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the passage according to the common notion, might pick up in the writers of the time, or it reads thus :- And although you knew the course of his conversation, a familiar little Latin and less Greek, to honour thee phrase or two of French or Italian.” There out of Latin and Greek I will not seek for is, however, a contemporary testimony to the names. According to this construction, the acquirements of Shakspere which is of somepoet ought to have written, because “thou what higher value than the assertions of hadst small Latin," &c. But without any any master of all such reading as was never violence the passage may be read thus:-And read”—of one, himself a true poet, who holds although thou hadst in thy writings few that all Shakspere's excellences were his images derived from Latin, and fewer from freehold, but that his cunning brain improved Greek authors, I will not thence (on that his natural gifts :account) seek for names to honour thee, but call forth thundering Æschylus, &c. It is
“ This and much more which cannot be experfectly clear that Jonson meant to say,
press'd and not disparagingly, that Shakspere was
But by himself, his tongue and his own breast, not an imitator. Immediately after the
Was Shakespeare's freehold, which his cunning
brain mention of Aristophanes, Terence, and Plau
Improved by favour of the ninefold train. tus, he adds,
The buskin'd Muse, the Comic Queen, the “ Yet must I not give Nature all.”
And louder tone of Clio; nimble hand, The same tone of commendation was taken
And nimbler foot of the melodious pair; in Shakspere’s time by other writers. Digges The silver-voiced Lady; the most fair says that he neither borrows from the Greeks, Calliope, whose speaking silence daunts, imitates the Latins, nor translates from vulgar And she whose praise the heavenly body languages. Drayton has these lines :
chants ; “Shakespeare, thou hadst as smooth a comic
These jointly woo'd him, envying one another, vein,
(Obey'd by all as spouse, but loved as brother,
And wrought a curious robe of sable grave, Fitting the sock, and in thy natural brain As strong conception, and as clear a rage,
Fresh green, and pleasant yellow, red most As any one that traffick'd with the stage." +
And constant blue, rich purple, guiltless To argue from such passages that the writers white, meant to reproach Shakspere as an ignorant The lowly russet, and the scarlet bright; or even as an unlearned man, in the common Branch'd and embroider'd like the painted sense of the word, was an absurdity that was spring, not fully propounded to the world till the Each leaf match'd with a flower, and each discovery of Dr. Farmer, that, because trans- string lations existed from Latin, Italian, and
Of golden wire, each line of silk; there run French authors in the time of Shakspere, he
Italian works whose thread the sisters spun; was incapable of consulting the originals.
And there did sing, or seem to sing, the
choice This profound logician closes his judicial sentence with the following memorable
Birds of a foreign note and various voice. words, which have become the true faith of
Here hangs a mossy rock; there plays a fair
But chiding fountain purled: not the air, some antiquarian critics up to this hour :
Nor clouds, nor thunder, but were living “He remembered perhaps enough of his
drawn, schoolboy learning to put the Hig, hag, hog,
Not out of common tiffany or lawn, into the mouth of Sir Hugh Evans, and But fine materials, which the Muses know,
And only know the countries where they * Farmer, the most insolent of the race of piddling black-letter bibliographers, has the profligacy not to quote
grow.”+ these lines, but to say, “ Drayton, the countryman and acquaintance of Shakspeare, determines his excellence to + Commendatory Verses, 'On Worthy Master Shak. the natural brain only."
speare and his Poems,' by I. M. S.
But if the passage which we have pre- | great success. And yet Jonson does not viously quoted from 'The Poetaster' be, as hesitate to say, that since the death of Gifford so plausibly imagined, intended for Shakspere the stage mourns like night. Shakspere, it is decisive as to Jonson's own Leonard Digges, writing at the date of the opinion of his great friend's acquirements: publication of the folio, says of Shakspere's it is the opinion of every man, now, who dramas,not a slave to the authority of the smallest
“Happy verse, thou shalt be sung and heard, minds that ever undertook to measure the
When hungry quills shall be such honour vast poetical region of Shakspere with their barr'd. little tape, inch by inch :
Then vanish, upstart writers to each stage, “His learning savours not the school-like gloss
You needy poetasters of this age !" That most consists in echoing words and This man speaks authoritatively, because terms,
he speaks the public voice. But it is not And soonest wins a man an empty name."
