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There is ample proof that at this period John Shakespeare's affairs were in a thriving condition. The action brought against him by Siche, in June, 1556, seems to have been without any good ground. Mr. Collier indeed says "the issue of the suit is not known;" but Halliwell prints a large number of entries respecting him from the registry of the Court of Record, one of which shows that in August, 1556, the suit issued altogether in his favour, the plaintiff not even appearing in Court. As for his being termed a glover in 1556, this need not infer any thing more than that such was his original branch of business at Stratford, or perhaps at that time his leading branch. And on the 19th of November, in the same year, he is found bringing an action against Henry Field for unjustly detaining eighteen quarters
shalbe apwntyd and admytted by the hy bely, constabull, and other thoffeceres and the xii. men, in peyne of every offendor forfet and losse for every offence xx. s., and ther bodyes to remayne in the open stokes iii. day and iii. nyghtes; and that no housholdar receve eny straunger, nor to lodge eny by nyght, without a specyall lycence of the hye bely, in like peyne.
"Item, that no jurneyman prentes, nor eny maner servaunt, be forthe of ther or his master hous by the nyght after the our of nyne by the clok, in peyne of iii. days and iii. nyghtes ponyshe. ment in the open stokes, and to forfet and pay xx. s.; and that no mane receve eny suche person so offendynge, in lyke peyne.
"Item, that every tenaunt in Chapell lane or Ded lane do scour and kep cleane ther gutters or dyches in the same lane befor thassencyon day, and so from thensfurthe from tyme to tyme to kepe the same, in peyn of every offendor to forfet for every deffalt iii. s. iiii. d.; and that every tenaunt do ryd the soyelles in the stretes of logges and blokes ther lyenge and beynge to the noysaunce of the kynges leage people, by the same day, in lyke peyne.
"Item, that the hye bely that now ys four tymez in the yere do ryd and make cleane his mukhyll, and the same honestly be kept, in peyn of xx. s.; and that no other mukhylles be mayntayned, kept, nor made within the towne, but only thos that be apwntyd, in lyke peyne."
9 The entry reads as follows: "Aug. 12, 3 & 4 Phil. et Mar. Ad hanc curiam venit Johannes Shakyspere per Thomam Marten consil. ad barr., et petit judicium versus Thomam Siche, quia non protulit actionem quæ habuit versus prædictum Johannem Shaky. spere, et habet judicium cum expensis."
of barley. 1o From which it seems not unlikely that he may nave been at that time engaged more or less in agricultura. pursuits. It appears that at a later period agriculture was his main pursuit, if not his only one; for the records of the corporation show that in 1564 he was paid three shillings for a piece of timber; and we find him described in 1573 as a "yeoman." This may be as good a place as any for noticing the tradition given by Rowe, of his having been "a considerable dealer in wool." It is nowise improbable that such may have been the case. The modern divisions of labour and trade were then little known, and less regarded several kinds of business were often carried on together, which are now kept quite distinct, and we have special proof that gloves and wool were apt to be united as articles of trade."
We have further proof of John Shakespeare's thrift at the period now in question. On the 2d of October, 1556, the same year in which we find him spoken of as a glover, he became the owner of two copy-hold estates in Stratford, which were alienated to him by George Turnor and Edward West. One of these was on Greenhill-street, consisting of a house with a garden and croft attached to it; the other on Henley-street, consisting of a house and garden. For each he was to pay the lord of the manor a yearly rent of six pence. 12 As we have found him in Henley-street in 1552, it
1C This item occurs in the registry quoted from in the preceding note: "Nov. 19, 3 & 4 Phil. et Mar. Johannes Shakyspere queritur versus Henr. Fyld in placito quod reddat ei xviii. quarteria or le quæ ei injuste detinet."
11 The trwe inventory of the goodes of Joyce Hobday, late of Stratford upon Avon, in the county of Warwycke, wydowe, deceassed, taken the 3 day of Apriell, 1602," has the following: "Inp. George Shacleton oweth me for wol. xxiiii. s."-"Item, Mr. Guttredge oweth me for calves lether iiii. s. viii. d.". John Edwards of Allveston alias Allston oweth me for two pere of gloves viii.d."
12 The original borough-records show the following under the date given in the text:
is not unlikely that he may have then rented and occupied one of the houses which he now purchased. Probably enough, also, this may be the same house in which tradition makes the Poet to have been born. As both the estates in question were estates of inheritance, the tenure was nearly equal to freehold; so that he must have been pretty well to do in the world at the time. For several years after, his circumstances continued to improve. Before 1558, he had become the owner, by marriage, of a farm at Wilmecote called Ashbyes, consisting of fifty-six acres, besides two houses and two gardens: moreover, he held, in right of his wife, a considerable share in a property at Snitterfield.
