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about this date seems to have been, that in 1579 he parted with his wife's interest in two tenements in Snitterfield to Robert Webbe for the small sum of 41. This is a striking confirmation of John Shakespeare's embarrassments, with which Malone was not acquainted; but the original deed, with the bond for the fulfilment of covenants, (both bearing date the 15th Oct. 1579) subscribed with the distinct marks of John and Mary Shakespeare, and sealed with their respective seals, was in the hands of the Shakespeare Society'. His houses in Stratford descended to his son, but they may have been mortgaged at this period, and it is indisputable that John Shakespeare divested himself, in 1578 and 1579, of the landed property his wife had brought him, being in the end driven to the extremity of raising the trifling sum of 41. by the sale of her share of two messuages in Snitterfield ?.
It has been supposed that he might not at this time reside in Stratford-upon-Avon, and that for this reason, he only contributed 38. 4d. for pikemen, &c., and nothing to the poor of the town, in 1578. This notion is refuted by the fact, that in the deed for the sale of his wife's property in Snitterfield to Webbe, in 1579, he is called “ John Shackspere of Stratford-upon-Avon,” and in the bond for the performance of
1 It was at one time intended to print this and various other documents, illustrative of the family and biography of our poet, at the expense of the Shakespeare Society ; but the design was delayed, and the papers ultimately withdrawn before it could be carried into execution.
2 The property is thus described in the indenture between John Shakespeare and his wife, and Robert Webbe. For and in consideration of the sum of 41. in hand paid, they "give, graunte, bargayne, and sell unto the said Robert Webbe, his heires and assignes for ever, all that theire moitye, parte, and partes, be it more or lesse, of and in two messuages or tenementes, with thappurtennances, sett, lyinge and beynge in Snitterfield aforesaid, in the said county of Warwicke." The deed terminates thus :
“In witnesse whereof the parties above said to these present indentures interchangeablie have put their handes and seales, the day and yeare fyrst above wrytten.
“The marke + of John Shackspere. The marke M of Marye Shackspere. “ Sealed and delivered in the presens of
Nycholas Knoolles, Vicar of Anston,
baston, with other moe.” The seal affixed by John Shakespeare has his initials I. 8. upon it, while that appended to the mark of his wife represents a rudely-engraved horse. The mark of Mary Shakespeare seems to have been intended for an uncouth imitation of the letter M. With reference to the word “moiety,” used throughout the indenture, it is to be remembered that at its date the term did not, as now, imply half, but any part, or share. Shakespeare repeatedly so uses it: see Vol. iii. pp. 41. 372; Vol. v. p. 617; Vol. vi. pp. 527. 611.
covenants," Johannem Shackspere de Stratford-upon-Avon, in comitat. Warwici.” Had he been resident at Ingon, or at Snitterfield, he would hardly have been described as of Stratford-upon-Avon. Another point requiring notice in connexion with these two newly-discovered documents is, that in both John Shakespeare is termed "yeoman,” and not glover : perhaps in 1579, although he continued to occupy a house in Stratford, he had relinquished his original trade, and having embarked in agricultural pursuits, to which he had not been educated, had been unsuccessful. pears not an unnatural mode of accounting for some of his difficulties: in the midst of them, in the spring of 1580, another son, named Edmund (perhaps after Edmund Lambert, the mortgagee of Asbyes) was born, and christened at the parish-church?.
Education of William Shakespeare: probably, at the free-school of Stratford. At
what time, and under what circumstances, he left school. Possibly an assistant in the school, and afterwards in an attorney's office. His handwriting. His marriage with Anne Hathaway. The preliminary bond given by Fulk Sandells and John Richardson. Birth of Susanna, the first child of William Shakespeare and his wife Anne, in 1583. Shakespeare's opinion on the marriage of persons of disproportionate age. His domestic condition and circumstances. Anne Hathaway's family.
