« PreviousContinue »
ACCURATELY PRINTED FROM
THE TEXT OF THE CORRECTED COPY LEFT BY THE LATE
GEORGE STEEVENS, ESQ.
A SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF SHAKSPEARE.
IN TWO VOLUMES
STEREOTYPED BY J. HOWE-PHILADELPHIA.
M'CARTY & DAVIS, AND H. C. CAREY & I. LEA.
SKETCH OF THE LIFE
SHAKS P E A R E.
WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE was born at Strat-||ter the performance. But in whatever situation he ford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, on the 23d day was first employed at the theatre, he appears to of April, 1564. His family was above the vulgar have soon discovered those talents which afterwards rank. His father, John Shakspeare, was a con- made him siderable dealer in wool, and had been an officer
• Th' applause, delight, the wonder, of our stage.' of the corporation of Stratford. He was likewise a justice of the peace, and at one time a man of Some distinction he probably first acquired as considerable property. This last, however, ap- an actor, but no character has been discovered in pears to have been lost by some means, in the latter which he appeared to more advantage than in part of his life. His wife was the daughter and that of the Ghost in Hamlet : and the best critics heiress of Robert Arden, of Wellington, in the and inquirers into his life are of opinion, that he county of Warwick, by whom he had a family of was not eminent as an actor. In tracing the ten children.
chronology of his plays, it has been discovered,
that Romeo and Juliet, and Richard II. and III., Our illustrious poet was the eldest son, and was were printed in 1997, when he was thirty-three educated, probably, at the free-school of Stratford; || years old. There is also some reason to think that but from this he was soon removed, and placed in /he commenced a dramatic writer in 1592, and the office of some country attorney. The exact|Mr. Malone even places his first play, The First amount of his education has been long a subject Part of Henry VI., in 1589. of controversy. It is generally agreed, that he did not enjoy what is usually termed a literary educa- His plays were not only popular but approved tion; but he certainly knew enough of Latin and by persons of the higher order, as we are certain French to introduce scraps of both in his plays, || that he enjoyed the gracious favour of Queen without blunder or impropriety.
Elizabeth, who was very fond of the stage; the
patronage of the Earl of Southampton, to whom When about eighteen years old, he married he dedicated some of his poems; and of King Anne Hathaway, who was eight years older than ||James, who wrote a very gracious letter to him himself. His conduct soon after this marriage was with his own hand, probably in return for the comnot very correct. Being detected with a gang of|pliment Shakspeare had paid to his majesty in the deer-stealers, in robbing the park of Sir Thomas tragedy of Macbeth. It may be added, that his Lucy, of Charlecote, near Stratford, he was obli- uncommon merit, his candour, and good-nature, ged to leave his family and business, and take | are supposed to have procured him the admiration shelter in London.
and acquaintance of every person distinguished
for such qualities. It is not difficult, indeed, to He was twenty-two years of age when he arrived trace, that Shakspeare was a man of humour, and in London, and is said to have made his first ac- a social companion; and probably excelled in that quaintance in the play-house. Here his necessities || species of minor wit, not ill adapted to conversa. obliged him to accept the office of call-boy, ortion, of which it could have been wished he had prompter's attendant; who is appointed to give the been more sparing in his writings. performers notice to be ready, as often as the business of the play requires their appearance on the How long he acted, has not been discovered ; stage. According to another account, far less | but he continued to write till the year 1614. During probable, his first employment was to wait at the his dramatic career, he acquired a property in the door of the play-house, and hold the horses of those theatre, which he must have disposed of when he who had no servants, that they might be ready af-|| retired, as no mention of it occurs in his will. The
MOP 19 FEB 36
latter part of his life was spent in ease, retirement,||23, 1616, when he had exactly completed his
Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
Terra tegit, populus maret, Olympus habet. He retired some years before his death to a house in Stratford, of which it has been thought Perhaps we should read Sophoclem, instead of important to give the history. It was built by Sir Socratem. Underneath are the following lines : Hugh Clopton, a younger brother of an ancient family in that neighbourhood. Sir Hugh was stay, passenger, why dost thou go so fast! sheriff of London in the reign of Richard III. and Read, if thou canst, whom envious death has plac'd lord mayor in that of Henry VII. By his will be within this monument: Shakspeare, with whom bequeathed to his elder brother's son his manor of Quick nature died; whose name doth deck the tomb Clopton, &c. and his house by the name of the Far more than cost: since all that he hath writ Great House in Stratford. A good part of the
Leaves living art but page to serve his wit. estate was in possession of Edward Clopton, Esq.
