespeare's Bones
 - The Proposal to Disinter Them, Considered in Relation to Their Possible Bearing on His Portraiture: Illustrated by Instances of Visits of the Living to the Dead" ***

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Transcribed from the 1883 Trübner & Co. edition by David Price, email

                          [Picture: Book cover]

                 [Picture: Shakespeare on his death-bed]

                           SHAKESPEARE’S BONES

                                * * * * *

                     _THE PROPOSAL TO DISINTER THEM_,

                           ON HIS PORTRAITURE:

                       ILLUSTRATED BY INSTANCES OF

                    VISITS OF THE LIVING TO THE DEAD.

                    C. M. INGLEBY, LL.D., V.P.R.S.L.,

            Honorary Member of the German Shakespeare Society,
  and a Life-Trustee of Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Museum, and New Place,
                         at Stratford-upon-Avon.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

                   TRÜBNER & CO., 57 & 59, _Ludgate Hill_.

                            [ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.]

                                * * * * *

               “Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs.”

                                               _Richard II_, a. iii, s. 2.

                                * * * * *

                                This Essay
                       IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED TO
                              AND THE VICAR

                      BY THEIR FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE,

                                                               THE AUTHOR.


Anonymous Articles      _Argosy_                46 October, 1879.
                        _Atlantic Monthly_      45 June, 1878.
                        _Birmingham Daily       43 August 23, 1876.
                        ,, ,, ,, ,, _Post_      44 September 29,
                        ,, ,, ,, ,, _Gazette_   47 December 17, 1880.
                        ,, ,, ,, _Town Crier_   44 November, 1877.
                        _Cincinnati             48 May 26, 1883.
                        Commercial Gazette_
                        _Daily Telegraph_       43 August 24, 1876.
                        _New York Nation_       45 May 21, 1878.
  Letter                _Birmingham Daily       45 October 10, 1877.
Gower, Lord Ronald      _Antiquary_             46 August, 1880.
Halliwell-Phillipps,                            46 1881.
J. O.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel    _Atlantic Monthly_      41 January, 1863.
Ingleby, C. M.                                  48 June, 1883.
Norris, J. Parker       _N. Y. American         41 April, 1876, and
                        Bibliopolist_           August 4, 1876.
Schaafhausen, Hermann   _Shakespeare            43 1874–5.
Timmins, Sam.           _Letter to J. Parker    42 _Circa_ 1874 and
                        Norris_                 1876.


THE sentiment which affects survivors in the disposition of their dead,
and which is, in one regard, a superstition, is, in another, a creditable
outcome of our common humanity: namely, the desire to honour the memory
of departed worth, and to guard the “hallowed reliques” by the erection
of a shrine, both as a visible mark of respect for the dead, and as a
place of resort for those pilgrims who may come to pay him tribute.  It
is this sentiment which dots our graveyards with memorial tablets and
more ambitious sculptures, and which still preserves so many of our
closed churchyards from desecration, and our {1a} ancient tombs from the
molestation of careless, curious, or mercenary persons.

But there is another sentiment, not inconsistent with this, which prompts
us, on suitable occasions, to disinter the remains of great men, and
remove them to a more fitting and more honourable resting-place.  The
Hôtel des Invalides at Paris, and the Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le
Mura at Rome, {1b} are indebted to this sentiment for the possession of
relics which make those edifices the natural resort of pilgrims as of
sight-seers.  It were a work of superfluity to adduce further
illustration of the position that the mere exhumation and reinterment of
a great man’s remains, is commonly held to be, in special cases, a
justifiable proceeding, not a violation of that honourable sentiment of
humanity, which protects and consecrates the depositaries of the dead.
On a late occasion it was not the belief that such a proceeding is a
violation of our more sacred instincts which hindered the removal to
Pennsylvania of the remains of William Penn; but simply the belief that
they had already a more suitable resting-place in his native land. {2}

There is still another sentiment, honourable in itself and not
inconsistent with those which I have specified, though still more
conditional upon the sufficiency of the reasons conducing to the act:
namely, the desire, by exhumation, to set at rest a reasonable or
important issue respecting the person of the deceased while he was yet a
living man.  Accordingly it is held justifiable to exhume a body recently
buried, in order to discover the cause of death, or to settle a question
of disputed identity: nor is it usually held unjustifiable to exhume a
body long since deceased, in order to find such evidences as time may not
have wholly destroyed, of his personal appearance, including the size and
shape of his head, and the special characteristics of his living face.

It is too late for the most reverential and scrupulous to object to this
as an invasion of the sanctity of the grave, or a violation of the rights
of the dead or of the feelings of his family.  When a man has been long
in the grave, there are probably no family feelings to be wounded by such
an act: and, as for his rights, if he can be said to have any, we may
surely reckon among them the right of not being supposed to possess such
objectionable personal defects as may have been imputed to him by the
malice of critics or by the incapacity of sculptor or painter, and which
his remains may be sufficiently unchanged to rebut: in a word we owe him
something more than refraining from disturbing his remains until they are
undistinguishable from the earth in which they lie, a debt which no
supposed inviolable sanctity of the grave ought to prevent us from

It is, I say, too late to raise such an objection, because exhumation has
been performed many times with a perfectly legitimate object, even in the
case of our most illustrious dead, without protest or objection from the
most sensitive person.  As the examples, more or less analogous to that
of Shakespeare, which I am about to adduce, concern great men who were
born and were buried within the limits of our island, I will preface them
by giving the very extraordinary cases of Schiller and Raphael, which
illustrate both classes: those in which the object of the exhumation was
to give the remains a more honourable sepulture, and those in which it
was purely to resolve certain questions affecting the skull of the
deceased.  The following is abridged from Mr. Andrew Hamilton’s
narrative, entitled “The Story of Schiller’s Life,” published in
_Macmillan’s Magazine_ for May, 1863.

    “At the time of his death Schiller left his widow and children almost
    penniless, and almost friendless too.  The duke and duchess were
    absent; Goethe lay ill; even Schiller’s brother-in-law Wolzogen was
    away from home.  Frau von Wolzogen was with her sister, but seems to
    have been equally ill-fitted to bear her share of the load that had
    fallen so heavily upon them.  Heinrich Voss was the only friend
    admitted to the sick-room; and when all was over it was he who went
    to the joiner’s, and, knowing the need of economy, ordered ‘a plain
    deal coffin.’  It cost ten shillings of our money.

    “In the early part of 1805, one Carl Leberecht Schwabe, an
    enthusiastic admirer of Schiller, left Weimar on business.  Returning
    on Saturday the 11th of May, between three and four in the afternoon,
    his first errand was to visit his betrothed, who lived in the house
    adjoining that of the Schillers.  She met him in the passage, and
    told him, Schiller was two days dead, and that night he was to be
    buried.  On putting further questions, Schwabe stood aghast at what
    he learned.  The funeral was to be private and to take place
    immediately after midnight, without any religious rite.  Bearers had
    been hired to carry the remains to the churchyard, and no one else
    was to attend.

    “Schwabe felt that all this could not go on; but to prevent it was
    difficult.  There were but eight hours left; and the arrangements,
    such as they were, had already been made.  However, he went straight
    to the house of death, and requested an interview with Frau von
    Schiller.  She replied, through the servant, ‘that she was too
    greatly overwhelmed by her loss to be able to see or speak to any
    one; as for the funeral of her blessed husband, Mr. Schwabe must
    apply to the Reverend Oberconsistorialrath Günther, who had kindly
    undertaken to see done what was necessary; whatever he might direct,
    she would approve of.’  With this message Schwabe hastened to
    Günther, and told him, his blood boiled at the thought that Schiller
    should be borne to the grave by hirelings.  At first Günther shook
    his head and said, ‘It was too late; everything was arranged; the
    bearers were already ordered.’  Schwabe offered to become responsible
    for the payment of the bearers, if they were dismissed.  At length
    the Oberconsistorialrath inquired who the gentlemen were who had
    agreed to bear the coffin.  Schwabe was obliged to acknowledge that
    he could not at that moment mention a single name; but he was ready
    to guarantee his Hochwürde that in an hour or two he would bring him
    the list.  On this his Hochwürde consented to countermand the

    “Schwabe now rushed from house to house, obtaining a ready assent
    from all whom he found at home.  But as some were out, he sent round
    a circular, begging those who would come to place a mark against
    their names.  He requested them to meet at his lodgings ‘at half-past
    twelve o’clock that night; a light would be placed in the window to
    guide those who were not acquainted with the house; they would be
    kind enough to be dressed in black; but mourning-hats, crapes and
    mantles he had already provided.’  Late in the evening he placed the
    list in Günther’s hands.  Several appeared to whom he had not
    applied; in all about twenty.

