SHAKESPEARE LAW LIBRARY
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 WHEN my old and valued friend, Mr. Payne Collier, received the following Letter, which I wrote with a view to assist him in his Shakespearian lucubrations, he forthwith, in terms which I should like to copy if they were not so complimentary, strongly recommended me to print and publish it in my own name—intimating that I might thus have "the glory of placing a stone on the lofty CAIRN of our immortal bard." If he had said a "pebble," the word would have been more appropriate. But the hope of making any addition, even if infinitesimally small, to this great national monument, is enough to induce me to follow my friend’s advice, although I am aware that by the attempt I shall be exposed to some peril. In  pointing out Shakespeare’s frequent use of law-phrases, and the strict propriety with which he always applies them, the CHIEF JUSTICE may be likened to the COBBLER, who, when shown the masterpiece of a great painter, representing the Pope surrounded by an interesting historical group, could not be prevailed upon to notice any beauty in the painting, except the skilful structure of a slipper worn by his Holiness.
Nevertheless I may meet with kinder critics, and some may think it right to countenance any effort to bring about a "fusion of Law and Literature," which, like "Law and Equity," have too long been kept apart in England. STRATHEDEN HOUSE, Jan. 1, 1859.
SHAKESPEARE’S LEGAL ACQUIREMENTS
 To J. Payne Collier, Esq.,
Riverside, Maidenhead, Berks.
HARTRIGGE, JEDBURGH, N. B.
September 15th, 1858.
MY DEAR MR. PAYNE COLLIER,
Knowing that I take great delight in Shakespeare’s plays, and that I have paid some attention to the common law of this realm, and recollecting that both in my Lives of the Chancellors, and in my Lives of the Chief Justices, I have glanced at the subject of Shakespeare’s legal acquirements, you demand rather peremptorily my opinion upon the question keenly agitated of late years, whether Shakespeare was a clerk in an attorney’s  office at Stratford before he joined the players in London?
From your indefatigable researches and your critical acumen, which have thrown so much new light upon the career of our unrivalled dramatist, I say, with entire sincerity, that there is no one so well qualified as yourself to speak authoritatively in this controversy, and I observe that in both the editions of your Life of Shakespeare you are strongly inclined to the belief that the author of Hamlet was employed some years in engrossing deeds, serving writs, and making out bills of costs.
However, as you seem to consider it still an open question, and as I have a little leisure during this long vacation, I cannot refuse to communicate to you my sentiments upon the subject, and I shall be happy if, from my professional knowledge and experience, I can afford you any information or throw out any hints which may be useful to you hereafter. I myself, at any rate, must derive some benefit from the task, as it will for a while drive from my mind the recollection of the wranglings  of Westminster Hall. In literary pursuits should I have wished ever to be engaged:
"Me si fata meis paterentur ducere vitam
Anspiciis, et sponte mea componere curas."
Having read nearly all that has been written on Shakespeare’s ante-Londinensian life, and carefully examined his writings with a view to obtain internal evidence as to his education and breeding, I am obliged to say that to the question you propound no positive answer can very safely be given.
Were an issue tried before me as Chief Justice at the Warwick assizes, "whether William Shakespeare, late of Stratford-upon-Avon, gentleman, ever was clerk in an attorney’s office in Stratford-upon-Avon aforesaid," I should hold that there is evidence to go to the jury in support of the affirmative, but I should add that the evidence is very far from being conclusive, and I should tell the twelve gentlemen in the box that it is a case entirely for their decision—without venturing even to hint to them, for their guidance, any  opinion of my own. Should they unanimously agree in a verdict either in the affirmative or negative, I do not think that the court, sitting in banco, could properly set it aside and grant a new trial. But the probability is (particularly if the trial were by a special jury of Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries) that, after they had been some hours in deliberation, I should receive a message from them—"there is no chance of our agreeing, and therefore we wish to be discharged;" that having sent for them into court, and read them a lecture on the duty imposed upon them by law of being unanimous, I should be obliged to order them to be locked up for the night; that having sat up all night without eating or drinking, and "without fire, candle-light excepted,"* they would come into court next  morning pale and ghastly, still saying "we cannot agree," and that, according to the rigour of the law, I ought to order them to be again locked up as before till the close of the assizes, and then sentence them to be put into a cart, to accompany me in my progress towards the next assize town, and to be shot into a ditch on the confines of the county of Warwick.
