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1039

THIE

LIFE AND WRITINGS OF WILLIAM SHAKSPERL.

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On the 22nd of August, 1485, there was a battle fought | College of Arms, and, producing his own“ ancient coat for the crown of England, a short battle ending in a of arins," said that he had “ married the daughter and decisive victory. The battlefield was Busworth. Was one of the heirs of Robert Ardel, of Wellingcote :" and there in that victorious army of the Earl of Richmond then the heralıls' say—“We have likewise upon one an Englishman bearing the name of Chacksper, or other escute con impaled the same with the ancient arms Shake peyre, or Schakespere, or Schakespeire, or Schake of the said Ardeu of Wellmgcote.” They add that Jolin spere, or Shakespiere, or Shakspere, *—a martial vame, Shakspere, and his children, issue, and posterity, nay however spelt? Of the warlike achievements of this bear and use the same shield of arms, single or impaled. Shakspere there is no record : his name or his deeds The family of Arden was one of the highest antiqnity would have no interest for us unless there has been in Warwickshire. Duguale traces its pedigree uniuterborn, eighty years after this battle-day, a direct de ruptedly up to the time of Edward the Contessor. The scendant from him

pedigree which Dugdale gives of the Arden family " Whose muse, full of high thong it's invention,

brings us no nearer in the direct live to the mother of Doth like hiinsell hervically suund;" t

Shakspere than to Robert Arilen, her great-grandfather a Slakspere, of whom it was also said

he was the third son of Walter Arden, who married " He seems to shake a lance

Eleanor the daughter of John Hampden, of Bucking. As braudish'd at the eyes of ignorance."!

hamshire; and he was brother to Sir John Arden, A public document bearing the date of 1596 affirms of squire for the body to Henry VII. Robert's son, also John Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon, the father of called Robert, was groom of the chamber to Henry VII Villiam Shakspere, that his “ parent and late ante- He married, and he had a son, also Robert, who married cessors were, for their valiant and faithful services, Agnes Webbe. Their you.gest daughter was Mary. allvanced and rewarded of the most prudent prince the mother of William Shakspere. King Henry VII. of famous memory;" and it adds, High as was her desceat, wealthy and powerful as " sithence which time they liave continued at those were the numerous branches of her family, Mary parts (Warwickshire) in good reputation and credit." Arden, we doubt not, led a life of usefulness as well as Another document of a similar character, bearing the innocence, within her native forest hamlet. She had date of 1599, also affirms upon “ creditable report,” of three sisters, and they all, with their mother Agnes, sur“ John Shakspere, now of Stratford-upon-Avon, in the vived their father, who died in December, 1556. His county of Warwick, gentleman,” that his “ parent and will is dated the 24th of November in the same year, great-grandfather, late autecessor, for his faithful and and the testator styles bimself “ Robert Arden, of approved service to the late most prudent prince King Wylmcote, in the paryche of Aston Cauntlow." Mary, Henry VII. of famous memory, was advanced and his youngest daughter, from superiority of mind, or rewarded with lands and tenements, given to him in some other cause of her father's confidence, occupies those parts of Warwickshire, where they have continned the most prominent position in the will. She has an by sume descents in good reputation and credit.” Such undivided estate and a sum of money; and, from the are the recitals of two several grants of arms to John crop being also bequeathed to her, it is evident that she Shakspere, confirming a previous grant made to him in was considered able to continue the tillage. The estate 1569.

thus bequeathed to her consisted of about sixty acres of The great-grandson of the faithful and approved arable and pasture, and a house; and was called Asbics. servant of Henry VII., Johu Shakspere, was a burgess In the winter of 1556 was Mary Arden left without of the corporation of Stratford, and was in all pro- the guidance of a father, under this somewhat nakol bability born about 1530. The family had continued roof-tree, now become her own. Her sister Alice was in those parts, “ by some descents ;" but how they were

to occupy another property in Wilmecote with her occupied in the business of life, what was their station mother, provided the widow would so consent; and she in society, how they branched out into other lines of vid consent. And so she lived a somewhat lonely life, Shaksperes, we have no record.

