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No feeling appears more universal, and natural to the mind of man, than that which transfers an admiration of works of genius into an inquiry respecting the mind whence they emanated; and seldom has curiosity been less gratified than in its researches into the biography of the greatest genius ever known in dramatic poetry. But little more than two centuries have elapsed since the death of our author, and almost as much is ascertained of the private life of Homer, as can now be gleaned of WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, of whom little more can be learned, save that he lived and died, and was buried in his native town: yet his talents appear to have been highly appreciated by his contemporaries, and still more so by his immediate successors : and it might
well be imagined, that interest or affection would have induced some of these to collect every material connected with his life, which his surviving relatives would without doubt have been willing to communicate.
It is much to be regretted that no attempt of this kind was made before the year 1709, when an edition of Shakspeare was undertaken by Mr. Nicholas Rowe, the dramatic poet, to which he prefixed some biographical particulars, which were communicated by Betterton, the celebrated player, who had visited Warwickshire in order to obtain them : but too long a period had now elapsed : most of the circumstances of the poet's private life were irrecoverably lost, and the inquiries of the tragedian were comparatively unsuccessful. A few traditional anecdotes, trivial in themselves, and unsupported by sufficient evidence, were indeed procured, and learned men have since added to the number of these scanty materials, the most authentic of which we now present to the reader. Perhaps the obscurity in which the circumcumstances of our author's life are involved shed a sublimity and halo round his magic name, which a more detailed narrative might fail to have afforded.
William Shakspeare, the son of John and Mary Shakspeare, - was born at Stratford-on-Avon, in Warwickshire, on the 23rd of April, 1564, and was baptised on the 26th of the same month. His fa
mily,' says Mr. Rowe, as appears by the register and public writings relating to that town, were of good figure and fashion there, and are mentioned as gentlemen. Certain it is that the family of Shakspeare is of great antiquity in the county of Warwick, where it was established long before our author's time : we may presume, however, that the patrimony of Mr. John Shakspeare, the father of our dramatist, was insufficient for the support of his family, independent of trade. He was, in fact, a wool-stapler; and it may be conjectured that during the former part of his life he was in prosperous circumstances, since we find that he was early chosen a member of the corporation of Stratford, and shortly after high bailiff or chief magistrate, now distinguished by the title of mayor.
This office he filled in 1569, as appears by the following extracts from the books of the corporation :
*. Jan. 10. in the sixth year of the reign of our sovereign lady, Queen Elizabeth, John Shakspeare passed his chamberlain's accounts.'
At the hall holden the eleventh day of September, in the eleventh year of the reign of our sovereign lady, Queen Elizabeth, 1569, were present Mr. John Shakspeare, high bailiff.'
During the period that he filled this office he first ontained a grant of arms; and, in a note annexed to the subsequent patent of 1596, now in the Col.