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for his services; for, if he were to earn nothing, his father could have had no motive for taking him from school. Supposing him to have ceased to receive instruction from Jenkins in 1579, when John Shakespeare's distresses were apparently most severe, we may easily imagine that he was, for the next year or two, in the office of one of the seven attorneys in Stratford, whose names Malone introduces. That he wrote a good hand we are perfectly sure, not only from the extant specimens of his signature, when we may suppose him to have been in health, but from the ridicule which, in “ Hamlet,” (act v. sc. 2) he throws upon such as affected to write illegibly:
“ I once did bold it, as our statists do,
A baseness to write fair.”
In truth, many of his dramatic contemporaries wrote excellently: Ben Jonson's penmanship was beautiful; and Peele, Chapman, Dekker, and Marston, (to say nothing of some inferior authors) must have given printers and copyists little trouble'.
5 It is certain also that Shakespeare wrote with great facility, and that his compositions required little correction. This fact we have upon the indubitable assertion of Ben Jonson, who thus speaks in his “ Discoveries,” written in old age, when, as he tells us, his memory began to fail, and printed with the date of 1641:
" I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare, that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out line. My answer hath been, Would he had blotted a thousand ! which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this, but for their ignorance, who chuse that circumstance to commend their friend by, wherein he most faulted ; and to justify mine own candour, for I loved the man, and do bonour his memory (on this side idolatry) as much as any. He was indeed honest, and of an open and free nature; had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle expressions, wherein he flowed with that facility, that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped. Sufflaminandus erat, as Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his own power ; would the use of it had been so too !”
Hence he proceeds to instance the passage in “ Julius Cæsar," upon which we have remarked in vol, vii. p. 45. Ben Jonson then adds in conclusion :“But he redeemed his vices with his virtues: there was ever more in him to be praised, than to be pardoned.” Consistently with what Ben Jonson tells us above the players had “ often mentioned,” we find the following in the address of Heminge and Condell, “ To the great variety of Readers,” before the folio
Excepting by mere tradition, we hear not a syllable regarding William Shakespeare from the time of his birth until he had considerably passed his eighteenth year, and then we suddenly come to one of the most important events of his life, established upon irrefragable testimony: we allude to his marriage with Anne Hathaway, which could not have taken place before the 28th Nov. 1582, because on that day two persons, named Fulk Sandells and John Richardson, entered into a preliminary bond (which we subjoin in a note) in the penalty of 401. to be forfeited to the bishop of the diocese of Worcester, if it were thereafter found that there existed any lawful impediment to the solemnization of matrimony between William Shakespeare
of 1623 :-“His mind and hand went together, and what he thought he uttered with that easiness, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers."
6 The instrument, divested of useless formal contractions, runs thus :
“ Noverint universi per presentes, nos Fulconem Sandells de Stratford in comitatu Warwici, agricolam, et Johannem Richardson ibidem agricolam, teneri et firmiter obligari Ricardo Cosin, generoso, et Roberto Warmstry, notario publico, in quadraginta libris bonæ et legalis monetæ Angliæ solvendis eisdem Ricardo et Roberto, heredibus, executoribus, vel assignatis suis, ad quam quidem solutionem bene et fideliter faciendam obligamus nos, et utrumque nostrum, per se pro toto et in solido, heredes, executores, et administratores nostros firmiter per presentes, sigillis nostris sigillatos. Datum 28 die Novembris, anno Regni Dominæ nostræ Elizabethae, Dei gratia Angliæ, Franciæ, et Hiberniæ Reginæ, Fidei Defensoris, &c. 250,
“ The condition of this obligation ys suche, that if hereafter there shall not appere any lawfull lett or impediment, by reason of any precontract, consanguinitie, affinitie, or by any other lawfull meanes whatsoever, but that William Shagspere one thone partie, and Anne Hathwey, of Stratford in the Dioces of Worcester, maiden, may lawfully solemnize matrimony together, and in the same afterwards remaine and continew like man and wiffe, according unto the lawes in that behalf provided : and moreover, if there be not at this present time any action, sute, quarrel, or demaund, moved or depending before any judge, ecclesiastical or temporal, for and concerning any suche lawfull lett or impediment: and moreover, if the said William Shagspere do not proceed to solemnization of marriadg with the said Anne Hath wey without the consent of her frinds : and also if the said William do, upon his owne proper costs and expenses, defend and save harmles the Right Reverend Father in God, Lord John Bushop of Worcester, and his offycers, for licencing them the said William and Anne to be maried together with once asking of the bannes of matrimony betwene them, and for all other causes which may ensue by reason or occasion thereof, that then the said obligation to be voyd and of none effect, or els to stand and abide in fulle force and vertue.”
