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William Shakespeare, Esq.
BIOGRAPHICAL curiosity is a just and generous tribute to the memory of persons who have eminently distinguished themselves in life; nor is this curiosity merely a compliment to the objects commemorated; the possessor, who properly gratifies it, will find himself profited in one of the most important points of human knowledge; that is, the knowledge of ourselves: a point seldom attended to, though of the utmost moral and social consequence.
Pedigree is a circumstance too often ostentatiously and idly set forth. Prior's excellent Epitaph, wherein he stiles himself a son of ADAM and of Eve, most pointedly sets aside this chimerical importance: Mr. Foote, in his Author, gives a full and ludicrous idea of enthusiastic genealogists; where he makes Cadwallader say to young Cape :
Your family ---I don't believe you ever had a grandfather." b
Merit is by no means hereditary; and though it may be some credit to a man that his parents have made a respectable figure in life; yet if he essentially differs from them in conduct, of what consequence is it to society, that the root may be good, if the stem arising from it is of a useless and corrupt nature? From these short, but conclusive considerations, we are bold to say, the heralds's office is the office of folly, over the gate of which, as a crest, or a coat of arms, should be placed a cap and bells, suitably adorned.
Having thus far endeavoured to set aside family importance, we familiarly introduce WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, as the son of a woolstapler, born at Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, in the month of April 1564. The father had a large family-for ten children may well be deemed such; WILLIAM, though eldest, had little education, and was chiefly trained to his father's business. What knowledge of Latin he had was acquired at a free-school. It may not be improper here to observe, that though some respectable authors appear to lament his narrow progress in the dead languages; yet we are hardy enough to contend, that if he had been more classical, he would have been less striking; if more correct, less animated; and if more uniform, less replete. To compare him to the buckram of some more modern authors, who have learning without genius; is exactly like bringing the noble, natural, variegated glow of a stately wood; (perhaps somewhat incumbered with brush and brambles) in contrast with the finical foppery of yew trees and box, cut into ap