Massey on Shakspeare's Sonnets (2)

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- III -


    THEORIZERS who seek to establish and perpetuate the belief that "William Herbert" was the "Only Begetter" or objective inspirer of Shakspeare's Sonnets, as lumped together by Thorpe in his Inscription, are forced to ignore the most vital internal evidence and blink the most conclusive external data. Evidence within the Sonnets and from without; evidence poetic and historic; evidence the most positive and irrefutable, can be offered to show that the mass of them (at least the first 86 as they stand) were composed at a period too early for William Herbert to have been the young friend who was so beloved by Shakspeare, and the patron to whom the Poet sent his earliest Sonnets, written by his "Pupil Pen," to "witness duty," to identify his present and to promise him his future work.  It is not what I may say, or Messrs. Brown, Dowden, and Furnivall may surmise or profess to believe, but what are the facts of the case to be found in the Sonnets, corroborated by the testimony outside of them?  Is there any rock of reality on which we can build the bridge to cross a chasm hitherto impassable?

    At the outset the Sonnets plainly tell us that they had no "Only Begetter" in the sense of one sole inspirer, seeing that both sexes are addressed in them; and both sexes must include at least two persons!  Next they inform us, with Shakspeare for speaker, that many of them were written by the Poet with his "Pupil Pen" before he had appeared in print with his Venus and Adonis in the year 1593.  The 26th Sonnet is perfectly explicit on that point.

"Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
 Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit,
 To thee I send this written embassage,
 To witness duty, not to show my wit:
 Duty so great which wit so poor as mine
 May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it;
 But that I hope some good conceit of thine
 In thy soul's thought, all naked, will bestow it:
 Till whatsoever star that, guides my moving
 Points on me graciously with fair aspect,
 And puts apparel on my tattered loving,
 To show me worthy of thy sweet respect:
     Then, may I dare to boast, how I do love thee;
     Till then, not show my head where thou mayst prove me

One's vision must be very confused or obstructed by the subjective blinkers of a false belief not to see that this was written and sent in MS. to the friend addressed before the writer had published anything, that is, before the year 1593, when William Herbert was just thirteen years of age. Also, nothing can be more certain than that this was written and sent to the friend, who was his patron at that time, that is before 1593, with its kindred and accompanying group of Sonnets, which are referred to previously (Sonnet 23) as his "Books"; Books intended to plead silently for the patron's love until such time as he can boast of his friendship publicly.

    It is equally evident that Shakspeare did not know exactly where his success was to be won, or how his "moving" on his course would be guided, when this Sonnet was written, although there may possibly be an allusion to the Venus (then in hand) as the planet under which the first work was to be brought to birth!  Meanwhile, he asks his patron to accept these Sonnets in manuscript to "witness duty" privately, not to "show his wit" in public.  Before venturing to address him in a printed dedication, he will wait until his star shall smile on him graciously, and his love shall be able to clothe itself in fit apparel, that is, when he is ready to put forth a poem such as he may not shrink from offering to his patron in public; the present Sonnets being exclusively private; then will he hope to show himself worthy of the friend's "sweet respect," but till then he will not dare to dress out his love for the critical eye of the world, will not lift up his head to boast publicly in print of that love in his heart which he now expresses in writing.  Here are three indisputable facts recorded by Shakspeare himself.  He writes these earlier Sonnets with his "Pupil Pen"; he sends them as private exercises before he appears in print, and he is looking forward hopefully to the time when he may be ready with a work which shall be more worthy of his love than are these Sonnets—preliminary ambassadors that announce his purpose—which work he intends to dedicate publicly to the man whom he addresses privately as his patron and friend, and appear in person; that is, by name; where the merits of his poetry may be tested, that is, in print.

    Whosoever we may hold to have been the Lord of Shakspeare's love here addressed, he would know, however much may be hidden from us, whether or not the Poet was telling the truth; and there can be no other conclusion for those who give heed seriously to Shakspeare's own words, than that the 26th Sonnet, together with those to which it is Ambassador or L'Envoy, were presented to the same patron privately before the Venus and Adonis was inscribed to him publicly, when the Poet ventured to test the worth of his work, and to ascertain how the world would censure him for "choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burden."

    Again, in Sonnet 23 the writer tells us how in presence of his friend he feels like some imperfect actor on the stage who forgets his part when he is before the public, and cannot put into words the wealth of affection with which his heart is overcharged.  It is all there, as we say, but he cannot utter it, and he makes the best excuse he can for his extreme diffidence in this delightful personal Sonnet.  "O let my books be then the eloquence and dumb presagers of my speaking breast.  O learn to read what silent love hath writ!"  "Silent love" is that with which he was writing these two Sonnets and their fellows of the particular group that go with them; the silent love which preceded and heralded the love that was dedicated later and aloud in a printed book.

