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speare's illustrious friend; and its transfers, during | poetic palm. I have already cited Chettle: let me the hundred and thirty-seven years, which inter- now cite Jonson, from whose pages much more of posed between the death of Southampton, in 1624, a similar nature might be adduced. "I loved," he and the time of its emerging from darkness at Gop- says in his 'Discoveries,' "I loved the man, and do sal, in 1761, are not made the subjects even of a honour his memory, on this side idolatry, as much random guess. On such evidence, therefore, if as any. He was, indeed, honest, of an open and evidence it can be called, it is impossible for us to free nature; had an excellent fancy, brave notions receive, with Mr. Boaden, the Gopsal picture as a and gentle expressions," &c. &c. When Jonson genuine portrait of Shakspeare. We are now as- apostrophizes his deceased friend, he calls him, sured that it was from the Chandos portrait Sir "My gentle Shakspeare," and the title of "the Godfrey Kneller copied the painting which he pre- sweet swan of Avon," so generally given to him, sented to Dryden, a poet inferior only to him whose after the example of Jonson, by his contemporaries, portrait constituted the gift. The beautiful verses, seems to have been given with reference as much with which the poet requited the kind attention of to the suavity of his temper as to the harmony of the painter, are very generally known: but many his verse. In their dedication of his works to the may require to be informed that the present, made Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, his fellows, on this occasion by the great master of the pen- Heminge and Condell, profess that their great obcil to the greater master of the pen, is still in ject in their publication was "only to keep the existence, preserved no doubt by the respect felt to memory of so worthy a friend and fellow alive as be due to the united names of Kneller, Dryden, was our Shakspeare:" and their preface to the and Shakspeare; and is now in the collection of public appears evidently to have been dictated by Earl Fitzwilliam at Wentworth Castle.* The ori- their personal and affectionate attachment to ther ginal painting, from which Droeshout drew the copy departed friend. If we wish for any further evifor his engraving, prefixed to the first folio edition dence in the support of the moral character of of our Poet's dramas, has not yet been discovered; Shakspeare, we may find it in the friendship of Southand I feel persuaded that no original painting ever ampton; we may extract it from the pages of his existed for his imitation; but that the artist worked immortal works. Dr. Johnson, in his much overin this instance from his own recollection, assisted praised Preface, seems to have taken a view, very probably by the suggestions of the Poet's theatric different from ours, of the morality of our author's friends. We are, indeed, strongly of opinion that scenes. He says, "His (Shakspeare's) first defect Shakspeare, remarkable, as he seems to have been, is that to which may be imputed most of the evil in for a lowly estimate of himself, and for a carelessness books or in men. He sacrifices virtue to conveof all personal distinction, would not readily submit nience; and is so much more careful to please than his face to be a painter's study, to the loss of hours, to instruct, that he seems to write without any moral which he might more usefully or more pleasurably purpose. From his writings, indeed, a system of assign to reading, to composition, or to conviviality, moral duty may be selected," (indeed!) but his If any sketch of his features was made during his precepts and axioms drop casually from him:" life, it was most probably taken by some rapid and (Would the preface-writer have wished the dramaunprofessional pencil, when the Poet was unaware tist to give a connected treatise on ethics like the of it; or, taken by surprise, and exposed by it to offices of Cicero ?) "he makes no just distribution no inconvenience, was not disposed to resist it. of good or evil, nor is always careful to show in We We are convinced that no authentic portrait of this the virtuous a disapprobation of the wicked: he great man has yet been produced, or is likely to be carries his persons indifferently through right and discovered; and that we must not therefore hope wrong; and at the close dismisses them without to be gratified with any thing which we can contem- further care, and leaves their examples to operate plate with confidence as a faithful representation of by chance. This fault the barbarity of the age canhis countenance. The head of the statue, executed not extenuate; for it is always a writer's duty to by Scheemaker, and erected, in 1741, to the honour make the world better, and justice is a virtue indeof our poet in Westminster Abbey, was sculptured pendent on time or place." Why this commonplace after a mezzotinto, scraped by Simon nearly twenty on justice should be compelled into the station in years before, and said to be copied from an origi- which we here most strangely find it, I cannot for nal portrait, by Zoust. But as this artist was not my life conjecture. But absurd as it is made by its known by any of his productions in England till association in this place, it may not form an im the year 1657, no original portrait of Shakspeare proper conclusion to a paragraph which means little, could be drawn by his pencil; and, consequently, and which, intending censure, confers dramatic the marble chiselled by Scheemaker, under the praise on a dramatic writer. It is evident, however, direction of Lord Burlington, Pope, and Mead, that Dr. Johnson, though he says that a system of cannot lay any claim to an authorized resemblance moral duty may be selected from Shakspeare's to the man, for whom it was wrought. We must writings, wished to inculcate that his scenes were be satisfied, therefore, with knowing, on the au- not of a moral tendency. On this topic, the first thority of Aubrey, that our Poet "was a handsome, and the greater Jonson seems to have entertained well-shaped man ;" and our imagination must sup- very different sentimentsply the expansion of his forehead, the sparkle and flash of his eyes, the sense and good-temper playing round his mouth; the intellectuality and the benevolence mantling over his whole countenance.