    “Between midnight and one in the morning the little band proceeded to
    Schiller’s house.  The coffin was carried down stairs and placed on
    the shoulders of the friends in waiting.  No one else was to be seen
    before the house or in the streets.  It was a moonlight night in May,
    but clouds were up.  The procession moved through the sleeping city
    to the churchyard of St. James.  Having arrived there they placed
    their burden on the ground at the door of the so-called
    _Kassengewölbe_, where the gravedigger and his assistants took it up.
    In this vault, which belonged to the province of Weimar, it was usual
    to inter persons of the higher classes, who possessed no
    burying-ground of their own, upon payment of a _louis d’or_.  As
    Schiller had died without securing a resting-place for himself and
    his family, there could have been no more natural arrangement than to
    carry his remains to this vault.  It was a grim old building,
    standing against the wall of the churchyard, with a steep narrow
    roof, and no opening of any kind but the doorway which was filled up
    with a grating.  The interior was a gloomy space of about fourteen
    feet either way.  In the centre was a trap-door which gave access to
    a hollow space beneath.

    “As the gravediggers raised the coffin, the clouds suddenly parted,
    and the moon shed her light on all that was earthly of Schiller.
    They carried him in: they opened the trap-door: and let him down by
    ropes into the darkness.  Then they closed the vault.  Nothing was
    spoken or sung.  The mourners were dispersing, when their attention
    was attracted by a tall figure in a mantle, at some distance in the
    graveyard, sobbing loudly.  No one knew who it was; and for many
    years the occurrence remained wrapped in mystery, giving rise to
    strange conjectures.  But eventually it turned out to have been
    Schiller’s brother-in-law Wolzogen, who, having hurried home on
    hearing of the death, had arrived after the procession was already on
    its way to the churchyard.

    “In the year 1826, Schwabe was Bürgermeister of Weimar.  Now it was
    the custom of the _Landschaftscollegium_, or provincial board under
    whose jurisdiction this institution was placed, to _clear out_ the
    Kassengewölbe from time to time—whenever it was found to be
    inconveniently crowded—and by this means to make way for other
    deceased persons and more _louis d’or_.  On such occasions—when the
    Landschaftscollegium gave the order ‘aufzuräumen,’ it was the usage
    to dig a hole in a corner of the churchyard—then to bring up _en
    masse_ the contents of the Kassengewölbe—coffins, whether entire or
    in fragments, bones, skulls, and tattered graveclothes—and finally to
    shovel the whole heap into the aforesaid pit.  In the month of March
    Schwabe was dismayed at hearing that the Landschaftscollegium had
    decreed a speedy ‘clearing out’ of the Gewölbe.  His old prompt way
    of acting had not left him; he went at once to his friend Weyland,
    the president of the Collegium.  ‘Friend Weyland,’ he said, ‘let not
    the dust of Schiller be tossed up in the face of heaven and flung
    into that hideous hole!  Let me at least have a permit to search the
    vault; if we find Schiller’s coffin, it shall be reinterred in a
    fitting manner in the New Cemetery.’  The president made no

    “Schwabe invited several persons who had known the poet, and amongst
    others one Rudolph, who had been Schiller’s servant at the time of
    his death.  On March 13th, at four o’clock in the afternoon, the
    party met in the churchyard, the sexton and his assistants having
    received orders to be present with keys, ladders, &c.  The vault was
    opened; but, before any one entered it, Rudolph and another stated
    that the coffin of the deceased Hofrath von Schiller must be one of
    the longest in the place.  After this the secretary of the
    Landschaftscollegium was requested to read aloud from the records of
    the said board the names of such persons as had been interred shortly
    before and after the year 1805.  This being done, the gravedigger
    Bielke remarked that the coffins no longer lay in the order in which
    they had originally been placed, but had been displaced at recent
    burials.  The ladder was then adjusted, and Schwabe, Coudray the
    architect, and the gravedigger, were the first to descend.  Some
    others were asked to draw near, that they might assist in recognising
    the coffin.  The first glance brought their hopes very low.  The
    tenants of the vault were found ‘over, under and alongside of each
    other.’  One coffin of unusual length having been descried underneath
    the rest, an attempt was made to reach it by lifting out of the way
    those that were above it; but the processes of the tomb were found to
    have made greater advances than met the eye.  Hardly anything would
    bear removal, but fell to pieces at the first touch.  Search was made
    for plates with inscriptions, but even the metal plates crumbled away
    on being fingered, and their inscriptions were utterly effaced.  Two
    plates only were found with legible characters, and these were
    foreign to the purpose.  Probably every one but the Bürgermeister
    looked on the matter as hopeless.  They reascended the ladder and
    closed the vault.

    “Meanwhile these strange proceedings in the Kassengewölbe began to be
    noised abroad.  The churchyard was a thoroughfare, and many
    passengers had observed that something unusual was going on.  There
    were persons living in Weimar whose near relatives lay in the
    Gewölbe; and, though neither they nor the public at large had any
    objection to offer to the general ‘clearing out,’ they did raise very
    strong objections to this mode of anticipating it.  So many pungent
    things began to be said about violating the tomb, disturbing the
    repose of the departed, &c., that the Bürgermeister perceived the
    necessity of going more warily to work in future.  He resolved to
    time his next visit at an hour when few persons would be likely to
    cross the churchyard at that season.  Accordingly, two days later he
    returned to the Kassengewölbe at seven in the morning, accompanied
    only by Coudray and the churchyard officials.

    “Their first task was to raise out of the vault altogether six
    coffins, which it was found would bear removal.  By various tokens it
    was proved that none of these could be that of which they were in
    search.  There were several others which could not be removed, but
    which held together so long as they were left where they lay.  All
    the rest were in the direst confusion.  Two hours and a half were
    spent in subjecting the ghastly heap to a thorough but fruitless
    search: not a trace of any kind rewarded their trouble.  Only one
    conclusion stared Schwabe and Coudray in the face—their quest was in
    vain: the remains of Schiller must be left to oblivion.  Again the
    Gewölbe was closed, and those who had disturbed its quiet returned
    disappointed to their homes.  Yet, that very afternoon, Schwabe went
    back once more in company with the joiner who twenty years before had
    made the coffin: there was a chance that he might recognise one of
    those which they had not ventured to raise.  But this glimmer of hope
    faded like all the rest.  The man remembered very well what sort of
    coffin he had made for the Hofrath von Schiller, and he certainly saw
    nothing like it here.  It had been of the plainest sort, he believed
    without even a plate; and in such damp as this it could have lasted
    but a few years.

    “The fame of this second expedition got abroad like that of the
    first, and the comments of the public were louder than before.
    Invectives of no measured sort fell on the mayor in torrents.  Not
    only did society in general take offence, but a variety of persons in
    authority, particularly ecclesiastical dignitaries, began to talk of
    interfering.  Schwabe was haunted by the idea of the ‘clearing out,’
    which was now close at hand.  That dismal hole in the corner of the
    churchyard once closed and the turf laid down, the dust of Schiller
    would be lost for ever.  He determined to proceed.  His position of
    Bürgermeister put the means in his power, and this time he was
    resolved to keep his secret.  To find the skull was now his utmost
    hope, but for that he would make a final struggle.  The keys were
    still in the hands of Bielke the sexton, who, of course, was under
    his control.  He sent for him, bound him over to silence, and ordered
    him to be at the churchyard at midnight on the 19th of March.  In
    like manner, he summoned three day-labourers whom he pledged to
    secrecy, and engaged to meet him at the same place and at the same
    hour, but singly and without lanterns.  Attention should not be
    attracted if he could help it.

    “When the night came, he himself, with a trusty servant, proceeded to
    the entrance of the Kassengewölbe.  The four men were already there.
    In darkness they all entered, raised the trap-door, adjusted the
    ladder, and descended to the abode of the dead.  Not till then were
    lanterns lighted; it was just possible that some late wanderer might,
    even at that hour, cross the churchyard.  Schwabe seated himself on a
    step of the ladder and directed the workmen.  Fragments of broken
    coffins they piled up in one corner, and bones in another.  Skulls as
    they were found were placed in a heap by themselves.  The work went
    on from twelve o’clock till about three, for three successive nights,
    at the end of which time twenty-three skulls had been found.  These
    the Bürgermeister caused to be put into a sack and carried to his
    house, where he himself took them out and placed them in rows on a

    “It was hardly done ere he exclaimed, ‘_That_ must be Schiller’s!’
    There was one skull that differed enormously from all the rest, both
    in size and in shape.  It was remarkable, too, in another way: alone
    of all those on the table it retained an entire set of the finest
    teeth, and Schiller’s teeth had been noted for their beauty.  But
    there were other means of identification at hand.  Schwabe possessed
    the cast of Schiller’s head, taken after death by Klauer, and with
    this he undertook to make a careful comparison and measurement.  The
    two seemed to him to correspond, and, of the twenty-two others, not
    one would bear juxtaposition with the cast.  Unfortunately the lower
    jaw was wanting, to obtain which a fourth nocturnal expedition had to
    be undertaken.  The skull was carried back to the Gewölbe, and many
    jaws were tried ere one was found which fitted, and for beauty of
    teeth corresponded with, the upper jaw.  When brought home, on the
    other hand, it refused to fit any other cranium.  One tooth alone was
    wanting, and this was said by an old servant of Schiller’s had been
    extracted at Jena in his presence.