with the poetasters only that he compares The verses of Jonson, prefixed to the folio the popularity of Shakspere; he tells us that of 1623, conclude with these remarkable the players of the Globe live by him dead;
and that prime judgments, rich veins, “Shine forth, thou star of poets, and with rage,
“have fared Or influence, chide, or cheer, the drooping The worst with this deceased man compared;"
stage; Which, since thy flight from hence, hath and he then proceeds to exhibit the precise mourn'd like night,
character of the popular admiration of And despairs day, but for thy volume's light." Shakspere :
“So have I seen, when Cæsar would appear, From 1616, the year of Shakspere's death, to
And on the stage at half-sword parley were 1623, the date of the first edition of his
Brutus and Cassius, O, how the audience collected works, Jonson himself had written
Were ravishd! with what wonder they went nothing for the stage. Beaumont had died
thence ! the year before Shakspere ; but Fletcher
When, some new day, they would not brook a alone was sustaining the high reputation
line which he had won with his accomplished Of tedious, though well-labour'd, Catiline; associate. Massinger had been in London
Sejanus too was irksome: they prized more from 1606, known certainly to have written • Honest' Iago, or the jealous Moor. in conjunction with other dramatists before And though the Fox and subtle Alchymist, the period of Shakspere's death, and, without Long intermitted, could not long be miss'd, doubt, assisting to fill the void which he had Though these have shamed all th' ancients, left; for "The Bondman' appears in the list and might raise of the Master of the Revels in 1623. The
Their author's merit with a crown of bays, indefatigable Thomas Heywood was a writer
Yet these sometimes, even at a friend's desire for the stage from the commencement of the
Acted, have scarce defray'd the sea-coal fire seventeenth century to the suppression of the
And door-keepers: when, let but Falstaff theatres. Webster was a poet of Shakspere's
come, own theatre, immediately after his death,
Hal, Poins, the rest,-you scarce shall have a
room, and a leading character in "The Duchess of Malfi' was played by Burbage. Rowley
All is so pesterd: Let but Beatrice
And Benedict be seen, lo! in a trice produced some of his best works at the same
The cockpit, galleries, boxes, all are full, period. Chapman had not ceased to write.
To hear Calvolio, that cross-garter'd gull. Ford was known as a rising poet. Many Brief, there is nothing in his wit-fraught others were there of genius and learning who book, at this particular time were struggling for Whose sound we would not hear, on whose the honours of the drama, and some with worth look:
Like old-coin'd gold, whose lines in every the babble of the cold and arrogant school page
of criticism that has still some small disShall pass true current to succeding age.” ciples and imitators : "Clothed in radiant We have said enough, we think, to show
armour, and authorised by titles sure and how inconsiderate is the assertion, that
manifold as a poet, Shakspere came forward Shakspere's "pre-eminence was not acknow
to demand the throne of fame, as the dramatic ledged by his contemporaries.” Should this
His excellences compelled
poet of England. fact, however, be still thought to be a matter
even his contemporaries to seat him on that of opinion, we will place the opinion of a throne, although there were giants in those days real critic, not the less sound for being an
contending for the same honour.". enthusiastic admirer, against this echo of * Coleridge's Literary Remains,' vol. ii. p. 53.