It is well that we are better acquainted with the rectitude of his morals, than with the symmetry of his features. To the integrity of his heart; the gentleness and benignity of his manners, we have
Look, how the father's face (says this great man)
Lives in his issue; even so the race
Of Shakspeare's mind and manners, brightly shines
the positive testimony of Chettle and Ben Jonson; We think, indeed, that his scenes are rich in ster the former of whom seems to have been drawn, by ling morality, and that they must have been the effuour Poet's good and amiable qualities, from the fac-sions of a moral mind. The only crimination. of his tion of his dramatic enemies; and the latter, in his love and admiration of the man, to have lost all nis natural jealousy of the successful competitor for the
* I derive my knowledge on this topic from Malone; for till I saw the fact asserted in his page, I was not aware that the picture in question had been preserved amid the wreck of poor Dryden's property. On the authority also of Malone and of Mr. Boaden, I speak of Sir Godfrey's present to Dryden as of a copy from the Chandos portrait
morals must be drawn from a few of his sonnets; and from a story first suggested by Anthony Wood, and afterwards told by Oldys on the authority of Betterton and Pope. From the Sonnets* we can collect nothing more than that their writer was blindly attached to an unprincipled woman, who preferred a young and beautiful friend of his to him self. But the story told by Oldys presents some
* See Son 141, 144, 147, 151, 152
to think, with the writer "On Shakspeare and his Times," that these familiar and fervent addresses were made to the proud and the lofty Southampton. Neither can I persuade myself, with Malone, that the friend and the mistress are the mere creatures of our Poet's imagination, raised for the sport of his muse, and without "a local habitation or a name." They were, unquestionably, realities: but who they were must for ever remain buried in inscrutable mystery. That those addressed to his male friend are not open to the infamous interpre tation, affixed to them by the monthly critic, may be proved, as I persuade myself, to demonstration. The odious vice to which we allude, was always in England held in merited detestation; and would our Poet consent to be the publisher of his own shame? to become a sort of outcast from society? to be made
thing to us of a more tangible nature; and as it | the Roman poet, into a man, as I would be induced possesses some intrinsic merit as a story, and rests, as to its principal facts, on the authority of Wood, who was a native of Oxford and a veracious man, we shall not hesitate, after the example of most of the recent biographers of our Poet, to relate it, and in the very words of Oldys. "If tradition may be trusted, Shakspeare often baited at the Crown Inn or Tavern in Oxford, on his journey to and from London. The landlady was a beautiful woman and of a sprightly wit; and her husband, Mr. John Davenant, (afterwards mayor of that city,) a grave, melancholy man, who, as well as his wife, used much to delight in Shakspeare's pleasant company. Their son, young Will Davenant (afterwards Sir William Davenant) was then a little schoolboy, in the town, of about seven or eight years old; and so fond also of Shakspeare that, whenever he heard of his arrival, he would fly from school to see him. One day, an old townsman, observing the boy running homeward almost out of breath, asked him whither he was posting in that heat and hurry. He answered, to see his god-father, Shakspeare. There is a good boy, said the other; but have a care that you don't take God's name in vain! This story Mr. Pope told me at the Earl of Oxford's table, upon occasion of some discourse which arose about Shakspeare's monument, then newly erected in Westminster Abbey."