    These "Books" are the Sonnets sent in "Written Embassage."  They were the "dumb presagers" of that which he intended to say, and afterwards did say, publicly to his friend when he printed—in 1593-4.  This friend to whom the Sonnets were addressed, and to whom the promises of public dedication are here made, is afterwards identified by Shakspeare's dedications in print as the Earl of Southampton—not William Herbert, to whom he did not dedicate anything that he ever printed!  The only two Books published by Shakspeare himself were both inscribed to the Earl of Southampton, the first to "witness duty" as promised in Sonnet 26, the second being offered to him with a dedication, not merely of his Book, but of his "love without end"; a love so totally his that the Book was but a "superfluous moiety."  Consequently, if the Books thus consecrated to Southampton had been published at the time of writing they must have been included, and thus they identify the person to whom Shakspeare's "Books" were offered as dumb representatives of himself. If, on the other hand, these Sonnets were written first by his "Pupil Pen," and they are the "Books" he speaks of, then the public dedications prove that Southampton was the person addressed through these Sonnets in which the silent love and presaging breast express the promises afterwards fulfilled, and he must be the object of the "Books" spoken of in private, whether these were Books of Sonnets in MS. or the Poems in print.  Either way Shakspeare's "Books" identify Southampton as the object of Shakspeare's love, and therefore as the original "Begetter," Inspirer or Evoker of the Sonnets. Moreover, we have Shakspeare's word for it, that when he was describing the mythical Adonis as the subject of his poem, the object he had in view was the young friend and patron whom he addresses in the Sonnets.  In Sonnet 53 he tells us that he has made or is then making the picture of Adonis as the likeness of his friend—

"Describe Adonis and the Counterfeit
 Is poorly imitated after you;
 On Helen's cheek all art of beauty set,
 And you in Grecian tires are painted new."

    He proves it by introducing Adonis in company with Helen as a substitute for Paris, and thus goes out of his way once more to violate the Classical Unities.  He further proves the identity of Adonis with Southampton in his dedication of the poem.  Moreover, we find the argument of the earliest Sonnets is publicly reproduced in the poem promised to and written for the Earl of Southampton.  It will not be necessary for me to run the parallel all through; the reader can make the application of the matter quoted,—which will also be found in the Sonnets.


"Nature that made thee, with herself at strife,
 Saith that the world hath ending with thy life."

"The tender Spring upon thy tempting lip
     Shows thee unripe; yet mayst then well be tasted;
 Make use of time, let no advantage slip;
     Beauty within itself f should not be wasted.
 Fair flowers that are not gathered in their

 Rot and consume themselves in little time."

"Is thine own heart to thine own face affected?
     Can thy right hand seize love upon lice left?
 Then woo thyself, be of thyself rejected,
     Steal thine own freedom, and complain

 on theft.
 Narcissus so himself himself forsook,
 And died to kiss his shadow in the brook."

"Torches are made to light, jewels to wear,
     Dainties to taste, fresh beauty for the use,
 Herbs for their smell, and sappy plants to bear;
     Things growing to themselves are growth's

 Seeds spring from seeds, and beauty breedeth

 Thou wast begot,—to get it is thy duty.

"Upon the earth's increase why shouldst thou

     Unless the earth with thy increase be fed?
 By law of Nature thou art bound to breed,
     That thine may live, when thou thyself art

 And so in spite of death thou dost survive,
 In that thy likeness still is left alive."
Venus and Adonis, 2, 22, 27, 28, 29.


    Now it is in strict accordance with forthcoming evidence to infer that the same thoughts or expressions would appear first in the private Sonnets before being repeated in print, and would NOT be repeated privately after they were published!  Thus we argue that when we find the line in Sonnet 78, "Thine eyes that taught the Dumb on high to sing," repeated or echoed in the Venus and Adonis as "Thine eyes that taught all other eyes to see," Stanza 159, and when the line, "Hearing you praised I say 'tis so," Sonnet 85, is echoed in Stanza 142, "She says 'tis so; they answer all 'tis so," it tends to show that Adonis was first described in the Sonnets, which indeed is no more than what Shakspeare asserts.  So much of the Poet's argument as could possibly be repeated from the Sonnets under the changed circumstances has been re-applied in the poem, where it does not particularly apply!  Such a sustained plea on behalf of posterity was by no means necessary for a Goddess, and the object was far too remote to serve her turn immediately.  The truth of the matter is that Shakspeare is still wooing his friend on the subject of marriage by the enticing mouthpiece of Venus.  The argument for procreation and future progeny is his, far more than hers!  Hence the repetition from the Sonnets in which he makes his personal appeal on behalf of wedlock.  Neither the Poet nor the world in general could be greatly interested in the posterity of the mythical Venus and Adonis, and Shakspeare is speaking from behind the mask in a way that has not hitherto been suspected.

