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is no doubt that John Shakespeare nourished all the while a latent attachment to the old religion, and although, like most unconverted conformists of ordinary discretion who were exposed to the inquisitorial tactics of the authorities, he may have attempted to conceal his views even from the members of his own household; yet still, however determinately he may have refrained from giving them expression, it generally happens in such cases that a wave from the religious spirit of a parent will imperceptibly reach the hearts of his children and exercise more or less influence on their perceptions. And this last presumption is an important consideration in assessing the degree of credit to be given to the earliest notice that has come down to us respecting the character of Shakespeare's own belief,—the assertion of Davies that "he died a Papist." That this was the local tradition in the latter part of the seventeenth century does not admit of rational question. If the statement had emanated from a man like Prynne, addressing fanatics whose hatred of a stage player would if possible have been intensified by the knowledge that he was a Romanist, then indeed a legitimate suspicion might have been entertained of the narrator's integrity; but here we have the testimony of a sober clergyman, who could have had no conceivable motive for deception, in what is obviously the casual note of a provincial hearsay. An element of fact in this testimony must be accepted in a biography in which the best, in this instance the only, direct evidence takes precedence over theories that are based on mere credibilities. At the same time it is anything but necessary to conclude that the great dramatist had very strong or pronounced views on theological matters. If that were the case, it is almost certain that there would have been some

other early allusion to them, and perhaps in himself less of that spirit of toleration for every kind of opinion which rendered him at home with all sorts and conditions of men, as well as less of that freedom from inflexible preconceptions that might have affected the fidelity of his dramatic work. Many will hold that there was sufficient of those qualities to betray a general indifference to creeds and rituals, and, at all events, whatever there was of Catholicism in his faith did not exclude the maintenance of affectionate relations with his ultra-protestant son-in-law. There is nothing in the will, in the list of witnesses, in the monumental inscription, in selection of friends, in the history of his professional career, in the little that tells of his personal character,-there is nothing, in short, in a single one of the contemporary evidences to indicate that he ever entered any of the circles of religious partisanship. Assuming, as we fairly may, that he had a leaning to the faith of his ancestors, we may yet be sure that the inclination was not of a nature that materially disturbed the easygoing acquiescence in the conditions of his surrounding world that added so much to the happiness of his later days. With perhaps one exception. It is surely within the bounds of possibility that he gave utterance to that inclination in the course of his last illness, and that he then declined, almost in the same breath in which he directed the kindly remembrances to his fellow-actors, the offices of a vicar who preached the abolition of the stage, and regarded the writers of plays as so many Anti-Christs. This hypothesis would fully explain the currency of the tradition recorded by Davies, and at the same time meet the other conditions of the problem.

There was a funeral as well as a marriage in the family

during the last days of Shakespeare. William Hart, who was carrying on the business of a hatter at the premises now known as the Birth-place, and who was the husband of the poet's sister Joan, was buried at Stratford-on-Avon on April 17, 1616. Before another week had elapsed, the spirit of the great dramatist himself had fled.

Among the numerous popular errors of our ancestors was the belief that fevers often resulted from convivial indulgences. This was the current notion in England until a comparatively recent period, and its prevalence affected the traditional history of the poet's last illness. The facts were these. Late in the March of this calamitous year, or, accepting our computation, early in April, Shakespeare and his two frends, Drayton and Ben Jonson, were regaling themselves at an entertainment in one of the taverns at Stratford-on-Avon. It is recorded that the party was a jovial one, and according to a late but apparently genuine tradition, when the great dramatist was returning to New Place in the evening, he had taken more wine than was conducive to pedestrian accuracy. Shortly or immediately afterwards he was seized by the lamentable fever which terminated fatally on Tuesday, April 23, 1616, a day, which, according to our present mode of computation, would be May 3. The cause of the malady, then attributed to undue festivity, would now be readily discernible in the wretched sanitary conditions surrounding his residence. If truth, and not romance, is to be invoked, were there the woodbine and sweet honeysuckle within reach of the poet's death-bed, their fragrance would have been neutralized by their vicinity to middens, fetid watercourses, mud-walls and piggeries.

The funeral was solemnized on the following Thursday,

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