Yet in the hope of giving the gentlemen of the jury a chance of escaping these horrors, to which, according to the existing state of the law, they would be exposed, and desiring, without departing from my impartiality, to assist them in coming to a just conclusion, I should not hesitate to state, with some earnestness, that there has been a great deal of misrepresentation and delusion as to Shakespeare’s opportunities when a youth of acquiring knowledge, and as to the knowledge he had acquired. From a love of the incredible, and a wish to make what he afterwards accomplished actually miraculous, a band of critics have conspired to lower the condition of his father, and to represent the son, when  approaching man’s estate, as still almost wholly illiterate. We have been told that his father was a butcher in a small provincial town; that "pleasant Willy" was bred to his father’s business; that the only early indication of genius which he betrayed was his habit, while killing a calf, eloquently to harangue the bystanders; that he continued in this occupation till he was obliged to fly the country for theft; that arriving in London a destitute stranger, he at first supported himself by receiving pence for holding gentlemen’s horses at the theatre; that he then contrived to scrape an acquaintance with some of the actors, and being first employed as prompter, although he had hardly learned to read, he was allowed to play some very inferior parts himself—and that without any further training he produced Richard III, Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear. But, whether Shakespeare ever had any juridical education or not, I think it is established beyond all doubt that his father was of a respectable family, had some real property by descent, married a coheiress of an ancient  house, received a grant of armorial bearings from the Heralds with a recognition of his lineage, was for many years an Alderman of Stratford, and, after being intrusted by the Corporation to manage their finances as Chamberlain, served the office of Chief Magistrate of the town. There are entries in the Corporation books supposed to indicate that at one period of his life he was involved in pecuniary difficulties; but this did not detract from his gentility, as is proved by the subsequent confirmation of his armorial bearings, with a slight alteration in his quarterings—and he seems still to have lived respectably in Stratford or the neighbourhood. That he  was, as has been recently asserted, a glover, or that he ever sold wool or butcher’s meat, is not proved by anything like satisfactory evidence—and, at any rate, according to the usages of society in those times, occasional dealings whereby the owner of land disposed of part of the produce of it by retail were reckoned quite consistent with the position of a squire. At this day, and in our own country, gentlemen not unfrequently sell their own hay, corn, and cattle, and on the Continent the high nobility are well pleased to sell by the bottle the produce of their vineyards.
It is said that the worthy Alderman could not write his own name. But the facsimile of the document formerly relied upon to establish this [an order, dated 29th Sept., 7 Eliz., for John Wheeler to take upon himself the office of Bailiff, signed by nineteen aldermen and burgesses] appears to me to prove  the contrary, for the name of John Shacksper subscribed in a strong, clear hand, and the mark, supposed to be his, evidently belongs to the name of Thomas Dyrun in the line below. You tell us, in your latest edition, of the production of two new documents before the Shakespeare Society, dated respectively 3rd and 9th Dec., 11 Eliz., which, it is said, if John Shakespeare could have written, would have been signed by him—whereas they only bear his mark. But in my own experience I have known many instances of documents bearing a mark as the signature of persons who could write well, and this was probably much more common in illiterate ages, when documents were generally authenticated by a seal. Even if it were demonstrated that John Shakespeare had not been "so well brought up that he could write his name," and that "he had a mark to himself like an honest, plain-dealing man"—considering that he was born not very long after  the wars of the Roses, this deficiency would not weigh much in disproving his wealth or his gentility. Even supposing him to have been a genuine marksman, he was only on a par in this respect with many persons of higher rank, and with several of the most influential of his fellow townsmen. Of the nineteen Aldermen and burgesses who signed the order referred to, only seven subscribe their names with a pen, and the High Bailiff and Senior Alderman are among the marksmen.
