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Shakspeare married to Anne Hathaway-Account of the Hathaways-Cottage at Shottery-Birth of his eldest Child, Susanna-Hamnet and Judith baptized-Anecdote of Shakspeare-Shakspeare apparently settled in the Country.
SHAKSPEARE married and became the father of a family at a very early period; at a period, indeed, when most young men, even in his own days, had only completed their school-education. He had probably been attached also to the object of his affections, who resided very near to him, for a year or two previous to the nuptial connection, which took place in 1582; and Mr. Malone is inclined to believe that the ceremony was performed either at Hampton-Lacy, or at Billesley, in the August of that year, when consequently the poet had not attained the age of eighteen and a half!
The maiden name of the lady who had induced her lover to enter thus early on the world, with little more than his passion to console, and his genius to support them, was Anne Hathaway, the daughter of Richard Hathaway, a substantial yeoman, residing at Shottery, a village about a mile distant from Stratford. It appears also from the tomb-stone of his mistress + in the church of Stratford, that she must have been born in 1556, and was therefore eight years older than himself.
Of the family of the Hathaways, little now, except the record of a few deaths and baptisms, can be ascertained with precison: in the register-books of the parish of Stratford, the following entry, in all probability, refers to the father of the poet's wife:-"Johanna, daughter of Richard Hathaway, otherwise Gardiner, of Shottery, was baptized May 9, 1596."
As the register does not commence before 1558, the baptism of Anne could not of course be included; but it appears that the family of this Richard was pretty numerous, for Thomas his son was baptized at Stratford, April 12, 1569; John, another son, Feb. 3. 1574; and William, another son, Nov. 39, 1578. § Thomas died at Stratford in 1654-5, at the advanced age of eighty-five. That the Hathaways have continued resident at Shottery and the neighbourhood, down to the present age, will be evident from the note below, which records their deaths to the year 1785, as inscribed on the floor, in the nave and aisle of Stratford church.††
The cottage at Shottery, in which Anne and her parents dwelt, is said to be yet standing, and is still pointed out to strangers as a subject of curiosity. It is now impossible to substantiate the truth of the tradition; but Mr. Ireland, who has given a sketch of this cottage in his Picturesque Views on the Avon, observes,
"It is still occupied by the descendants of her family, who are poor and numerous. same humble cottage I was referred when pursuing the same inquiry, by the late Mr. Harte, of
• Reed's Shakspeare, vol i. p. 139, note 4.
Heere Lyeth Interrid The Bodye of Anne, Wife of Mr. William Shakspeare, Who Depted. This Life The 6th Day of Avgvst, 1623, Being of The Age of 67 Yeares."-Wheler's Stratford, p. 76. $. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 133. § Ibid. p. 134. Note by Malone.
** Ibid. p. 128. Richard Hathaway, of Shottery, died 15th April, 1692. Robert Hathaway died 4th March, 1728, aged 64. Edmund Hathaway died 14th June, 1729, aged 57. Jane his wife died 12th Dec. 1729, aged 64. John Hathaway died 11th Oct. 1731, aged 39. Abigail, wife of John Hathaway, jun. of Luddington, died 5th of May, 1735, aged 29. Mary her daughter died 13th July, 1735, aged 10 weeks. Robert Hathaway, son of Robert and Sarah Hathaway, died the 1st of March, 1723, aged 21. Ursula, wife of John Hathaway, died the 23d of Janry, 1731, aged 50. John Hathaway, sen. died the 5th of Sept 1753, aged 73. John Hathaway, of Haddington, died the 23d of June, 1775, aged 67. S. H. 1756. S. H. 1785."-Wheler's History and Antiquities of Stratford-upon-Avon, p 55.