Obiit ano. Dni. 1616, and Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt. in 1733. The prin
Æt. 53, die 23 Apri. cipal estate had been sold out of the Clopton family for above a century, at the time when Shakspeare We have not any account of the malady which, became the purchaser, who, having repaired and at no very advanced age, closed the life and lamodelled it to his own mind, changed the name to bours of this unrivalled and incomparable genius. New Place, which the mansion-house afterwards || The only notice we have of his person is from erected, in the room of the poet's house, retained Aubrey, who says, “He was a handsome wellfor many years. The house and lands belonging || shaped man;' and adds, “verie good company, to it continued in the possession of Shakspeare's and of a very ready and pleasant and smooth wit.' descendants to the time of the Restoration, when they were re-purchased by the Clopton family. His family consisted of two daughters, and a Here, in May 1742, when Mr. Garrick, Mr. Mack-son named Hamnet, who died in 1596, in the lin, and Mr. Delane, visited Stratford, they were twelfth year of his age. Susannah, the eldest hospitably entertained under Shakspeare's mul-daughter, and her father's favourite, was married berry-tree, by Sir Hugh Clopton, who was a bar- || to Dr. John Hall, a physician, who died Nor. rister, was knighted by George I. and died in the 1635, aged 60. Mrs. Hall died July 11, 1649, 80th year of his age, 1751. His executor, about aged 66. They left only one child, Elizabeth, the year 1752, sold New Place to the Rev. Mr. || born 1607-8, and married April 22, 1626, to Gastrel, a man of large fortune, who resided in it Thomas Nashe, esq. who died in 1647; and afterbut a few years, in consequence of a disagreement wards to Sir John Barnard, of Abington in Northwith the inhabitants of Stratford. As he resided amptonshire, but died without issue by either hus. part of the year at Lichfield, he thought he was band. Judith, Shakspeare's youngest daughter, assessed too highly in the monthly rate towards the was married to Mr. Thomas Quiney, and died maintenance of the poor, and being opposed, be Feb. 1661-2, in her 77th year. By Mr. Quiney peevishly declared, that that house should never she had three sons, Shakspeare, Richard, and be assessed again; and soon afterwards pulled it Thomas, who all died unmarried. The traditional down, sold the materials, and left the town. He story of Shakspeare having been the father of Sir had some time before cut down Shakspeare's mul-|| William Davenant, has been generally discredited. berry-tree, to save himself the trouble of showing it to visitors. That Shakspeare planted this tree From these imperfect notices, * which are all appears to be sufficiently authenticated. Where we have been able to collect from the labours of New Place stood is now a garden.
his biographers and commentators, our readers
will perceive that less is known of Shakspeare During Shakspeare's abode in this house, he than of almost any writer who has been considerenjoyed the acquaintance and friendship of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood; and here he
* The first regular attempt at a life of Shakspeare is thought to have written the play of Twelfth || published in 1805, of which we have availed ourselves
is prefixed to Mr. A. Chalmers's variorum edition, Night. He died on his birth-day, Tuesday, April in the above Sketch
ed as an object of laudable curiosity. Nothing || history. The industry of his illustrators for the could be more highly gratifying, than an account last forty years, has been such as probably never of the early studies of this wonderful man, the was surpassed in the annals of literary investigaprogress of his pen, his moral and social qualities, tion; yet so far are we from information of the his friendships, his failings, and whatever else con conclusive or satisfactory kind, that even the order stitutes personal history. But on all these topics in which his plays were written rests principally his contemporaries, and his immediate successors, on conjecture, and of some of the plays usually have been equally silent; and if aught can here-printed among his works, it is not yet determined after be discovered, it must be by exploring whether he wrote the whole, or any part. We sources which have hitherto escaped the anxious are, however, indebted to the labours of his comresearches of those who have devoted their wholementators, not only for much light thrown upon his lives, and their most vigorous talents, to revive his obscurities, but for a text purified from the gross memory, and illustrate his writings.
blunders of preceding transcribers and editors ;
and it is almost unnecessary to add, that the text It is equally unfortunate, that we know as little of the following volumes is that of the last correct. of the progress of his writings, as of his personal ||ed edition of Johnson and Steevens.