    Thus the Adonis of the poem drawn from the life was previously portrayed in the Sonnets as the rose-cheeked Boy who possessed the beauty of both sexes, which could be celebrated as combining the graces of Adonis and the charms of Helen, on account of his youth and his comeliness.  Here then we find in the Sonnets an earlier form of the Venus and Adonis, indeed, the various odd Sonnets on this subject suggest that the writer once thought of treating it in the Sonnet Stanza.

    Some of my critics have instanced the 20th Sonnet as an obstacle in the way of a dramatic reading, and as furnishing indubitable proof that Shakspeare's personal feeling for his young friend was erotic enough to go any lengths in the confusion of imagery proper to the different sexes.  But it is the greatest obstacles that become the surest stepping-stones when conquered and turned to account by a true reading.  Much turns on a KEY-SONNET like this, because, until it is rightly read, one misinterpretation can only be wedded to another.  Chapman has described "a youth so sweet of face that many thought him of the female race."  Marlowe says of Leander,

"Some swore he was a maid in man's attire,
 For in his looks were all that men desire."

And this is how Shakspeare portrays his young friend, of whom he says,

"A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted
 Hast thou, the Master-Mistress of my passion."

    If we accept this at its current Victorian value, "my passion" would mean the personal feeling I have for you, which would put us directly on the wrong track.  That rendering is quite common and has been built upon, but it is demonstrably false.  The modern sense of "my passion" only leads us to an Elizabethan pitfall that awaits the unwary.  To explain, very briefly.  In the year 1582 Thomas Watson published his EKATOMΠAΘIA, or the Passionate Centurie of Love. [19]   The work consisted of 100 Sonnets, which are  called "Passions" all through it!   From this we learn that Sonnets or Poems and Passions were synonymous.   We find they are so in the Midsummer Night's Dream, where the two ditties are termed the "Passions" of Pyramus and Thisbe.  It maybe noticed en passant that Shakspeare was designated "Watson's heir" by W. C. (1595) in an allusion to his Adonis.  Thus the "passion" of Shakspeare is not an affair of the heart, not the personal affection for his young friend, whether amatory, idolatrous, Platonic, or Aretinish, and those who have thought it was so have been going farther and farther astray all the time.  His passion here is the theme on which he writes, the love-poem in Sonnet-form that he is engaged upon at the time, and of which, as we now see, the young friend is the subject far more than the object.  So far from there being any confusion of gender in the imagery, the Sonnet was written expressly to bring out the difference of sex in the concluding lines.  Perhaps the use of the words "subject" and "object" could not be better illustrated than by the distinction they enable us to make in thus disinterring Shakspeare's meaning!  Southampton is here the subject of the poetic passion, not the object of any passion in our modern sense. He is the Master-Mistress of the poet's passion, not of the man's; and so the effeminacy of the woman-like love in wooing a male friend vanishes from the Sonnets like a vapour that concealed the true interpretation of the Elizabethan meaning.  The correct reading is very important, because the wrong one has been so fertile in false inference, and because the right one sets us half-way on the road to the dramatic treatment that is applied in later Sonnets.

    Here then the Adonis of real life was the "Master-Mistress" of the Poet's passion or theme in Sonnet-form, almost as ideally as the Greek Adonis was the subject or "Passion" in the published Love-poem; which consideration will serve to give another and a semi-dramatic aspect to the Sonnets so written.

    There are still other ways of adding to the force of this demonstration that Southampton was Shakspeare's original for Adonis, and the personal Suggester of the Sonnets which were written before the publication of the poem.

    Mr. Knight, in proof that the earlier series of these Sonnets must have been written before William Herbert was old enough to be a "begetter," has instanced a line, first pointed out by Steevens, which was printed in a play attributed, with some poetic warrant, to Shakspeare, entitled The Reign of King Edward III.  The same line occurs in Sonnet 94:—

"Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds."

    This drama was published in 1596, after it had been sundry times played.  It is presumable that the line was first used in the Sonnet privately, before it appeared in the play, because the poetic notions of the Sonnet, as well as the personal and private friendship, would demand the more fastidious taste.  If so, this was one of the Sonnets in which William Herbert could not have been addressed, seeing that he did not live in London until two years later.

