SHAKESPEARE, Arthur (?1748-1818), of Stepney Causeway and Albemarle Street, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



3 Dec. 1798 - June 1808
1812 - Jan. 1816

Family and Education

b. ?1748, 1st s. of John Shakespeare, ropemaker to the Ordnance and alderman of London, of Stepney by Elizabeth, da. of Colin Currie.1 m. 22 Feb. 1777, Jane, da. of Matthew Ridley of Heaton, Northumb., 2s. suc. fa. 1775.

Offices Held

Dir. Globe Insurance Co. 1805.


Shakespeare succeeded to his father’s business and married into a well-known northern Whig family. He invested in East India Company stock, and subscribed £5,000 to the loyalty loan for 1797. Before the next year was out he purchased a seat in Parliament for £2,000 from Charles George Beauclerk, who had bought it from Lord Dundas but wished to go out of Parliament.2 Shakespeare was retained by Dundas until 1808, when he made way for Dundas’s eldest son, who had lost his seat. He seems to have left his own sons to carry on his business. In the House he followed his patron’s line, voting with opposition throughout the sessions of 1800 and 1801. He is not known to have spoken in debate. He was in the minorities on the civil list arrears and the Prince of Wales’s finances, 29, 31 Mar. 1802 and 4 Mar. 1803, on Wrottesley’s Irish motion, 7 Mar., and on the defence divisions of 23 and 25 Apr. 1804 that brought down Addington’s ministry. In March 1804 he was listed ‘Fox’, and in May and September ‘Prince’ by Pitt’s calculators. He opposed Pitt’s second ministry on the additional force bill in June 1804 and was in the majorities against Melville, 8 Apr. and 12 June 1805. He was duly listed ‘Opposition’ in July. His support of the Grenville ministry was unobtrusive, except when he insulted James Brogden* in the House early in 1807. He was fortunate to escape with an apology.3 He voted against the new ministry, 9 Apr. 1807, and obtained leave of absence four days later. He rallied to opposition against the address, 26 June 1807, and on 11 Feb. 1808 supported Burdett’s motion on the droits of Admiralty. He took leave of absence on 4 May and vacated his seat a month later.

Shakespeare came in for Lord Portarlington’s proprietary Irish borough in 1812, presumably by private treaty, for he remained in opposition, but not actively so. He paired in favour of Catholic relief in 1813. He was in the minority for Charles Palmer’s motion against Col. Quentin, 17 Nov. 1814. He voted for inquiry into the Regent’s expenditure, 31 May 1815, and from 28 June to 3 July steadily opposed the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment bill. These were his last known votes and during the recess he arranged to vacate his seat. William Lamb, who succeeded to it, found that there was no stipulation as to politics by the patron and added that he did not believe ‘any very strong opinions in politics’ were held by either Portarlington or Shakespeare.4

Shakespeare died 12 June 1818, aged 70.5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: Winifred Stokes / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. C. C. Stopes, Shakespeare’s Family, 153-4.
  • 2. Paget Pprs. 138.
  • 3. Essex RO, Sperling mss D/DSE 7, Northumberland to Brogden, 4 Feb. 1807.
  • 4. Add. 51558, Lamb to Holland, 26 Mar. 1816.
  • 5. Gent. Mag. (1818), i. 642.