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"Jan. 10, in the 6th year of the reign of our sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth, John Shakspeare passed his Chamberlain's accounts."
"At the Hall holden the eleventh day of September, in the eleventh year of the reign of our sovereign lady Elizabeth, 1569, were present Mr. John Shakspeare, High Bailiff." *
It was during the period of his filling this important office, that he first obtained a grant of arms; and, in a note annexed to the subsequent patent of 1596, now in the College of Arms, † it is stated that he was likewise a justice of the peace, and possessed of lands and tenements to the amount of 5001. The final confirmation of this grant took place in 1599, in which his shield and coat are described to be, "In a field of gould upon a bend sable, a speare of the first, the poynt upward, hedded argent;" and for his crest or cognisance. "A falcon with his wyngs displayed, standing on a wrethe of his coullers, supporting a speare armed hedded, or steeled sylver."+
Mr. John Shakspeare married, though in what year is not accurately known, the daughter and heir of Robert Arden, of Wellingcote, in the county of Warwick, who is termed, in the Grant of Arms of 1596, "a gentleman of worship." The Arden, or Ardern family, appears to have been of considerable antiquity; for, in Fuller's Worthies, Rob. Arden de Bromwich, ar. is among the names of the gentry of this county returned by the commissioners in the twelfth year of King Henry the Sixth, 1433; and in the eleventh and sixteenth years of Elizabeth, A. D. 1562 and 1568, Sim. Ardern, ar. and Edw. Ardrn, ar. are enumerated, by the same author, among the sheriffs of Warwickshire. It is well known that the woodland part of this county was formerly denominated Ardern, though, for the sake of euphony, frequently softened towards the close of the sixteenth century, into the smoother appellation of Arden; hence it is not improbable, that the supposition of Mr. Jacob, who reprinted, in 1770, the Tragedy of Arden of Feversham, a play which was originally published in 1592, may be correct; namely that Shakspeare, the poet, was descended by the female line from the unfortunate individual whose tragical death is the subject of this drama; for though the name of this gentleman was originally Ardern, he seems early to have experienced the fate of the county district, and to have had his surname harmonized by a similar omission. In consequence of this marriage, Mr. John Shakspeare and his posterity were allowed, by the College of Heralds, to impale their arms with the ancient arms of the Ardens of Wellingcote.*
Of the issue of John Shakspeare by this connection, the accounts are contradictory and perplexed; nor is it absolutely ascertained, whether he had only one wife, or whether he might not have had two, or even three. Mr. Rowe, whose narrative has been usually followed, has given him ten children, among whom he considers William the poet, as the eldest son.tt The Register, however, of the parish of Stratford-upon-Avon, which commences in 1558, is incompatible with this statement; for, we there find eleven children ascribed to John Shakspeare, ten baptized, and one, the baptism of which had taken place before the commencement of the Register, buried.‡‡ The dates of these baptisms, and of two or three other events, recorded in this Register, it will be necessary, for the sake of elucidation, to transcribe:
"Jone, daughter of John Shakspere, was baptized Sept. 15, 1558.
Margaret, daughter of John Shakspere, was buried April 30, 1563.
"WILLIAM, son of John Shakspere, was baptized April 26, 1564.
Gilbert, son of John Shakspere, was baptized Oct. 3, 1566.
* Communicated to Mr Malone by the Rev. Mr. Davenport, vicar of Stratford upon Avon. Vincent, vol. clvii. p. 24.
See the instrument, at full length, Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 146, edit. of 1803.
The History of the Worthies of England, part. i. fol. 131. 132.
See Shakspeare's coat of arms. Reed's Shaksp. vol. i. p. 146.
+ Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 58, 59.
Ibid. p. 133.
Jone,* daughter of John Shakspere, was baptized April 15, 1569. “Anne, daughter of Mr. John Shakspere, was baptized Sept. 28, 1571. "Richard, son of Mr. John Shakspere, was baptized March 11, 1573-4. "Edmund, son of Mr. John Shakspere, was baptized May 3, 1580. "John Shakspere and Margery Roberts were married Nov. 25, 1584. Margery, wife of John Shakspere, was buried Oct. 29, 1587.
"Ursula, daughter of John Shakspere, was baptized March 11, 1588. Humphrey, son of John Shakspere, was baptized May 24, 1590. Philip, son of John Shakspere, was baptized Sept. 21, 1591.
"Mr. John Shakspere was buried Sept. 8, 1601.
Now it is evident, that if the ten children which were baptized, according to this Register, between the years 1558 and 1591, are to be ascribed to the father of our poet, he must necessarily have had eleven, in consequence of the record of the decease of his daughter Margaret. He must also have had three wives, for we find his second wife, Margery, died in 1587, and the death of a third, Mary a widow, is noticed in 1608.
