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can save us, whenever we rebel. Some day (let us cherish the hope) man will fulfil the high purposes of his existence, and ignorance, sin, disease, and misery, will be banished for ever from this beautiful world.
At the dissolution of the monasteries by Harry the Eighth, seven-eighths of the land of England had become the property of the popish church, principally extorted from the fears of ignorant sinners, to save their souls from the bottomless pit; and out of this large accumulation the poor were in some sort kept. The monasteries had become corrupt, and were suppressed; but the property they had amassed, instead of being applied to state purposes as it ought, was divided, like robbers' booty, amongst the great and powerful partisans of the king. The poor, now left without any legal support, became vagabonds and thieves ; and as neither reducing many to slavery, nor hanging others, could abate the evil, (for the cause was not removed) the people were saddled with their support. Accordingly we find that this year, Master John Shakspere is one on whom the new burden falls. “In a subscription for the relief of the poor in 1564," says Augustine Skottowe, “out of twenty-four persons, twelve gave more, six the same, and six less than John Shakspere : in a second subscription by fourteen persons, eight gave more, five the same, and one less." This is an interesting fact, as giving us some clue to the social position of Shakspere's father. Into the question of John Shakspere's ability to write his name I will not here enter, as Charles Knight has satisfactorily settled that point, by proving that the mark, which, as Malone says, "nearly resembles a capital A,” does not belong to “John Shacksper" at all, but to another member of the Stratford corporation named “George Whateley !"
Queen Elizabeth, who visited Cambridge this year, witnessed the play of “ Aulularia Plauto,' on Sunday, August 6th ; that piece being got up in the body of King's College church, at her expense. For Sunday was at first the great day for theatrical entertainments; a practice inherited from the old miracle-plays, which they had now in some measure displaced. After spending five days in Cambridge, during which time she inspected all the colleges, and was entertained with orations, disputations, and various dramatic exhibitions, the queen returned to London, sleeping on the night of August 18th, at Hinchingbrook, near Huntingdon, the seat of Sir Henry Cromwell, whom she greatly esteemed ; a gentleman called for his liberality “the Golden knight,” and to whom the future
protector of England, Oliver Cromwell, whom Milton styles “chief of men, was grandson.
In the political world, we find the infamous Lord Robert Dudley almost omnipotent. Elizabeth, who had but a year before proposed him as a husband to her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, now creates him Earl of Leicester; and grants him the castle and manor of Kenilworth, in Warwickshire, thirteen miles distant from the birth-place of Shakspere. The historian Hume tells us, that this great and powerful favourite of Elizabeth possessed all those exterior qualities which are naturally alluring to the fair sex; a handsome person, a polite address, an insinuating behaviour; and by means of these accomplishments he had been able to blind even the penetration of Elizabeth, and conceal from her the great defects, or rather odious vices, which attended his character. He was proud, insolent, interested, ambitious : without honour, without generosity, without humanity; and atoned not for these bad qualities by such abilities or courage as could fit him for that high trust and confidence with which she so highly honoured him. Her constant and declared attachment to him had naturally emboldened him to aspire to her bed; and in order to make way for these nuptials, he was universally believed to have murdered, in a barbarous manner, his wife, the heiress of one Robesart. The proposal of espousing Mary was by no means agreeable to him; and he always ascribed it to the contrivance of Cecil, his enemy; who, he thought, intended by that artifice to make him lose the friendship of Mary, by the temerity of his pretensions, and that of Elizabeth, from jealousy of his attachment to another woman. The queen herself had not any serious intention of effecting this marriage; but as she was desirous that the Queen of Scots should never have any husband, she named a man who, she believed, was not likely to be accepted of; and she hoped, by that means, to gain time, and to elude the project of any other alliance. The Earl of Leicester was too great a favourite to be parted with ; and when Mary, allured by the prospect of being declared successor to the crown, seemed at last to hearken to Elizabeth's proposal, this princess receded from her offers, and withdrew the bait which she had thrown out to her rival.”
In the religious world, all is unsettled. Thomas Sampson, one of the most learned and earnest puritans of that day, who had assisted to translate the Genevan Bible, and refused the bishopric of Norwich, when offered it on the accession of Elizabeth to the throne, is this year deprived
of the deanery of Christchurch, Oxford, and throwa into prison, for refusing to wear the clerical habits. In Scotland, the learned George Buchanan, having returned to his native country in 1561, after having been driven from country to country by priestly persecution, is this year presented with the temporalities of the abbey of Crossraguell, by Mary, Queen of Scots, whose studies he now directed; doubtless to the great horror of those holy fathers, the Franciscans, whose licentiousness he had lashed in one of his poems.-On the twenty-seventh of May, at Geneva, the gloomy and intolerant bigot, John Calvin, died in the fifty-fifth year of his age. Much as one may be able to extenuate his failings, when we remember that persecution was the order of the day, the cruel and cowardly murder of the more enlightened Servetus will ever be a deep blood-stain on the name of Calvin, which, like the “damned spot” on the hand of Lady Macbeth, has “the smell of the blood still : all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten” it. The Duke of Cleves sends George Cassander on a mission to convert the Anabaptists; and the Council of Trent, on the twenty-fourth of March, present Pope Pius the Fourth with a catalogue of books to be forbidden, and the literary despotism called “The Congregation of the Index," seems to have begun its unholy crusade, in a systematic manner. But these mental tyrants could not agree amongst themselves as to what works might be read and what might not, and even condemned the writings of each other. In one thing only did they seem unanimous—to crush the rising liberties of men, and bow their necks once more to the priestly yoke. Vain and futile thought !—as though the light that once illumines human minds can ever be totally extinguished !
