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ACCURATELY PRINTED FROM
THE TEXT OF THE CORRECTED COPY LEFT BY THE LATE
GEORGE STEEVENS, ESQ.
A SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF SHAKSPEARE.
IN TWO VOLUMES
STEREOTYPED BY J. HOWE-PHILADELPHIA.
M'CARTY & DAVIS, AND H. C. CAREY & I. LEA.
SKETCH OF THE LIFE
WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE was born at Strat-ter the performance. But in whatever situation he ford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, on the 23d day was first employed at the theatre, he appears to of April, 1564. His family was above the vulgar have soon discovered those talents which afterwards rank. His father, John Shakspeare, was a con-made him siderable dealer in wool, and had been an officer of the corporation of Stratford. He was likewise a justice of the peace, and at one time a man of considerable property. This last, however, ap-an actor, but no character has been discovered in
pears to have been lost by some means, in the latter part of his life. His wife was the daughter and heiress of Robert Arden, of Wellington, in the county of Warwick, by whom he had a family of ten children.
Our illustrious poet was the eldest son, and was educated, probably, at the free-school of Stratford; but from this he was soon removed, and placed in the office of some country attorney. The exact amount of his education has been long a subject of controversy. It is generally agreed, that he did not enjoy what is usually termed a literary education; but he certainly knew enough of Latin and French to introduce scraps of both in his plays, without blunder or impropriety.
Th' applause, delight, the wonder, of our stage.'
Some distinction he probably first acquired as
which he appeared to more advantage than in that of the Ghost in Hamlet: and the best critics and inquirers into his life are of opinion, that he was not eminent as an actor. In tracing the chronology of his plays, it has been discovered, that Romeo and Juliet, and Richard II. and III., were printed in 1597, when he was thirty-three years old. There is also some reason to think that he commenced a dramatic writer in 1592, and Mr. Malone even places his first play, The First Part of Henry VI., in 1589.
His plays were not only popular but approved by persons of the higher order, as we are certain that he enjoyed the gracious favour of Queen Elizabeth, who was very fond of the stage; the patronage of the Earl of Southampton, to whom he dedicated some of his poems; and of King James, who wrote a very gracious letter to himn with his own hand, probably in return for the compliment Shakspeare had paid to his majesty in the tragedy of Macbeth. It may be added, that his
When about eighteen years old, he married Anne Hathaway, who was eight years older than himself. His conduct soon after this marriage was not very correct. Being detected with a gang of deer-stealers, in robbing the park of Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote, near Stratford, he was obli-uncommon merit, his candour, and good-nature, ged to leave his family and business, and take shelter in London.
are supposed to have procured him the admiration and acquaintance of every person distinguished for such qualities. It is not difficult, indeed, to He was twenty-two years of age when he arrived trace, that Shakspeare was a man of humour, and in London, and is said to have made his first ac-a social companion; and probably excelled in that quaintance in the play-house. Here his necessities species of minor wit, not ill adapted to conversaobliged him to accept the office of call-boy, or tion, of which it could have been wished he had prompter's attendant; who is appointed to give the been more sparing in his writings. performers notice to be ready, as often as the business of the play requires their appearance on the How long he acted, has not been discovered; stage. According to another account, far less but he continued to write till the year 1614. During probable, his first employment was to wait at the his dramatic career, he acquired a property in the door of the play-house, and hold the horses of those theatre, which he must have disposed of when he who had no servants, that they might be ready af-retired, as no mention of it occurs in his will. The
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latter part of his life was spent in ease, retirement, ||23, 1616, when he had exactly completed his and the conversation of his friends. He had accu-fifty-second year; and was buried on the north mulated considerable property, which Gildon (inside of the chancel, in the great church at Strathis Letters and Essays) stated to amount to 3002. per ann. a sum equal to 1000l. in our days. But Mr. Malone doubts whether all his property amounted to much more than 2001. per ann. which yet was a considerable fortune in those times; and it is supposed, that he might have derived 2001. annually from the theatre, while he continued
ford, where a monument is placed in the wall, on which he is represented under an arch, in a sitting posture, a cushion spread before him, with a pen in his right hand, and his left rested on a scroll of paper. The following Latin distich is engraved under the cushion:
Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
Perhaps we should read Sophoclem, instead of
Stay, passenger, why dost thou go so fast?