    According to the statement in Sonnet 104, the Poet had known his young friend three years when that was written, and as two Sonnets which come later appeared in print in 1599, it follows that the writer must have known his young friend at least as early as the year 1596, or, two years before the date when Herbert, first came to live in London!

    But there is no need to emphasize a single one or several illustrations where we shall find so many.  In this instance the thought is Shakspeare's own twice over.  He had no need to borrow it from the "base subject" of a public play to enrich a private Sonnet. The line appears in Sonnet 94—

"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."

 And he had already written in Sonnet 69—

"Then (churls) their thoughts, although their eyes were kind,
 To thy fair flower add the rank smell of weeds;
     But why thy odour matcheth not thy show,
     The solve is this, that thou dost common grow."

So numerous are the instances of likeness in thought and image betwixt these Sonnets and certain of the early Plays as to make it almost a matter of indifference whether the lines were used first in the Play or the Sonnet, although one can have no doubt that as a point of literary etiquette the Sonnet would have first choice.  A close examination of both shows that these resemblances and repetitions occur most palpably and numerously in dramas and Sonnets which I take to have been composed from 1590 to 1597; they most strongly suggest, if they do not prove, both Sonnets and Plays to have been written about the same period, having the same dress of his mind, the composition perhaps running parallel at times.

    As we have seen, some of the Sonnets were written before the two Poems; and there is no reason to question the conclusion that the Sonnets were considered the choicest, and would first contain the thought or image or expression before it was made public in the Plays.  Chief of the Plays are the Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love's Labour's Lost, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Romeo and Juliet.  First, we perceive an indefinable likeness in tone and mental tint, which is yet recognizable, as are the flowers of the same season.  In Shakspeare's work, so great is the unity of feeling as it is seen pervading a whole play, that whatsoever was going on below would give visible signs on the surface, whether he was working at a drama or a Sonnet.  His work is so much of a natural product that it takes on the colour of the season and the environment, just as certain animals and birds are coloured in accordance with their surroundings, the tone of which is reflected in the hues of feather and tints of fur.

    In the earlier Sonnets, and in the above-named Plays, certain ideas and figures continually appear and reappear.  We might call them by name, as the conceit concerning painting, concerning substance and shadow, the war of roses in the red and white of a lady's cheek, the pattern or map-idea, the idea of the antique world in opposition to the tender transciency of youth, the images of spring used as emblems of mortality, the idea of engraving on a tablet of steel, the canker in the bud, the distilling of roses to preserve their sweets, the cloud-kissing hill, and the hill-kissing sun with golden face—and many others which were the poet's early stock of imagery, the frequent use of which shows that it was yet the spring-time of his creative powers.  But to pass from this indefiniteness to the actual likeness, here are a few passages from the Sonnets compared with the Plays and Poems.



Even so my sun one early morn did shine
With all-triumphant splendour on my brow;
But, out, alack! he was but one hour mine,
The region-cloud hath masked him from me
    now.  (33)
Which by and by black night doth take
     away. (73)

For shame deny that thou bear'st love to
    any.  (10)

Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck;
And yet, methinks, I have astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or season's quality:
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive. (14)

To witness duty, not to show my wit. (26)

Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate,
Which to repair should be thy chief desire. (10)

I never saw that you did painting need,
And therefore to your fair no painting set. (63)

So is it not with me as with that Muse
Stirred with a painted beauty to his verse.  (21)

Let them say more that like of hearsay well,
I will not praise that purpose not to sell. (21)

Painting my age with beauty of thy days. (62)

But from thine eyes this knowledge I derive. (14)


O how this Spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away.
                              Two Gentlemen of Verona, I. i.

They do not love that do not show their love.
                                                   Two Gen. Ver., I. ii.

I read your fortune in your eye.
                                                 Two Gen. Ver., II. iv.

My duty will I boast of, nothing else.
                                                 Two Gen. Ver., II. iv.

O thou, that dost inhabit in my breast,
Leave not the mansion so long tenantless,
Lest, growing ruinous, the building fall,
And leave no memory of what it was.
Repair me with thy presence, Silvia.
                                                 Two Gen. Ver., V. iv.

                                                      My beauty
Needs not the painted flourish of your praise.
                                      Love's Labour's Lost, II. i.

Fie, painted Rhetoric!   O she needs it not;
To things of sale a seller's praise belongs,—
She passes praise.—L. L. L., IV. iii.

Beauty doth varnish age as if new-born.
                                                             L. L. L., IV, iii.

From women's eyes this doctrine I derive.
                                                            L. L. L., IV. iii.


