Obrázky stránek

been thoroughly grounded in the ancient tongues, from desuetude in the progress of life, he probably found them daily more difficult; and hence, doubtless, indolence led him rather to English translations, than the original authors, of whose works he wished to avail himself in his dramatic compositions : on which occasion he was certainly too careless minutely to examine whether particular passages were faithfully rendered or not. That such a mind as his was not idle or incurious, and that at this period of his life he perused several of the easier Latin classics, cannot reasonably be doubted; though, perhaps, he never attained a facility of reading those authors, with whom he had not been familiarly acquainted at school. He needed not however, as Dryden has well observed, the spectacles of books' to read men: there can be no doubt, that even from his youth he was a curious and diligent observer of the manners and characters, not only of his young associates, but of all around him; a study, in which, unquestionably, he took great delight, and pursued with avidity during the whole course of his future life. Fuller, who was 'a diligent and accurate inquirer, has given us, in his Worthies, printed in 1662, the most full and express opinion on the subject. • He was an eminent instance,' he remarks,of the truth of that rule, poëta non fit, sed nascitur ; one is not made, but born a poet. Indeed his learning was very little; so that as Cornish diamonds are not polished by any lapidary, but are pointed and smoothed even as they are taken out of the earth ; so nature itself was all the art which was used on him.'

It is generally admitted that Shakspeare was withdrawn from school at a very early age, to direct his attention to his father's business, in order that he might assist in warding off from his family the menacing approach of poverty. Mr. Malone, however, conjectures that he was placed in the office of some country attorney, after leaving school, or with the seneschal of some manor court, where he acquired those technical law phrases that so frequently occur in his plays, and could not have been in common use unless among professional men. But whatever doubts there may be as to his employment on leaving school, it is certain that Shakspeare married and became the father of a family at a very early period; at a period, indeed, when most young men, even in his own days, had only completed their school education; for an entry in the Stratford register mentions, that •Susanna, daughter of William Shakspeare, was baptised May 26th, 1583,' when he was only nineteen years of age. His wife was Anne Hathaway, the daughter of Richard Hathaway, a substantial yeoman, residing at Shottery, a village near Stratford. It appears also from the tombstone of his widow in the church of Strat

[subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][merged small]

1. from Deed of sale Mar.10.1612 3.onflyleaf of Florio's trans. of Montaigne's Essay: 100.3. in Brr. M 1! - Mortgage.de do 11 do. 4.5.6. form three priofis nf his Hill in the prereg Ct.

ford, that she must have been born in 1556, and was therefore eight years older than her husband, to whom she brought three children, Susanna, Judith, and Hamnet; the last two being twins, who were baptised February 2d, 1584-5.

Shakspeare was now, to all appearance, settled in the country; he was carrying on his own and his father's business; he was married, and had a family around him ; a situation, in which the comforts of domestic privacy might be predicted within his reach, but which augured little of that splendid destiny, that universal fame and unparalleled celebrity, which awaited his future career.

Shortly after the birth of his youngest children, our author quitted Stratford for the metropolis : his motive for taking this step must be admitted to be involved in considerable obscurity. We are informed by Rowe, that he had, by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company; and amongst them, some that made a frequent practice of deer-stealing, engaged him more than once in robbing a park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote, near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, somewhat too severely; and in order to revenge that ill usage,

he made a ballad on him: and though this, probably the first essay of his poetry, is lost, yet it is said to have been so very bitter, that it re

« PředchozíPokračovat »