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'CAN it be wondered at (says Mr. Gifford) that the task he undertook, was chiefly instrumental mo
'Shakspeare should swell into twenty or even increasing the evil. He has indeed been happily twice twenty volumes, when the latest editor (like designated the Puck of commentators:' he free the wind Cecias) constantly draws round him the quently wrote notes, not with the view of illustrafloating errors of all his predecessors ?' Upwards of ting the Poet, but for the purpose of misleading Ma. twenty years ago, when the evil was not so great lone, and of enjoying the pleasure of turning against as it has since become, Steevens confessed that him that playful ridicule which he knew so well how there was an exuberance of comment,' arising from to direct. Steevens, like Malone, began his career the ambition in each little Hercules to set up pillars as an Editor of Shakspeare with scrupulous atten. ascertaining how far he had travelled through the tion to the old copies, but when he once came to dreary wilds of black letter;' so that there was entertain some jealousy of Malone's intrusion into some danger of readers being frighted away from his province, he all at once shifted his ground, and Shakspeare, as the soldiers of Cato deserted their adopted maxims entirely opposed to those which comrade when he became bloated with poison-guided his rival editor. Upon a recent perusal of a crescens fugere cadaver.' He saw with a prophetic considerable portion of the correspondence between eye that the evil must cure itself, and that the them, one letter seemed to display the circumtime would arrive when some of this ivy must be stances which led to the interruption of their intiremoved, which only served to hide the princely macy in so clear a light, and to explain the causes trunk, and suck the verdure out of it.'
which have so unnecessarily swelled the comments This expurgatory task has been more than once on Shakspeare, that it has been thought not unwora undertaken, but has never hitherto, it is believed, thy of the reader's attention. The letter has no been executed entirely to the satisfaction of the ad- date :mirers of our great Poet: and the work has even Sir,-I am at present so much harassed with now devolved upon one who, though not wholly private business that it is not in my power to afford unprepared for it by previous studies, has perhaps you the long and regular answer which your letter manifested his presumption in undertaking it with deserves. Permit me, however, to desert order weak and unexamined shoulders.' He does not, and propriety, replying to your last sentence first.however, shrink from a comparison with the labours I assure you thai I only erased the word friend beof his predecessors, but would rather solicit that cause, considering how much controversy was to equitable mode of being judged ; and will patiently, follow, that distinction seemed to be out of its and with all becoming submission to the decision of place, and appeared to carry with it somewhat of a a competent tribunal, abide the result.
burlesque air. Such was my single motive for the As a new candidate for public favour, it may be change, and I hope you will do me the honour to expected that the Editor should explain the ground believe I had no other design in it. of his pretensions. The object then of the present *As it is some time since my opinions havo had publication is to afford the general reader a correct the good fortune to coincide with yours in the least edition of Shakspeare, accompanied by an abridged matter of consequence, I begin to think so indiffecommentary, in which all superfluous and refuted rently of my own judgment, that I am ready to give explanations and conjectures, and all the controver- it up without reluctance on the present occasion.--. sies and squabbles of contending critics should be You are at liberty to leave out whatever parts of omitted; and such elucidations only of obsolete my note you please. However we may privately words and obscure phrases, and such critical illus- disagree, there is no reason why we should mako trations of the text as might be deemed most gene- sport for the world, for such is the only effect of rally useful be retained. To effect this it has been public controversies' ; neither should I have leisure necessary, for the sake of compression, to condense at present to pursue such an undertaking: I only in some cases several pages of excursive discussion meant to do justice to myself; and as I had no into a few lines, and often to blend together the in- opportunity of replying to your reiterated contradic. formation conveyed in the notes of several com- tions in their natural order, on account of your per mentators into one. When these explanations are petual additions to them; 'I thought myself under mere transcripts or abridgments of the labours of ihe necessity of observing, that I ought not to be bis predecessors, and are unaccompanied by any suspected of being impotently silent in regard 10 observation of his own, it will of course be under- objections which I had never read till it was too late stood that the Editor intends to imply by silent for any replication on my side to be made. You acquiescence that he has nothing betier to pro- rely much on the authority of an editor; but till I pose.' Fortune, however, seems to have been pro-am convinced that volunteers are to be treated with pitious to his labours, for he flatters himself that he less indulgence than other soldiers, I shall still has been enabled in many instances to present the think I have some right at least to be disgusted reader with more satisfactory explanations of diffi- especially after I had been permitted to observo cult passages, and with more exact definitions of that truth, not victory, was the object of our criti obsolete words and phrases, than are to be found in cal warfare. the notes to the variorum editions.
