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indifference which of these two modes of spelling we adopt ; yet, as his last signature appears to have included the letter a, it may, for the sake of consistency, be proper silently to acquiesce in its admission.
The House in which Shakspeare was born-Plague at Stratford, June 1564-Shakspeare educated
at the Free-school of Stratford-State of Education, and of Juveuile Literature in the Country at this period-Extent of Sbakspeare's acquirements as a Scholar.
The experience of the last half century has fully proved, that every thing relative to the history of our immortal dramatist has been received, and received justly too, by the public with an avidity proportional to his increasing fame. What, if recorded of a less celebrated character, might be deemed very uninteresting, immediately acquires, when attached to the mighty name of Shakspeare, an importance nearly unparaleled. No apology, therefore, can be necessary for the introduction of any fact or circumstance, however minute, which is, in the slightest degree, connected with his biography; tradition, indeed, has been so sparing of her communications on this subject, that every addition to her little store has been hitherto welcomed with the most lively sensation of pleasure, nor will the attempt to collect and embody these scattered fragments be unattended with its reward.
The birth-place of our poet, the spot where he drew the first breath of life, where Fancy
fed the little prattler, and with songs
Oft sooth'd his wond’ring ears, has been the object of laudable curiosity to thousands, and happily the very roof that sheltered his infant innocence can still be pointed out. It stands in Henleystreet, and, though at present forming two separate tenements, was originally but one house.* The premises are still in possession of the Hart family, now the seventh descendants, in a direct line, from Jone the sister of the poet. From the plate in Reed's Shakspeare, which is a correct representation of the existing state of this humble but interesting dwelling, it will appear, that one portion of it is occupied by the Swan and Maidenhead public-house, and the other by a butcher's shop, in which the son of old Mr. Thomas Hart, mentioned in the last chapter, still carries on his father's trade. f “ The kitchen of this house,” says Mr. Samuel Ireland,“ has an appearance sufficiently interesting, abstracted from its claim to notice as relative to the Bard. It is a subject very similar to those that so frequently employed the rare talents of Ostade, and therefore cannot be deemed unworthy the pencil of an inferior artist. In the corner of the chimney stood an old oak-chair, which had for a number of years received nearly as many adorers as the celebrated shrine of the Lady of Loretto. This relic was purchased, in July, 1790, by the Princess Czartoryska, who made a journey to this place, in order to obtain intelligence relative to Shakspeare ; and being told he had often sat in this chair, she placed herself in it, and expressed an ardent wish to become a purchaser ; but being informed that it was not to be sold at any price, she left a handsome gratuity to old Mrs. Hart, and left the place with apparent regret. About four months after, the anxiety of the Princess could no longer be withheld, and her secretary was dispatched express, as the fit agent, to purchase this treasure at any rate : the sum of twenty guineas was the price fixed on, and the secretary and chair, with a proper certificate of its authenticity on stamped paper, set off in a chaise for London." The elder Mr. Hart, who died about the year 1794, aged sixty-seven, informed Mr. Samuel Ireland, that he well remembered, when a boy, having dressed himself, with some of his playfellows, as Scaramouches (such was his phrase), in the wearing-apparel of Shakspeare ; an anecdote of which, if we consider the lapse of time, it may be allowed us to doubt the credibility, and to conclude that the recollection of Mr. Hart had deceived him.
* It is with some apprehension of imposition that ! quote the following passage from Mr. Samuel Ireland's Picturesque Views on the River Avon. This gentleman, the father of the youth who endeavoured so grossly to deceive the public by the fabrication of a large mass of MSS which he attributed to Shakspeare, was undoubtedly, at the time he wrote this book, the complete dupe of his son ; and though, as a man of veracity and integrity, to be depended upon with regard to what originated from himself, it is possible, that the settlement which he quotes may have been derived from the same ample store-house of forgery wbich produced the folio volume of miscellaneous papers, &c. This settlement, in the possession of Mr. Ireland, is brought forward as a proof that the premises in Henley-street were certainly in the occupation of John Shakspeare, the father of the poet; it is dated August 14th, third of Elizabeth, 1591, and Mr. Ireland professes to give the substance of it in the subseqent terms :-" "That George Badger, senior, of Stratford upon Avon, conveys to John and William Court, yeoman, and their heirs, in trust, &c. a messuage or tenement, with the appurtenances in Stratford upon Avon in a certain streete called Henley-streete, between the house of Robert Johnson on the one part, and the house of John Shakspeare on the other; and also two selions (i. e. ridges, or ground between furrcws) of land lying between the land of Tomas Combe, Gent. on the one hand, and Thomas Reynolde, Gent. on the other. It is regularly executed, and livery of seisin on the 29th of the same month and year indorsed”. P. 195, 196.