Thy end is Truth's and Beauty's doom and date.
(See also Sonnet 20.)

Look in thy mother's glass.   (3)
                              Dear my love, you know
You had a Father; let your son say so. (13)

For truth proves thievish for a prize so dear.

Thy unused beauty must be tombed with
         thee.  (4)

More lovely than a man!
Nature that made thee, with herself at strife,
Saith that the world hath ending with thy life.
                                              Venus and Adonis., 2.
The flowers are sweet, their colours fresh and
But true, sweet beauty lived and died with
    him.                                               V. and A., 180.

Art thou a woman's son and canst not feel
What 'tis to love?—V. and A, 34.
Oh, had thy mother borne so hard a mind
She had not brought forth thee.—V. and A., 34.

Rich preys make true men thieves.
                                                           V. and A., 121.

What is thy body but a swallowing grave?
                                                           V. and, A., 127.



Unthrifty loveliness! why dost thou spend
Upon thyself thy beauty's legacy?
Profitless usurer. (4)

Hearing you praised, I say 'tis so. (85)

Thine eyes that taught the dumb on high to
        sing.  (78)

Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon
Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure;
Sometime all full with feasting on your sight,
And by and by clean starvèd for a look. (75)

For Slander's mark was ever yet the fair. (70)

Thou art thy Mother's glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime. (3)

Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
Even so my sun.  (33)


Gold that's put to use more gold begets.
                                                                V. and A., 128.

She says 'tis so; they answer all 'tis so!
                                                               V. and A., 142.

Thine eyes that taught all other eyes to see.
                                                                V. and A., 159.

Of that rich jewel he should keep unknown
From thievish ears, because it is his own.
But poorly rich, so wanteth in his store
That, cloyed with much, he pineth still for more.—
                                                                  Lucrece, 5 and 14.

For greatest scandal waits on greatest state.
                                                                            Lucrece, 144.

Poor broken glass, I often did behold
In thy sweet semblance my old age new-born.
                                                                            Lucrece, 252.

Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world.
                                                                Pt. I. Henry IV., I. ii.


Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare. (52)

Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still;
The better angel is a man right fair;
The worser spirit a woman coloured ill;
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil;
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.  (144)

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought.  (30)
And moan th' expense of many a vanished
     sight.  (30)

When I perhaps compounded am with clay. (71)

                                Sweet Roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours

Prison my heart in thy steel bosom's ward;
Whoe'er keeps me, let my heart be his guard. (133)

That is my home of love; if I have ranged,
Like him that travels, I return again. (109)

I do forgive thy robbery, gentle Thief,
Although thou steal thee all my poverty. (40)
That sweet Thief which sourly robs from me. (35)

                                                 So my state,
Seldom but sumptuous, showed like a feast,
And won by rareness such solemnity.
                                                             Pt. I. Henry IV., III. ii.

You follow the young prince up and down like his
     ill-angel.—Pt. II. Henry IV., I. ii.
There is a good angel about him, but the devil
     outbids him too.—Pt. II. Henry IV., II. iv.

You do draw my spirits from me
With new lamenting ancient oversights.
                                                          Pt. II. Henry IV., II. ii.

Only compound me with forgotten dust.
                                                          Pt. II. Henry IV., IV. iv.

Earthlier happy is the Rose distilled,
Than that which, withering on the virgin thorn,
Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.
                                       Midsummer Night's Dream, I. i.

Transparent Helen,  Nature shows her art
That through thy bosom makes me see my heart.—
                                                                          M. N. D., II. ii.

My heart with her but as guest-wise sojourned,
And now to Helen it is home returned.  M.N.D.,III. ii.

O me; you Juggler! you Canker-blossom!
You Thief of Love!   What, have you come by night
And stolen my Love's heart from him?
                                                                         M. N. D., III. ii.



When sparkling stars twire not thou gild'st
            the even.  (28)

Then can no horse with my desire keep pace. (51)

Then look I death my days should expiate.  (22)

To change your day of youth to sullied night. (15)

Truth and Beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert.
Or else of thee this I prognosticate,
Thy end is Truth's and Beauty's doom and date. (14)
And tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding. (1)


My soul's imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous, and her old face
            new.   (27)
There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
Than both your poets can in praise devise.
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.  (94)


Was it the proud full sail of his great verse
That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,
Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew? (86)
But, ah! thought kills me that I am not
            Thought.   (44)
Oh, what a mansion have those vices got
Which for their habitation chose out thee.  (95)
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make
How would thy shadow's form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?
How would—I say—mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day.   (43)


Fair Helena, who more engilds the night
Than all you fiery oes and eyes of light.
                                                                        M. N. D., III, ii.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
                                                           Romeo and Juliet, I. v.

