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NEARLY all that has come down to us of the personal history of Shakespeare may be expressed in the words of one of his biographers : “All that is known with any degree of certainty is, that he was born at Stratford-upon-Avon-married, and had children there-went London, where he commenced actor, and wrote poems and plays-returned to Stratford, made his will, died, and was buried.” It is most remarkable of such a man as Shakespeare, “that no letter of his writing, no record of his conversation, no fully drawn character of him by any contemporary has yet been discovered.” The industry of his commentators has indeed discovered various documents in which he is mentioned, but the information is of the most meagre kind, and the history derived from the discovery, of a merely conjectural character.

At first sight one is disposed to imagine that, great as Shakespeare has been esteemed since his death, possibly he been undervalued by his contemporaries, but several incidental notices of him by writers of his age, show that not only were his writings appreciated, but that his plays had introduced a new era in the progress of dramatic literature.

So far as we can gather from the scanty facts which have been collected, Shakespeare seems to have had a most supreme indifference as to the place he was to occupy in the annals of

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