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of their peculiarity, which to some, possibly, will appear neither sublime nor beautiful, and yet deserve attention, as indicating the vast stretch, and sometimes particular turn of the poet's imagination.
There are many passages in Shakspeare so closely connected with the plot and characters, and on which their beauties so wholly depend, that it would have been absurd and idle to have produced them here: hence the reader will find little of the inimitable Falstaff in this work, and not one line extracted from the Merry Wives of Windsor, one of Shakspeare's best, and most justly admired comedies: whoever reads that play, will immediately see, there was nothing either proper or possible for this work; which, such as it is, I most sincerely and cordially recommended to the candour and benevolence of the world: and wish every one that peruses it, may feel the satisfaction I have frequently felt in composing it, and receive such instructions and advantages from it, as it is well calculated and well able to bestow. For my own part, better and more important things henceforth demanded my attention, and I here, with no smal: pleasure, take leave of Shakspeare and the critics; as this work was begun and finished, before I entered upon the sacred function, in which I am now happily employed, let me trust, this juvenilo performance will prove no objection, since graver, and some very eminent members of the church, have thought it no improper employ, to comment, explain, and publish the works of their own country poets.
The name of Shakspeare, which is mentioned by Verste gan, among those “syrnames imposed upon the first bearers of them for valour and feats of arms," is one of great antiquity in the woodland districts of Warwickshire. The family, thus honorably distinguished, appears to have received its origin either at Rowington or Lapworth. Long before the genius of our great dramatic poet had rendered their name a subject of national interest, the Shakspeares were established among the more affluent inhabitants of those villages, and thence several individuals of the race, from time to time, removed, and became settlers in the principal places of the country.
After the most indefatigable researches, Malone found himself unable to trace the particular branch of the family from which Shakspeare himself descended, beyond his immediate ancestor; but it is mentioned by Rowe, as being “ of good figure and fashion,” in the town of Stratford. This statement is supported by the authority of a document, preserved in the College of Heralds, conferring the grant of a coat of arms on John Shakspeare, the father of the poet, in which the title of gentleman is added to his denomination ; and it is stated, that “his great grandfather had been rewarded by King Henry the Seventh, for his faithful and approved services, with lands and tenements given him in those parts of Warwickshire, where they have continued by some descents in good reputation and credit.”
If Shakspeare's father inherited any portion of the estate which the royal munificence had thus conferred on his ances. tor, it was insufficient for his wants; and he was obliged to have recourse to trade to increase the narrow mcasure of his patrimony. The traditional accounts that have been received respecting him are consistent in describing him as engaged in business, though they disagree in the nature of the enployment which they ascribe to him. In the MS. notes which Aubrey had collected for a life of the poet, it is affirmed, that “liis father was a butcher; ” while, on the other hand, it is stated by Rowe that he was “a considerable dealer in wool.” The truth of the latter report it is scarcely possible to doubt. It was received from Betterton the player, whose veneration for the poet induced him to make a pilgrimage to Warwickshire, that he inight collect all the information respecting the object of his enthusiasm which remained among his townsmen, at a time when such prominent facts as the cir cumstances and avocation of his parents could not yet have sunk into oblivion. It is, indeed, not improbable that both these accounts may be correct. “Few occupations," observes Malone, “can be named which are more naturally connected with each other." Dr. Farmer has shown that the two trades were occasionally united : or if they were not thus exercised together by the poet's father, his having adopted them separately at different periods of his life, is not inconsistent with the changeful character of his circumstances. The new notion of John Shakspeare's having been a glover, which has been advanced in Malone's last edition of our author's works, I have no hesitation in dismissing. It is neither supported by tradition, nor probability; and the brief minute which the laborious editor discovered in the bailiff's court at Stratford, must have referred to some other of the innumerable John Shakspeares, whom we find mentioned in the wills and registers of the time.
The father of Shakspeare married, probably about the year 155.) or 1556, Mary the daughter of Robert Arden, of Willingcote, in the county of Warwick ; by which connexion he obtained a small estate in land, some property in money, and such accession of respectability as is derived from an equal and honorable alliance. The family of Mary Arden, like his OW), ras one of great antiquity in the country, and her an.
cestors also had been rewarded for their faithful and inportant services by the gratitude of Henry the Seventh. The third child, and the eldest son of this union, was the cele. brated subject of the present memoirs.
WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE was born on the 23d of April, 1581, and baptized on the 26th of the same month.
At the time of the birth of his illustrious offspring, John Shakspeare evidently enjoyed no slight degree of estimation among his townsmen. He was already a member of the corporation, and for two successive years had been nominated one of the chamberlains of Stratford. From this time he began to be chosen in due succession to the highest municipal offices of the borough. In 1569, he was appointed to dis. charge the important duties ef high bailiff; and was subsequently elected and sworn chief alderman for the year 1571.
During this period of his life, which constitutes the poet's years of childhood, the fortune of Master John Shakspeare – for so he is uniformly designated in the public writings of the borough, from the time of his acting as high bailiff — perfectly corresponded with the station which we find him holding among his townsmen. Ilis charities rank him with the second class of the inhabitants of Stratford. In a subscription for the relief of the poor, 1564, out of twenty-four persons, twelve gave more, six the same, and six less, than the poet's father; and in a second subscription, of fourteen persons, eight gave more, five the same, and one less. So early as 1556, he held the lease of two houses in the town, one in Green Hill, and the other in Henley street; in 1570 he rented fourteen acres of land, called Ington Meadow; and we find him four years afterwards becoming the purchaser of two additional houses in Henley street, with a garden and orchard attached to each.
In this season of prosperity, Mr. John Shakspeare was not careless of the abilities of his child. His own talents had been wholly unimproved by education, and he was one of the twelve, out of the nineteen aldermen of Stratford, whose accomplishments did not extend to being able to sign their
This circumstance, by the bye, most satisfacto. rily establishes the fact, that he could not have written the