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will, made in January, 1559-60, only three years after the period of which I am now treating, gave to his eldest daughter but one hundred pounds, and to his three younger daughters one hundred marks each, that is, sixty-six pounds, thirteen shillings, and fourpence*. I shall subjoin, in the Appendix, the will of our poet's grandfather”, which has furnished me
4 Will of William Clopton, proved in Feb. 1599-60. In Off. Cur. Prerog.
s Having taken a journey to Worcester with the hope of finding this, and some other wills, that might throw a light on our author's history, I thought myself fortunate in meeting with the information which has just now been submitted to my readers ; but, according to a doctrine maintained in an anonymous work [The Pursuits of Literature), I ought rather to make an apology for taking up their time with such idle prible-prabble, worthy only of Sir Hugh Evans or Master Slender. A modern poet, not wholly without humour, among a great number of notes appended to his verses, of which the object is not very apparent, unless it were to show, that while he inveighs against the supposed folly and absurdity of those who have attempted to illustrate our great poet by their annotations, he can himself occasionally “outherod Herod,” has the following sagacious remark: “When I speak of rational men, it passes the bounds of all sagacity to divine by what species of refined absurdity the wills and testaments of actors could be raked up and published to illustrate Shakspeare. (See Malone's edit. vol. ii. p. 186, &c. &c.) A critick for such an ingenious invention should be presented with the altum Saganæ caliendrum, which would not easily fall from his head. But Mr. M. has redeemed this piece of folly by many valuable excellencies."
As in the course of the present work the reader will find several similar pieces of folly (if this be one) it may not be improper to say a word or two on this subject in limine ; and, after acknowledging the courtesy of the concluding words above quoted, to examine how far the preceding charge is well founded.
with several of these facts, and the inventory that accompanied it, as a curious exhibition of the furniture
It has been long since observed, that those who write should read. If this judicious, though much neglected document had been attended to by the writer of the paragraph above quoted, he would not have fallen into the manifest error, I will not say the refined absurdity, with which it is justly chargeable. He would have learned, in the first place, that the wills which he alludes to, were not raked up [i. e. discovered with infinite difficulty and trouble), or published to illustrate Shakspeare, but the History of the Stage, and of the old actors who were fellow comedians with our great poet, which it is humbly conceived they in some small measure do; the number of the testator's wives and children, the fortune which he acquired by his profession, with various other circumstances which are frequently furnished by his will, and the time of his death, which is generally nearly ascertained by the probate, being, it is supposed, of some little consequence in the history of his life. He next would have learned, that though the primary object of the publication of these wills was not, as he has erroneously supposed, to illustrate Shakspeare, they do in fact illustrate the works of this poet; if furnishing the means of ascertaining the genuine copy of an author's writings, and of distinguishing it from spurious and adulterated editions of them, deserves the name of illustration : he would have found from these wills, that the two actors who were editors of the first complete collection of our author's plays in folio, were dead before the end of the year 1630, and thus he would have escaped the refined ab. surdity of asserting that two dead men “corrected the spurious edition of those plays in 1632."
The truth, however, I believe, is, that when his satire was first published, this writer was an humble candidate to be employed by the booksellers of London, in continuing and completing some of the great biographical works, which for many years past have been given to the publick ; the editors of which, however diligent or respectable, seem to have thought, with this anonymous rhymer, that in biographical researches it is quite unnecessary to examine a single manuscript in the British Museum, the Bodleian Library, or any other curious repository. To open a parish register, or peruse
and other effects of a gentleman of moderate fortune in that age .