At the period of the sale of their Snitterfield property by his father and mother, William Shakespeare was in his sixteenth year, and in what way he had been educated is mere matter of conjecture. It is highly probable that he was at the freeschool of Stratford, founded by Thomas Jolyffe in the reign of Edward IV., and subsequently chartered by Edward VI.; but we are destitute of all evidence beyond Rowe's assertion. Of course, we know nothing of the time when he might have been first sent there; but if so sent between 1570 and 1578, Walter Roche, Thomas Hunt, and Thomas Jenkins, were successively masters, and from them he must have derived the rudiments of his Latin and Greek. That his father and mother could give him no instruction of the kind is quite evident from the proofs we have adduced that neither of them could write; but this very deficiency might render them more desirous that their eldest son, at least, if not their children in general, should receive the best education circumstances would allow. The free grammar-school of Stratford afforded an opportunity of which, it is most likely, the parents of William Shakespeare availed themselves.
3 The register contains the following :
“ 1580. May 3. Edmund sonne to Mr. John Shakspere." 4 « Some Account of the Life," &c. edit. 1709, p. ii.
As we are ignorant of the time when he went to school, we are also in the dark as to the period when he left it. Rowe, indeed, has told us that the poverty of John Shakespeare, and the necessity of employing his son profitably at home, induced him, at an early age, to withdraw him from the place of instruction'. Such may have been the case; but, in considering the question, we must not leave out of view the fact that the education of the son of a member of the corporation would cost nothing; so that, if the boy were removed from school at the period of his father's embarrassments, the expense of continuing his studies there could not have entered into the calculation : he must have been taken away, as Rowe states, in order to aid his father in the maintenance of his family, consisting, after the death of his daughter Anne in 1579, and the birth of his son Edmund in 1580, of his wife and five children. However, we are without the power
of confirming or contradicting Rowe's statement.
Aubrey has asserted positively, in his MSS. in the Ashmolean Museum, that “in his younger years Shakespeare had been a schoolmaster in the country;" and the truth may be, though we are not aware that the speculation has ever been hazarded, that being a young man of abilities, and rapid in the acquisition of knowledge, he had been employed by Jenkins (the master of the school from 1577 to 1580, if not for a longer period) to aid him in the instruction of the junior boys. Such a course is certainly not very unusual, and it may serve to account for this part of Aubrey's questionable narrative
5 “ The narrowness of his father's circumstances, and the want of his assistance at home, forced his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his farther proficiency.”—Rowe's “Some Account,” &c. edit. 1709, p. ii.
6 Aubrey cites “ Mr. Beeston" as his authority, and as persons of that name were connected with theatres before the death of Shakespeare, and long afterwards, we ought to treat the assertion with the more respect. Simon Forman, according to his Diary, was employed in this way in the free-school where he was educated, and was paid by the parents of the boys for his assistance. The same might be the case with Shakespeare.
We decidedly concur with Malone in thinking, that after Shakespeare quitted the free-school, he was employed in the office of an attorney. Proofs of something like a legal education are to be found in many of his plays; and it may be safely asserted, that they do not occur anything like so frequently in the dramatic productions of his contemporaries. We doubt if, in the whole works of Marlowe, Greene, Peele, Jonson, Heywood, Chapman, Marston, Dekker, and Webster, so many law terms and allusions are to be found, as in only six or eight plays by Shakespeare: and, moreover, they are applied with much technical propriety. Malone has accumulated some of these, and it would be easy to multiply them”.
