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was his eldest son, he could give him no better education than his own employment. He had bred him, it is true, for some time at a free-school,* where, it is probable, he acquired what Latin he was master of: but the narrowness of his circumstances, and the want of his assistance at home, forced his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that language. It is without controversy, that in his works we scarce find any traces of any thing that looks like an imitation of the ancients. The delicacy of his taste, and the
"At the Hall holden the eleventh day of September, in the cleventh year of the reign of our sovereign lady Elizabeth, 1569, were present Mr. John Shakspeare, High Bailiff" [Then follow the names of the Aldermen and Burgesses.]
"At the Hall holden Nov. 19th, in the 21st year of the reign of our sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth, it is ordained, that every Alderman shall be taxed to pay weekly 4d. saving John Shakspeare and Robert Bruce, who shall not be taxed to pay any thing; and every Burgess to pay 2d."
"At the Hall holden on the 6th day of September, in the 28th year of our sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth.
"At this Hall William Smith and Richard Courte are chosen to be Aldermen in the places of John Wheler, and John 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 long time."
From these extracts it may be collected, (as is observed by the gentleman above-mentioned, to whose obliging attention to my inquiries I am indebted for many particulars relative to our poet's family,) that Mr. John Shakspeare in the former part of his life was in good circumstances, such persons being generally chosen into the corporation; and from his being excused [in 1579] to pay 4d. weekly, and at a subsequent period (1586) put out of the corporation, that he was then reduced in his circum
It appears from a note to W. Dethick's Grant of Arms to him in 1596, now in the College of Arms, Vincent, Vol. 157, p. 24, that he was a justice of the peace, and possessed of lands and tenements to the amount of 5001.
Our poet's mother was the daughter and heir of Robert Arden of Wellingcote, in the county of Warwick, who, in the MS. above referred to, is called "a gentleman of worship." The family of Arden is a very ancient one; Robert Arden of Bromwich, Esq. being in the list of the gentry of this county, returned by the commissioners in the twelfth year of King Henry VI, A. D. 1433. Edward Arden was Sheriff of the county in 1568.-The woodland part of this county was anciently called Ardern; afterwards softened to Arden. Hence the name. Malone.
* He had bred him, it is true, for some time at a free-school,] The free-school, I presume, founded at Stratford. Theobald.
natural bent of his own great genius, (equal, if not superior, to some of the best of theirs,) would certainly have led him to read and study them with so much pleasure, that some of their fine images would naturally have insinuated themselves into, and been mixed with his own writings; so that his not copying at least something from them, may be an argument of his never having read them. Whether his ignorance of the ancients were a disadvantage to him or no, may admit of a dispute: for though the knowledge of them might have made him more correct, yet it is not improbable but that the regularity and deference for them, which would have attended that correctness, might have restrained some of that fire, impetuosity, and even beautiful extravagance, which we admire in Shakspeare: and I believe we are better pleased with those thoughts, altogether new and uncommon, which his own imagination supplied him so abundantly with, than if he had given us the most beautiful passages out of the Greek and Latin poets, and that in the most agreeable manner that it was possible for a master of the English language to deliver them.
Upon his leaving school, he seems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father proposed to him;* and in order to settle in the world after a family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway,‡ said to have been a substantial yeoman in
into that way of living which his father proposed to him;] I believe, that on leaving school Shakspeare was placed in the office of some country attorney, or the seneschal of some manor court. Malone.
t he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young.] It is certain he did so; for by the monument in Stratford church erected to the memory of his daughter, Susanna, the wife of John Hall, gentleman, it appears, that she died on the 2d of July, 1649, aged 66: so that she was born in 1583, when her father could not be full 19 years old. Theobald.
Susanna, who was our poet's eldest child, was baptized, May 26, 1583. Shakspeare therefore, having been born in April, 1564, was nineteen the month preceding her birth, Mr. Theobald was mistaken in supposing that a monument was erected to her in the church of Stratford. There is no memorial there in honour of either our poet's wife or daughter, except flat tomb-stones, by which, however, the time of their respective deaths is ascertained. His daughter, Susanna, died, not on the second, but the eleventh of July, 1649. Theobald was led into this error by Dugdale. Malone.
His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway,] She was eight years older than her husband, and died in 1623, at the age of 67 years. Theobald.
The following is the inscription on her tomb-stone in the church of Stratford:
the neighbourhood of Stratford. In this kind of settlement he continued for some time, till an extravagance that he was guilty of forced him out of his country and that way of living which he had taken up; and though it seemed at first to be a blemish upon his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily proved the occasion of exerting one of the greatest geniuses that ever was known in dramatick poetry. 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 upon him.* And though this, proba
"Here lyeth interred the body of ANNE, wife of William Shakespeare, who departed this life the 6th day of August, 1623, being of the age of 67 yeares."
After this inscription follow six Latin verses, not worth preserving. Malone.
in order to revenge that ill usage, he made a ballad upon him.] Mr. William Oldys, (Norroy King at Arms, and well known from the share he had in compiling the Biographia Britannica) among the collections which he left for a Life of Shakspeare, ob serves, that "there was a very aged gentleman living in the neighbourhood of Stratford, (where he died fifty years since) who had not only heard, from several old people in that town, of Shakspeare's transgression, but could remember the first stanza of that bitter ballad, which, repeating to one of his acquaintance, he preserved it in writing; and here it is neither better nor worse, but faithfully transcribed from the copy which his relation very courteously communicated to me:"
"A parliemente member, a justice of peace,
"At home a poor scare-crowe, at London an asse,
"Yet an asse in his state
"We allowe by his ears but with asses to mate.