SECTION II. From the loose language employed by Sir William Dethick and Camden, in their grants of arms to John Shakspeare, it might be supposed, and not without some reason, that one of his ancestors had been in the service of King Henry the Seventh, and had obtained from that frugal monarch some profitable grant.
a tomb-stone or a will, they seem to have held, with him, an abomination, and an invasion of the sacred rights of the dead : the genealogies of families preserved in the College of Heralds, the curious notices furnished by the patent and clause rolls, by dormant privy seals, by the Signet, Auditors, and Chirographer's Office, and by the inquisitions taken post mortem, which, from the time of Richard the Third, are preserved in the Chapel of the Rolls (as those antecedent are in the Tower), appear to have been equally objects of their aversion ; and the Record Office in the same ancient repository, and the black-book in the Exchequer, they, without doubt, concurred with him in considering as appropriated only to the use of those who profess the black art, and are worthy of an altum Saganæ caliendrum. “Would you wish for better sympathy?" From the specimen above given by this judicious and well-informed critick, it is manifest that he is admirably suited to the literary employment to which he seems to have aspired : and by subjoining to the old inaccurate and imperfect lives of our illustrious men, copious extracts from modern editions of their works (which are in every one's hands), embellished with a few college jokes and that kind of merriment Dr. Johnson has so pointedly described, (Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. i.) I have no doubt he will be able very speedily to furnish his employers with a trim volume of biography perfectly free from any ingenious invention, without a single will, or deed, or anecdote, or any curious or valuable inforination whatsoever.
6 See the Appendix.
In the confirmation of arms in 1596, this ancestor is only said to have been adoanced and rewarded; but in the subsequent confirmation, the nature of the benefit is specifically mentioned, and we are told, that he was rewarded “ with lands and tenements given to him in those parts of Warwickshire where he and his successors had continued, by some descents, in good reputation and credit.” If such a grant had been made by King Henry the Seventh to any of John Shakspeare's lineal ancestors (for which of them was in the contemplation of the heralds, whether his grandfather, or a more remote progenitor, it is not easy to ascertain ?), the first question that may be asked is, how came John Shakspeare, or at least some one of his name, not to be in possession of those lands when these armorial ensigns were a second time assigned to him ? Supposing the lands and tenements thus granted, to have been forfeited, or otherwise alienated, by the family, yet still the original record of the donation would not have been annihilated, but would indubitably have appeared on the patent rolls; and
7 The first grant of arms to John Shakspeare was made by Robert Cooke, Clarencius, in 1569 or 1570 ; but it is not now extant in the Herald's Office. A book of grants of arms made by this herald to persons living in the county of Warwick, is, however, probably somewhere extant, for it was formerly, as I learn from one of Antony Wood's Manuscripts, in Ashmole's Museum, in the possession of Ralph Sheldon, of Weston, in Warwickshire, Esq.
Of the second grant made, by Sir William Dethick, in 1596, there are two drafts in the Herald's Office, Vincent, 157, n. 23 and 24 ; the latter of which is much mutilated, a considerable part of the sheet having been torn off. The more perfect of the two may be found in the Appendix.
no trace of it being there to be found, after a very careful examination, in the Chapel of the Rolls, during the whole reign of Henry the Seventh, it is absolutely certain, that no such favour was ever conferred by that King on any person of the name of Shakspeare. The heralds, however, were not entirely unfounded in what they have asserted. It has already been mentioned, that our poet's mother was the daughter of Mr. Robert Arden, of Wilmecote, near Stratford; and I have no doubt, that one of his ancestors was the person denoted by the vague words in question, though the lands granted to him did not lie, as they supposed, in the county of Warwick. In the age of Queen Elizabeth, and indeed down to the last century, it was customary (a custom not yet wholly disused) to denominate by the same appellation, relations equally near, whether the relationship arose from consanguinity or affinity. Thus, John Shakspeare, if he had occasion to speak of his wife's grandfather, or great grandfather, would certainly have called him his grandfather, or great grandfather; his wife's uncle, or even grand-uncle, he would have called his uncle; and a still more remote relation, the wife of such grand-uncle, he would have called aunt. Edward Alleyn, the player, constantly styles Philip Henslowe his father, though he was not even his step-father 8, being only second husband to the mother of Alleyn's wife. In like manner, Thomas Nashe, who married Elizabeth Hall, our poet's granddaughter, calls Mrs. Hall, in his last will, his mother; and if he had had occasion to speak of our poet, he
8 He was only his wife's step-father.