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THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.
ment of a debt of five pounds, to Sadler, a baker. This depression of his circumstances is alluded to by Rowe, and attributed to the expenses incidental to a large and increasing family; but in this statement, the real cause of his difficulties is mistaken. It has been ascertained, by the diligence of Malone, that the family of Shakspeare's father was by no means numerous; for of his eight children, five only attained to the years of maturity.* The decay of his affairs was the natural consequence of the decline of the branch of trade in which he was engaged. As a Woolstapler, Mr. John Shakspeare had flourished as long as the business itself was prosperous; and with its failure, his fortunes had fallen into decay. He became involved in the gradual ruin which fell on the principal trade of the place, and which, in 1590, drew from the bailiff and burgesses of Stratford, a supplication to the Lord Treasurer Burghley, lamenting the distresses of the town; for want of such trade as heretofore they had by clothinge, and making of yarne, ymploying and mayntayninge a number of poore people by the same, which now live in great penury and miserie, by reason they are not set at worke, as before they have been.'†
In this unfavourable state of the affairs of his family, Shakspeare was withdrawn from school; his assistance was wanted at home.' It was, I should imagine, at this juncture, that his father, no longer able to secure a respectable subsistence for his wife and children, by his original trade as a woolstapler, had recourse to the inferior occupation of a butcher; and, if the tale be founded in fact, which Aubrey says 'he was told heretofore by some of his neighbours,' then it must have been, that Shakspeare began to exhibit his dramatic propensities, and when he killed a calfe, would do it in a high style, and make a speech.'§
The assistance, however, which the poet rendered his father in his business, was not of long duration. He had just attained the age of eighteen, when he married. The object of this early attachment was Anne, the daughter of Richard Hathaway, a substantial yeoman, in the neighbourhood of his native town. She was eight years older than her husband; and Oldys, without stating his authority, in one of his MSS. mentions her as beautiful. It may be feared that this marriage was not perfectly happy.
His family consisted of four sons and four daughters. JOAN, died in infancy: MARGARET, when only four months old. WILLIAM, was the poet: of GILHRT, nothing is known but the date of his baptism, and that he lived till after the restoration of Charles the Second: JOAN, married William Hart, a hatter, * Stratford; she died in 1646, leaving three sons: and in 1794, one of Shakspeare's two houses, in Henley Street, was the property of Thomas Hart, a butther, the sixth in descent from JOAN. ANN, died in infancy. RICHARD, was buried in 1612-13. EDMUND, va a player at the Globe; he lived in St. Saviour's,
From the celebrated passage in Twelfth Night, concluding with
Then let thy love be younger than thyself, Or thy affection cannot hold the bent,'
we may suspect that Shakspeare, at the time of writing this, which was probably his last, play, had lived to repent his too early marriage, and the indulgence of an affection so much misgrafted in respect of years. Such is the conjecture of Malone; but it is hardly fair to apply personally to the poet the general maxims that may be discovered in his works. His daughter Susanna was born in the following year. The parish register of Stratford informs us that within eighteen months afterwards his wife bore twins, a son and daughter, who were baptized by the names of Hamnet and Judith: and thus, when little more than twenty, Shakspeare had already a wife and three children dependant on his exertions for support.
Malone supposes that our author was at this time employed in an attorney's office, and gives a long list of quotations from his works, which shew how familiarly he was acquainted with the terms and the usages of the law, in support of his conjecture. As there are no other grounds for entertaining such a supposition; as testimony of the same nature, and equally strong, might be adduced to prove that Shakspeare was a member of almost every other trade or profession, for he was ignorant of none; and as the legal knowledge which he displays might easily have been caught up in conversation, or indeed from experience in the quirks and technicalities of the law, during the course of his own and his father's difficulties; I have little hesitation in classing this among the many ingenious but unsound conjectures of the learned editor, and adopting the tradition of Aubrey respecting the avocation of this portion of his life. To satisfy the claims that were multiplying around him, Shakspeare endeavoured to draw upon his talents and acquirements as the source of his supplies, and undertook the instruction of children.**
The portion of classical knowledge that he brought to the task, has given occasion for much controversy, which it is now impossible to determine. The school at which he was educated, produced several individuals, among the contemporaries of our great poet, who were not deficient
and was buried in the church of that parish, on the 31st of December, 1607.-SKOTTOWE's Life of Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 7, 8.