Stratford, before-mentioned. He told me there was an old oak chair, that had always in his remembrance been called Shakspeare's courting chair, with a purse that had been likewise his, and handed down from him to his grand-daughter Lady Bernard, and from her through the Hathaway family to those of the present day. From the best information I was able to collect at the time, I was induced to consider this account as authentic, and from a wish to obtain the smallest trifle appertaining to our Shakspeare, 1 became a purchaser of these relics. Of the chair I have here given a sketch: it is of a date sufficiently ancient to justify the credibility of its history; and as to farther proof, it must rest on the traditional opinion and the character of this poor family. The purse is about four inches square, and is curiously wrought with small black and white bugles and beads; the tassels are of the same materials. The bed and other furniture in the room where the chair stood, have the appearance of so high antiquity, as to leave no doubt but that they might all have been the furniture of this house long before the time of Shakspeare.
"The proprietor of this furniture, an old woman upwards of seventy, had slept in the bed from her childhood, and was always told it had been there since the house was built. Her absolute refusal to part with this bed at any price was one of the circumstances which led to a persuasion that I had not listened with too easy credulity to the tale sbe told me respecting the articles I had purchased. By the same person I was informed, that at the time of the Jubilee, the late George Garrick obtained from her a small inkstand, and a pair of fringed gloves, said to have been worn by Shakspeare.'
Of the personal charms of the poet's mistress nothing has been transmitted to us by which we can form the smallest estimate, nor can we positively ascertain whether convenience, or the attraction of a beautiful form, was the chief promoter of this early connection. Mr. Rowe merely observes, that, "in order to settle in the world after a family-manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very † young;" language which seems to imply that prudence was the prime motive with the youthful bard. Theobald proceeds still further, and declares "it is probable, a view of interest might partly sway his conduct in this point: for he married the daughter of a substantial yeoman in his neighbourhood, and she had the start of him in age no less than eight years." Capell, on the contrary, thinks that the marriage was contracted against the wishes of his father, whose displeasure was the consequence of their union. S
À moment's consideration of the character of Shakspeare will induce us to conclude that interest could not be his leading object in forming the matrimonial tie. In no stage of his subsequent life does a motive of this kind appear strongly to have influenced him; and it is well known, from facts which we shall have occasion shortly to record, that his juvenility at Stratford was marked rather by carelessness and dissipation, than by the cool calculations of pecuniary wisdom. In short, to adopt, with slight variation, a line of his own, we may confidently assert that at this period,
"Love and Liberty crept in the mind and marrow of his youth."
Timon of Athens.
Neither can we agree with Mr. Capell in supposing that the father of our bard was averse to the connection; a supposition which he has built on the idea of old Mr. Shakspeare being "a man of no little substance," and that by this marriage of his son he was disappointed in a design which he had formed of sending him to a University! Now it has been proved that John Shakspeare was, at this period, if not in distressed yet in embarrassed circumstances, and that neither the school-education of his son, nor his subsequent employment at home, could be such as was calculated in any degree to prepare him for an academical life.
We conclude, therefore, and certainly with every probability on our side, that the young poet's attachment to Anne Hathaway was not only perfectly disinte rested, but had met likewise with the approbation of his parents. This will appear
* Ireland's Views, p. 206–209. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 193. Ibid. vol. i. p. 193
Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i.
with more verisimilitude if we consider, in the first place, that though his bride were eight years older than himself, still she could be but in her twenty-sixth year, an age compatible with youth, and with the most alluring beauty; secondly, it does not appear that the finances of young Shakspeare were in the least improved by the connection; and thirdly, we know that he remained some years at Stratford after his marriage, which it is not likely that he would have done, had he been at variance with his father.
It is to be regretted, and it is indeed somewhat extraordinary, that not a fragment of the bard's poetry, addressed to his Warwickshire beauty, has been rescued from oblivion; for that the muse of Shakspeare did not lie dormant on an occasion so propitious to her inspiration we must believe, both from the custom of the times, and from his own amatory disposition. He has himself told us that "Never durst poet touch a pen to write,
Until his ink were temper'd with love's sighs."
