John Stubbs

What The Bailiff Saw

Shakespeare: Upstart Crow to Sweet Swan, 1592–1623

By

Arden Shakespeare 301pp £55 order from our bookshop

One day in February 1637, a party of bailiffs knocked on the door of New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon, a fine townhouse and the home of the widow Susanna Hall. Mistress Hall, née Shakespeare, was the daughter of the playwright and businessman who had bought the house long before, and whose posthumous fame was already gathering. The bailiffs had no interest, however, in this prior owner. They had come to bother Susanna for debts left by her husband, a respected physician who had failed to settle his affairs. Their visit was a baleful moment for future Shakespearean scholars, as the good men concluded their visit by removing a now tantalising collection of ‘Divers bookes boxes Deskes, moneyes bonds bills and other goods of great value’. Indeed, their historical worth now would be incalculable. For surely tied up somewhere among those books and boxes (a ‘desk’ was a small chest for money and precious bits and pieces) were the family and personal papers of William Shakespeare.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Why did the 'bold and determined' Empress Matilda never manage to become Queen regnant? Peter Marshall reviews a n… ,
    • From the Archive: Martyn Bedford on Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' ,
    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,