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ing the fanatic turn of the wild Writer that relates its such cenlures are amongst the follies of Men immoderately given over to one Science, and ignorantly undervaluing all the rest.
Those learned Critics might, and perhaps did, laugh in their turn, (tho' still, sure, with the same indecency and ingliscretion) at that incomparable Man, for wearing out a long Life in poring through a Telescope. Indeed, the Weaknesles of such are to be mentioned with reverence. But who can bear, without Indignation, the fashionable cant of every trifling writer, whose insipidity passes, with himself, for politeness, for pretending to be shocked, forsooth, with the rude and lavage air of vulgar Critics; meaning such as Muretus, Scaliger, Caufabon, Salmasius, Spanbeim, Bentley. When, had it not been for the deathless labours of such as these, the western World, at the revival of Letters, had foon faln back again into a state of ignorance and barbarity as deplorable as that from which Providence had just redeemed it.
To conclude with an observation of a fine Writer and great Philosopher of our own; which I would gladly bind, tho’ with all honour, as a Phylactery, on the brow of every awful Grammarian, to teach him at once, the Use and Limits of his art : WORDS ARE THE MONEY OF FOOLS, AND THE COUNTERS OF WISE Men.
Account of the LIFE, &c.
Mr. WILLIAM SHAKESPEAR.
Written by Mr. ROWE.
T seems to be a kind of respect due to the memory of excellent men, especially of those whom their
wit and learning have made famous, to deliver some account of them!elves, as well as their works, to Pofterity. For this reason, how fond do we see fonie people of discovering any little personal story of the great men of Antiquity! their families, the common accidents of their lives, and even their shape, make, and features have been the subject of critical enquiries. How triling loever this Curiosity may seem to be, it is certainly very natural ; and we are hardly satisfied with an account of any
remarkable perfon, cill we have heard him describ'd even to the very cloachs he wears. As for what relates to men of let. ters, the knowledge of an Author may sometimes conduce to the better understanding his book : and tho' the Works of Mr. Shakespear may seem 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. VOL. I.
He was the son of Mr. John Shakespear, 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 mention'd as gentlemen. His father, who was a considerable dealer in wool, had so large a family, ten children in all, that cho' he was his eldest son, he could give him no better education than his own employment. He had bred him, 'tis true, for some time at a Free school, where 'cis probable he acquired what Latin he was master of : but the narrowness of his circumstances, and the want of his affittance at home, forc'd his father to with 'raw him from thence, and unhappily pievented his further proficiency in that language. It is without controversy, that in his works we scarce find any traces of any thing that looks like an imitation of the Ancients. The delicacy of his taste, and the natural bent of his own great Genius, (equal, if not superior to some of the best of theirs) would certainly have led him to read and Itudy 'em with so much pleasure, that some of their fine images would naturally have infinuated themselves into and been mix'd with his own writings : so that his not copying at least fomething from them, may be an argument of his never having read 'em. Whether his ignorance of the Ancients were a disadvantage to him or no, may admit of a dispute : For tho' the knowledge of 'em might have made him more correct, yet it is not improbable but that the regularity and deference for them, which would have attended that correctness, might have restrain'd some of that fire, impetuosity, and even beautitul extravagance which we admire in Shake/pear: And I believe we are better pleas'd with those thoughts, altogether new and uncommon, which his own ima. gination supply'd him so abundantly with, than if he ħad given us the most beautiful passages out of the Greek and Latin poets, and that in the most agreeable
manner that it was possible for a master of the Englis language to deliver 'em.
Upon his leaving school, he seems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father propos’d to him ; and in order to deccle in the world af er a family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was the daughier of one Hathaway, said to have bien a substantial yeoiran in the neighbourhood of Stratford. In this kind of lectlement he continued for lome time, 'till an extrava. gance that he was guilty of forc'd him both out of his country and that way of living which he had taken up: and tho' it seem'd at first to be a blemish opon his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily prov'd the occasion of exerting one of the greateit Genius's that ever was known in dramatick Poetry. He had, by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company ; and amongst them, some that made a frequent practice of Deerstealing, engaged him with them more than once in robbing a Park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy of Cherlecot, near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, somewhat too se. verely; and in order to revenge that ill usage, he made a ballad upon him And tho this, probably the first essay of his Poetry, be lost, yet it is said to have been fo
very bitter, that it redoubled the prosecution against him to that degree, that he was oblig'd ro leave his business and family in Warwickshire, for some time, and shelter himself in London.
It is at this time, and upon this accident, that he is said to have made his first Acquaintance in the playhouse. He was received into the company then in being, at first in a very mean rank; but his admirable wit, and the natural curn of it to the stage, foon distinguished him, if not as an extraordinary Actor, yet as an excellent Writer. His name is printed, as the usto.nl was in those times, amongst those of the
other Players, before some old Plays, but without any particular account of what sort of parts herus’d to play; and tho' I have enquir’d, I could never meet with any further account of him this way, than that the top of his Performance was the ghost in his own Hamlei. I should have been much more pleas'd, to have learn'd from some certain authority, which was the first Play he wrote'; it would be without doubt a pleasure to any man, curious in things of this kind, to see and know what was the first essay of a fancy like Shakespear’s. Perhaps we are not too look for his beginning, like those of other authors, among their least perfect writings s art had so little, and nature so large a Mare in what he did, chat, for ought I know, the performances of his youth, as they were the most vigorous, and had the most fire and strength of imagination in 'em, were the best. I would not be thought by this to mean, that his fancy was so loose and extravagant, as to be independent on the rule and government of judgment; but that what he thought, was commonly lo great, fo juftly and rightly conceived in itself, that it wanted little or no correction, and was immediately approv'd by an impartial judgement at the first sight. But tho' the order of time in which the several pieces were written be generally uncertain, yet there are passages in some few of them wbich seems to fix their datts. So the Chorus at the end of the fourth Act of Henry V. by a compliment very handsomely turn’d to the Eail of Ejjex, News the Play to have bien written when that Lord was, General for the Queen in Ireland : And his Elogy upon Queen Elizabitb, and her successor King Jimes, in the latter end of his Henry VIII. is a proof of that Play's being written after the accession of the latter of
'The highest date of any I can get old : and Richa'd the ad, and 3d, find, is Runeo and Juliet in 1597, in the next year. viz. the 341h of whin the Author was 3 9 yiar's