My legs can keep no pace with my desires.
                                                                        M. N. D., IV. ii.

Make haste, the hour of death is expiate.
                                                       King Richard III., III. iii.

Hath dimmed your infant morn to aged night.
                                                                         K. R. III., IV. iv.

Oh, she is rich in beauty, only poor
That when she dies with beauty dies her store.
Then she bath sworn that she will still live chaste?
She hath, and in that sparing makes huge waste.
For Beauty starved with her severity,
Cuts Beauty off from all posterity.
                                                           Romeo and Juliet, I. i.

It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night,
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear.
                                                                   Rom. and Ju., I. ii.

Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Then twenty of their swords.
                                                                  Rom. and Ju., II. ii.

Nor aught so good but, strained from that fair use,
Revolts from true birth stumbling on abuse;
Virtue itself turns vice being misapplied.
                                                                Rom, and Ju., II. iii.

The Earth, that's Nature's mother, is her tomb,
What is her burying grave, that is her womb.
                                                                Rom. and Ju., II. iii.

Love's Heralds should be Thoughts.
                                                                 Rom. and Ju., II. v.

Oh, that deceit should dwell in such a palace!
                                                                Rom. and Ju., III, ii.

I dreamt my lady came and found me dead;
(Strange dream! that gives a dead man leave to
                 .            .            .            .            .            .
Ah me! how sweet is love itself possessed
When but love's shadows are so rich in joy.
                                                                     Rom. and Ju., V. i.




From limits far remote where thou dost stay. (44)

But ah! thought kills me that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that so much of earth and water wrought. (44)
How like Eve's Apple doth thy beauty grow,
If thy sweet virtue answer not thy show. (93)

Let those who are in favour with their stars,
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom Fortune of such triumph bars,
Unlooked-for joy in that I honour most:
           .            .            .            .            .
    Then happy I, that love and am beloved,
    Where I may not remove, nor be removed. (25)

Where wasteful time debateth with decay. (15)


Thou by thy dial's shady stealth may'st know,
Time's thievish progress to eternity. (77)

So I, for fear of trust, forget to say,
The perfect ceremony of love's rite,
And in mine own love's strength seem to decay,
O'ercharged with burden of mine own love's might;
O let my books be then the eloquence. (23)

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom. (116)
Thy gifts, thy tables, are within my brain
Full charactered with lasting memory;
Which shall above that idle rank remain
Beyond all date, even to eternity:
Or at the least so long as brain and heart
Have faculty by nature to subsist. (122)

With mine own weakness being best acquainted
Upon thy part I can set down a story
Of faults concealed wherein I am attainted. (88)

For what care I who calls me ill or well,
So you o'er-green my bad, my good allow;
My adder's sense
To Critic and to Flatterer stopped are. (112)
I must attend Time's leisure.  (44)

Thou dost love her because thou know'st I love
    her.   (42)


The farthest limit of my embassy.
                                                                         King John, I. i.

Large lengths of seas and shores
Between my father and my mother lay.
                                                                                        K.J., I.i.

A goodly apple rotten at the heart;
Oh, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
                                                     Merchant of Venice, I. iii.

Thoughts tending to content, flatter themselves
That they are not the first of fortune's slaves,
And in this thought they find a kind of ease.
                                                                       Richard II., V. v.

                           Nature and sickness
Debate it at their leisure.
                                           All's Well that Ends Well, I. ii.

                                          The Pilot's glass
Hath told the thievish minutes how they pass.
                                                                                 A. W., II. i.

My lord will go away to-night;
A very serious business calls on him,
The great prerogative and rite of love,
Which, as your due time claims, he doth acknowledge,
But puts it off by a compelled restraint.
                                                                               A. W., II. iv.

That it may stand till the perpetual doom.
                                                                  Merry Wives, V. v.
From the table of my memory
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain.
                                Remember thee?
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. —Hamlet, I. v.

    I could accuse me of such things, that it
were better my mother had not borne me.
                                                                               Ham., III. i.

    The censure of which one, must, in your
allowance, o'er-weigh a whole theatre of others.
                                                                              Ham., III. ii.

I shall attend your leisure.
                                                 Measure far Measure, IV. i.

    Let me love him for that, and do you love him
because I do.—As I You Like It, I. iii.



