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TO OUR READERS. This monthly serial is established for the special purpose of assisting Pupil Teachers, Students in Training Colleges, and Acting Teachers studying for the Government Examinations. It is not intended to supersede text-books, but to be supplementary to them, by providing matter of a useful kind and of permanent value which the student might otherwise find a difficulty in obtaining. Though particularly adapted to the classes above mentioned, the subjects treated of will be such as to render our periodical serviceable to students in general, and to all who are desirous of adding to their stores of knowledge. In order to give our readers a general idea of the scope of the work, we proceed to specify some of its leading features.
We may remark by the way that we have no intention of introducing educational discussions of any kind. That work is thoroughly done by the excellent organs teachers already possess. Our purpose is of quite a different nature, and will not interfere with theirs in the slightest degree.
We intend to print Examination Papers given to Pupil Teachers, Candidates for Queen's Scholarships, and those sitting for Certificates, together with any general information which may be useful to these three classes.
Answers will be given to various questions and problems contained in those papers, for the guidance of the student. Many persons presenting themselves for examination fail to do justice to the knowledge they possess from want of skill in setting it down in a proper form. To readers of this kind we hope to afford great assistance. Notes of Lessons and Answers to Questions in School Management will be inserted.
We intend to present our readers with some of the dramas of Shakespeare, with notes explanatory and grammatical, specially adapted to the wants of our readers. During the present year we propose to take “Richard II.,” which is the work given in the Training College Syllabus. We recommend the careful study of this work to pupil teachers.
Occasional Biographies of Englishmen who have made our country great-men and women eminent in literature, science, and art; great warriors, statesmen, etc., will be given..
Our readers will also gather assistance in their Latin and French studies from these papers. We do not intend to publish any complete course of instruction in these subjects. Our object will be to supplement the work of the text-books by presenting passages from good authors with copious notes and vocabularies, and giving specimens of composition to assist the student in acquiring the art of writing in each language.
We hope also to afford our readers much pleasure and instruction by giving from time to time, according as our space will allow, Literary Gems, selected from the works of great writers in various languages. Any passage derived from a foreign source will be accompanied with a translation.
A summary of the history of our own times will occupy a portion of our periodical. “ The story of our lives from year to year” is often made the subject of question in examination papers, and it is difficult and sometimes impossible for students to obtain this information from text-books.
We shall also introduce Articles of a miscellaneous kind on topics likely to interest and instruct our readers.
A portion of our space will be devoted to Answers to Correspondents and to Intercommunications. Every communication must be accompanied by the correct name and address of the correspondent, though not necessarily for publication. As we wish to make the best possible use of our columns, we hope communications will be limited to subjects likely to be generally profitable to our readers.
Any books that may come before us for Review will be noticed in a fair and candid spirit, and with special reference to the information required by the students for whose use our periodical is designed.
To conclude our “round, unvarnished tale," we hope to make the work useful, interesting, instructive, and worthy of permanent preservation.
1.-WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. We could not commence our series of biographies more worthily than with the name of the greatest of all Englishmen. His works are the pride and glory of English literature, and are now almost universally acknowledged to be the finest products of the human imagination. Thomas Carlyle says of him, in his “ Lectures on Heroes" :-“Which Englishman we ever made in this land of ours, which million of Englishmen, would we not give up rather than the Stratford peasant? There is no regiment of highest dignitaries that we would sell him for. He is the grandest thing we have done yet. For our honour among foreign nations, as an ornament to our English household, what item is there that we would not surrender rather than him?"
William Shakespeare was born at Stratford-on-Avon, in Warwickshire, about April 23, 1564. The exact date is a matter of doubt. His father was John Shakespeare, whose occupation is also variously stated as that of a farmer, glover, glazier, wool-stapler and butcher. His mother was Mary Arden, a lady of gentle birth, who was able to trace her descent from the Saxon times. John Shakespeare seems to have been in prosperous circumstances, and to have been the owner of some property in Stratford-on-Avon.
Our poet is supposed to have been one of a family of eight children-namely, John, Margaret, William, Gilbert, Joan, Anne, Richard, and Edmund. Little is known of his childhood or early youth. He seems to have been imperfectly educated in the school of his native town. Ben Jonson describes his classical education as consisting of “little Latin, and less Greek.” Probably his scholarship was not extensive, but his works prove him to have been a man of considerable reading, and he certainly attained to an unrivalled knowledge of human nature.
About 1582 (almost every incident in his biography is uncertain) he married Anne Hathaway, who was the daughter of a yeoman living in the neighbouring village of Shottery, and his senior by seven years. From this marriage were born a daughter, Susanna, in 1583, and twins (Hamnet and Judith) in 1584.
A year or two afterwards he removed to London, probably following the example of many young men of his own and subsequent times who have left the country and gone up to the metropolis. to seek their fortune. There is an obscure tradition that he was obliged to flee from his native town in order to avoid the wrath of Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote Park, a local country squire whose estates had been trespassed on by our poet for the purpose of stealing deer. This story is now, however, generally abandoned as. not being supported by sufficient evidence and as being improbable.
Shakespeare's career for some years is almost entirely unknown. It is generally supposed that he very soon became connected with theatrical affairs, and one very untrustworthy account states that he at first gained a meagre subsistence by minding the horses of gentlemen who came to the play. We find him before very long one of a company of actors, called the Queen's Players, who performed at the Blackfriars Theatre, and afterwards removed to the new and more commodious building called the Globe Theatre, in Southwark.
He appears to have been only moderately successful as an actor, not rising to higher parts (according to Rowe) than the Ghost in his own“Hamlet.” As a writer for the stage he seems to have been more successful, and it was most likely in that capacity that he rose to be one of the principal proprietors of the Globe Theatre. During his connection with this theatre he wrote many of those great dramas which have immortalised his name.
In 1596 he visited Stratford-on-Avon, on the death of his only son, Hamnet.
He was acquainted with the Earlof Essex, Ben Jonson, and most of the leading spirits of his age. Queen Elizabeth is said to have been an admirer of his genius, and to have been so charmed with his delineation of the character of Falstaff as to request him to continue it in another play, a circumstance which led to the production of “ The Merry Wives of Windsor.”
His father died in 1601, at the age of seventy-one.
In 1607 his eldest daughter, Susanna, married Dr. Hall, a physician of some celebrity in Warwickshire.
Shakespeare seems to have been fond of a quiet country life. He is said to have visited Stratford-on-Avon once a year, and at length, having as a player, author, and proprietor obtained a comfortable competence, he left London early in the seventeenth century and settled down in his native town. Here he acquired property, bought a house and land in “ New Place," and continued the production of the wonderful dramas.
In the year 1613 the Globe Theatre was destroyed by fire during the performance of Shakespeare's "Henry VIII.” Whether he was a loser by this event is not known.
He seems to have lived quietly in Stratford-on-Avon, till his death on the supposed anniversary of his birth, April 23rd, 1616, at the age of fifty-two years. His wife survived him, and died seven years afterwards. His daughter Judith married a vintner of Stratfordon-Avon. There is now no lineal descendant of the great poet.
Shakespeare's will is still in existence, bearing his signature. A specimen of his handwriting is to be seen in the British Museum. The house in Henley Street, where he is supposed to have been born, is still carefully preserved.
He was buried in the Church of Stratford-on-Avon. A stone bearing the following inscription, said to have been written by himself, covers his grave :
“Good frend, for Jesus' sake forbeare
To digg the dust encloased heare ;
And curst' be he yt moves my bones.”
We must reserve our account of the poet's writings for the next number.