    “Having got thus far, Schwabe invited three of the chief medical
    authorities to inspect his discovery.  After careful measurements,
    they declared that among the twenty-three skulls there was but one
    from which the cast could have been taken.  He then invited every
    person in Weimar and its neighbourhood, who had been on terms of
    intimacy with Schiller, and admitted them to the room one by one.
    The result was surprising.  Without an exception they pointed to the
    same skull as that which must have been the poet’s.  The only
    remaining chance of mistake seemed to be the possibility of other
    skulls having eluded the search, and being yet in the vault.  To put
    this to rest, Schwabe applied to the Landschaftscollegium, in whose
    records was kept a list of all persons buried in the Kassengewölbe.
    It was ascertained that since the last ‘clearing out’ there had been
    exactly twenty-three interments.  At this stage the Bürgermeister saw
    himself in a position to inform the Grand Duke and Goethe of his
    search and its success.  From both he received grateful
    acknowledgments.  Goethe unhesitatingly recognised the head, and laid
    stress on the peculiar beauty and evenness of the teeth.

    “The new cemetery lay on a gently rising ground on the south side of
    the town.  Schwabe’s favourite plan was to deposit what he had
    found—all that he now ever dreamed of finding—of his beloved poet on
    the highest point of the slope, and to mark the spot by a simple
    monument, so that travellers at their first approach might know where
    the head of Schiller lay.  One forenoon in early spring he led Frau
    von Wolzogen and the Chancellor von Müller to the spot.  They
    approved his plan, and the remaining members of Schiller’s family—all
    of whom had left Weimar—signified their assent.  They ‘did not
    desire,’ as one of themselves expressed it, ‘to strive against
    Nature’s appointment that man’s earthly remains should be reunited
    with herself;’ they would prefer that their father’s dust should rest
    in the ground rather than anywhere else.  But the Grand Duke and
    Goethe decided otherwise.

    “Dannecker’s colossal bust of Schiller had recently been acquired for
    the Grand Ducal library, where it had been placed on a lofty pedestal
    opposite the bust of Goethe; and in this pedestal, which was hollow,
    it was resolved to deposit the skull.  The consent of the family
    having been obtained, the solemnity was delayed till the arrival of
    Ernst von Schiller, who could not reach Weimar before autumn.  On
    September the 17th the ceremony took place.  A few persons had been
    invited, amongst whom, of course, was the Bürgermeister.  Goethe,
    _more suo_, dreaded the agitation and remained at home, but sent his
    son to represent him as chief librarian.  A cantata having been sung,
    Ernst von Schiller, in a short speech, thanked all persons present,
    but especially the Bürgermeister, for the love they had shown to the
    memory of his father.  He then formally delivered his father’s head
    into the hands of the younger Goethe, who, reverently receiving it,
    thanked his friend in Goethe’s name, and having dwelt on the
    affection that had subsisted between their fathers vowed that the
    precious relic should thenceforward be guarded with anxious care.  Up
    to this moment the skull had been wrapped in a cloth and sealed: the
    younger Goethe now made it over to the librarian, Professor Riemer,
    to be unpacked and placed in its receptacle.  All present subscribed
    their names, the pedestal was locked, and the key carried home to

    “None doubted that Schiller’s head was now at rest for many years.
    But it had already occurred to Goethe, who had more osteological
    knowledge than the excellent Bürgermeister, that, the skull being in
    their possession, it would be possible to find the skeleton.  A very
    few days after the ceremony in the library, he sent to Jena, begging
    the Professor of Anatomy, Dr. Schröter, to have the kindness to spend
    a day or two at Weimar, and to bring with him, if possible, a
    functionary of the Jena Museum, Färber by name, who had at one time
    been Schiller’s servant.  As soon as they arrived, Goethe placed the
    matter in Schröter’s hands.  Again the head was raised from its
    pillow and carried back to the dismal Kasselgewölbe, where the bones
    still lay in a heap.  The chief difficulty was to find the first
    vertebra; after that all was easy enough.  With some exceptions,
    comparatively trifling, Schröter succeeded in reproducing the
    skeleton, which then was laid in a new coffin ‘lined with blue
    merino,’ and would seem (though we are not distinctly told) to have
    been deposited in the library.  Professor Schröter’s register of
    bones recovered and bones missing has been both preserved and
    printed.  The skull was restored to its place in the pedestal.  There
    was another shriek from the public at these repeated violations of
    the tomb; and the odd position chosen for Schiller’s head, apart from
    his body, called forth, not without reason, abundant criticism.

    “Schwabe’s idea of a monument in the new cemetery was, after a while,
    revived by the Grand Duke, Carl August, but with an important
    alteration, which was, that on the spot indicated at the head of the
    rising ground there should be erected a common sepulchre for Goethe
    and Schiller, in which the latter’s remains should at once be
    deposited—the mausoleum to be finally closed only when, in the course
    of nature, Goethe should have been laid there too.  The idea was,
    doubtless, very noble, and found great favour with Goethe himself,
    who entering into it commissioned Coudray, the architect, to sketch
    the plan of a simple mausoleum, in which the sarcophagi were to be
    visible from without.  There was some delay in clearing the ground—a
    nursery of young trees had to be removed—so that at Midsummer, 1827,
    nothing had been done.  It is said that the intrigues of certain
    persons, who made a point of opposing Goethe at all times, prevailed
    so far with the Grand Duke that he became indifferent about the whole
    scheme.  Meanwhile it was necessary to provide for the remains of
    Schiller.  The public voice was loud in condemning their present
    location, and in August, 1827, Louis of Bavaria again appeared as a
    _Deus ex machina_ to hasten on the last act.  He expressed surprise
    that the bones of Germany’s best-beloved should be kept like rare
    coins, or other curiosities, in a public museum.  In these
    circumstances, the Grand Duke wrote Goethe a note, proposing for his
    approval that the skull and skeleton of Schiller should be reunited
    and ‘provisionally’ deposited in the vault which the Grand Duke had
    built for himself and his house, ‘until Schiller’s family should
    otherwise determine.’  No better plan seeming feasible, Goethe
    himself gave orders for the construction of a sarcophagus.  On
    November 17th, 1827, in presence of the younger Goethe, Coudray and
    Riemer, the head was finally removed from the pedestal, and Professor
    Schröter reconstructed the entire skeleton in this new and more
    sumptuous abode, which we are told was seven feet in length, and bore
    at its upper end the name


    in letters of cast-iron.  That same afternoon Goethe went himself to
    the library and expressed his satisfaction with all that had been

    “At last, on December 16th, 1827, at half-past five in the morning, a
    few persons again met at the same place.  The Grand Duke had
    desired—for what reason we know not—to avoid observation; it was
    Schiller’s fate that his remains should be carried hither and hither
    by stealth and in the night.  Some tapers burned around the bier: the
    recesses of the hall were in darkness.  Not a word was spoken, but
    those present bent for an instant in silent prayer, on which the
    bearers raised the coffin and carried it away.  They walked along
    through the park: the night was cold and cloudy: some of the party
    had lanterns.  When they reached the avenue that led up to the
    cemetery, the moon shone out as she had done twenty-two years before.
    At the vault itself some other friends had assembled, amongst whom
    was the Mayor.  Ere the lid was finally secured, Schwabe placed
    himself at the head of the coffin, and recognised the skull to be
    that which he had rescued from the Kassengewölbe.  The sarcophagus
    having then been closed, and a laurel wreath laid on it, formal
    possession, in the name of the Grand Duke, was taken by the Marshal,
    Freiherr von Spiegel.  The key was removed to be kept in possession
    of his Excellency, the Geheimrath von Goethe, as head of the
    Institutions for Art and Science.  This key, in an envelope,
    addressed by Goethe, is said to be preserved in the Grand Ducal
    Library, where, however, we have no recollection of having seen it.

    “The ‘provisional’ deposition has proved more permanent than any
    other.  Whoever would see the resting-place of Goethe and Schiller
    must descend into the Grand Ducal vault, where, through a grating, in
    the twilight beyond he will catch a glimpse of their sarcophagi.”

