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literature; he has left us no records of his own life, nor does he appear ever to have taken the slightest trouble to have his dramas issued to the world in the state in which he wrote them. During his lifetime, edition after edition was published of many of his plays, unauthorised by him, and in a most imperfect and garbled form, yet he never seems to have interfered, and at his death no authorised copy of Shakespeare's plays was known to have been in existence. How much of Shakespeare we have in the generally received text is quite a matter of conjecture, and the text itself is as much a subject of discussion as the dramas of ancient Greece. The editors of the first collected edition of Shakespeare,-the famous edition of 1623,-did their duty most conscientiously, but their materials were of the most uncertain character, being chiefly collected from the manuscripts preserved in the various theatres, but not one of them hearing the authentication of Shakespeare. In this edition twenty plays were published for the first time.
The first certain information regarding the Shakespeares begins with his father, John Shakespeare, who is believed to have been the son of a substantial farmer in Snitterfield, about three miles from Stratford-on-Avon. John appears to have commenced business in Stratford about the year 1551, and it is singular that the first mention we have of him is in April 1552, in a prosecution for "piling up a dunghill in Henley Street, contrary to the laws." In 1558 he again appears in the Court roll as being fined fourpence for not keeping his gutters clean. The first trade he seems to have taken up was a glover, and he is so described in 1556 in a register of the Bailiff's Court. He soon after engaged in other occupations, as in 1564 he appears as selling timber, and still later to have "taken to agricultural pursuits,” and “to have been a considerable dealer in wool.”
In 1579 he is styled in the chamberlain's accounts as a yeoman," and probably the early tradition that he was a butcher, may have originated in his occasionally slaughtering his stock for the Stratford market. In these various occupations he seems at first to have been very successful, and to have raised himself to easy circumstances. He was much esteemed by his townsmen, and filled in succession the various offices of the corporation, till in 1568 he was elected High Bailiff. It is significant of the state of education at this time that this the Chief Magistrate of Stratford could not sign his own name.
In 1557 John Shakespeare married Mary Arden, daughter of Robert Arden, then deceased, a gentleman of ancient family, and a considerable landed proprietor in the neighbourhood. They had a large family. The following is a copy of the baptisms from the Stratford Register :
1558, Sept. 15,
Joan. [Died in infancy.]
The marriage into the Arden family not only gave John Shakespeare a greatly superior position in society, but he inherited through his wife the estate of Asbies, about 54 acres in extent, and some other valuable tenements in Snitterfield; these were held no inconsiderable dower in his days.
As John Shakespeare advanced in years he seems to have got into difficulties through unfortunate speculations and heavy losses in his business, so much so that in 1587 we find him actually in prison for debt, -a sad downfall for the Chief Magistrate of Stratford. After this, however, he again emerged into comfort and affluence. Probably his son William, when his success became assured, had given his father a helping hand. At all events, in 1596, we find John Shakespeare applying for and obtaining a grant of arms from the Heralds' College ; and we have the assertion of Garter King-at-Arms that he was at