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riage was Hart, was residing there in 1639, and she probably continued to reside there till her death in 1646. The one house in which Mrs. Hart resided was doubtless the half of the building now forming the butcher's shop and the tenement adjoining ; for the other house was known as the Maidenhead Inn, in 1642. In another part of Shakspere's will he bequeaths, amongst the bulk of his property, to his eldest daughter, Susanna Hall, with remainder to her male issue, “two messuages or tenements, with the appurtenances, situate, lying, and being in Henley Street, within the borough of Stratford.” There are existing settlements of this very property in the family of Shakspere's eldest daughter and grand-daughter; and this grand-daughter, Elizabeth Nash, who was married a second time to Sir John Barnard, left both houses, namely, “the inn, called the Maidenhead, and the adjoining house and barn,”—to her kinsmen Thomas and George Hart, the grandsons of her grandfather's “sister Joan.” These persons left descendants, with whom this property remained until the beginning of the present century. But it was gradually diminished. The orchards and gardens were originally extensive : a century ago tenements had been built upon them, and they were alienated by the Hart then in possession. The Maidenhead Inn became the Swan Inn, and is now the Swan and Maidenhead. The White Lion, on the other side of the property, was extended, so as to include the remaining orchards and gardens. The house in which Mrs. Hart had lived so long became divided into two tenements; and at the end of the last century the lower part of one was a butcher's shop.
The engraving (page 21) exhibits John Shakspere's houses in Henley Street under three different aspects. No. 1 (the top) is from an original drawing made by Colonel Delamotte in 1788. The houses, it will be observed, then presented one uniform front; and there were dormer windows connected with rooms in the roof. We have a plan before us, accompanying Mr. Wheler's account of these premises, which shows that they occupied a frontage of thirty-one feet. No. 2 is from an original drawing made by Mr. Pyne, after a sketch by Mr. Edridge in 1807. We now see that the dormer windows are removed, as also the gable at the east end of the front. The house has been shorn of much of its external importance. No. 3 is from a lithograph engraving in Mr. Wheler's account, published in 1824. The premises, we now see, have been pretty equally divided. The Swan and Maidenhead half has had its windows modernized, and the continuation of the timber-frame has been obliterated by a brick casing. In 1807, we observe that the western half had been divided into two tenements ;-the fourth of the whole premises, that is the butcher's shop, the kitchen behind, and the two rooms over, being the portion commonly shown as Shakspere's House. Some years ago, upon a frontage in continuation of the tenement at the west, three small cottages were built. The whole of this portion of the property has been purchased for the nation, as well as the two tenements.
Was William Shakspere, then, born in the house in Henley Street which has been purchased by the nation? For ourselves, we frankly confess that the want of absolute certainty that Shakspere was there born, produces a state of mind that is something higher and pleasanter than the conviction that depends upon positive evidence. We are content to follow the popular faith undoubtingly. The traditionary belief is sanctified by long usage and universal acceptation. The merely curious look in reverent silence upon that mean room, with its massive joists and plastered walls, firm with ribs of oak, where they are told the poet of the human race was born. Eyes now closed on the world, but who have left that behind which the world “will not willingly let die,” have glistened under this humble roof, and there have been thoughts unutterable—solemn, confiding, grateful, humble-clustering round their hearts in that hour. The autographs of Byron and Scott are amongst
hundreds of perishable inscriptions. Disturb not the belief that William Shakspere first saw the light in this venerated room.
“The victor Time has stood on Avon's side
To doom the fall of many a home of pride;
Prologue for the Shakspere Night, Dec. 7, 1847, by C. Knight.
The poet in his well-known “Seven Ages” has necessarily presented to us only the great boundary-marks of a human life : the progress from one stage to another he has left to be imagined :
“At first the infant Muling and puking in the nurse's arms.” Perhaps the most influential, though the least observed part of man's existence, that in which he learns most of good or of evil, lies in the progress between this first act and the second:
“And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel,
Unwillingly to school. Between the “nurse's arms” and the “school" there is an important interval, filled up by a mother's education.
There is a passage in one of Shakspere's Sonnets, the 89th, which has induced a belief that he had the misfortune of a physical defect, which would render him peculiarly the object of maternal solicitude:
"Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault,
And I will comment upon that offence:
Against thy reasons making no defence.”
