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"Pembroke succeeded to his father in 1601 I incline to think that the Sonnets were written about that time, some probably earlier, some later." Pembroke was born in 1580. Now, in the earlier Sonnets, according to the hypothesis, he might be called "beauteous and lovely youth," or "sweet boy;" but Southampton could not be so addressed unless the earlier Sonnets were written even before the dedication of the Venus and Adonis' to him, in 1593, for Southampton was born in 1573. Further, it is said that, whilst the person addressed was one who stood "on the top of happy hours," the poet who addressed him was
"Beated and chopp'd with tann'd antiquity," as in the 62nd Sonnet;
"With Time's injurious hand crush'd and o'erworn,"
That Sonnet, we have here to repeat, was published in 'The Passionate Pilgrim' when the poet was thirty-five. But let us endeavour to find one more gleam of light amidst this obscurity. In one of the Sonnets in which the poet upbraids his friend with his licentiousness, the 94th, we have these lines:"The summer's flower is to the summer sweet, Though to itself it only live and die; But if that flower with base infection meet, The basest weed outbraves his dignity:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds."
The thought is here quite perfect, and the image of the last line is continued from the 11th and 12th, ending in a natural climax. But we have precisely the same line as the last in a play of Shakspere's age-one, in
as in the 63rd; and approaching the termina-deed,
tion of his career, as so exquisitely described in the 73rd:
"That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
To love that well which thou must leave ere
Most distinctly in this particular portion. of the Sonnets the extreme youth of the person addressed is steadily kept in view. But some are written earlier, some later; time is going on. In the 104th Sonnet the poet says that three winters, three springs, and three summers have passed
"Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green." But, carrying on the principle of continuity, we find that in the 138th Sonnet the poet's "days are past the best;" and he adds
"And wherefore say not I that I am old?"
which has been attributed to himself, The Reign of King Edward III.' Let us transcribe the passage where it occurs, in the scene where Warwick exhorts his daughter to resist the dangerous addresses of the King:
"That sin doth ten times aggravate itself
Is sin and subornation: Deck an ape
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds;
We doubt, exceedingly, whether the author of the 94th Sonnet, where the image of the festering lilies is a portion of the thought which has preceded it, would have transplanted it from the play, where it stands alone as an apophthegm. It seems more probable that the author of the play would have borrowed a line from one of the "sugared sonnets amongst private friends." The extreme fastidiousness required in the composition of the Sonnet, according to the poetical notions of that day, would not have warranted the adaptation of a line from a drama "sundry
times played about the city of London," as the title-page tells us this was; but the play, without any injury to its poetical reputation (to which, indeed, in the matter of plays, little respect was paid), might take a line from the Sonnet. Our reasoning may be defective, but our impression of the matter is very strong. The play was published in 1596, after being "sundry times played" in different theatres. William Herbert must have begun his career of licentiousness unusually early, and have had time to make a friend and abuse his confidence before he was fifteen —if the line is original in the Sonnet.
The last point to which we shall very briefly draw the reader's attention, is the doubt which has been stated whether the hundred and fifty-four Sonnets published in 1609 were the same as Meres mentioned, in 1598, as amongst the compositions of Shakspere, and familiar to his "private friends." Mr. Hallam thinks they are not the same, "both on account of the date, and from the peculiarly personal allusions they contain." One of the strongest of the personal allusions is contained in the 144th, originally printed in 'The Passionate Pilgrim.' Where could the printer of 'The Passionate Pilgrim' have obtained that Sonnet except from some one of Shakspere's "private friends?" If he so obtained it, why might not the collector of the volume of 1609 have obtained others of a similar character from a similar source? Would such productions have been circulated at all if they had been held to contain " peculiarly personal allusions?" If these are not the Sonnets which circulated amongst Shakspere's "private friends," where are those Sonnets? Would Meres have spoken of them as calling to mind the sweetness of Ovid if only those published in 'The Passionate Pilgrim' had existed, many of which were "Verses to Music," afterwards printed as such? Why should those Sonnets only have been printed which contain, or are supposed to contain, "peculiar personal allusions?" The title-page of the collection of 1609 is 'Shake-speare's Sonnets.' We can only reconcile these matters with our belief that in 1609 were printed, without the cognizance of the author, all the Sonnets which could be
found attributed to Shakspere; that some of these formed a group of continuous poems; that some were detached; that no exact order could be preserved; and that accident has arranged them in the form in which they first were handed down to us.
