Imágenes de página

crowded into eighteen years! Honest Aubrey, truly thine is a rope of sand wherein there are no knots to cut or to untie !

Akin to the butcher's trade is that of the dealer in wool. It is upon the authority of Betterton, the actor, who, in the beginning of the last century, made a journey into Warwickshire to collect anecdotes relating to Shakspere, that Rowe tells us that John Shakspere was a dealer in wool:-" His family, as appears by the register and public writings relating to that town, were of good figure and fashion there, and are mentioned as gentlemen. His father, who was a considerable dealer in wool, had so large a family, ten children in all, that, though he was his eldest son, he could give him no better education than his own employment." Tradition is here, we think, becoming a little more assimilated with the truth. The considerable dealer in wool might very well have been the landed proprietor, the cultivator, that we believe John Shakspere to have been. Nor indeed was the incidental business even of a butcher, a slayer and seller of carcases, incompatible with that occupation of a landholder. Harrison, who mingles his laments at the increasing luxury of the farmer with somewhat contradictory denouncements of the oppression of the tenant by the landlord, holds that the landlord is monopolizing the tenant's profits:-" Most sorrowful of all to understand, that men of great port and countenance are so far from suffering their farmers to have any gain at all, that they themselves become graziers, BUTCHERS, tanners, SHEEPMASTERS, Woodmen, and denique quid non, thereby to enrich themselves, and bring all the wealth of the country into their own hands, leaving the commonalty weak, or as an idol with broken or feeble arms, which may in time of peace have a plausible show, but, when necessity shall enforce, have an heavy and bitter sequel." Has not dolorous Harrison solved the mystery of the butcher, and explained the tradition of the wool-man? Here we might leave John Shakspere's occupation, and fancy him pursuing a happy and a useful life, such a life as that of honest Thomas Tusser, who, precisely at this period, that is, in 1557, published his One Hundred Points of Good Husbandry,' which he subsequently enlarged to Five Hundred Points.' His picture of the English farmer's life, a provident, sagacious, pious farmer, and withal intelligent and well-educated, is the picture we would draw for John Shakspere, and we shall hereafter give a sketch of it. But there is one word to be said in passing:-"It is now settled beyond dispute that he was a glover."* This is a somewhat strong assertion. Malone has found out that the glove-trade was carried on in John Shakspere's time to a considerable extent in Stratford, and he has lighted upon the register of the bailiff's court, dated the 17th of June, 1555, which records a process by Thomas Sicke, of Armiscotte, "versus Johm Shakyspere de Stretford, in com. Warwic, glover." "This entry," says Malone, "has furnished me with the long-sought-for information, and ascertains that the trade of our great poet's father was that of a glover." How ascertains? Grant that John Shakspere the glover, who had an action against him in the bailiff's court in 1555, was the identical John Shakspere, the father of William Shakspere. He was then a young man-unmarried; he might have engaged

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

*Life of Shakspeare, by Mr. de Quincy, in the Encyclopædia Britannica.'

in the glove-trade, and subsequently inheriting paternal property, and marrying a wife with a landed estate, have become a cultivator. The question is, Was his chief occupation that of a glover when he obtained a grant of arms in 1568 or in 1569 to write himself gentleman? Suffice it that we believe not that the husband of Mary Arden was a worker in gloves; that he was learned in the mysteries of cheveril and cordevan; that he could line the gloves of the great with velvet, and fringe with gold; that he recommended to the fair ones of Stratford the treasures of Autolycus—

"Gloves as sweet as damask roses."

We persist in drawing his portrait in the free air-on his horse, with his team, at market, at fair. If he were a glover in 1555 he was subsequently a holder of land-a land-proprietor. It is a matter of indifference whether he added the traffic in gloves, or the manufacture of gloves, to his other occupation. That he was a man of substance, even before his marriage, we have now proved for the first time. The purchaser of two copyhold estates in one year, each with a house, was in all likelihood the possessor of other property. Many of the mistakes and prejudices that have been current in the world as to the education of William Shakspere are built upon the assumption that his father was ignorant and needy.