As for the note at the conclusion of The PuriThe causes which have operated to overwhelm tan, since it gives so much offence, (an offence as the pages of Shaskpeare with superfluous notes are undesigned as unforeseen,) I will change a part of many; but Steevens, though eminently fitted for it, and subjoin reasons for my sent boih from you
and Mr. Tyrwhitt. You cannot surely suspect me | Steevens had undoubtedly, as he says of himself on of having wished to commence hostilities with either another occasionof you ; but you have made a very singular com- * Fallen in the plash his wickedness had made ;' ment on this remark indeed. Because I have said and in some instances contested the force and
proI could overturn some of both your arguments on priety of his own remarks when applied by Malone other occasions with ease, you are willing to inferio parallel passages; or, as Malone observes : that I meant all of them. 'Let me ask, for instance They are very good remarks, so far forth as they sake, what would become of his “undertakers," are hís; but when used by me are good for nothing; &c. were I to advance all I could on that subject
. and the disputed passages become printers' blunI will not offend you by naming any particular posi- ders, or Hemingisms and Condelisms.' Hence his tion of your own which could with success be dis- unremitted censure of the first folio copy, and supputed. I cannot, however, help adding, that had I port of the readings of the second folio, which Ma. followed every sentence of your attempt to ascer- lone treats as of no authority ;-his affected contain the order of the plays, with a contradiction tempt for the Poems of Shakspeare, &c. sedulous and unremitted as that with which you Mr. Boswell has judiciously characterized Steehave pursued my Observations on Shakspeare's vens :-With great diligence, an extensive acWill and his Sonnets, you at least would not have quaintance with early literature, and a remarkably found your undertaking a very comfortable one. I was retentive memory: he was besides, as Mr. Gifford then an editor, and indulged you with even a printed has justly observed, “ a wit and a scholar.” But foul copy of your work, which you enlarged as long his wit and the sprightliness of his style were too as you thought fit. The arrival of people on busi- often employed to bewilder and mislead us. His ness prevents me from adding more than that I hope consciousness of his own satirical powers made to be still indulged with the correction of my own him much too fond of exercising them at the exnotes on the Yorkshire) Tragedy). I expect al- pense of truth and justice. He was infected to a most every one of them to be disputed, but assure lamentable degree with the jealousy of authorship; you that I will not add a single word by way of re- and while his approbation was readily bestowed ply. I have not returned you so complete an an- upon those whose competition he thought he had swer as I would have done had I been at leisure. no reason to dread, he was fretfully impatient of a You have, however, the real sentiments of your brother near the throne : his clear understanding most humble servant,
G. STEEVENS.' would generally have enabled him to discover what The temper in which this letter was written is was right; bui the spirit of contradiction could at obvious. Steevens was at the time assisting Ma- any time induce him to maintain what was wrong. lone in preparing his Supplement to Shakspeare, It would be impossible, indeed, to explain how any and had previously made a liberal present to him of one, possessed of his taste and discernment, could his valuable collection of old plays; he afterwards have brought himself to advocate so many indefencalled himself a dowager editor,' and said he would sible opinions, without entering into a long and unnever more trouble himself about Shakspeare. This gracious history of the motives by which he was inis gathered from a memorandum by Malone, but tuenced.' Steevens does in effect say in one of his letters; Malone was certainly not so happily gifted; adding, Nor will such assistance as I may be able though Mr. Boswell's partiality in delineating his to furnish ever go towards any future gratuitous pub- friend, presents us with the picture of an amiable lication of the same author : ingratitude and imper- and accomplished gentleman and scholar. There tinence from several booksellers have been my re- seems to have been a want of grasp in his mind to ward for conducting two laborious editions, boih of make proper use of the accumulated materials which which, except a few copies, are already sold.' his unwearied industry in his favourite pursuit had