Whatever may have been the clownish condition of John Shakespeare, that the "Divine Williams" (as the French call our great dramatist) received an excellent school education can hardly admit of question or doubt. We certainly know that he wrote a beautiful and business-like hand, which he probably acquired early. There was a free grammar school at Stratford, founded in the reign of Edward IV., and reformed by a charter of Edward VI. This school was supplied by a succession of competent masters to teach Greek and Latin: and here the sons of all  the members of the corporation were entitled to gratuitous instruction, and mixed with the sons of the neighbouring gentry. At such grammar schools, generally speaking, only a smattering of Greek was to be acquired, but the boys were thoroughly grounded in Latin grammar, and were rendered familiar with the most popular Roman classics. Shakespeare must have been at this school at least five years. His father’s supposed pecuniary difficulties, which are said to have interrupted his education, did not occur till William had reached the age of 14 or 15, when, according to the plan of education which was then followed, the sons of tradesmen were put out as apprentices or clerks, and the sons of the more wealthy went to the university. None of his school compositions are preserved, and we have no authentic account of his progress; but we know that at these schools boys of industry and genius have become well versed in classical learning. Samuel Johnson said that he acquired little at Oxford beyond what he had brought away with him from Lichfield Grammar School, where he had been taught,  like Shakespeare, as the son of a burgess; and many from such schools, without further regular tuition, have distinguished themselves in literature.
It is said that "the boy is the father of the man;" and knowing the man, we may form a notion of the tastes and habits of the boy. Grown to be a man, Shakespeare certainly was most industrious, and showed an insatiable thirst for knowledge. We may therefore fairly infer that from early infancy he instinctively availed himself of every opportunity of mental culture:
What time, where lucid Avon stray’d,
To him the mighty mother did unveil
Her awful face: the dauntless child
Stretched forth his little arms, and smiled.
The grand difficulty is to discover, or to conjecture with reasonable probability, how Shakespeare was employed from about 1579, when he most likely left school, till about 1586, when he is supposed to have gone to London. That during this interval he was merely an operative, earning his bread by  manual labour, in stitching gloves, sorting wool, or killing calves, no sensible man can possibly imagine. At twenty-three years of age, although he had not become regularly learned as if he had taken the degree of M. A. at Oxford or Cambridge, after disputing in the schools de omni scibili et quolibet ente—there can be no doubt that, like our Scottish BURNS, his mind must have been richly cultivated, and that he had laid up a vast stock of valuable knowledge and of poetical imagery, gained from books, from social intercourse, and from the survey of nature. Whoever believes that when Shakespeare was first admitted to play a part in the Blackfriars Theatre his mind was as unfurnished as that of the stolid ‘Clown’ in the Winter’s Tale, who called forth a wish from his own father that "there were no age between ten and three and twenty," will readily give credit to all the most extravagant and appalling marvels of mesmerism, clairvoyance, table-turning, and spirit-rapping.
Of Shakespeare’s actual occupations during these important years, when his character  was formed, there is not a scintilla of contemporary proof; and the vague traditionary evidence which has been resorted to was picked up many years after his death, when the object was to startle the world with things strange and supernatural respecting him.— That his time was engrossed during this interval by labouring as a mechanic, is a supposition which I at once dismiss as absurd.
Aubrey asserts that from leaving school till he left Warwickshire Shakespeare was a schoolmaster. If this could be believed, it would sufficiently accord with the phenomena of Shakespeare’s subsequent career, except the familiar, profound, and accurate knowledge he displayed of juridical principles and practice. Being a schoolmaster in the country for some years (as Samuel Johnson certainly was), his mental cultivation would have certainly advanced, and so he might have been prepared for the arena in which he was to appear on his arrival in the metropolis.
Unfortunately, however, the pedagogical theory is not only quite unsupported by evidence, but it is not consistent with established  facts. From the registration of the baptism of Shakespeare’s children, and other well authenticated circumstances, we know that he continued to dwell in Stratford, or the immediate neighbourhood, till he became a citizen of London: there was no other school in Stratford except the endowed grammar school, where he had been a pupil; of this he certainly never was master, for the unbroken succession of masters from the reign of Edward VI. till the reign of James I. is on record; none of the mob who stand out for Shakespeare being quite illiterate will allow that he was qualified to be usher; and there is no trace of there having been any usher employed in this school.
