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but we have something more. The life of Shakspere has to us a value above that of all other values in connexion with his writings. Whatever difference of opinion there may be as to the dates of particular works, there is, upon the whole, sufficient evidence to enable us to class those works in cycles. We may trace the poet onward with tolerable certainty through the different epochs of his genius—its morning softness, its noontide fervour, its afternoon splendour, its evening serenity. What we want still is to know something of the private history of this wonderful writer-to have “ the power of identifying the young man who came up from Stratford, was afterwards an indifferent player in a London theatre, and retired to his native place in middle life, with the author of • Macbeth 'andLear.'"* Something, however, may be done, towards making this desired identity not only clear but natural. As far as Shakspere can be traced in connexion with his writings we are not quite sure that we have more to expect,we have perhaps little more to desire. He belonged to a profession which has always been destined have the applause of a portion of the world counterbalanced by the censure of another portion. He was a large proprietor, and without doubt the literary director, of a theatre to which other poets contributed their productions in common with himself. He was not only a great innovator, but a most successful one; and after he had destroyed the rude art of his early contemporaries, he had to oppose his principles to what was considered the more learned art of his later rivals. We should not de. sire to have the secret passages of such a professional life revealed to us. We fear that, however marvellous might appear the power through which the poet had carried his genius loftily and purely amidst all the littlenesses by which he must have been surrounded, there would have been something in the exhibition that for the moment would have given us pain. Shakspere, in 1602, bought a considerable quantity of land in the neighbourhood of Stratford, and we have no doubt that he himself farmed it. It was the custom for gentlemen to attend to all the details of the productive and commercial part of farming in Shakspere's day. It is nothing derogatory in the eye of philosophy that the author of 'Lear,' perhaps in the very intervals of its composition, should be bargaining for a load of wheat or a score of wethers. It was just that having sold his wheat he should be paid for it. But we confess to the weakness of being startled when an original document was

put into our hands clearly showing how Shakspere in worldly matters was like other meu. It was a precept, attached to a declaration of William Shakspere against Philip Rogers, in an action of debt, for the sum of thirty-five shillings and ten pence, for corn delivered in 1603 and 1604; and the usual remedies were sought in the Court of Record at Stratford. The boy William Henry Ireland, who forged the Shakspere manuscripts in 1795, began with “a lease,'' to which he affixed a pretended autograph of Shakspere. Success made him bold, and he proceeded to “ a profession of faith.” He was next tempted into the manufacture of love-letters, and letters of friendship, full of fine thoughts and superlative protestations. All this exhibited very considerable inexperience and want of knowledge in the unfortunate boy who attempted these delusions. If any letters of Shakspere were hereafter to be discovered we have no doubt that they would be business-like letters, as brief as possible,-neither letters of display, nor letters speaking out of the abundance of the heart: these are inventions of modern times. In the absence of newspapers, men and women wrote gossiping letters to each other about public events and private scandal. We doubt if Shakspere had time for writing such letters. But whether it be desirable or not to have the hidden places of Shakspere's private history laid open to us, it is not very likely, we think, that they ever will be so displayed. Some additions to our scanty knowledge will no doubt be derived from the same species of diligence as that which has been so worthily employed within the last ten years, by Mr. Collier particularly. But for the most part, we must, we apprehend, be content with “ tombstone information,” counting ourselves happy to live in a land of which the civilization has been sufficiently advanced, during more than three centuries, to make it a part of the public policy to record the marked events in the progress from the cradle to the grave of the humblest of our country's children, and which records are the most efficient guides in tracing the course of the greatest wbo has been born and died amongst us -William Shakspere.

In the register of baptisms of the parish church of Stratfordupon-Avon we find, under the date of April 26, 1564, the entry of the baptism of William, the son of John Shakspere. The entry is in Latin. The date of the year, and the word April, occur three lines above the entry--the birth being the fourth registered in that month.

1564 april 26 nkelmus filius Johannes Ghaffpore

The date of William Shakspere's birth has always been taken chamberlains. Here, then, previous to the birth of William as three days before his baptism ; but there is certainly no Shakspere, we find his father passing through the regular graevidence of this fact. Who was John Sbakspere, the father of dations of those municipal offices which were filled by the most William ? The same register of baptisms shows, it is reason- respectable inhabitants of a country town—those who, followably conjectured, that he had two daughters baptised in ing trades or professions, or possessed of a small independence, previous years,—Jone, September 15th, 1558; Margaret, were useful in their several degrees, and received due bonour December 2nd, 1562. Another brief entry in another book and reverence from their neighbours. What the occupation of closes the record of Margaret Shakspere ; she was buried on the John Shakspere was cannot be very readily determined. Aubrey, 30th of April, 1563. There is very little doubt that the elder the antiquary, who lived till nearly the end of the seventeenth daughter, Jone, died also in infancy; for another daughter of century, and whose manuscripts, preserved in the Bodleian John Shakspere, also called Jone, was baptised in 1569. Wil- Library at Oxford, contain some very quaint and amusing liam was in all probability the first of the family who lived notices of eminent persons who flourished just before and in his beyond the period of childhood. From these records, then, we