In another letter, in reply to a remonstrance placed within his reach : his notes on Shakspeare about the suspension of his visits to Malone, Stee- are often tediously circumlocutory and ineflectual: vens says : – I will confess to you without reserve neither does he seem to have been deficient in that the cause why I have not made even my business jealousy of rivalship, or that pertinacious adherence submit to my desire of seeing you. I readily allow to his own opinions, which have been attributed to that any distinct and subjoined reply to my remarks his competitor. on your notes is fair ; but to change (in conse- It is superfluous here to enlarge on this topic, quence of private conversation) the notes that drew for the merits and defects of Johnson, Steevens, aná from me those remarks, is to turn my own weapons Malone, as commentators on Shakspeare, and the against me. Surely, therefore, it is unnecessary to characters of those who preceded them, the reader let me continue building when you are previously will find sketched with a masterly pen in the Biodetermined to destroy my very foundations. As I graphical Preface of Dr. Symmons, which accomobserved to you yesterday, the result of this pro- panies this edition. The vindication of Shakspeare ceeding would be, that such of my strictures as from idle calumny and ill founded critical animadmight be just on the first copies of your notes, must version, could not have been placed in better hands often prove no better than idle cavils, when applied than in those of the vindicator of Milton; and his to the second and amended editions of them. I cloquent Essay must afford pleasure to every lover know not that any editor has insisted on the very of our immortal Bard. It should be observed that extensive privileges which you have continued to the Editor, in his adoption of readings, differs in claim. In some parts of my Dissertation on Peri- opinion on some points from his able coadjutor, with cles, I am almost reduced to combat with shadows. whom he has not the honour of a personal acquaintWe had resolved (as I once imagined) to proceed ance. It is to be regretted that no part of the work without reserve on either side through the whole of was communicated to Dr. Symmons until nearly that controversy, but finally you acquainted me with the whole of the Plavs were printed; or the Editor your resolution (in right of editorship) to have the and the Public would doubtless have benefited by last word. However, for the future, I beg I may his animadversions and suggestions in its progress be led to trouble you only with observations relative through the press. The reader will not therefore to notes which are fixed ones. I had that advan- be surprised at the preliminary censure of some tage over my predecessors, and you have enjoyed readings which are still retained in the text. the same over me; but I never yet possessed the Dr. Johnson's far famed Preface--which has so means of obviating objections before they could be long hung as a dead weight upon the reputation of effectually made,' &c.
our great Poet, and which has been just!y said to Here then is the secret developed of the subse- look like 'a laborious attempt to bury the characquent, unceasing, and unrelenting opposition with teristic merits of his author under a oaŭ of cumwhich Steevens opposed Malone's notes: their brous phraseology, ana iu weiga ms excenencies controversies served not to make sport for the and defects in equal scales stuffed fuil of sweiling world,' but to annoy the admirers of Shakspeare, figures and sonorous epithets, '--will, for obvious by overloading his page with frivolous contention. I reasons, form no part of this publication. His bric. structures at the end of each play have been retain- The text of the present edition is formed upon ed in compliance with custom, but not without an those of Steevens and Malone, occasionally com pecaisional note of dissent. We may suppose that pared with the early editions; and the satisfaction Johnson himself did not estimate these observations arising from a rejection of modern unwarranted devivery highly, for he tells us that in the plays which ations from the old copies has not unfrequently been are condemned there may be much to be praised, and the
reward of this labour. in those which are praised much to be condemned !' The preliminary remarks to each play are augFar be it from us to undervalue or speak slightingly mented with extracts from the more recent writers of our great moralist; but his most strenuous admirers upon Shakspeare, and generally contain brief critimust acknowledge that the construction of his mind cal observations which are in many instances opincapacitated him from forming a true judgment of posed to the dictum of Dr. Johnson. Some of these the creations of one who was of imagination all are extracted from the Lectures on the Drama, by compact,'no less than his physical defects prevent the distinguished German critic, A. W. Schleghel, ed him from relishing the beautiful and harmonious a writer to whom the nation is deeply indebted, for in nature and art.
having pointed out the characteristic excellencies of "Quid valet ad surdas si cantet Phemius aures ?
