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midst of contagion and death, protected by the Muses, to whom his future life was to be devoted, and covered over :
Lauroque, collataque myrto,
Non sine Diis animosus infans."*
It is now impossible to ascertain with any degree of certainty the mode which was adopted in the education of this aspiring genius; all that time has left us on the subject is, that he was sent, though but for a short period, to the free-school of Stratford, a seminary founded in the reign of Henry the Sixth, by the Rev. Jolepe, M. A., a native of the town; and which, after sharing, at the general dissolution of chantries, religious houses, etc. the usual fate, was restored and patronished by Edward the Sixth, a short time previous to his death. Here it was, that he acquired the small Latin and less Greek, which Jonson has attributed to him, a mode of phraseology from which it must be inferred, that he was at least acquainted with both languages; and, perhaps, we may add, that he who has obtained some knowledge of Greek, however slight, may, with little hesitation, be supposed to have proceeded considerably beyond the limits of mere elementary instruction in Latin.
At the period when Shakspeare was sent to school, the study of the classical languages had made, since the era of the revival of literature, a very rapid progress. Grammars and Dictionaries, by various authors, had been published;+ but the grammatical institute then in general use, both in town and country, was the Grammar of Henry the Eighth, which, by the order of Queen Elizabeth, in her Injunctions of 1559, was admitted, to the exclusion of all others: "Every schoolmaster," says the thirty-ninth Injunction, "shall teach the grammar set forth by King Henrie the Eighth, of noble memorie, and continued in the time of Edward the Sixth, and none other;" and in the Booke of certain Cannons, 1571, it is again directed, "that no other grammar shall be taught, but only that which the Queen's Majestie hath commanded to be read in all schooles, through the whole realm,"
With the exception of Wolsey's "Rudimenta Grammatices," printed in 1536, and taught in his school at Ipswich, and a similar work of Collet's, established in his seminary in St. Paul's churchyard, this was the grammar publicly and universally adopted, and without doubt the instructor of Shakspeare in the language of Rome.
Another initiatory work, which we may almost confidently affirm him to have studied under the tuition of the master of the free-school at Stratford, was the production of one Ockland, and entitled EIPHNAPXIA, sive ELIZABETHA. The object of this book, which is written in Latin verse, is to panegyrise the characters
Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 84, 85.
It is possible also that the following grammars and dictionaries, independent of those mentioned in the text, may have contributed to the school-education of Shakspeare:
1. Certain brief Rules of the Regiment or Construction of the Eight Partes of Speche, in English and Latin, 1537.
2. A short Introduction of Grammar, generallie to be used: compiled and set forth, for the bringyng up of all those that intend to attaine the knowledge of the Latin tongue, 1557.
3. The Scholemaster; or, Plaine and perfite Way of teaching Children to understand, write, and speak, the Latin Tong. By Roger Ascham. 1571.
4. Abecedarium Anglico-Latinum, pro tyrunculis, Ricardo Huloets excriptore, 1552.
5. The Short Dictionary, 1558.
6. A little Dictionary; compiled by J. Withals, 1559. Afterwards reprinted in 1568, 1572, 1579, and 1599; and entitled, A Shorte Dictionarie most profitable for young Beginners: and subsequently, A shorte Dictionarie in Lat. and English.
7. The brefe Dyxcyonary, 1562.
8. Huloets Dictionary; newlye corrected, amended, and enlarged, by John Higgins, 1572.
9. Veron's Dictionary; Latin and English, 1575.
10. An Alvearie, or quadruple Dictionarie; containing foure sundrie Tongues: namelie, English, Latine, Greeke, and Frenche. Newlie enriched with varietie of wordes, phrases, proverbs, and divers lightsome observations of grammar. By John Baret, 1580.
