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SKETCH OF THE LIFE
WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE was born at Strat-ter the performance. But in whatever situation he ford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, on the 23d day was first employed at the theatre, he appears to of April, 1564. His family was above the vulgar have soon discovered those talents which afterwards rank. His father, John Shakspeare, was a con-made him siderable dealer in wool, and had been an officer Th' applause, delight, the wonder, of our stage. of the corporation of Stratford. He was likewise a justice of the peace, and at one time a man of Some distinction he probably first acquired as considerable property. This last, however, ap-an actor, but no character has been discovered in
pears to have been lost by some means, in the latter part of his life. His wife was the daughter and heiress of Robert Arden, of Wellington, in the county of Warwick, by whom he had a family of ten children.
Our illustrious poet was the eldest son, and was educated, probably, at the free-school of Stratford; but from this he was soon removed, and placed in the office of some country attorney. The exact amount of his education has been long a subject of controversy. It is generally agreed, that he did not enjoy what is usually termed a literary education; but he certainly knew enough of Latin and French to introduce scraps of both in his plays, without blunder or impropriety.
When about eighteen years old, he married Anne Hathaway, who was eight years older than himself. His conduct soon after this marriage was not very correct. Being detected with a gang of deer-stealers, in robbing the park of Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote, near Stratford, he was obliged to leave his family and business, and take shelter in London.
which he appeared to more advantage than in that of the Ghost in Hamlet: and the best critics and inquirers into his life are of opinion, that he was not eminent as an actor. In tracing the chronology of his plays, it has been discovered, that Romeo and Juliet, and Richard II. and III., were printed in 1597, when he was thirty-three years old. There is also some reason to think that he commenced a dramatic writer in 1592, and Mr. Malone even places his first play, The First Part of Henry VI., in 1589.
His plays were not only popular but approved by persons of the higher order, as we are certain that he enjoyed the gracious favour of Queen Elizabeth, who was very fond of the stage; the patronage of the Earl of Southampton, to whom he dedicated some of his poems; and of King James, who wrote a very gracious letter to him with his own hand, probably in return for the compliment Shakspeare had paid to his majesty in the tragedy of Macbeth. It may be added, that his uncommon merit, his candour, and good-nature are supposed to have procured him the admiration and acquaintance of every person distinguished for such qualities. It is not difficult, indeed, to trace, that Shakspeare was a man of humour, and a social companion; and probably excelled in that species of minor wit, not ill adapted to conversation, of which it could have been wished he had been more sparing in his writings.
He was twenty-two years of age when he arrived in London, and is said to have made his first acquaintance in the play-house. Here his necessities obliged him to accept the office of call-boy, or prompter's attendant; who is appointed to give the performers notice to be ready, as often as the business of the play requires their appearance on the How long he acted, has not been discovered; stage. According to another account, far less but he continued to write till the year 1614. During probable, his first employment was to wait at the his dramatic career, he acquired a property in the door of the play-house, and hold the horses of those theatre, which he must have disposed of when he who had no servants, that they might be ready af-retired, as no mention of it occurs in his will. The
side of the chance, in the great church at Stratiet, where a manumen s paced in the wai, œ which des represented under an arch, in a sitting posture, a custat spread before him, with a pen
katter part of me liée was spear in cast, retremem. 2. Hi, when he mat earth completed has auf the comensuur of heinende. He hat accu-y-second year: and was buried of the north Blaket Counterade property, which Gloom ʼn the Letter aus Lere sed amount u 300. per ann, a sum equal a 2000 in our days. But Mir. Naone doubts whether all his proper annommer is much more than 200 per ann which, he right hand, and is at rested on a scroll of yer was a considerate fortune in those times; and paper. The flowing Lam distich s engraved at is supposed, fue he might have deved 2001 under the cushion: anualy from the theatre, while he commed
Perhaps we should read Sophoclem, instead of
Stay, passenger, why dost thou go so fast?
Ohit ano. Dm. 1926,
He retired some rears before his death to a house in Stratford, of which it has been though important to give the history. It was built by Sir Hugs Clopton, a younger brother of an ancient famly that neighbourhood. Sir Hugh was sherif of Loudon in the reign of Fachard ill and kord mayor in that of Henry VIL By his will be bequeathed to his elder brother's son his mance of Cropton, &c. and his house by the name of the Great House in Stratford A good part of the estate was in possession of Edward Clopton, Esq. ' and Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt. in 1733. The prit-, cipal estate had been sold out of the Clopton family for above a century, at the time when Shakspeare became the purchaser, who, having repaired and modelled it to his own mind, changed the name to New Place, which the mansion-house afterwards erected, in the room of the poet's house, retained for many years. The house and lands belonging to it continued in the possession of Shakspeare's descendants to the time of the Restoration, when¦ they were re-purchased by the Clopton family. His family consisted of two daughters, and a Here, in May 1742, when Mr. Garrick, Mr. Mack- son named Hamnet, who died in 1596, in the lin, and Mr. Delane, visited Stratford, they were twelfth year of his age. Susannah, the eldest hospitably entertained under Shakspeare's mul- daughter, and her father's favourite, was married berry-tree, by Sir Hugh Clopton, who was a bar to Dr. John Hall, a physician, who died Nov. rister, was knighted by George L. and died in the 1635, aged 60. Mrs. Hall died July 11, 1649, 80th year of his age, 1751. His executor, about aged 66. They left only one child, Elizabeth, the year 1752, sold New Place to the Rev. Mr. born 1607-8, and married April 22, 1626, to Gastrel, a man of large fortune, who resided in it Thomas Nashe, esq. who died in 1647; and afterbut a few years, in consequence of a disagreement wards to Sir John Barnard, of Abington in Northwith the inhabitants of Stratford. As he resided amptonshire, but died without issue by either huspart of the year at Lichfield, he thought he was band. Judith, Shakspeare's youngest daughter, assessed too highly in the monthly rate towards the was married to Mr. Thomas Quiney, and died maintenance of the poor, and being opposed, he 'Feb. 1661-2, in her 77th year. By Mr. Quiney peevishly declared, that that house should never she had three sons, Shakspeare, Richard, and be assessed again; and soon afterwards pulled it! Thomas, who all died unmarried. The traditional down, sold the materials, and left the town. He had some time before cut down Shakspeare's mulberry-tree, to save himself the trouble of showing it to visitors. That Shakspeare planted this tree appears to be sufficiently authenticated. Where New Place stood is now a garden.
We have not any account of the malady which, at no very advanced age, closed the life and labours of this unrivalled and incomparable genius. The only notice we have of his person is from Aubrey, who says, 'He was a handsome wellshaped man; and adds, 'verie good company, and of a very ready and pleasant and smooth wit’
story of Shakspeare having been the father of Sir William Davenant, has been generally discredited.
From these imperfect notices, which are all we have been able to collect from the labours of his biographers and commentators, our readers will perceive that less is known of Shakspeare than of almost any writer who has been consider
* The first regular attempt at a life of Shakspeare is prefixed to Mr. A. Chalmers's variorum edition,
published in 1905, of which we have availed ourselves in the above Sketch