If we have succeeded in producing satisfactory evidence that many of the Sonnets are not presented in a natural and proper order in the original edition,—if we have shown that there is occasionally not only a digression from the prevailing train of thought, by the introduction of an isolated Sonnet amongst a group, but a jarring and unmeaning interruption to that train of thought, we have established a case that the original arrangement is no part of the poet's work, because that arrangement violates the principles of art, which Shakspere clings to with such marvellous judgment in all his other productions. The inference, therefore, is that the author cf the Sonnets did not sanction their publication-certainly did not superintend it. This, we think, may be proved by another course of argument. The edition of 1609, although, taken as a whole, not very inaccurate, is full of those typographical errors which invariably occur when a manuscript is put into the hands of a printer to deal with it as he pleases, without reference to the author, or to any competent editor, upon any doubtful points. Malone, in a note upon the 77th Sonnet, very truly says, "This, their, and thy are so often confounded in these Sonnets, that it is only by attending to the context that we can discover which was the author's word." He is speaking of the original edition. It is evident, therefore, that in the progress of the book through the press there was no one capable of deciphering the obscurity of the manuscript by a regard to the context. The manuscript, in all probability, was made up of a copy of copies; so that the printer even was not responsible for those errors which so clearly show the absence of a presiding mind in the conduct of the printing. Malone has suggested that these constantly recurring mistakes in the use of this, their, thy, and thine, probably originated in the words being
abbreviated in the manuscript, according to the custom of the time. But this species of mistake is by no means uniform. For example from the 43rd to the 48th Sonnet these errors occur with remarkable frequency; in one Sonnet, the 46th, this species of mistake happens four times. But we read on, and presently find that we may trust to the printed copy, which does not now violate the context. What can we infer from this, but that the separate poems were printed from different manuscripts in which various systems of writing were employed, some using abbreviations, some rejecting them? If the one poem, as the first hundred and twenty-six Sonnets are called, had been printed either from the author's manuscript, or from a uniform copy of the author's manuscript, such differences of systematic error in some places, and of systematic correctness in others, would have been very unlikely to have occurred. If the poem had been printed under the author's eye, their existence would have been impossible.
The theory that the first hundred and twenty-six Sonnets were a continuous poem, or poems, addressed to one person, and that a very young man-and that the greater portion of the remaining twenty-eight Sonnets had reference to a female, with whom there was an illicit attachment on the part of the poet and the young man-involves some higher difficulties, if it is assumed that the publication was authorized by the author, or by the person to whom they are held to be addressed. Could Shakspere, in 1609, authorize or sanction their publication? He was then living at Stratford, in the enjoyment of wealth; he was forty-five years of age: he was naturally desirous to associate with himself all those circumstances which constitute respectability of character. If the Sonnets had regard to actual circumstances connected with his previous career, would he, a husband, a father of two daughters, have authorized a publication so calculated to degrade him in the eyes of his family and his associates, if the verses could bear the construction now put upon them? We think not. On the other hand, did the one person to whom they
are held to be addressed sanction their publication? Would Lord Pembroke have suffered himself to be styled "W. H., the only begetter of these ensuing Sonnets ❞—plain Mr. W. H.-he, a nobleman, with all the pride of birth and rank about him-and represented in these poems as a man of licentious habits, and treacherous in his licentiousness? The Earl of Pembroke, in 1609, had attained great honours in his political and learned relations. In the first year of James I. he was made a Knight of the Garter; in 1605, upon a visit of James to Oxford, he received the degree of Master of Arts; in 1607 he was appointed Governor of Portsmouth; and, more than all these honours, he was placed in the highest station by public opinion; he was, as Clarendon describes, "the most universally beloved and esteemed of any man of that age." Was this the man, in his mature years, distinctly to sanction a publication which it was understood recorded his profligacy? He was of "excellent parts, and a graceful speaker upon any subject, having a good proportion of learning, and a ready wit to apply to it," says Clarendon. Is there in the Sonnets the slightest allusion to the talents of the one person to whom they are held to be addressed? If, then, the publication was not authorized, in either of the modes assumed, we have no warrant whatever for having regard to the original order of the Sonnets, and in assuming a continuity because of that order. What then is the alternative? That the Sonnets were a collection of "Sibylline leaves" rescued from the perishableness of their written state by some person who had access to the high and brilliant circle in which Shakspere was esteemed; and that this person's scrap-book, necessarily imperfect, and pretending to no order, found its way to the hands of a bookseller, who was too happy to give to that age what its most distinguished man had written at various periods, for his own amusement, and for the gratification of his "private friends."
We subjoin, for the more ready information of those who may be disposed to ex
amine for themselves the question of the order of Shakspere's Sonnets (and it really is a question of great interest and rational curiosity), the results of the two opposite theories of their exhibiting almost perfect continuity, on the one hand; and of their being a mere collection of fragments, on the other. The one theory is illustrated with much ingenuity by Mr. Brown; the other was capriciously adopted by the editor of
the collection of 1640.
MR. BROWN'S DIVISION INTO SIX POEMS. First Poem.-Stanzas i. to xxvi. To his Friend, persuading him to marry. Second Poem.-Stanzas xxvii. to lv. To his Friend, who had robbed him of his Mistress-forgiving him.
