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P R E F A C E.


HE attempt to write on Shakespeare is like going

into a large, a spacious, and a splendid dome thro' the conveyance of a narrow and obscure entry. A glare of light suddenly breaks upon you beyond what the avenue at first promis’d : and a thousand beauties of genius and character, like so many gaudy apartments pouring at once upon the eye, diffuse and throw themselves out to the mind. The prospect is too wide to come within the compass of a single view : Tis a gay confusion of pleasing objects, too various to be enjoyed but in a general admiration; and they must be separated, and ey'd diftin&tly, in order to give the proper entertainment.

And as in great piles of building, some parts are often finish'd up to hit the taste of the Connoisseur ;, others more negligently put together, to strike the fancy of a common and unlearned beholder : Some parts are made stupendously magnificent and grand, to surprize with the vast design and execution of the architect; others are contracted, to amuse you with his neatness and elegance in little. So, in Shakespeare, we may find traits that will itand the test of the feverest judgment; and strokes as carelesly hit off, to the level of the more ordinary capacities : Some descriptions rais’d to that pitch of grandeur, as to astonish you with the compass and elevation of his thought: and others copying nature

his family-arms from the herald's office; by which it appears, that he had been officer and Bailiff of Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire; and that he enjoy'd 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 Sheakspeare, it seems, was bred

fome time at a Free-school; the very Free-school, I prefume, founded at Stratford • Where, we are told, he acquired what Latin he was master of: But, that his father being oblig'd; thro' narrowness of circumstance, to withdraw him too foon from thence, he was thereby unhappily prevented from making any proficiency in the dead languages : A point; that will deserve some little discussion in the sequel of this dissertation.

How long he continued in his father's way of business, either as an assistant to him, or on his own proper account, no notices are left to inform us : Nor have I been able to learn precisely at what period of life he quitted his native Stratford, and began his 'acquaintance with London and the Hage.

In order to settle in the world after a family-manner, he thought fit, Mr. Rowe acquaints us, to marry while he was yet very young. It is certain, he did fo : For by the monu ment, in Stratford church, erected to the memory of his daughter Sufanna, the wife of John Hall, Gentleman, it appears, that the died on the 2d day of July, in the year 1649, iged-66. So that he was born in 1983, when her father could not be féll 19 years old, who was himfelf born in the year 1964. Nor was the his eldeft child, fór he had another daughter, Judith, who was born before her, and who was married to one Mr. Thomas Quiney. So that Shakefpeare must have entred into 'wedločk' by that time he was turn'd of Seventeen years.

Whether the force of inclination merely, or some conCurring circumstances of convenience in the match, prompted him to marry so early, is not easy to be determin’d at this distance : But 'tis probable, a view of interest might partly fway his conduct in this point: For he married the daughter of one Hathaway, a substantial yoeman in his neighbourhood, and she had the start of him in age no less than eight years. She surviv'd him notwithstanding, seven seasons, and dy'd that very year in which the players publish'd the first edition of his works in folio, anno dom. 1623, at the age of 67 years, as we likewise learn from her monument in Stratford-church.

How long he continued in this kind of settlement upon his own native spot, is not more easily to be determin'd. But if the tradition be true, of that extravagance which forcd bim both to quit his country and way of living ; to wit, his being engag?d, with a knot of young deer-Stealers, to rob the park of Sir Thomas Lucy of Cherlecot near Stratford : The enterprize savours so much of youth and levity, we may reasonably suppofe it was before he could write full man. Besides, confidering he has left us fix and thirty plays; at leaft, avow'd to be genuine ; and confidering too, that he had retird from the stage, 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 af. fair of wool at home ; fome time must be loft, even after he had commenc'd player, before he could attain knowfedge enough in the science to qualify himself for turning author,

It has been observ'd by Mr. Rowe, that, amongst other extravagancies which our author has given to his Sir John Falftaffe, in the Merry Wives of Windsor, he has made him a deer-ftealer ; and that he might at the same time remember his Warwickshire prosecutor, under the name of Justice Shallow, he has given him very near the same coat of arms, which Dugdale, in his iqui of that county, describes for a family there. There are two coats, I observe, in Dugdale, where three filver fishes are borne in the name of Lucy; and another coat, to the monument of Thomas Lucy, son of Sir William Lucy, in which are quarter'd in four several divisions, twelve little fishes, three in each. division, proba. bly Luces. This very coat, indeed, seems alluded to in Shallow's giving the dozen white Luces, and in Slender saya ing be may quarter. When I consider the exceeding candour and good-nature of our author, (which inclind all the gentler part of the world to love him; as the power of his wit obliged the men of the most delicate knowledge and polite learning to admire him ;) and that he should th ow this humorous piece of satire at his prosecutor, at least twenty years after the provocation given; I am confidently pera fuaded it must be owing to an unforgiving rancour on the proiecutor's fide: And if this was the case, it were pity but the disgrace of such an inveteracy should remain as a lasting reproach, and Shallow stand as a mark of ridicule to stigmatize his malice.

It is said our author spent some years before his death, in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends, at his dative Stratford. I could never pick up any certain intelligence, when he relinquith'd the stage. I know, it has been mistakenly thought by some, that Spenser's Thalia, in his vears of kis Muses, where she laments the loss of her Willy in the comic scene, has been apply'd to our author's quitting

the Atage. But Spencer himself, 'tis well known, quitted the stage of life in the year 1598; and, five years after this, we find Shakespeare's name among the actors in Ben John, son's Sejanus, which firft made its appearance in the year 1603. Nor, surely, could he then have any thoughts of retiring, fince, that very year, a licence under the privy. seal was granted by K. James I. to him and Fletcher, Burbage, Phillippes, Hemings, Condel, &c. authorizing them to exercise the art of playing comedies, tragedies, &c. as well at their usual house called the Globe on the other side of the water, as in any other parts of the kingdom, during his Majesty's pleasure : (A copy of which licence is preserv'd in Rymer's Fædera.) Again, 'tis certain, that Shakespeare did not exhibit his Macbeth, till after the union was brought about, and till after K. James 1. had begun to touch for the Evil : For 'tis plain, he has inserted compliments, on both those accounts, upon his royal master in that tragedy. Nor, indeed, could the number of the dramatic pieces, he produced, admit of his retiring near fo early as that period. So that what Spenser there says, if it relate at all to Shakespeare, must hint at some occafional recess he made for a time upon a disgust taken : Or the Willy, there mention'd, muft relate to some other favourite poet. I believe, we may fafely determine that he had not quitted in the year 1610. For in his Tempest, our author makes mention of the Bermuda i Nands, which were unknown to the English, till, in 1609, Sir John Summers made a voyage to North-America, and discover'd them : And afterwards invited fome of his countrymen to fettle a plantation there. That he became the private Gentleman, at least three years before his decease, is pretty obvious from another circumstance: I mean, from that remarkable and wellknown story, which Mr. Rowe has given us of our author's

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