Tue original cilition of this collection of parted from, but the lyrical poems of "The poems bore the following title :—'Shake- Passionate Pilgrim' scattered here and speare's Sonnets. Never before imprinted. there, and sometimes a single Sonnet, someAt London, by G. Eld, for T. T., and are to times two or three, and more rarely four or be sold by John Wright, dwelling at Christ five, distinguished by some quaint title. No Church-gate. 1609.' The volume is a small title includes more than five. In the ediquarto. In addition to the Sonnets it con- tions of the Poems which appeared during a tains, at the end, 'A Lover's Complaint. By century afterwards, the original order of the William Shake-speare. In this collection Sonnets was adopted in some—that of the the Sonnets are numbered from 1 to 154. edition of 1640 in others. Lintot's, in 1709, Although the arrangement of the Sonnets in for example, adheres to the original ; Curll's, this first edition is now the only one adopted in 1710, follows the second edition. Cotes, in editions of Shakspere's Poems, another the printer of the second edition, was also order occasionally prevailed up to the time the printer of the second edition of the plays. of the publication of Steevens’s fac-simile re- That the principle of arrangement adopted print of the Sonnets in 1766. An interval in Cotes' edition was altogether arbitrary, of thirty-one years elapsed between the and proceeded upon a false conception of publication of the volume by T. T. (Thomas many of these poems, we can have no hesitaThorpe) in 1609, and the demand for a re- tion in believing ; but it is remarkable that print of these remarkable poems. In 1640 within twenty-four years of Shakspere's appeared 'Poems, written by Wil. Shake- death an opinion should have existed that speare, Gent. Printed at London by Tho. the original arrangement was also arbitrary, Cotes, and are to be sold by John Benson.' and that the Sonnets were essentially that This volume, in duodecimo, contains the collection of fragments which Meres described Sonnets, but in a totally different order, the in 1598, when he wrote, “ As the soul of original arrangement not only being de | Euphorbus was thought to live in Pytha
goras, so the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives | friend was has been the subject of infinite in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shake- discussion. Chalmers maintains that it was speare: witness his 'Venus and Adonis,' his Queen Elizabeth, and that there was no im‘Lucrece,' his sugаred Sonnets among his propriety in Shakspere addressing the queen private friends.” Upon the question of the by the masculine pronoun, because a queen continuity of the Sonnets depend many im- is a prince ; as we still say in the Liturgy, portant considerations with reference to the our queen and governor.” The reasoning life and personal character of the poet ; and of Chalmers on this subject, which may be it is necessary, therefore, to examine that found in his 'Supplementary Apology,' is question with proportionate care.
one of the most amusing pieces of learned The Sonnets of Shakspere are distinguished and ingenious nonsense that ever met our from the general character of that class of view. We believe that we must very sumpoems by the continuity manifestly existing marily dismiss Queen Elizabeth. But Chalin many successive stanzas, which form, as it mers with more reason threw over the idea were, a group of flowers of the same hue and that the dedication of the bookseller to the fragrance. Mr. Hallam has justly explained edition of 1609 implied the person to whom this peculiarity :
the Sonnets were addressed. T. T., who “No one ever entered more fully than dedicates, is, as we have mentioned, Thomas Shakspeare into the character of this species Thorpe, the publisher. W. H., to whom the of poetry, which admits of no expletive dedication is addressed, was, according to the imagery, no merely ornamental line. But earlier critics, an humble person. He was though each Sonnet has generally its proper either William Harte, the poet's nephew, or unity, the sense--I do not mean the gram- William Hews, some unknown individual ; matical construction — will sometimes be but Drake said, and said truly, that the perfound to spread from one to another, inde- son addressed in some of the Sonnets thempendently of that repetition of the leading selves was one of rank ; and he maintained idea, like variations of an air, which a series that it was Lord Southampton. “W. H.," of them frequently exhibits, and on account he said, ought to have been H. W.-Henry of which they have latterly been reckoned by Wriothesley. But Mr. Boaden and Mr. Brown some rather an integral poem than a collec- have subsequently affirmed that “W. H." is tion of Sonnets. But this is not uncommon William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, who, among the Italians, and belongs, in fact, to in his youth and his rank, exactly correthose of Petrarch himself."
sponded with the person addressed by the But, although a series may frequently ex- poet. The words “begetter of these Sonnets," hibit a “repetition of the leading idea, like in the dedication, must mean, it is mainvariations of an air,” it by no means follows tained, the person who was the immediate that they are to be therefore considered cause of their being written—to whom they “rather an integral poem than a collection of were addressed. But he was “the only beSonnets.” In the edition of 1640 the “
getter of these Sonnets."
