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lege of Arms, it is stated that he was likewise a justice of the peace, and possessed of lands and tenements to the amount of 5001.
Our author's mother was the daughter and heiress of R. Arden, of Wellingcote, in the county of Warwick, who, in the manuscript above referred to, is called “a gentleman of worship.' This family appears to have been of considerable antiquity, R. Arden, of Bromwich, Esq. being recorded in Fuller's Worthies, among the names of the gentry of this county returned by the commissioners in the twelfth year of Henry VI, A. D. 1433. E. Arden was sheriff for the county in 1568. In consequence of this marriage, Mr. John Shakspeare and his posterity were allowed, by the college of heralds, to impale their arms with the ancient arms of the Ardens of Wellingcote.
Although the father of Shakspeare, at the period of his marriage, appears to have been in easy if not affluent circumstances, an unfavorable change in his prospects may be inferred, because he was excused, in 1579, the weekly payment of 4d., and dismissed the corporation in 1586, as appears from the books, where it is stated that
At the hall holden November 19th, in the twenty-first year of the reign of our sovereign lady, Queen Elizabeth, it is ordained, that every alderman shall be taxed to pay weekly 4d., saving J. Shak
speare and R. Bruce, who shall not be taxed to pay any thing; and every burgess to pay 2d.'
At the hall holden on the sixth day of September, in the twenty-eighth year of our sovereign lady, Queen Elizabeth: at this hall W. Smith and R. Courte are chosen to be aldermen, in the places of J. Wheler and J. Shakspeare, for that Mr. Wheler doth desire to be put out of the company, and Mr. Shakspeare doth not come to the halls, when they be warned, nor hath not done of a long time.'
Little more than two months had passed over the head of the infant Shakspeare, when the plague, which in that and the preceding year was so fatal to England, broke out at Stratford-on-Avon, and raged with such violence between the 30th of June and the last day of December, that a seventh part of the population were carried off by the disorder. Fortunately for mankind, it did not reach the house where the infant Shakspeare lay; for not one of that name appears in the dead list.
It appears impossible to ascertain at what period Shakspeare was sent by his father to the free-school at Stratford, where he received his education. Of his school-days, unfortunately, no account whatever has come down to us : we are, therefore, unable to mark his gradual advancement, or to point out the early presages of future renown, which his extraordinary parts must have afforded. Were our poet's
early history accurately known, it would unquestionably furnish us with many indications of that genius, which afterwards rendered him the admiration of the whole civilised world.
Although we know not how long he continued at school, or what proficiency he made there, we may, with the highest probability, assume, that he acquired a competent, though perhaps not a profound knowlege of the Latin language: for why should it be supposed that he, who surpassed all mankind in his maturer years, made less proficiency than his fellows in his youth, while he had the benefit of instructors equally skilful ? Even Ben Jonson, who undoubtedly was inclined rather to depreciate than overrate his rival's literary talents, allows that he knew some Latin. In the school of Stratford, therefore, we see no reason to suppose that Shakspeare was outstripped by his contemporaries. Dr. Farmer indeed has proved by unanswerable arguments that he was furnished by translations with most of those topics, which for half a century had been urged as indisputable proofs of his erudition. But though his Essay is decisive in this respect, it by no means proves that he had not acquired, at the school of Stratford, a moderate knowlege of Latin, though, perhaps, he never attained such a mastery of that language as' to read it without the occasional aid of a dictionary. Like many other scholars who have not