On these two instances of his frailty, under the influence of the tender passion, one of them supported by his own evidence, and one resting on authority which seems to be not justly questionable, depend all the charges which can be brought against the strict personal morality of Shakspeare. In these days of peculiarly sensitive virtue, he would not possibly be admitted into the party of the saints: but, in the age in which he lived, these errors of his human weakness did not diminish the respect, commanded by the probity of his heart; or the love, conciliated by the benignity of his manners; or the admiration exacted by the triumph of his genius. I blush with indignation when I relate that an offence, of a much more foul and atrocious nature, has been suggested against him by a critic of the present day, on the pretended testimony of a large number of his sonnets. But his own proud character, which raised him high in the estimation of his contemporaries, sufficiently vindicates him from this abominable imputation. It is admitted that one hundred and twenty of these little poems are addressed to a male, and that in the language of many of them love is too strongly and warmly identified with friendship. But in the days of Shakspeare love and friendship were almost synonymous terms. In the Merchant of Venice,† Lorenzo speaking of Antonio to Portia, says,
"But if you knew to whom you show this honour,
and Portia, in her reply calls Antonio "the bosom lover
See Monthly Review for Dec. 1824: article, SkotLowe's Life of Shakspeare.
† Act iii sc 4
"A fixed figure for the hand of time
To point his slow, unmoving finger at ?” If the sonnets in question were not actually publish ed by him, he refrained to guard them from manuscript distribution; and they soon, as might be express; whence they pected, found their way to the were rapidly circulated, to the honour of his poetry and not to the discredit of his morals. So pure was be from the disgusting vice, imputed to him, alludes to it only once (if my recollection be at all for the first time, in the nineteenth century, that he accurate) in all his voluminous works; and that is where the foul-mouthed Thersites, in Troilus and Cressida, calls Patroclus "Achilles's masculine whore." Under all the circumstances of the case, therefore, that these sonnets should be the effusions of sexual love is incredible, inconceivable, impossi ble; and we must turn away from the injurious suggestion with honest abhorrence and disdain.
The Will of Shakspeare, giving to his youngest daughter, Judith, not more than three hundred pounds, and a piece of plate, which probably was valuable, as it is called by the testator, "My broad silver and gilt bowl," assigns almost the whole of his property to his eldest daughter, Susanna Hall, and The cause of this evident partiality in the father her husband; whom he appoints to be his executors. appears to be discoverable in the higher mental accomplishments of the elder daughter; who is reported to have resembled him in her intellectual endowments, and to have been eminently distinguished by the piety and the Christian benevolence which actuated her conduct. Having survived her estimable husband fourteen years, she died on the 11th of July, 1649; and the inscription on her tomb, preserved by Dugdale, commemorates her intellectual superiority, and the influence of religion upon her heart. This inscription, which we shall transcribe, bears witness also, as we must observe, to the piety of her illustrious father.
Witty above her sex; but that's not all:
To weep with her, that wept with all?
Them up with comforts cordial.
As Shakspeare's last will and testament will be
Act v sc. 1.
reached her 77th year, expired in February, 1661-2 personal history of Shakspeate is his birth Ben
anmarried and before their mother; who, having | Whatever is in any degree associated with the -being buried on the 9th of that month. She ap-eral interest. The circumstance pears either not to have received any education, or not to have profited by the lessons of her teachers, for to a deed, still in existence, she affixes her
impart consequence even to a provincial town; and we are not unconcerned in the past or the present fortunes of the place, over which hovers the glory of his name. But the house, in which he passed We have already mentioned the dates of the the last three or four years of his life, and in which birth, marriage, and death of Susanna Hall. She he terminated his mortal labours, is still more enleft only one daughter, Elizabeth, who was baptized gaging to our imaginations, as it is more closely and on the 21st of February, 1607-8, eight years before personally connected with him. Its history, thereHer grandfather's decease, and was married on the fore, must not be omitted by us; and if in some re 22d of April, 1626, to Mr. Thomas Nash, a country spects, we should differ in it from the narrative of gentleman, as it appears, of independent fortune. Malone, we shall not be without reasons sufficient Two years after the death of Mr. Nash, who was to justify the deviations in