“Mr. William Shakespear was born at Stratfordcollect, that John Shakspere was married and living in the upon-Avon, in the county of Warwick; his father was a butcher, parish of Stratford in 1558. He was no doubt settled there and I have been told heretofore, by some of the neighbours, earlier ; for in the archives of the town, by which his course that when he was a boy he exercised his father's trade, but may be traced for some years, we find that he was, in 1556, one when he killed a calf he would do it in a high style, and make of the jury of the court-leet; in 1557, one of the ale-tasters ; at a speech." There has been recently published a letter, which Michaelmas of that year, or very soon afterwards, he was was formerly in the possession of the family of Lord de Clifelected a burgess or junior member of the corporation; -in 1558 ford, written by a member of one of the inns of court, and and 1559 he served the office of constable, which duty appears giving an account of the writer's visit to Warwickshire in then to have been imposed upon the younger members of the 1693.* After copying the inscription on the poet's monument, corporate body; lastly, in 1561, he was elected one of the

day, says,

* Published by Mr. Rodd, under the title of Traditionary Anecdotes • Hallam's Literature of Europe.'

of Shakspere.'

he says, “ The clerk that showed me this church was above port and countenance are so far from suffering their farmers to eighty years old. He says that this Shakespeare was formerly have any gain at all, that they themselves become graziers, in this town bound apprentice to a butcher, but that he ran from BUTCHERS, tanners, SHEEPMASTERS, woodmen, and denique quid his master to London, and there was received into the playhouse non, thereby to enrich themselves, and bring all the wealth of as a servitour, and by this means had an opportunity to be what the country into their own hands, leaving the commonalty he afterwards proved. He was the best of bis family ; but the weak, or as an idol with broken or feeble arms, which may in male line is extinguished.” Aubrey's anecdotes of Shakspere a time of peace have a plausible show, but, when necessity shall are supposed to have been collected about 1680. The letter- enforce, have an heavy and bitter sequel.” The term “ genwriter from Warwickshire was gratifying his honourable tleman-farmer" was not invented in Harrison's time, or we curiosity about him whom he styles our English tragedian” should, we believe, have had a pretty correct description of the in 1693. The parish clerk “above eighty years old " was pro- occupation of John Shakspere. bably the informant of both parties. He would have been about But we have now to inquire who was the mother of William three years old when Shakspere died; and the period of Shak- Shakspere? His father died in 1601. On the 9th of Sepspere's apprenticeship which he records would have been some tember, 1608, we have an entry in the Stratford register of forty years earlier. Absolute correctness, therefore, was not burial, “ Mary Shakspere, widow." We learu from an unlikely to have been attained by this honest chronicler. The questionable document, a bill in chancery--of the date of accounts, it will be seen, materially differ. Aubrey says, "His November 21th, 1597,-that John Shakspere and Mary his father was a butcher;" the parish clerk, “ He was bound ap- wife were “ lawfully seized in their demesne as of fee as in the prentice to a butcher." To the edition of Shakspere's works right of the said Mary of and in one messuage and one yard published by Rowe in 1709, was prefixed a “Life.' Rowe land, with the appurtenances, lying and being in Wylnecote." acknowledges "a particular obligation" to Betterton, the In the will of Robert Arden, dated November 24th, 1556, we celebrated actor, “ for the most considerable part of the pas- find,-"I give and bequeath to my youngest daughter Mary sages relating to this life, which I have here transmitted to the all my land in Willmecote, called Asbyes, and the crop upon public; his veneration for the memory of Shakspeare having the ground," &c. She was further left the sum of six pounds engaged him to make a journey into Warwickshire on purpose thirteen shillings and fourpence. The grandfather of Mary to gather up what remains he could of a name for which he had Arden was groom of the chamber to Henry VII., and he was so great a veneration.” Betterton, then, thus speaking through the nephew of Sir John Arden, squire of the body to the Rowe, says, "He was the son of Mr. John Shakspeare, and was same king. Sir John Arden was a son of Walter Arden born at Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, in April, 1564. and of Eleanor, the daughter of John Hampden of BuckingHis family, as appears by the register and public writings re- hamshire. There were thus the ties of a common blood lating to that town, were of good figure and fashion there, and between William Shakspere and one of the most distinguished are mentioned as gentlemen. His father, who was a consider- men of the next generation-John Hampden, who was a able dealer in wool," &c. But Malone, in