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pations those of a butcher and a dealer in wool. These traditions concerning the pursuits of John Shakspeare descend to us from different sources; and while some of the biographers discredit the variety of his callings, others, with a larger faith, endeavour to reconcile them all. From the farm came the sheep that supplied the butcher, and the fleece that supplied the dealer in wool, and the goat-skins that were converted into gloves by the glover. However that may be, there is little reason to doubt that John Shakspeare was originally a glover in Stratford, that he afterwards farmed land, engaged in wool speculations, and at one period took up the business of a butcher.
According to Rowe, whose information came through a direct channel, John and Mary Shakspeare had ten children. The baptismal registers of Stratford record only seven. The following is the order of the ba sms :
:-1. Joan, Sept. 15, 1558. 2. Margaret, Dec. 2, 1562. 3. William, April 26, 1564. 4. Gilbert, Oct. 13, 1566. Gilbert is supposed to be the brother spoken of by Oldys as having frequently visited the poet in London, after he had become famous by his productions. 5. Joan, April 15, 1569. This being the second daughter of the same name, it is presumed that the former died before this date. Joan Shakspeare married William Hart, of Stratford, a hatter. One of her sons, William, is believed to have been the person of that name who afterwards became a player in London. It was this William Hart to whom Dr. Farmer imagined the dedication of the Sonnets was addressed; but the entry of his baptism on August 28, 1600, shows that some of the sonnets must have been written before he was born. Joan and her family are mentioned in Shakspeare's will. The Harts are said to be the only living descendants of Shakspeare's family. The pedigree, however, is imperfect. Some of the Harts removed in the last century to Tewkesbury, where the name may still be traced. Mr. Halliwell visited a person there, Thomas Shakspeare Hart, who claimed to be the eighth in descent from the poet's sister, and whose features bore a strong resemblance to those of the Stratford monument. The honour of being allied to the family was also asserted by Mary Hornby, whose maiden name was Hart, and who used to show the house at Stratford where the poet was born. Mr. Dyce saw this person, then an old woman, in 1820. She claimed the distinction, not only of being the sole survivor of the family, but of having inherited the dramatic inspiration of her great ancestor, for it seems she had written plays, and published them by subscription. 6. Anne, Sept. 28, 1571. She died in 1579. 7. Richard, March 11, 1573-4. Died 1612-3. 8. Edmund, May 3, 1580. Edmund became a player, and died in London in December, 1607, which is all that is known of him. In addition to these entries, there are three others : Ursula, 1588, Humphrey, 1590, Philip, 1591, the children of John Shakspeare; but the usual style of Mr. (by which Shakspeare's father was generally distinguished), being omitted in these instances in the register, it is conjectured that they referred to a shoemaker of the same name. The distinction of Mr., however, was not invariably employed; and, if we admit any of these three entries to refer to the family of the poet, they would help to substantiate Rowe's statement.
At the time of William Shakspeare's birth, his father possessed no less than four houses in Henley-street, and the tradition which assigns one of these as the birth-place of the poet is clearly supported by a deed, extracted in fac-simile in Mr. Halliwell's memoir. Considerable changes have taken place in the house, which no longer exhibits that comfortable and rather spacious appearance it presented in the sixteenth century. Not only have most of the evidences of its antiquity been displaced by modern alterations, but the original building has been divided into separate tenements, and the poor cottage which now represents the birth-place, and which contains the room in which the poet was born, is but a small portion of the dwelling of John Shakspeare.
In 1564, the family were in thriving circumstances. Frequent donations to the poor attest the resources and the social position of Shakspeare's father. The numerous occupations in which he was engaged, however, gradually involved him in embarrassments. In 1575, we find him purchasing more property in Henley-street; but three years afterwards he is forced to sell and mortgage. In the meanwhile, his son William had been placed at the free-school, where he received the rudiments of his education, the small Latin and less Greek' which has passed into a proverb; and when the pressure of debts compelled the family to restrict their expenses, the boy was brought home to assist his father in his pursuits. Up to 1577, John Shakspeare was a regular attendant at the meetings of the corporation. After that he seldom attended, and in 1586 he was deprived of his alderman's gown, because, as the record sets forth, he dothe not come to the halles when they be warned, nor hathe not done of longe tyme.' It is true that his continued absence is not a positive proof of pecuniary distress, since he was amenable on all those occasions to fines, which he must have paid ; yet it may be assumed that the pressure of embarrassments, and, perhaps, some personal dissensions arising out of them, rendered him unwilling to appear at the councils. On the other hand, the payment of the fines does not establish the independence of his circumstances. In the struggle to sustain his local credit, sacrifices of that kind were inevitable.