the great Poet of nature, in an eloquent and philoQuid cæcum Thamyram picta tabella juvat?" sophical spirit of criticism; which, though it may It has been the studious endeavour of the Editor tical enthusiasm, has dealt out to Shakspeare his
sometimes be thought a little tinctured with mysto avoid those splenetic and insulting
reflections upon due meed of praise ; and has, no doubt, tended to the errors of the commentators, where it has been dissipate the prejudices of some neighbouring nahis good fortune to detect them, which have been tions who have been too long wilfully blind to his sometimes too captiously indulged in by labourers
merits. in this field of verbal criticism. Indeed it would ill become him to speak contemptuously of those who, vour the public with an edition of Shakspeare : how
Mr. Gifford, as it appears, once proposed to fawith all their defects, have deserved the gratitude of admirably that excellent critic would have performthe age ; for it is chiefly owing to the labours of Tyr- ed the task the world need not now be told. The whitt, Warton, Percy, Steevens, Farmer, and their Editor, who has been frequently indebted to the successors, that attention has been drawn to the remarks on the language of our great Poet which mine of wealth which our early literature affords ; l occur in the notes to the works of Ben Jonson and and no one will affect to deny that a recurrence to Massinger, may be permitted to anticipate the pubit has not been attended with beneficial effects, if it lic regret that these humble labours were not prehas not raised us in the moral scale of nations. The plan pursued in the selection, abridgment; console himself with having used his best endeavour
sented by that more skilful hand. As it is, he must and concentration of the notes of others, precluded to accomplish the task which he was solicited to the necessity of affixing the names of the commen- undertake; had his power equalled his desire to tators from whom the information was borrowed ; | render it useful and acceptable, the work would and, excepting in a few cases of controversial dis- have been more worthy of the public favour, and of cussion, and of some critical observations, authori- the Poet whom he and all unite in idolizing— ties are not given. The very curious and valuable Illustrations of Shakspeare by Mr. Douce have been
The bard of every age and clime, laid under frequent contribution; the obligation has Oi genius fruitful and of soul sublime, not always been expressed; and it is therefore hore Who, from the flowing mint of fancy, pours acknowledged with thankfulness.
No spurious metal, fused from common ores, It will be seen that the Editor has not thought, But gold, to matchless purity refin’d, with some of his predecessors, that the text of
And stamp'd with all the godhead in his mind; Shakspeare was 'fixed in any particular edition
He whom I feel, but want the power to paint' beyond the hope or probability of future amendment. He has rather coincided with the opinion of
JUVENAL, Sat. vir. Mr. Gifford: Translation. Mr. Gifford, 'that those would deserve well of the public who should bring back some readings which Steevens discarded, and reject others which he has MICKLEHAM, dopted.'
Dec. 3, 1825.
REMARKS UPON HIS DRAMATIC WRITINGS.
HEREVER any extraordinary display of hu- | tory outline, we must have recourse to the vague
man intellect has been made, there will human reports of unsubstantial tradition, or to the still curiosity, at one period or the other, be busy to ob- more shadowy inferences of lawless and vagabond lain some personal acquaintance with the distin- conjecture. Of this remarkable ignorance of one guished mortal whom Heaven had been pleased to of the most richly endowed with intellect of the endow with a larger portion of its own ethereal human species, who ran his mortal race in our own energy. If the favoured man walked on the high country, and who stands separated from us by no places of the world; if he were conversant with very great intervention of time, the causes may not courts; if he directed the movements of armies or be difficult to be ascertained. William Shakspeare of states, and thus held in his hand the fortunes and was an actor and a writer of plays; in neither of the lives of multitudes of his fellow-creatures, the which characters, however he might excel in them, interest, which he excites, will be immediate and could he be lifted high in the estimation of his constrong: he stands on an eminence where he is the temporaries. He was honoured, indeed, with the mark of many eyes; and dark and unlettered in- friendship of nobles, and the patronage of monarchs : deed must be the age in which the incidents of his his theatre was frequented by the wits of the me. eventful life will not be noted, and the record of tropolis ; and he associated with the most intellecthem be preserved for the instruction or the enter- tual of his times. But the spirit of the age was tainment of unborn generations. But if his course against him; and, in opposition to it, he could not were through the vale of life: if he were unmingled become the subject of any general or comprehenwith the factions and the contests of the great : if sive interest. The nation, in short, knew little and the powers of his mind were devoted to the silent cared less about him. During his life, and for some pursuits of literature-to the converse of philo- years after his death, inferior dramatists outran him sophy and the Muse, the possessor of the ethereal in the race of popularity; and then the flood of treasure may excite little of the attention of his puritan fanaticism swept him and the stage together contemporaries; may walk quietly, with a veil into temporary oblivion. On the restoration