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Shakespeare's House, The Mirror, Saturday, January 11, 1823.

Shakespeare's House, Stratford-Upon-Avon

We are sure that there is not one of our readers but will thank us for this week's engraving, which is a correct view of the House in which the immortal Shakespeare was born, at Stratford-upon-Avon. If ever there was a man born for immortality, it was William Shakespeare. He was, indeed, 'not for an age, but for all time. The author of thirty-six plays, of which not fewer than twenty-two are still favourites with the age; his dramas, after a lapse of two centuries, are still witnessed with unabated ardour by the people, and are still read with animation by the scholar. They interest the old and the young, the gallery and the pit, the people and the critic. At their representation the appetite is never palled—expectation never disappointed. The changes of fashion have not cast him into the shade; the variations of language have not rendered him obsolete.

'Each change of many-colour'd life he drew,
Exhausted worlds and then imagin'd new;
Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign,
And panting time toil'd after him in vain;
His powerful strokes presiding truth impress'd,
And unresisted passion storm'd the breast.'

Such was the individual whose birthplace the above engraving represents. William Shakespeare was born April 20, 1564, at Stratford-on Avon, in Warwickshire, a small town about 90 miles distant from London; which, according- to the census of the population in 1821, contained 590 houses and 3069 inhabitants. This town having lost its woollen trade, for which it was eminent in the time of Shakespeare, and having no manufactory, would be one of the most beggarly in the kingdom, but for the renown of Shakespeare, and the numerous visitors drawn to the place, to view the house of his nativity and his tomb.

The house in which Shakespeare was born is now divided into two; the northern half of which was, a few years ago, when our drawing was made, a butcher's shop. The window over it belongs to the room in which Shakespeare was born, and which is designated by his initial S. The southern half of the house is now a respectable public-house, bearing the sign of the Swan and Maidenhead; and where many a bumper has been drank with sincere devotion to the memory of its immortal occupant. The father of Shakespeare was a respectable dealer in wool, and a member of the corporation; but it is said that he was unfortunate in business, and afterwards became a butcher.

After the death of Shakespeare's grand-daughter, Lady Barnard, his houses at Stratford-on-Avon reverted to the descendants of Shakespeare's sister Joan, as heirs at law, and continued in their possession during several generations. About twenty-five years ago, Mrs. Harte, one of those descendants, sold them to the occupier of the Swan, and Maidenhead, for 230l.; they having been previously so deeply mortgaged, that Mrs. Harte had only 30l.. to receive.

The house and room in which Shakespeare was born, now occupied by Mrs. Hornby, are visited annually by upwards of a thousand respectable persons, who come to pay their devotions at the shrine of their favourite bard. A few years since, the conductors of the public library at Stratford confided to Mrs. Hornby a blank folio, for the purpose of receiving the signatures of visitors; and it has already received those of British and Foreign Princes, the Duke of Wellington, nearly the whole of the British Peerage, and a variety of persons distinguished by their rank and talents. Some of these signatures are accompanied by original verses, suggested by the scene, and possessing, as may be supposed, various degrees of merit. Most of them, however, are well described in the following lines, which some person has inscribed among the rest:—

'Ah, Shakespeare, when we read the votive scrawls
With which well-meaning folks deface these walls;
And while we seek in vain some lucky hit.
Amidst the lines whose nonsense nonsense smothers,
We find, unlike thy Falstaff in his wit, Thou art not here the cause of wit in others.'

The following is one of the best o these inscriptions:—

'Here gentle Shakespeare, Nature's sweetest child,
First warbled forth his native wood-notes wild;
Beneath this humble roof he first drew breath,
Inclosed within this space he lies in death.
A pleasing fancy still attaches to the place,
A sacred awe—a reverential grace;
A pleasing consciousness, a fond desire, That almost listens to the poet's lyre,
With searching eye looks round, in hope to find
Some sacred relic of the poet's mind.
Vainly it strives the vision to prolong,
Mute is the eye, and silent Shakespeare's tongue.
A barren list of names supply this place,
The sad memorial of their own disgrace,
That only strike the stranger's eye to note
What fools have lived, and greater fools have wrote.
These the sad relics by these walls plied,
Deserted by the muse, where her sweet shakespeare died.

Among the inscriptions on Shakespeare's tomb, there is one which purports to have been written by Sir Wm. Curtis; but on inquiry we find that it was written by a waggish visitor about four years ago, who wished to have a joke on the worthy Baronet; at which we understand the good-natured Alderman laughs heartily. It is as follows:

'Though Shakespeare's bones in this here place do lie,
Yet that there fame of his shall never die.'

The life of Shakespeare is too well known for us to enter into a detailed biography of him. He was educated at the free-school of Stratford, and, after making some progress in Latin, he was called home to assist his father in the business. Before he was nineteen years of age, he married Anne Hathawaye, the daughter of a respectable yeoman of the neighbourhood. It is said, that having broken into the park of Sir Thomas Lucy, for the purpose of taking deer, he was obliged to quit Stratford. The killing of deer was not, however, then considered either disgraceful or criminal. Shakespeare was, however, driven from his native spot by the severity of Sir Thomas Lucy, whom he exasperated by writing a satirical ballad, of which tradition has only preserved the first stanza, as follows:

'A Parliaments Member, a Justice of Peace,
At home a poor scare-crow, at London an asse.
If lowsie is Lucy, as Some volke mis-cal it,
Then Lucy is lowsie whatever befall it;
He thinks himself greate,
Yet an asse in his state,
We allow by his ears with asses to mate,
If Lucy is lowsie, as some volke mis-cal it,
Sing lowsie Lucy whatever befal it.'

No matter, however, what cause drove Shakespeare from Stratford, it is sufficient that he came to London, where his fame soon placed him beyond the reach of Sir Thomas Lucy's benevolence. Though he was for some time an actor, yet it is as a dramatic poet that he is only to be considered; and as such he has never been equalled by any age or country.

Shakespeare having acquired a moderate fortune, returned to Stratford-on-Avon, his birth-place, where he lived until his birth-day, the 23d of April 1616, when he paid the great debt of nature, in the 53d year of his age. He was interred among his ancestors, in the church at Stratford-on-Avon, where his monument still remains. He is represented in a sitting posture; and there are two inscriptions, one in Latin and the other in English, On the grave-stone beneath are three doggrel lines, in an orthography equally barbarous:

'Good Frend for Jesus Sake forbeare
To digg the dust enclosed here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones,'

We shall conclude our notice of Shakespeare's House, by a correct fac-simile of the hand-writing, and an engraving of the seal, of the immortal bard, copied from his will, which is dated the 25th of March, 1616.

William Shakespeares Autograph

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