† See the title page of the first volume of Baudry's edition of Shakspeare's Complete Works. ** In a lower room of this public-house.” says Mr. Samuel Ireland, " which is part of the premises wherein Shakspeare was born, is a curious antient ornament over the chimney, relieved in plaister, which from the clate, 1606, that was originally marked on it, was probably put up at the time, and possibly by the “Of which number,” remarks Mr. Malone,“ probably two hundred and sixteen died of that malignant distemper; and one only of the whole number resided, not in Stratford, but in the neighbouring town of Welcombe. From the two hundred and thirty-seven inhabitants of Stratford, whose names appear in the Register, twenty-one are to be subducted, who, it may be presumed, would have died in six months, in the ordinary course of nature; for in the five preceding years, reckoning, according to the style of that time, from March 25, 1559, to March 26, 1564, two hundred and twenty-one persons were buried at Stratford, of wbom two hundred and ten were townsmen ; that is, of these latter, forty-two died each year at an average. Supposing one in thirty-five lo have died annually, the total number of the inhabitants of Stralford at ibat period was one thousand four hundred and seventy; and consequently the plague, in the last six months of the year 1564, carried off more than a seventh part of them. Fortunately for mankind it did not reach the house in which the infant Sbakspeare lay; for not one of that name appears in the dead list. May we suppose, that, like Horace, he lay secure and fearless in the
Little more than two months had passed over the head of the infant Shakspeare, when he became exposed to danger of such an imminent kind, that we have reason to rejoice he was not snatched from us even while he lay in the cradle. He was born, as we have already recorded, on the 23d of April, 1564; and on the 30th of the June following, the plague broke out at Stratford, the ravages of which dreadful disease were so violent, that between this last date and the close of December, not less than two hundred and thirty-eight persons perished;
poet himself : although a rude attempt at historic presentation, I have yet thought it worth copying, as it has, I believe, passed unnoticed by the niultitude of visitors that have been on this spot, or at least has never been made public : and to me it was enough that it held a conspicuous place in the dwelling-house of one who is himself the ornament and pride of the island be inhabited. In 1759, it was repaired and painted in a variety of colours by the old Mr. Thomas Harte before-mentioned, who assured me the motto, ihen round it had been in the old black letter, and dated 1606. The motto runs thus :
Golith comes with sword and spear,
And David with a sling :
Down David doth him bring.” Picturesque Views, p. 192, 193. • Picturesque Views, p. 189, 190. It is probable that Mr. Ireland, though, it appears, unconnected with the forgeries of his son, might, during his tour, be too eager in crediting the tales which were told him. One Jordan, a native of Alverton near Stratford, was for many years the usual cicerone to enquirers after Shakspeare, and was esteemed not very accurate in weighing the authenticity of the anecdotes which ho related.
midst of conlagion and death, protected by the Muses, lo whom his fulure life was to be devoled, and covered over :
It is now impossible to ascertain with any degree of certainty the mode which was adopted in the education of this aspiring genius; all that time has left us on the subject is, that he was sent, though but for a short period, to the free-school of Stratford, a seminary founded in the reign of Henry the Sixth, by the Rev.Jolepe, M. A., a native of the town; and which, after sharing, at the general dissolution of chantries, religious houses, etc. the usual fate, was restored and patronished by Edward the Sixth, a short time previous to his death. Here it was, that he acquired the small Latin and less Greek, which Jonson has attributed to him, a mode of phraseology from which it must be inferred, that he was at least acquainted with both languages; and, perhaps, we may add, that he who has obtained some knowledge of Greek, however slight, may, with little hesitation, be supposed to have proceeded considerably beyond the limits of mere elementary instruction in Latin.
At the period when Shakspeare was sent to school, the study of the classical languages had made, since the era of the revival of literature, a very rapid progress. Grammars and Dictionaries, by various authors, had been published; but thegrammatical institute then in general use, both in town and country, was the Grammar of Henry the Eighth, which, by the order of Queen Elizabeth, in her Injunctions of 1559, was admitted, to the exclusion of all others : “Every schoolmaster," says the thirty-ninth Injunction, “ shall teach the grammar set forth by King Henrie the Eighth, of noble memorie, and continued in the time of Edward the Sixth, and none other;" and in the Booke of certain Cannons, 1571, it is again directed, “ that no other grammar shall be taught, but only that which the Queen's Majestie hath commanded to be read in all schooles, through the whole realm."
With the exception of Wolsey's “Rudimenta Grammatices," printed in 1536, and taught in his school at Ipswich, and a similar work of Collet's, established in his seminary in St. Paul's churchyard, this was the grammar publicly and universally adopted, and without doubt the instructor of Shakspeare in the language of Rome.