his posthumous Life' student in the Inner Temple when the poet died. Mary of the poet, has published a document which is held to be de- Arden's property has been computed to be worth some huncisive as to this question. It is a record of proceedings in the dred and ten pounds of the money of her time. Let not the Bailiff's Court in 1555, in which some process is shown to luxurious habits of the present age lead us to smile at such a have been taken against John Shakyspere, of Stratford, glover. fortune. All the worldly goods (except his lands) belonging Malone has argued that this was a considerable branch of trade, to her father were in the inventory attached to his will valued and no doubt it was. But we are by no means certain that at seventy-seven pounds eleven shillings and tenpence; and John Shakyspere the glover was the same person as the poet's these goods included numerous oxen, bullocks, kine, horses, father. There was another John Shakspere living in Stratford, sheep, besides wheat in the field and in the barn. It is prowho has been repeatedly mistaken for the more interesting bable that Mary Arden became the wife of John Shakspere butcher, woolman, or glover; and the mistake, we believe, has soon after her father's death, which was in 1556. She was the gone somewhat further than has been acknowledged. He was youngest daughter; and she no doubt married young, for under a younger man than the father of our poet, for he married in any circumstances she must have been an aged woman when 1581. He was a shoemaker, as is proved by repeated entries she died in 1608. in the books of the corporation. Might not his father have been Of these parents, then, was William Shakspere born, in 1561, the glover in 1555 ? Shakspere appears to have been one of in the town of Stratford. In that town there is a street retainthe most common names in the town of Stratford; and we have ing its ancient name, Henley-street, being the road to Henleyalso, as well as John, the shoemaker, Thomas, a butcher. About in-Arden, where, in 1574, stood two houses with a garden the same period William Shakspere's father is called a yeoman and orchard annexed to each ; and these houses were then in one of the deeds relating to his property. We believe, as purchased by John Shakspere. It is said that William we shall presently show, that he was originally of the rank Shakspere was born in one of these houses. His father may which is denominated gentleman at the present day; he was bave inhabited the house before the purchase ; and it is more subsequently legally recognised as a gentleman, in the sense in than probable that he did, for at a court-leet in 1556 there which the word was used in former days. It was not incom- is an entry of an assignment to him of the lease of a house iu patible with this opinion that he should be either a butcher or Henley-street, and of another in Greenhill-street. There is a dealer in wool. Whether he possessed any patrimonial pro- nothing to prove that the poet was not born in the house in perty or not, he undoubtedly, by marriage, became the pro- Henley-street : and there that house still stands, altered accordprietor of an estate. He married, as we shall see, an heiress-a ing to modern fashion, its gable roofs destroyed,_divided and lady of ancient family. It was after this marriage that he was subdivided into smaller tenements,-part converted into a little designated by some a butcher, by others a dealer in wool. inn, part the residence of a female who shows the room where There is a mode of reconciling these contradictory statements it is alleged that Shakspere first saw the light, and the lowwhich has been overlooked by those who have been anxious roofed kitchen where his mother taught him to read. We to prove that Shakspere was not the son of a butcher. In believe it all. The walls of that venerated bedroom are covered Harrison's • Description of England’ we have an exact notice literally with thousands of names, inscribed in homage by of the state of society at the precise time when John Shakspere, pilgrims from every region where the glory of Shakspere is the possessor of landed property, was either a butcher or a known. And there some of the greatest of those who have woolman, or both. We have here a complaint of the exactious trodden, at wbatever distance from bim, the same path,—the of landlords towards their tenants, particularly in the matter of Scotts, and Byrons, and Washington Irvings of our own day, demanding a premium on leases; and it thus proceeds :- have recorded their visits, amongst the multitude who have not “But most sorrowful of all to understand that men of great lived in vain for themselves or others if they have drawn instruction and delight from him to whose memory they have will be some day swept away to make room for a tenement offered their tribute, and have continued to add to the stock with higher ceilings, and larger windows, and walls that show of knowledge thus derived. That house belongs to no public no ribs of oak ;--and yet we call ourselves a nation proud of body; there are no descendants of the poet to uphold it; it | our antiquities !


