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Birth of Shakspeare-Account of his Family-Orthography of his Name.
WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, the object almost of our idolatry as a dramatic poet, was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, on the 23d April, 1564, and he was baptized on the 26th of the same month.
Of his family, not much that is certain can be recorded; but it would appear, from an instrument in the College of Heralds, confirming the grant of a coat of arms to John Shakspeare in 1599, that his great grandfather had been rewarded by Henry the Seventh, "for his faithefull and approved service, with lands and tenements given to him in those parts of Warwickshire, where," proceeds this document," they have continued by some descents in good reputation and credit." Notwithstanding this assertion, however, no such grant, after a minute examination made by Mr. Malone in the chapel of the Rolls, has been discovered; whence we have reason to infer, that the heralds have been mistaken in their statement, and that the bounty of the monarch was directed through a different channel. From the language, indeed, of two rough draughts of a prior grant of arms to John Shakspeare in 1596, it is probable that the service alluded to was of a military cast, for it is there expressly said, that he was rewarded "for his faithful and valiant service," a term, perhaps, implying the heroism of our poet's ancestor in the field of Bosworth.
That the property, thus bestowed upon the family of Shakspeare, descended to John, the father of the poet, and contributed to his influence and respectability, there is no reason to doubt. From the register, indeed, and public writings relating to Stratford, Mr. Rowe has justly inferred, that the Shakspeares were of good figure and fashion there, and were considered as gentlemen. We may presume, however, that the patrimony of Mr. John Shakspeare, the parent of our great dramatist, was not very considerable, as he found the profits of business necessary to his support. He was, in fact, a wool-stapler, and, there is reason to suppose, in a large way; for he was early chosen a member of the corporation of his town, a situation usually connected with respectable circumstances, and soon after, he filled the office of high bailiff, or chief magistrate of that body. The record of these promotions has been thus given from the books of the corporation.