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of the Great Men of Antiquity: and that the common Accidents of their Lives naturally become the Subject of our critical Enquiries: That however trifling fuch a Curiosity at the first View may appear, yet, as for what relates to Men of Letters, the Knowledge of an Author may, perhaps, fometimes conduce to the better understanding his Works: And, indeed, this Author's Works, from the bad Treatment he has met with from Copyifts and Editors, have fo long wanted a Comment, that one would zealously embrace every Method of Information, that could contribute to recover them from the Injuries with which they have so long lain o'erwhelm'd.
'Tis certain, that if we have firft admir'd the Man in his Writings, his Cafe is fo circumftanc'd, that we must naturally admire the Writings in the Man: That if we go back to take a View of his Education, and the Employment in Life which Fortune had cut out for him, we shall retain the stronger Ideas of his extenfive Genius.
His Father, we are told, was a confiderable Dealer in Wool; but having no fewer than ten Children, of whom our Shakespeare was the eldest, the best Education he could afford him was no better than to qualify him for his own Bufinefs and Employment. I cannot affirm with any Certainty how long his Father liv'd; but I take him to be the fame Mr. John Shakespeare who was living in the Year 1599, and who then, in Honour of his
om. Son, took out an Extract of his Family-Arms from the Herald's Office; by which it appears, that he ri- had been Officer and Bailiff of Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire; and that he enjoy'd some hereditary Lands and Tenements, the Reward of his Great Grandfather's faithful and approved Service to King Henry VII.
Be this as it will, our Shakespeare, it seems, was bred for fome Time at a Free-School; the very Free-School, I prefume, founded at Stratford: where, we are told, he acquired what Latin he was Master of: but, that his Father being oblig'd, thro' Narrownefs of Circumftance, to withdraw him too foon from thence, he was thereby unhappily prevented from making any Proficiency in the Dead Languages: A Point, that will deferve fome little Difcuffion in the Sequel of this Differtation.
How long he continued in his Father's Way of Bufinefs, either as an Affiftant to him, or on his own proper Account, no Notices are left to inform us: nor have I been able to learn precisely at what Period of Life he quitted his native Stratford, and began his Acquaintance with London, and the Stage.
In order to fettle in the World after a Familymanner, he thought fit, Mr. Rowe acquaints us, to marry while he was yet very young. It is certain, he did fo: for by the Monument, in Stratford Church, erected to the Memory of his Daugh
ter Susanna, the Wife of John Hall, Gentleman, it appears, that she died on the 2d Day of July, in the Year 1649, aged 66. So that she was born in 1583, when her Father could not be full 19 Years old; who was himself born in the Year 1564. Nor was she his eldest Child, for he had another Daughter, Judith, who was born before her, and who was married to one Mr. Thomas Quiney. So that Shakespeare must have entred into Wedlock, by that time he was turn'd of feventeen Years.
Whether the Force of Inclination merely, or fome concurring Circumstances of Convenience in the Match, prompted him to marry so early, is not easy to be determin'd at this Distance: but 'tis probable, a View of Interest might partly sway his Conduct in this Point: for he married the Daughter of one Hathaway, a fubftantial Yeoman in his Neighbourhood, and she had the Start of him in Age no less than 8 Years. She furviv'd him, notwithstanding, seven Seasons, and dy'd that very Year in which the Players publish'd the first Edition of his Works in Folio, Anno Dom. 1623, at the Age of 67 Years, as we likewise learn from her Monument in Stratford-Church.
How long he continued in this kind of Settlement, upon his own Native Spot, is not more eafily to be determin'd. But if the Tradition be true, of that Extravagance which forc'd him both to quit his Country and Way of Living; to wit, his being engag'd, with a Knot of young Deer-fteal
ers, to rob the Park of Sir Thomas Lucy of Cherlecot near Stratford: the Enterprize favours so much of Youth and Levity, we may reasonably suppose it was before he could write full Man. Besides, confidering he has left us fix and thirty Plays, at leaft, avow'd to be genuine; and confidering too, 1 that he had retir'd from the Stage, to spend the latter Part of his Days at his own Native Stratford; the Interval of Time, neceffarily required for the finishing fo many Dramatic Pieces, obliges us to suppose he threw himself very early upon the Play-house. And as he could, probably, contract no Acquaintance with the Drama, while he was driving on the Affair of Wool at home; fome Time must be loft, even after he had commenc'd Player, before he could attain Knowledge enough in the Science to qualify himself for turning Au
It has been obferv'd by Mr. Rowe, that, amongst other Extravagancies which our Author has given to his Sir John Falftaffe, in the Merry Wives of Windfor, he has made him a Deer-ftealer; and that he might at the fame time remember his Warwickshire Profecutor, under the Name of Justice Shallow, he has given him very near the fame Coat of Arms, which Dugdale, in his Antiquities of that County, defcribes for a Family there. There are two Coats, I obferve, in Dugdale, where three Silver Fishes are borne in the Name of Lucy; and another Coat, to the Monument of Thomas Lucy, Son
Son of Sir William Lucy, in which are quarter'd in
It is faid, our Author spent fome Years before his Death, in Eafe, Retirement, and the Converfation of his Friends, at his Native Stratford. I could never pick up any certain Intelligence, when He relinquifh'd the Stage. I know, it has been mistakenly thought by fome, that Spenfer's Thalia, in his Tears of his Mufes, where she laments the Lofs of her Willy in the Comic Scene, has been apply'd to our Author's quitting the Stage. But Spenfer himself, 'tis well known, quitted the Stage of Life in the Year 1598; and, five Years after