11. Rider's Dictionary, Latine and English, 1539.
and government of Elizabeth and her ministers, and it was, therefore, enjoined by authority to be read as a classic in every grammar-school, and to be indelibly impressed upon the memory of every young scholar in the kingdom; "a matchless contrivance," remarks Bishop Hurd," to imprint a sense of loyalty on the minds of the people."*
To these school-books, to which, being introduced by compulsory edicts, there is no doubt Shakspeare was indebted for some learning and much loyalty, may be added, as another resource to which he was directed by his master, the Dictionary of Sir Thomas Elliot, declaring Latin by English, as greatly improved and enriched by Thomas Cooper in 1552. This lexicon, the most copious and celebrated of its day, was received into almost every school, and underwent numerous editions, namely, in 1559, and in 1565, under the title of "Thesaurus Linguæ Romanæ et Britannica," and again in 1573, 1578, and 1584. Elizabeth not only recommended the lexicon of Cooper, and professed the highest esteem for him, in consequence of the great utility of his work toward the promotion of classical literature, but she more substantially expressed her opinion of his worth by promoting him to the deanery of Gloucester, in 1569, and to the bishoprics of Lincoln and Winchester in 1570 and 1584, at which latter see he died on the 29th of April, 1524.†
Thus far we may be allowed, on good grounds, to trace the very books which were placed in the hands of Shakspeare, during his short noviciate in classical learning; to proceed farther, would be to indulge in mere conjecture, but we may add, and with every just reason for the inference, that from these productions, and from the few minor classics which he had time to study at this seminary, all that the most precocious genius, at such a period of life, and under so transient a direction of the mind to classic lore, could acquire, was obtained.‡
The universality of classical education about the era of 1575, when, it is probable, Shakspeare had not long entered on the acquisitions of the Latin elements, was such that no person of rank or property could be deemed accomplished who had not been thoroughly imbued with the learning and mythology of Greece and Rome. The knowledge which had been previously confined to the clergy or professed scholars, became now diffused among the nobility and gentry, and even influenced, in a considerable degree, the minds and manners of the softer sex. Elizabeth herself led the way in this career of erudition, and she was soon followed by the ladies of her court, who were taught, as Warton observes, not only to distil strong waters, but to construe Greek. S
• Moral and Political Dialogues, vol. ii. p. 28. edit. 1788.
That school-masters and lexicographers were not usually so well rewarded, notwithstanding the high value placed on classical literature at this period, may be drawn from the complaint of Ascham: "It is pitie," says he, "that commonlie more care is had, yea, and that amonge verie wise men, to find out rather a cunnynge man for their horse, than a cunnynge man for their children. They say nay in worde, but they do so in deede. For, to the one they will gladlie give a stipend of 200 crownes by yeare, and loth to offer to the other 200 shillings. God, that sitteth in heaven, laugheth their choice to skorne, and rewardeth their liberalitie as it should; for he suffereth them to have tame and well ordered horse, but wilde and unfortunate children; and therefore, in the ende, they finde more pleasure in their horse than comforte in their children."-Ascham's Works, Bennet's edition, p. 212.
It is more than possible that the Eclogues of Mantuanus the Carmelite may have been one of the schoolbooks of Shakspeare. He is familiarly quoted and praised in the following passage from Love's Labour's Lost: "Hol. Fauste, precor gelidâ quando pecus omne sub umbrȧ Ruminat,—and so forth. Ah, good old Mantua! I may speak of thee as the traveller doth of Venice:
Chi non te rede, ci non te pregia.
Old Mantuan! old Mantuan! who understandeth thee not, loves thee not." Act iv. sc. 2. And his Eclogues, be it remembered, were translated and printed, together with the Latin on the opposite page, for the use of schools, before the commencement of our author's education; and from a passage quoted by Mr Malone, from Nashe's Apologie of Pierce Penniless, 1593, appear to have continued in use long after its termination. "With the first and second leafe, he plaies very prettilic, and, in ordinarie terms of extenuating, verdits Pierce Pennilesse for a grammar-school wit; saies, his margine is as deeply learned as, Fauste, precor gelida." Mantuanus was translated by George Turberville in 1567, and reprinted in 1594.–Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 95.
§ Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. iii. p 491.
The fashion of the court speedily became, to a certain extent, the fashion of the country, and every individual possessed of a decent competency, was solicitous that his children should acquire the literature in vogue. Had the father of our poet continued in prosperous circumstances, there is every reason to conclude that his son would have had the opportunity of acquiring the customary erudition of the times; but we have already seen, that in 1579 he was so reduced in fortune, as to be excused a weekly payment of 4d., a state of depression which had no doubt existed some time before it attracted the notice of the corporation of Stratford.
One result therefore of these pecuniary difficulties was the removal of young Shakspeare from the free-school, an event which has occasioned, among his biographers and numerous commentators, much controversy and conjecture as to the extent of his classical attainments.
From the short period which tradition allows us to suppose that our poet continued under the instruction of a master, we have a right to conclude that, notwithstanding his genius and industry, he must necessarily have made a very superficial acquaintance with the learned languages. That he was called home to assist his father, we are told by Mr. Rowe; and consequently, as the family was numerous and under the pressure of poverty, it is not likely that he found much time to prosecute what he had commenced at school. The accounts, therefore, which have descended to us, on the authority of Ben Jonson, Drayton, Suckling, etc. that he had not much learning, that he depended almost exclusively on his native genius (that his Latin was small and his Greek less), ought to have been, without scruple, admitted. Fuller, who was a diligent and accurate enquirer, has given us in his Worthies, printed in 1662, the most full and express opinion on the subject. "He was an eminent instance," he remarks, of the truth of that rule, Poeta non fit, sed nascitur;'"one is not made but born a poet. Indeed his learning was very little, so that as Cornish diamonds are not polished by any lapidary, but are pointed and smoothed even as they are taken out of the earth, so nature itself was all the art which was used upon him.'