It may likewise be observed that if Shakespeare really had been a schoolmaster, he probably would have had some regard for the "order" to which he belonged. In all his dramas we have three schoolmasters only, and he makes them all exceedingly ridiculous. First we have Holofernes in Love’s Labour’s Lost, who is brought on the stage to be laughed at for his pedantry and his bad verses; then  comes the Welshman, Sir Hugh Evans, in the Merry Wives of Windsor, who, although in holy orders, has not yet learned to speak the English language; and last of all, Pinch, in the Comedy of Errors, who unites the bad qualities of a pedagogue and a conjuror.
By the process of exhaustion, I now arrive at the only other occupation in which it is well possible to imagine that Shakespeare could be engaged during the period we are considering—that of an attorney’s clerk—first suggested by Chalmers, and since countenanced by Malone, yourself and others, whose opinions are entitled to high respect, but impugned by nearly an equal number of biographers and critics of almost equal authority—without any one, on either side, having as yet discussed the question very elaborately.
It must be admitted that there is no established fact with which this supposition is not consistent. At Stratford there was, by royal charter, a court of record, with jurisdiction over all personal actions to the amount of 30£., equal, at the latter end of the reign of Elizabeth, to more than l00£ in the reign  of Victoria. This court, the records of which are extant, was regulated by the course of practice and pleading which prevailed in the superior courts of law at Westminster, and employed the same barbarous dialect, composed of Latin, English, and Norman-French. It sat every fortnight, and there were belonging to it, besides the Town-clerk, six attorneys, some of whom must have practiced in the Queen’s Bench and in Chancery, and have had extensive business in conveyancing. An attorney, steward of the Earl of Warwick, lord of the manor of Stratford, twice a year held a court feet and view of frankpledge there, to which a jury was summoned, and at which constables were appointed and various presentments were made.
If Shakespeare had been a clerk to one of these attorneys, all that followed while he remained at Stratford, and the knowledge and acquirements which he displayed when he came to London, would not only have been within the bounds of possibility, but would seem almost effect from cause—in a natural and probable sequence. 
From the moderate pay allowed him by his master he would have been able decently to maintain his wife and children; vacant hours would have been left to him for the indulgence of his literary propensity; and this temporary attention to law might have quickened his fancy—although a systematic, lifelong devotion to it, I fear, may have a very different tendency. Burke eloquently descants upon the improvement of the mental faculties by juridical studies; and Warburton, Chatterton, Pitt the younger, Canning, Disraeli, and Lord Macaulay are a few out of many instances which might be cited of men of brilliant intellectual career who had early become familiar with the elements of jurisprudence.
Here would be the solution of Shakespeare’s legalism which has so perplexed his biographers and commentators, and which Aubrey’s tradition leaves wholly unexplained. We should only have to recollect the maxim that "the vessel long retains the flavour with which it has been once imbued." Great as is the knowledge of law which Shakespeare’s  writings display, and familiar as he appears to have been with all its forms and proceedings, the whole of this would easily be accounted for if for some years he had occupied a desk in the office of a country attorney in good business—attending sessions and assizes—keeping leets and law days—and perhaps being sent up to the metropolis in term time to conduct suits before the Lord Chancellor or the superior courts of common law at Westminster, according to the ancient practice of country attorneys, who would not employ a London agent to divide their fees.** 
On the supposition of Shakespeare having been an attorney’s clerk at Stratford we may likewise see how, when very young, he contracted his taste for theatricals, even if he had never left that locality till the unlucky  affair of Sir Thomas Lucy’s deer. It appears from the records of the Corporation of Stratford, that nearly every year the town was visited by strolling companies of players, calling themselves "the Earl of Derby’s servants," "the Earl of Leicester’s servants," and "Her Majesty’s servants." These companies are most graphically represented to us by the strolling players in Hamlet and in the Taming of the Shrew. The custom at Stratford was for the players on their arrival to wait upon the Bailiff and Aldermen to obtain a licence to perform in the town. The Guildhall was generally allotted to them, and was fitted up as a theatre according to the simple and rude notions of the age. We may easily conceive that Will Shakespeare, son of the chief magistrate who granted the licence, now a bustling attorney’s clerk, would actually assist in these proceedings when his master’s office was closed for the day; and  that he might thus readily become intimate with the manager and the performers, some of whom were said to be his fellow-townsmen. He might well have officiated as prompter, the duty said to have been first assigned to him in the theatre at the Blackfriars. The travelling associations of actors at that period consisted generally of not more than from five to ten members; and when a play to be performed in the Guildhall at Stratford contained more characters than individuals in the list of strollers, it would be no great stretch of imagination to suppose that, instead of mutilating the piece by suppression, or awkwardly assigning two parts to one performer, "pleasant Willy’s" assistance was called in; and our great dramatist may thus have commenced his career as an actor in his native town.