till a young yeoman of Stratford, who had probably In 1599 John Shakspere a second time went to the some acquaintance with her father, came to sit oftener • A list of the brethreu and sisters of the Guild of Knowle, and oftener upon the wooden benches in the old ball- & near Rowington, in Warwicksinire, exhibits a great number of substantial yeoman, a burgess of the corporation in 1557 the name of Shaks: ere in that fraternity, from about 1460 to

or 1558; and then in due senson Mary Arden and Jolin 15:27; and the names are spult with the diversity here given, Shakspere were standing before the altar of the paristo Shakspere being the latest. + $,euser.

a

church of Aston Cantlow, and the louse and lands of

1 Ben Jonsou.

Asives became administered by one who took possession was living upon his own land, renting the land ! “ by the right of the said Mary,” who thenceforward others, actively engaged in the business of cultiration, abided for half a century in the good town of Stratförd. in an age when tillage was becoming rapidly profitable

, There have been endless theories, old and new, —so much so that men of wealth very often thought it affirmations, contradictions, as to the worldly calling better to take the profits direct than to share them with of John Shakspere. There are ancient registers in the tenant ? Stratford, minutes of the Common Hall, proceedings of And is all this, it may be said, of any importance in the Court-leet, pleas of the Court of Record, writs, looking at the life of William Shakspere-a man who which have been hunted over with unwearied diligence, stands above all other individual men, above all ranks and yet they tell us nothing, or next to nothing, of of men; in comparison with whom, in his permanent John Shakspere. When he was elected an alderman influence upon mankind, generations of nobles, fighting in 1565, we can trace out the occupations of his brother men, statesmen, princes, are but as dust! It is somealdermen, and readily come to the conclusion that the thing, we think. It offers a better, because a more municipal authority of Stratford was vested, as we may natural, explanation of the circumstances connected naturally suppose it to have been, in the bands of sub- with the early life of the great poet than those stories stantial tradesmen, brewers, bakers, butchers, grocers, which would make him of obscure birth and servile victuallers, mercers, woollen-drapers. Prying into the employments. Take old Aubrey's story, the shrewd secrets of time, we are enabled to form some notion of | leamed gossip and antiquary, who survived Shakspere the literary acquirements of this worshipful dy. On sume eighty years :—“Mr. William Shakspere was born rare, very rare occasions, the aldermen and burgesses at Stratford-upon-Avon, in the county of Warwick. His constituting the town council affixed their signatures, father was a butcher, and I have been told heretofore for greater solemnity, to some order of the court; and by some of the neighbours that when he was a boy be on the 29th of September, in the seventh of Elizabeth, exercised his father's trade; but when he killed a calf upon an order that John Wheler should take the office he would do it in a bigh style, and make a speech. of bailiff, we have nineteen names subscribed, aldermen There was at that time another butcher's son in this and burgesses. There is something in this document town that was held not at all inferior to him for a natural which suggests a motive higher than mere curiosity for wit, his acquaintance and coetanean, but died young." calling up these dignitaries from their happy oblivion, The story, however, has a variation. There was at saying to each, “ Dost thou use to write thy name? or Stratford, in the year 1693, a clerk of the parish church, hast thou a mark to tlıyself like an honest plain dealing eighty years old,—that is, he was three years old when man ?" Alas! out of the nineteen seven only can an- William Shakspere died, -and he, pointing to the monuswer, “I thank God I have been so well brought up ment of the poet, with the pithy remark that he was the that I can write my name." It is a matter of con- “ best of his