Numbers in bold brackets  indicate original page numbers.
The Stratfordian View
 As, then, the main root of the Shakespeare problem has always been the difficulty of reconciling the antecedents of William Shakspere (so far as they are known or can be reasonably inferred) with the special features of the literary work attributed to him, it ought to suffice that the contention from which most anti-Stratfordian argument starts is abundantly supported by Halliwell-Phillipps. Dirt and ignorance, according to this authority, were outstanding features of the social life of Stratford in those days and had stamped themselves very definitely upon the family life under the influence of which William Shakspere was reared. Father and mother alike were illiterate, placing their marks in lieu of signatures upon important legal documents: and his father's first appearance in the records of the village is upon the occasion of his being fined for having amassed a quantity of filth in front of his house, there being "little excuse for his negligence." So much for the formative conditions of his home life. On the other hand, so far as pedagogic education is concerned there is no vestige of evidence that William Shakspere was ever inside of a school for a single day: and, considering the illiteracy of his parents and the fact that ability to read and write was a condition of admission to the Free School at Stratford, it is obvious that there were serious obstacles to his obtaining even such inferior education as was offered by schools in small provincial places in those days. Respecting this difficulty of meeting the minimum requirements for admission to the school Halliwell-Phillipps remarks: "There were few persons living at Stratford-on-Avon capable of initiating him into these preparatory accomplishments . . . but it is as likely as not that the poet received his first rudiments of education from older boys." Later generations of schoolboys have preferred more exciting pastimes.
 It is impossible to deny that the general educational advantages of Robert Burns, including, as we must, the intellectual level of peasant life in Scotland in his day, family circumstances and character of parents, were altogether superior to what existed at Stratford and in the home of William Shakspere two centuries before. The following remark of Ruskin's, whom it is impossible to suspect of "heterodoxy," will therefore not be out of place at this point.
"There are attractive qualities in Burns and attractive qualities in Dickens, which neither of those writers would have possessed, if the one had been educated and the other had been studying higher nature than that of Cockney London; but those attractive qualities are not such as we should seek in a school of literature. If we want to teach young men a good manner of writing we should teach it from Shakespeare, not from Burns; from Walter Scott and not from Dickens." ("The Two Paths.")
This statement of Ruskin's, made without reference to anything controversial, furnishes a special testimony to the fact that the distinctive literary qualities of Shakespeare are the direct antithesis of those which belong to a great poetic genius, such as Burns, whose genius enables him to attain eminence in spite of homely beginnings. It is hardly possible, moreover, to pick up the slightest biographical sketch of Scotland's poet without meeting testimony to the same fact. The following, for example, we take from the first such sketch which comes to hand.
"Burns was essentially 'one of the people' in birth, breeding and instincts . . . he has been taken more to men's bosoms than any (other) if we except, perhaps, the bard of Avon, whose admirers belong more exclusively to the educated classes." Spontaneously this comparison between the two poets rises in the mind of almost any writer who deals specially with either one of them, and leads always to a contrast upon the particular point with which we are dealing.
 Shakespeare's work if viewed without reference to any personality would never have been taken to be the work of a genius who had emerged from an uncultured milieu. The only conditions which could have compensated in any degree for such initial disabilities as those from which William Shakspere suffered would have been a plentiful supply of books and ample facilities for a thorough study of them. It is generally agreed, however, that even if he attended school he must have had to leave at an early age in order to assist his father, whose circumstances had become straitened: and that he had to engage in occupations of a non-intellectual and most probably of a coarsening kind. And, so far from being able to compensate for all this by means of books the place is spoken of as "a bookless neighbourhood." "The copy of the black-letter English History . . . in his father's parlour, never existed out of the imagination." Even after his London career was over, and as the supposed greatest writer in England he retired to Stratford, the situation was probably no better. "Anything like a private library, even of the smallest dimensions, was then of the rarest occurrence, and that Shakespeare (William Shakspere) ever owned one, at any time of his life, is exceedingly improbable." Dr. Hall - Shakspere's son-in-law - however, possessed in 1635 what he called his "study of books," "which probably included any that had belonged to Shakespeare. If the latter were the case, the learned doctor did not consider it worth while to mention the fact." (Halliwell-Phillipps's "Outlines.")