Notwithstanding this uniform assertion of the contemporaries and immediate successors of Shakspeare, relative to his very imperfect knowledge of the languages of Greece and Rome, many of his modern commentators have strenuously insisted upon his intimacy with both, among whom may be enumerated, as the most zealous and decided on this point, the names of Gildon, Sewell, Pope, Upton, Grey, and Whalley. The dispute, however, has been nearly, if not altogether terminated, by the Essay of Dr. Farmer on the Learning of Shakspeare, who has, by a mode of research equally ingenious and convincing, clearly proved that all the passages which had been triumphantly brought forward as instances of the classical literature of Shakspeare, were taken from translations, or from original, and once popular, productions in his native tongue. Yet the conclusion drawn from this essay, so far as it respects the portion of latinity which our poet had acquired and preserved, as the result of his school-education, appears to us greatly too restricted. "He remembered," says the Doctor, "perhaps enough of his school-boy learning to put the Hig, hag, hog, into the mouth of Sir Hugh Evan: and might pick up in the writers of the time, or the -course of his conversation, a familiar phrase or two of French or Italian: but his studies were most demonstratively confined to nature and his own language." +
A very late writer, in combating this part of the conclusion of Dr. Farmer, has advanced an opinion in several respects so similar to our own, that it will be necessary, in justice to him and previous to any further expansion of the idea which we have embraced, to quote his words.
"Notwithstanding," says he, "Dr. Farmer's essay on the deficiency of Shakspeare in learning, I must acknowledge myself to be one who does not conceive that his proofs of that fact sufficiently warrant his conclusions from them: 'that his studies were demonstrably confined to Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii, p. 85.
Worthies, v. iii p. 126.
nature and his own language' is, as Dr. Farmer concludes, truc enough; but when it is added, that he only picked up in conversation a familiar phrase or two of French, or remembered enough of bis school-boy's learning to put hig, hag, hog, in the mouths of others:' he seems to me to go beyond any evidence produced by him of so little knowledge of languages in Shakspeare. He proves indeed sufficiently, that Shakspeare chiefly read English books, by his copying sometimes minutely the very errors made in them, many of which he might have corrected, if he had consulted the original Latin books made use of by those writers: but this does not prove that he was not able to read Latin well enough to examine those originals if he chose; it only proves his indolence and indifference about accuracy in minute articles of no importance to the chief object in view of supplying himself with subjects for dramatic compositions. Do we not every day meet with numberless instances of similar and much greater oversights by persons well skilled in Greek as well as Latin, and professed critics also of the writings and abilities of others? If Shakspeare made an ignorant man pronounce the French word bras like the English brass, and evidently on purpose, as being a probable mistake by such an unlearned speaker, has not one learned modern in writing Latin made Paginibus of Paginis, and another mentioned a person as being born in the reign of Charles the First, and yet as dying in 1600, full twenty-five years before the accession of that king? Such mistakes arise not from ignorance, but a heedless inattention, while their thoughts are better occupied with more important subjects; as those of Shakspeare were with forming his plots and his characters, instead of examining critically a great Greek volume to see whether he ought to write on this side of Tiber or on that side of Tiber; which however very possibly he might not be able to read; but Latin was more universally learnt in that age, and even by women, many of whom could both write and speak it; therefore it is not likely that he should be so very deficient in that language, as some would persuade us, by evidence which does not amount to sufficient proofs of the fact. Nay, even although he had a sufficiency of Latin to understand any Latin book, if he chose to do it, yet how many in modern times, under the same circumstances, are led by mere indolence to prefer translations of them, in case they cannot read Latin with such perfect ease, as never to be at a loss for the meaning of a word, so as to be forced to read some sentences twice over before they can understand them rightly. That Shakspeare was not an eminent Latin scholar may be very true, but that he was so totally ignorant as to know nothing more than hic, hæc, hoc, must have better proofs before I can be convinced." *
The truth seems to be, that Shakspeare, like most boys who have spent but two or three years at a grammar-school, acquired just as much Latin as would enable him, with the assistance of a lexicon, and no little share of assiduity, to construe a minor classic; a degree of acquisition which we every day see, unless forwarded by much leisure and much private industry, immediately becomes stationary, and soon retrograde. Our poet, when taken from the free-school of Stratford, had not only to direct his attention to business, in order to assist in warding off from his father's family the menacing approach of poverty; but it is likewise probable that his leisure, as we shall notice more at large in the next chapter, was engaged in other acquisitions; and when at a subsequent period, and after he had become a married man, his efforts where thrown into a channel perfectly congenial to his taste and talents, still to procure subsistence for the day was the immediate stimulus to exertion. Under these circumstances, and when we likewise recollect that popular favour and applause were essential to his success, and that nearly to the last period of his life he was a prolific caterer for the public in a species of poetry which called for no recondite or learned resources, it is not probable, nay, it is, indeed, scarcely possible, that he should have had time to cultivate and increase his classical attainments, originally and necessarily superficial. To translations, therefore, and to popular and legendary lore, he was alike directed by policy, by inclination, and by want of leisure; yet must we still agree, that, had a proficiency in the learned languages been necessary to his career, the means resided within' himself, and that, on the basis merely of his school-education, although limited as we have seen it, he might, had he early and steadily directed his attention to the subject, have built the reputation of a scholar.
