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THE LIFE

OF

WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.

race,

The name of Shakspeare, which is mentioned by the estate which the royal munificence had thus Verstegan, among those “syrnames imposed upon conferred on his ancestor, it was insufficient for the first bearers of them for valour and feats of his wants; and he was obliged to have recourse arms, '* is one of great antiquity in the woodland to trade to increase the narrow measure of his districts of Warwickshire. The family, thus patrimony. The traditional accounts that have bonourably distinguished, appears to have re- been received respecting him are consistent in ceived its origin either at Rowington or Lap- describing him as engaged in business, though Forth. Long before the genius of our great they disagree in the nature of the employment dramatic poet had rendered their name a subject which they ascribe to him. In the MS. notes of national interest, the Shakspeares were esta- which Aubrey had collected for a life of the blisbed among the more affluent inhabitants of poet, it is affirmed, that his father was a butthose villages, and thence several individuals of cher;' while on the other hand, it is stated by the from time to time, removed, and became Rowe that he was “a considerable dealer in settlers in the principal places of the county. wool.' The truth of the latter report it is

After the most indefatigable researches Malone scarcely possible to doubt. It was received from found himself unable to trace the particular Betterton the player, whose veneration for the branch of the family from which Shakspeare poet induced him to make a pilgrimage to Warhanself descended, beyond his immediate an- wickshire, that he might collect all the inforcestor; but it is mentioned by Rowe, as being mation respecting the object of his enthusiasm of good figure and fashion, 't in the town of which remained among his townsmen, at a time Stratford. This statement is supported by the when such prominent facts as the circumstances authority of a document, preserved in the Cold and avocation of his parents could not yet lege of Heralds, conferring the grant of a coat have sunk into oblivion. § It is, indeed, not imof arrus on John Shakspeare, the father of the probable that both these accounts may be correct. poet, in which the title of gentleman is added to Few occupations,' observes Malone, 'can be bis denomination; and it is stated, that his named which are more naturally connected with kreat grandfather had been rewarded by king each other.' Dr. Farmer has shewn that the two Heury the Seventh, for his faithful and approved trades were occasionally united : || or if they services, with lands and tenements given him in were not thus exercised together by the poet's those parts of Warwickshire, where they have father, his having adopted them separately at continued by some descents in good reputation different periods of his life, is not inconsistent and credit.'1

with the changeful character of his circumIf Shakspeare's father inherited any portion of stances. The new notion of John Shakspeare's

' Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, 4to. 1605.

in the consideration of remote events, if the express

authority of contemporary official documents is to be + Rowe's Life of Shakspeare.

set aside by the questionable conjectures of the anti: Grunt of arms to John Shakspeare, made 1599. quarian? Malone, who always appears to have had a double ob

ý Betterton was born in 1635. Shakspeare's young. pert in bis researches, first, to discredit all received spinions respecting our poet and his family, and se

est daughter lived till 1662, and his grand-daughter sadly, to introduce some fanciful conjecture of his

till 1670; and many of his relatives and connexions, n, suggests that these expressions relate not to

the Harts and the Hathaways, were surviving at the

time of Betterton's visit to Stratford. the ancestor of John Shakspeare, but to the ancestor of knis wife. His arguments are not devoid of plausi- || See Reed's Shakspeare, vol. 18. p. 316, 347. Steebility; but what certainty can we ever hope to obtain vens' note.

having been a glover, which has been advanced | ley Street ; in 1570 he rented fourteen acres of in Malone's last edition of our author's works, land, called Ington Meadow: and we find him I have no hesitation in dismissing. It is neither four years afterwards, becoming the purchaser of supported by tradition, nor probability; and the two additional houses in Henley Street, with a brief minute which the laborious editor disco- garden and orchard attached to each. vered in the bailiff's court at Stratford, must In this season of prosperity, Mr. John Shakhave referred to some other of the innumerable speare was not careless of the abilities of his John Shakspeares, whom we find mentioned in child. His own talents had been wholly unimthe wills and registers of the time.

proved by education, and he was one of the The father of Shakspeare married, probably twelve, out of the nineteen aldermen of Stratabout the year 1555 or 1556, Mary the daughter ford, whose accomplishments did not extend to of Robert Arden, of Willingcote, in the county being able to sign their own names.