The above is a representation of the house in which Shak- able distinction was in consequence of his having served the spere is said to have been born, as it was some twenty-five office of bailiff. We doubt this inference exceedingly. John years ago. The centre, which is bere represented as a butcher's Shakspere would not have acquired a permanent rank by shop, is not so used at the present time. We give an en- having filled an annual office. But he did acquire that pergraving at p. 16, from a drawing made about 1770, which manent rank in the year 1569, in the only way in which it exhibits a much more uniform appearance, showing that a very could be legally acquired. A grant of arms was then made respectable family might not disdain to inhabit such a tene- to him by Robert Cooke, Clarencieux. The grant itself is ment even in our own day. At the time when Shakspere's lost, but it was confirmed by Dethick, Garter King at Arms, father bought this house, it was, no doubt, a mansion as com- and Camden, in 1599. That confirmation contains the folpared with the majority of houses in Stratford. There is an lowing preamble: “ Being solicited, and by credible report order from the Privy Council to the bailiff of Stratford, after informed, that John Shakspere, now of Stratford-upon-Avon, a great fire which happened there in 1614, pointing out that in the county of Warwick, gent., whose parent and greatfires had been very frequently occasioned there “ by means grandfather, late antecessor, for his faithful and approved of thatched cottages, stacks of straw, furzes, and such-like service to the late most prudent prince, King Henry VII., of combustible stuff, which are suffered to be erected and made famous memory, was advanced and rewarded with lands and confusedly in most of the principal parts of the town without tenements, given to him in those parts of Warwickshire, where restraint." Stratford, like nearly every other town of England they have continued by some descents in good reputation and in that day, closely built, imperfectly drained, was subject to credit; and for that the said John Shakspere having married periodical visitations of the plague. From the average annual the daughter and one of the heirs of Robert Arden of Wellingnumber of births and burials we may infer that the usual number cote, in the said county, and also produced this his ancient of the inhabitants was about 1200. When William Shakspere coat-of-arms, heretofore assigned to him whilst he was her was about two months old the plague broke out in this town, majesty's officer and bailiff of that town: in consideration of and, in the short space of six months, 238 persons, a fifth of the the premises," &c. Nothing, we should imagine, could be population, fell victims. The average annual mortality was clearer than this. John Shakspere produces his ancient coatabont forty. No one of the family of Shakspere appears to of-arms, assigned to him whilst he was bailiff of Stratford ; have died during this visitation. One of the biographers of and he recites also that he married one of the heirs of Arden “ the Bard of Avon," as he is pulingly called, says, of Wellingcote. Garter and Clarencieux, in consequence, poetical enthusiast will find no difficulty in believing that, allow him to impale the arms of Shakspere with the ancient like Horace, he reposed secure and fearless in the midst of con- arms of Arden of Wellingcote. The Shakspere arms were tagion and death, protected by the Muses, to whom his future actually derived from the family name; and we give a reprelife was to be devoted.” We desire to be poetical enthu- sentation of the united arms as they were used in the seal of siasts in matters which belong to poetry, but in this case we William Shakspere's daughter,-most probably it was his own must be content to believe that the house in which the infant seal : and yet Malone has a most elaborate argument to prove Shakspere was cradled was, compared with other houses, well that the grant of arms was made entirely with reference to the ventilated and clean,—that his family possessed sufficient circumstance that John Shakspere bad married one of the of the necessaries and comforts of life,—and that every proper daughters and heirs of Arden of Wellingcote. Such questions precaution was taken to ward off the danger. In 1566 another, may appear frivolous and unworthy to be discussed in the son, Gilbert, was born. The head of this growing family was notice of a man so elevated above the accidents of birth and actively engaged, no doubt, in private and public duties. In station; and we may think of the words of another poet, one 1568 John Shakspere became the bailiff, or chief magistrate, of Nature's own nobles,— of Stratford. This office, during the period in which he held

" A prince can mak a belted knight, it, would confer rank upon him, in an age when the titles and

A marquis, duke, and a'that, degrees of men were attended to with great exactness. Malone

But an honest man's aboon his might, says that, from the year 1569, the entries, either in the cor

Guid faith he mauna fa' that.” poration-books or the parochial registers, referring to the father Yet the subject is important in connexion with the educaof the poet, bear the addition of master, and that this lionour- tion of Shakspere. A great deal of what would appear little

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“ To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man." Malone assures us that Shakspere's father could not write. We were perfectly satisfied that the statement was untrue; and we have taken some pains, therefore, to examine the evidence which was produced for this assertion. Putting the higher considerations of the poet's education out of the question, we thought it scarcely consistent with his habitual reverence for those things which we are called upon to honour, that he should make his own father the subject of his satire, and that during his father's lifetime, in the praise which Jack Cade bestows upon those who “ do not use to write their names, but have a mark of their own, like honest plain-dealing men." Malone tells us that John Shakspere had a mark of his own, and it “ nearly resembles a capital A, and was perhaps chosen in honour of the lady whom he had married.” He farther says,

“ Out of nineteen persons who signed a paper relative to one of their body who had been elected bailiff, ten of whom were aldermen, and the rest burgesses, seven only could write their names, and among the twelve marksmen is found John Shakspere ;" and that he derives his knowledge of the facts from an Order, dated September 27, 1564. The reader shall judge for himself of the truth of this assertion.