That the powers, however, of his vast and capacious mind, especially if we
Censura Literaria, vol, ix. p. 2.5.
consider the shortness of his life, were not expended on such a attempt, we have reason to rejoice; for though his attainments, as a linguist, were truly trifling, yet his knowledge was great, and his learning, in the best sense of the term, that is, as distinct from the mere acquisition of language, multifarious, and extensive beyond that of most of his contemporaries.
It is, therefore, to his English studies that we must have recourse for a due estimate of his reading and research; a subject which will be treated of in a future portion of the work.
Shakspeare, after leaving School, follows his Father's Trade-Statement of Aubrey-Probably present in his Twelfth Year at Kenilworth, when Elizabeth visited the Earl of Leicester-Tradition of Aubrey concerning him-Whether there is reason to suppose that, after leaving his Father, he was placed in an Attorney's Office, who was likewise Seneschal or Steward of some Manor-Anecdotes of Shakspeare-Allusions in his Works to Barton, Wilnecotte, and Barston, Villages in Warwickshire-Earthquake in 1580 alluded to-Whether, after leaving School, he acquired any Knowledge of the French and Italian languages.
THAT Shakspeare, when taken from the free-school of Stratford, became an assistant to his father in the wool-trade, has been the general opinion of his biographers from the period of Mr. Rowe, who first published the tradition in 1709, to the present day. The anecdote was probably collected by Mr. Betterton the player, who visited Stratford in order to procure intelligence relative to his favourite poet, and from whom Mr. Rowe professes to have derived the greater part of his information. † A few incidental circumstances tend also to strengthen the account that both father and son were engaged in this employment, and, for a time, together: in the first place, we may mention the discovery already noticed of the arms of the merchants of the wool-staple on a window of the house in which the poet was born; secondly, the almost certain conclusion that the poverty of John Shakspeare, which we know to have been considerable in 1579, would naturally incline him to require the assistance of his son, in the only way in which, at that time, he could be serviceable to him; and thirdly, we may
"If it were asked from what sources," observes Mr. Capel Lofft, "Shakspeare drew these abundant streams of wisdom, carrying with their current the fairest and most unfading flowers of poetry, I should be tempted to say, he had what would be now considered a very reasonable portion of Latin; he was not wholly ignorant of Greek; he had a knowledge of the French, so as to read it with ease; and I believe not less of the Italian. He was habitually conversant in the chronicles of his country. He lived with wise and highly cultivated men; with Jonson, Essex, and Southampton, in familiar friendship. He had deeply imbibed the Scriptures. And his own most acute, profound, active, and original genius (for there never was a truly great poet, nor an aphoristic writer of excellence without these accompanying qualities) must take the lead in the solution." Aphorisms from Shakspeare: Introduction, p. xii and xiii.
Again, in speaking of his poems, he remarks-"Transcendent as his original and singular genius was, I think it is not easy, with due attention to these poems, to doubt of his having acquired, when a boy, no ordinary facility in the classic language of Rome; though his knowledge of it might be small, comparatively. to the knowledge of that great and indefatigable scholar, Ben Jonson. And when Jonson says he had less Greek,' had it been true that he had none, it would have been as easy for the verse as for the sentiment to have said no Greek.'"-Introduction, p. xxiv.
"Mr Betterton,” observes Mr Malone," was born in 1635, and had many opportunities of collecting information relative to Shakspeare, but unfortunately the age in which he lived was not an age of curiosity. Had either he or Dryden or Sir William d'Avenant taken the trouble to visit our poet's youngest daughter, who lived till 1662, or his grand-daughter, who did not die till 1670, many particulars might have been preserved which are now irrecoverably lost. Shakspeare's sister, Jone Hart, who was only five years younger than hin, died at Stratford in Nov. 1646, at the age of seventy-six; and from her undoubtedly his two daughters, and his grand-daughter Lady Bernard, had learned several circumstances of his early history antecedent to the year 1600." Reed's Shakspeare, p. 119, 120.
It has already been observed, in a note written some years after the composition of the text, that this supposed corroboration is no longer to be depended upon.