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that can be contemplated. Not because it was singular in all its circumstances or its consequences; for, alas ! in most of them it is too common. A youth whose person, whose manner, and whose mental gifts have made him the admired favorite of some rural neighborhood, captivated ere he is well a man by some rustic beauty, or often by his own imagination, married and a father before he should be well beyond a father's care, or bound as much in honor, according to the matrimonial code, as if he were married, developing into a man of mark and culture, attaining social position and distinction which would make him the welcome suitor of the fairest and most accomplished woman of the circle into which he has risen by right of worth and intellect, yet tied to one who is inferior to him in all respects, except perhaps in simple truthfulness, and who does not — poor creature, who cannot if she would — keep pace with him ; and all this the consequence of a boyish passion, which opposition might have confirmed, but which tact and a little time---so little ! - might easily have dissipated: this case, so pitiable !--so pitiable for both parties, even most pitiable for her, - we see too often. But add to all this that the man was William Shakespeare, and that he met his fate at only eighteen years of age, and that the woman who came to him with a stain upon her name was eight years his senior, and could we but think of their life and leave out the world's interest in him, should we not wish that one of them, even if it were he, had died before that ill-starred marriage ? But chiefly for him we grieve; for a woman of her age, who could so connect herself with a boy of his, was either too dull by nature or too callous by experience to share his feelings at their false, unnatural position. Who can believe that the wellknown counsel upon this subject which he put into the Duke Orsino's mouth in Twelfth Night * was not a stifled cry of anguish from his tormented, over-burdened soul, though he had left his torment and his burden so far behind him ? It is impossible that he could have written it without thinking of his own experience, the more, that the seeming lad to whom it is addressed is about his years, and the man who utters it about Anne Hathaway's, at the time when they were married.
* “ Duke.
Thou dost speak masterly:
A little, by your favor.
Of your complexion. Duke. She is not worth thee then. What years, i' faith? Vio. About your years, my lord.
Duke. Too old, by Heaven! Let still the woman take
I think it well, my lord.
Act II. Sc. 4
After considering all that has been said, which is quite all that can reasonably be said, about the custom of troth-plight in mitigation of the circumstances of Shakespeare's marriage, I cannot regard the case as materially bettered. It has been urged that Shakespeare put a plea for his wife into the mouth of the Priest in Twelfth Night, where the holy man says to Olivia that there had passed between her and Sebastian
“A contract of eternal bond of love,
Confirm'd by mutual joinder of your hands,
Act V. Sc. I. But what this was is shown by Olivia's language at the time when it took place, in a passage which the apologists leave out of sight.
“Blame not this haste of mine. If you mean well,
Act IV. Sc. 3.
This plainly was a private marriage, in church and by a priest; indissoluble and perfect, except that it lacked consummation and celebration according to the lady's birth. As to troth-plight, its import depends entirely upon that to which troth is plighted. The closing words of the binding declaration in the marriage ceremony of the Church of England are," and thereto I plight thee my troth."
The marriage between William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway took place in December, 1582. The ceremony was not performed in Stratford; and no record of it has been discovered. But there is a tradition in Luddington, a little village not far off, that it took place there; and the story derives some support from the fact that Thomas Hunt, Shakespeare's schoolmaster, was curate of that parish. Susanna, the first child born in this wedlock, was baptized May 26th, 1583; and Hamnet and Judith, twins, were baptized February 2d, 1584-5. William Shakespeare and his wife had no other children; and soon after the latter event their household married life was interrupted for many years by the departure of the youthful husband from Stratford. The eldest son of a ruined man just degraded from office, having four brothers and sisters younger than himself, and a wife and three children upon his hands before he was twenty-one, there were reasons enough for him to go, as he did, to London, if he could get money there more rapidly than at Stratford. But tradition assigns a particular occasion and other motive for his leaving home. Betterton heard, and Rowe tells us, that he fell into bad company, and that some of his wild companions, who made a frequent practice of deer-stealing, drew him into the robbery of a park belonging to Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote. For this, according to Rowe's story, he was prosecuted by the knight, and in revenge lampooned him in a ballad so bitter that the prosecution became a persecution of such severity that he was obliged to flee the country, and shelter himself in London. There is what may perhaps be accepted as independent authority for the existence of this tradition. The Reverend William Fulman, an antiquary, who died in 1688, bequeathed his manuscript biographical memorandums to the Reverend Richard Davies, Rector of Sapperton in Gloucestershire, and Archdeacon of Lichfield, who died in 1708. To a note of Fulman's, which barely records Shakespeare's birth, death, and occupation, Davies made brief additions, the principal of which is, that William Shakespeare was “much given to all unluckinesse in stealing venison and rabbits, particularly from SrLucy, who had him oft whipt and sometimes imprisoned, and at last made him fly his native country, to his great advancement: but his revenge was so great that he is his Justice Clodpate, and calls him a great man, and that in allusion to his name bore three louses rampant for his arms." Davies may