To prove that he had been bred in an attorney’s office, there is one piece of direct evidence. This is an alleged libel upon him by a contemporary—published to the world in his lifetime—which, if it do actually refer to him, must be considered as the foundation of a very strong inference of the fact. 
Leaving Stratford and joining the players in London in 1586 or 1587, there can be no doubt that his success was very rapid; for, as early as 1589, he had actually got a share in the Blackfriars Theatre, and he was a partner in managing it with his townsman Thomas Green and his countryman Richard Burbadge. I do not imagine that when he went up to London he carried a tragedy in his pocket to be offered for the stage as Samuel Johnson did IRENE. The more probable conjecture is, that he began as an actor on the London boards, and being employed, from the cleverness he displayed, to correct, alter, and improve dramas written by others, he went on to produce dramas of his own, which were applauded more loudly than any that had before appeared upon the English stage.
"Envy does merit as its shade pursue; "
and rivals whom he surpassed not only envied Shakespeare, but grossly libelled him. Of this we have an example in ‘An Epistle to the Gentlemen Students of the Two Universities,  by Thomas Nash,’ prefixed to the first edition of Robert Greene’s MENAPHON (which was subsequently called Greene’s ARCADIA)—according to the title-page, published in 1589. The alleged libel on Shakespeare is in the words following, viz.:
I will turn back to my first text of studies of delight, and talk a little in friendship with a few of our trivial translators. It is a common practice now-adays, amongst a sort of shifting companions that run through every art and thrive by none, to leave the trade of Noverint whereto they were born, and busy themselves with the endeavours of art, that could scarcely Latinize their neck-verse if they should have need; yet English Seneca, read by candle-light, yields many good sentences, as blood is a beggar, and so forth; and if you intreat him fair, in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets; I should say handfuls of tragical speeches. But O grief! Tempus edax rerum—what is that will last always? The sea exhaled by drops will in continuance be dry; and Seneca, let blood, line by line, and page by page, at length must needs die to our stage.
Now, if the innuendo which would have been introduced into the declaration in an action, "Shakespeare v. Nash," for this libel  ("thereby then and there meaning the said William Shakespeare") be made out, there can be no doubt as to the remaining innuendo "thereby then and there meaning that the said William Shakespeare had been an attorney’s clerk, or bred an attorney."
In Elizabeth’s reign deeds were in the Latin tongue; and all deeds poll, and many other law papers, began with the words "NOVERINT universi per presentes"—"Be it known to all men by these presents that, &c." The very bond which was given in 1582, prior to the grant of a licence for Shakespeare’s marriage with Ann Hathaway, and which Shakespeare most probably himself drew, commences "NOVERINT universi per presentes." The business of an attorney seems to have been then known as "the trade of NOVERINT." Ergo, "these shifting companions" are charged with having abandoned the legal profession, to which they were bred; and, although most imperfectly educated, with trying to manufacture tragical speeches from an English translation of Seneca.