may presume that, if so employed, he was paid something for his services; for, if he were to earn nothing, his father could have had no motive for taking him from school. Supposing him to have ceased to receive instruction from Jenkins in 1579, when John Shakespeare's distresses were apparently most severe, we may easily imagine that he was, for the next year or two, in the office of one of the seven attorneys in Stratford, whose names Malone introduces. That he wrote a good hand we are perfectly sure, not only from the extant specimens of his signature, when we may suppose him to
? A passage from the epistle of Thomas Nash, before Greene's “ Menaphon,” has been held by some to apply to Shakespeare, to his “Hamlet,” and to his early occupation in an attorney's office. The best answer to this supposition is an attention to dates : “Menaphon was not printed for the first time, as has been supposed, in 1589, but in 1587 (see p. 26); in all probability before Shakespeare had written any play, much less Hamlet.” The “Hamlet” to which Nash alludes must have been the old drama, which was in existence long before Shakespeare took up the subject. (See Vol. v. p. 467.) The terms Nash uses are these; and it is to be observed, that by noverint he means an attorney or attor. ney's clerk, employed to draw up bonds, &c., commencing Noverint universi, &c. “ It is a common practice now-a-dayes, amongst a sort of shifting companions, that run through every art and thrive by none, to leave the trade of noverint, whereto they were borne, and busie themselves with the indevours of art, that could scarcely Latinize their neck verse, if they should have neede : yet English Seneca, read by candle-light, yields many good sentences, as Bloud is a begger, and so forth; and if you intreate him faire in a frostie morning, he will affoord you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches." Hence we may possibly infer that the author of the old “ Hamlet,” preceding Shakespeare's tragedy, had been an attorney's clerk. In 1587, Shakespeare was only in his twenty-third year, and could hardly be said by that time to have “run through every art, and thriven by none." Seneca had been translated, and published collectively, six years before Nash wrote. He may have intended to speak generally, and without more individual allusion than a comparatively modern poet, when, in the very same spirit, he wrote the couplet,
“ Some clerk foredoom'd his father's soul to cross,
Who pens a stanza when he should ingross."
have been in health, but still more from the ridicule which, in “Hamlet,” (Act v. sc. 2,) he throws upon such as affected to write illegibly:
“I once did hold it, as our statists do,
A baseness to write fair.”—Vol. v. p. 596. In truth, many of his dramatic contemporaries wrote excellently: Ben Jonson's penmanship was beautiful; and Peele, Chapman, Dekker, Chettle, and Marston, (to say nothing of some inferior authors,) must have given printers and copyists little trouble 8.
Excepting by mere tradition, we hear not a syllable regarding William Shakespeare from the time of his birth until he had considerably passed his eighteenth year, and then we suddenly come to one of the most important events of his life, established upon irrefragable testimony: we allude to his marriage with Anne Hathaway, which could not have taken place before the 28th Nov. 1582, because on that day two persons, named Fulk Sandells and John Richardson, entered into a preliminary bond (which we subjoin in a note o) in the
8 It is certain also that Shakespeare wrote with great facility, and that his compositions required little correction. This fact we have upon the indubitable assertion of Ben Jonson, who thus speaks in his “ Discoveries,” put together in old age, when, as he tells us, his memory began to fail, and printed with the date of 1641 : see p. 97 in that folio :
“I remember the players have often mentioned it, as an honour to Shakespeare, that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out line. My answer hath been, Would be had blotted a thousand! which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this, but for their ignorance, who chuse that circumstance to commend their friend by, wherein he most faulted ; and to justify mine own candour, for I loved the man, and do honour his memory (on this side idolatry) as much as any. He was indeed honest, and of an open and free nature; had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle expressions, wherein he flowed with that facility, that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped. Suffiaminandus erat, as Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his own power: would the rule of it had been so too!”
Hence he proceeds to instance the passage in “ Julius Cæsar," upon which we have remarked in Vol. v. p. 332: he then adds in conclusion :-" But he redeemed his vices with his virtues : there was ever more in him to be praised, than to be pardoned.” Consistently with what Ben Jonson above tells us the players had “ often mentioned,” we find the following in the address of Heminge and Condell, “To the great variety of Readers,” before the folio 1623 :—“His mind and hand went together, and what he thought he uttered with that easiness, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers.”
9 The instrument (for the discovery of which we are indebted to Sir Thomas Phillipps of Middle Hill, Worcestershire), divested of useless formal legal contractions, runs thus :
“ Noverint universi per presentes, nos Fulconem Sandells de Stratford in comitatu Warwici, agricolam, et Johannem Richardson ibidem agricolam, teneri et