Obiit ano. Dni. 1616,
We have not any account of the malady which, at no very advanced age, closed the life and labours of this unrivalled and incomparable genius. The only notice we have of his person is from Aubrey, who says, 'He was a handsome wellshaped man;' and adds, 'verie good company, and of a very ready and pleasant and smooth wit."
He retired some years before his death to a house in Stratford, of which it has been thought important to give the history. It was built by Sir Hugh Clopton, a younger brother of an ancient family in that neighbourhood. Sir Hugh was sheriff of London in the reign of Richard III. and lord mayor in that of Henry VII. By his will he bequeathed to his elder brother's son his manor of Clopton, &c. and his house by the name of the Great House in Stratford. A good part of the estate was in possession of Edward Clopton, Esq. and Sir Hugh Clopton, Knt. in 1733. The principal estate had been sold out of the Clopton family for above a century, at the time when Shakspeare became the purchaser, who, having repaired and modelled it to his own mind, changed the name to New Place, which the mansion-house afterwards erected, in the room of the poet's house, retained for many years. The house and lands belonging|| to it continued in the possession of Shakspeare's descendants to the time of the Restoration, when they were re-purchased by the Clopton family. His family consisted of two daughters, and a Here, in May 1742, when Mr. Garrick, Mr. Mack-son named Hamnet, who died in 1596, in the lin, and Mr. Delane, visited Stratford, they were hospitably entertained under Shakspeare's mulberry-tree, by Sir Hugh Clopton, who was a barrister, was knighted by George I. and died in the|| 30th year of his age, 1751. His executor, about the year 1752, sold New Place to the Rev. Mr. Gastrel, a man of large fortune, who resided in it but a few years, in consequence of a disagreement with the inhabitants of Stratford. As he resided part of the year at Lichfield, he thought he was assessed too highly in the monthly rate towards the maintenance of the poor, and being opposed, he peevishly declared, that that house should never be assessed again; and soon afterwards pulled it down, sold the materials, and left the town. He had some time before cut down Shakspeare's mulberry-tree, to save himself the trouble of showing it to visitors. That Shakspeare planted this tree appears to be sufficiently authenticated. Where New Place stood is now a garden.
During Shakspeare's abode in this house, he enjoyed the acquaintance and friendship of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood; and here he is thought to have written the play of Twelfth Night. He died on his birth-day, Tuesday, April
twelfth year of his age. Susannah, the eldest daughter, and her father's favourite, was married to Dr. John Hall, a physician, who died Nov. 1635, aged 60. Mrs. Hall died July 11, 1649, aged 66. They left only one child, Elizabeth, born 1607-8, and married April 22, 1626, to Thomas Nashe, esq. who died in 1647; and afterwards to Sir John Barnard, of Abington in Northamptonshire, but died without issue by either husband. Judith, Shakspeare's youngest daughter, was married to Mr. Thomas Quiney, and died Feb. 1661-2, in her 77th year. By Mr. Quiney she had three sons, Shakspeare, Richard, and Thomas, who all died unmarried. The traditional story of Shakspeare having been the father of Sir William Davenant, has been generally discredited.
From these imperfect notices, which are all we have been able to collect from the labours of his biographers and commentators, our readers will perceive that less is known of Shakspeare than of almost any writer who has been consider
* The first regular attempt at a life of Shakspeare is prefixed to Mr. A. Chalmers's variorum edition, published in 1805, of which we have availed ourselves in the above Sketch
ed as an object of laudable curiosity. Nothing history. The industry of his illustrators for the could be more highly gratifying, than an account last forty years, has been such as probably never of the early studies of this wonderful man, the was surpassed in the annals of literary investigaprogress of his pen, his moral and social qualities, tion; yet so far are we from information of the his friendships, his failings, and whatever else con- conclusive or satisfactory kind, that even the order stitutes personal history. But on all these topics in which his plays were written rests principally his contemporaries, and his immediate successors, on conjecture, and of some of the plays usually have been equally silent; and if aught can here-printed among his works, it is not yet determined after be discovered, it must be by exploring whether he wrote the whole, or any part. We sources which have hitherto escaped the anxious are, however, indebted to the labours of his comresearches of those who have devoted their whole mentators, not only for much light thrown upon his lives, and their most vigorous talents, to revive his obscurities, but for a text purified from the gross memory, and illustrate his writings. blunders of preceding transcribers and editors; and it is almost unnecessary to add, that the text of the following volumes is that of the last corrected edition of Johnson and Steevens.
It is equally unfortunate, that we know as little of the progress of his writings, as of his personal