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was a considerable dealer in wool, and had been an officer and bailiff

, was a considerable dealer in wool, and had been an officer and bailiff (probably high-bailiff or mayor) of the body corporate of Stratford. He held also the office of justice of the peace, and at one time, it is said, possessed lands and tenements to the amount of 500l. the reward of his grandfather’s faithful and approved services to king Henry VII. This, however, has been asserted upon very doubtful authority. Mr. Malone thinks ft it is highly probable that he distinguished himself in Bosworth field on the side of king Henry, and that he was rewarded for his military services by the bounty of that parsimonious prince, though not with a grant of lands. No such grant appears in the chapel of the Rolls, from the beginning to the end of Henry’s reign.“But whatever may have been his former wealth, it appears to have been” greatly reduced in the latter part of his life, as we find, from the books of the corporation, that in 1579 he was excused the trifling weekly tax of four-pence levied on all the aldermen; and that in 1586 another alderman was appointed in his room, in consequence of his declining to attend on the business of that office. It is even said by Aubrey, a man sufficiently accurate in facts, although credulous in superstitious narratives and traditions, that he followed for some time the occupation of a butcher, which Mr. Malone thinks not inconsistent with probability. It must have been, however, at this time, no inconsiderable addition to his difficulties that he had a family of ten children. His wife was the daughter and heiress of Robert Arden, of Wellingcote, in the county of Warwick, who is styled “a gentleman of worship.” The family of Arden is very ancient, Robert Arden of Bromich, esq. being in the list of the gentry of this county returned by the commissioners in the twelfth year of king Henry VI. A. D. 1433. Edward Arden was sheriff of the county in 1568. The woodland part of this county was anciently called Ardern, afterwards softened to Arden; and hence the name. Our illustrious poet was the eldest son, and received his early education, whether narrow or liberal, at a free school, probably that founded at Stratford; but from this he appears to have been soon removed, and placed, according to Mr. Malone’s opinion, in the office of some country attorney, or the seneschal of some manor court, where it is highly probable he picked up those technical law phrases that so frequently occur in his plays, and could not have been in common use unless among professional men. Mr. Capell conjectures that his early marriage prevented his being sent to some university. It appears, however, as Dr. Farmer observes, that his early life was incompatible with a course of education, and it is certain that “his contemporaries, friends and foes, nay, and himself likewise, agree in his want of what is usually termed literature.” It is, indeed, a strong argument in favour of Shakspeare’s illiterature, that it was maintained by all his contemporaries, many of whom have left upon record every merit they could bestow on him and by his successors, who lived nearest to his time, when “his memory was green” and that it has been denied only by Gildon, Sewell, and others down to Upton, who could have no means of ascertaining the truth.