of the over his glories, to the grave; and, in other times, monarchy and the theatre, the school of France when the expansion of his intellectual greatness perverted our taste, and it was not till the last cenhas filled the eyes of the world, it may be too late iury was somewhat advanced that William Shakto inquire for his history as a man. The bright speare arose again, as it were, from the tomb, in all track of his genius indelibly remains; but the trace his proper majesty of light. He then became tho of his mortal footstep is soon obliterated for ever. subject of solicitous and learned inquiry: but inHomer is now only a name—a solitary name, which quiry was then too late ; and all that it could recoassures us, that, at some unascertained period in ver, from the ravage of time, were only a few huthe annals of mankind, a mighty mind was indulged man fragments, which could scarcely be united into to a human being, and gave its wonderful produc- a man. To these causes of our personal ignorance tions to the perpetual admiration of men, as they of the great bard of England, must be added his spring in succession in the path of time. Of Homer own strange indifference to the celebrity of genius. himself we actually know nothing; and we see only When he had produced his admirable works, ignoan arm of immense power thrust forth from a mass rant or heedless of their value, he abandoned them of impenetrable darkness, and holding up the hero with perfect indifference to oblivion or to fame. It of his song to the applauses of never-dying fame. surpassed his thought that he could grow into the But it may be supposed that the revolution of, per- admiration of the world; and, without any referhaps, thirty centuries has collected the cloud which ence to the curiosity of future ages, in which he thus withdraws the father of poesy from our sight. could not conceive himself to possess an interest, Little more than two centuries has elapsed since he was contented to die in the arms of obscurity, William Shakspeare conversed with our tongue, as an unlaurelled burgher of a provincial town. and trod the selssame soil with ourselves; and if it | To this combination of causes are we to attribute were not for the records kept by our Church in its the scantiness of our materials for the Life of registers of births, marriages, and burials, we William Shakspeare. His works are in myriads of should at this moment be as personally ignorant of hands: he constitutes the delight of myriads of the “sweet swan of Avon" as we are of the old readers: his renown is coextensive with the civiminstrel and rhapsodist of Meles. That William lization of man; and, striding across the ocean Shakspeare was born in Stratford upon Avon ; that from Europe, it occupies the wide region of transhe married and had three children; that he wrote atlantic empire : but he is himself only a shadow a certain number of dramas; that he died before which disappoints our grasp; an undefined form he had attained to old age, and was buried in his which is rather intimated than discovered to the native town, are positively the only facts, in the keenest searchings of our eye. Of the little howpersonal history of this extraordinary man, of which ever, questionable or certain, which can be told of we are certainly possessed; and, if we should be him, we must now proceed to make the best use in solicitous to fill up this bare' and 'most unsatisfac- l our power, to write what by courtesy may be called his wife, and we have only to lament that the result | gious faith, has recently been made the subject of of our labour must greatly disappoint the curiosity controversy. According to the testimony of Rowe, which has been excited by the grandeur of his repu- grounded on the tradition of Stratford, the father of tation. The slight narrative of Rowe, founded on our Poet was a dealer in wool, or, in the provincial the information obtained, in the beginning of the vocabulary of his country, a wool-driver; and such last century, by the inquiries of Betterton, the he has been deemed by all the biographers of his famous actor, will necessarily supply us with the son, till the fact was thrown into doubt by the result greater part of the materials with which we are to of the inquisitiveness of Malone. Finding, in an work.
old and obscure MS. purporting to record the pro
ceedings of the bailiff's court in Stratford, our WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, or SHAKSPERE, (for John Shakspeare designated as a glover, Malone the floating orthography of the name is properly exults over the ignorance of poor Rowe, and asattached to the one or the other of these varieties,) sumes no small degree of merit to himself as the was baptized in the church of Stratford upon Avon, discoverer of a long sought and a most important as is ascertained by the parish register, on the 26th historic truth. If he had recollected the remark of of April, 1564; and he is said to have been born on the clown in the Twelfth Night,* that " a sentence the 23d of the same month, the day consecrated to is but a cheverel glove to a good wit. How quickly the tutelar saint of England. His parents, John the wrong side may be turned outwards !” he would, and Mary Shakspeare, were not of equal ranks in doubtless, have pressed the observation into his serthe community; for the former was only a respect- vice, and brought it as an irresistible attestation of able tradesman, whose ancestors cannot be traced the veracity of his old MS. into gentility, whilst the latter belonged to an an- Whatever may have been the trade of John cient and opulent house in the county of Warwick, Shakspeare, whether that of wool-merchant or of being the youngest daughter of Robert Arden of glover, it