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ing the fanatic turn of the wild Writer that relates it; fuch cenfures are amongst the follies of Men immoderately given over to one Science, and ignorantly undervaluing all the reft. Those learned Critics might, and perhaps did, laugh in their turn, (tho' ftill, fure, with the fame indecency and indifcretion) at that incomparable Man, for wearing out a long Life in poring through a Telescope. Indeed, the Weakneffes of Such are to be mentioned with reverence. But who can bear, without Indignation, the fashionable cant of every trifling writer, whose infipidity paffes, with himfelf, for politeness, for pretending to be fhocked, forfooth, with the rude and savage air of vulgar Critics; meaning such as Muretus, Scaliger, Cafaubon, Salmafius, Spanheim, Bentley. When, had it not been for the deathless labours of fuch as thefe, the western World, at the revival of Letters, had foon faln back again into a state of ignorance and barbarity as deplorable as that from which Providence had just redeemed it.
To conclude with an obfervation of a fine Writer and great Philofopher of our own; which I would gladly bind, tho' with all honour, as a Phylactery, on the Brow of every awful Grammarian, to teach him. at once, the Use, and Limits of his art: WORDS ARE THE MONEY OF FOOLS, AND THE COUNTERS OF WISE MEN.
ACCOUNT of the LIFE, &c.
Mr. WILLIAM SHAKESPEAR.
Written by Mr. ROWE.
T feems to be a kind of refpect due to the memory of excellent men, efpecially of those whom their
wit and learning have made famous, to deliver fome account of themfelves, as well as their works, to Pofterity. For this reafon, how fond do we fee fome people of difcovering any little perfonal ftory of the great men of Antiquity! their families, the common accidents of their lives, and even their fhape, make, and features have been the fubject of critical enquiries. How trifling foever this Curiofity may feem to be, it is certainly very natural; and we are hardly fatisfied with an account of any remarkable perfon, till we have heard him defcrib'd even to the very cloaths he wears. As for what relates to men of letters, the knowledge of an Author may fometimes conduce to the better understanding his book: and tho' the Works of Mr. Shakespear may feem to many not to want a comment, yet I fancy fome little account of the man himself may not be thought improper to go along with them.
He was the fon of Mr. John Shakespear, and was born at Stratford upon Avon, in Warwickshire, in April 1564. His family, as appears by the Register and publick Writings relating to that Town, were of good figure and fashion there, and are mention'd as gentlemen. His father, who was a confiderable dealer in wool, had fo large a family, ten children in all, that tho' he was his eldest fon, he could give him no better education than his own employment. He had bred him, 'tis true, for fome time at a Free school, where 'tis probable he acquired what Latin he was mafter of: but the narrowness of his circumstances, and the want of his affiftance at home, forc'd his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that language. It is without controverfy, that in his works we fcarce find any traces of any thing that looks like an imitation of the Ancients. The delicacy of his tafte, and the natural bent of his own great Genius, equal, if not fuperior to fome of the best of theirs) would certainly have led him to read and study 'em with fo much pleasure, that fome of their fine images would naturally have infinuated themselves into and been mix'd with his own writings: fo that his not copying at least fomething from them, may be an argument of his never having read 'em. Whether his ignorance of the Ancients were a difadvantage to him or no, may admit of a difpute: For tho' the knowledge of 'em might have made him more correct, yet it is not improbable but that the regularity and deference for them, which would have attended that correctness, might have re ftrain'd fome of that fire, impetuofity, and even beautiful extravagance which we admire in Shakespear And I believe we are better pleas'd with thofe thoughts, altogether new and uncommon, which his own imagination fupply'd him fo abundantly with, than if he had given us the most beautiful paffages out of the Greek and Latin poets, and that in the moft agreeable
manner that it was poffible for a mafter of the English language to deliver 'em.
Upon his leaving fchool, he feems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father propos'd to him; and in order to fettle in the world atter a family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway, faid to have been a fubftantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratferd. In this kind of fettlement he continued for fome time, 'till an extravagance that he was guilty of forc'd him both out of his country, and that way of living which he had taken up: and tho' it feem'd at firft to be a blemish upon his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily prov'd the occafion of exerting one of the greatest Genius's that ever was known in dramatick Poetry. He had, by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company; and amongst them, fome that made a frequent practice of Deerftealing, engaged him with them more than once in robbing a Park that belong'd to Sir Thomas Lucy of Cherlecot, near Stratford. For this he was profecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, fomewhat too feverely; and in order to revenge that ill ufage, he made a ballad upon him. And tho' this, probably the first effay of his Poetry, be loft, yet it is faid to have been fo very bitter, that it redoubled the prosecution against him to that degree, that he was oblig'd to leave his bufinefs and family in Warwickfire, for fome time, and fhelter himfelf in London.
It is at this time, and upon this accident, that he is faid to have made his first acquaintance in the playhouse. He was received into the company then in being, at first in a very mean rank; but his admirable wit, and the natural turn of it to the ftage, foon distinguished him, if not as an extraordinary Actor, yet as an excellent Writer. His name is printed, as the custom was in those times, amongst thofe of the
other Players, before fome old Plays, but without any particular account of what fort of parts he us'd to play; and tho' I have enquir'd, I could never meet with any further account of him this way, than that the top of his Performance was the ghoft in his own Hamlet. I fhould have been much more pleas'd, to have learn'd from fome certain authority, which was the firit Play he wrote; it would be without doubt a pleasure to any man, curious in things of this kind, to fee and know what was the firft eflay of a fancy like Shakespear's. Perhaps we are not to look for his beginnings, like thofe of other authors, among their leaft perfect writings; art had to little, and nature fo large a fhare in what he did, that, for ought I know, the performances of his youth, as they were the most vigorous, and had the most fire and ftrength of imagination in 'em, were the best. I would not be thought by this to mean, that his fancy was fo loose and extravagant, as to be independent on the rule and government of judgment; but that what he thought, was commonly fo great, fo juftly and rightly conceived in itself, that it wanted little or no correction, and was immediately approv'd by an impartial judgement at the first fight. But tho' the order of time in which the feveral pieces were written be generally uncertain, yet there are paffages in fome few of them which feems to fix their dates. So the Chorus at the end of the fourth Act of Henry V. by a compliment very handfomely turn'd to the Earl of Effex, fhews the Play to have been written when that Lord was General for the Queen in Ireland: And his Elogy upon Queen Elizabeth, and her fucceffor King James, in the latter end of his Henry VIII. is a proof of that Play's being written after the acceffion of the latter of
The highest date of any I con yet find, is Romeo and Juliet in 1597, auben the Author was 33 years
old; and Richard the zd, and 3d, in the next year, viz. the 34th of his age.