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producer of the raw material was frequently its manufacturer. Thus a glover might, and sometimes did, rear the sheep that furnished him with meat, skins, wool, and leather. Whether John Shakespeare so conducted his business is unknown, but it is certain that in addition to his trade in gloves, which also, as was usual, included the sale of divers articles made of leather, he entered into a variety of other speculations.

In Henley Street, in what was for those days an unusually large and commodious residence for a provincial tradesman, and upon or almost immediately before April 22, 1564, but most probably on that Saturday, the eldest son of John and Mary Shakespeare, he who was afterwards to be the national poet of England, was born. An apartment on the first floor of that house is shown to this day, through unvarying tradition, as the birth-room of the great dramatist, who was baptized on the following Wednesday, April 26, receiving the Christian name of William. He was then, and continued to be for more than two years, an only child, two girls, daughters of the same parents, who were born previously, having died in their infancy.

The house in which Shakespeare was born must have been erected in the first half of the sixteenth century, but the alterations that it has since undergone have effaced much of its original character. Inhabited at various periods by tradesmen of different occupations, it could not possibly have endured through the long course of upwards of three centuries without having been subjected to numerous repairs and modifications. The general form and arrangement of the tenement that was purchased in 1556 may yet, however, be distinctly traced, and many of the old timbers, as well as pieces of the ancient rough

stone-work, still remain. There are also portions of the chimneys, the fire-place surroundings and the stone basement-floor, that have been untouched; but most, if not all, of the lighter wood-work belongs to a more recent period. It may be confidently asserted that there is only one room in the entire building which has not been greatly changed since the days of the poet's boyhood. This is the antique cellar under the sitting-room, from which it is approached by a diminutive flight of steps. It is a very small apartment, measuring only nine by ten feet, but near "that small most greatly liv'd this star of England.”

In the July of this year of the poet's birth, 1564, a violent plague, intensified no doubt by sanitary neglect, broke out in the town, but the family in Henley Street providentially escaped its ravages. John Shakespeare contributed on this occasion fairly, at least, if not liberally, both towards the relief of the poor and of those who were attacked by the epidemic.

In March, 1565, John Shakespeare, with the assistance of his former colleague in the same office, made up the accounts of the Chamberlains of the borough for the year ending at the previous Michaelmas. Neither of these worthies could even write their own names, but nearly all tradesmen then reckoned with counters, the results on important occasions being entered by professional scriveners. The poet's father seems to have been an adept in the former kind of work, for in February, 1566, having been elected an alderman in the previous summer, he individually superintended the making up of the accounts of the Chamberlains for the preceding official year, at which time he was paid over three pounds, equivalent to more than thirty of present money, that had been owing to him for some

time by the Corporation. In the month of October, 1566, another son, who was christened Gilbert on the thirteenth, was born, the poet being then nearly two and a half years old. This Gilbert, who was educated at the Free School, in after life entered into business in London as a haberdasher, returning, however, in the early part of the following century, to his native town, where he is found, in 1602, completing an important legal transaction with which he was entrusted by the great dramatist. His Christian name was probably derived from that of one of his father's neighbors, Gilbert Bradley, who was a glover in Henley Street, residing near the Birth-Place and on the same side of the way.

In September, 1567, Robert Perrot, a brewer, John Shakespeare, and Ralph Cawdrey, a butcher, were nominated for the office of the High Bailiff, or, as that dignitary was subsequently called, the Mayor. The last-named candidate was the one who was elected. It is upon this occasion that the poet's father is alluded to for the first time in the local records as "Mr. Shakspeyr." He had been previously therein mentioned either as John Shakespeare, or briefly as Shakespeare, and the addition of the title was in those days no small indication of an advance in social position. There is, indeed, no doubt that, during the early years of Shakespeare's boyhood, his father was one of the leading men in Stratford-on-Avon. On September 4, 1568, John Shakespeare, "Mr. John Shakysper," as he is called in that day's record,-was chosen. High Bailiff, attaining thus the most distinguished official position in the town after an active connection with its affairs during the preceding eleven years. The poet had entered his fifth year in the previous month of April, the

family in Henley Street now consisting of his parents, his brother Gilbert, who was very nearly two years old, and himself.

The new religious system was now firmly established at Stratford. Although the churchwardens' accounts are not preserved, and the materials for the local ecclesiastical history are exceedingly scanty, there are entries in the town archives respecting the Guild Chapel which leave no doubt on the subject. The rood-loft is mentioned as having been taken down in the year of the poet's birth, 1564, a number of the images in the building having been previously “defaced," that is to say, at some time between Michaelmas, 1562, and Michaelmas, 1563, John Shakespeare himself having been on the latter occasion one of the chamberlains through whom the expenses of the mutilation were defrayed. Under these circumstances there can be little if any doubt that, at the time of his accession to an office that legally involved the responsibility of taking the oath of supremacy, he had outwardly conformed to the Protestant rule, and there is certainly as little that he was one of the many of those holding a similar position in the Catholic stronghold of Warwickshire who were secretly attached to the old religion. If this had not been the case, it is impossible to believe, no matter how plausible were the explanations that were offered, that his name could, at a subsequent period and after the great penal legislation of 1581, have been included in more than one list of suspected recusants. For this he has been termed an unconscientious hypocrite, but he shared his dissimulation with myriads of his countrymen, and it is altogether unfair to place an enforced in the same category with a spontaneous insincerity. Some anyhow will be found to say a kind word in

excuse for a man who, in times of a virulent and crushing persecution, was unwilling to sacrifice the temporal interests of his wife and children as well as his own on the altar of open non-conformity. It should be added that the vestments belonging to the Church of the Holy Trinity, which had been out of use for some years, were sold by the Corporation in 1571; and these were among the last remaining vestiges of a ritual that was not publicly celebrated at Stratford in the life-time of the great dramatist.

It must have been somewhere about this period, 1568, that Shakespeare entered into the mysteries of the hornbook and the A. B. C. Although both his parents were absolutely illiterate, they had the sagacity to appreciate the importance of an education for their son, and the poet, somehow or other, was taught to read and write, the necessary preliminaries to admission into the Free School. There were few persons at that time at Stratford on-Avon capable of initiating him even into these preparatory accomplishments, but John Shakespeare, in his official position, could hardly have encountered much difficulty in finding a suitable instructor. There was, for instance, Higford, the Steward of the Court of Record, and the person who transcribed some of his accounts when he was the borough Chamberlain; but it is as likely as not that the poet received the first rudiments of education from older boys who were some way advanced in their school


A passion for the drama is with some natures an instinct, and it would appear that the poet's father had an express taste in that direction. At all events, dramatic entertainments are first heard of at Stratford-on-Avon during the year of his bailiffship, and were, it may fairly be

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