which we indulge. New buried on the 5th of April, 1647, she married on the Place, then, which was not thus first named by 5th of June, 1649, at Billesley in Warwickshire, Sir Shakspeare, was built in the reign of Henry VH., John Barnard, Knight, of Abington, a small village by Sir Hugh Clopton, Kt., the younger son of an in the vicinity of Northampton. She died, and was old family resident near Stratford, who had filled buried at Abington, on the 17th of February, 1669-70; in succession the offices of Sheriff and of Lord and, as she left no issue by either of her husbands, Mayor of London. In 1563 it was sold by one of ner death terminated the lineal descendants of the Clopton family to William Bott; and by him Shakspeare. His collateral kindred have been in- it was again sold in 1570 to William Underhill, (the dulged with a much longer period of duration; the purchaser and the seller being both of the rank of descendants of his sister, Joan, having continued in esquires) from whom it was bought by our Poet in a regular succession of generations even to our 1597. By him it was bequeathed to his daughter, days; whilst none of them, with a single exception, Susanna Hall; from whom it descended to her only have broken from that rank in the community in child, Lady Barnard. In the June of 1643, this which their ancestors, William Hart and Joan Lady, with her first husband Mr. Nash, entertained, Shakspeare united their unostentatious fortunes in for nearly three weeks, at New Place, Henrietta the year 1599. The single exception to which we Maria, the queen of Charles I., when, escorted by allude is that of Charles Hart, believed, for good Prince Rupert and a large body of troops, she was reasons, to be the son of William the eldest son of on her progress to meet her royal consort, and to William and Joan Hart, and, consequently, the proceed with him to Oxford. On the death of Lady grand-nephew of our Poet. At the early age of Barnard without children, New Place was sold, in seventeen, Charles Hart, as lieutenant in Prince 1675,† to Sir Edward Walker, Kt., Garter King at Rupert's regiment, fought at the battle of Edgehill: Arms; by whom it was left to his only child, Barbara, and, subsequently betaking himself to the stage, he married to Sir John Clopton, Kt., of Clopton in the became the most renowned tragic actor of his time. parish of Stratford. On his demise, it became the "What Mr. Hart delivers," says Rymer, (I adopt property of a younger son of his, Sir Hugh Clopton, the citation from the page of Malone,) "every one Kt., (this family of the Cloptons seems to have beer. takes upon content: their eyes are prepossessed peculiarly prolific in the breed of knights,) by whom and charmed by his action before aught of the poet's it was repaired and decorated at a very large excan approach their ears; and to the most wretched pense. Malone affirms that it was pulled down by of characters he gives a lustre and brilliancy, which him, and its place supplied by a more sumptuous dazzles the sight that the deformities in the poetry edifice. If this statement were correct, the crime of cannot be perceived." "Were I a poet," (says its subsequent destroyer would be greatly extenu another contemporary writer,) "nay a Fletcher or ated; and the hand which had wielded the axe a Shakspeare, I would quit my own title to immor- against the hallowed mulberry tree, would be abtality so that one actor might never die. This I solved from the second act, imputed to it, of sacrimay modestly say of him (nor is it my particular legious violence. But Malone's acccount is, unopinion, but the sense of all mankind) that the best questionably, erroneous. In the May of 1742, Sir tragedies on the English stage have received their Hugh entertained Garrick, Macklin, and Delany lustre from Mr. Hart's performance: that he has under the shade of the Shakspearian mulberry. On left such an impression behind him, that no less than the demise of Sir Hught in the December of 1751, the interval of an age can make them appear again New Place was sold by his son-in-law and executor, with half their majesty from any second hand." This Henry Talbot, the Lord Chancellor Talbot's brother, was a brilliant eruption from the family of Shak- to the Rev. Francis Gastrell, Vicar of Frodsham in speare; but as it was the first so it appears to have Cheshire; by whom, on some quarrel with the been the last; and the Harts have ever since, as magistrates on the subject of the parochial assessfar at least as it is known to us, "pursued the noise-ments, it was razed to the ground, and its site abanless tenor of their way," within the precincts of doned to vacancy. On this completion of his outtheir native town on the banks of the soft-flowing rages against the memory of Shakspeare, which Avon.* his unlucky possession of wealth enabled him to said, with any of the vitality of genius. For this information I am indebted to Mr. Charles Fellows, of Nottingham; who with the characteristic kindness of his most estimable family, sought for the intelligence which was required by me, and obtained it.