+ Supplication to Lord Treasurer Burghley, Nov. 9, 1590, preserved in the chamber at Stratford. Rowe's Life of Shakspeare.
AUBREY'S MS. Ashmol. Oxon.
BOSWELL'S Shakspeare. Note to the 93d Sonnet. BOSWELL'S Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 112.
**He understood Latin pretty well, for he had been in his younger years a schoolmaster in the country.'-AUBREY.
in learning; and, though he was prematurely withdrawn from their companionship, it would be difficult to believe, that with his quickness of apprehension, he could have mingled for any considerable time in their course of study, without attaining a proportionate share of their information. He understood Latin pretty well,' says Aubrey; and this account corresponds exactly with the description of his friend Ben Jonson, who speaks of him as one possessed of little Latin and less Greek.' Dr. Farmer, indeed, has proved, that translations of all the classics to which Shakspeare has referred, were already in circulation before he wrote; and that in most of his allusions to Greek and Latin authors, evident traces are discoverable of his having consulted the translation instead of the original. But this fact establishes very little: it might have proceeded from indolence, or from the haste of composition, urging him to the readiest sources of information, rather than from any incapacity of availing himself of those which were more pure, but less accessible. That he should appear unlearned in the judgment of Jonson, who, perhaps, measured him by the scale of his own enormous erudition, is no imputation on his classical attainments. A man may have made great advances in the knowledge of the dead languages, and yet be esteemed as having 'little Latin and less Greek,' by one who had reached those heights of scholarship, which the friend and companion of Shakspeare had achieved. It is a proof that his acquirements in the classic languages were considerable, or Jonson would scarcely have deemed them of sufficient value to be at all numbered among his qualifications. As to French, it is certain that he did not deal with translations only; for the last line of one of his most celebrated speeches, the Seven Ages of Man, in As you like it, is imitated from a poem called the Henriade, which was first published in 1594, in France, and never translated. Garnier, the author of it, is describing the appearance of the ghost of Admiral Coligny, on the night after his murder, at the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and introduces the following passage :—
Sans pieds, sans mains, sans nez, sans oreilles, sans
The verse of Shakspeare,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing,
scarcely exceeds the rules of legitimate translation; and the introduction and repetition of the French preposition, indicates that the coincidence was intentional, and stands as an acknowledgment of the imitation. Mr. Capel Lofft has,
• Malone shews that the Quineys, Stratford men, and educated at the same school, were familiarly conversant with Latin, and even corresponded in that language. BOSWELL's edition of Malone's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p 182.
perhaps, very fairly estimated the real extent of Shakspeare's literary acquirements: 'He had what would now be considered a very reasonable proportion of Latin; he was not wholly ignorant of Greek; he had a knowledge of the French so
to read it with ease; and I believe not less of the Italian. He was habitually conversant in the chronicles of his country. He had deeply imbibed the Scriptures.'-And again, in speaking of his Venus and Adonis and the Rape of Lucrece, which were the first published efforts of Shakspeare's genius, Mr. Lofft continues: I think it not easy, with due attention to these poems, to doubt of his having acquired, when a boy, no ordinary facility in the classic language of Rome; and, when Jonson said he had "less Greek," had it been true that he had none, it would have been as easy for the verse as for the sentiment, to have said "no Greek."'
With these qualifications for the task, Shakspeare applied himself to the labour of tuition. But both the time and the habits of his life, rendered him peculiarly unfit for the situation. The gaiety of his disposition naturally inclined him to society; and the thoughtlessness of youth prevented his being sufficiently scrupulous about the conduct and the characters of his associates. 'He had by a misfortune, common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company,' says Rowe ;§ and the excesses into which they seduced him, were by no means consistent with that seriousness of deportment and behaviour which is expected to accompany the occupation that he had adopted. The following anecdote of these days of his riot, is still current at Stratford, and the neighbouring village of Bidford. I give it in the words of the author from whom it is taken. Speaking of Bidford, he says, 'there were anciently two societies of village-yeomanry in this place, who frequently met under the appellation of Bidford topers. It was a custom of these heroes to challenge any their neighbours, famed for the love of good ale, to a drunken combat : : among others, the people of Stratford were called out to a trial of strength, and in the number of their champions, as the traditional story runs, our Shakspeare, who forswore all thin potations, and addicted himself to ale as lustily as Falstaff to his sack, is said to have entered the lists. In confirmation of this tradition, we find an epigram written by Sir Aston Cockayn, and published in his poems in 1658, p. 124; it runs
THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.
it fills us with regret, to find our immortal poet, with faculties so exalted, competing the bad pre-eminence in such abominable contests. It is some relief to know that, though he erred in uniting himself with such gross associations, he was the first to retreat from them in disgust.
