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to reflect with what propriety and juftness they are applied to character! If we look into his characters, and how they are furnished and proportioned to the employment he cuts out for them, how are we taken up with the mastery of his portraits! What draughts of nature! What variety of originals, and how differing each from the other! How are they dreffed from the stores of his own luxurious imagination; without being the apes of mode, or borrowing from any foreign wardrobe! Each of them are the ftandards of fashion for themselves: like gentlemen that are above the direction of their tailors, and can adorn themfelves without the aid of imitation. If other poets draw more than one fool or coxcomb, there is the fame resemblance in them, as in that painter's draughts, who was happy only at forming a rose: you find them all younger brothers of the fame family, and all of them have a pretence to give the fame creft: But Shakespeare's clowns and fops come all of a different houfe: they are no farther allied to one another than as man to man, members of the fame fpecies: but as different in fea-* tures and lineaments of character, as we are from one another in face, or complexion. But I am unawares launching into his character as a writer," before I have faid what I intended of him as a private member of the republick.
Mr. Rowe has very justly observed, that people are fond of difcovering any little perfonal ftory" of
of the great men of antiquity: and that the common accidents of their lives naturally become the fubject of our critical enquiries: That however trifling fuch a curiofity at the first view may appear, yet, as for what relates to men of letters, the knowledge of an author may, perhaps, fometimes conduce to the better understanding his works: And, indeed, this author's works, from the bad treatment he has met with from his editors, have so long wanted a comment, that one would zealously embrace every method of information, that could contribute to recover them from the injuries with which they have so long lain o'erwhelmed.
'Tis certain, that if we have firft admired the man in his writings, his cafe is fo circumstanced, that we must naturally admire the writings in the man: That if we go back to take a view of his education, and the employment in life which fortune had cut out for him, we fhall retain the fronger ideas of his extenfive genius.
His father, we are told, was a confiderable dealer in wool; but having no fewer than ten children, of whom our Shakespeare was the eldest, the best education he could afford him was no better than to qualify him for his own business and employment. I cannot affirm with any certainty how long his father lived; but I take him: to be the fame Mr. John Shakespeare, who was living in the year 1599, and who then, in ho- .
nour of his fon, took out an extract of his fa mily-arms from the herald's office; by which it appears, that he had been officer and bailiff of Stratford, and that he enjoyed some hereditary lands and tenements, the reward of his great grandfather's faithful and approved service to King Henry VII.
Be this as it will, our Shakespeare, it seems, was bred for fome time at a free-school; the very free-fchool, I prefume, founded at Stratford where, we are told, he acquired what Latin he was master of: but, that his father being obliged, through narrowness of circumftances, to withdraw him too soon from thence, he was fo unhappily prevented from making any proficiency in the dead languages: A point, that will de serve fome little difcuffion in the fequel of this differtation.
How long he continued in his father's way of bufinefs, either as an affiftant to him, or on. his own proper account, no notices are left to inform us: nor have I been able to learn precifely at what period of life he quitted his native Stratford, and began his acquaintance with Lon◄ don and the STAGE.
In order to fettle in the world after a familymanner, he thought fit, Mr. Rowe acquaints us, to marry while he was yet very young. It is certain, he did fo: for by the monument, in Stratford church, erected to the memory of his daugh
ter Sufanna, the wife of John Hall, gentleman, it appears that he died on the 2d day of July, in the year 1649, aged 66. So that she was born in 1583, when her father could not be full 19 years old; who was himself born in the year 1564. Nor was she his eldeft child, for he had another daughter, Judith, who was born before her, and who was married to one Mr. Thomas Quiney. So that Shakespeare must have entered into wedlock by that time he was turned of feventeen years.
Whether the force of inclination merely, or fome concurring circumftances of convenience in the match, prompted him to marry fo early, is not eafy to be determined at this distance: but it is probable, a view of interest might partly sway his conduct in this point: for he married the daughter of one Hathaway, a substantial yeoman in his neighbourhood, and she had the start of him in age no less than eight years. She furvived him, notwithstanding, seven seasons, and died that very year in which the Players publifhed the first edition of his works in folio, Anne Dom. 1623, at the age of 67 years, as we likewife learn from her monument in Stratford church.
How long he continued in this kind of fettlement, upon his own native spot, is not more eafily to be determined. But if the tradition be: true, of that extravagance which forced him both to quit his country and way of living; to wit, his being engaged, with a knot of young deer
tealers, to rob the park of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecot near Stratford: the enterprize favours fo much of youth and levity, we may reasonably fuppofe it was before he could write full man. Befides, confidering he has left us fix and thirty plays, which are avowed to be genuine; (to throw out of the question those seven, in which his title is disputed; though I can, beyond all controversy prove fome touches in every one of them to come from his pen:) and confidering too, that he had retired from the ftage, to spend the latter part of his days at his own native Stratford; the interval of time, neceffarily required for the finishing so many dramatic pieces, obliges us to suppose he threw himself very early upon the play-house. And as he could, probably, contract no acquaintance with the drama, while he was driving on the affair of wool at home; fome time must be loft, even after he had commenced Player, before he could attain knowledge enough in the science to qualify himself for turning Author.
It has been obferved by Mr. Rowe, that, amongst other Extravagancies which our Author has given to his Sir John Falfaff, in the Merry Wives of Windfor, he has made him a deer-ftealer; and that he might at the fame time remember his Warwickshire profecutor, under the name of Justice Shallow, he has given him very near the fame coat of arms, which Dugdale, in his antiquities of that country, describes for a family there. There