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WRITTEN BY MR. ROWE.
T feems to be a kind of refpect due to the memory of excellent men, especially of those whom their wit and learning have made famous, to deliver fome account of themfelves, as well as their works, to pofterity. For this reason, how fond do we fee fome people of difcovering any little perfonal ftory of the great men of antiquity! their families, the common accidents of their lives, and even their fhape, make, and features, have been the subject of critical inquiries. How trifling foever this curiofity may feem to be, it is certainly very natural; and we are hardly fatisfied with an account of any remarkable perfon, till we have heard him described even to the very clothes he wears. As for what relates to men of letters, the knowledge of an author may fometimes conduce to the better underftanding his book; and though the works of Mr. Shakspeare may feem to many not to want a comment, yet I fancy fome little account of the man
himself may not be thought improper to go along with them.
He was the fon of Mr. John Shakspeare, and was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, in April, 1564. His family, as appears by the register and publick writings relating to that town, were of good figure and fashion there, and are mentioned as gentlemen. His father, who was a confiderable dealer in wool,5 had so large a family, ten children
His father, who was a confiderable dealer in wool,] It appears that he had been an officer and bailiff of Stratford-uponAvon; and that he enjoyed fome hereditary lands and tenements, the reward of his grandfather's faithful and approved services to King Henry VII. See the extract from the Herald's Office.
The chief Magiftrate of the Body Corporate of Stratford, now diftinguished by the title of Mayor, was in the early charters called the High Bailiff. This office Mr. John Shakspeare filled in 1569, as appears from the following extracts from the books of the corporation, with which I have been favoured by the Rev. Mr. Davenport, Vicar of Stratford-upon-Avon :
"Jan. 10, in the 6th year of the reign of our fovereign lady Queen Elizabeth, John Shakspeare passed his Chamberlain's ac
"At the Hall holden the eleventh day of September, in the eleventh year of the reign of our fovereign lady Elizabeth, 1569, were prefent Mr. John Shakspeare, High Bailiff." [Then follow the names of the Aldermen and Burgeffes.]
"At the Hall holden Nov. 19th, in the 21ft year of the reign of our fovereign lady Queen Elizabeth, it is ordained, that every Alderman fhall be taxed to pay weekly 4d. faving John ShakSpeare and Robert Bruce, who fhall not be taxed to pay any thing; and every burgefs to pay 2d."
"At the Hall holden on the 6th day of September, in the 28th year of our fovereign lady Queen Elizabeth. "At this Hall William Smith and Richard Courte are chosen to be Aldermen in the places of John Wheler, and John Shakfpeare, for that Mr. Wheler doth defire to be put out of the company, and Mr. Shakspere doth not come to the halls, when they be warned, nor hath not done of long time."
From these extracts it may be collected, (as is obferved by the gentleman above mentioned, to whofe obliging attention to my
in all, that though he was his eldest fon, he could give him no better education than his own employment. He had bred him, it is true, for fome time at a free-school, where, it is probable, he acquired what Latin he was mafter of: but the narrowness of his circumstances, and the want of his affiftance at home, forced his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that language. It is without controversy, that in his works we fcarce find any traces of any thing that looks like an imitation of the ancients. The delicacy of his tafte, and the natural bent of his own great genius, (equal, if not fuperior, to some of the beft of theirs,) would certainly have led him to read and study them with fo much pleafure, that fome of their fine images would naturally have infinuated themselves into, and been mixed
inquiries I am indebted for many particulars relative to our poet's family,) that Mr. John Shakspeare in the former part of his life was in good circumstances, fuch perfons being generally chofen into the corporation; and from his being excufed [in 1579] to pay 4d. weekly, and at a subsequent period (1586) put out of the corporation, that he was then reduced in his circumftances. It appears from a note to W. Dethick's Grant of Arms to him in 1596, now in the College of Arms, Vincent, Vol. 157, p. 24, that he was a juftice of the peace, and poffeffed of lands and tenements to the amount of 5001.
Our poet's mother was the daughter and heir of Robert Arden of Wellingcote, in the county of Warwick, who, in the MS. above referred to, is called "a gentleman of worship." The family of Arden is a very ancient one; Robert Arden of Bromwich, Efq. being in the lift of the gentry of this county, returned by the commiffioners in the twelfth year of King Henry VI. A. D. 1433. Edward Arden was Sheriff to the county in 1568.-The woodland part of this county was anciently called Ardern; afterwards softened to Arden. Hence the name.
• He had bred him, it is true, for fome time at a free-fchool,] The free-school, I prefume, founded at Stratford. THEOBALD.
with his own writings; fo that his not copying at leaft fomething from them, may be an argument of his never having read them. Whether his ignorance of the ancients were a difadvantage to him or no, may admit of a difpute: for though the knowledge of them might have made him more correct, yet it is not improbable but that the regularity and deference for them, which would have attended that correctnefs, might have reftrained fome of that fire, impetuofity, and even beautiful extravagance, which we admire in Shakspeare: and I believe we are better pleased with thofe thoughts, altogether new and uncommon, which his own imagination fupplied him fo abundantly with, than if he had given us the most beautiful paffages out of the Greek and Latin poets, and that in the moft agreeable manner that it was poffible for a mafter of the English language to deliver them.
Upon his leaving school, he seems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father propofed to him;7 and in order to fettle in the world after a family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was
into that way of living which his father proposed to him ;] I believe, that on leaving school Shakspeare was placed in the office of fome country attorney, or the fenefchal of some manor court. See the Effay on the Order of his Plays, Article, Hamlet. MALONE.
8 he thought fit 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 daughter, Sufanna, the wife of John Hall, gentleman, it appears, that the died on the 2d of July, 1649, aged 66; so that she was born in 1583, when her father could not be full 19 years old. THEOBALD.
Sufanna, who was our poet's eldeft child, was baptized, May 26, 1583. Shakspeare therefore, having been born in April 1564, was nineteen the month preceding her birth. Mr.
the daughter of one Hathaway, faid to have been a fubftantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford. In this kind of fettlement he continued for fome time, till an extravagance that he was guilty of forced him both out of his country, and that way of living which he had taken up; and though it seemed at first to be a blemish upon his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily proved the occafion of exerting one of the greatest geniuses that ever was known in dramatick poetry. He had by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company, and amongst them, fome that made a frequent practice of deerftealing, engaged him more than once in robbing a park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote, near Stratford. For this he was profecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, fomewhat too feverely; and in order to revenge that ill usage, he made a ballad upon him. And though this, pro
Theobald was mistaken in fuppofing that a monument was erected to her in the church of Stratford. There is no memorial there in honour of either our poet's wife or daughter, except flat tombftones, by which, however, the time of their respective deaths is afcertained. His daughter, Sufanna, died, not on the fecond, but the eleventh of July, 1649. Theobald was led into this error by Dugdale. MALONE.
9 His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway,] She was eight years older than her husband, and died in 1623, at the age of 67 years. THEOBALD.
The following is the infcription on her tomb-ftone in the church of Stratford :
"Here lyeth interred the body of ANNE, wife of William Shakespeare, who departed this life the 6th day of Auguft, 1623, being of the age of 67 yeares."
After this infcription follow fix Latin verfes, not worth preferving. MALONE.
in order to revenge that ill ufage, he made a ballad upon him.] Mr. William Oldys, (Norroy King at Arms, and