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"He was not of an age, but for all time."


"ALL that is known with any degree of certainty concerning Shakespeare, is-that he was born. at Stratford upon Avon-married and had children there went to London, where he commenced actor, and wrote poems and plays-returned to Stratford, made his will, died, and was buried." 1 Such is the remark of the most acute of his commentators; and I have quoted it here, as a sort of apology to the reader for the imperfections of the present essay.

It appears, that John Shakespeare, the father of our poet, could not boast a descent from ancestors of gentle blood, though his family had been long established in the county of Warwick. The place of his birth is doubtful; but not long after the year 1550, we find him settled as a tradesman in Stratford upon Avon. Concerning the nature of his vocation biographers disagree. The memoranda of Aubrey declare that he was a

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1 Note by George Steevens on Shakespeare's xciiid Sonnet. b

butcher; according to Rowe, he "was a considerable dealer in wool;" and Malone has adduced a contemporary document, which renders it probable that he followed the profession of a glover.3

3" William Shakespeare's father was a butcher, and I have been told heretofore by some of the neighbours, that when he was a boy, he exercised his father's trade; but when he killed a calfe, he would do it in a high style, and make a speech!" M. S. Aubrey. Mus. Ashmol. Oxon.

Rowe tells us, that he received from Betterton, the actor, the chief part of the materials for our poet's Life; "his veneration for the memory of Shakespeare having engaged him to make a journey into Warwickshire, on purpose to gather up what remains he could of a name for which he had so great a veneration."

Malone, at one time, thought the assertions of Aubrey and Rowe by no means inconsistent : "Dr. Farmer," says he, "has illustrated a passage in Hamlet from information derived from a person who was at once a woolman and butcher, and, I believe, few occupations can be named which are more naturally connected with each other." Shak. by Reed, iii. 214. ed. 1813. But he afterwards discovered the following entry in a very old manuscript, containing an account of the proceedings in the bailiff's court, which he considered decisive as to the occupation of our poet's father:

66 Stretford, ss. Cur. Phi. et Mariæ Dei gra, &c. secundo et tercio, ibm tent. die Marcurii. videlicet xvij. die Junii, ann. predict. [17 June, 1555] coram Johni Burbage Ballivo, &c.

"Thomæ Siche de Arscotte in com. Wigorn. querit versus Johm Shakyspere de Stretford in com. Warwic. Glover. in plac. quod reddat ei oct. libras, &c." Life of Shakespeare, p. 78. (Shak. by Boswell, ii.)

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