The other case of exhumation, and reinterment with funeral rites, which I
deem of sufficient importance to be recorded here, is that of the great
Raphael.  In this the motive was not, as in that of Schiller, to give his
bones a worthier resting-place, nor yet, as in so many other cases, to
gratify a morbid curiosity, but to set at rest a question of disputed
identity.  In this respect the case of Raphael has a special bearing upon
the matter in hand.  I extract the following from _Mrs. Jameson’s Lives
of Italian Painters_, ed. 1874, p. 258:

    “In the year 1833 there arose among the antiquarians of Rome a keen
    dispute concerning a human skull, which on no evidence whatever,
    except a long-received tradition, had been preserved and exhibited in
    the Academy of St. Luke as the skull of Raphael.  Some even expressed
    a doubt as to the exact place of his sepulchre, though upon this
    point the contemporary testimony seemed to leave no room for

    “To ascertain the fact, permission was obtained from the Papal
    Government, and from the canons of the Church of the Rotunda (_i.e._,
    of the Pantheon), to make some researches; and on the 14th of
    September in the same year, after five days spent in removing the
    pavement in several places, the remains of Raphael were discovered in
    a vault behind the high altar, and certified as his by indisputable
    proofs.  After being examined, and a cast made from the skull and
    [one] from the right hand, the skeleton was exhibited publicly in a
    glass case, and multitudes thronged to the church to look upon it.
    On the 18th of October, 1833, a second funeral ceremony took place.
    The remains were deposited in a pine-wood coffin, then in a marble
    sarcophagus, presented by the Pope (Gregory XVI), and reverently
    consigned to their former resting-place, in presence of more than
    three thousand spectators, including almost all the artists, the
    officers of government, and other persons of the highest rank in

This event, as will appear in the sequel, is our best precedent for not
permitting a sentimental respect for departed greatness to interfere with
the respectful examination of a great man’s remains, wherever such
examination may determine a question to which “universal history is _not_

Toland tells us that Milton’s body was, on November 12, 1674, carried “to
the Church of S. Giles, near _Cripplegate_, where he lies buried in the
Chancel; and where the Piety of his Admirers will shortly erect a
Monument becoming his worth, and the incouragement of Letters in King
William’s Reign.” {19}  It appears that his body was laid next to that of
his father.  A plain stone only was placed over the spot; and this, if
Aubrey’s account be trustworthy, was removed in 1679, when the two steps
were raised which lead to the altar.  The remains, however, were
undisturbed for nearly sixteen years.  On the 4th of August, 1790,
according to a small volume written by Philip Neve, Esq. (of which two
editions were published in the same year), Milton’s coffin was removed,
and his remains exhibited to the public on the 4th and 5th of that month.
Mr. George Steevens, the great editor of Shakespeare, who justly
denounced the indignity _intended_, not offered, to the great Puritan
poet’s remains by Royalist landsharks, satisfied himself that the corpse
was that of a woman of fewer years than Milton.  Thus did good
Providence, or good fortune, defeat the better half of their nefarious
project: and I doubt not their gains were spent as money is which has
been “gotten over the devil’s back.”  Steevens’ assurance gives us good
reason for believing that Mr. Philip Neve’s indignant protest is only
good in the general, and that Milton’s “hallowed reliques” still “rest
undisturb’d within their peaceful shrine.”  I have adduced this instance
to serve as an example of what I condemn, and should, in any actual case,
denounce as strongly as Mr. Philip Neve or George Steevens.  To expose a
man’s remains after any interval for the purpose of treating his memory
with indignity, or of denouncing an unpopular cause which he espoused, or
(worst of all) “to fine his bones,” or make money by the public
exhibition of his dust, deserves unmeasured and unqualified reprobation,
and every prudent measure should be taken to render such an act

To take another example of the reprehensible practice of despoiling the
grave of a great enemy: Oliver Cromwell was, as is proved by the most
reliable evidence, namely, that of a trustworthy eye-witness, buried on
the scene of his greatest achievement, the Field of Naseby.  Some
Royalist _Philister_ is said to have discovered, and stolen from its
resting-place, the embalmed head of the great Protector.  It found its
way to London towards the end of the last century, where it was exhibited
at No. 5, Mead Court, Old Bond Street. {20}  It is said to have been
acquired by Sir Joshua Reynolds in September, 1786, and to be now or late
in the collection of Mr. W. A. Wilkinson, of Beckenham.  It is recorded
in one of the _Additional Manuscripts_ in the British Museum, under date
April 21, 1813, that “an offer was made this morning to bring it to Soho
Square, to show it to Sir Joseph Banks, but he desired to be excused from
seeing _the remains of the old villanous Republican_, _the mention of
whose very name makes his blood boil with indignation_.  The same offer
was made to Sir Joseph forty years ago, which he also refused.”  What a
charming specimen was Banks of the genus Tory!  But after all it is a
comfort to think that on this occasion he was right: for while this head
was undoubtedly that which did duty for the Protector at Tyburn, and was
afterwards fixed on the top of Westminster Hall, it was almost certainly
not that of Oliver Cromwell: whose remains probably still lie crumbling
into dust in their unknown grave on Naseby Field. {21a}

I give one more example of robbing the grave of an illustrious man,
through the superstition of many and the cupidity of one.  Swedenborg was
buried in the vault of the Swedish Church in Prince’s Square, on April 5,
1772.  In 1790, in order to determine a question raised in debate, viz.,
whether Swedenborg were really dead and buried, his wooden coffin was
opened, and the leaden one was sawn across the breast.  A few days after,
a party of Swedenborgians visited the vault.  “Various relics” (says
White: _Life of Swedenborg_, 2nd ed., 1868, p. 675) “were carried off:
Dr. Spurgin told me he possessed the cartilage of an ear.  Exposed to the
air, the flesh quickly fell to dust, and a skeleton was all that remained
for subsequent visitors. {21b}  At a funeral in 1817, Granholm, an
officer in the Swedish Navy, seeing the lid of Swedenborg’s coffin loose,
abstracted the skull, and hawked it about amongst London Swedenborgians,
but none would buy.  Dr. Wählin, pastor of the Swedish Church, recovered
what he supposed to be the stolen skull, had a cast of it taken, and
placed it in the coffin in 1819.  The cast which is sometimes seen in
phrenological collections is obviously not Swedenborg’s: it is thought to
be that of a small female skull.”

In the latter part of the reign of George III a mausoleum was built in
the Tomb House at Windsor Castle.  On its completion, in the spring of
1813, it was determined to open a passage of communication with St.
George’s Chapel, and in constructing this an opening was accidentally
made in one of the walls of the vault of Henry VIII, through which the
workmen could see three coffins, one of which was covered with a black
velvet pall.  It was known that Henry VIII and Queen Jane Seymour were
buried in this vault, but a question had been raised as to the place of
Charles the First’s interment, through the statement of Lord Clarendon,
that the search made for the late King’s coffin at Windsor (with a view
to its removal to Westminster Abbey) had proved fruitless.  Sir Henry
Halford, in his _Account_, appended to his _Essays and Orations_, 1831,
{22} thus describes the examination of the palled coffin.

“On representing the circumstance to the Prince Regent, his R. H.
perceived at once that _a doubtful point in history might be cleared up
by opening this vault_; and accordingly his R. H. ordered an examination
to be made on the first convenient opportunity.  This was done on the
First of April last [_i.e._, 1813], the day after the funeral of the
Duchess of Brunswick, in the presence of his R. H. himself, who
guaranteed thereby _the most respectful care and attention to the remains
of the dead_, during the enquiry.  His R. H. was accompanied by his R. H.
the Duke of Cumberland, Count Munster, the Dean of Windsor, Benjamin
Charles Stevenson, Esq., and Sir Henry Halford.”

“The vault was accordingly further opened and explored, and the palled
coffin, which was of lead, and bore the inscription ‘King Charles, 1648,’
was opened at the head.  A second Charles I, coffin of wood was thus
disclosed, and, through this, the body carefully wrapped up in
cere-cloth, into the folds of which a quantity of unctuous or greasy
matter, mixed with resin, as it seemed, had been melted, so as to
exclude, as effectually as possible, the external air.  The coffin was
completely full; and, from the tenacity of the cere-cloth, great
difficulty was experienced in detaching it successfully from the parts
which it enveloped.  Wherever the unctuous matter had insinuated itself,
the separation of the cere-cloth was easy; and when it came off, a
correct impression of the features to which it had been applied was
observed in the unctuous substance. {23} At length the whole face was
disengaged from its covering.  The complexion of the skin was dark and
discoloured.  The forehead and temples had lost little or nothing of
their muscular substance; the cartilage of the nose was gone; but the
left eye, in the first moment of exposure, was open and full, though it
vanished almost immediately: and the pointed beard, so characteristic of
the reign of King Charles, was perfect.  The shape of the face was a long
oval; many of the teeth remained; and the left ear, in consequence of the
interposition of the unctuous matter between it and the cere-cloth, was
found entire.”

The head was found to be loose, and was once more held up to view; and
after a careful examination of it had been made, and a sketch taken, and
the identity fully established, it was immediately replaced in the
coffin, which was soldered up and restored to the vault.  Of the other
two coffins, the larger one had been battered in about the middle, and
the skeleton of Henry VIII, exhibiting some beard upon the chin, was
exposed to view.  The other coffin was left, as it was found, intact.
Neither of these coffins bore any inscription.

In the Appendix to Allan Cunningham’s _Life of Burns_ {24} we read of an
examination of the poet’s Tomb, made immediately after that life was

“When Burns’ Mausoleum was opened in March, 1834, to receive the remains
of his widow, some residents in Dumfries obtained the consent of her
nearest relative to take a cast from the cranium of the poet.  This was
done during the night between the 31st March and 1st April.  Mr.
Archibald Blacklock, surgeon, drew up the following description:

    “The cranial bones were perfect in every respect, if we except a
    little erosion of their external table, and firmly held together by
    their sutures, &c., &c.  Having completed our intention [_i.e._, of
    taking a plaster cast of the skull, washed from every particle of
    sand, &c.], the skull, securely closed in a leaden case, was again
    committed to the earth, precisely where we found it.—Archd.

