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doubtedly they might: but there they are, and, perhaps, few of the players had much more learning than Shakspere.
Mr. Farmer himself will allow, that Shakspere began to learn Latin : I will allow that his studies lay in English : but why insist that he neither made any progress at school, nor improved his acquisitions there? The general encomiums of Suckling, Denham, Milton, &c. on his native genius *, prove nothing ; and Ben Jonson's celebrated charge of Shakspere's
* Mr. Farmer closes these general testimonies of Shake spere's having been only indebted to nature, by saying, « He came out of her hand, as some one else expresses it, “ like Pallas out of Jove's head, at full growth, and man "ture." It is whimsical enough, that this some one else, whose expression is here quoted to countenance the general notion of Shakspere's want of literature, should be no other than myself. Mr. Farmer does not choose to mention where he met with the expression of some one else; and some one else does not choose to mention where he dropt it t.
+ It will appear still more whimsical that this some one else, whose expression is here quoted, may have his claim to it superseded by that of the late Dr. Young, who in his Conjectures on Original Composition (p. 100, Vol. V. Edit. 1773) has the following sentence. “An adult genius comes out of Na
ture's hands, as Pallas out of Jove's head, at full growth, os and mature.' Shakspere's genius was of this kind.” Where some one else the first may have intermediately dropped the contested expression, I cannot ascertain ; but some one else the second, transcribed it from the author already mentioned.
small small Latin, and less Greek *, seems absolutely to decide that he had some knowledge of both; and if we may judge by our own time, a man, who has any Greek, is seldom without a very competent share of Latin; and yet such a man is very likely to study Plutarch in English, and to read translations of Ovid.
See Dr. Farmer's reply to these remarks by Mr. Colman, in a note on Love's LABOUR Lost, AEt IV. Sc. ië. p. 456.
* In defence of the various reading of this passage, given in the preface to the last edition of Shakspere, “ small “ Latin, and no Greek,” Mr. Farmer tells us, that " it es was adopted above a century ago by W. Towers, in a 6 panegyrick on Cartwright.” Surely, Towers having said that Cartwright had no Greek, is no proof that Ben Jonson said so of Shakspere. STEEVENS.
The Rev. Dr. FARMER's ESSAY
LEARNING of SHAKSPERE.
In 1751, was reprinted “ A compendious or briefe examination of certayne ordinary complaints of diuers of our Countrymen in these our days : which although they are in some parte unjust and friuolous, yet are they all by way of dialogue thoroughly debated and discussed by William Shakspere, Gentleman.” 8vo.
This extraordinary piece was originally published in 4to, 1581, and dedicated by the author, " To the most vertuous and learned Lady, his most deare and soveraigne Princesse, Elizabeth ; being inforced by her majesties late and singular clemency in pardoning certayne his unduetiful misdemeanour.” And by the modern editors, to the late king; as “a treatise composed by the most extensive and fertile genius, that ever any age or nation produced.”
Here we join issue with the writers of that excellent, though very unequal work, the Biographia Bri
tannica : if, say they, this piece could be written by our poet, it would be absolutely decisive in the dispute about his learning; for many quotations appear in it from the Greek and Latin classicks.
The concurring circumstances of the name, and the misdemeanor, which is supposed to be the old story of deer-stealing, seem fairly to challenge our poet for the author: but they hesitate.--His claim may appear to be confuted by the date 1581, when Shakspere was only seventeen, and the long experience which the writer talks of.-But I will not keep the reader in suspense: the book was not written by Shakspeae.
Strype, in his Annals, calls the author some learned man, and this gave me the first suspicion. I knew very well, that honest John (to use the language of Sir Thomas Bodley) did not waste his time with such baggage books as plays and poems ; yet I must suppose, that he had heard of the name of Shakspere. After a while I met with the original edition. Here in the title-page, and at the end of the dedication, appear only the initials, W. S. gent, and presently I was informed by Anthony Wood, that the book in question was written, not by William Shakspere, but by William Stafford, gentleman *; which at once accounted for the misdemeanor in the dedication. For Stafford had
* Fasti, 2d Edit. V. I. 208. It will be seen on turning to the former edition, that the latter part of the paragraph belongs to another Stafford. I have since observed, that Wood is not the first who hath given us the true author of the pamphlet. Ppiij
been concerned at that time, and was indeed after. ward, as Camden and the other annalists inform us, with some of the conspirators against Elizabeth ; which he properly calls his unduetiful behaviour.
I hope by this time, that any one open to conviction may be nearly satisfied; and I will promise to give on this head very little more trouble.
The justly celebrated Mr. Warton hath favoured us, in his Life of Dr. Bathurst, with some hearsay particulars concerning Shakspere from the papers of Aubrey, which had been in the hands of Wood; and I ought not to suppress them, as the last seems to make against my doctrine. They came originally, I find, on consulting the MS. from one Mr. Beeston : and I am sure Mr. Warton, whom I have the honour to call my friend, and an associate in the question, will be in no pain about their credit.
“ William Shakspere's father was a butcher-while he was a boy, he exercised his father's trade ; but, when he killed a calf, he would do it in a high style, and make a speech. This William being inclined naturally to poetry and acting, came to London, I guess, about eighteen, and was an actor in one of the play-houses, and did act exceedingly well. He began early to make essays in dramatique poetry.—The humour of the Constable in the Midsummer-Night's Dream he happened to take at Crendon * in Bucks.
I think, * This place is not met with in Spelman's Villare, or in Adams's Index; nor in the first and the last performance of