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and stealths of injurious imposters, that expos'd them: even those, are now offer'd to your view cur'd, and perfect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them. Who, as he was a happie imitator of Nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind and hand went together: and what he thought, he uttered with that easinesse, that wee have scarce received from him a blot in his papers. But it is not our province, who only gather his works, and give them you, to praise him. It is yours that reade him. And there we hope, to your divers capacities, you will find enough, both to draw, and hold you: for his wit can no more lie hid, than it could be lost. Reade him, therefore; and againe, and againe: And then if you do not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger, not to understand him. And so we leave you to other of his Friends, who if you need, can bee your guides: if you neede them not, you can leade your selves, and others and such Readers we wish him.



1677-1718 HE high honour of being the first biographer of William Shakespeare belongs to Nicholas Rowe, born in Bedfordshire in 1677, died

in London December 6, 1718. He was a pupil at Westminster School under the famous Dr. Busby, became a student of the Inner Temple, was called to the bar, but forsook the law for politics and finally for literature. He was an under-Secretary of State, and Secretary of State for Scotland, but in the reign of George I. reached the object of his ambition and became poet laureate.

He became a dramatic writer of repute. His chief works were, “ The Ambitious Stepmother,” “ Tamerlane,” “ The Famous Penitent” (famous as having among its dramatis personæ the original “ gallant gay Lothario "), “ Ulysses," “ The Royal Convert,” “ Jane Shore,” and “ Lady Jane Grey.” Of these I believe only “ Jane Shore” has been acted on the modern stage. Two volumes of miscellaneous poetry were also accredited to him. Rowe was a popular member of that literary coterie at the beginning of the eighteenth century which included Pope and Addison, whom he counted among his friends.

His Shakespeare work was his most notable ! achievement. In 1709 he published an edition of the plays “ with an account of his life and writings ” in seyen volumes octavo. This was followed in 1714 by a


second edition in nine volumes. It was the first attempt to give any details of the great poet's life; and Rowe's experience as a playwright led him to prefix to each play its list of dramatis persona, to divide the plays into numbered acts and scenes, and to mark exits and entrances.

Rowe was buried in Westminster Abbey and Pope wrote the following epitaph for his tomb:

“Thy relics, Rowe, to this sad shrine we trust,

And near thy Shakespeare place thy honoured bust.
Oh, next him, skilled to draw the tender tear,
For never heartfelt passion more sincere;
To nobler sentiment to fire the brave,
For never Briton more disdained a slave;
Peace to thy gentle shade and endless rest!
Blest in thy genius, in thy love, too, blest!
And blest, that timely from our scene removed,
Thy soul enjoy the liberty it loved.”




This account is taken from the second edition (1714), slightly altered by the author from the first edition of 1709.

It seems to be a kind of respect due to the memory of excellent men, especially of those whom their wit and learning have made famous, to deliver some account of themselves, as well as their works, to posterity. For this reason, how fond do we see some people of discovering any little personal story of the great men of antiquity: their families, the common accidents of their lives, and even their shape, make, and features, have been the subject of critical inquiries. How trifling soever this curiosity may seem to be, it is certainly very natural; and we are hardly satisfied with an account of any remarkable person, till we have heard him described even to the very clothes he wears. As for what relates to men of letters, the knowledge of an author may sometimes conduce to the better understanding his book; and though the works of Mr. Shakespeare may seem to many not to want a comment, yet I fancy some little account of the man himself may not be thought improper to go along with them.

He was the son of Mr. John Shakespeare, 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 mentioned as gentlemen. His father, who was a considerable dealer in wool, had so large a family, ten children in all, that though he was his eldest son, he could give him no better education than his own employment. He had bred him, it is true, for some time at a free school," where, it is probable, he acquired what Latin he was master of: but the narrowness of his circumstances, and the want of his assistance at home, forced his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that language. It is without controversy, that in his works we scarce find any traces of any thing that looks like an imitation of the ancients. The delicacy of his taste, and the natural bent of his own great genius (equal, if not superior, to some of the best of theirs), would certainly have led him to read and study them with so much pleasure, that some of their fine images would naturally *One of the grammar schools founded or reconstructed on older foundations by Edward VI. in 1547.

have insinuated themselves into, and been mixed with his own writings; so that his not copying at least something from them, may be an argument of his never having read them. Whether his ignorance of the ancients were a disadvantage to him or no, may admit of a dispute: for though the knowledge of them 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 restrained some of that fire, impetuosity, and even beautiful extravagance, which we admire in Shakespeare: and I believe we are better pleased with those thoughts, altogether new and uncommon, which his own imagination supplied him so abundantly with, than if he had given us the most beautiful passages out of the Greek and Latin poets, and that in the most agreeable manner that it was possible for a master of the English language to deliver them.

Upon his leaving school, he seems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father proposed to him; and in order to settle in the world after a family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway, said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighbour

2 Anne, daughter of Richard Hathaway of Shottery, a hamlet near Stratford. There is no record in the parish register or elsewhere so far as is known of the marriage. The only light upon it is a record in the Diocesan Registry (of Worcester) of a bond for. £40 to free the Bishop from liability in the event of any impediment appearing upon the marriage of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway. The date of this (Nov. 28, 1582) affords reasonable inference that the marriage took place immediately after. As the oldest child, Susanna, was baptised May 26, 1583, Shakespeare must have been under nineteen when he married.

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