“As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth.” These lines have been interpreted to mean that William Shakspere was literally lame, and that his lameness was such as to limit him, when he became an actor, to the representation of the parts of old men. Mr. Harness has truly observed that “many an infirmity of the kind may be skilfully concealed, or only become visible in the moments of hurried movement ;” and he adds, “either Sir Walter Scott or Lord Byron might, without any impropriety, have written the verses in question.” We should have no doubt whatever that the verses we have quoted may be most fitly received in a metaphorical sense, were there not some subsequent lines in the 37th Sonnet which really appear to have a literal meaning ; and thus to render the previous lame and lameness expressive of something more than the general self-abasement which they would otherwise appear to imply. In the following lines lame means something distinct from poor and despised :
“For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give." Of one thing, however, we may be quite sure— that, if Shakspere were lame, his infirmity was not such as to disqualify him for active bodily exertion. The same series of verses that have suggested this belief that he was lame also show that he was a horsernan.* His entire works exhibit that familiarity with external nature, with rural occupations, with athletic sports, which is incompatible with an inactive boyhood. It is not impossible that some natural defect, or some accidental injury, may have modified the energy of such a child; and have cherished in him that love of books, and traditionary lore, and silent contemplation, without which his intellect could not have been nourished into its wondrous strength. But we cannot imagine William Shakspere a petted child, chained to home, not breathing the free air upon his native hills, denied the boy's privilege to explore every nook of his own river. We would imagine him communing from the first with Nature, as Gray has painted him
“The dauntless child Stretch'd forth his little arms and smild." The only qualifications necessary for the admission of a boy into the Free Grammar School of Stratford were, that he should be a resident in the town, of seven years of age, and able to read. The Grammar School was essentially connected with the Corporation of Stratford ; and it is impossible to imagine that, when the son of John Shakspere became qualified by age for admission to a school where the best education of the time was given, literally for nothing, his father, in that year, being chief alder
* See Sonnets 50 and 51.
man, should not have sent him to the school. We assume, without any hesitation, that William Shakspere did receive in every just sense of the word the education of a scholar ; and as such education was to be had at his own door, we also assume that he was brought up at the Free Grammar School of his own town. His earlier instruction would therefore be a preparation for this school.
In the first year of Edward VI. was published by authority “The ABC, with the Pater-noster, Ave, Crede, and Ten Commandementtes in Englysshe, newly translated and set forth at the kynges most gracious commandement.” But the ABC soon became more immediately connected with systematic instruction in religious belief. The alphabet and a few short lessons were followed by the catechism, so that the book containing the catechism came to be called an ABC book, or Absey-book. Towards the end of Edward's reign was put forth by authority “A Short Cate chisme, or playne instruction, conteynynge the sûme of christian learninge," which all schoolmasters were called upon to teach after the “little catechism” previously set forth. Such books were undoubtedly suppressed in the reign of Mary, but upon the accession of Elizabeth they were again circulated. A question then arises, Did William Shakspere receive his elementary instruction in Christianity from the books sanctioned by the Reformed Church ? It has been maintained that his father be longed to the Roman Catholic persuasion. This belief rests upon the following foundation. In the year 1770, Thomas Hart, who then inhabited one of the tene ments in Henley Street which had been bequeathed to his family by William Shakspere's grand-daughter, employed a bricklayer to new tile the house ; and this bricklayer, by name Mosely, found hidden between the rafters and the tiling a manuscript consisting of six leaves stitched together, which he gave to Mr. Peyton, an alderman of Stratford, who sent it to Mr. Malone, through the Rev. Mr. Devonport, vicar of Stratford. This paper, which was first published by Malone in 1790, is printed also in Reed's Shakspeare and in Drake's “Shakspeare and his Times." It consists of fourteen articles, purporting to be a confession of faith of “ John Shakspear, an unworthy member of the holy Catholic religion.” We have no hesitation whatever in believing this document to be altogether a fabrication. Chalmers says, “It was the performance of a clerk, the undoubted work of the family priest."* Malone, when he first published the paper in his edition of Shakspeare, said—“I have taken some pains to ascertain the authenticity of this manuscript, and, after a very careful inquiry, am perfectly satisfied that it is genuine." In 1796, however, in his work on the Ireland forgeries, he asserts “I have since obtained documents that clearly prove it could not have been the composition of any one of our poet's family." We not only do not believe that it was “the composition of any one of our poet's family," nor “the undoubted work of the family priest," but we do not believe that it is the work of a Roman Catholic at all. It professes to be the writer's “last spiritual will, testament, confession, protestation, and confession of faith." Now, if the writer had been a Roman Catholic, or if it had been drawn up for his approval and signature by his priest, it would necessarily, professing such fulness and completeness, have contained something of belief touching the then material points of spiritual difference between the Roman and the Reformed Church. Nothing, however, can be more vague than all this todious protestation and confession ; with the exception that phrases, and indeed long passages, are introduced for the purpose of marking the supposed writer's opinions in the way that should be most offensive to those of a contrary opinion, as if by way of bravado or seeking of persecution. In this his last confession, spiritual will, and testament, he calls upon all his kinsfolks to assist and succour him after his death with the holy sacrifice of the mass," with a promise that he “will not be ungrateful unto them for so great a benefit,"
* “ Apology for the Believers,” page 199.