The marks and seals of Sandells and Richardson.
and Anne Hathaway, of Stratford. It is not known at what church the ceremony was performed, but certainly not at Stratford-upon-Avon’, to which both the parties belonged, where the bondsmen resided, and where it might be expected that it would have been registered. The object of the bond was to obtain such a dispensation from the bishop of Worcester as would authorise a clergyman to unite the bride and groom after only a single publication of the banns; and it is not to be concealed, or denied, that the whole proceeding seems to indicate haste and secresy. However, it ought not to escape notice that the seal used when the bond was executed, although damaged, has upon it the initials R. H., as if it had belonged to R. Hathaway, the father of the bride, and had been used on the occasion with his consente.
Considering all the circumstances, there might be good reasons why the father of Anne Hathaway should concur in the alliance, independently of any regard to the worldly prospects of the parties. The first child of William and Anne Shakespeare was christened Susanna on 26th May, 1583'. Anne was between seven and eight years older than her young husband, and several passages in Shakespeare's plays have been pointed out by Malone, and repeated by other biographers, wbich seem to point directly at the evils resulting from unions in which the parties were “misgraffed in respect of years.” The most remarkable of these is certainly the well-known speech of the Duke to Viola, in “Twelfth Night,” (act ii. sc. 4) where he says,
• Malone conjectured that the marriage took place at Weston, or Billesley, but the old registers there having been lost or destroyed, it is impossible to ascer. tain the fact. A more recent search in the registers of some of the other churches in the neighbourhood of Stratford has not been attended with any success. Possibly, the ceremony was performed in the vicinity of Worcester, but the mere fact that the bond was there executed proves nothing. An examination of the registers at Worcester has been equally fruitless.
8 Rowe tells us, and we are without any other authority) that Hathaway was " said to have been a substantial yeoman,” and he was most likely in possession of a seal, such as John Shakespeare had used in 1579. 9 The fact is registered in this form :
“ 1583. May 26. Susanna daughter to William Shakspere.”
“Let still the woman take
Afterwards the Duke adds,
“ Then, let thy love be younger than thyself,
Or thy affection cannot hold the bent.”
Whether these lines did or did not originate in the author's reflections upon his own marriage, they are so applicable to his own case, that it seems impossible he should have written them without recalling the circumstances attending his hasty union, and the disparity of years between himself and his wife. Such, we know, was the confirmed opinion of Coleridge, expressed on two distinct occasions in his lectures, and such we think will be the conclusion at which most readers will arrive :-“I cannot hesitate in believing,” observed Coleridge in 1815, “that in this passage from • Twelfth Night, Shakespeare meant to give a caution arising out of his own experience; and, but for the fact of the disproportion in point of years between himself and his wife, I doubt much whether the dialogue between Viola and the Duke would have received this turn!” It is incident to our nature that youths, just advancing to manhood, should feel with peculiar strength the attraction of women whose charms have reached the full-blown summer of beauty; but we cannot think
"We derive this opinion from our own notes of what fell from Coleridge upon the occasion in question. The lectures, upon which he was then engaged, were delivered in a room belonging to the Globe tavern, in Fleet-street. He repeated the same sentiment in public in 1818, and we have more than once heard it from him in private society.
that it is so necessary a consequence, as some have supposed', that Anne Hathaway should have possessed peculiar personal advantages. It may be remarked, that poets have often appeared comparatively indifferent to the features and persons of their mistresses, since, in proportion to the strength of their imaginative faculty, they have been able to supply all physical deficiencies'. Coleridge was aware, if not from his own particular case, from recorded examples, that the beauty of the objects of the affection of poets was sometimes more fanciful than real; and his notion was, that Anne Hathaway was a woman with whom the boyish Shakespeare had fallen in love, perhaps from proximity of residence and frequency of intercourse, and that she had not any peculiar recommendations of a personal description. The truth, however, is, that we have no evidence either way; and when Oldys remarks upon the 93rd sonnet, that it “seems to have been addressed by Shakespeare to his beautiful wife, on some suspicion of her infidelity?,” it is clear that he was under an entire mistake as to the individual: the lines,
“ So shall I live supposing thou art true
Like a deceived husband; so love's face
were most certainly not applied to his wife; and Oldys could have had no other ground for asserting that Anne Hathaway was “beautiful,” than general supposition, and the erroneous belief that a sonnet like
* The Rev. Mr. Dyce, in his Life of Shakespeare, prefixed to the Aldine edition of his Poems, 12mo. 1832. p. xi. It comprises all the main points of the biography of our poet then known.
3 When the Rev. Mr. Dyce observes that "it is unlikely that a woman devoid of personal charms should have won the youthful affections of so imaginative a being as Shakespeare,” he forgets that the mere fact that Shakespeare was an "imaginative being” would render “ personal charms" in his wife less necessary to his happiness.
In his MS. notes to Langbaine, in the British Museum, as quoted by Steevens. See “ Malone's Shakspeare, by Boswell,” vol. xx. p. 306.