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conveyed to trustees for the benefit of six of his daughters ; and his freehold and copyhold estates in the parish of Aston Cantlowe could not have been inconsiderable. Sir John Arden, the brother of his grandfather, had been esquire of the body to Henry VII., and his nephew had been page
of the bedchamber to the same monarch, who had bountifully rewarded their services and fidelity. Sir John Arden died in 1526, and it was his nephew, Robert Arden, who purchased of Rushby and his wife the estate in Snitterfield in 1520. He was the father of the Robert Arden who died in 1556, and to whose seventh daughter, Mary, John Shakespeare was married.
No registration of that marriage has been discovered, but we need hardly hesitate in deciding that the ceremony took place in 1557. Mary Arden and her sister Alicia were certainly unmarried, when they were appointed " executores under their father's will, dated 24th Nov. 1556, and the probability seems to be that they were on that account chosen for the office, in preference to their five married sisters. Joan, the first child of John Shakespeare and his wife Mary, was baptized in the church of Stratford-upon-Avon on the 15th Sept. 1558', so that we may not unreasonably fix their union towards the close of 1557, about a year after the death of Robert Arden.
What were the circumstances of John Shakespeare at the time of his marriage we can only conjecture. It has been shown that two years before that event a claim of 8l. was made upon him in the borough court of Stratford, and we must conclude, either that the money was not due and the demand unjust, or that he was unable to pay the debt, and was therefore proceeded against. The issue of the suit is not known; but in the next year he seems to have been established in business as a glover, a branch of trade much carried on in that part of the kingdom; and, as already mentioned, · he certainly served upon the jury of a court-leet in 1556. Therefore, we are, perhaps, justified in thinking that his affairs were sufficiently prosperous to warrant his union with
* The register of this event is in the following form, under the head “ Baptismes, Anno. Dom. 1558."
“Septēber 15. Jone Shakspere daughter to John Shakspere." The child may have been named after her aunt, Joan, married to Edward Lambert of Barton on the Heath ; but we are also to bear in mind that the wife of the Richard Shakespeare of Rowington, who died in 1591, was also named Joan.
the youngest of seven co-heiresses, who brought him some independent property.
Under her father's will she inherited 61. 138. 4d. in money, and a small estate in fee, in the parish of Aston Cantlowe, called Asbyes, consisting of a messuage, fifty acres of arable land, six acres of meadow and pasture, and a right of common for all kinds of cattle *. Malone knew nothing of Mary Arden's property in Snitterfield, to which we have already referred, and, without it, he estimated that her fortune was equal to 1101. 13s. 4d., which seems to us rather an under calculation of its actual value. He also speculated, that at the time of their marriage John Shakespeare was twentyseven years old, and Mary Arden eighteen ®; but the truth is that we have not a particle of direct evidence upon the point. Had she been so young, it seems very unlikely that her father would have appointed her one of his executors in the preceding year, and we are inclined to think that she must have been of full age in Nov. 1556.
It was probably in contemplation of his marriage that, on 2nd October, 1556, John Shakespeare became the owner of two copyhold houses in Stratford, the one in Greenhill-street, and the other in Henley-street, which were alienated to him by George Turnor and Edward West, respectively: the house in Greenhill-street had a garden and croft attached to it, and the house in Henley-street only a garden ; and for the first he was to pay to the lord of the manor an annual rent of thirteen pence, and for the last an annual rent of sixpence”. In 1557 he was again sworn as a juryman upon the courtleet, and in the spring of the following year he was amerced in the sum of fourpence for not keeping clean the gutter in
• Malone's Shakspeare, by Boswell, Vol. ii. p. 25. * The terms of Robert Arden's bequest to his daughter Mary are these :-“Also geve and bequeth to my youngste daughter, Marye, all my lande in Willmecote, called Asbyes, and the crop upon the ground, sowne and tyllede as hit is: and vjli. ziijs. iiijd. of money, to be payde over ere my goodes be devydede.” Hence we are not to understand that he had no more land in Wilmecote than Asbyes, but that he gave his daughter Mary all his land in Wilmecote, which was known by the name of Asbyes.
• Malone's Shakspeare, by Boswell, Vol. ii. p. 39.
?. We copy the following descriptions from the original borough-record, only avoiding the abbreviations, which render it less intelligible :
Item, quod Georgius Turnor alienavit Johanni Shakespere, &c. unum tenementum, cum gardin et croft, cum pertinentibus, in Grenehyll strele, &c.
Et quod Edwardus West alienavit predicto Johanni Shakespere unum lenementum, cum gardin adjacente, in Henley strete.
front of his dwelling; Francis Burbadge, the then bailiff, Adrian Quiney, “Mr. Hall, and Mr. Clopton" (so these two names stand in the instrument) were each of them at the same time fined a similar sum for the same neglect'. It is a point of little importance, but it is highly probable that John Shakespeare was first admitted a member of the corporation of Stratford in 1557, when he was made one of the aletasters of the town; and in Sept. 1558, he was appointed one of the four constables, his name following those of Humphrey Plymley, Roger Sadler, and John Taylor. He continued constable in 1559, his associates then being John Taylor, William Tyler, and William Smith, and he was besides one of four persons, called affeerors, whose duty it was to impose fines upon their fellow-townsmen (such as he had himself paid in 1558) for offences against the by-laws of the borough.
Death of John Shakespeare's eldest child, Joan. Two John Shakespeares in
Stratford. Amercements of members of the corporation. Birth and death of John Shakespeare's second child, Margaret. Birth of William Shakespeare : bis birth-day, and the house in which he was born. The plague in Stratford. Contributions to the sick and poor by John Shakespeare and others. John Shakespeare elected alderman, and subsequently bailiff. Gilbert Shakespeare born. Another daughter, baptized Joan, born. Proofs that John Shakespeare could not write.
