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tenant to Agnes Arden, widow of Robert Arden, and mother of Mary Shakespeare. In respect to the registers of marriages, baptisms, and deaths at Stratford, some confusion has been produced by the indisputable fact, that two persons of the name of John Shakespeare were living in the town at the same time, and it is not always easy to distinguish between the entries which relate to the one, or to the other : for instance, it was formerly thought that John Shakespeare, the father of the poet, had lost his first wife, Mary Ården, and had taken a second, in consequence of a memorandum in the register, showing that on the 25th Nov., 1584, John Shakespeare had married Margery Roberts : Malone, however, took great pains to prove, and may be said to have succeeded in proving, that this entry and others, of the births of Philip, Ursula, and Humphrey Shakespeare, relate to John Shakespeare, a shoemaker, and not to John Shakespeare the glover.
John Shakespeare was again chosen one of the four affeerors of Stratford in 1561, and the Shakespeare Society is in possession of the original presentation made by theke officers on the 4th May in that year, the name of the father of our great dramatist, coming last, after those of Henry Bydyll, Lewis ap William, and William Mynske. The most remarkable circumstance connected with it is the number of persons who were amerced in sums varying from 68. 8d. to 2d. “The bailiff that now is,” was fined 38. 4d. for“ breaking the assize," he being a “common baker:" three other bakers were severally compelled to pay similar amounts on the same occasion, and for the same offence." In September following the date of this report John Shakesingular their appurtenances in Snytterfeild, and a yarde and a halfe of a yrable lande thereunto belonging, &c., being in the towne and fyldes of Snytterfeild afforsaid : all which now are in the occupation of Richarde Shakspere, John Henley, and John Hargreve.” Of course this property formed part of the jointure of Agnes Arden, mentioned in the will of her husband.
1 John Shakespeare, the shoemaker, seems not to have belonged to the corporation, at all events, till many years afterwards, so that the confusion to which we have referred does not extend itself to any of the records of that body. After John Shakespeare, the father of our poet, had been bailiff, he is always called Mr. or Magistrr John Shakespeare ; while the shoemaker, who married Margery Roberts, and was the father of Philip, Ursula, and Humphrey, is invariably styled only John Shakespeare. There is no trace of any relationship between the two.
The affeerors seem to have displayed unusual vigilance, and considerable severity: William Trout, Christopher Smythe, Maud Harbage, and John Jamson were all fined 3s. 4d, “ for selling ale, and having and keeping gaming contrary to the order of the Court :"> eleven other inhabitants were amerced in smaller sums on the same ground. Robert Perrot was compelled to pay 6s. 8d. “for making and selling unwholesome ale."
speare was elected one of the chamberlains of the borough, a very responsible post, in which he remained two years.
His second child, Margaret, or Margareta, (as the name stands in the register,) was baptized on the 2d Dec., 1562, while he continued chamberlain. She was buried on 30th April, 15631
The greatest event, perhaps, in the literary history of the world occurred a year afterwards William Shakespeare was born. The day of his birth cannot be fixed with absolute certainty, but he was baptized on the 26th April, 1564, and the memorandum in the register is precisely in the following form :
*1564. April 26. Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere." So that whoever kept the book in all probability the clerk) either committed a common clerical error, or was no great proficient in the rules of grammar. It seems most likely that our great dramatist had been brought into the world only three days before he was baptized", and it was then the custom to carry infants very early to the font. A house is still pointed out by tradition, in Henley-street, as that in which William Shakespeare first saw the light, and we have already shown that his father was the owner of two copy-hold dwellings in Henley-street and Greenhill-street, and we may, perhaps, conclude that the birth took place in the former. John and Mary Shakespeare having previously lost two girls, Joan and Margaret, William was at this time the only child of his parents.
A malignant fever, denominated the plague, broke out at Stratford while William Shakespeare was in extreme infancy: he was not two months old when it made its appearance, having been brought from London, where, according to Stow, (Ănnales, p. 1112, edit. 1615,) it raged with great violence throughout the year 1563, and did not so far abate that term could be kept, as usual at Westminster, until Easter, 1564. It was most fatal at Stratford between June and December, 1564, and Malone calculated that it carried off in that interval more than a seventh part of the whole
1 The registrations of her birth and death are both in Latin :-
The inscription on his monument supports the opinion that he was born on the 230 April: without the contractions it runs thus :
Obiit Anno Domini 1616.
Ætatis 53, die 23 Aprilis." and this, in truth, is the only piece of evidence upon the point. Malone referred to the statement of the Rev. J. Greene, as an authority; but he was master of the free-school at Stratford nearly two centuries after the death of Shakespeare, and, in all probability, spoke only from the tenor of the inscription in the church.
population, consisting of about 1400 inhabitants. It does not appear that it reached any member of the immediate family of John Shakespeare, and it is not at all unlikely that he avoided its ravages by quitting Stratford for Snitterfield, where he owned some property in right of his wife, and where perhaps his father was still living as tenant to Alexander Webbe, who, as we have seen, in 1560, had obtained a lease for forty years from his relative, the widow Agnes Arden, of the messuage in which Richard Shakespeare resided.