Another initiatory work, which we may almost confidently affirm him to have studied under the tuition of the master of the free-school at Stratford, was the production of one Ockland, and entitled EIPHNAPXIA, sive ELIZABETHA. The object of this book, which is written in Latin verse, is to panegyrise the characters
• Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 84, 85.
+ It is possible also that the following grammars and dictionaries, independent of those mentioned in the text, may have contributed to the school-education of Shakspeare:
1. Certain brief Rules of the Regiment or Construction of the Eight Partes of Speche, in English and Latin, 1537.
2. A short Introduction of Grammar, generallie to be used: compiled and set forth, for the bringyng up of all those that intend to attaine the knowledge of the Latin tongue, 1557.
3. The Scholemaster; or, Plaine and perfite Way of teaching Children to understand, write, and speak, the Latin Tong. By Roger Ascham. 1571.
4. Abecedarium Anglico-Latinum, pro tyrunculis, Ricardo Huloets excriptore, 1552. 5. The Short Dictionary, 1558.
6. A little Dictionary; compiled by J. Withals, 1659. Afterwards reprinted in 1568, 1572, 1579, and 1599; and entitled, A Shorte Dictionarie most profitable for young Beginners: and subsequently, A shorte Dictionarie in Lat. and English.
7. The brefe Dyxcyonary, 1562.
10. An Alvearie, or quadruple Dictionarie; containing foure sundrie Tongues : namelie, English, Latine, Greeke, and Frenche.' Newlie enriched with varietie of wordes, phrases, proverbs, and divers lightsome observations of grammar, By John Baret, 1580.
11. Rider's Dictionary, Latine and Englislı, 1599.
and government of Elizabeth and her ministers, and it was, therefore, enjoined by authority to be read as a classic in every grammar-school, and to be indelibly impressed upon the memory of every young scholar in the kingdom ; "a matchless contrivance," remarks Bishop Hurd, " to imprint a sense of loyalty on the
“ minds of the people."*
To these school-books, to which, being introduced by compulsory edicts, there is no doubt Shakspeare was indebted for some learning and much loyalty, may be added, as another resource to which he was directed by his master, the Dictionary of Sir Thomas Elliot, declaring Latin by English, as greatly improved and enriched by Thomas Cooper in 1552. This lexicon, the most copious and celebrated of its day, was received into almost every school, and underwent numerous editions, namely, in 1559, and in 1565, under the title of “ Thesaurus Lingue Romanæ et Britannicæ,” and again in 1573, 1578, and 1584. Elizabeth not only recommended the lexicon of Cooper, and professed the highest esteem for him, in consequence of the great utility of his work toward the promotion of classical literature, but she more substantially expressed her opinion of his worth by promoting him to the deanery of Gloucester , in 1569, and to the bishoprics of Lincoln and Winchester in 1570 and 1584, at which latter see he died on the 29th of April, 1524.+
Thus far we may be allowed, on good grounds, to trace the very books which were placed in the hands of Shakspeare, during his short noviciale in classical learning; to proceed farther, would be to indulge in mere conjecture, but we may add, and with every just reason for the inference, that from these productions, and from the few minor classics which he had time to study at this seminary, all that the most precocious genius, at such a period of life, and under so transient a di
a rection of the mind to classic lore, could acquire, was obtained. I
The universality of classical education about the era of 1575, when, it is probable, Shakspeare had not long entered on the acquisitions of the Latin elements, was such that no person of rank or property could be deemed accomplished who had not been thoroughly imbued with the learning and mythology of Greece and Rome. The knowledge which had been previously confined to the clergy or professed scholars, became now diffused among the nobility and gentry, and even influenced, in a considerable degree, the minds and manners of the softer sex. Elizabeth herself led the way in this career of erudition, and she was soon followed by the ladies of her court, who were taught, as Warton observes, not only to distil strong waters, but to construe Greek.S
* Moral and Political Dialogues, vol. ii. p. 28. edit. 1788.
† That school-masters and lexicographers were not usually so well rewarded, notwithstanding the high value placed on classical literature at this period, may be drawn from the complaint of Ascham: “ It is pitie," says be," that commonlie more care is had, yea, and that amonge verie wise men, to find out rather a cunnynge man for their horse, than a cunnynge man for their children. They say nay in worde, but they do so in deede. For, to the one they will gladlie give a stipend of 200 crownes by yeare, and loth to offer to the other 200 shillings. God, that sitteth in heaven, laugheth their choice to skorne, and rewardeth their liberalitie as it should; for he suffereth them to have tame and well ordered horse, but wilde and unfortudate children ; and therefore, in the ende, they finde more pleasure in their horse than comforte in their children," -Ascham's Works, Bennet's edition, p. 212.