It was suggested to Mr Malone,† that very probably, Mr John Shakspeare had a son born to him, as well as a daughter, before the commencement of the Register, and that this his eldest son was, as is customary, named after his father, John; a supposition which (as no other child was baptized by the Christian name of the old gentleman) carries some credibility with it, and was subsequently acquiesced in by Mr Malone himself.
In this case, therefore, the marriage recorded in the Register, is that of John Shakspeare the younger with Margery Roberts, and the three children born. between 1588 and 1591, Ursula, Humphrey, and Philip, the issue of this John, not by the first, but by a second marriage; for as Margery Shakspeare died in 1587, and Ursula was baptized in 1588-9, these children must have been by the Mary Shakspeare, whose death is mentioned as occurring in 1608, and as she is there denominated a widow, the younger John must consequently have died before that date.
The result of this arrangement will be, that the father of our poet had only nine children, and that WILLIAM was not the eldest, but the second son.
On either plan, however, the account of Mr. Rowe is equally inaccurate; and as the introduction of an elder son involves a variety of suppositions, and at the same time nothing improbable is attached to the consideration of this part of the Register in the light in which it usually appears, that is, as allusive solely to the father, it will, we think, be the better and the safer mode to rely upon it, according to its more direct and literal import. This determination will be greatly strengthened by reflecting, that old Mr. Shakspeare was, on the authority of the last instrument granting him a coat of arms, living in 1599; that on the testimony of the Register, taken in the common acceptation, he was not buried until September, 1601; and that in no part of the same document is the epithet younger annexed to the name of John Shakspeare, a mark of distinction which there is every reason to suppose would have been introduced, had the father and a son of the same Christian name been not only living at the same time in the same town, but the latter likewise a parent.
That the circumstances of Mr. John Shakspeare were, at the period of his marriage, and for several years afterwards, if not affluent, yet easy and respectable, there is every reason to suppose, from his having filled offices of the first trust and importance in his native town; but, from the same authority which has in
It was common in the age of Queen Elizabeth to give the same Christian name to two children successively. This was undoubtedly done in the present instance. The former Joue having probably died, (though I can find no entry of her burial in the Register, nor indeed of many of the other children of John Shakspeare) the name of Jone, a very favourite one in those days, was transferred to another new-born child "Malone from Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 134
Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 136.
duced us to draw this inference, another of a very different kind, with regard to a subsequent portion of his life, may with equal confidence be taken. In the books. of the corporation of Stratford it is stated, that
At the hall holden Nov. 19th, in the 21st year of the reign of our sovereign lady Qucen Elizabeth, it is ordained, that every Alderman shall be taxed to pay weekly 4d., saving John Shakspeare and Robert Bruce, who shall not be taxed to pay any thing; and every burgess to pay 2d." Again,
At the hall holden on the 6th day of September, in the 28th year of our sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth :
"At this ball William Smith and Richard Courte are chosen to be Aldermen in the places of John Wheler and John Shakspeare, for that Mr. Wheler doth desire to be put out of the company, and Mr. Shakspeare doth not come to the halls, when they be warned, nor hath not done of long time."
The conclusion to be drawn from these memoranda must unavoidably be, that, in 1579, ten years after he had served the office of High Bailiff, his situation, in a pecuniary light, was so much reduced, that, on this account, he was excused the weekly payment of 4d.; and that, in 1586, the same distress still subsisting, and perhaps in an aggravated degree, he was, on the plea of non-attendance, dismissed the corporation.
The causes of this unhappy change in his circumstances cannot now, with the exception of the burthen of a large and increasing family, be ascertained; but it is probable, that to this period is to be referred, if there be any truth in the tradition, the report of Aubrey, that " William Shakspeare's father was a butcher." This anecdote, he affirms, was received from the neighbours of the bard, and, on this account, merits some consideration.+
We are indebted to Mr. Rowe for the first intimation concerning the trade of John Shakspeare; his declaration, derived also from tradition, that he was a "considerable dealer in wool," appears confirmed by subsequent research. From a window in a room of the premises which originally formed part of the house at Stratford, in which Shakspeare the poet was born, and a part of which premises has for many years been occupied as a public-house, with the sign of the Swan and Maidenhead, a pane of glass was taken, about five-and-forty years ago, by Mr. Peyton, the then master of the adjoining Inn called The White Lion. This pane, now in the possession of his son, is nearly six inches in diameter, and perfect, and on it are painted the arms of the merchants of the wool-staple-" Nebule on a chief gules, a lion passant or." It appears, from the style in which it is finished, to have been executed about the time of Shakspeare, the father, and is undoubtedly a strong corroborative proof of the authenticity of Mr. Rowe's relation.‡ These traditionary anecdotes, though apparently contradictory, may easily admit of reconcilement, if we consider, that between the employment of a wooldealer and a butcher, there is no small affinity; "few occupations," observes Mr. Malone, can be named which are more naturally connected with each other." It is highly probable, therefore, that during the period of John Shakspeare's distress, which we know to have existed in 1579, when our poet was but fifteen years of age, he might have had recourse to this more humble trade, as in many circumstances connected with his customary business, and as a great additional means of supporting a very numerous family.
*Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 58.
+ MS. Aubrey, Mus. Ashmol. Oxon. Lives, p. 1. fol. 78, a. (Inter Cod. Dugdal.) Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 213.
Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 214. and Ireland's Picturesque Views on the Upper or Warwickshire Avon, p. 190, 191. Since this passage was written, however, the proof which it was supposed to contain, has been completely annihilated. "If John Shakspeare's occupation in life," observes Mr. Wheeler, "want confirmation, this circumstance will unfortunately not answer such a purpose; for old Thomas Hart constantly declared that his great uncle, Shakspeare Hart, a glazier of this town, who had the new glazing of the chapel windows, where it is known, from Dugdale, that such a shield existed, brought it from thence, and introduced it into his own window."-Wheeler's Guide to Stratford, pp. 13, 14.
Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 214.
That the necessity for this union, however, did not exist towards the latter part of his life, there is much reason to imagine, both from the increasing reputation and affluence of his son William, and from the fact of his applying to the College of Heralds, in 1596 and 1599, for a grant of arms; events, of which the first, considering the character of the poet, must almost necessarily have led to, and the second directly pre-supposes, the possession of comparative competence and respectability.
The only remaining circumstance which time has spared us, relative to the personal conduct of John Shakspeare, is, that there appears some foundation to believe that, a short time previous to his death, he made a confession of his faith, or spiritual will; a document still in existence, the discovery and history of which, together with the declaration itself, will not improperly find a place at the close of this commencing chapter of our work.
About the year 1770, a master-bricklayer, of the name of Mosely, being employed by Mr. Thomas Hart, the fifth in descent, in a direct line, from the poet's sister, Joan Hart, to new-tile the house in which he then lived, and which is supposed to be that under whose roof the bard was born, found hidden between the rafters and the tiling of the house, a manuscript, consisting of six leaves, stitched together, in the form of a small book. This manuscript Mosely, who bore the character of an honest and industrious man, gave (without asking or receiving any recompense) to Mr. Peyton, an alderman of Stratford; and this gentleman very kindly sent it to Mr. Malone, through the medium of the Rev. Mr. Davenport, vicar of Stratford. It had, however, previous to this transmission, unfortunately been deprived of the first leaf, a deficiency which was afterwards supplied by the discovery, that Mosely, who had now been dead about two years, had copied a great portion of it, and from his transcription the introductory parts were supplied. The daughter of Mosely and Mr. Hart, who were both living in the year 1790, agreed in a perfect recollection of the circumstances attending the discovery of this curious document, which consists of the following fourteen articles.
1. "In the name of God, the Father, Sonne, and Holy Ghost, the most holy and blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, the holy host of archangels, angels, patriarchs, prophets, evangelists, apostles, saints, martyrs, and all the celestial court and company of heaven: 1 John Shakspear, an unworthy member of the holy Catholic religion, being at this my present writing in perfect health of body, and sound mind, memory, and understanding, but calling to mind the uncertainty of life and certainty of death, and that I may be possibly cut off in the blossome of my sins, and called to render an account of all my transgressions externally, and internally, and that I may be unprepared for the dreadful trial cither by sacrament, pennance, fasting, or prayer, or any other purgation whatever, do in the holy presence above specified, of my own free and voluntary accord, make and ordaine this my last spiritual will, testament, confession, protestation, and confession of faith, hopinge hereby, to receive pardon for all my sinnes and offences, and thereby to be made partaker of life everlasting, through the only merits of Jesus Christ my saviour and redeemer, who took upon himself the likeness of man, suffered death, and was crucified upon the crosse, for the redemption of sinners.
2. "Item, 1 John Shakspear doe by this present protest, acknowledge, and confess, that in my past life I have been a most abominable and grievous sinner, and therefore unworthy to be forgiven without a true and sincere repentance for the same. But trusting in the manifold mercies. of my blessed Saviour and Redeemer, I am encouraged, by relying on his sacred word, to hope for salvation, and be made partaker of his heavenly kingdom, as a member of the celestial company of angels, saints, and martyrs, there to reside for ever and ever in the court of my God.
