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one would zealously embrace every method of information that could contribute to recover them from the injuries with which they have so long lain overwhelmed.
It is certain, that if we have first admired the man in his writings, his case is so circumstanced, that we must naturally admire the writings in the man: that if we go back to take a view of his education, and the employment in life which fortune had cut out for him, we thall retain the stronger ideas of his extensive genius.
His father, we are told, was a considerable dealer in wool; but having no fewer than ten children, of whom our Shakespeare was the eldest, the best education he could afford him was no better than to qualify him for his own bufiness and employment. I cannot affirm with any certainty how long his father lived; but I take him to be the same Mr. Jolin Shakespeare 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 Warwickshire; and that he enjoyed fome here litary lands and tenements, the reward of his great grandfather's faithful and approved service to king Henry VII.
Be this as it will, our Shakespeare, it seems, was bred for some time at a free-school; the very free-school, T prefume, founded at Stratford: where, we are told, he acquiredi what Latin he was master of: but that his father being.obliged, through narrowness of circumstance, to withdraw him too foon from thence, he was thereby unhappily prevented from making any proficiency in the dead languages: a point that will deferve some little discussion in the fcqucl of this differtation.
How long he continued in his father's way of business, either as an assistant to him, or on his own proper account, no notites are left to inform us: nor have I been able to learn precisely at what period of life he quitted his native Stratford, and began his acquaintance with London and the stage.
In order to fetile 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 the died on the 2d of July, in the year 1649,
aged 66. So that she was born in 1983, when her father could not be full 19 years old; who was himself born in the year 1564. Nor was fhe his eldest child, for he had another daughter, Judith, who was born before her*, and who was married to one Mr. Thomas Quiney. So that Shakespeare must have entered into wedlock by that time he was turned of seventeen years.
Whether the force of inclination merely, or some concurring circumstances of convenience in the match, prompted him to marry to early, is not easy to be determined at this distance: but it is probable, a view of intçrelt might partly sway his conduct in this point: for he married the. daughter, of one Hathaway, a substantial yeoman in his neighbourhood, and the had the start of him in age no less than eight years. She survived him notwithstanding, seven seasons, and died that very year the players publithed 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 settlement, upon his own native spot, is not more easily 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-stealers, to rob the park of Sir Thomas Lucy of Cherlecot near Stratford: the enterprize favours so much of youth and levity, we may reasonably suppose it was before he could write full man. Befides, confidering he has left us fix and thirty plays at least, avowed to be genuine; and considering too, that he had retired from the itage, to spend the latter part of his days at his own native Stratford: the interval of time neceffarily required for the finishing so many dramatick pieces, obliges us to suppose 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; some time must be lost, even after he had commenced player, before he could attain knowledge enougi in the science to qualify himself for turning author.
It has been observed by Mr. Rowe, that, amongst other
* This is á millake. Susanna was the poet's eldest daughter. See the extraets from the register-book of the parish of Stratford, in one of the following pages,
extravagancies, which our author has given to his Sir John Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, he has made him a deer-stealer; and that he might at the same time remember his Warwickshire prosecutor, under the name of Justice Shallow, he has given him very near the same coat of arms, which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that county, describes for a family there. There are two coats, I observe, in Dugdale, where three silver fishes are borne in the name of Lucy; and another coat, to the monument of Thomas Lucy, son of Sir William Lucy, in which are quartered in four several divisions, twelve little fishes, three in each division, probably Luces. This very coat, indeed, seems alluded to in Shallow's giving the dozen white Luces, and in Slender saying he may quarter. When I consider 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 should throw this humourous piece of satire at his prosecutor, at least twenty years after the provocation given; I am confidently persuaded it must be owing to an unforgiving rancour on the profecutor's side: and if this was the case, it were pity but the disgrace of fuch an inveteracy should remain as a lasting reproach, and Shallow stand as a mark of ridicule to stigmatize his malice.