The last example I shall adduce is that of Ben Jonson’s skull.  On this
Lieut.-Colonel Cunningham thus writes:

“In my boyhood I was familiar with the Abbey, and well remember the
‘pavement square of blew marble, 14 inches square, with O Rare Ben
Jonson,’ which marked the poet’s grave.  When Buckland was Dean, the spot
had to be disturbed for the coffin of Sir Robert Wilson, and the Dean
sent his son Frank, now so well known as an agreeable writer on Natural
History, to see whether he could observe anything to confirm, or
otherwise, the tradition about Jonson being buried in a standing posture.
The workmen, he tells us, ‘found a coffin very much decayed, which from
the appearance of the remains must have originally been placed in the
upright position.  The skull found among these remains, Spice, the
gravedigger, gave me as that of Ben Jonson, and I took it at once into
the Dean’s study.  We examined it together, and then going into the Abbey
carefully returned it to the earth.’  In 1859, when John Hunter’s coffin
was removed to the Abbey, the same spot had to be dug up, and Mr. Frank
Buckland again secured the skull of Jonson, placing it at the last moment
on the coffin of the great surgeon.  So far, so good; but not long
afterwards, a statement appeared in the ‘Times’ that the skull of Ben
Jonson was in the possession of a blind gentleman at Stratford-upon-Avon.
Hereupon Mr. Buckland made further inquiries, and calmly tells us that he
has convinced himself that the skull which he had taken such care of on
two occasions, [such care as not so much as to measure or sketch it!] was
not Jonson’s skull at all; that a Mr. Ryde had anticipated him both times
in removing and replacing the genuine article, [!] and that the
Warwickshire claimant [!] was a third skull which Mr. Ryde observed had
been purloined from the grave on the second opening.  Mr. Buckland is a
scientific naturalist, and an ardent worshipper of the closest of all
observers, John Hunter.  Now mark what satisfies such a man on such an
occasion as this.  He was wrong and Mr. Ryde was right, because Mr. Ryde
described _his_ skull as having _red hair_; and in Aubrey’s _Lives of
Eminent Men_, ‘I find evidence quite sufficient for any medical man to
come to the conclusion that Ben Jonson’s hair was in all probability of a
red colour, though the fact _is not stated in so many words_.’  In so
many words!  I think not!  Actually all that Aubrey says on the subject
is, ‘_He was_, _or rather had been_, _of a cleare and faire skin_’!
(_Lives_, ii, 414.)  And this, too, in spite of our knowing from his own
pen, and from more than one painting, that his hair was as black as the
raven’s wing!  Besides, he was sixty-five years old when he died, and we
may be sure that the few locks he had left were neither red nor black,
but of the hue of the ‘hundred of grey hairs’ which he described as
remaining eighteen years before.  Mr. Buckland’s statement will be found
in the _Fourth Series_ of his _Curiosities of Natural History_, one of
the most entertaining little volumes with which we are acquainted.” {26}

In reviewing the various incidents connected with the foregoing cases of
exhumation one is perhaps most struck with the last two.  That an
illustrious man of science, and his son, who at that time must already
have been a scientific naturalist, should have coöperated in so
stupendous a blunder as the mere inspection of Ben Jonson’s skull,
without taking so much as a measurement or drawing of it, would be
incredible, but for the fact that both are dead, and nothing of the sort
has come to light: and it is scarcely less surprising that the
Swedenborgians, who believed themselves to be in possession of their
founder’s skull, should not have left on record some facts concerning its
shape and size.

Before addressing myself to the principal matter of this essay, namely
the question whether we should not attempt to recover Shakespeare’s
skull, I may as well note, that the remains of the great philosopher,
whom so many regard as Shakespeare’s very self, or else his _alter ego_,
were not allowed to remain unmolested in their grave in St. Michael’s
Church, St. Albans.  Thomas Fuller, in his _Worthies_, relates as
follows: “Since I have read that his grave being occasionally opened [!]
his scull (the relique of civil veneration) was by one King, a Doctor of
Physick, made the object of scorn and contempt; but he who then derided
the dead has since become the laughingstock of the living.”  This, being
quoted by a correspondent in _Notes and Queries_ {27a} elicited from Mr.
C. Le Poer Kennedy, of St. Albans, {27b} an account of a search that had
been made for Bacon’s remains, on the occasion of the interment of the
last Lord Verulam.  “A partition wall was pulled down, and the search
extended into the part of the vault immediately under the monument, but
no remains were found.”  On the other hand, we have the record of his
express wish to be buried there.  I am afraid the doctor, who is said to
have become the laughingstock of the living, has entirely faded out of
men’s minds and memories.

Among the many protests against the act of exhumation, I select that of
Capel Lofft, as representative of the rest.  He writes—

“It were to be wished that neither superstition, affectation, idle
curiosity, or avarice, were so frequently invading the silence of the
grave.  Far from dishonouring the illustrious dead, it is rather
outraging the common condition of humanity, and last melancholy state in
which our present existence terminates.  Dust and ashes have no
intelligence to give, whether beauty, genius, or virtue, informed the
animated clay.  A tooth of Homer or Milton will not be distinguished from
one of a common mortal; nor a bone of Alexander acquaint us with more of
his character than one of Bucephalus.  Though the dead be unconcerned,
the living are neither benefited nor improved: decency is violated, and a
kind of instinctive sympathy infringed, which, though it ought not to
overpower reason, ought not without it, and to no purpose, to be
superseded.”  Notwithstanding the right feeling shewn in this passage, it
is quite sufficient to condemn Capel Lofft as a _Philister_.  Let us for
a moment examine some of these very eloquent assertions.  Agreeing as I
cordially do with his wish, that neither superstition, affectation,
whatever that may mean, idle curiosity, or avarice, were the motives
which actuate those who molest the relics of the dead, I cannot allow
that neither dust and ashes, bones, nor teeth, have any intelligence to
give us; nor yet that by the reverential scrutiny of those relics the
living can be neither benefited nor improved.  All that depends upon the
intelligence of the scrutineer.  Doubtless your _Philister_ would turn
over the skull or the bones, or make hay with the dust, just as Peter
Bell could see nothing in a primrose but a weed in flower.  What message
a bone or a weed may have for the man or the race depends wholly upon the
recipient.  Your Shakespeare or Goethe, your Owen or Huxley, would find
in it an intelligible language; while your Capel Lofft would denounce
what he found there as dirt and indecency.  How true is the proverb of
Syr Oracle Mar-text: “To the wise all things are wise.”  In the case of
Schiller, the skull spoke for itself, and claimed to be that of Schiller;
the bones, like those in the 37th chapter of _Ezekiel_, aggregated
themselves around their head, and submitted to an accurate articulation;
and the teeth gave their evidence, too, at least the place of one, which
was not in the jaw, bore its testimony to the fact that the jaw in
question was that which Schiller had submitted to dentistry.  In the case
of Raphael, the discovery of the skull disproved the claims of the
spurious relic, and arrested a stupid superstition. {29} Beyond question,
the skull of Shakespeare, might we but discover it in anything like its
condition at the time of its interment, would be of still greater
interest and value.  It would at least settle two disputed points in the
Stratford Bust; it would test the Droeshout print, and every one of the
half-dozen portraits-in-oils which pass as presentments of Shakespeare’s
face at different periods of his life.  Moreover it would pronounce
decisively on the pretensions of the Kesselstadt Death-Mask, and we
should know whether that was from the “flying-mould” after which Gerard
Johnson worked, when he sculptured the Bust.  Negative evidence the skull
would assuredly furnish; but there is reason for believing that it would
afford positive evidence in favour of the Bust, one or other of the
portraits, or even of the Death-Mask: and why, I ask, should not an
attempt be made to recover Shakespeare’s skull?  Why should not the
authorities of Stratford, to whom this brochure is inscribed, sanction,
or even themselves undertake, a respectful examination of the grave in
which Shakespeare’s remains are believed to have been buried?

Two grounds have always been assigned for abstention: (1) the sentiment
which disposes men to leave the relics of the dead to their rest in the
tomb: (2) the prohibition contained in the four lines inscribed upon
Shakespeare’s gravestone.  With the former of these I have sufficiently
dealt already.  As for the latter; the prohibitory lines, whether they
proceeded from our Poet himself, as Mr. William Page, and many before
him, believed, or from the pen of Ben Jonson, or of an inferior writer
(which is to me the more probable authorship), I am most desirous to
respect them; not that I stand in awe of Shakespeare’s curse, but because
I think they proceeded from a natural and laudable fear.  I have no more
doubt that “moves,” in the quatrain, means “_re_moves,” than I have that
“stones” means “_grave_stones.”  The fear which dictated these curious
lines, was, I believe, lest Shakespeare’s remains should be carried,
whither so many of his predecessors in the churchyard had been carried,
to the common charnel-house hard-by.  I do not read in those lines a
prohibition against an examination of the grave, say for purposes of
knowledge and history, but against the despoiling of that grave, to make
room for some local knight, squire, or squireen, who might have been
deemed a worthier tenant of the Chancel room.  Shakespeare’s body was
carried to the grave on Thursday, April 25, 1616 (O. S.); and, beyond
question, his son-in-law, Dr. John Hall, made all the arrangements, and
bore all the expenses.  We have no proof whatever that the grave has
remained closed from that time: on the contrary there is some slight
_scintilla_ of proof that it has been explored; and it would never
astonish me to learn that Shakespeare’s skull had been abstracted!  There
may yet be some among us who have a personal interest in preventing such
an exploration, and in thus maintaining the general belief, that
Shakespeare’s relics still rest in the mould in which they were buried.