3. Item, I John Shakspear doe by this present protest and declare, that as I am certain I must passe out of this transitory life into another that will last to eternity, I do hereby most humbly implore and intreat my good and guardian angell to instruct me in this my solemn preparation, protestation, and confession of faith, at least spiritually, in will adoring and most humbly beseeching my Saviour, that he will be pleased to assist me in so dangerous a voyage,
Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii, p. 197, 193.
to defend me from the snares and deceites of my infernal enemies, and to conduct me to the secure haven of his eternal blisse.
4. "Item, 1 John Shakspear doe protest that I will also passe out of this life, armed with the last sacrament of extreme unction: the which if through any let or hindrance I should not then be able to have, I doe now also for that time demand and crave the same; beseeching his Divine Majesty that he will be pleased to anoynt my senses both internall and externall with the sacred oyle of his infinite mercy, and to pardon me alle my sins committed by seeing, speaking, feeling, smelling, hearing, touching, or by any other way whatsoever.
5. "Item, I John Shakspear doe by this present protest, that I will never through any temptation whatsoever despaire of the divine goodness, for the multitude and greatness of my sinnes; for which, although I confesse that I have deserved hell, yet will I steadfastly hope in God's infinite mercy, knowing that he hath heretofore pardoned many as great sinners as myself, whereof I have good warrant sealed with his sacred mouth, in holy writ, whereby he pronounceth that he is not come to call the just, but sinners.
6. "Item, I John Shakspear do protest, that I do not know that I have ever done any good worke meritorious of life everlasting: and if I have done any, 1 do acknowledge that I have done it with a great deale of negligence and imperfection; neither should I have been able to have done the least without the assistance of his divine grace. Wherefore let the devill remain confounded for 1 doe in no wise presume to merit heaven by such good workes alone, but through the merits and bloud of my Lord and Saviour Jesus, shed upon the cross for me most miserable sinner.
7. "Ilem, I John Shakspear do protest by this present writing, that I will patiently endure and suffer all kind of infirmity, sickness, yea, and the paine of death itself: wherein if it should happen, which God forbid, that through violence of paine and agony, or by subtilty of the devill, I should fall into any impatience or temptation of blasphemy, or murmuration against God, or the Catholic faith, or give any signe of bad example, I do henceforth, and for that present, repent me, and am most heartily sorry for the same and I do renounce all the evill whatsoever, which I might have then done or said; beseeching his divine clemency that he will not forsake me in that grievous and paignefull agony.
8, Item, I John Shakspear, by virtue of this present testament, I do pardon all the injuries and offences that any one hath ever done unto me, either in my reputation, life, goods, or any other way whatsoever; beseeching sweet Jesus to pardon them for the same; and I do desire that they will doe the like by me whome I have offended or injured in any sort howsoever.
9. "Item, 1 John Shakspear do here protest, that I do render infinite thanks to his Divine Majesty for all the benefits that I have received, as well secret as manifest, and in particular for the benefit of my creation, redemption, sanctification, conservation, and vocation to the holy knowledge of him and his true Catholic faith but above all for his so great expectation of me to pennance, when he might most justly have taken me out of this life, when I least thought of it, yea, even then, when I was plunged in the durty puddle of my sinnes. Blessed be therefore and praised, for ever and ever, his infinite patience and charity.
10. "Item, I John Shakspear do protest, that I am willing, yea, I do infinitely desire and humbly crave, that of this my last will and testament the glorious and ever Virgin Mary, mother of God, refuge and advocate of sinners (whom I honour specially above all saints), may be the chiefe executresse, togeather with these other saints, my patrons (Saint Winefride), all whome I invoke and beseech to be present at the hour of my death, that she and they comfort me with their desired presence, and crave of sweet Jesus that he will receive my soul into peace.
11. "Item, In virtue of this present writing, I John Shakspear do likewise most willingly and with all humility constitute and ordaine my good angell for defender and protector of my soul in the dreadfull day of judgment, when the finall sentence of eternall life or death shall be discussed and given: beseeching him that, as my soule was appointed to his custody and protection when I lived, even so he will vouchsafe to defend the same at that houre, and conduct it to eternall bliss.
12. "Item, 1 John Shakspear do in like manner pray and beseech all my dear friends, parents, and kinsfolks, by the bowells of our Saviour Jesus Christ, that since it is uncertain what lot will befall me, for fear notwithstanding least by reason of my sinnes I be to pass and stay a long while in purgatory, they will vouchafe to assist and succour me with their holy prayers and satisfactory workes, especially with the holy sacrifice of the masse, as being the most effectual means to deliver soules from their torments and paines; from the which, if I shall by God's gracious goodnesse, and by their vertuous workes, be delivered, I do promise that I will not be ungratefull unto them for so great a benefitt.
13. "Item, 1 John Shakspear doc by this my last will and testament bequeath my soul, as