For completing Nash’s testimony (valeat  quantum) to the fact that Shakespeare had been bred to the law, nothing remains but to consider whether Shakespeare is here aimed at? Now, independently of the expressions "whole Hamlets" and "handfuls of tragical speeches," which, had Shakespeare’s HAMLET certainly been written and acted before the publication of Nash’s letter, could leave no doubt as to the author’s intention, there is strong reason to believe that the intended victim was the young man from Warwickshire, who had suddenly made such a sensation and such a revolution in the theatrical world. Nash and Robert Greene, the author of Menaphon or Arcadia, the work to which Nash’s Epistle was appended, were very intimate. In this very epistle Nash calls Greene "sweet friend." It is well known that this Robert Greene (who, it must always be remembered, was a totally different person from Thomas Green, the actor and part proprietor of the Blackfriars Theatre) was one of the chief sufferers from Shakespeare being engaged by the Lord Chamberlain s players to alter stock pieces for the Blackfriars  Theatre, to touch up and improve new pieces proposed to the managers, and to supply original pieces of his own. Robert Greene had been himself employed in this department, and he felt that his occupation was gone. Therefore, by publishing Nash’s Epistle in 1589, when Shakespeare, and no one else, had, by the display of superior genius, been the ruin of Greene, the two must have combined to denounce Shakespeare as having abandoned "the trade of Noverint" in order to "busy himself with the endeavours of art," and to furnish tragical speeches from the translation of Seneca.
In 1592 Greene followed up the attack of 1589 in a tract called The Groatsworth of Wit. Here he does not renew the taunt of abandoning "the trade of NOVERINT," which with Nash he had before made, but he pointedly upbraids Shakespeare by the nickname of Shake-scene, as "an upstart crow beautified with our feathers," having just before spoken of himself as "the man to whom actors had been previously beholding." He goes on farther to allude to Shakespeare as one who  "supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of his predecessors," as "an absolute Johannes Factotum," and "in his own conceit the only SHAKE-SCENE in a country." In 1592 Robert Greene frankly complains that Shake-scene had undeservedly met with such success as to be able to drive him (Greene) and others similarly circumstanced from an employment by which they had mainly subsisted. This evidence, therefore, seems amply aufficient to prove that there was a conspiracy between the two libellers, Nash and Robert Greene, and that Shakespeare was the object of it.
But I do not hesitate to believe that Nash, in 1589, directly alludes to HAMLET as a play of Shakespeare, and wishes to turn it into ridicule. I am aware that an attempt has been made to show that there had been an edition of Menaphon before 1589; but no copy of any prior edition of it, with Nash’s  Epistle appended to it, has been produced. I am also aware that Hamlet, in the perfect state in which we now behold it, was not finished till several years after; but I make no doubt that before the publication of Nash’s Epistle Shakespeare’s first sketch of his play of Hamlet, taken probably from some older play with the same title, had been produced upon the Blackfriars stage and received with applause which generated envy.
From the saying of the players, recorded by BEN JONSON, that Shakespeare never blotted a line, an erroneous notion has prevailed that he carelessly sketched off his dramas, and never retouched them or cared about them after. So far from this (contrary to modern practice), he often materially altered, enlarged, and improved them subsequently to their having been brought out upon the stage and having had a successful run. There is clear proof that he wrote and rewrote Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and several other of his dramas, with unwearied pains, making  them at last sometimes nearly twice as long as they were when originally represented.
With respect to these dates it is remarkable that an English translation of Seneca, from which Shakespeare was supposed to have plagiarised so freely, had been published several years before Nash’s Epistle—and in the scene with the players on their arrival at Elsinore (if this scene appeared in the first sketch of the tragedy, as it probably did, from being so essential to the plot), Shakespeare’s acqaintance with this author was proclaimed by the panegyric of Polonius upon the new company, for whom "SENECA could not be too heavy nor Plautus too light."
Therefore, my dear Mr. Payne Collier, in support of your opinion that Shakespeare had been bred to the profession of the law in an attorney’s office, I think you will be justified in saying that the fact was asserted publicly in Shakespeare’s lifetime by two contemporaries of Shakespeare, who were engaged in the same pursuits with himself, who must have known him well, and who were probably acquainted with the whole of his career. 
I must likewise admit that this assertion is strongly corroborated by internal evidence to be found in Shakespeare’s writings. I have once more perused the whole of his dramas, that I might more satisfactorily answer your question, and render you some assistance in finally coming to a right conclusion.