We can scarcely, at the present day, form a correct and impartial judgment of a subsequent offence, in which these mischievous connexions involved him as a party. The transgression, weighty as it would now be considered, appears to admit of great extenuation, on account of the manners and sentiments that prevailed at the time; and when we contemplate the consequences to which it led, we find it difficult to condemn with much severity of censure the occasion by which Shakspeare was removed from the intercourse of such unworthy companions, and by which those powerful energies of intellect were awakened in one, who might otherwise, perhaps, have been degraded in the course of vulgar sensualities, to an equality with his associates, or have attained to no higher distinction than the applauses of a country town.
One of the favourite amusements of the wild companions with whom Shakspeare had connected himself, was the stealing of 'deer and conies.' This violation of the rights of property, must not, however, be estimated with the rigour which would at the present day attach to a similar offence. In those ruder ages, the spirit of Robin Hood was yet abroad, and deer and coneystealing classed, with robbing orchards, among the more adventurous but ordinary levities of youth. It was considered in the light of an indiscretion, rather than of a criminal offence; and in this particular, the young men of Stratford were countenanced by the practice of the students of the Universities. In these hazardous exploits, Shakspeare was not backward in accompanying his comrades. The person in whose neighbour
"Of the truth of this story, I have very little doubt; it is certain, that the crab-tree is known
speare's crab; and that the villages to which the allusion is made, all bear the epithets here given them: the people of Pebworth are still famed for their skill on the pipe and tabor: Hillborough is now called Haunted Hillborough; and Grafton is notorious for the.poverty of its soil.'*
all round the country by the name of Shak-hood, perhaps on whose property, these encroachments were made, was of all others the individual from whose hands they were least likely to escape with impunity in case of detection. Sir Thomas Lucy was a Puritan; and the severity of manners which has always characterized this sect, would teach him to extend very little indulgence to the excesses of Shakspeare and his wilful companions. He was besides a game preserver: in his place as a member of parliament, he had been an active instrument in offenders. Nothing, however, can be more uniform than the tradition that 'deer and conies' were really stolen from some one, by Shakspeare and his friends. Mr. Jones, who died in 1703, aged upwards of ninety, and who lived at Turbich, a village about eighteen miles from Stratford, related the story to Mr. Thomas Wilks, and remembered to have heard it from several old people.'-Betterton was told it at Stratford, and communicated it to Rowe.-Oldys has the same story, so has Davies, whose additions to Fulman's Notes for a Life of Shakspeare were made in 1690.
Sleeping) that there needed not many a word
But you affirm (and in it seems most eager),
'When the Stratford lads went over to Bidford, they found the topers were gone to Evesham fair; but were told, if they wished to try their strength with the sippers, they were ready for the contest. This being acceded to, our bard and his companions were staggered at the irst outset, when they thought it advisable to sound a retreat, while the means of retreat were practicable; and then had scarce marched half a mile, before they were all forced to lay down more than their arms, and encamp in a very disorderly and unmilitary form, under no better covering than a large crab-tree; and there they rested till morning.
This tree is yet standing by the side of the road. If, as it has been observed by the late Mr. T. Warton, the meanest hovel to which Shakspeare has an allusion interests curiosity, and acquires an importance, surely the tree which has spread its shade over him, and sheltered him from the dews of the night, has a claim to our attention.
In the morning, when the company awakened our bard, the story says, they entreated him to return to Bidford, and renew the charge; but this he declined, and looking round upon the adjoining villages, exclaimed, "No! I have had enough; I have drank with
Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston,
The above relation, if it be true, presents us with a most unfavourable picture of the manners and morals prevalent among the youth of Warwickshire, in the early years of Shakspeare; and
IRELAND'S Picturesque Views, p. 229–233. • Wood, speaking of Dr. John Thornborough, shop of Worcester, and his kinsman, Robert Pinky, says, they seldom gave themselves to their books, but spent their time in the fencing-schools and dancing-schools, in stealing deer, and conies, -Athen. Oxon. i. 371.