Third Poem.-Stanzas lvi. to lxxvii. To his Friend, complaining of his Coldness, and warning him of Life's Decay. Fourth Poem.-Stanzas lxxviii. to ci. To his Friend, complaining that he prefers another Poet's Praises, and reproving him for faults that may injure his cha
Fifth Poem.-Stanzas cii. to cxxvi. To his
Friend, excusing himself for having been sometimes silent, and disclaiming the charge of Inconstancy. Sixth Poem.-Stanzas cxxvii. to clii. To his Mistress, on her Infidelity.
ARRANGEMENT OF THE EDITION OF 1640. **In this arrangement the greater part
of the Poems of The Passionate Pilgrim'. are blended, and are here marked P. P. In this collection the following Sonnets are not found: -18, 19, 43, 56, 75, 76, 96, 126. The Glory of Beauty. [67, 68, 69.] Injurious Time. [60, 63, 64, 65, 66.] True Admiration. [53, 54.] The Force of Love. [57, 58.] The Beauty of Nature. [59.] Love's Cruelty. [1, 2, 3.] Youthful Glory. [13, 14, 15.] Good Admonition. [16, 17.] Quick Prevention. [7.] Magazine of Beauty. [4, 5, 6.]
An Invitation to Marriage. [8, 9, 10,
False Belief. [138.]
A Temptation. [144.]
A sweet Provocation. [P. P. 11.]
A Disconsolation. [27, 28, 29.]
The Unconstant Lover. [P. P. 5.]
A Congratulation. [38, 39, 40.]
Loth to Depart. [P. P. 12, 13.]
A living Monument. [55.]
A Valediction. [71, 72, 74.]
The Picture of true Love. [116.]
Sympathizing Love. [P. P. 18.]
A Request to his Scornful Love. [SS, 89, 90, 91.]
A Lover's Affection, though his Love
An Invocation to his Muse. [100, 101.]
"There is extant a small volume of miscellaneous poems in which Shakspere expresses his feelings in his own person. It is not difficult to conceive that the editor, George Steevens, should have been insensible to the beauties of one portion of that volume, the Sonnets; though there is not a part
A Lover's Excuse for his long Absence. of the writings of this poet where is found, [109, 110.]
in an equal compass, a greater number of exquisite feelings felicitously expressed.
A Complaint. [111, 112.] Self-flattery of her Beauty. [113, 114, But, from regard to the critic's own credit, 115.] he would not have ventured to talk of an
A Trial of Love's Constancy. [117, 118, act of parliament not being strong enough 119.]
to compel the perusal of these, or any pro
A good Construction of his Love's Un- duction of Shakspere, if he had not known kindness. [120.]
Error in Opinion. [121.]
that the people of England were ignorant of the treasures contained in those little
Upon the Receipt of a Table-Book from pieces." his Mistress. [122.]
A Vow. [123.]
Love's Safety. [124.]
An Entreaty for her Acceptance. [125.] Upon her playing upon the Virginals. [128.]
Immoderate Lust. [129.]
In praise of her Beauty, though Black.
[127, 130, 131, 132.]
Unkind Abuse. [133, 134.]
Love-suit. [135, 136.]
That ignorance has been removed; and no one has contributed more to its removal, by creating a school of poetry founded upon Truth and Nature, than Wordsworth himself. The critics of the last century have passed away :
"Peor and Baälim
Forsake their temples dim."
By the operation of what great sustaining principle is it that we have come back to
His Heart wounded by her Eye. [137, the just appreciation of "the treasures con
A Protestation. [141, 142.]
An Allusion. [143.]
Life and Death. [145.]
A Consideration of Death. [146.]
Immoderate Passion. [147.]
tained in those little pieces"? The poet critic will answer :
"There never has been a period, and perhaps never will be, in which vicious poetry, of some kind or other, has not excited more zealous admiration, and been far more
Love's powerful Subtilty [148, 149, 150.] generally read, than good; but this advan
Retaliation. [78, 79.]
Sunset. [73, 77.]
A Monument to Fame. [107, 108.]
Cupid's Treachery. [153, 154.]
Of the estimation in which Shakspere's 'Sonnets' were held some half century ago, the greatest of our Sonnet writers, Wordsworth, thus speaks :—
tage attends the good, that the individual, as well as the species, survives from age to age whereas, of the depraved, though the species be immortal, the individual quickly perishes; the object of present admiration vanishes, being supplanted by some other as easily produced, which, though no better, brings with it at least the irritation of novelty, with adaptation, more or less skilful, to the changing humours of the majority of those who are most at leisure to regard poetical works when they first solicit their attention. Is it the result of the whole, that, in the opinion of the writer, the judg