In order to show that John Shakespeare was at this date in moderate, and probably comfortable, though not in affluent circumstances, Malone adduced a piece of evidence derived from the records of Stratfordt: it consists of the names of persons in the borough who, on this calamitous visitation of the plague, contributed various sums to the relief of the poor. The meeting at which it was determined to collect subscriptions with this object was convened in the open air, “At a hall holden in our garden,” &c.; no doubt on account of the infection. The donations varied between 78. 4d. (given by only one individual of the name of Richard Symens) and 6d.; and the sum against the name of John Shakespeare is ls. It is to be recollected that at this date he was not an alderman; and of twenty-four persons enumerated five others gave the same amount, while six gave less : the bailiff contributed 38. 4d., and the head alderman 28. 8d., while ten more put down either 28. 6d. or 2x. each, and a person of the name of Botte 4s. These subscriptions were raised on the 30th August, but on the 6th September a farther sum seems to have been required, and the bailiff and six aldermen gave 18. each, Adrian Quyney 1s. 6d., and John Shakespeare and four others 6d. each: only one member of the corporation, Robert Bratt, whose name will afterwards occur, contributed 4d. We are, we think, warranted in concluding, that in 1564 John Shakespeare was an industrious and thriving tradesman.
He continued steadily to advance in rank and importance in the corporation, and was elected one of the fourteen aldermen of Stratford on the 4th July, 1565 ; but he did not take the usual oath until the 12th September following. The bailiff of the year was Richard Hill, a woollen-draper; and the father of our poet became the occupant of that situation rather more than three years afterwards, when his son William was about four years and a half old. John Shakespeare was bailiff of Stratford-upon-Avon from Michaelmas 1568, to Michaelmas 1569, the autumn being the
1 Shakspeare, by Boswell, vol. ii. p. 83.
customary period of election. In the meantime his wife had brought him another son, who was christened Gilbert, on 13th October, 1566'.
Joan seems to have been a favourite name with the Shakespeares: and Joan Shakespeare is mentioned in the records of the guild of Knowle, in the reign of Henry VIII.; and John and Mary Shakespeare christened their first child, which died an infant, Joan. A third daughter was born to them while John Shakespeare was bailiff, and her they also baptized Joan, on 15th April, 1569'. The partiality for the name of Joan, in this instance, upon which some biographers have remarked without being able to explain it, may be accounted for by the fact that a maternal aunt, married to Edward Lambert, was called Joan; and it is very possible that she stood god-mother upon both occasions. Joan Lambert was one of the daughters of Robert Arden, regarding whom, until recently, we have had no information.
We have now traced John Shakespeare through various offices in the borough of Stratford, until he reached the highest distinction which it was in the power of his fellowtownsmen to bestow : he was bailiff, and ex-officio a magistrate.
Two new documents have recently come to light which belong to this period, and which show, beyond all dispute, that although John Shakespeare had risen to a station so respectable as that of bailiff of Stratford, with his name in the commission of the peace, he was not able to write. Malone referred to the records of the borough to establish that in 1565, when John Wheler was called upon by nineteen aldermen and burgesses to undertake the duties of bailiff
, John Shakespeare was among twelve other marksmen, including George Whately, the then bailiff, and Roger Sadler, the “head alderman." There was, therefore, nothing remarkable in this inability to write ; and if there were any doubt upon this point, it being a little ambiguous whether the signum referred to the name of Thomas Dyxun, or of John Shakespeare,) it can never be entertained hereafter, because the Shakespeare Society has been put in possession of two warrants, granted by John Shakespeare as bailiff of Stratford, the one dated the 3rd, and the other the 9th December, 11 Elizabeth, for the caption
1 The register of the parish-church contains the subsequent entry :
“1566, October 13. Gilbertus filius Johannis Shakspere.". ? Although John Shakespeare was at this time bailift, no Mr. or Magister is prefixed to his name in the register, a distinction which appears only to have been made after he had served that office.
“1569, April 15. Jone the daughter of John Shakspere."
of John Ball and Richard Walcar, on account of debts severally due from them, to both of which his mark only is appended. The same fact is established by two other documents, to which we shall have occasion hereafter to advert, belonging to a period ten years subsequent to that of which we are now speaking.
The grant of arms to John Shakespeare considered. The con
firmation and exemplification of arms. Sir W. Dethick's conduct. Ingon meadow in John Shakespeare's tenancy. Birth and death of his daughter, Anne. Richard Shakaspeare born in 1574, and named, perhaps, after his grandfather. John Shakespeare's purchase of two freehold houses in Stratford. Decline in his pecuniary affairs, and new evidence upon the point. Indenture of sale of John Shakespeare's and his wife's share of property at Snitterfield, to Robert Webbe. Birth of Edmund Shakespeare in 1580.
ALTHOUGH John Shakespeare could not write his name, it has generally been stated, and believed, that while he filled the office of bailiff he obtained a grant of arms from Clarencieux Cooke, who was in office from 1566 to 1592. We have considerable doubt of this fact, partly arising out of the circumstance, that although Cooke's original book, in which he entered the arms he granted, has been preserved in the Heralds' College, we find in it no note of any such concession to John Shakespeare. It is true that this book might not contain memoranda of all the arms Cooke had granted, but it is a circumstance deserving notice, that in this case such an entry is wanting. A confirmation of these arms was made in 1596, but we cannot help thinking, with Malone, that this instrument was obtained at the personal instance of the poet, who had then actually purchased, or was on the eve of purchasing, New Place (or “the great house,” as it was also called) in Stratford. The confirmation states, that the heralds had been“ by credible report informed,” that “the parents and late antecessors” of John
1 Malone gove both the confirmation and exemplification of arms, but with some variations, which are perhaps pardonable on account of the state of the originals in the Heralds College : thus he printed
parent and late antecessors," instead of "parents and late ante. cessors,
," in the confirmation ; and “whose parent and great grand. father, and late antecessor," instead of " whose parent, great grand, father, and late antecessor, “' in the exemplification. We are bound here to express our acknowledgments to Sir Charles Young; the