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resque, but very comfortable and unusually commodious for a man in his father's station in the middle of the sixteenth century. For in the reign of Elizabeth domestic architecture was in its infancy. Something had been done for the household comfort of noblemen and gentlemen of large estate; but almost nothing for the homes of that large class, composed, in the words of Agar, of those who have neither poverty nor riches, but food convenient for them, and which now gives the architect his chief employment. Old abbeys, priories, and granges, recently sequestered, and newly-built halls, were taking the place of cold, crumbling castles as dwellings for the rich ; and between these and the humble farm-house or village cot, often built, as the haughty Spaniard wrote in the reign of Elizabeth's sister, “of sticks and dirt," there was no middle structure. People corresponding in position to those whose means and tastes would now insure them as much comfort in their homes as a king has in his palace, and even simple elegance beside, then lived in houses which in their best estate would seem at the present day rude, cheerless, and confined, to any man not bred in poverty. In 1847 the Shakespeare house passed into the hands of an association, under whose care it has been renovated ; but unfortunately, like some of the Shakespeare poetry, not restored to a close resemblance to its first condition; though that was perhaps in both cases

B

impossible. Whether it was in this house that John Shakespeare and his wife, with their only precious child, stayed out the plague which visited Stratford in 1564, or whether they fled to some uninfected place, we do not know. But families did not move freely in those days, or easily find house-room ; and on the 30th of August in that year John Shakespeare, as the Stratford register tells, was at a hall or meeting, held in a garden, probably for fear of infection. On this occasion he gave twelvepence for the relief of poor sufferers. The highest sum given was seven shillings and fourpence, the lowest, sixpence; and there were but two burgesses who gave more than twelvepence. In September he gave sixpence more, and in October eighteenpence. It may be assumed as quite certain, then, that the Shakespeares remained at Stratford during the plague, thus leaving William, like any other child, in peril of the pestilence. They passed through a period of fearful trial. The scourge made Stratford desolate. In six months one sixth of their neighbors were buried. But although around them there was hardly a house in which there was not one dead, there was a charm upon their threshold, and William Shake

speare lived.

In the next year the father was chosen one of the fourteen aldermen of the town; and in 1568 he was made high bailiff, which office he filled

one year.

He continued to prosper, and in 1570 he took under his cultivation yet other lands, a farm called Ington, at the then goodly rent of £8. The year 1571 saw him chief alderman; and in 1575 he bought two freehold houses in Henley Street, with gardens and orchards. William Shakespeare, therefore, at ten years of age, was the son of one of the most substantial and respected men of Stratford, who was one of its fourteen burgesses, and who had rapidly attained, step by step, the highest honors in the gift of his townsmen. He was styled Master Shakespeare,

a designation the manly style of which we have belittled into Mister, voiding it at the same time of its honorable significance. As high bailiff and chief alderman he sat as justice of the peace, and thus even became “worshipful.” There has been much dispute as to what was his occupation at this time; his glover's trade having been before abandoned. Rowe, on Betterton's authority, says that he was “a considerable dealer in wool." John Aubrey the antiquary, or rather quid-tunc, says that he was a butcher; in a deed dated 1579, and in another seventeen years later, he is called a yeoman; and his name appears in a list of the gentlemen and freeholders of Barlichway Hundred in 1580. One of his fellow-aldermen, who was his predecessor in the office of bailiff, was a butcher; but with our knowledge of his landed possessions and his consequent agricultural occu

pation, we may be pretty sure that his nearest approach to that useful business was in having his own cattle killed on his own premises. Wool he might well have sold from the backs of his own flocks without being properly a wool-dealer. But what was his distinctive occupation is a matter of very little consequence, except as it may have affected the early occupation of his son, and of not much, even in that regard. He was plainly in a condition of life which secured that son the means of a healthy physical and moral development, and which, if he had lived in New England a century or a century and a half later, would have made him regarded, if a well-mannered man, as fit company for the squire and the parson and the best people of the township, and emboldened him perhaps to aspire to a seat in the General Court of the Colony.

II.

Stratford on Avon, where William Shakespeare was born and bred, is a place the antiquity of which is so great as to be uncertain. It was known as Stratford or Streatford, i. e. Street-ford, three hundred years before the Conquest. Having its origin probably in a wayside ale-house, boatman's cabin, or blacksmith's forge at a ford of the Avon River, on which it stands, it grew slowly to an insignificant size through long centuries. The Avon is one of those gently flowing rural streams

which, unvexed by factories, undisturbed by traffic, and spanned by solid bridges which have sounded to the tread of mail-clad men, make the soil of England rich and her landscapes beautiful. The ford, which was the nucleus of the town, and gave it half its name, was on the high road or street which gave the other half, and which stretches from the hamlet of Henley in Arden through Stratford across the Avon on towards London ; and thus the names of Shakespeare's native place, of the street on which stood his boyhood's home, and of his mother's family, were happily associated. Stratford is now a clean and quiet little place, containing about four thousand inhabitants, who seem to live comfortably enough without trade or manufactures. But in itself it has no attraction ; and towards the end of the reign of that shrewd and selfish termagant whom our forefathers called Good Queen Bess, it would have appeared to modern eyes unsightly. It then contained about fifteen hundred inhabitants, who dwelt chiefly in thatched cottages, which straggled over the ground, too near together for rural beauty, too far apart to seem snug and neighborly; and scattered through the gardens and orchards around the best of these were neglected stables, cow-yards, and sheep-cotes. Many of the meaner houses were without chimneys or glazed windows. The streets were cumbered with logs and blocks, and foul with offal, mud, muck-heaps, and reeking stable refuse, the

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