It is more than possible that the Eclogues of Mantuanus the Carmelite may have been one of the schoolbooks of Shakspeare. He is familiarly quoted and praised in the following passage from Love's Labour's Lost:
“ Hol. Fauste, precor gelidà quando pecus omne sub umbrá Ruminat,and so forth. Ah, good old Mantua! I may speak of thee as the traveller doth of Venice:
Chi non te rede, ci non le pregia. Old Mantuan! old Mantuan ! who understandeth thee not, loves thee not.” Activ. sc. 2. And his Eclogues, be it remembered, were translated and printed, together with the Latin on the opposite page, for the use of schools, before the commencement of our author's education; and from a passage quoted by Mr Malone, from Nashe's Apologie of Pierce Penniless, 1593, appear to have continued in use long after its termination. “With the first and second leafe, he plaies very prettilic, and, in ordinarie terms of extenuating, verdits Pierce Pennilesse for a grammar-school wit; saies, his margine is as deeply learned as, Fauste, precor yelida.” Mantuanus was translated by George Turberville in 1567, and reprinted in 1594.-Vide' Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vü. p. 95.
Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. ii. p 491.
The fashion of the court speedily became, to a certain extent, the fashion of the country, and every individual possessed of a decent competency, was solicitous that his children should acquire the literature in vogue. Had the father of our poet continued in prosperous circumstances, there is every reason to conclude that his son would have had the opportunity of acquiring the customary erudition of the times; but we have already seen, that in 1579 he was so reduced in fortune, as to be excused a weekly payment of 4d., a state of depression which had no doubt existed some time before it attracted the notice of the corporation of Stratford.
One result therefore of these pecuniary difficulties was the removal of young Shakspeare from the free-school, an event which has occasioned, among his biographers and numerous commentators, much controversy and conjecture as to the extent of his classical attainments.
From the short period which tradition allows us to suppose that our poet continued under the instruction of a master, we have a right to conclude that, notwithstanding his genius and industry, he must necessarily have made a very superficial acquaintance with the learned languages. That he was called home to assist his father, we are told by Mr. Rowe; and consequently, as the family was numerous and under the pressure of poverty, it is not likely that he found much time to prosecute what he had commenced at school. The accounts, therefore, which have descended to us, on the authority of Ben Jonson, Drayton, Suckling, etc. that he had not much learning, that he depended almost exclusively on his native genius (that his Latin was small and his Greek less), ought to have been, without scruple, admitted. Fuller, who was a diligent and accurate enquirer, has given us in his Worthies, printed in 1662, the most full and express opinion on the subject. “ He was an eminent instance," he remarks,“ of the truth of that rule, Poeta non fit, sed nascitur;' “one is not made but born a poet. Indeed his learning was very little, so that as Cornish diamonds are not polished by any lapidary, but are pointed and smoothed even as they are taken out of the earth, so nature itself was ail the art which was used upon him.”
Notwithstanding this uniform assertion of the contemporaries and immediate successors of Shakspeare, relative to his very imperfect knowledge of the languages of Greece and Rome, many of his modern commentators have strenuously insisted upon his intimacy with both, among whom may be enumerated, as the most zealous and decided on this point, the names of Gildon, Sewell, Pope, Upton, Grey, and Whalley. The dispute, however, has been nearly, if not altogether terminated, by the Essay of Dr. Farmer on the Learning of Shakspeare, who has, by a mode of research equally ingenious and convincing, clearly proved that all the passages which had been triumphantly brought forward as instances of the classical literature of Shakspeare, were taken from translations, or from original, and once popular, productions in his native tongue. Yet the conclusion drawn from this essay, so far as it respects the portion of latinity which our poet had acquired and preserved, as the result of his school-education, appears to us greatly too restricted. “He remembered," says the Doctor, "perhaps enough of his school-boy learning to put the Hig, hag, hog, into the mouth of Sir Hugh Evan: and might pick up in the writers of the time, or the course of his conversation, a familiar phrase or two of French or Italian: but his studies were most demonstratively confined to nature and his own language.” +
A very late writer, in combating this part of the conclusion of Dr. Farmer, has advanced an opinion in several respects so similar to our own, that it will be necessary, in justice to him and previous to any further expansion of the idea which we have embraced, to quote his words.
“ Notwithstanding,” says he, “Dr. Farmer's essay on the deficiency of Shakspeare in learning, I must acknowledge myself to be one who does not conceive that his proofs of that fact suficiently warrant bis conclusions from them : 'that his studies were demonstrably confined lo
• Worthies, v. iii. p. 126.
+ Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 85.