« PreviousContinue »
WO centuries have past, and the third journeying on, fince light and life was given to a genius whofe courfe, although confined confiderably within the fcriptural term of mortal existence, was marked with a brilliancy which will retain its luftre fo long as nature fhall charm, fenfe fhall refine, and feeling fhall engage the heart which dwells, with fondnefs on the excellencies of mortal compofition.
To err is human, and thanks to the numerous pens which have been employed on the merits and A 2 de
defects of WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, the latter have been fully fet forth to public view. But of the former, like a rich mine whofe ftores are unexhaustable, many veins yet remain untouched, and which is ftill left to be explored by future critics. WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, upon whofe labours we have formed EIGHT VOLUMES, unclogged with interruptions, ungrateful to thofe who read him "for himself alone," was born in the year 1564; his father, Mr. JOHN SHAKSPEARE, was a dealer in wool, and in his way a man of eminence. The profits arifing from his business, however, were not found to be more than adequate to the fupport of ten children, of which our WILLIAM was the eldeft. It was the defire of his father to bestow on his firft-born a liberal education, but what his withes aimed at, his fortune denied as a prudent man therefore he led his fon's studies to the fheep's fleecy produce, rather than to the mysteries of the fcholar's page.
It is not to be fupposed that a mind, fraught with the golden ftores of imagination, would fuffer itfelf to be long involved in the mifts of ignorance. Books and men became in their turns the objects of his attention, and without entering into the
too much trodden path of conjecture, to what degree of learning he might have attained, it is fully evident from the noble monument he has raised, to illustrate and dignify his memory, that he was more indebted to the endowments of nature, than to the acquifitions of art.
"I cannot affirm, (fays Theobald) with any certainty, how long his father lived; but I take him to be the fame Mr. JOHN SHAKSPEARE who was living in the year 1599, and who then, in honour of his fon, took out an extract of his family-arms from the herald's office; by which it appears, that he had been officer and bailiff of Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire; and that he enjoyed fome hereditary lands and tenements, the reward of his great grandfather's faithful and approved fervice to king Henry VII.
"Be this as it will, our SHAKSPEARE, it seems, was bred for fome time at a free-school; the very free-school, I prefume, founded at Stratford: where, we are told, he acquired what Latin he was mafter of: but that his father being obliged through narrowness of circumftance, to withdraw him too foon from thence, he was thereby unhapA 3 pily