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a strong argument in favour of Shakspeare's illiterature, that it was maintained by all his contemporaries, many of whom have left upon record every merit they could bestow on him; and by his successors, who lived nearest to his time, when "his memory was green;" and that it has been denied only by Gildon, Sewell, and others down to Upton, who could have no means of ascertaining the truth.

In his eighteenth year, or perhaps a little sooner, he married ANNE HATHAWAY, who was eight years older than himself, the daughter of one HATHAWAY, who is said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford. Of his domestick economy, or professional occupation at this time, we have no information; but it would appear that both were in a considerable degree neglected by his associating with a gang of deerstealers. Being detected with them in robbing the park of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, near Stratford, he was so rigorously prosecuted by that gentleman as to be obliged to leave his family and business, and take shelter in London. Sir Thomas, on this occasion, is said to have been exasperated by a ballad Shakspeare wrote, probably his first essay in poetry, of which the following stanza was communicated to Mr. Oldys:

A parliemente member, a justice of peace, "At home a poor scare-crowe, at London an asse, "If lowsie is Lucy, as some volke miscalle it, Then Lucy is lowsie whatever befall it: "He thinks himself greate,

"Yet an asse in his state

"We allowe by his ears but with asses to mate. "If Lucy is lowsie, as some volke miscalle it, Sing lowsie Lucy, whatever befall it."

These lines, it must be confessed, do no great honour to our poet; and probably were unjust; for although some of his admirers have recorded Sir Thomas as a vain, weak, and vindictive magise "trate," he was certainly exerting no very violent act of oppression, in protecting his property against a man who was degrading the commonest rank of life, and had at this time bespoke no indulgence by superior talents. The ballad, however, must have made some noise at Sir Thomas's expence, as the author took care it should be affixed to his park-gates, and liberally circulated among his neighbours.

On his arrival in London, which was probably in 1586, when he was twenty-two years old, he is said to have made his first acquaintance in the play-house, to which idleness or taste may have directed him, and where his necessities, if tra dition may be credited, obliged him to accept the

office of call-boy, or prompter's attendant. This is a menial whose employment it is to give the performers notice to be ready to enter, as often as the business of the play requires their appearance on the stage. Pope, however, relates a story, communicated to him by Rowe, but which Rowe did not think deserving of a place in the life he wrote, that must a little retard the advancement of our poet to the office just mentioned. According to this story, Shakspeare's first employment was to wait at the door of the play-house, and hold the horses of those who had no servants, that they might be ready after the performance. But I cannot," says his acute commentator, Mr. Steevens, "dismiss this anecdote without "observing that it seems to want every mark of

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probability. Though Shakspeare quitted Strat"ford on account of a juvenile irregularity, we "have no reason to suppose that he had forfeited "the protection of his father who was engaged "in a lucrative business, or the love of his wife "who had already brought him two children, and "was herself the daughter of a substantial yeo"man. It is unlikely, therefore, when he was

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beyond the reach of his prosecutor, that he "should conceal his plan of life, or place of residence, from those who, if he found himself "distressed, could not fail to afford him such

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supplies as would have set him above the ne

cessity of holding horses for subsistence. Mr. "Malone has remarked in his "Attempt to ascer"tain the Order in which the Plays of Shakspeare 46 were written, that he might have found an easy "introduction to the stage: for Thomas Green,

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a celebrated comedian of that period, was his "townsman, and perhaps his relation. The ge"nius of our author prompted him to write poetry; his connexion with a player might have given his productions a dramatic turn: or his own sagacity might have taught him that fame. "was not incompatible with profit, and that the "theatre was an avenue to both. That it was "once the general custom to ride on horseback "to the play, I am likewise yet to learn. The "most popular of the theatres were on the Bank"side; and we are told by the satirical pam"phleteers of that time, that the usual mode of conveyance to these places of amusement was by water, but not a single writer so much as "hints at the custom of riding to them, or at

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the practice of having horses held during the "hours of exhibition. Some allusion to this


usage, (if it had existed) inust, I think, have "been discovered in the course of our researches "after contemporary fashions. Let it be remem"bered too, that we receive this tale on no

"higher authority than that of Cibber's Lives of "the Poets, Vol. I. p. 130. Sir William Da"venant told it to Mr. Betterton, who commu"nicated it to Mr. Rowe, who, according to Dr. "Johnson, related it to Mr. Pope." Mr. Malone concurs in opinion that this story stands on a very slender foundation, while he differs from Mr. Steevens as to the fact of gentlemen going to the theatre on horseback. With respect likewise to Shakspeare's father being "engaged in a "lucrative business," we may remark, that this could not have been the case at the time our author came to London, if the preceding dates be correct. He is said to have arrived in London in 1586, the year in which his father resigned the office of alderman, unless, indeed, we are permitted to conjecture that his resignation was not the consequence of his necessities.

But in whatever situation he was first employed at the theatre, he appears to have soon discovered those talents which afterwards made him

"Th' applause! delight! the wonder of our stage!”

Some distinction he probably first acquired as an actor, although Mr. Rowe has not been able to discover any character in which he appeared to more advantage than that of the ghost in Hamlet. The instructions given to the player in that tra

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