Be that as it may: in the year 1796, the supposed grave was actually
broken into, in the course of digging a vault in its immediate proximity;
and not much more than fifty years ago the slab over the grave, having
sunk below the level of the pavement, was removed, the surface was
levelled, and a fresh stone was laid over the old bed.  It is certain, I
believe, that the original stone did not bear the name of Shakespeare,
any more than its successor: but it is not certain that the four lines
appear upon the new stone in exactly the same literal form as they did
upon the old one. {31}  I wish I could add that these two were the only
occasions when either grave or gravestone was meddled with.  I am
informed, on the authority of a Free and Accepted Mason, that a
Brother-Mason of his has explored the grave which purports to be
Shakespeare’s, and that he found nothing in it but dust.  The former
statement must be taken _cum grano_.  Granting this, however, the latter
statement will not surprise my valued friend Mr. J. O.
Halliwell-Phillipps, who thinks he sees a reason for the disappearance of
SHAKESPEARE’S BONES, in the fact that his coffin was buried in the
Chancel mould. {32}  If this be all the ground of his assurance, that
nothing but dust would reward the search, I would say “despair thy
charm;” for many corpses so buried have for many years been preserved in
comparative freshness—corpses which had been treated with no more care
than the body of Shakespeare is believed to have received.  The last case
to come to my knowledge, was that of the Birmingham poet, John Freeth,
the father of my old friend John Freeth, formerly the Clerk (or principal
manager) of the Birmingham Canal Navigations.  On the destruction of the
burial-place of the Old Meeting House, in Old Meeting Street, Birmingham,
in March, 1882, the coffin of the poet was found in the earth, and on
opening it, the face was almost as fresh, and quite as perfect, as on the
day of the old man’s interment seventy-four years before: and as to his
bones?  Does Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps believe that in a period but little
more than double that of the poet Freeth’s unmolested repose, namely 180
years, all SHAKESPEARE’S BONES would have been turned to dust, and become
indistinguishable from the mould in which the coffin lay?  To ask this
question is to answer it.  A more credulous man, than I know Mr.
Halliwell-Phillipps to be, would hesitate to give an affirmative answer.
Depend upon it, Shakespeare’s skull is in his grave, unchanged; or it has
been abstracted.  There may well have been a mistake as to the exact
locality of the grave: for we do not know that the new gravestone was
laid down exactly over the place of the one that was removed; and the
skull may be found in a grave hard-by.  But if, on making a thorough
search, no skull be found, I shall believe that it has been stolen: for,
apart from the fact of its non-discovery, I should almost be disposed to
say, that no superstition, or fear of Shakespeare’s curse, nor any
official precaution and vigilance, could have been a match for that
combination of curiosity, cupidity, and relic-worship, which has so often
prompted and carried out the exhumation of a great man’s bones.  If there
were no other reason for searching Shakespeare’s grave, save the
extinction of an unpleasant but not irrational doubt, I would forthwith
perform the exploration, and if possible obtain tangible proof that the
poet’s skull had not been removed from its resting-place.

But the exploration, if successful, would have a bearing upon more
material issues.  The most opposite judgments have been passed upon the
Bust, both as a work of art and as a copy of nature.  Landor, whose
experience of Italian art was considerable, recorded it as his opinion,
that it was the noblest head ever sculptured; while Mr. Hain Friswell
depreciated it, declaring it to be “rudely cut and heavy, without any
feeling, a mere block”: smooth and round like a boy’s marble. {33}  After
some of Mr. Friswell’s deliverances, I am not disposed to rank his
judgment very high; and I accept Lander’s decision.  As to the finish of
the face, Mr. Fairholt’s criticism is an exaggeration, successfully
exposed by Mr. Friswell.  My own opinion, _telle quelle_, has been
already printed. {34}  Allowing the bust to have been a recognisable, if
not a staring likeness of the poet, I said and still say—“How awkward is
the _ensemble_ of the face!  What a painful stare, with its goggle eyes
and gaping mouth!  The expression of this face has been credited with
_humour_, _bonhommie_ and _jollity_.  To me it is decidedly _clownish_;
and is suggestive of a man crunching a sour apple, or struck with
amazement at some unpleasant spectacle.  Yet there is force in the
lineaments of this muscular face.”   The large photograph of the Monument
lately issued by the _New Shakspere Society_, as well as those more
successful issues of Mr. Thrupp’s studio, fully bears out this judgment.
But the _head_, as Landor said, is noble.  Without accepting the
suggestion that the sculptor had met with an accident to the nose, and
had, in consequence, to lengthen the upper lip, I think it self-evident
that there is some little derangement of natural proportions in those
features; the nose, especially, being ill-formed and undersized for the
rest of the face.  If we had but Shakespeare’s skull before us, most of
these questions would be set at rest for ever.

Among the relics once religiously preserved in the Kesselstadt collection
at Mayence was a plaster mask, having at the back the year of
Shakespeare’s death.  This relic had been in that collection time out of
mind, and seems always to have been received as a cast from the
“flying-mould” of Shakespeare’s dead face.  With this was a small
oil-painting of a man crowned with bays, lying on a state bier; of which,
by the kindness of Mr. J. Parker Norris of Philadelphia, I am able to
give the admirable engraving which forms the frontispiece to this little
volume.  On the death of Count and Canon Francis von Kesselstadt, at
Mayence, in 1843, the family museum was broken up, and its contents
dispersed.  No more was seen or heard of either of the two relics
described, till 1847, when the painting was purchased by an artist named
Ludwig Becker; and after some months of unremitting search he discovered
the Death-Mask in a broker’s shop, and this he bought in 1849.  The
purchaser is dead: but both these relics are in the Grand Ducal Museum at
Darmstadt, and belong to its curator, Dr. Ernst Becker, Ludwig’s brother.
I have inspected both with the keenest interest; and I am of opinion that
the painting is not after the mask.  The date, 1637, which it bears, led
Dr. Schaafhausen to think that it was intended for Ben Jonson; a view to
some extent borne out by the portrait of Ben in the Dulwich Gallery. {35}
By others, however, it is believed to be a fancy portrait of Shakespeare,
based upon the Death-Mask.  Now the Bust was believed to have been
sculptured after a death-mask.  Is the Becker Mask that from which Gerard
Johnson worked?  If so, there must have been a fatal accident indeed to
the nose; for the nose of the mask is a long and finely arched one: the
upper lip is shorter than that of the bust, and the forehead is more

Of the many alleged portraits of Shakespeare there are but two whose
pedigree stretches back into the seventeenth century, and is lost in
obscurity there.  The origin of the vast majority of the claimants is
only too well known, or shrewdly suspected: these are (1) copies, more or
less unfaithful, of older pictures; (2) idealised portraits, based upon
such older ones, or upon the Bust; (3) genuine portraits of unknown
persons, valued for some slight or imaginary resemblance to the Bust, or
to such older portraits, or for having passed as Shakespeare’s, and thus
offering the means of selling dear what had been bought cheap; (4)
impostures.  As I am not writing an essay upon the portraits, I will
merely mention in the order of their importance the few claimants whose
title merits the least consideration.

I.—The Droeshout engraving, prefixed to the first collective edition of
the Poet’s works, published in 1623: _i.e._, the print in its early

II.—The so-called Janssen portrait (on wood) in the collection of the
Duke of Somerset.  This has been traced back to 1761, when it was
purchased by Charles Jennens, Esq., of Gopsall.  Its identity with the
portrait which was purchased for the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon in 1809
is, at least, highly probable.  In 1811 Woodburn published the first
engraving from it, and stated that the picture had belonged to Prince
Rupert, who left it to Mrs. E. S. Howes on his death in 1682.  No actual
proof of this was given, nor did Woodburn mention Jennens’ ownership.

III.—The Croker portrait.  We have it on the authority of Boaden that
this portrait, which he said was the property of the Right Hon. J. Wilson
Croker, was a replica of the Janssen.  There was a mystery, not in the
least cleared up, concerning these two pictures and their history.  I am
unable to ascertain who at present owns the later one.  Collectors of the
prints can always distinguish between the two.  The only engraving of the
Croker portrait was by R. Cooper; published January 1, 1824, by G.
Smeeton, and is an oval in a shaded rectangle.  All the rest are either
from the Janssen, or from Dunkarton’s engraving of it. {37}

IV.—The Chandos portrait (on wood) in the National Portrait Gallery at
South Kensington.  It has been traced back to 1668, when, on Davenant’s
death, it passed to John Otway: but not in its present or even late

V.—The Lumley portrait, well known through the admirable
chromo-lithograph, by Mr. Vincent Brooks (which is scarcely
distinguishable from the original), and once sold for forty guineas as
the original portrait.  It has been traced back to 1785.

