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to notice any beauty in the painting, except the skilful structure of a slipper worn by his Holiness.
Nevertheless I may meet with kinder critics, and some may think it right to countenance any effort to bring about a “fusion of Law and Literature,” which, like “ Law and Equity,” have too long been kept apart in England.
Stratheden House, Jan. 1, 1859.
THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR
POEMS .. .. .. ..
LEGAL ACQUIREMENTS CONSIDERED.
To J. Payne Collier, Esq.,
Riverside, Maidenhead, Berks.
HARTRIGGE, JEDBURGH, N. B.,
September 15th, 1858. MY DEAR MR. PAYNE COLLIER,
Knowing that I take great delight in Shakespeare's plays, and that I have paid some attention to the common law of this realm, and recollecting that both in my 'Lives of the Chancellors,' and in my · Lives of the Chief Justices,' I have glanced at the subject of Shakespeare's legal acquirements, you demand rather peremptorily my opinion upon the question keenly agitated of late years, whether Shakespeare was a clerk in an attorney's office at Stratford before he joined the players in London ?
From your indefatigable researches and your critical acumen, which have thrown so much new light upon the career of our unrivalled dramatist, I say, with entire
sincerity, that there is no one so well qualified as yourself to speak authoritatively in this controversy, and I observe that in both the editions of your Life of Shakespeare' you are strongly inclined to the belief that the author of · Hamlet' was employed some years in engrossing deeds, serving writs, and making out bills of costs.
However, as you seem to consider it still an open question, and as I have a little leisure during this long vacation, I cannot refuse to communicate to you my sentiments upon the subject, and I shall be happy if, from my professional knowledge and experience, I can afford you any information or throw out any hints which may be useful to you hereafter. I myself, at any rate, must derive some benefit from the task, as it will for a while drive from my mind the recollection of the wranglings of Westminster Hall. In literary pursuits should I have wished ever to be engaged,
“ Me si fata meis paterentur ducere vitam
Auspiciis, et sponte meâ componere curas."
Having read nearly all that has been written on Shakespeare's ante-Londinensian life, and carefully examined his writings with a view to obtain internal evidence as to his education and breeding, I am obliged to say that to the question you propound no positive answer can very safely be given.