By intelligence, on the accuracy of which I can rely, and which has only just reached me, from the birthplace of Shakspeare, I learn that the family of the Harts, after a course of lineal descents during the revolution of two hundred and twenty-six years, is now on the verge of extinction; an aged woman, who retains in single blessedness her maiden name of Hart, being at this time (Nov. 1825) its sole surviving representative. For some years she occupied the house of her ancestors, in which Shakspeare is reported to have first seen the light; and here she obtained a comfortable subsistence by showing the antiquities of the venerated mansion to the numerous strangers who were attracted to it. Being dispossessed of this residence by the rapaciousness of its proprietor, she settled herself in a dwelling nearly opposite to it. Here she still lives; and continues to exhibit some relics, not reputed to be genuine, of the mighty Sir Hugh Clopton was knighted by George I. He bard, with whom her maternal ancestor was nourished was a barrister at law; and died in the December of in the same womb. She regards herself also as a dra-1751, at the advanced age of eighty-Malone. matic poet; and, in support of her pretensions, she pro- Our days, also, have witnessed a similar profana Juces the rude sketch of a play, uninformed, as it is tion of the relics of genius; not, indeed, of gelius
Malone gives a different account of some of the transfers of New Place. According to him, it passed by sale, on the death of Lady Barnard, to Edward Nash. the cousin-german of that Lady's first husband; and, by him, was bequeathed to his daughter Mary, the wife of Sir Reginald Foster; from whom it was bought by Sir John Clopton, who gave it by deed to his youngest son, Sir Hugh. But the deed, which conveyed New Place to Sir Edward Walker, is still in existence; and has been published by R. B. Wheeler, the historian of Stratford.
REMARKS UPON HIS DRAMATIC WRITINGS.
tory outline, we must have recourse to the vague reports of unsubstantial tradition, or to the still more shadowy inferences of lawless and vagabond conjecture. Of this remarkable ignorance of one of the most richly endowed with intellect of the human species, who ran his mortal race in our own country, and who stands separated from us by no very great intervention of time, the causes may not be difficult to be ascertained. William Shakspeare was an actor and a writer of plays; in neither of which characters, however he might excel in them, could he be lifted high in the estimation of his contemporaries. He was honoured, indeed, with the friendship of nobles, and the patronage of monarchs: his theatre was frequented by the wits of the metropolis; and he associated with the most intellectual of his times. But the spirit of the age was against him; and, in opposition to it, he could not become the subject of any general or comprehensive interest. The nation, in short, knew little and cared less about him. During his life, and for some
HEREVER any extraordinary display of huW man intellect has been made, there will human curiosity, at one period or the other, be busy to obtain some personal acquaintance with the distinguished mortal whom Heaven had been pleased to endow with a larger portion of its own ethereal energy. If the favoured man walked on the high places of the world; if he were conversant with courts; if he directed the movements of armies or of states, and thus held in his hand the fortunes and the lives of multitudes of his fellow-creatures, the interest, which he excites, will be immediate and strong he stands on an eminence where he is the mark of many eyes; and dark and unlettered indeed must be the age in which the incidents of his eventful life will not be noted, and the record of them be preserved for the instruction or the entertainment of unborn generations. But if his course were through the vale of life: if he were unmingled with the factions and the contests of the great: if the powers of his mind were devoted to the silent pursuits of literature-to the converse of philo-years after his death, inferior dramatists outran him sophy and the Muse, the possessor of the ethereal treasure may excite little of the attention of his contemporaries; may walk quietly, with a veil over his glories, to the grave; and, in other times, when the expansion of his intellectual greatness has filled the eyes of the world, it may be too late to inquire for his history as a man. The bright track of his genius indelibly remains; but the trace of his mortal footstep is soon obliterated for ever. Homer is now only a name-a solitary name, which assures us, that, at some unascertained period in the annals of mankind, a mighty mind was indulged to a human being, and gave its wonderful productions to the perpetual admiration of men, as they spring in succession in the path of time. Of Homer himself we actually know nothing; and we see only an arm of immense power thrust forth from a mass of impenetrable darkness, and holding up the hero of his song to the applauses of never-dying fame. But it may be supposed that the revolution of, perhaps, thirty centuries has collected the cloud which thus withdraws the father of poesy from our sight. Little more than two centuries has elapsed since William Shakspeare conversed with our tongue, and trod the selfsame soil with ourselves; and if it were not for the records kept by our Church in its registers of births, marriages, and burials, we should at this moment be as personally ignorant of the "sweet swan of Avon" as we are of the old minstrel and rhapsodist of Meles. That William Shakspeare was born in Stratford upon Avon; that he married and had three children; that he wrote a certain number of dramas; that he died before he had attained to old age, and was buried in his native town, are positively the only facts, in the personai nistory of this extraordinary man, of which we are certainly possessed; and, if we should be solicitous to fill up this bare and most unsatisfac
