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died in 1673, at the age of eighty-five. To him may be added, 1. Dr. Jasper Mayne; 2. Penelope Lady Spencer ; 3. John, the second Lord Stanhope ; 4. Sir Aston Cockaine; 5. William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle; and, 6. Frances Countess of Dorset; who all died between the time of the Restoration and the year 1695; and Sir Robert Atkins, Sir Richard Verney, and Sir William Bishop, whose lives were extended to the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Jasper Mayne, who had written two papers of verses on our author, in 1623, lived till 1671.
Penelope Lady Spencer, who died in 1667, sixtynine years old, probably had heard, in her youth, some particulars concerning Shakspeare, from her father, his great patron.
Not only the age of John, the second Lord Stanhope, but the papers which he must have derived from his father, the first Lord, must have furnished him with many curious particulars respecting the plays of Shakspeare and his contemporaries. Sir John Stanhope, the first Lord Stanhope, was appointed, in 1595, Treasurer of the Chambers, through whose hand passed all money disbursed for plays exhibited at Court; and continued possessed of this office till March, 1620-21, when he died. His son, the second Lord, was born in 1595; was made a Knight of the Bath in 1610; and lived to the age of eighty-three, dying in 1677.
How conversant Sir Aston Cockaine was with the history of our poets, particularly the dramatick poets, his own works abundantly prove. He was born in 1606, and died in 1684, in the seventy-eighth year of his age.
William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, himself a dramatick poet, and a patron of Ben Jonson, in the latter days of that writer, could hardly have failed to have heard much of Shakspeare, in his youth. He was born in 1592, made a Knight of the Bath in 1610, and died on Christmas-day, 1676, at the age of eighty-four. At the time of Shakspeare's death, he was twenty-four years old,
Frances, the wife of Richard, the fifth Earl of Dorset, and mother of Charles Earl of Dorset, the patron of Dryden, was, according to tradition, extremely intimate with Sir John Suckling, a professed admirer of our poet. This lady, who was born in 1619 or 1620, and married in 1637, lived till 1693.
Some account of Shakspeare's domestick habits and private life, it may be presumed, might have been obtained from Sir William Bishop, of Bridgetown, adjoining Stratford upon Avon, who was born in 1626, and died there in 1700. His father, Sir Richard Bishop, who might have been personally acquainted with the poet, was born in 1585, and died at Bridgetown, in 1673, at the age of eighty-eight.
Sir Robert Atkins, Knight of the Bath, and Chief Baron of the Exchequer, died in 1709, at the great age of eighty-eight. Being fond of antiquarian researches, he, doubtless, was not inattentive to the history of our early poets; and being himself born in
1621, five years only after Shakspeare's death, had an opportunity of learning many particulars concerning him, from his father, who was born in 1588, and died in 1669, at the age of eighty-two.
To these numerous sources of information may be added one more, whence even Mr. Rowe himself might probably have obtained much information, in 1708, when he was collecting materials for his Life of Shakspeare; I mean Sir Richard Verney, of Compton Murdock, about eight miles from Stratford, the first Lord Willoughby de Broke. He was born in January, 1621-2, and survived the publication of Mr. Rowe's edition of Shakspeare, dying at the great age of ninety, July 18, 1711. He is described by Wright, in his History of Rutlandshire, as “ a true lover of antiquities, and a worthy Mæcenas; ” and without doubt had, in his early days, made some inquiries concerning his illustrious countryman, from his father, who was born in 1588, and died in 1642, when Sir Richard was twenty years old. His grandfather, Sir Richard Verney, who was born in 1563, and died in 1630, often sat in commission, as a Justice of Peace, at Stratford, before Shakspeare removed to London. He married a daughter of Sir Fulke Greville, the elder, who was many years Recorder of Stratford ; and his mother was Jane, one of the sisters of Sir Thomas Lucy, Shakspeare's supposed prosecutor. · That almost a century should have elapsed, from the time of his death, without a single attempt having been made to discover any circumstance which
could throw a light on the history of his private life, or literary career ; that, when the attempt was made, it should have been so imperfectly executed by the very ingenious and elegant dramatist who undertook the task; and that for a period of eighty years ? afterwards, during which this “god of our idolatry ” ranked as high among us as any poet ever did in any country, all the editors of his works, and each successive English biographer, should have been contented with Mr. Rowe's meagre and imperfect narrative; are circumstances which cannot be contemplated without astonishment
The information which I have been able to collect. on this subject, even at this late day, however inadequate to my wishes, having far exceeded my most sanguine expectation, the perusal of the following pages, while it will ascertain the numerous errors and inaccuracies which have been so long and so patiently endured, and transmitted from book to book, will, I trust, at the same time, show, in some small degree, what may be done in biographical researches, even at a remote period, by a diligent and ardent spirit of inquiry: it must, however, necessarily be accompanied with a deep, though unavailing regret, that the same ardour did not animate those who lived nearer our author's time, whose inquiries could not fail to have been rewarded with a superior degree of success. The negligence and inattention of our English writers, after the Restoration, to the history of the celebrated men who preceded them, can never be mentioned
? In 1790, the present writer endeavoured, in some degree, to supply the defects of Mr. Rowe's short narrative, by adding to it copious annotations.
without surprise and indignation. If Suetonius and Plutarch had been equally incurious, some of the most valuable remains of the ancient world would have been lost to posterity.
WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE was the son of John Shakspeare, by Mary, the youngest daughter of Robert Arden", of Wilmecote 4, in the county of Warwick, Esquire, and Agnes Webb, his wife 5.
3 This family is of great antiquity in the courty of Warwick. The woodland part of that county was anciently called Arderne, whence they derived their name. “ I learned at Warwike (says Leland), that the most part of the shire of Warwike that lyeth as Avon river descendeth, on the right hand or ripe of it, is in Arden (for soe is [the] ancient name of that part of the shire); and the ground in Arden is much enclosed, plentifull of grasse, but not of corne. The other parte of Warwikeshire that lyeth on the left hand or ripe of Avon river, much to the south, is for the most part champion, somewhat barren of wood, but plentifull of corne.” Itin, vol. iv. p. 2, fol. 166, a. So also Camden : “ Woodland trans Avonem ad septentriones expanditur spatio multo majori, tota nemoribus infessa, nec tamen sine pascuis, arvis, et variis ferri venis. Hæc, ut hodie Woodland, id est, regio sylvestris, ita etiam Ardern antiquiori nomine olim dicebatur, verum eadem plane, ut existimo, significatione. Ardern enim priscis Britannis et Gallis sylvam significasse videtur, cum in Gallia sylvam maximam Ardern, oppidum in Flandria juxta alteram sylvam Ardenburg, et celebratam illam Angliæ sylvam truncato vocabulo Den nominari videamus. Ex hâc Turkillus de Ardern, qui hic floruit magno honore sub Henrico primo [A. D. 1100], nomen assumpsit, et propago ejus admodum clara longe per Angliam succedentibus annis est diffusa.” Britan, p. 501, edit. 1600.
The original name, Arderne, was in process of time softened into Arden, anterior, as it should seem, to the forest of Den being