In The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, Cymbeline, Timon of Athens, The Tempest, King Richard II., King Henry V., King Henry VI. Part I., King Henry VI. Part III., King Richard III., King Henry VIII., Pericles of Tyre, and Titus Andronicus—fourteen of the thirty-seven dramas generally attributed to Shakespeare—I find nothing that fairly bears upon this controversy. Of course I had only to look for expressions and allusions that must be supposed to come from one who has been a professional lawyer. Amidst the seducing beauties of sentiment and language through which I had to pick my way, I may have overlooked various specimens of the article of which I was in  quest, which would have been accidentally valuable, although intrinsically worthless.
However, from each of the remaining twenty-three dramas I have made extracts which I think are well worth your attention. These extracts I will now lay before you, with a few explanatory remarks—which perhaps you will think demonstrably prove that your correspondent is a lawyer, AND NOTHING BUT A LAWYER.
I thought of grouping the extracts as they may be supposed to apply to particular heads of law or particular legal phrases, but I found this impracticable; and I am driven to examine seriatim the dramas from which the extracts are made. I take them in the order in which they are arranged, as "Comedies," "Histories," and "Tragedies," in the folio of 1623, the earliest authority for the whole collection. 
* These are the words of the oath administered to the bailiff into whose custody the jurymen are delivered. I had lately to determine whether gas-lamps could be considered "candle-light." In favorem vitae, I ventured to rule in the affirmative; and, the night being very cold, to order that the lamps should be liberally supplied with gas, so that, directly administering light according to law, they might, contrary to law, incidentally administer heat. back
I am aware of your suggestion in your Life of Shakespeare, that the first grant of arms to the father was at a subsequent time, when the son, although he had acquired both popularity and property, was, on account of his profession (then supposed to be unfit for a gentleman), not qualified to bear arms. But the "Confirmation" in 1596 recites that a patent had been before granted by Clarencieux Cooke to John Shakespeare, when chief magistrate of Stratford, and, as a ground for the Confirmation, that this original patent had been sent to the Heralds' Office when Sir William Dethick was Garter King-at-Arms. Against this positive evidence we lawyers should consider the negative evidence, that, upon search, an entry of the first grant is not found, to be of no avail: and there could be no object in forging the first grant, as an original grant in 1596 would have been equally beneficial both to father and son. back
See that most elaborate and entertaining book, Knight's Life of Shakspere, 1st ea., p. 16. back
** If Shakespeare really was
articled to a Stratford attorney, in all probability during the five
years of his clerkship he visited London several times on his master's
business, and he may then have been introduced to the green room at
Blackfriars by one of his countrymen connected with that theatre.
"—and prints before Term ends."—Pope.
While term lasted, Westminster Hall was crowded all the morning, not only by lawyers, but by idlers and politicians, in quest of news. Term having ended, there seems to have been a general dispersion. Even the Judges spent their vacations in the country, having when in town resided in their chambers in the Temple or Inns of Court. The Chiefs were obliged to remain in town a day or two after term for Nisi Prius sittings; but the Puisnes were entirely liberated when proclamation was made at the rising of the court on the last day of term, in the form still preserved, that "all manner of persons may take their ease, and give their attendance here again on the first day of the ensuing term." An old lady very lately deceased, a daughter of Mr. Justice Blackstone, who was a puisne judge of the Common Pleas and lived near Abingdon, used to relate that the day after term ended, the family coach, with four black long-tailed horses, used regularly to come at an early hour to Serjeants' Inn to conduct them to their country house; and there the Judge and his family remained till they travelled to London in the same style on the session-day of the following term. When a student of law, I had the honour of being presented to the oldest of the judges, Mr. Justice Grose, famous for his beautiful seat in the Isle of Wight, where he leisurely spent a considerable part of the year, more majorem. To his question to me, "Where do you live?" I answered, "I have chambers in Lincoln's Inn, my Lord." "Ah!" replied he, "but I mean—when term is over." back
You no doubt recollect that Robert Greene actually died of starvation before his Groatsworth of Wit, in which he so bitterly assailed Shakepeare as "Shake-scene" was published. back
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