As easy might I from myself depart
As from my soul which in thy breast doth lie.    (109)
Have I not seen dwellers on form and favour
Lose all and more by paying too much rent?
For compound sweet foregoing simple savour;
Pitiful thrivers in their gazing spent!
No!  let me be obsequious in thy heart,
And take then my oblation, poor but free.           (125)
Or whether doth my mind, being crowned with you,
Drink up the Monarch's plague, this flattery;
Or whether shall I say mine eye saith true?
'Tis flattery in my seeing.                                          (114)

Or, on my frailties why are frailer spies?             (121)

So now I have confessed that he is thine,
And I myself am mortgaged to thy will.               (134)

Thy dial will show thee how thy precious minutes
     waste.                                                                           (77)

How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame.
O what a mansion have those vices got
Which for their habitation chose out thee!
Where Beauty's veil doth cover every blot,
And all things turn to fair that eyes can see.         (95)


                              Love's not love
That alters when it alteration finds.                      (116)

The mortal moon bath her eclipse endured.       (107)

And peace proclaims olives of endless age.        (l07)



                   Join her hand with his
Whose heart within her bosom is.
                                                                          A. Y. L., V. iv.
Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave
That, doting on his own obsequious bondage,
Wears out his time.   Others there are
Who trimmed in forms and visages of duty,
Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves.
                                                                              Othello, I. i.

                                                   I fear to find
Mine eye too great a flatterer for my mind.
                                                                Twelfth Night, I. v.

Alas! our frailty is the cause, not we.
                                                                                 T. N., II. ii.

And he is yours, and his must needs be yours;
Your servant's servant is your servant, madam!
                                                                                 T.N., III. i.

The clock upbraids me with the waste of time.
                                                                                 T. N., III. i.

But O, how vile an Idol proves this God!
Thou hast, Sebastian, done good feature shame.
In nature there's no blemish but the mind,
None can be called deformed but the unkind;
Virtue is beauty; but the beauteous evil
Are empty trunks o'erflourished by the Devil.
                                                                               T. N. III. iv.

                                               Love's not love
When it is mingled with regards that stand
Aloof from the entire point.—King Lear, I. i.

Alack, our terrene moon is now eclipsed.
                                             Antony and Cleopatra, III. ii.

    Prove this a prosperous day, the three-nooked
world shall bear the olive freely.
                                            Antony and Cleopatra, IV. vi.


    This comparison shows the uselessness of placing the Sonnets en gros between Romeo and Juliet and Part III. of King Henry VI., as is done in the Leopold Shakspeare, and the folly of limiting them, as Mr. Tyler would, to the years 1598-1601.

    These extracts present a panorama of the Poet's progress.  All along the Sonnets are the seed-bed of thoughts and expressions afterwards sown in the Dramas during at least a dozen years.  The order observed is, roughly, that of the Dramas, not of the Sonnets.

    According to the poetic data now adduced, this comparative criterion tells us that a large number of the Sonnets were produced either before or else they belong to the time of the Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love's Labour's Lost, and other of the early Plays.  No one who is intimately acquainted with Shakspeare will deny or doubt that this diagnosis demonstrates the period of certain Sonnets and Plays to have been the same, even though they may not share in my certitude of the particular Sonnets being still earlier than the Poems and Plays.

    Fertile and lavish as he was, Shakspeare is prone to repeat himself.  Moreover, he wrote with unparalleled rapidity, and work done in Play or Sonnets at a heat would and does leave its mark of the time on both.  It is so in his Plays, and the same law must apply to the Poems and Sonnets.

    These, however, are not merely flowers of the same season; they are frequently the same flowers transferred from the Sonnets to the Plays.  For we may be certain sure that such matter as we find in Venus and Adonis would not be presented first to Southampton in a printed poem, and afterwards repeated and re-presented to him privately in the Sonnets!  The first-fruits of the Poet's thought and personal affection would naturally and necessarily be offered in the private work which he had to do; whereas, according to the chronology of Mr. Tyler and other Herbertists, Shakspeare must have gone on repeating himself in the Sonnets from his public Plays all along the line of his progress.

    Thus the Sonnets themselves supply ample proof in various kinds of evidence, and in a regular sequence, that a large number of them were written too early for William Herbert to have been their "begetter," or the friend who is the object of Shakspeare's affection.  Many of them were written by the Poet's "Pupil Pen" before he had ventured to appear in public: therefore, before he printed in 1593.  On other grounds it will be shown, from internal evidence, that another group was written before the death of Marlowe, in the same year.  Consequently, these must belong to the "Sonnets among his private friends," which were known to Meres in 1598; and, as William Herbert did not come to live in London till the year 1598, [20] and was then only eighteen years of age, he cannot be the person addressed in these Sonnets during a number of years previously!