VI.—The Ashbourne portrait.

VII.—The Felton portrait (on wood), traced back to 1792.

VIII.—The Challis portrait (on wood).

IX.—The Hunt portrait: at the Birthplace.  This is not in its original
state, and cannot be judged-of apart from a copy of it in the possession
of John Rabone, Esq., of Birmingham.

Of these III, VI, and VIII have not been satisfactorily traced back even
into the last century.

Beyond question, after the Bust and the Droeshout engraving, the Janssen
portrait has the greatest value.  Unfortunately the Chandos, even if its
history be as stated, is of very little real value: for it has been so
often repaired or “restored,” and is at present in such a dilapidated
condition, that it cannot be relied upon as a portrait.  Moreover it
bears but little resemblance to the admirable drawing from it in its
former state, made by Ozias Humphreys in the year 1783.  This drawing is
an exceedingly fine work of art, to which even Scriven’s print, good as
it is, scarcely does justice.  To compare Humphreys’ drawing, which hangs
in the Birthplace, and is its most valuable portrait, with Samuel
Cousin’s fine mezzotint of the Chandos, engraved forty years ago, is to
be convinced that the existing picture no longer represents the
man—whosoever he may have been—from whom it was painted.  How many
questions, affecting the Bust, the Death-Mask, and these portraits, would
be set at rest by the production of Shakespeare’s skull!

The late Mr. William Page, the American sculptor, whose interest in
testing the identity of the Kesselstadt Death-Mask, by comparing it with
Shakespeare’s skull, was in 1874–5 incomparably greater than that of any
other interested person, comes _very near_ the expression of a wish for
the exhumation of the skull. {39}  But he had not the courage to express
that wish, and after the passage which I am about to quote, abruptly
changes the subject.  He says, “The man who wrote the four lines [of
epitaph] which have thus far secured his bones that rest which his
epitaph demands, omitted nothing likely to carry the whole plan into
effect.  The authorship of the epitaph cannot be doubted, unless another
man in England had the wit and wisdom to divine the loyal heart’s core of
its people, and touch it in the single appeal ‘for Jesus sake.’  Nothing
else has kept him out of Westminster [Abbey].  The style of the command
and curse are Shakespearian, and triumphant as any art of forethought in
his plays.”  Then follows on—without even the break of a paragraph—not
what naturally should have followed, and _must_ have been in Mr. Page’s
mind, but a citation of Chantrey and John Bell, as to the model from
which the Bust was made.  Possibly it is due to the omission of a
sentence, which once intervened between the remarks on the remains and
those which concern the Bust of Shakespeare, that we have now two totally
different matters in juxtaposition, and in the same paragraph.  In this
Death-Mask Mr. Page saw the reconciliation of the Bust, the Droeshout
print (in its best state), and the Chandos portrait.  I do not meddle
with that opinion, or the evidences upon which it rests.  But I have
inspected all the four: I have also seen Mr. Page’s life-size bronze
bust, and wish I had never seen it, or even a photograph of it, for it
destroyed for me a pleasant dream.

But whatever be the value of Mr. Page’s conclusion, or of his Bust, I
have no doubt that the value of his book lies in those accurate
“Dimensions of Shakespeare’s Mask,” which he took during his six days of
free access to the Grand Ducal Museum.  The measurements are on pp. 51–55
of his book, and may eventually be of the greatest possible use, if the
time should ever arrive when Shakespeare’s skull will be subjected to
similar measurement.  For myself, I am disposed to believe that no
mistaken sense of duty on the part of the Stratford authorities will long
be able to prevent that examination, if the skull be still in existence.


1.—HAWTHORNE, NATHANIEL, in “Recollections of a Gifted Woman,” in _Our
Old Home_ (reprinted from the _Atlantic Monthly_, January, 1863), records
Miss Delia Bacon’s project for exploring Shakespeare’s grave, and the
failure of her attempt through the irresolution occasioned by her fear of

2.—NORRIS, J. PARKER, in the New York _American Bibliopolist_, of April,
1876, vol. viii, p. 38, in the section entitled “Shakspearian Gossip”
[reprinted in the Philadelphia _Press_, August 4, 1876], seriously
proposes the exhumation of Shakespeare’s remains, and asks, “Is it not
worth making an effort to secure ‘the counterfeit presentment’ of him who
wrote ‘for all time’?  If we could even get a photograph of Shakspeare’s
skull it would be a great thing, and would help us to make a better
portrait of him than we now possess.”  His courageous article is
particularly useful for the adduction of cases in which corpses have lain
in the grave far longer than that of Shakespeare, and been discovered in
a state of comparative perfection.  What would one not give to look upon
Shakespeare’s dead face!

The letter of “a friend residing near Stratford,” from which he gives a
long extract, was from one of my present colleagues in the Shakespeare
Trust, viz.:

3.—TIMMINS, SAM., as quoted in the last recorded article, writes—“Some
graves of the Shakspeare date were opened at Church Lawford a few years
ago, and the figures, faces, and dresses were perfect, but, of course, in
half an hour were mere heaps of dust.  Shakspeare’s grave is near the
Avon, but doubtless he was buried well (in a leaden coffin probably), and
there is scarcely room for a doubt that, with proper precautions,
photographs of his face might be taken perfectly.  Surely the end does
justify the means here.  It is not to satisfy mere idle curiosity.  It is
not mere relic-mongering; it is simply to secure for posterity what we
could give—an exact representation of the great poet as he lived and
died.  Surely this is justifiable, at least it is allowable, in the
absence of any authentic portrait.  Surely such a duty might be most
reverently done.  I doubt after all if it will be; but I am very strongly
in favour of the trial, and if no remains were found, no harm would be
done, the ‘curse’ to the contrary notwithstanding.  People who have pet
projects about portraits would not like to have all their neat and
logical arguments knocked on the head, but where _should_ we _all_ be if
no Shakspeare at all were found, but only a bundle of musty old MSS. in
Lord Bacon’s ‘fine Roman hand’?  After all, I am rather nervous about the
result of such an exhumation.  But, seriously, I see no reason why it
should not be made.  A legal friend here long ago suggested (humorously,
not professionally of course) that the ‘curse’ might be escaped by
employing a woman (‘cursed be _he_’) and women would compete for the

4.—Anonymous Article in _The Birmingham Daily Mail_, of August 23, 1876,
headed “Shakspeare’s _Carte de Visite_.”  This is strongly adverse to Mr.
Norris’s proposals.  The writer inclines to believe that the “friend
residing near Stratford” was “a fiction of the Mrs. Harris type,” or
“possibly a modest way of evading the praise which would be the meed of
the brilliant genius who originated the project”: both very random
guesses, and, as it turns out, wide of the mark.  The article ends thus:
“If Moses had been raised in Massachussetts he would have been wanted to
take a camera or some business-cards up Sinai.”  For our part, if we
shall be so fortunate as to find Shakespeare alive in his grave, we shall
of course raise him, and invite him to coöperate in the business of
photographing his own shining face.  But we are not so sanguine as to
expect that miracle, though almost as great wonders have been done by the
power of this magician.  But where is the “triple curse” with which,
according to this authority, “that gravestone is weighted”?  Quite
another view of the inscription is given by Lord Ronald Gower, _infra._

5.—Anonymous Article in the London _Daily Telegraph_, of August 24, 1876:
also strongly adverse to Mr. Norris.

6.—SCHAAFHAUSEN, HERMANN, in the _Jahrbuch_, or Annual, of the German
Shakespeare Society, vol. x, 1875, asks: “Should we be afraid to rely on
this evidence [agreement of Mask with known portraits, &c.], there is an
easy way of settling the question.  We can dig up Shakespeare’s skull,
and compare the two.  True, this may seem to offend against the letter of
the epitaph


But there is no desecration in entrusting the noble remains of the poet
to the enquiring eye of science; which will but learn something new from
them, and place beyond doubt the value of another precious relic of him,
and then restore them to the quiet of the grave.”—(From the Tr. N. S. S.,
1875–76.  Appendix v.)

7.—Anonymous Article, in the _Birmingham Daily Post_ of September 29,
1877, headed “General Grant at Stratford-upon-Avon,” in the course of
which Dr. Collis, the Vicar of the church there, is reported to have made
some indignant remarks upon Mr. Parker Norris’s article.  “Having dilated
upon the cool presumption of the author of the letter [article], Dr.
Collis continued, that persons proposing such an experiment would have to
walk over his prostrate body before they did it; adding that the writer
even forgot to say, ‘if you please.’”  The American party, however, do
not appear to have seen the matter from Mr. Collis’s point of view.