Malone disputes the deer's having been stolen from Sir Thomas Lucy. Possibly the deer and conies' were not stolen from him; and, he was only the magistrate that committed and punished the
the formation of the game laws: and the tres- | gown for the two following stanzas in it; and could she have said it all, he would (as he often said in company, when any discourse has casually arose about him) have given her ten guineas.
passes of our poet, whether committed on the demesne of himself or others, were as offensive to his predilections as to his principles. Shakspeare and his compeers were discovered, and fell under the rigid lash of Sir Thomas Lucy's authority and resentment. The knight attacked the poet with the penalties of the law; and the poet revenged himself by sticking the following satirical copy of verses on the gate of the knight's park.
COPY OF THE VERSES ON SIR THOMAS LUCY.
A parliement member, a justice of peace,
He thinks hymself greate, yet an asse in hys state,
He's a haughty proud insolent knighte of the shire,
To the sessions he went, and dyd sorely complain,
This Lucy is Lowsie, as some volke misscall it,
He sayd 'twas a ryot, his men bad been beat,
Soe haughty was he when the fact was confess'd,
Though Lucies a dozen he paints in his coat,
If a iuvenile frolick he cannot forgive,
It would appear that the above song, the first effort we have received of our author's poetical talents, was not his only attempt at this kind of retaliation. It is said, in a book called a Manuscript History of the Stage, which is supposed by Malone to have been written between 1727 and 1730, that the learned Mr. Joshua Barnes, late Greck professor of the University of Cambridge, baiting about forty years ago at an inn in Stratford, and hearing an old woman singing part of the abovesaid song, such was his respect for Mr. Shakspeare's genius, that he gave her a new
• D'EwEs's Journal, p. 363.
+ One verse of this pasquinade was retained by memory, and transmitted by Mr. Jones, to Oldys and Capel. The entire song was recently discovered in a chest of drawers, that formerly belonged to Mrs. Dorothy Tyler, of Shottery, near Stratford, who
Sir Thomas was too covetous,
When horns enough upon his head
Had not his worship one deer left?
Took pains enough to find him horns,
The volume in which this anecdote is found, is not much to be relied upon; for the author has been, in several instances, detected as too credulous in receiving the reports of others, or as actually criminal, in giving the reins to his imagination, and supplying the want of facts by the resources of his invention. The verses, however, which prove not to have been, as was originally supposed, part of the first satirical effusion, but the fragment of another jeu d'esprit of the same kind, and on the same subject, sufficiently authenticate themselves. The quibble on the word deer, is one that was familiar with our author; + and, says Whiter, the lines may be readily conceived to have proceeded from our young bard, before he was removed from the little circle of his native place.'|| Besides, the author of the book in which they were first published must have possessed an intrepidity of falsehood unparalleled in the history of literary forgeries, if he had dared, so soon after the death of Joshua Barnes, to advance a story of this kind as a notorious fact, when, had it been a fiction, any of the professor's friends would have had an opportunity of contradicting him. Malone considers these verses, as well as the first, a forgery; and cites the epitaph erected by Sir Thomas Lucy, in praise of his wife, as evidence of their spuriousness. Exaggerated censure is the very essence of a satire: exaggerated praise is the universal characteristic of the epitaph. Each is equally wide of the truth: it is probable, that the real character of Lady Lucy neither warranted the panegyric of her husband, nor the severity of Shakspeare. But it would, at the present day, puzzle the ingenuity of an Edipus, to determine which was most likely to afford the fairest estimate of her worth.
The contest between Shakspeare and Sir Thomas Lucy was unequal; and the result was such as might have been anticipated, from the disproportion that existed between the strength and weapons of the opposing parties. The poet
died in 1778, at the age of eighty. Malone considers the whole a forgery. The last stanza is indeed of a very suspicious appearance.
Henry VI. part 1, act IV. scene 2, and Henry IV. part 1, act V. scene 4.
|| Specimen of a Commentary on Shakspeare, p. 94.
THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.
speare' seems to have been his distinguishing appellation. No slight portion of our enthusiasm for his writings, may be traced to the fair picture which they present of our author's character: we love the tenderness of heart-the candour and openness, and singleness of mind-the largeness of sentiment the liberality of opinion, which the whole tenor of his works prove him to have possessed his faults seem to have been the transient aberrations of a thoughtless moment, which reflection never failed to correct. The ebullitions of high spirits might mislead him; but the principles and the affections never swerved from what was right. Against such a person, the extreme severity of the magistrate should not have been exerted. His youth-his genius-his accomplishments—his wife and children, should have mitigated the rigour of the authority that was armed against him. The powerful enemy of Shakspeare was not to be appeased: the heart of the Puritan or the game-preserver is very rarely framed of penetrable stuff.' Our author fled from the inflexible persecutions of his opponent, to seek a shelter in the metropolis; and he found friends, and honour, and wealth, and fame; where he had only hoped for an asylum. Sir Thomas Lucy remained to enjoy the triumph of his victory; and he yet survives in the character of Justice Shallow, as the laughing-stock of posterity, and as another specimen of the exquisite skill, with which the victim of his magisterial authority was capable of painting the peculiarities of the weak and the vain, the arrogant and the servile.t
might irritate by his wit; but the magistrate | quaintance with some of the performers, during could wound by his authority. It is recorded the occasional visits which they had made to by Mr. Davies, that the knight 'had him oft Stratford. Heminge and Burbage, distinguished whipt, and sometimes imprisoned, and at last performers of the time, were both Warwickshire made him fly his native country."* That the men, and born in the vicinity of Stratford. severity was undue, there can be little room for Greene, another celebrated comedian of the day, doubting. Every contemporary who has spoken was the townsman, and he is thought to have of our author, has been lavish in the praise of been the relation, of Shakspeare. On arriving his temper and disposition. 'The gentle Shak-in the metropolis, these were perhaps his only acquaintance, and they secured his introduction to the theatre. It seems however agreed, that his first occupation there was of the very lowest order. One tradition relates, that his original office was that of call-boy, or prompter's attendant; whose employment it is, to give the performers notice to be ready to enter, as often as the business of the play requires their appearance on the stage: while another account, which has descended in a very regular line from Sir William D'Avenant to Dr. Johnson, states, that Shakspeare's first expedient was to wait at the door of the playhouse, and hold the horses of those who rode to the theatre, and had no servants to take charge of them during the hours of performance. It is said, 'that he became so conspicuous in this office, for his care and readiness, that in a short time, every man as he alighted called for Will Shakspeare; and scarcely any other waiter was trusted with a horse, while Will Shakspeare could be had. This was the first dawn of better fortune. Shakspeare finding more horses put into his hand than he could hold, hired boys to wait under his inspection, who, when Will Shakspeare was summoned, were immediately to present themselves, I am Shakspeare's boy, sir. time, Shakspeare found higher employment, but as long as the practice of riding to the playhouse continued, the waiters that held the horses retained the appellation of Shakspeare's boys. § That the above anecdote was really communicated by Pope, there is no room to doubt. This fact Dr. Johnson states upon his own authority, and coming from such a source, the story is certainly deserving of more respect than the commentators have been inclined to attach to it. It was originally related by D'Avenant, who, if the frequenters of the theatre had ever been in the
About the year 1587, in the twenty-third of his age, Shakspeare arrived in London. It is not possible to discover the inducements which led our poet, after his flight from Stratford, to seek his home and his subsistence in the neigh-habit of riding to the play, must have remembered bourhood of a theatre. Probably, in the course the time; and if at that time, the lads who took of their travels, he might have formed an ac- charge of the horses were, as he affirmed, called
*Fulman's MSS. vol. XV., art. Shakspeare.
⚫ There can be no doubt, that Justice Shallow was designed as the representative of the knight. If the traditional authority of this fact were not quite satisfactory, the description of his coat of arms, in the first scene of The Merry Wives of Windsor, which is, with very slight deviation, that of the Lucies, would be sufficient to direct us to the original of the portrait.
MALONE. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 63. Joussos. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 120. One reason alleged for discrediting this account, is, its
having appeared first in Cibber's Lives of the Poets, a book of no authority. But the general inaccuracy of that work, ought not, in the present instance, to be considered as impugning the credibility of its narration. The book was, in fact, written by Shiells, the amanuensis of Dr. Johnson, and he, most probably, picked up from his employer this piece of original information. Johnson, in his edition of Shak speare, repeated it, without any allusion to Shiells's work, as having come to him immediately from Pope, and in apparent ignorance of its ever having been printed before.