His thrift is further shown in that, before the close of 1570, he is found holding under William Clopton, at a yearly rent of £8, a farm of about fourteen acres, called Ingon meadow, situate within two miles of Stratford. At what time he first rented it, does not appear, the instrument proving his tenancy being dated June 11th, 1581, and only stating that on the 11th of December, 1570, the place was in his occupation. 13 We learn, however, from an indenture made on the 30th of May, 1568, that he was not then holding the property. Eight pounds being a very large rent for only so much land, Malone conjectured that there may have been "a good dwelling-house and orchard" upon the place;
"Item, præsentant quod Georgius Turnor alienavit Johanni Shakespere et hæredibus suis unum tenementum cum gardin et croft, cum pertinentiis, in Grenehyll stret, tent. de domino libere per cartam pro redd. inde domino per annum vi.d. et sect. cur. et idem Johannes prædictus in curia fecit domino fidelitatem pro eisdem.
"Item, quod Edwardus West alienavit prædicto Johanni Shakespere unum tenementum cum gardin adjacente, in Henley strete, pro redd. inde domino per annum vi. d. et sect. cur. et idem Johannes prædictus in curia fecit fidelitatem."
13 The following are the words of the instrument: "And also one other meadowe, with thappurtenaunces, called or knowen by the name of Ingon alias Ington meadowe, conteynynge by estimacion fouretene acres, be it more or lesse, then or late in the tenure or occupacion of John Shaxpere or his assignes."
and Knight seems quite confident that John Shakespeare must have used it as a place of residence. This latter, to say the least, is rather unlikely; for in September, 1568, he became high bailiff of Stratford, which office he held a year and in September, 1571, he was made chief alderman; besides, as Collier observes, he had a child baptized at the parish-church of Stratford on the 28th of September, 1571; all which makes against the notion of his having then resided at the place in question.
Another large addition to his property was made in 1575. This was a freehold estate on Henley-street, bought of Edmund and Emma Hall for the sum of £40, and described, in a fine levied on the occasion, and dated September 29th, 1575, as consisting of "two houses, two gardens, and two orchards, with their appurtenances." One of these houses is supposed to have been his residence from that time, and the home of the Poet's youth. Probably the two houses purchased nearly nine years before were still owned by him, nothing having been found to show that he had ever parted with them.
Several other particulars have been discovered, which go to ascertain the wealth of John Shakespeare as compared with that of other citizens of Stratford. In 1564, the year of the Poet's birth, a malignant fever, called the plague, invaded Stratford. Its hungriest period was from June 30th to December 31st, during which time it swept off 238 per sons, out of a population of about 1400. None of John Shakespeare's family are found among its victims; and Mr. Collier thinks they may have escaped its ravages by withdrawing for the season to Snitterfield, which seems to have been comparatively untouched by the destroyer. We have seen that at this time he held property there in right of his wife, and that his father formerly lived there as tenant of Robert Arden. Large draughts were made upon the charities of Stratford, on account of this frightful visitation. On the 30th of August, a meeting of the citizens was held
in the open air, from fear of infection, and divers sums contributed for the relief of the poor.14 The high bailiff gave 3s. 4d., and the head alderman 2s. 8d. John Shakespeare, being then only a burgess, gave 12d.; and in the list of burgesses there are but two who gave more. Again, on the 6th of September, he and four others gave 6d. each, the bailiff and six aldermen giving each 12d. On the 27th, another contribution was made, he giving 6d., and others nearly the same as before. Finally, on the 20th of October, he appears as the donor of 18d. In the accounts of the borough, also, for the same year, we find the corporation in debt to him for the sum of £1 5s. 8d.; 15 and a similar account for 1665, shows the sum of £3 2s. 7d. paid him in discharge of an "old debt," and also a further debt of 7s. 4d., "to be paid unto him by the next chamberlains." All which may be taken as proving him to have gained a place among the more substantial citizens of the town.
We have already spoken of John Shakespeare as holding important offices in the corporation of Stratford. This seems a proper place for tracing his career in that respect. His name is first found in connection with the public affairs of the borough on the 30th of April, 1557, when he was marked as one of twelve jurymen of a court-leet; and he was on a similar jury, September 30th, 1558; which shows
14 Noted in the Stratford records thus: "At the hall holldyn in oure garden, the 30. daye of Auguste anno 1564, moneye paid towardes the releef of the poure." Then follows a list of 26 names of contributors.
15 As some of the minutes in this account are very curious, it may be well to give a part of it: "Thaccompt of John Tayler and John Shakspeyr, chamburlens, made the x.th day of January in the syxte yere of our sovreigne lady Elyzabethe, &c.
" Item, payd to Shakspeyr for a pec tymbur "Item, payd the scollmaster
"Item, payd for defasying ymage in the chappell
Item, payd to Alen for teching the chylder
"Item, at a hall holdon the xxvi. day of January anno prædicto, the chambur ys found in arrerage and ys in det unto John Shak spevre
xxv. s. viii. d.
iii.s. xvi. li. ii. s.