This year is also claimed for the nativity of Thomas Nash, a brother dramatist and contemporary of Shakspere, a satirical poet, much dreaded by the puritans of his day. In the “Return from Parnassus," a play acted in 1606, by the students of St. John's College, Cambridge, Nash, who had then been dead some six years, is spoken of as “a fellow that carried the deadly stock in his pen, whose muse was armed with a jay tooth, and his pen possest with Hercules' furies.” Michael Drayton, another of his contemporaries, thus alludes to him :
" And surely Nash, though he a proser were,
A branch of laurel yet deserves to bear :
These words shall hardly be set down in ink
Nash waz a native of Lowestoft, in Suffolk, and educated at St. John's College, Cambridge ; nearly all the early English dramatists having had an university education, save William Shakspere, who, thank God ! had not. If he ha not been reared in a rural district, and associated with unsophisticated men, and women unruined by the seductions of a false refinement, William Shakspere might have had more "school-cram,” but he had never become the greatest of all our delineators of the human heart !
Andrew Vesalius, the great anatomist, who had given to the world his famous treatise “On the Structure of the Human Body,” nine years before, and whose lectures in various countries of Europe had procured for him a wide reputation, died this year, from the effects of hardship and hunger, at the Island of Zante, where he had been shipwrecked, on his return from a foolish pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
The year which enriched the world by the birth of a. Shakspere in England, is also famous for the nativity of the poor, persecuted philosopher, GALILEO GALILEI, who was the son of a Tuscan nobleman of small fortune, residing at Pisa. And what is the great mission of Galileo on this beautiful earth, where happiness is marred by blundering man? Verily, his Maker has given him work to do. The false notion of astronomy, which represented our globe as the immoveable centre of the universe, around which the sun, and moon, and all the planets of the heavens revolved, now generally known as the Ptolemæan system, rendered sacred to the superstitious as it was, by the traditions of many centuries, was now to be destroyed; and the great truth, that the sun was the fixed body, and the earth but one of the orbs revolving round it,-a truth for which Anaximander and Pythagoras had struggled in ancient Greece, and which the learned Nicolas Copernicus had re-discovered in that ever-memorable sixteenth century,—this truth was now to be fairly established. Truth is eternal, and is one day sure to triumph; but all error and evil contain the germs of their own destruction within themselves. Every great truth revealed to mankind has met with opposition, and its apostles have ever been subject to persecution. The ancient Jews,
stiffnecked people" as all Scripture records them to have been, were not the only people who “killed the prophets, and stoned them that were sent unto them.” Of how many peoples might the question of the martyred Stephen be asked, “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted ?”+ Poor slaves of Ignorance as we are, we Thrust away from us all instruction, unless it has been spoken by tongues that ages ago have been silenced in the tomb. We prefer the golden calves and mud idols of our own superstition to that philosophy which would teach us to
“ Look from nature up to nature's God."
What marvel, then, that the brave Galileo-brave despite of the momentary recantation wrung from the good old man by the horrid tortures of the accursed Inquisitionshould lead a life of suffering for the truth? But I shall have occasion to speak of Galileo anon, and will not linger here further than to remark, that whenever men commit those acts of tyranny which human nature feels to be beneath its noble dignity, they love to cloak it in the garb of religion. Religion is a holy and a spotless thing, despite the injustice that in all ages has been done in its sacred
“ He hath showed thee, O man, what is good," says Micah, the Morasthite; “ and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” I
John Buxtorf, a learned Calvinist, is this year born at Basil, and John Rothenhamer, a German painter, five of whose pieces the reader will find at Hampton Court, is born at Munich. David Rizzio, the musician, arrives at Holyrood, in the train of the ambassador from Savoy, and becomes the favourite of the unhappy Queen of Scots. – Coaches arc now introduced into England by William Booner, a Dutchman, who becomes coachman to Queen Elizabeth.
Such, at a rapid glance, is the chronology of our Shakspere's first year.
• Matthew, chap. xxiii., verse 37th, and Luke, chap. xiii., verse 34th
† Acts, chap. vii., verse 52nd. $ Micah, chap. vi., verse 8th,