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made a pilgrimage. All unsuspecting what he was whom she had borne and whom she cherished in her bosom, the mother of William Shakespeare could have looked on him only as the probable inheritor of his father's little wealth, the possible recipient of his father's little honors, or mayhap, in some moment of high hope, the occupant of a position like that of his
maternal grandfather. And had he become a peer instead of a player, the day of his birth might have been no less uncertain. Tradition says it was the 23d of April; and the old custom of christening on the third day after birth, though it was far from universal, if it did not give rumor a hint, gives tradition some support.
A court roll tells us that in 1552 John Shakespeare
lived in Henley Street, and another that he bought the copyhold of a house in that street in 1556 : tradition points out a house in Henley Street, which we know belonged to John Shakespeare, as the birthplace of his illustrious son, who himself became its owner; and the probability of the truth of this tradition amounts, to all intents and purposes, to certainty. Neglect, subdivision, and base uses had reduced this house at the beginning of the present century to a very forlorn and unsightly condition. But as late as 1769 it preserved enough of its original form to show that William Shakespeare was born and passed his childhood and his adolescent years in a home which was not only pretty and picturesque, but very comfortable and unusually commodious for a man in his father's station in the middle of the sixteenth century. For in the reign of Elizabeth domestic architecture was in its infancy. Something had been done for the household comfort of noblemen and gentlemen of large estates; but almost nothing for the homes of that large class, composed, in the words of Agar, of those who have neither poverty nor riches, but food convenient for them, and which now gives the architect his chief employment. Old abbeys, priories, and granges, recently sequestered, and newly-built halls, were taking the place of the cold, crumbling castles as dwellings for the rich ; and between these and the humble farm-house or village cot, often built, as the haughty Spaniard wrote in the reign of Elizabeth's
“ of sticks and dirt," there was no middle structure. People corresponding in position to those whose means and tastes would now insure them as much com. fort in their homes as a king has in his palace, and even simple elegance beside, then lived in houses which in their best estate would seem at the present day rude, cheerless, and confined, to any man not bred in
poverty. In 1847 the Shakespeare house passed into the hands of an association under whose care it has been renovated ; but unfortunately, like some of the Shakespeare poetry, not restored to a close resemblance to its first condition; though that was perhaps impossible. Whether it was in this house that John Shakespeare and his wife, with their only precious child, staid out the plague, which visited Stratford in
1564, or whether they fled to some uninfected place, we do not know. But families did not move freely in those days, or easily find house-room; and on the 30th of August in that year John Shakespeare, as the Stratford register tells, was at a hall or meeting, held in a garden, probably for fear of infection. On this occasion he gave twelve pence for the relief of poor sufferers. The highest sum given was
lings and four pence, the lowest, six pence; and there were but two burgesses who gave more than twelve pence. In September he gave six pence more, and in October eighteen pence. It may be assumed as quite certain, then, that the Shakespeares remained at Stratford during the plague, thus leaving William, like any other child, in peril of the pestilence. They passed through a period of fearful trial. The scourge made Stratford desolate. In six months one sixth of their neighbors were buried. But although around them there was hardly a house in which there was not one dead, there was a charm upon their threshold, and William Shakespeare lived.
In the next year the father was chosen one of the fourteen aldermen of the town; and in 1568 he was made high bailiff, which office he filled one year. He continued to prosper, and in 1570 he took under his cultivation yet other lands, a farm called Ington, at the then goodly rent of £8. The year 1571 saw him chief alderman ; and in 1575 he bought two freehold houses in Henley Street, with gardens and orchards. William Shakespeare, therefore, at ten years of age was the son of one of the most substantial and respected men of Stratford, who was one of its fourteen burgesses, and who had rapidly attained, step by step, the highest honors in the gift of his townsmen. He was styled Master Shakespeare - a designation the manly style of which we have belittled into Mister, voiding it at the same time of its honorable significance. As high bailiff and chief alderman he sat as justice of the peace, and thus even became worshipful.' There has been much dispute as to what was his occupation at this time; his glover's trade having been before abandoned. Rowe, on Betterton's authority, says that he was considerable dealer in wool.” John Aubrey the anti
quary, or rather quid-tunc, says that he was a butcher : in a deed dated 1579, and in another seventeen years later, he is called a yeoman; and his name appears in a list of the gentlemen and freeholders of Barlichway hundred in 1580. One of his fellow-aldermen, who was his predecessor in the office of bailiff, was a butcher; but with our knowledge of his landed possessions and his consequent agricultural occupation, we may be pretty sure that his nearest approach to that useful business was in having his own cattle killed on his own premises. Wool he might well have sold from the backs of his own flocks without being properly a wooldealer. But what was his distinctive occupation is a matter of very little consequence, except as it may have affected the early occupation of his son, and of not much, even in that regard. He was plainly in a condition of life which secured that son the means of a healthy physical and moral development, and which, if he had lived in New England a century or a century and a half later, would have made him regarded, if a well-mannered man, as fit company for the squire and the parson and the best people of the township, and emboldened him perhaps to aspire to a seat in the General Court of the Colony. But the first that we hear of John Shakespeare is, that in 1552 he and a certain Humphrey Reynolds and Adrian Quiney made a muck-heap in Henley Street, against the order of the Court; for which dirty piece of business they were punished by a fine, as they well deserved. Yet next year John Shakespeare and Adrian Quiney repeated the unsavory offence, and this time in company with the bailiff himself. It is plain that William Shakespeare's father was not singular in the uncleanliness of his habits in this respect. Stratford on Avon was a dirty village; yet not dirtier, perhaps, than most villages were three hundred years ago.
Out-door cleanliness and order are among the