Love's Labour's Lost. Act iv. sc. 3.
and we have seen that an opportunity for qualification was very early placed within his power. That he availed himself of it, there can be no doubt; and had his effusions, on this occasion, descended to posterity, we should, in all probability, have been made acquainted with several interesting particulars relative to his early life and character, and to the person and disposition of his mistress.*
Our ignorance on this subject, however, would have been compensated, had any authentic documents been preserved relative to his establishment at Stratford, in consequence of his marriage; but of his business, or professional employment, no information, or tradition to be depended upon, has reached us. We can only infer, from the evidence produced in the preceding chapter, and from the necessity, which must now have occurred, of providing for a family-establishment, that if, as we have reason to conclude, he had entered on the exercise of a branch of the manorial law, previous to his marriage, and with a view towards that event, he would, of course, be compelled, from prudential motives, to continue that occupation, after he had become a householder, and most probably to combine with it the business of a woolstapler, either on his own separate interest, or in concert with his father.
If any further incitement were wanting to his industry, it was soon imparted; for, to the claims upon him as a husband, were added, during the following year, those which attach to the name of a parent; his eldest child, Susanna, being born in May, 1538, and baptized on the 26th of the same month. Thus, scarcely had our poet completed his nineteenth year, when the most serious duties of life were imperiously forced upon his attention, under circumstances perhaps of narrow fortune not altogether calculated to render their performance easy and pleasant; a situation which, on a superficial view, would not appear adapted to afford that leisure, that free and unencumbered state of intellect, so necessary to mental exertion; but with Shakspeare the pressure of these and of pecuniary difficulties served only to awaken that energy and elasticity of mind, which, ultimately directing his talents into their proper channel, called forth the brightest and most successful emanations of a genius nearly universal.
The family of the youthful bard gathered round him with rapidity; for, in 1584-5, it was increased by the birth of twins, a son and daughter, named Hamnet and Judith, who were baptized on February the 2d, of the same year. The boy was christened by the name of Hamnet in compliment to his godfather Mr. Hamnet Sadler, and the girl was called Judith, from a similar deference to his wife, Mrs. Judith Sadler, who acted as her sponsor. Mr. Hamnet or
Building on the high credibility of Shakspeare having employed his poetical talents, at this period, on the subject nearest to his heart, two ingenious gentlemen have been so obliging as not only to furaish him with words on this occasion, but to offer these to the world as the genuine product of his genius. It is scarcely necessary to add, that I allude to the Shakspeare Papers of young Ireland; and to a Tour in Quest of Genealogy, by a Barrister.
Hamlet Sadler, for they were considered as synonymous names, and therefore used indiscriminately, appears to have been some relation of the Shakspeare family; he is one of the witnesses to Shakspeare's will, and is remembered in it in the following manner:-"Item, I give and bequeath to Hamlet Sadler twenty-six shillings eight-pence, to buy him a ring." Mr. Sadler died at Stratford in October, 1624, and is supposed to have been born about the year 1550. His wife was buried there March 23, 1613-14, and Mr. Malone conjectures that our poet was probably godfather to their son William, who was baptized at Stratford, February 15175, 1797-8.† In the Stratford Register are to be found entries of the baptism of six of Mr. Sadler's children, four sons and two daughters, William being the last but one.
An anecdote of Shakspeare, unappropriated to any particular period of his life, and which may with as much, if not more, probability, be ascribed to this stage of his biography, as to any subsequent era, has been preserved as a tradition at Stratford. A drunken blacksmith, with a carbuncled face, reeling up to Shakspeare, as he was leaning over a mercer's door, exclaimed, with much vociferation, "Now, Mr SHAKSPEARE, tell me, if you can,
The difference between a youth and a young man?"
a question which immediately drew from our poet the following reply:
"Thou son of fire, with thy face like a maple,
The same difference as between a scalded and a coddled apple."
A part of the wit of this anecdote, which, says Mr. Malone, "was related near fifty years ago to a gentleman at Stratford, by a person then above eighty years of age. whose father might have been contemporary with Shakspeare," turns upon the comparison between the blacksmith's face and a species of maple, the bark of which, according to Evelyn, is uncommonly rough, and the grain undulated and crisped into a variety of curls.