It is said, our author spent some years before his death, in eafe, retirement, and the conversation of his friends, at his native Stratford. I could never pick up any certain intelligence, when he relinquished the stage. I know, it has been mistakenly thought by fome, that Spenser's Thalia, in his Tears of his Muses, where the laments the loss of her Willy in the comick scene, has been applied to our author's quitting the stage. But Spenfer himself, it is well known, quitted the stage of life in the year 1598; and, five years after this, we find Shakespeare's name among the actors in Ben Jonfon's Sejanus, which first made its appearance in the year 1603. Nor, furely, could he then have any thoughts of retiring, since, that very year, a licence under the privy-seal was granted by K. James I. to him and Fletcher, Burbage, Phillippes, Hemings, Condel, &c. authorizing them to exercise the art of playing comedies, tragedies, &c. as well at their usual house called The Glate on the other side of the water, as in any other parts of the kingdom, during his majesty's pleasure ia copy of which licence is preserved
in Rymer's Federa). Again, it is certain, that Shakespeare did not exhibit his Mabril, till after the union was brought about, and till after K. James I. had begun to touch for the evil: for it is plain, he has inserteti compliments, on both those accounts, upon his royal master in that tragedy. . Nor, indeed, could the number of the dramatick pieces, he produced, admit of his retiring near so early as that period. So that what Spenser there says, if it relate at all to Shakespeare, muft hint at some occasional recess he made for a time upon a difruit taken: or tlie Willy, there mentioned, must relate to fome other favourite poet. I believe, we may safely determine, that he liad not quitted in the year 1610. For in his Tempel, our author makes mention of the Bermuda islands, which were unknown to the English, till, in 1609, Sir John Summers made a voyage to North-America, and discovered them: and afterwards invited some of his countrymen to settle a plantation there. That he became the private gentleman, at last three years before his deceafe, is pretty obvious from another circumstance: I mean, from that remarkable and well-known story, which Mr. Rowe has given us of our author's intimacy with Mr. John Combe, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and usury: and upon whom Shakespeare made the following facetious epitaph.
Ten in the hundred lies bere ingrav'd,
If any mon ok, who lies in this tomb, Oh! oh! quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe. This sarcastical piece of wit was, at the gentleman's own request, thrown out extemporally in his company. And this Mr. John Combe 1 take to be the same, who, by Dugdale in his Antiquities of IVarwickshire, is said to have died in the year 1614, and for whom, at the upper end of the quire of the Guild of the Holy Cross at Stratford, a fair monument is erected, having a statue thercon cut in alabaster, and in a gown, with this epitaph. “Here lieth interred the body ~ of John Combe, esq; who died the roth of July, 1614, or who bequeathed several annual charities to the parish of “ Stratford, and tool. to be lent to fifteen poor tradesmen “ from three years to three years, changing the parties every “ third year, at the rate of fifty shillings per annum, the inVOL. I.
“ crease to be distributed to the almes-poor there.”—The donation has all the air of a rich and sagacious usurer.
Shakespeare himself did not survive Mr. Combe long, for he died in the year 1616, the 53d of his age. He lies buried on the north side of the chancel in the great church at Stratford; where a monument, decent enough for the time, is erected to him, and placed against the wall. He is represented under an arch in a sitting posture, a cushion spread before him, with a pen in his right hand, and his left rested on a ferowl of paper. The Latin distich, which is placed under the cushion, has been given us by Mr. Pope, or his graver, in this manner.
INGENIO Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
Terra tegit, populus mæret, Olympus habet.
I confess, I do not conceive the difference betwixt ingenio and genio in the first verle. They seem to me intirely fynonymous terms; nor was the Pylian sage Nestor celebrated for his ingenuity, but for an experience and judgment owing to his long age. Dugdale, in his Antiquities of IV arwickshire, has copied this distich with a distinction which Mr. Rowe has followed, and which certainly restores us the true meaning of the epitaph. JUDICIO Pylium, genio Socratem *, &c.
* The first syllable in Socratem is here made Nort, which cannot be allowed. Perhaps we should read Sophoclems. Shakespeare is then appositely compared with a dramatic author among the an. cients: but still it fould be remembered that the elogium is les. sen'd while the metre is reform’d; and it is well known that some of our early writers of Latin poetry were uncominonly negligent in their prosody, especially in proper names. The thought of this distich, as Mr. Tollet observes, might have been taken from the Faëry Queene of Spenser, b. i. c. 9. it. 48, and c. 10. st. 3.
To this Latin inscription on Shakespeare should be added the lines which are found underneath it on his monument.
Stay, passenger, why dost thou go so faft?