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Fourth Poem. Sonnets 78 to 101. To his friend, complaining that he prefers another poet's praises, and reproving him for faults that may injure his character.
Fifth Poem. Sonnets 102 to 126. To his friend, excusing himself for having been some time silent, and disclaiming the charge of inconstancy.
Sixth Poem. Sonnets 127 to 152. To his mistress, on her infidelity.
Mr. Brown asserts, and goes far to prove, that the sonnets in the first five of these divisions are consecutive, following up the same thought, and working out the same purpose. With regard to the “sixth poem,” as he terms it, he contends that the sonnets have been confused, and that they are not, like the others, to be read in the order in which they were printed in the edition of 1609. He rejects the last two sonnets as no part of any of the six poems, and they are unquestionably somewhat incongruous.
Many years ago, long before the appearance of Mr. Brown's volume, it had occurred to us, as a mode merely of removing some of the difficulties attending this portion of the works of Shakespeare, that it was possible that he had consented to write some of them, not in his own person, but for individuals who asked his assistance. We entirely abandon that supposition, notwithstanding we are aware that such was not an uncommon practice in Shakespeare's age. Gascoigne, who died in 1577, mentions that he had been frequently so employed : the author of " The Forest of Fancy," 1579, tells us that he had written many of the poems it contains for persons “ who had occasion to crave his help in that behalf;" and Sir John Harington, in his Epigrams, written probably about 1591, states expressly,
“ Verses are grown such merchantable ware,
That now for Sonnets sellers are and buyers.” Marston, in his Satires, 1598, accuses “Roscio the tragedian” of
4 This is the poet whom Shakespeare (Son. lxxx.) calls “ a better spirit," and of whom he also speaks in Son. Ixxxiii. lxxxv. &c. Some have supposed that he meant Spenser, others Daniel ; but Mr. P. Cunningham has pointed out an apparent allusion to Drayton, (and to his collection of Sonnets, published in 1594 under the title of “ Idea's Mirror') in Shakespeare's twenty-first Sonnet, in these lines :
“ So is it not with me, as with that muse,
Stirred by a painted beauty to his verse,
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse," &c. It may be doubted whether in these, and the succeeding lines, Shakespeare had any individual reference. Drayton's “ Idea's Mirror” has only been discovered of late years; and it seems not improbable that, like his “ Endymion and Phoebe," (see the Bridgewater Catalogue, p. 108) he, for some reason, suppressed it. Only a single copy of each has been preserved.
having written some love-verses for Mutio, and he adds elsewhere that “absolute Castilio " had supplied himself in a similar manner, in order that he might pay acceptable court to his mistress. Therefore, if Shakespeare had now and then condescended to supply the wants of his friends in this way, who thus became possessed of his “sugred sonnets," as Meres calls them, it would, at all events, not have been without precedent.
Thorpe's edition of “Shakespeare's Sonnets" is a well printed volume, although not perhaps so good a specimen of the typography of that time, as Field's impressions of “Venus and Adonis" and “Lucrece." It is remarkable, that while most of Shakespeare's plays came from the press in the quarto editions in so slovenly and uncorrected a state, his minor poems have been handed down to us, perhaps, more accurately printed than those of any poets of the time, with the exception of Daniel and Drayton, who seem generally to have bestowed great pains upon their productions. At the end of the “Sonnets" is a poem, called “A Lover's Complaint;" and here, although it has no fresh title-page, we are assured that it is “by William Shake-speare." There could in fact be no doubt respecting the authorship of it; but on what occasion, or for what purpose it was written, we have no information.
The ensuing sonnets, with other poems, were reprinted in 1640, 8vo, with a frontispiece of the author, engraved by Marshall. It is an edition of no authority: it repeats and multiplies the errors of the previous separate impressions, and includes productions with which Shakespeare had no concern.
Our text is that of the 4to, 1609, in every case where a reason is not assigned for deviating from it. In all modern reprints various errors have been committed in consequence of carelessness of collation, or because one editor copied the mistakes of another : of these our notes will contain a sufficient indication.
SON NE TS.
From fairest creatures we desire increase,
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
This were to be new made, when thou art old,
Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest,
But if thou live, remember'd not to be,
Thy unus'd beauty must be tomb'd with thee,
1 - whose UN-Ear'd womb] “ Un-ear’d” is un-ploughed. See Vol. iv. p. 169, and this Vol. pp. 11 and 21.
2 Which, used, lives th' executor to be.) So the old edition. Modern editors read “thy executor,” forgetting that “ used” is a dissyllable, and, unprecedentedly, substituting y for an apostrophe.
For never-resting time leads summer on
But flowers distill’d, though they with winter meet,
Be not self-will’d, for thou art much too fair
3 Leese but their show ;] “Leese” is an old form of lose. In Shakespeare's time it was not generally adopted, unless it were wanted for the rhyme.
4 That use is not forbidden usury,] “ Use" and usance were the old terms for interest of money. See Vol. v. p. 572; and this Vol. p. 380, where the same thought is expressed in nearly the same terms.