WE printed the fac-simile of the signatures of the corporation of Stratford some time since in 'The Store of Knowledge' and 'The Penny Cyclopædia.' It has been objected, we understand, that the register from which these fac-similes are copied is itself a copy. That assertion is not correct. The original council-book in which this entry appears is in the possession of W. O. Hunt, Esq., town-clerk of Stratford; and by his permission the entry was copied for us with the minutest accuracy by Mr. Fairholt. The entry is not only an original one, but it is one of the most remarkable in that ancient book. It bears date the 29th of September, the 7th of Elizabeth, and it is for the especial purpose of directing, in a somewhat peremptory manner, John Wheler to take on him the office of high bailiff, to which he had been "pricked" by the Earl of Warwick. John Wheler probably considered this pricking to be an exertion of arbitrary power; but the corporation resolved that the will of the great Earl should be obeyed; and for more solemnity they individually attest the order by the signatures of so many as were present at the common hall. "John Shacksper" was among the number. So unusual was it for members of the corporation individually thus to sanction the general proceedings of the body, that, although John Shakspere continued in the corporation fifteen years after this, his name never again occurs as a signature in the entries of the common halls, although he is very frequently entered as an attendant upon those halls. Now it is in the books of the corporation that the signature of John Shakspere, whether made by writing his name, or by a mark, is to be sought for. The old council-book, which records the proceedings of the corporation, is entire, and has no such signature; and yet Malone, in his desire to support his assertion that "among the twelve marksmen is found John Shakspeare," adds the following note:"The mark of John Shakspeare is considerably below his name, in consequence of the town-clerk's having written it so close to the name immediately above, that, if he had made his mark directly opposite to his name, it would have intrenched on that of the person who preceded him. It was, indeed, his usual custom to set his mark lower than his name. In the latter part of his life he contented himself with making a cross instead of the A which he had formerly used." Where are the examples to be found of his "usual custom"? Where is the document to show us that" in the latter part of his life he contented himself with making a cross"? It is the usual custom, Malone pretends, of a man that cannot write his name to place his mark opposite the name of another man ; and John Shakspere, also, having adopted one distinctive mark at one period of his life, changes it at a later period for the commonest of all marks. The subject of marks is a very curious one. The great body of the people were no doubt accustomed to use the mark of the cross; but amongst many in the early times who could not write, and did not find it necessary to write, it was a very common case for an individual to adopt, in the language of Jack Cade, a mark to himself, possessing distinctness of character, and sometimes almost heraldically alluding to his name or occupation. Many of these are like ancient merchants' marks; and they were so identified with the individual in many cases, that, in old deeds, the mark of the landowner who alienates the property corresponds with the mark described in the conveyance of unenclosed fields to be cut in the turf or upon the boundary-stones. Not to do injustice to the intentions of Malone, we are constrained to suppose that, from the inspection of documents which do not now exist, he was warranted in saying that John Shakspere changed his mark in the latter part of his life. But we must also suppose that he might have mistaken the mark of some one else for that of John Shakspere. His assertion is altogether incredible, because it is opposed to the invariable practice of the contemporaries of John Shakspere. There is not only no evidence for the assertion, but it is contrary to all other evidence. There can be no doubt, we apprehend, that, looking at the fac-simile we have given, no one could think of asserting John Shakspere's inability to write from the evidence contained in that document, We must therefore, believing with Malone that John Shakspere "would not neglect the education of his children," refer his parental care to a higher motive than that of feeling himself, and lamenting, "the want of this useful accomplishment,"-the ability to write.

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small]

IN the eleventh century the Norman Conqueror commanded a Register to be completed of the lands of England, with the names of their possessors, and the number of their free tenants, their villains, and their slaves. In the sixteenth century Thomas Cromwell, as the vicegerent of Henry VIII. for ecclesiastical jurisdiction, issued Injunctions to the Clergy, ordaining, amongst other matters, that every officiating minister shall, for every Church, keep a Book, wherein he shall register every Marriage, Christening, or Burial. In the different character of these two Registers we read what five centuries of civilization had effected for England. Instead of being recorded in the gross as cotarii or servi,

The history of the old font represented above is somewhat curious. The parochial accounts of Stratford show that about the middle of the sevententh century a new font was set up. The beautiful relic of an older time, from which William Shakspere had received the baptismal water, was, after many years, found in the old charnel-house. When that was pulled down, it was kicked into the churchyard; and half a century ago was removed by the parish clerk to form the trough of a pump at his cottage. Of the parish clerk it was bought by the late Captain Saunders; and from his possession came into that of the present owner, Mr. Heritage, a builder at Stratford.

the meanest labourer, his wife, and his children, had become children of their country and their country's religion, as much as the highest lord and his family. Their names were to be inscribed in a book and carefully preserved. But the people doubted the intent of this wise and liberal injunction. A friend of Cromwell writes to him, "There is much secret and several communications between the King's subjects; and [some] of them, in sundry places within the shires of Cornwall and Devonshire, be in great fear and mistrust, what the King's Highness and his Council should mean, to give in commandment to the parsons and vicars of every parish that they should make a book, and surely to be kept, wherein to be specified the names of as many as be wedded, and the names of them that be buried, and of all those that be christened."* They dreaded new charges;" and well they might dread. But Thomas Cromwell had not regal exactions in his mind. The Registers were at first imperfectly kept; but the regulation of 1538 was strictly enforced in the first year of Elizabeth; and then the Register of the Parish of Stratford-upon-Avon commences, that is, in 1558. Venerable book! Every such record of human life is a solemn document. Birth, Marriage, Death!—this is the whole history of the sojourn upon earth of nearly every name inscribed in these mouldy, stained, blotted pages. And after a few years what is the interest, even to their own descendants, of these brief annals? With the most of those for whom the last entry is still to be made, the question is, Did they leave property? Is some legal verification of their possession of property necessary?


"No further seek their merits to disclose."

But there are entries in this Register-book of Stratford that are interesting to us—to all Englishmen to universal mankind. We have all received a precious legacy from one whose progress from the cradle to the grave is here recorded-a bequest large enough for us all, and for all who will come after us. Pause we on the one entry of that book which most concerns the human race :


Elpril 26

Enkelmus filius Johannes Shakleene


William, the son of John Shakspere, baptized on the 26th April, 1564.† And when born? The want of such information is a defect in all parish-registers. Baptism so immediately followed birth in those times, when infancy was sur

* Cromwell's Correspondence, in the Chapter-House. Quoted in Rickman's Preface to Population Returns, 1831.

The date of the year, and the word April, occur three lines above the entry-the baptisin being the fourth registered in that month.


« AnteriorContinuar »