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sonnets, 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." Drayton was avowedly similarly resorted to, 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 having written love-verses for Mutio; and he adds elsewhere that “absolute Castilio" had furnished himself in a like manner, in order that he might pay acceptable court to his mistress. Therefore, if Shakespeare had now and then condescended in this way to supply the wants of his “private friends," 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 4to. 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 the accuracy of 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 bave been committed in consequence of carelessness of collation, or because one editor copied the mistakes of another: of these our notes contain sufficient indications.
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,
Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
Thy unus'd beauty must be tomb’d with thee,
Those hours, that with gentle work did frame
whose UN-EAR'd womb] “Un-ear'd” is un-ploughed, untilled. See this Vol. pp. 139. 148. 483.
2 Which, used, lives th' executor to be.] So every copy of the old edition we have been able to inspect. Modern editors read “thy executor," forgetting that “used " is a dissyllable, and, unprecedentedly, substituting y for an apostrophe.
Will play the tyrants to the very same,
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, and he has it not elsewhere.
4 That use is not forbidden usury,] “ Use” and usance were the old terms for interest of money. See Vol. ii. p. 684; Vol. iv. p. 430; and Vol. v. p. 220.
Attending on his golden pilgrimage:
So thou thyself, out-going in thy noon,
Music to hear', why hear'st thou music sadly?
Whose speechless song, being many, seeming one,
Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye,
5 Music to hear,] i.e. Thou, to whom it is music to listen.
6 – like a MAKELESS wife;] i.e. Like a mateless wife : make and mate were sometimes used indifferently : Chaucer always has make, and Spenser and Shakespeare generally mate. To mate is probably from the A. S. metan, to meet: hence also, perhaps, to match. There is a passage in Beaumont and Fletcher's “ Love's Pilgrimage,” A. v. sc. 4 (Edit. Dyce, xi. p. 313), which, from having been originally misprinted, no editor has understood : the usual text has been,
“Go home a waited Leocadia," which, we must be excused for saying, is mere nonsense. The old compositor mistook w for m, and printed wated for “mated :" Leocadia was to be married, and the words, which precede those we have quoted, “Go home a wife," ought to have shown the misprint, and to have proved that
“ Go home a mated Leocadia" must be the true language of the poet. Strange to say, no commentator, not even the last, has ever detected the error.