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of the great men of antiquity: and that the common accidents of their lives naturally become the subject of our critical enquiries: That however trifling such a curiosity at the first view may appear, yet, as for what relates to men of letters, the knowledge of an author may, perhaps, sometimes conduce to the better understanding his works: And, indeed, this author's works, from the bad treatment he has met with froin his editors, have so long wanted a comment, that one would zealously embrace every method of information, that could contribute to recover them from the injuries with which they have so long lain o'erwhelmed.
?Tis 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 shall retain the ftronger 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 business and employment. I cannot affirm with any certainty how long his father lived; but I take hiin to be the same Mr. John Shakespeare, who was living in the year 1599, and who then, in ho- .
nour of his son, took out an extract of his fa. mily-arms from the herald's office; by which it appears, that he had been officer and bailiff of Stratford, and that he enjoyed some hereditary lands and tenements, the reward of his great grandfather's faithfuland 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, I presume, founded at Stratford: where, we are told, he acquired what Latin he was master of: but, that his father being obliged, through narrowness of circumstances, to withdraw him too soon from thence, he was so unhappily prevented from making any proficiency in the dead languages: A point, that will deserve some little discussion in the fequel 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 notices 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 Lona don and the STAGE.
In order to settle in the world after a familymanner, he thought fit, Mr. Rowe acquaints us, to marry while he was yet very young. It is certain, he did so: for by the monument, in Stratford church, erected to the memory of his daugh
ter Susanna, the wife of John Hall, gentleman, it appears that the died on the 2d day of July, in the year 1649, aged 66. So that she was born in 1583, when her father could not be full 19 years old; who was himself born in the year 1964. 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 zime he was turned of seventeen years.
Whether the force of inclination merely, or fome concurring circumstances of convenience in the match, prompted him to marry so early, is not easy to be determined at this distance: but it is probable, a view of interest might partly sway his conduct in this point: for he married the daughter of one Hathaway, a substantial yeoman in his neighbourhood, and she had the start of him in age no less than eight years. She survived him, notwithstanding, seven seasons, and died that very year in which the Players published the first edition of his works in folio, Anno Dom. 1623, at the
age of 67 years, as we likewife 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 deere
tealers, to rob the park of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecot near Stratford: the enterprize favours fo much of youth and levity, we may reasonably suppose it was before he could write full man. Besides, considering he has left us fix and thirty plays, which are avowed to be genuine; (to throw out of the question those seven, in which his title is disputed; though I can, beyond all controversy prove some touches in every one of them to come from his pen:) and considering too, that he had retired from the stage, to spend the latter part of his days at his own native Stratford; the interval of time, necessarily required for the finishing so many dramatic pieces, obliges us to suppose he threw himself very early upon the play-house, And as he could, probably, contract no acquaint. ance with the drama, while he was driving on the affair of wool at home; some time must be loft, even after he had commenced Player, before he could attain knowledge enough in the science to qualify himself for turning Author.
It has been obferved by Mr. Rowe, that, amongst other Extravagancies which our Author has given to his Sir John Falsaff, 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 country, describes for a family there. There
are two coats, I observe, in Dugdale, where three filver fishes are borne in the name of Lucy; and another coat, to the monument of Thomas Lucy, fon 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 humorous 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 prosecutor's side: and if this was the case, it were pity but the disgrace of such an inveteracy should remain as a lasting reproach, and Shallow stand as a mark of ridicule to ftigmatize his malice.
It is said, our author spent some years before his death, in eale, retirement, and the con versation of his friends, at his native Stratford, I could never pick way certain intelligence, when he relinquihed the stage. I know, it has been iniltakenly thougnt by home, that Spenser's Thalia, in his Tear of his Muses, where the laments the lois of her Willy in the comic scene, has been applied to our author's quitting the stage,