The latter porriations were arbitrarily separated, in many tion of the Sonnets are unquestionably cases, from the air;" but, on the other addressed to a female, which at once disposes hand, it is scarcely conceivable that in the of the assertion that he was the only begetter, earlier edition of 1609 these verses were assuming the “begetter" to be used in the intended to be presented as "an integral sense of inspirer. Chalmers disposes of this poem.” Before we examine this matter, let meaning of the word very cleverly :-“W.H. us inquire into some of the circumstances was the bringer forth of the Sonnets. Beget connected with the original publication. is derived by Skinner from the Anglo-Saxon
The first seventeen Sonnets contain a begettan, obtinere. Johnson adopts this de“leading idea” under every form of “ rivation and sense : so that begetter, in the riation." They are an exhortation to a quaint language of Thorpe the bookseller, friend, a male friend, to marry. Who this / Pistol the ancient, and such affected persons,
signified the obtainer : as to get and getter, in the autumn of his years, the twilight of his the present day, mean obtain and obtainer, or day, the ashes of his youth. In the 138th, to procure and the procurer.” But then, on printed in 1599, he describes himself as the other hand, it is held that, when the “past the best”-as “old.” He was then bookseller wishes Mr. W. H. “ that eternity thirty-five. Dante was exactly this age when promised by our ever-living poet,” he means he described himself in “the midway of this promised him. This inference we must ur mortal life.” In these remarkable parthink is somewhat strained. Be this as it ticulars, therefore,—the mention of two permay, the material question to examine is sons real or fictitious, who occupy an imthis—are the greater portion of the Sonnets, portant position in the larger collection, and putting aside those which manifestly apply in the notice of the poet's age,—the two to a female, or females, addressed to one
Sonnets of The Passionate Pilgrim' are male friend? Or are these the “sugared strictly connected with those published in Sonnets” scattered among many “private | 1609, of which they also form a part ; and friends ?” When Meres printed his ‘Pal- they lead to the conclusion that they were ladis Tamia,' in 1598, there can be no doubt obtained for publication out of the scattered that Shakspere's Sonnets, then existing only leaves floating about amongst “private in manuscript, had obtained a reputation in friends.” The publication of "The Passionate the literary and courtly circles of that time. Pilgrim' was unquestionably unauthorised Probably the notoriety which Meres had and piratical. The publisher got all he given to the “sugared Sonnets” excited a could which existed in manuscript; and he publisher, in 1599, to produce something took two poems out of 'Love's Labour's Lost,' which should gratify the general curiosity. which was printed only the year before. In In that year appeared a collection of poems 1609, we have no hesitation in believing bearing the name of Shakspere, and published that the same process was repeated ; that by W. Jaggard, entitled “The Passionate without the consent of the writer the hunPilgrim.' This little collection contains two dred and fifty-four Sonnets—some forming a Sonnets which are also given in the larger continuous poem, or poems; others isolated, collection of 1609. They are those num- in the subjects to which they relate, and the bered 138 and 144 in that collection. In the persons to whom they were addressed-were modern reprints of The Passionate Pilgrim' collected together without any key to their it is usual to omit these two Sonnets without arrangement, and given to the public. Beexplanation, because they have been pre- lieving as we do that “ W. H.,” he he who viously given in the larger collection of he may, who put these poems in the hands Sonnets. But it is essential to bear in mind of “T. T.,” the publisher, arranged them in the fact that in 1599 two of the Sonnets of the most arbitrary manner (of which there the hundred and fifty-four published in 1609 are many proofs), we believe that the aswere printed ; and that one of them espe- sumption of continuity, however ingeniously cially, the one numbered 144, has been held it may be maintained, is altogether fallacious. to form an important part of the supposed Where is the difficulty of imagining, with “integral poem.” We may therefore con- regard to poems of which each separate clude that the other Sonnets which appear poem, sonnet, or stanza, is either a “leading to relate to the same persons as are referred | idea,” or its “variation,” that, picked up as to in the 144th Sonnet were also in existence. we think they were from many quarters, the Further, the publication of these Sonnets in supposed connexion must be in many re1599 tends to remove the impression that spects fanciful, in some a result of chance, might be derived from the tone of some of mixing what the poet wrote in his own perthose in the larger collection of 1609,—that son, either in moments of elation or dethey were written when Shakspere had pression, with other apparently continuous passed the middle period of life. For ex- stanzas that painted an imaginary character, ample, in the 73rd Sonnet the poet refers to indulging in all the warmth of an