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speare and R. Bruce, who shall not be taxed to pay any thing; and every burgess to pay 2d.'
• At the hall holden on the sixth day of September, in the twenty-eighth year of our sovereign lady, Queen Elizabeth: at this hall W. Smith and R. Courte are chosen to be aldermen, in the places of J. Wheler and J. Shakspeare, for that Mr. Wheler doth desire to be put out of the company, and Mr. Shakspeare doth not come to the halls, when they be warned, nor hath not done of a long time.'
Little more than two months had passed over the head of the infant Shakspeare, when the plague, which in that and the preceding year was so fatal to England, broke out at Stratford-on-Avon, and raged with such violence between the 30th of June and the last day of December, that a seventh part of the population were carried off by the disorder, Fortunately for mankind, it did not reach the house where the infant Shakspeare lay; for not one of that name appears in the dead list.
It appears impossible to ascertain at what period Shakspeare was sent by his father to the free-school at Stratford, where he received his education. Of his school-days, unfortunately, no account whatever has come down to us : we are, therefore, unable ti mark his gradual advancement, or to point out the early presages of future renown, which his extraordinary parts must have afforded. Were our poet's early history accurately known, it would unquestionably furnish us with many indications of that genius, which afterwards rendered him the admiration of the whole civilised world.
Although we know not how long he continued at school, or what proficiency he made there, we may, with the highest probability, assume, that he acquired a competent, though perhaps not a profound knowlege of the Latin language: for why should it be supposed that he, who surpassed all mankind in his maturer years, made less proficiency than his fellows in his youth, while he had the benefit of instructors equally skilful ? Even Ben Jonson, who undoubtedly was inclined rather to depreciate than overrate his rival's literary talents, allows that he knew some Latin. In the school of Stratford, therefore, we see no reason to suppose that Shakspeare was outstripped by his contemporaries. Dr. Farmer indeed has proved by unanswerable arguments that he was furnished by translations with most of those topics, which for half a century had been urged as indisputable proofs of his erudition. But though his Essay is decisive in this respect, it by no means proves that he had not acquired, at the school of Stratford, a moderate knowlege of Latin, though, perhaps, he never attained such a mastery of that language as to read it without the occasional aid of a dictionary. Like many other scholars who have not been thoroughly grounded in the ancient tongues, from desuetude in the progress of life, he probably found them daily more difficult; and hence, doubtless, indolence led him rather to English translations, than the original authors, of whose works he wished to avail himself in his dramatic compositions : on which occasion he was certainly too careless minutely to examine whether particular passages were faithfully rendered or not. That such a mind as his was not idle or incurious, and that at this period of his life he perused several of the easier Latin classics, cannot reasonably be doubted; though, perhaps, he never attained a facility of reading those authors, with whom he had not been familiarly acquainted at school. He needed not however, as Dryden has well observed, the spectacles of books' to read men : there can be no doubt, that even from his youth he was a curious and diligent observer of the manners and characters, not only of his young associates, but of all around him; a study, in which, unquestionably, he took great delight, and pursued with avidity during the whole course of his future life. Fuller, who was a diligent and accurate inquirer, has given us, in his Worthies, printed in 1662, the most full and express opinion on the subject. • He was an eminent instance,' he remarks, ‘of the truth of that rule, poëta non fit, sed nascitur ; one is not made, but born a poet. Indeed his learning was
very little; so that as Cornish diamonds are not polished by any lapidary, but are pointed and smoothed even as they are taken out of the earth ; su nature itself was all the art which was used on him.'
It is generally admitted that Shakspeare was withdrawn from school at a very early age, to direct his attention to his father's business, in order that he might assist in warding off from his family the menacing approach of poverty. Mr. Malone, however, conjectures that he was placed in the office of some country attorney, after leaving school, or with the seneschal of some manor court, where he acquired those technical law phrases that so frequently occur in his plays, and could not have been in common use unless among professional men. But whatever doubts there may be as to his employment on leaving school, it is certain that Shakspeare married and became the father of a family at a very early period ; at a period, indeed, when most young men, even in his own days, had only completed their school education; for an entry in the Stratford register mentions, that Susanna, daughter of William Shakspeare, was baptised May 26th, 1583,' when he was only nineteen years of age.
His wife was Anne Hathaway, the daughter of Richard Hathaway, a substantial yeoman, residing at Shottery, a village near Stratford. It appears also from the tombstone of his widow in the church of Strat