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been the Subject of critical Enquiries. How trifling foever this Curiofity may seem to be, it is certainly very Natural; and we are hardly fatisfy'd with an Account of any remarkable Perfon, 'till we have heard him defcrib'd even to the very Cloaths he wears. As for what relates to Men of Letters, the knowledge of an Author may fometimes conduce to the better understanding his Book: And tho' the Works of Mr. Shakespear may seem to many not to want a Comment, yet I fancy fome little Account of the Man himself may not be thought improper to go along with them.
He was the Son of Mr. John Shakespear, and was Born at Stratford upon Avon, in Warwickshire, in April 1564. His Family, as appears by the Register and Publick Writings relating to that Town, were of good Figure and Fashion there, and are mention'd as Gentlemen. His Father, who was a confiderable Dealer in Wool, had fo large a Family, ten Children in all, that tho' he was his eldest Son, he could give him no better Education than his own Employment. He had bred him, 'tis true, for fome time at a Free-School, where 'tis probable he acquir'd that little Latin he was Master of: But the narrowness of his Cir- cumstances, and the want of his affiftance at Home,
Home, forc'd his Father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his further Proficiency in that Language. It is without Controverfie, that he had no knowledge of the Writings of the Antient Poets, not only from this Reason, but from his Works themselves, where we find no traces of any thing that looks like an Imitation of 'em; the Delicacy of his Tafte, and the natural Bent of his own Great Genius, equal, if not superior to some of the best of theirs, would certainly have led him to Read and Study 'em with so much Pleasure, that fome of their fine Images would naturally have infinuated themselves into, and been mix'd with his own Writings; fo that his not copying at least something from them, may be an Argument of his never having read 'em. Whether his Ignorance of the Antients were a disadvantage to him or no, may admit of a Difpute: For tho' the knowledge of 'em might have made him more Correct, yet it is not improbable but that the Regularity and Deference for them, which would have attended that Correctnefs, might have restrain'd some of that Fire, Impetuofity, and even beautiful Extravagance which we admire in Shakespear: And I believe we are better pleas'd with those Thoughts, altogether New and Uncommon,
which his own Imagination fupply'd him fo abundantly with, than if he had given us the most beautiful Paffages out of the Greek and Latin Poets, and that in the most agreeable manner that it was poffible for a Master of the English Language to deliver 'em. Some Latin without queftion he did know, and one may fee up and down in his Plays how far his Reading that way went: In Love's Labour loft, the Pedant comes out with a Verfe of Mantuan; and in Titus Andronicus, one of the Gothick Princes, upon reading
Integer vita fcelerifque purus
fays, 'Tis a Verfe in Horace, but he remembers it out of his Grammar: Which, I suppose, was the Author's Cafe. Whatever Latin he had, 'tis certain he understood French, as may be obferv'd from many Words and Sentences fcatter'd up and down his Plays in that Language; and especially from one Scene in Henry the Fifth written wholly in it. Upon his leaving School, he feems to have given intirely into that way of Living which his Father propos'd to him; and in order to fettle in the World after a Family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet
yet very Young. His Wife was the Daughter of one Hathaway, faid to have been a substantial Yeoman in the Neighbourhood of 'Stratford. In this kind of Settlement he continu'd for fome time, 'till an Extravagance that he was guilty of, forc'd him both out of his Country and that way of Living which he had taken up; and tho' it seem'd at first to be a Blemish upon his good Manners, and a Misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily prov'd the occafion of exerting one of the greatest Genius's that ever was known in Dramatick Poetry. He had, by a Misfortune common enough to young Fellows, fallen into ill Company; and amongst them, fome that made a frequent practice of Deer-stealing, engag'd him with them more than once in robbing a Párk that belong'd to Sir Thomas Lucy of Cherlecot, near Stratford. For this he was profecuted by that Gentleman, as he thought, fomewhat too severely; and in order to revenge that ill Ufage, he made a Ballad upon him. And tho' this, probably the first Effay of his Poetry, be loft, yet it is faid to have been fo very bitter, that it redoubled the Profecution against him to that degree, that he was oblig'd to leave his Business and Family in Warwickshire, for fome time, and shelter himself in London.
It is at this Time, and upon this Accident, that he is said to have made his first Acquaintance in the Play-houfe. He was receiv'd into the Company then in being, at first in a very mean Rank; But his admirable Wit, and the natural Turn of it to the Stage, foon diftinguish'd him, if not as an extraordinary Actor, yet as an excellent Writer. His Name is Printed, as the Cuftom was in thofe Times, amongst thofe of the other Players, before fome old Plays, but without any particular Account of what fort of Parts he us'd to play; and tho' I have inquir'd, I could never meet with any further Account of him this way, than that the top of his Performance was the Ghost in his own Hamlet. I fhould have been much more pleas'd, to have learn'd from fome certain Authority, which was the firft Play he wrote; it would be without doubt a pleasure to any Man, curious in Things of this Kind, to fee and know what was the first Effay of a Fancy like Shakespear's. Perhaps we are not to look for his Beginnings, like those of other Authors, among their least perfect Writings; Art had fo little, and Nature fo large a Share in what he did, that, for ought I know, the Performances of his Youth, as