Following, for the sake of continuity, the few personal incidents that have come to light connected with John Shakspeare, the next notice of importance concerning him is a return from the commissioners appointed to make inquiries respecting Jesuits and other recusants. It is dated Sept. 25, 1592, and it contains the names of certain recusants who had been before prosecuted for not coming monthly to the church at Stratford, and who were thought to forbear the church on account of debt, and for fear of process. Amongst these names is that of John Shakspeare; a conclusive evidence of the decline of his circumstances. The next notice of him
appears in an application he made to the Heralds' College in 1596 for a grant of arms, which he obtained.
As this proceeding involved considerable expense, it would seem to imply that he had by this time retrieved his affairs ; but it has been supposed, with greater probability, that the application was made at the instance of his son, whose rising reputation made him ambitious of elevating the condition of his family. A second grant of arms was conferred upon him in 1599, confirming the former, and enabling him to impale with his own bearings those of the Ardens. The last reference to John Shakspeare is in a paper containing notes of an action of trespass in 1601, in which he appears to have been called as a witness. He died in the same year, and was buried on the 8th September. His widow survived him seven years, and was buried September 9th, 1608.
Of the boyhood and youth of William Shakspeare little is known with certainty. The earliest notice is to be found in the gossiping pages of Aubrey, who, in his loose way, tells us that when Shakspeare was a boy he exercised his father's calling of a butcher, adding, in another place, that in his younger years he was a schoolmaster in the country. The former statement acquires some corroboration from the testimony of the parish clerk of Stratford, who, in 1693, being then upwards of eighty years of age, asserted that the poet in his boyhood had been apprenticed to a butcher, and that he ran away
from his master to London, where he was received into the playhouse. If these two reports, coming from independent sources, may not be considered conclusive of the fact, their concurrence at least establishes beyond doubt the existence of a local tradition to that effect. The other statement, that Shakspeare was a schoolmaster in the country, is not only unsupported by evidence, but extremely improbable in itself.
Rowe, who compiled the first connected account of Shakspeare's life, from information collected in Warwickshire by Betterton towards the close of the seventeenth century, makes no allusion to either of these stories; but he confirms indirectly the truth of the first. He says that Shakspeare's father, being in narrow circumstances, and wanting his son's
assistance at home, withdrew him from school before he had made much proficiency in his studies. Whether the business was that of a dealer in wool, as we learn from Rowe, or of a butcher, as asserted by Aubrey, is not very material ; both statements agree in the main fact that Shakspeare was taken from school to help his father in his pursuits, which appear, from other accounts, to have been of a multifarious character. Some of the poet's biographers are unwilling to believe that his education was thus prematurely interrupted; but it may be presumed that a literary education was not considered of so much importance as a practical daily employment by a family utterly unqualified to judge of its advantages, and pressed upon, moreover, by the urgent distresses that were gathering round them. Shakspeare's father and mother could not write their names; other members of the family were equally destitute of the common rudiments of education ; and amongst them is found Judith Shakspeare, one of the poet's sisters, whose mark is preserved in a fac-simile by Mr. Halliwell. It may be concluded, therefore, without opening the vexed question of Shakspeare's learning, that, whatever knowledge of books or languages he acquired, or however he acquired it, his obligations to the grammar-school of Stratford were not very considerable.
It has been conjectured, from the number of law phrases introduced by Shakspeare in his plays, that he must have been engaged in the office of an attorney after he was removed from school. An obscure passage in one of Nashe's tracts, where he speaks of shifting companions' having the trade of noverint (lawyer's clerk), whereto they were born, and busying themselves with the endeavours of art,' has been supposed to have a personal reference to Shakspeare, although the very terms of the description indicate a class of persons who had been regularly bred to the law as a profession, and had afterwards abandoned it. Malone took up the notion on the ground of the internal evidence furnished by the plays, and was followed by Steevens, and Chalmers. Mr. Collier adopts the same opinion, and Mr. Brown, who exhibits