family," proclaimed to a member of one of troversy whether John Shakspere was one of the more the Ivns of Court that “this Shakespere was formerly clerkly corporators. We think he was; others believe in this town bound apprentice to a butcher, but that be he was not. In 1556, the year that Robert, the father ran from his master to London." His fsiher was a of Mary Arden, died, John Shakspere was admitted at butcher, says Aubrey; he was apprenticed to a buteber, the court-leet to two copyhold estates in Stratford. says the parish clerk. The jurors of the leet present that George Turnor had Akin to the butcher's trade is that of the dealer in wool. alienated to Jolin Shakspere and his heirs one tenement, It is upon the authority of Betterton, the actor, who, in with a garden and croft, and other premises, in Grene. the beginning of the last century, made a journey into hyll-street, held of the lord at an annual quit-rent; and Warwickshire to collect anecdotes relating to ShakJohn Shakspere, who is present in court and does spere, that Rowe tells us that John Shakspere was a fealty, is admitted to the same. The same jurors pre- | dealer in wool :-"His family, as appears by the regissent that Edward West has alienated to John Shakspere ter and public writings relating to that town, were of one tenement and a garden adjacent in Henley Street, good figure and fashion there, and are mentioned as who is in the same way admitted, upon fealty done to gentlemen. His father, who was a considerable dealer the lord. Here then is John Shakspere, before his in wool, had so large a family, ten children in all, that, marriage, the purchaser of two copybolus in Stratford, though he was his eldest son, he could give him no both with gardens, and one with a croft, or small en- better education than his own employment." Tradition closed field. In 1570 John Shakspere is holding, as is here, we think, becoming a little more assitnilated tenant under William Clopton, a meadow of fourteen with the truth. The considerable dealer in wool might acres, with its appurtenance, called Ingon, at the very well have been the landed proprietor, the cultivaannual rent of eight pounds. This rent, equivalent to tor, that we believe Juhn Shakspere to have been. Nor at least forty pounds of our present money, would indi- indeed was the incidental business even of a butele, cate that the appurtenance included a house.—and a a slayer and seller of carcasses, incompatible with that very good house. This meadow of Ingon forms part occupation of a landholder. Harrison (1590), who of a large property known by that name near Clopton- mingles laments at the increasing luxury of the farmer house. When John Shakspere married, the estate of with somewhat contradictory denouncements of tbe Asbies, within a short ride of Stratford, came also into oppression of the tenant by the landlord, holds that the his possession. With these facts before us, scanty as landlord is monopolising the tenant's profits :—** Must they are, can we reasonably doubt that John Shakspere sorrowful of all to understand, that men of great post and countenance are so far from suffering their farmers | precious gift to a loving boy was granted, a sister, who to have any gain at all, that they themselves become grew up with him. Then came another sister, why graziers, BUTCHErs, tanners, sheePMASTERs, wood- faded untimely. When he was ten years old he had men, and denique quid non, thereby to enrich them- another brother to lead by the hand into the green measelves, and bring all the wealth of the country into dows. When he was grown into youthful strength, a boy their own hands, leaving the commonalty weak, or as of sixteen, his youngest brother was born. William, an idol with broken or feeble arms, which may in time Gilbert, Joan, Richard, Edmund, constituted the whole of peace have a plausible show, but, when necessity of the family amongst whom John Shakspere was to shall enforce, have an heavy and bitter sequel." Has share his means of existence. Rowe, we have already not Harrison solved the mystery of the butcher, and ex- seen, mentions the large family of John Shakspere plained the tradition of the woolman ?

