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Mr. Rowe has very juftly obferved, that people are fond of difcovering any little perfonal ftory of the great men of antiquity; and that the common accidents of their lives naturally become the fubject, of our critical enquiries: that however trifling fuch a curiofity at the firft view may appear, yet, as for what relates to men of letters, the knowledge of an author may, perhaps, fometimes conduce to the better understanding his works; and, indeed, this author's works, from the bad treatment he has met with from copyifts and editors, have fo long wanted a comment, that one would zealously embrace every method of information that could contribute to recover them from the injuries with which they have fo long lain overwhelmed.

'Tis certain, that if we have firft admired the man in his writings, his cafe is fo circumftanced, that we must naturally admire the writings in the man: that if we go back to take a view of his edu cation, and the employment in life which fortune had cut out for him, we fhall retain the ftronger ideas of his extenfive genius.

His father, we are told, was a confiderable dealer in wool; but having no, fewer than ten children, of whom our Shakspeare was the eldeft, the beft education he could afford him was no better than to qualify him for his own business and employment. I cannot affirm with any certainty how long his father lived; but I take him to be the fame Mr. John Shakspeare who was living in the year 1599, and who then, in honour of his fon, took out an extract of his family arms from the herald's office; by which it appears, that he had been officer and bailiff of Stratford-upon-Avon, in War

wickshire; and that he enjoyed fome hereditary lands and tenements, the reward of his great grandfather's faithful and approved fervice to King Henry VII.

Be this as it will, our Shakfpeare, it feems, was bred for fome time at a free-fchool; the very free-. school, I prefume, founded at Stratford: where, we are told, he acquired what Latin he was master of: but that his father being obliged, through narrownefs of circumftances, to withdraw him too soon from thence, he was thereby unhappily prevented from making any proficiency in the dead languages; a point that will deferve fome little difcuffion in the fequel of this differtation.

How long he continued in his father's way of bufinefs, either as an affiftant to him, or on his own proper account, no notices are left to inform us: nor have I been able to learn precifely at what pe riod of life he quitted his native Stratford, and began his acquaintance with London and the stage.

In order to fettle in the world after a family-manner, he thought fit, Mr. Rowe acquaints us, to marry while he was yet very young. It is certain he did fo; for by the monument in Stratford church, erected to the memory of his daughter Susanna, the wife of John Hall, gentleman, it appears, that, fhe died on the 2d of July, in the year 1649, aged 66. So that fhe was born in 1583, when her father could not be full 19 years old; who was himself born in the year 1564. Nor was the his eldeft child, for he had another daughter, Judith, who was born be fore her, and who was married to one Mr. Tho

8 See the extracts from the register book of the parish of Stratford, in a preceding page. STEEVENS.

mas Quiney. So that Shakspeare must have enterred into wedlock by that time he was turned of feventeen years.

Whether the force of inclination merely, or fome concurring circumftances of convenience in the match, prompted him to marry fo early, is not eafy to be determined at this diftance; but, it is proba ble, a view of intereft might partly fway his conduct in this point: for he married the daughter of one Hathaway, a fubftantial yeoman in his neighbourhood, and fhe had the start of him in age no lefs than eight years. She furvived him notwithstanding feven feafons, and died that very year the players published the first edition of his works in folio, anno Dom. 1623, at the age of 67 years, as we likewise learn from her monument in Stratford church.

How long he continued in this kind of fettlement, upon his own native fpot, is not more eafily to be determined. But if the tradition be true, of that extravagance which forced him both to quit his country and way of living, to wit, his being engaged with a knot of young deer-ftealers, to rob the park of Sir Thomas Lucy, of Cherlecot, near Stratford, the enterprize favours fo much of youth and levity, we may reasonably fuppofe it was before he could write full man. Befides, confidering he has left us fix-and-thirty plays at leaft, avowed to be genuine; and confidering too that he had retired from the ftage, to spend the latter part of his days at his own native Stratford; the interval of time neceffarily required for the finishing fo many dramatick pieces, obliges us to fuppofe he threw himself very early upon the play-house. And as he could, probably, contract no acquaintance with the drama, while he

was driving on the affair of wool at home; fome time must be loft, even after he had commenced player, before he could attain knowledge enough in the fcience to qualify himself for turning author.

It has been obferved by Mr. Rowe, that amongst other extravagancies, which our author has given to Sir John Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windfor, he has made him a deer-ftealér; and, that he might at the fame time remember his Warwickshire prosecu tor, under the name of Juftice Shallow, he has given him very near the fame coat of arms, which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that county, defcribes for a family there. There are two coats, I obferve, in Dugdale, where three filver fifhes are borne in the name of Lucy; and another coat, to the monument of Thomas Lucy, fon of Sir William Lucy, in which are quartered, in four several divifions, twelve little fishes, three in each divifion, probably Luces. This very coat, indeed, feems alluded to in Shallow's giving the dozen white Luces, and in Slender faying he may quarter. When I confider the exceeding candour and good-nature of our author (which inclined all the gentler part of the world to love him, as the power of his wit obliged the men of the most delicate knowledge and polite learning to admire him): and that he fhould throw this humorous piece of fatire at his profecutor, at least twenty years after the provocation given; I am confidently perfuaded it must be owing to an unforgiving rancour on the profecutor's fide: and, if this was the cafe, it were pity but the difgrace of fuch an inveteracy fhould remain as a lafting reproach, and Shallow ftand as a mark of ridicule to ftigmatize his malice.

It is faid, our author spent fome years before his death in eafe, retirement, and the converfation of his friends, at his native Stratford. I could never pick up any certain intelligence, when he relinquifhed the stage. I know, it has been mistakenly thought by fome, that Spenfer's Thalia, in his Tears of his Mufes, where the laments the lofs of her Willy in the comick fcene, has been applied to our author's quitting the ftage. But Spenfer himself, it is well known, quitted the ftage of life in the year 1598; and five years after this, we find Shakspeare's name among the actors in Ben Jonfon's Sejanus, which firft made its appearance in the year 1603. Nor, furely, could he then have any thoughts of retiring, fince that very year a licence under the privy-feal was granted by King James I. to him and Fletcher, Burbage, Phillippes, Hemings, Condell, &c. authorizing them to exercise the art of playing comedies, tragedies, &c. as well at their ufual house called The Globe on the other fide of the water, as in any other parts of the kingdom, during his majefty's. pleasure (a copy of which licence is preferved in Rymer's Fadera). Again, it is certain, that Shakspeare did not exhibit his Macbeth till after the Union was brought about, and till after King James I. had be→ gun to touch for the evil: for it is plain, he has inferted compliments on both thofe accounts, upon his royal mafter in that tragedy. Nor, indeed, could the number of the dramatcik pieces, he pro-. duced, admit of his retiring near fo early as that period. So that what Spenfer there fays, if it relate at all to Shakspeare, muft hint at fome occafional recefs he made for a time upon a difguft taken: or the Willy, there mentioned, must relate to fome

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