It would appear, indeed, from a book published in 1611, under the title of "Tarleton's Jeasts," that this fancied resemblance was a frequent source of sarcastic wit; for it is there recorded of this once celebrated comedian, that, “as he was performing some part at the Bull in Bishopsgate-street, where the Queen's players oftentimes played,' while he was 'kneeling down to ask his father's blessing,' a fellow in the gallery threw an apple at him, which hit him on the cheek. He immediately took up the apple, and, advancing to the audience, addressed them in these lines:
'Gentlemen, this fellow, with his face of mapple,
So instead of an honest woman God hath sent him a drab.'
'The people,' says the relator, 'laughed heartily; for the fellow had a quean to his wife.""
Shakspeare was now, to all appearance, settled in the country; he was carrying on his own and his father's business; he was married and had a family around him; a situation in which the comforts of domestic privacy might be predicted within his reach, but which augured little of that splendid destiny, that universal fame and unparalleled celebrity, which awaited his future career.
In adherence, therefore, to the plan which we have announced, of connecting the circumstances of the times with our author's life, we have chosen this period of it, as admirably adapted for the introduction of a survey of country life and
Thus in the will of Shakspeare we read, "I give and bequeath to Hamlet Sadler;" when at the close,
Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 158, note 1.
Malone's Historical Account of the English Stage, Shakspeare's Works p. lxxv.
manners, its customs, diversions, and superstitions, as they existed in the age of Shakspeare. These, therefore, will be the subject of the immediately following chapters, in which it shall be our particular aim, among the numerous authorities to which we shall be obliged to have recourse, to draw from the poet himself those passages which throw light upon the topics as they rise to view; an arrangegement which, when it shall have been carried, in all its various branches, through the work, will clearly show, that from Shakspeare, more than from any other poet, is to be collected the history of the times in which he lived, so far as that history relates to popular usage and amusement.
A View of Country-Life during the Age of Shakspeare-Its Manners and Customs-Rural Characters.
Ir may be necessary, in the commencement of this chapter, to remark, that rural life, in the strict acceptation of the term, will be at present the exclusive object of attention; a survey of the manners and customs of the metropolis, and of the superior orders of society, being deferred to a subsequent portion of the work. No higher character will, therefore, be introduced in this sketch than the Country Squire, constituting according to Harrison, who wrote about the year 1580, one of the second order of gentlemen; for these, he remarks, "be divided into two sorts, as the baronie or estate of lords (which conteineth barons and all above that degree), and also those that be no lords, as knights, esquires, and simple gentlemen." * He has also furnished us, in another place, with a more precise definition of the character under consideration. "Esquire (which we call commonlie squire) is a French word, and so much in Latine as Scutiger vel Armige, and such are all those which beare armes, or armoires, testimonies of their race from whence they be descended. They were at the first costerels or bearers of the armes of barons, or knights, and thereby being instructed in martiall knowledge, had that name for a dignitie given to distinguish them from common souldiers called Gregarii Milities when they were together in the field." +
It is curious to mark the minute distinctions of gentlemen as detailed at this period, in the various books of Armorie or Heraldrie. The science, indeed, was cultivated, in the days of Shakspeare, with an enthusiasm which has never since been equalled, and the treatises on the subject were consequently multitudinous.
If no gentleman, why then no arms,"
exclaims our poet; the aspirants, therefore, to this distinction were numerous, and in the "Gentleman's Academie; or, The Booke of St. Albans," published by Gervase Markham in 1595, which he says in the dedication was then absolutely "necessarie and behovefull to the accomplishment of the gentlemen of this flourishing ile-in the heroicall and excellent study of Armory," we find “nine sortes" and "foure maner" of gentlemen expressly distinguished.
A gentleman of coat-armour, and those are three, one of the kings badge, ar other of lordship, and the third of killing a pagan.
* Holinshed's Chronicles, edit. of 1807, in six vol. 4to, vol. i. p. 276. * Holmshed, vol. i. p. 273,
Taming of the Shrew, act ii. se 1.