In contrast with all this, take the following passages from the short biographical sketch already quoted, of the poet who, in purely educational matters, is placed so much below "Shakespeare." "When he was six years of age the poet (Burns) was sent to a school at Alloway Mill. Later, his father), in conjunction with several neighbours, engaged a young man, John Murdock, agreeing to pay him a small  quarterly salary, and to lodge him alternately in their houses. The boys were taught by him reading, writing, arithmetic and grammar. . . . Mr. Murdock left for another situation (and) the father undertook to teach his sons arithmetic by candle light in the winter evenings. . . . Burns went (to Murdock) one week before harvest and two after it to brush up his learning. . . . The first week was devoted to English grammar, and the other two to a flirtation with French. . . . Burns laboured at this new study with such eagerness and success that he could, according to his brother, translate any ordinary prose author; and we know that to the last he loved to interlard his correspondence with phrases from that language. And when he bethought himself of attempting, in later life, a dramatic composition, among the books he ordered from Edinburgh was a copy of Molière. . . . Besides he had read and digested at an early age many valuable and some ponderous books. His father had borrowed for his reading, in addition to his own scanty stock; and wealthy families in Ayr, as well as humble families nearer home, gave him free access to what books of theirs he wished to read. (Amongst the books he read in this way were) . . . 'The Life of Hannibal,' 'Salmon's Geographical Grammar,' 'Derham's Physico-Theology,' 'The Spectator,' 'Pope's Homer,' 'Hervey's Meditations,' 'Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding,' and several plays of Shakespeare.
"In his nineteenth summer he was sent to Kirkoswald Parish School to learn mensuration, surveying, etc. . . . In these he made good progress. . . . The teacher had great local fame as a mathematician . . . (The poet's) sojourn at Kirkoswald had much improved him. He had considerably extended his reading; he had exercised himself in debate, and laid a firm foundation for fluent and correct utterance . . . For three or four years after this . . . at Lochlea . . . he still extended his reading and indulged occasionally in verse making." (William Gunnyon: Biographical sketch of Robert Burns.)
 Needless to say the particulars given in this sketch are not the generous inferences of modern admirers, but are supplied by the properly authenticated utterances of Burns himself, his brother, his teachers, and other contemporaries. Yet, with such a preparation at a time when books had become so accessible; with his quickness of apprehension, his genius, and his respect for the good things that books alone could give him, Robert Burns remains the type of uncultured genius; whilst Shakspere, whose supposed work has become the fountain head of cultured English, fixing and moulding the language more than any other single force, emerges from squalor and ignorance without leaving a trace of the process or means by which he accomplished the extraordinary feat. Burns dies at the age of thirty-seven, leaving striking evidence of his genius, but no masterpiece of the kind which comes from wide experience and matured powers. Shakspere, before reaching the age of thirty, is credited with the authorship of dramas and great poetic classics evincing a wide and prolonged experience of life. Even in such a detail as mere penmanship the contrast is maintained. Bums leaves us specimens of calligraphy which ought to have satisfied the exacting demands of Hamlet, and won the praise which the first editors of "Shakespeare's" works bestowed upon the author of the plays. William Shakspere leaves specimens of penmanship so malformed that Sir E. Maunde Thompson is obliged to suppose that before the writing of his first great works and during the whole of his early Stratford life he had had but little opportunity for exercising his handwriting.
The exceptional kind of life necessary to have evolved a "Shakespeare" under such unhappy conditions would most certainly have marked him off from his fellows. No single record or even tradition of his early life is, however, suggestive of the student, or of a youth intellectually distinguished from those about him. Traditions of the oratorical flourishes with which as a butcher he would kill a sheep,  and of his poaching exploits and misadventures, survive; definite records of marriage under compulsion at the age of eighteen to a woman eight years his senior, and grave suggestions that on the birth of twins a few years later, he deserted her: these things sum up the record of the formative years of his life. After narrating the very commonplace traditions and records of William Shakspere's early life, Sir Walter Raleigh, the eminent professor of literature at Oxford, remarks: "It is the very vanity of scepticism to set all these aside in favour of a tissue of learned fancies." ("Shakespeare," English Men of Letters.)