This cirof Warwick; by which connexion he obtained a cumstance, by the bye, most satisfactorily estasmall estate in land, some property in money, * blishes the fact, that he could not have written and such accession of respectability as is derived the confession of faith which was found in refrom an equal and honourable alliance. The pairing the roof of his residence at Stratford. # family of Mary Arden, like his own, was one of But, whatever were his own deficiences, he was great antiquity in the county, and her ancestors careful that the talents of his son should not also had been rewarded for their faithful and im- suffer from a similar neglect of education. Wilportant services by the gratitude of Henry the liam was placed at the Free School of Stratford : Seventh. The third child, and the eldest son of it is not uninteresting to know the names of the this union, was the celebrated subject of the instructors of Shakspeare. They have been present memoirs.

traced by the minute researches of Malone. Mr. Willian SHAKSPEARE was born on the 23d Thomas Hunt, and Mr. Thomas Jenkins, were of April, 1564, and baptized on the 26th of the successively the masters of the school, from 1572 same month.

to 1580, which must have included the schoolAt the time of the birth of his illustrious off- boy days of our poet. spring, John Shakspeare evidently enjoyed no At this time, Shakspeare would have posslight degree of estimation among his townsmen. sessed ample means of obtaining access to all He was already a member of the corporation, those books of history, poetry, and romance, with and for two successive years, had been nominated which he seems to have had so intimate an one of the chamberlains of Stratford.+ From acquaintance, and which were calculated to this time he began to be chosen in due succes- attract his early taste, and excite the admiration sion to the highest municipal offices of the of his young and ardent fancy; and he might borough. In 1569, he was appointed to dis- also thus early have become imbued with a taste charge the important duties of high bailiff; and for the drama, by attending the performances of was subsequently elected and sworn chief alder- the different companies of players, the comedians man for the year 1571.

of the Queen, of the Earl of Worcester, of Lord During this period of his life, which con- Leicester, and of other noblemen, who were constitutes the poet's years of childhood, the fortune tinually making the Guildhall of Stratford, the of Master John Shakspeare-for so he is uni- scene of their representations. But he was soon formly designated in the public writings of the called to other cares, and the discharge of more borough, from the time of his acting as high serious duties. The prosperity of his father was bailiff--perfectly corresponded with the station not of permanent duration. In 1578, Mr. John which we find him holding among his townsmen. Shakspeare mortgaged the estate which he had His charities rank him with the second class of received from his wife ; in the following year he the inhabitants of Stratford. In a subscription was exempted from the contribution of fourfor the relief of the poor, 1564, out of twenty- pence a week for the poor, which was paid by four persons, twelve gave more, six the same, the other aldermen; and that this exception in and six less, than the poet's father ; and in a his favour was made in consequence of the second subscription, of fourteen persons, eight pecuniary embarrassments under which he was gave more, five the same, and one less. So early known to labour, is manifest from his having as 1556, he held the lease of two houses in the been at the same period reduced to the necessity town, one in Green Hill, and the other in Hen- of obtaining Mr. Lambert's security for the pay

• The whole way worth little more than 1001., at follow, as a fair deduction, that the family of Shakthat time considered a fair provision for a daughter. speare were Roman Catholics.' Chalmers' Apology,

+ He was admitted to the corporation probably in p. 198. The paper was found in 1770, and communi. 1557. He was elected chamberlain in 1561.

cated to Malone; but are not the official situations 1. From the septiinent and the language, this con- held by Shakspeare's father in the borough couclufession appears to be the efl'usion of a Roman Catho- sive against the opinion which Mr. Chalmers has lic mind, and was probably drawn up by some Roman grounded upon it ? Catholic priest. If these premises be granted, it will

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