It was while John Shakespeare executed the duties of constable in 1558, that bis eldest child, Joan, was born, having been baptized, as already stated, on the 15th September, of that year: she died in her infancy, and as her burial does not appear in the register of Stratford, she was, perhaps, interred at Snitterfield, where Richard Shakespeare,
8 The original memorandum runs thus:
"Francis Berbage, Master Baly that now ys, Adreane Qayny, Mr. Hall, Mr. Clopton, for the gutter alonge the Chappell in Chappell Lane, John Shakspeyr, for not kepynge of their gutters cleane, they stand amerced.”
The sum which they were so amerced, 4d., is placed above the names of each of the parties.
• The following are the terms used :
“Item, ther trysty and welbelovyd Humfrey Plymley, Roger Sadler, John Taylor, and John Shakspeyr, constabulles.”
probably the father of John Shakespeare, then resided', as tenant to Agnes Arden, widow of Robert Arden, and mother of Mary Shakespeare. In respect to the registers of marriages, baptisms, and deaths at Stratford, some confusion has been produced by the indisputable fact, that two persons of the name of John Shakespeare were living in the town at the same time, and it is not always easy to distinguish between the entries which relate to the one, or to the other : for instance, it was formerly thought that John Shakespeare, the father of the poet, had lost his first wife, Mary Arden, and had taken a second, in consequence of a memorandum in the register, showing that on the 25th Nov. 1584, John Shakespeare had married Margery Roberts : Malone, however, took great pains to prove, and may be said to have succeeded in establishing, that this entry and others, of the births of Philip, Ursula, and Humphrey Shakespeare, relate to John Shakespeare, à shoemaker', and not to John Shakespeare the glover.
John Shakespeare was again chosen one of the four affeerors of Stratford in 1561, and the Shakespeare Society is in possession of the original presentation made by these officers on the 4th of May in that year, the name of the father of our great dramatist coming last, after those of Henry Bydyll, Lewis ap William, and William Mynske. The most remarkable circumstance connected with it is the number of persons who were amerced in sums varying from 68. 8d. to 2d.
* This fact appears from a lease, before noticed, granted on 21st May, 1560, by Mary Arden to Alexander Webbe, of two messuages, with a cottage, one of which is stated then to be in the occupation of Richard Shakespeare. We quote the terms of the original deed, formerly placed at the disposal of the Shakespeare Society by Mr. Thomas Rodd, and subsequently returned to bim :-"Wytnesseth, that the said Agnes Arderne, for dyverse and sundry consyderations, hath demysed, graunted, &c. to the said Alexander Webbe, and to his assignes, all those her two messuages,
with a cottage, with all and singular their appurtenances in Snytterfeild, and a yarde and a balfe of ayrable lande thereunto belonging, &c., being in the towne and fyldes of Snytterfeild afforsaid : all which now are in the occupation of Richarde Sbakspere, John Henley, and Jobn Hargreve." Of course this property formed part of the jointure of Agnes Arden, mentioned in the will of ber husband.
* John Shakespeare, the shoemaker, seems not to have belonged to the corporation, at all events, till many years afterwards, so that the confusion to which we bave referred does not extend itself to any of the records of that body. After John Shakespeare, the father of our poet, had been bailif, he is always called Mr. or Magister John Shakespeare; while the shoemaker, who married Margery Roberts, and was the father of Philip, Ursula, and Humphrey, is invariably styled only John Shakespeare. There is no trace of any relationship between the two.
“The bailiff that now is,” was fined 38. 4d. for“ breaking the assize,” he being a common baker :" three other bakers were severally compelled to pay similar amounts on the same occasion, and for the same offence'. In September following the date of this report John Shakespeare was elected one of the chamberlains of the borough, a very responsible post, in which he remained two years.
His second child, Margaret, or Margareta (as the name stands in the register), was baptized on the 2nd Dec. 1562, while he continued chamberlain. She was buried on the 30th April, 1563*.
The greatest event, perhaps, in the literary history of the world occurred a year afterwards—William Shakespeare was born. The day of his birth cannot fixed with absolute certainty, but he was baptized on 26th April, 1564, and the memorandum in the register is precisely in the following form:
“1564. April 26. Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere." So that whoever kept the book in all probability the clerk) either committed a common clerical error, or was no great proficient in the rules of grammar. It seems most likely that our great dramatist had been brought into the world only three days before he was baptized ', and it was then the custom to carry infants very early to the font. A house is still pointed out by tradition, in Henley-street, as that in which William Shakespeare first saw the light, and we have already shown that his father was the owner of two copyhold
• The affeerors seem to have displayed unusual vigilance, and considerable severity : William Trout, Christopher Smythe, Mand Harbage and John Jamson were all fined 38. 4d. “ for selling ale, and having and keeping gaming, contrary to the order of the Court:" eleven other inhabitants were amerced in smaller sums on the same ground. Robert Perrot was compelled to pay 6s. 8d. " for making and selling unwholesome ale.”
• The registrations of her birth and death are both in Latin :-
5 The inscription on bis monument supports the opinion that he was born on the 23rd April: without the contractions it reads thus :
" Obiit Anno Domini 1616.
Ælatis 53, die 23 Aprilis :" and this, in truth, is the only piece of evidence upon the point. Malone referred to the statement of the Rev. J. Greene, as an authority; but he was master of the free-school at Stratford nearly two centuries after the death of Shakespeare, and, in all probability, spoke only from the tenor of the inscription in the church.