“ ten children in all.” Malone has established very There is an entry in the Bailiff's Court of Stratford, in satisfactorily the origin of this error into which Ruwe 1555, which shows us one John Shakspere, a glover. has fallen. In later years there was another John It does not follow that if this record be of the father of Shakspere in Stratford. In the books of the corporation William Shakspere, a young man in 1555, that he was the name of John Shakspere, shoemaker, can be traced always a glover. If he were a glover in 1555, he was in 1586; in the register in 1584 we find him married subsequently a holder of land-a land proprietor.* to Margery Roberts, who dies in 1587; he is, without

The Register of Baptisms of the parish of Stratford | doubt, married a second time, for in 1589, 1590, and rpon-Avon shows that William, the son of John 1591, Ursula, Humphrey, and Philip are born. It is Shakspere, was baptized on the 26th April, 1564. And unquestionable that these are not the children of the when born? The want of such information is a defect father of William Shakspere, for they are entered in in all parish-registers. Baptism so immediately fol- the register as the daughter, or sons, of John Shakspere, lowed birth in those times, when infancy was sur- without the style which our Jolin Shakspere always rounded with greater dangers than in our own days of bore after 1569—" Magister." There can be no doubt improved medical science, that we may believe that that the mother of all the children of Master Joho William Shakspere first saw the light only a day or Shakspere was Mary Arden ; for in proceedings in two previous to this legal record of his existence. Chancery in 1597 it is set forth that John Shakspero There is no direct evidence that he was born on the and his wife Mary, in the 20th Elizabeth, 1577, mort 23rd of April, according to the cominon belief. But gaged her inheritance of Asbies. Nor can there be there was probably a tradition to that effect; for sume a doubt that the children born before 1569, when he is years ago the Rev. Joseph Greene, a master of the styled John Shakspere, without the honourable addition. grammar-school at Stratford, in an extract which he of Master, were also her children; for in 1599, when inade from the Register of Shakspere's baptism, wrote William Shakspere is an opulent man, application is in the margin, “ Born on the 23rd.” We turn back made to the College of Arms, that John Shakspere, and to the first year of the registry, 1558, and we find the his issue and posterity, might use a “shield of arms," baptism of Joan, daughter to John Shakspere, on the impaled with the arms of Shakspere and Arden. This 15th of September. Again, in 1562, on the 2nd of application would in all probability have been at the December, Margaret, daughter to John Shakspere, is instance of John Shakspere's eldest son and heir. The baptized. In the entry of burials in 1563 we find, history of the family up to the period of William under date of April 30, that Margaret closed a short Shakspere's manhood is as clear as can reasonably be life in five months. We look forward, and in 1566 expected. find the birth of another son registered :-Gilbert, son The year of William Shakspere's birth was a fearful of John Shakspere, was baptized on the 13th of October year for Stratford. The plague raged with terrific vioof that year. In 1569 there is the registry of the lence in the little town. It was the same epidemic baptism of a daughter, Joan, daughter of John Shak- which ravaged Europe in that year; which in the prespere, on the 15th of April. Thus, the registry of a vious year had desolated London, and still continued second Joan leaves no reasonable doubt that the first there. The red cross was probably not on the door of died, and that a favourite name was preserved in the John Shakspere's dwelling. “ Fortunately for manfamily. In 1571 another daughter was born, - Anne, kind,” says Malone, “it did not reach the house where daughter of Master John Shakspere, baptized on the the infant Shakspere lay; for not one of that name 28th of September. In 1574 another son was baptized, appears on the dead list.” -Richard, son of Master John Shakspere, on the 11th The parish of Stratford, then, was unquestionably of March. The register of sorrow and blighted hope the birth-place of William Shakspere. But in what shows that Anne was buried on the 4th of April, 1579. part of Stratford dwelt his parents in the year 1561 ? The last entry, which determines the extent of John It was ten years after this that his father became the Shakspere's family, is that of Edmund, son of Master purchaser of two freehold houses in Henley Street John Shakspere, baptized on the 3rd of May, 1580. houses which still exist. Nine years before William Here, then, we find that two sisters of William were Shakspere was born, his father had also purchased two removed by death, probably before his birth. In two copyhold tenements in Stratford - one in Greenhill years and a half another son, Gilbert, came to be his Street, one in Henley Street. The copyhold house in playmate; and when he was five years old that most | Henley Street, purchased in 1555, was unquestionably * See page 1044 not one of the freehold houses in the same street, per

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