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to make many of the other. It has much the greater variety, and much the nobler apartments; though we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncouth passages.' Nor does the whole fail to Atrike us with greater reverence, though many of the parts are childish, ill-placed, and unequal to its grandeur.
obore and the one proper en of buiid
THE attempt to write upon SHAKESPEARE is like go
l ing into a large, a spacious, and a splendid dome through the conveyance of a narrow and obscure entry. A glare of light suddenly breaks upon you beyond what the avenue at first promised: and a thousand beauties of genius and character, like so many gaudy apartments pouring at once upon the eye, diffuse and throw themselves out to the mind. The prospect is too wide to come within the compass of a single view: it is a gay confusion of pleasing objects, too various to be enjoyed but in a general admiration: and they must be separated, and eyed distinctly, in order to give the proper entertainment.
And as in great piles of building, some parts are often finished up to hit the taste of the connoifiur; others more negligently put together, to strike the fancy of a common and unlearned beholder: some parts are made ftupendously magnificent and grand, to surprise with the vaft design and execution of the architect; others are contracted, to amuse you with his neatness and elegance in little. So, in Shakespeare, we may find traits that will stand the test of the severelt judgment; and strokes as carelesly hit off, to the level of the more ordinary capacities: fome descriptions raised to that pitch of grandeur, as to astonish you with the compass and clevation of his thought: and others copying nature within fo narrow, so confined a circle, as if the author's talent lay only at drawing in miniature.
In how many points of light must we be obliged to gaze at this great poet! - In how many branches of excellence to
* This is Mr. Theobald's preface to his second edition in 1740, and had been much curtailed by himnieli alicr its appearance be. fore the imprcfon in 1733. a
consider and admire him! Whether we view him on the side
long Tain overwhelmed.
one would zealously embrace every method of informatiott that could contribute to recover them from the injuries with which they have so long lain overwhelmed.
It is certain, that if we have first admired the man in his writings, his case is so circumstanced, that we must naturally admire the writings in the man: that if we go back to take a view of his education, and the employment in life which fortune had cut out for him, we shall retain the stronger ideas of his extensive genius.
His father, we are told, was a considerable dealer in wool; but having no fewer than ten children, of whom our Shakefpeare was the eldest, the best education he could af. ford him was no better than to qualify him for his own bufiness and employment. I cannot affirm with any certainty how long his father lived; but I take him to be the same Mr. John Shakespeare who was living in the year 1599, and who then, in honour of his son, took out an extract of his family-arms from the herald's office; by which it appears, that he had been officer and bailiff of Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire; and that he enjoyed fome hereditary, lands and tenements, the reward of his great grandfather's faithful and approved service to king Henry VII.
Be this as it will, our Shakespeare, it seems, was bred for some time at a free-school; the very free-school, I prefume, founded at Stratford: where, we are told, he acquired what Latin he was master of: but that his father being obliged, through narrowness of circumstance, to withdraw him too soon from thence, he was thereby unhappily prevented from making any proficiency in the dead languages: a point that will deserve some little difcuffion in the sequel of this dissertation. · How long he continued in his father's way of business, either as an assistant to him, or on his own proper account, no notices are left to inform us: nor have I been able to learn precisely at what period of life he quitted his native Stratford, and began his acquaintance with London and the Stage.
In order to settle in the world after a family-manner, he thought fit, Mr. Rowe acquaints us, to marry while he was yet very young. It is certain, he did fo: for by the monument in Stratford church, erected to the memory of his daughter Susanna, the wife of John Hall, gentleman, it appears, that the died on the 2d of July, in the year 1649,
aged 66. So that she was born in 1583, when her father could not be full 19 years old; who was himself born in the year 1564. Nor was the his eldest child, for he had another daughter, Judith, who was born before her *, and who was married to one Mr. Thomas Quiney. So that Shakespeare must have entered into wedlock by that time he was turned of seventeen years.
Whether the force of inclination merely, or some concurring circumstances of convenience in the match, prompt. ed him to marry so early, is not easy to be determined at this distance; but it is probable, a view of interest might partly sway his conduct in this point: for he married the daughter of one Hathaway, a substantial geoman in his neighbourhood, and she had the start of him in age no less than eight years. She survived him notwithstanding, seven seasons, and died that very year the players published the first edition of his works in folio, anno Dom. 1623, at the age of 67 years, as we likewise learn from her monument in Stratford church. • How long he continued in this kind of settlement, upon his own native spot, is not more easily to be determincia But if the tradition be true, of that extravagance whicks forced him both to quit his country and way of living; to wit, his being engaged, with a knot of young deer-stealers, to rob the park of Sir Thomas Lucy of Cherlecot near Stratford: the enterprize favours so much of youth and levity, we may reasonably suppose it was before he could write full man. Besides, considering he has left us fix and thirty plays at least, avowed to be genuine; and considering too, that he had retired from the stage, to spend the latter part of his days at his own native Stratford: the interval of time Tieceffarily required for the finishing so many dramatick pieces, obliges us to suppose he threw himself very early upon the play-house. And as he could, probably, contract no acquaintance with the drama, while he was driving on the affair of wool at home; some time must be loft, even after he had commenced player, before he could attain knowledge enough in the science to qualify himself for turning author.
It has been observed by Mr. Rowe, that, amongst other
.* This is a mistake. Susanna was the poet's eldest daughter. See the extracts from the register-book of the parish of Stratford, ir one of the following pages..