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and uncertain light would they throw on the history of his life!
About the excellence of these Sonnets, slightly disfigured as they are by conceits and quibbles, 81 there can be no dispute. Next to the dramas of Shakespeare, they are by far the most valuable of his works. They contain such a quantity of profound thought as must astonish every reflecting reader; they are adorned by splendid and delicate imagery; they are sublime, pathetic, tender, or sweetly playful; while they delight the ear by their fluency, and their varied harmonies of rhythm. Our language can boast no sonnets altogether worthy of being placed by the side of Shakespeare's, except the few which Milton 82 poured forth,—so severe, and so majestic.
Among the minor poems in the present volume, A Lover's Complaint stands pre-eminent in beauty. We recognize but little of Shakespeare's genius in The Miscellany entitled The Passionate Pilgrim : it appears to have been given to the press without his consent, or even his knowledge; and how much of it proceeded from his pen, cannot be distinctly ascertained.
81 What Robert Gould, in The Play House, A Satire, (Works ii. 245. ed. 1709), says of our author's dramas, applies also to his poems; “And Shakespeare play'd with words, to please a quibbling
age.” $2 The English Sonnets that approach nearest in merit to Shakespeare's and Milton's, are undoubtedly those by the living ornament of our poetic literature, Wordsworth.
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF SHAKESPEARE's
1590 1591 1591 1591 1592 1592 1593 1593 1594 1596 1596 1597 1597 1598 1598 1598 1599 1599 1600 1600 1601 1601
! See p. xxx. ? See Collier's Hist. of English Dram. Poet. i. 327.
Troilus and Cressida..........
3 I agree with Malone in thinking that the passage of Othello (act iii. sc. iv.),
“the hearts of old gave hands, But our new heraldry is hands, not hearts," does not contain the slightest allusion to the institution of the order of Baronets in 1611 : see his Life of Shakespeare, P. 402. (Shak. by Boswell, ii.)
FROM THE ORIGINAL IN THE OFFICE OF THE PREROGATIVE
COURT OF CANTERBURY.
Vicesimo quinto die Martii,1 Anno Regni Do
mini nostri Jacobi nunc Regis Angliæ, &c. decimo quarto, et Scotia quadragesimo nono. Anno Domini 1616.
In the name of God, Amen. I William Shakspeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, in the county of Warwick, gent. in perfect health and memory,
, (God be praised !) do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form following; that is to say:
First, I commend my soul into the hands of God my creator, hoping, and assuredly believing, through the only merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour, to be made partaker of life everlasting; and my body to the earth whereof it is made.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my daughter Judith, one hundred and fifty pounds of lawful
Our poet's will appears to have been drawn up in February, though not executed till the following month; for February was first written, and afterwards struck out, and March ten over it. M
English money, to be paid unto her in manner and form following; that is to say, one hundred pounds in discharge of her marriage portion within one year after my decease, with consideration after the rate of two shillings in the pound for so long time as the same shall be unpaid unto her after my decease; and the fifty pounds residue thereof, upon her surrendering of, or giving of such sufficient security as the overseers of this my will shall like of, to surrender or grant, all her estate and right that shall descend or come unto her after my decease, or that she now hath, of, in, or to, one copyhold tenement, with the appurtenances, lying and being in Stratford-upon-Avon aforesaid, in the said county of Warwick, being parcel or holden of the manor of Rowington, unto my daughter Susannah Hall, and her heirs
Item, I give and bequeath unto my said daughter Judith one hundred and fifty pounds more,
if she, or any issue of her body, be living at the end of three years next ensuing the day of the date of this my will, during which time my executors to pay her consideration from my decease according to the rate aforesaid : and it she die within the said term without issue of her body, then my
will is, and I do give and bequeath one hundred pounds thereof to my niece? Elizabeth Hall, and the fifty
to my niece - ] Elizabeth Hall was our poet's grandaughter. So, in Othello, Act I. sc. i. Iago says to