seems, with the little fortune of his wife, Wilmecote. The family of the Ardens (or Arder-lo have placed him in a state of casy, competence. nes, as it is written in all the old deeds,) was of In 1569 or 1570, in consequence partly of his alliconsiderable antiquity and importance, some of ance with the Ardens, and partly of his attainment them having served as high sheriffs of their county, of the prime municipal honours of his town, he and two of them (Sir John Arden and his nephew, obtained a concession of arms from the herald's the grandfather of Mrs. Shakspeare,) having en-office, a grant, which placed him and his family on joyed each a station of honour in the personal esta- the file of the gentry of England; and, in 1574, he blishment of Henry VII. The younger of these purchased two houses, with gardens and orchards Ardens was made, by his sovereign, keeper of the annexed to them, in Henley Street, in Stratford. park of Aldercar, and bailiff of the lordship of Cod- But before the year 1578, his prosperity, from nore. He obtained, also, from the crown, a valu- causes not now ascertainable, had certainly deable grant in the lease of the manor of Yoxsal, in clined; for in that year, as we find from the records Staffordshire, consisting of more than 4,600 acres, of his borough, he was excused, in condescension at a rent of 42. Mary Arden did not come dower- to his poverty, from the moiety of a very moderate less to her plebeian husband, for she brought to him assessment of six shillings and
pence, made a small freehold estate called Asbies, and the sum by the members of the corporation on themselves ; of 6l. 138. 4d. in money. The freehold consisted of at the same time that he was a.together exempted a house and fifty-four acres of land; and, as far as from his contribution to the relief of the peor. it appears, it was the first piece of landed property During the remaining years of his life, his fortunes which was over possessed by the Shakspeares. appear not to have recovered themselves; for he of this marriage the offspring was four sons and ceased to attend the meetings of the corporation four daughters; of whom Joan (or, according to hall, where he had once presided; and, in 1586, the orthography of that time, Jone,) and Margaret, another person was substituted as alderman in his the eldest of the children died, one in infancy and place, in consequence of his magisterial inefficiency. one at a somewhat more advanced age; and Gil. He died in the September of 1601, when his illusbert, whose birth immediately succeeded to that of trious son had already attained to high celebrity; our Poet, is supposed by some not to have reached / and his wife, Mary Shakspeare, surviving him for bis maturity, and by others, to have attained to con- seven years, deceased in the September of 1608, siderable longevity. Joan, the eldest of the four the burial of the former being registered on the remaining children, and named after her deceased eighth and that of the latter on the ninth of this sister, married William Hart, a hatter in her native month, in each of these respective years. town; and Edmund, the youngest of the family, On the 30th of June, 1564, when our Poet had adopting the profession of an actor, resided in St. not yet been three months in this breathing world, Saviour's parish in London; and was buried in St. his native Stratford was visited by the plague ; and, Saviour's Church, on the last day of December, during the six succeeding months, the ravaging dis1607, in his twenty-eighth year. Of Anne and ease is calculated to have swept to the grave more Richard, whose births intervened between those of than a seventh part of the whole population of the Joan and Edmund, the parish register tells the place. But the favoured infant reposed in security whole history, when it records that the former was in his cradle, and breathed health amid an atmosburied on the 4th of April, 1579, in the eighth year phere of pestilence. The Genius of England may of her age, and the latter on the 4th of February, be supposed to have held the arm of the destroyer, 1612-13, when he had nearly completed his thirty- and not to have permitted it to fall on the conseainth.
crated dwelling of his and Nature's darling: The In consequence of a document, discovered in disease, indeed, did not overstep his charmed thresyear 1770, in the house in which, if tradition is to hold; for the name of Shakspeare is not to be found be trusted, our Poel was born, some persons having in the register of deaths throughout that period of concluded that John Shakspeare was a Roman accelerated mortality. That he survived this desoCatholic, though he had risen, by the regular gra- lating calamity of his townsmen, is all that we know dation of office, to the chief dignity of the corpora- of William Shakspeare from the day of his birth tion of Stratford, that of high bailiff; and, during till he was sent, as we are informed by Rowe, to the the whole of this period, had unquestionably con- free-school of Stratford; and was stationed there formed to the rites of the Church of England. The in the course of his education, till, in consequence asserted fact seemed not to be very probable; and of the straitened circumstances of his father, he the document in question, which, drawn up in a was recalled to the paternal roof. As we are not testamentary form and regularly attested, zealously told at what age he was sent to school, we cannot professes the Roman faith of him in whose name it form any estimate of the time during which he respeaks, having been subjected to a rigid examina- mained there. But if he was placed under his tion by Malone, has been pronounced to be spurious. The trade of John Shakspeare, as weil as his reli
* Act iii. sc.