PLATE XVIII

SHAKESPEARE’S GLOVES

 

A PAIR of grey buckskin gloves with gold thread embroidery; the gauntlets have a gold fringe sewn on to an edging of pale pink silk. The gloves measure a total length of 14 inches, the bottom of the gauntlets being 7 inches across, while at the wrists they are 4¼ inches.

These precious relics are the property of Dr. Horace Furness, of Wallingford, Pennsylvania, who gives the following very interesting letters relating to their history

(From John Ward to David Garrick.)

                                    “LEOMINSTER,
                                                          “May 31st, 1769.

“DEAR SIR,—On reading the newspapers, I find you are preparing a Grand Jubilee, to be kept at Stratford-upon-Avon, to the memory of the immortal Shakespeare. I have sent you a pair of gloves which have often covered his hands ; they were made me a present by a descendant of the family, when myself and Company went over there from Warwick, in the year 1746, to perform the play of Othello, and a benefit, for repairing his monument in the Great Church, which we did gratis, the whole of the receipts being expended on that alone. The Person who gave them to me, William Shakespeare by name, assured me his father had often declared to him, they were the identical gloves of our great poet; and when he delivered them to me, said, ‘Sir, these are the only property that remains to our famous relation; my father possessed, and sold, the estate he left behind him, and these are all the recompense I can make you for this night’s performance.’ The donor was a glazier by trade, very old and, to the best of my memory, lived in the street leading from the Town Hall down to the river. On my coming to play in Stratford about three years after, he was dead. The father of him and our poet were brother’s children. The veneration I bear to the memory of our great author and player, makes me wish to have these relics preserved to his immortal memory; and I am led to think that I cannot deposit them, for that purpose, in the hands of any person so proper as our modern Roscius.

 “I am, Sir,
                                                        “Your most humble servant,

“(To) Mr. David Garrick.”                                                                                                     “JOHN WARD.

On the death of Garrick the gloves passed to his widow, who died in 1822, whose will contained the following bequest: “I give to Mrs. Siddons a pair of gloves which were Shakespeare’s, and were presented by one of his family to my late dear husband, during the Jubilee at Stratford-upon-Avon.” (Mrs. Garrick has evidently forgotten that John Ward gave them to her husband.)

Mrs. Siddons bequeathed them to her daughter, Mrs. George Combe, by whom they were given to Mrs. Kemble, and by this ever dear and gracious lady to their present possessor.

(F. A. Kemble to Dr. Horace Furness.)

                                                          “17 January, 1874.

“My DEAR HORACE (in spite of your literary labours and honours you must be such to me) ,—The worship of Relics is not the most exalted form of human devotion, but the meanest garment that ever has but clipped one whom we love and revere becomes in some measure dear and venerable to us for his sake, and so we may be permitted to keep Shakespeare’s gloves with affectionate regard. As these were in Garrick’s Collection, and given by Mrs. Garrick to my Aunt, they may be genuine, and I offer them to you as a token of the great pleasure it has given me to see your name upon the American Variorum Edition of Shakespeare. Among my books and papers I think I have a few ‘remains’ of John Kemble and Mrs. Siddons which I shall feel happy in placing in your hands. You will value them for your own sake and perhaps a little for that of your old friend.

“F. A. KEMBLE.

“P.S.—The gloves are in the box in which Mrs. George Combe (Cecilia Siddons) gave them to me.”

The gloves are now in America, in the possession of Dr. Horace Howard Furness.