Contemptible as this performance must now appear, at the time when it was written it might have had sufficient power to irritate a vain, weak, and vindictive magistrate; especially as it was affixed to several of his park-gates, and consequently published among his neighbours.—It may be remarked likewise, that the jingle on which it turns, occurs in the first scene of The Merry Wives of Windsor.
I may add, that the veracity of the late Mr. Oldys has never yet been impeached; and it is not very probable that a ballad
bly the first essay of his poetry, be lost, yet it is said to have been so very bitter, that it redoubled the prosecution against him to that degree, that he was obliged to leave his business and family in Warwickshire, for some time, and shelter himself in London.
It is at this time, and upon this accident, that he is said to have made his first acquaintance in the playhouse. He was received into the company then in being, at first in a very mean rank,* but his admirable wit, and the natural turn of it to the
should be forged, from which an undiscovered wag could derive no triumph over antiquarian credulity. Steevens.
According to Mr. Capell, this ballad came originally from Mr. Thomas Jones, who lived at Tarbick, a village in Worcestershire, about 18 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, and died in 1703, aged upwards of ninety. "He remembered to have heard from several old people at Stratford the story of Shakspeare's robbing Sir Thomas Lucy's park; and their account of it agreed with Mr. Rowe's, with this addition, that the ballad written against Sir Thomas Lucy by Shakspeare was stuck upon his park-gate, which exasperated the knight to apply to a lawyer at Warwick to proceed against him. Mr. Jones (it is added) put down in writing the first stanza of this ballad, which was all he remembered of it." In a note on the transcript with which Mr. Capell was furnished, it is said, that "the people of those parts pronounce lowsie like Lucy." They do so at this day in Scotland. Mr. Wilkes, grandson of the gentleman to whom Mr. Jones repeated the stanza, appears to have been the person who gave a copy of it to Mr. Oldys, and Mr. Capell.
In a manuscript History of the Stage, full of forgeries and falsehoods of various kinds written (I suspect by William Chetwood the prompter) some time between April 1727 and October 1730, is the following passage, to which the reader will give just as much credit as he thinks fit:
"Here we shall observe, that the learned Mr. Joshua Barnes, late Greek Professor of the University of Cambridge, baiting about forty years ago at an inn in Stratford, and hearing an old woman singing part of the above-said song, such was his respect for Mr. Shakspeare's genius, that he gave her a new gown for the two following stanzas in it; and, could she have said it all, he would (as he often said in company, when any discourse has casually arose about him) have given her ten guineas:
"Sir Thomas was too covetous,
"To covet so much deer,
"Most plainly did appear.
"Had not his worship one deer left?
"What then? He had a wife
"Took pains enough to find him horns
"Should last him during life." Malone.
stage, soon distinguished him, if not as an extraordinary actor, yet as an excellent writer. His name is printed, as the custom was in those times, amongst those of the other players, before some old plays, but without any particular account of what sort of parts he used to play; and though I have enquired, I could never meet with any further account of him this way, than that the top of his performance was the Ghost in his own Hamlet. I should have been much more pleased, to have learned from certain authority, which was the first play he wrote;t it would be without doubt a pleasure to any man, curious in things of this kind, to see and know what was the first essay of a fancy like Shakspeare's. Perhaps we are not to look for his beginnings, like those of other authors, among their least perfect writings; art had so little, and nature so large a share in what he did, that, for aught I know, the performance of his youth, as they were the most vigorous, and had the most fire and strength of imagination in them, were the best. I would not be thought by this to mean, that his fancy was so loose and extravagant, as to be independent on the rule and government of judgment; but that what he thought, was commonly so great, so justly and rightly conceived in itself, that it wanted little or no correction, and was immediately approved by an impartial judgment at the first sight. But though the order of time in which the several pieces were written be generally uncertain, yet there are passages in some few of them which seem to fix their dates. So the Chorus at the end of the fourth act of Henry the Fifth, by a compliment very handsomely turned to the Earl of Essex, shows the play to have been written when that lord was general for the Queen in Ireland; and his elogy upon Queen Elizabeth, and her successor King James, in the latter end of his Henry the Eighth, is a proof of that play's being written after the accession of the latter of those two princes to the crown of England. Whatever the particular times of his writing were, the people of his age, who began to grow wonderfully fond of diversions of this kind, could not but be highly pleased to see a genius arise among them of so pleasurable, so rich a vein, and so plentifully capable of furnishing their favourite entertainments. Besides the advantages of his wit, he was in himself a good-natured man, of great sweetness in his manners, and a most agreeable companion; so that
*He was received into the company—at first in a very mean rank;] There is a stage tradition, that his first office in the theatre was that of Call-boy, or prompter's attendant; whose employment it is to give the performers notice to be ready to enter, as often as the business of the play requires their appearance on the stage.
t to have learned from certain authority, which was the first play he wrote;] The highest date of any I can yet find, is Romeo and Juliet in 1597, when the author was 33 years old; and Richard the Second, and Third, in the next year, viz. the 34th of his age. Pope.