We give an eract fac-simile of the Order, which a most careful less than miraculous in his writings, especially with reference

artist was permitted to make for us from the old council-book of to the almost boundless amount of knowledge which they con

the corporation of Stratford. (No. 1.) There may be a doubt, the tain on every subject, will raise in us not a vulgar wonder but

reader may think, whether the mark which“ nearly resembles a rational admiration when we look at him as a well-nurtured

a capital A" belongs to “George Whateley, high bailiff," in child, brought up by parents living in comfort if not in afflu

the first column, or “ Jhon Shacksper,” in the second column. ence, and trained in those feelings of honour which were more

Malone, who asserts that it belongs to our poet's father, had especially held the possession of those of gentle blood. Wil

the corporation-books in his possession for many years ; but liam, the son of Master John Shakspere, would, without any

he omitted to find an entry of the 29th of January, 1589, when prejudice for mere rank, be a different person from the son

John Shakspere had ceased to be a member of the corporation. of Goodman Shakspere, butcher. We can scarcely conceive He did not then, of course, record his ignorance in the corpohim killing a calf “in a high style" without seeing him sur

ration-books; but George Whateley still uses the same big A. rounded with the usual companions and associations of the

In a quarter of a century he had not learned to write. We give slaughterhouse. His father and mother were, we have no

a fac-simile of this entry, which we trust is decisive. (No. 2.) doubt, educated persons; not indeed familiar with many Malone talks as if John Sbakspere's use of a mark was a books, but knowing some thoroughly ; cherishing a kindly

common thing. There is not another example in the .corpolove of nature and of rural enjoyments amidst the beautiful

ration-books in which the name of John Shakspere is attached English scenery by which they were surrounded ; admirers

to any order of a common hall. Mr. Wheler, of Stratford, and cultivators of music, as all persons above the lowest rank

who is honourably distinguished for his attention to matters were in those days; frugal and orderly in all their household

connected with Shakspere, informs us that such orders were arrangements; of habitual benevolence and piety. We have

very rarely signed by members of the corporation who were a belief, which amounts to a conviction as strong as could be

present, but that the entry to which the name of John Shakderived from any direct evidence, that the mind of William

spere is affixed was a very special one. Shakspere was chiefly moulded by his mother. No writer

William Shakspere, then, we think had a mother who could that ever lived has in the slightest degree approached him in

read, and a father who could write. They probably could do his delineations of the grace and purity of the female cha

something more in the way of advancing the intelligence of racter; and we scarcely exaggerate in saying that a very their son. But, at any rate, when he became old enough, they great deal of the just appreciation of women in England has would send their boy to the endowed grammar-school of the been produced through our national familiarity with the works

town in which they lived. He probably went there about of Shakspere. It was he who first embodied the notion

1571, when his father had become chief alderman of the and he has repeated it in shapes as various as they are beauti- town. ful-of

The free-school of Stratford was founded in the reign of "A perfect woman, nobly plann'd,

Henry VI., and received a charter from Edward VI. It was
To warn, to comfort, and command ;
And yet a spirit still, and bright

open to all boys, natives of the borough ; aud, like all the gramWith something of an angel light.”

mar-schools of that age, was under the direction of men who, Had his boyhood been surrounded with ignorance, or yul- as clergymen and graduates of the universities, were qualified garity, or selfishness, in female shapes, we doubt if our Des- to diffuse that sound scholarship which was once the boast of demonas, and Violas, and Mirandas, would have been quite England. We have no record of Shakspere having been at so perfect. But a father's influence could not have been this school; but there can be no rational doubt that he was wanting in his culture. If his father, and his father's compa- educated there. His father could not have procured for him nions, had been examples of coarseness, and sensuality, and a better education anywhere. It is perfectly clear to those indifference to high and ennobling pursuits, we doubt if his who have studied his works (without being influenced by prewondrous gallery of full-length portraits of thorough gentlemen judices, which have been most carefully cherished, implying of all ages and countries would have attained its present com- that he had received a very narrow education) that they abound pleteness. We are not sure that the poor mad Lear, in his with evidences that he must have been solidly grounded in paroxysms of anguish, would have said,

the learning, properly so called, which was taught in gram“ Pray you, undo this button; thank you, sir;"

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