in the race of popularity; and then the flood of puritan fanaticism swept him and the stage together into temporary oblivion. On the restoration of the monarchy and the theatre, the school of France perverted our taste, and it was not till the last century was somewhat advanced that William Shakspeare arose again, as it were, from the tomb, in al: his proper majesty of light. He then became the subject of solicitous and learned inquiry: but inquiry was then too late; and all that it could reco ver, from the ravage of time, were only a few human fragments, which could scarcely be united into a man. To these causes of our personal ignorance of the great bard of England, must be added his own strange indifference to the celebrity of genius. When he had produced his admirable works, ignorant or heedless of their value, he abandoned them with perfect indifference to oblivion or to fame. It surpassed his thought that he could grow into the admiration of the world; and, without any refer ence to the curiosity of future ages, in which he could not conceive himself to possess an interest, he was contented to die in the arms of obscurity, as an unlaurelled burgher of a provincial town. To this combination of causes are we to attribute the scantiness of our materials for the Life of William Shakspeare. His works are in myriads of hands: he constitutes the delight of myriads of readers: his renown is coextensive with the civi lization of man; and, striding across the ocean from Europe, it occupies the wide region of transatlantic empire: but he is himself only a shadow which disappoints our grasp; an undefined form which is rather intimated than discovered to the keenest searchings of our eye. Of the little however, questionable or certain, which can be told of him, we must now proceed to make the best use in our power, to write what by courtesy may be called
nis ife; and we have only to lament that the result | gious faith, has recently been made the subject of
of our labour must greatly disappoint the curiosity which has been excited by the grandeur of his reputation. The slight narrative of Rowe, founded on the information obtained, in the beginning of the ast century, by the inquiries of Betterton, the famous actor, will necessarily supply us with the greater part of the materials with which we are to work.
controversy. According to the testimony of Rowe, grounded on the tradition of Stratford, the father of our Poet was a dealer in wool, or, in the provincia) vocabulary of his country, a wool-driver; and such he has been deemed by all the biographers of his son, till the fact was thrown into doubt by the result of the inquisitiveness of Malone. Finding, in an old and obscure MS. purporting to record the proceedings of the bailiff's court in Stratford, our WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, OF SHAKSPERE, (for John Shakspeare designated as a glover, Malone the floating orthography of the name is properly exults over the ignorance of poor Rowe, and asattached to the one or the other of these varieties,) sumes no small degree of merit to himself as the was baptized in the church of Stratford upon Avon, discoverer of a long sought and a most important as is ascertained by the parish register, on the 26th historic truth. If he had recollected the remark of of April, 1564; and he is said to have been born on the clown in the Twelfth Night,* that "a sentence the 23d of the same month, the day consecrated to is but a cheverel glove to a good wit. How quickly the tutelar saint of England. His parents, John the wrong side may be turned outwards!" he would, and Mary Shakspeare, were not of equal ranks in doubtless, have pressed the observation into his serthe community; for the former was only a respect-vice, and brought it as an irresistible attestation of able tradesman, whose ancestors cannot be traced the veracity of his old MS. into gentility, whilst the latter belonged to an an- Whatever may have been the trade of John cient and opulent house in the county of Warwick, Shakspeare, whether that of wool-merchant or of being the youngest daughter of Robert Arden of glover, it seems, with the little fortune of his wife, Wilmecote. The family of the Ardens (or Arder- to have placed him in a state of casy competence. acs, as it is written in all the old deeds,) was of In 1569 or 1570, in consequence partly of his alliconsiderable antiquity and importance, some of ance with the Ardens, and partly of his attainment them having served as high sheriffs of their county, of the prime municipal honours of his town, he and two of