8.—Anonymous Article, in the _Birmingham Town Crier_ of November, 1877; a
skit upon Mr. Collis’s foolish speech.  Beyond this censure, however,
_nil de mortuo_.  It is to be regretted that the worthy Vicar’s remains
were not buried in the church, so that persons approaching the grave with
a laudable purpose might meet the reverend gentleman’s views, and “walk
over his prostrate body.”

9.—Shakespearian, A, in the _Birmingham Daily Post_ of October 10, 1877,
writes a sensible letter, taking Mr. Parker Norris’s side of the

10.—Anonymous Article in the New York _Nation_, of May 21, 1878, in which
we read: “Is it sacrilegious to ask whether it is wholly impossible to
verify the supposition that the Stratford bust is from a death-mask?
Would not the present age permit a tender and reverential scientific
examination of the grave of Shakespeare?”

11.—Anonymous Article in the _Atlantic Monthly_, of June, 1878, in the
section entitled “The Contributors’ Club,” where it is said—“Since the
time seems to have come when a man’s expression of his wishes with regard
to what is to be done after his death is violently and persistently
opposed by all who survive him, is it not a good opportunity to suggest
that perhaps respect has been paid for a long enough time to the doggerel
over Shakespeare’s grave?


When we consider how little we know of the great poet, and the
possibility of finding something more by an examination of his tomb, it
seems as if, with proper care, an investigation might be made that would
possibly reward the trouble.”  The writer concludes thus—“Is it not
advisable, then, to avoid waiting till it is too late?  That is to say,
unless, as I may fear, it is too late already.”

12.—Warwickshire Man, A, in the _Argosy_, of Oct., 1879, in an article
entitled, “How Shakespeare’s Skull was Stolen.”  The _vraisemblance_ of
this narrative is amazing.  But for the poverty of the concluding
portion, which is totally out of keeping with the foregoing part, one
might almost accept this as a narrative of fact.

13.—GOWER, RONALD, in the _Antiquary_, of August, 1880, vol. ii, p. 63,
“The Shakespeare Death-Mask,” concludes thus—“But how, may it be asked,
can proof ever be had that this mask is actually that of Shakespeare?
Indeed it can never be proved unless such an impossibility should occur
as that a jury of matrons should undertake to view the opened grave at
Stratford; they at any rate would not need to fear the curse that is
written above his grave—for it says, ‘Cursed be _he_ (and not _she_), who
stirs that sacred dust.’”  This is a ‘new version’ of the time-honoured
line.  I note too that Lord Ronald reproduces the “legal friend’s” joke
in Mr. Parker Norris’s article.  But I do not say he ever saw it.

14.—HALLIWELL-PHILLIPPS, J. O., in his _Outlines of the Life of
Shakespeare_, 1st edition, 1881, p. 86: 2nd edition, 1882, p. 172: 3rd
edition, 1883, p. 233: writes thus—

“The nearest approach to an excavation into the grave of Shakespeare was
made in the summer of the year 1796, in digging a vault in the immediate
locality, when an opening appeared which was presumed to indicate the
commencement of the site of the bard’s remains.  The most scrupulous
care, however, was taken not to disturb the neighbouring earth in the
slightest degree, the clerk having been placed there, until the brickwork
of the adjoining vault was completed, to prevent any one making an
examination.  No relics whatever were visible through the small opening
that thus presented itself, and as the poet was buried in the ground, not
in a vault, the chancel earth, moreover, formerly absorbing a large
degree of moisture, the great probability is that dust alone remains.
This consideration may tend to discourage an irreverent opinion expressed
by some, that it is due to the interests of science to unfold to the
world the material abode which formerly held so great an intellect.”  Mr.
Halliwell-Phillipps has more faith in the alleged precaution than I have.
Surely a needy clerk, with an itching palm, would be no match for a
relic-hunter.  May we not here read between the lines, _q. d._, ‘to allow
any one to make free with the masonry and explore the sacred dust?’

15.—Anonymous Article in the _Birmingham Daily Gazette_, of December 17,
1880, headed “Excavations in the Church and Churchyard of
Stratford-upon-Avon.”  This repeats, on the authority of Washington
Irving’s _Sketch Book_, the story recorded by Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps.
It is an alarmist article, censuring the Vicar’s excavations, which were
made indeed with a laudable purpose, but without the consent, or even the
knowledge, of the Lay Impropriators of the Church.

16.—Anonymous Article in the Cincinnati _Commercial Gazette_, of May 26,
1883, headed “Shakspeare at Home,” where it is said “Nor should they [the
antiquarians of England] rest until they have explored Shakspeare’s tomb.
That this should be prevented by the doggerel engraved upon it, is
unworthy of a scientific age.  I have heard it suggested that if any
documents were buried with Shakspeare, they would, by this time, have
been destroyed by the moisture of the earth, but the grave is
considerably above the level of the Avon, as I observed to-day, and even
any traces connected with the form of the poet would be useful.  His
skull if still not turned to dust, should be preserved in the Royal
College of Surgeons, as the apex of the climbing series of skeletons,
from the microscopic to the divine.”

17.—INGLEBY, C. M., _Shakespeare’s Bones_, June, 1883, being the
foregoing essay.

                                * * * * *

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                  Printed by ROBERT BIRBECK, Birmingham.


{1a}  The corrigenda has been applied to this eBook.  For example, in the
book this phrase is “and its ancient tombs” but is corrected in the
corrigenda to “and our ancient tombs”.  DP.

{1b}  See _The Times_, July 14 and August 8, 1881.

{2}  Jordan’s Meeting-house, near Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks.  See _The
Times_, July 20, 1881.

{19}  _The Life of Milton_.  London:  1699.  P. 149.

{20}  _Morning Chronicle_, March 18, 1799.

{21a}  See _Notes and Queries_, 1st S., xi, 496, and xii, 75.

{21b}  See _Notes and Queries_, 1st S., xi, 496, and xii, 75.

{22}  _An Account of what appeared on opening the Coffin of King Charles
the First in the vault of Henry VIII_, _in_ [_the Tomb House_,] _St.
George’s Chapel_, _Windsor_, _on the First of April_, _MDCCCXIII_.

{23}  It appears that the examiners omitted to utilize this unctuous mask
for the purpose of taking a plaster cast: a default which, as we shall
see, has been paralleled by those who conducted other examinations of the

{24}  _Works of Robert Burns_: Bohn, 1842.

{26}  Prefatory Notice to Cunningham’s larger edition of Ben Jonson’s
Works, pp. xviii-xx.  For other examples, see _God’s Acre_, by Mrs.
Stone, 1858, chapter xiv, and _Notes and Queries_, 6th S., vii, 161.

{27a}  2nd S., viii, 354.

{27b}  _Ibid_, ix, 132.

{29}  The case of Dante has been recently alluded to, as if it were one
of exhumation.  But despite the efforts of the Florentines to recover the
remains of their great poet, they still rest at Ravenna, in the grave in
which they were deposited immediately after his death.

{31}  _Traditionary Anecdotes of Shakespeare_.  1883, p. 11.

{32}  _Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare_.  3rd edition, 1883, p. 223.

{33}  _Life Portraits of Shakespeare_.  1864, p. 10.

{34}  _Shakespeare_: _The Man and The Book_.  _Part I_, p. 79.

{35}  As to this, see an article contributed by me to _The Antiquary_ for
September, 1880: also the _Shakespeare Jahrbuch_, vol. x, 1875, for Dr.
Schaafhausen’s views.

{37}  There is no engraving by “Dunbar”: that name was Friswell’s mistake
for Dunkarton.  Boaden’s “absolute fac-simile” and “no difference
whatever,” (_Inquiry_, 1. p., page 137) are expressions not borne out by
the engravings.  My old friend, the Rev. Charles Evans, Rector of
Solihull, who possesses the almost unrivalled Marsh Collection of
Engraved Portraits of Shakespeare, at my request compared Cooper’s
engraving of the Croker portrait with those by Dunkarton, Earlom, and
Turner, of the Janssen: and he writes: “In the Cooper the face is peaked,
the beard more pointed, and the ruff different in the points.”  After
all, such differences may well be the creation of the engravers.  I would
fain know where the Croker portrait now is; and also that which belonged
to the late Dr. Turton, Bishop of Ely.

{39}  _A Study of Shakespeare’s Portraits_.  1876, p. 23.

{45}  This is exactly as it stands upon the existing gravestone, not as
it is reproduced by the writer in the _Atlantic Monthly_: the like as to
the two lines of the epitaph in No. 6.  The manuscript of Dowdall,
referred to on p. 31 _ante_, is unfortunately modernized in _Traditionary
Anecdotes_.  He has, indeed ‘friend,’ and ‘these,’ as in the pamphlet
version, but also ‘digg,’ and ‘inclosed.’  Dowdall, however, was a very
inaccurate copyist.  See fac-simile in Mr. J. O. Halliwell’s Folio
Shakespeare, vol. i, inserted between pp. 78 and 79.  The Dowdall
manuscript does not give the epitaph in capitals, except the initials.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Shakespeare's Bones
 - The Proposal to Disinter Them, Considered in Relation to Their Possible Bearing on His Portraiture: Illustrated by Instances of Visits of the Living to the Dead" ***

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