them (Sir John Arden and his nephew, obtained a concession of arms from the herald's the grandfather of Mrs. Shakspeare,) having en- office, a grant, which placed him and his family on joyed each a station of honour in the personal esta- the file of the gentry of England; and, in 1574, he blishment of Henry VII. The younger of these purchased two houses, with gardens and orchards Ardens was made, by his sovereign, keeper of the annexed to them, in Henley Street, in Stratford. park of Aldercar, and bailiff of the lordship of Cod-But before the year 1578, his prosperity, from nore. He obtained, also, from the crown, a valu- causes not now ascertainable, had certainly deable grant in the lease of the manor of Yoxsal, inclined; for in that year, as we find from the records Staffordshire, consisting of more than 4,600 acres, at a rent of 421. Mary Arden did not come dowerless to her plebeian husband, for she brought to him a small freehold estate called Asbies, and the sum of 64. 13s. 4. in money. The freehold consisted of a house and fifty-four acres of land; and, as far as appears, it was the first piece of landed property which was ever possessed by the Shakspeares. Of this marriage the offspring was four sons and four daughters; of whom Joan (or, according to the orthography of that time, Jone,) and Margaret, the eldest of the children died, one in infancy and one at a somewhat more advanced age; and Gilbert, whose birth immediately succeeded to that of our Poet, is supposed by some not to have reached his maturity, and by others, to have attained to considerable longevity. Joan, the eldest of the four remaining children, and named after her deceased sister, married William Hart, a hatter in her native town; and Edmund, the youngest of the family, adopting the profession of an actor, resided in St. Saviour's parish in London; and was buried in St. Saviour's Church, on the last day of December, 1607, in his twenty-eighth year. Of Anne and Richard, whose births intervened between those of Joan and Edmund, th parish register tells the whole history, when it cords that the former was buried on the 4th of Apr 1, 1579, in the eighth year of her age, and the latte on the 4th of February, 1612-13, when he had nearly completed his thirtyninth.
of his borough, he was excused, in condescension to his poverty, from the moiety of a very moderate assessment of six shillings and eight pence, made by the members of the corporation on themselves at the same time that he was a.together exempted from his contribution to the relief of the peor. During the remaining years of his life, his fortunes appear not to have recovered themselves; for he ceased to attend the meetings of the corporation hall, where he had once presided; and, in 1586, another person was substituted as alderman in his place, in consequence of his magisterial inefficiency. He died in the September of 1601, when his illustrious son had already attained to high celebrity; and his wife, Mary Shakspeare, surviving him for seven years, deceased in the September of 1608, the burial of the former being registered on the eighth and that of the latter on the ninth of this month, in each of these respective years.
On the 30th of June, 1564, when our Poet had not yet been three months in this breathing world, his native Stratford was visited by the plague; and, during the six succeeding months, the ravaging disease is calculated to have swept to the grave more than a seventh part of the whole population of the place. But the favoured infant reposed in security in his cradle, and breathed health amid an atmosphere of pestilence. The Genius of England may be supposed to have held the arm of the destroyer, and not to have permitted it to fall on the consecrated dwelling of his and Nature's darling. The In consequence of a document, discovered in the disease, indeed, did not overstep his charmed thresyear 1770, in the house in which, if tradition is to hold; for the name of Shakspeare is not to be found be trusted, our Poet was born, some persons having in the register of deaths throughout that period of concluded that John Shakspeare was a Roman accelerated mortality. That he survived this desoCatholic, though he had risen, by the regular gra-lating calamity of his townsmen, is all that we know dation of office, to the chief dignity of the corpora- of William Shakspeare from the day of his birth tion of Stratford, that of high bailiff; and, during till he was sent, as we are informed by Rowe, to the the whole of this period, had unquestionably con- free-school of Stratford; and was stationed there formed to the rites of the Church of England. The in the course of his education, till, in corsequence asserted fact seemed not to be very probable; and of the straitened circumstances of his father, he the document in question, which, drawn up in a was recalled to the paternal roof. As we are not testamentary form and regularly attested, zealously told at what age he was sent to school, we cannot professes the Roman faith of him in whose name it form any estimate of the time during which he respeaks, having been subjected to a rigid examina-mained there. But if he was placed under his tion by Malone, has been pronounced to be spurious. The trade of John Shakspeare, as well as his reli
Act iii. sc. A