    There could be no kind of reason why Shakspeare should write a series of Sonnets for the purpose of urging a boy of thirteen, or it may be of ten or eleven years of age, to get married immediately! No reason why this impubescent youth should have been addressed by the man Shakspeare with pathetic reproaches for not entering the state of matrimony!  He is letting his ancestral "house fall to decay," which "Husbandry in honour might uphold"—he is

"Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate,
 Which to repair should be thy chief desire."

This boy-begetter would be charged with "making a fanzine where abundance lies"—he would be told to look in the glass and

                            "tell the face thou viewest,
 Now is the time that face should form another;
 Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
 For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
 Disdains the tillage, of thy husbandry? "

"Now stand you on the top of happy hours;
 And many maiden-gardens yet unset
 With virtuous wish would bear your living flowers."

And this is assumed without evidence or question to be written by Shakspeare to a lad who could not have been over thirteen years old, and may have been only ten, at the time the first Sonnets were composed; as we have the facts under Shakspeare's own hand and warranty.  This is a demonstration not likely to be successfully assailed by my opponents if they should ever dare to grapple with my argument.

    At the outset of our inquiry, then, it is established that William Herbert cannot be the man whom Shakspeare urged to marry, to whom he dedicated eternal love; and to all who can fairly weigh the facts, it must be just as evident that Henry Wriothesley was the patron and friend whom our Poet loved, and by whom he was so much beloved.

    Amongst the few precious personal relics of Shakspeare are those two short prose epistles in which he inscribes his two poems to the Earl of Southampton.  They are remarkable revelations of his feeling towards the Earl.  The first is shaded with a delicate reserve, and addressed to the patron; the second, printed one year afterwards, glows out full-hearted in a dedication of personal love for the friend.  The difference is so great, and the growth of the friendship so rapid, as to suggest that the Venus and Adonis may have been sent to the Earl, or at least written, some time before it was printed.

    The dedication runs thus:—

Right Honourable,—I know not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your Lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burthen: only, if your Honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour.  But, if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather, and never after ear so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest.  I leave it to your honourable survey, and your Honour to your heart's content; which I wish may always answer your own wish, and the world's hopeful expectation,

Your Honour's in all duty,


    Now, as our Poet had distinctly promised in Sonnet 26, that when he was ready to appear in print and put worthy apparel on his "tattered loving," he would then dare to boast how much he loved his patron and friend, and show his head, where he might be proved, we cannot but conclude that the dedication to the Venus and Adonis is in part fulfilment of the intentions expressed in that Sonnet.  In fact we see the Sonnet was as much a private dedication of the Poet's first poem, as this epistle was afterwards the public one, and know that in it he as much promised the first poem, as in the prose inscription he promises the future Lucrece, when he vows to take advantage of all idle hours till he has honoured the Earl with some graver labour.  Therefore, the person who was privately addressed in "written embassage" as the Lord of Shakspeare's love, must be one with him whom the Poet afterwards publicly ventured to address as such, in fulfilment of intentions already recorded.  The feeling of the earliest Sonnets is exactly that of this first public inscription; it is reticent and noticeably modest, whilst in each there is an expression that gives the same personal image. "Your honour's in all duty" echoes the voice of the Sonnets which were sent to "Witness Duty."  In the first Dedication the Poet hopes that his young patron may answer to the "World's hopeful expectation," and in the first of all the Sonnets this Lord of Shakspeare's love is saluted as "the world's fresh ornament and Only Herald to the gaudy Spring."  In both we have Hope a-tiptoe at gaze on this new wonder of youth and beauty, this freshest blossom of noble blood.

 In the nest year, 1594, Shakspeare dedicated his poem of Lucrece to the Earl of Southampton as follows:—

The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end, whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have devoted yours. [21]  Were my worth, greater my ditty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with happiness.

Your Lordship's in all duty,


    Again the dedication echoes the 26th Sonnet.  "The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines," and "were my worth greater, my duty would show greater," are the prose of the previous words, "to witness duty, not to show my wit."  Then we have the "lord of our Poet's love," to whom his service was vowed, his duty bound in "vassalage," identified in the person of Lord Southampton, to whom Shakspeare is in duty bound, as in the Sonnet which says, "thy merit hath my duty strongly knit;" and to this lord the Poet has sent his "Books" in private, and now publicly dedicated all that he has done, and all that he has to do.  Thus we have it recorded in 1591, by Shakspeare himself, that the relationship of Poet and patron was so close, the friendship had so far ripened, that Shakspeare could dedicate "love without end," and he uses these never-to-be-forgotten words: "What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have devoted yours." That is, the Earl of Southampton is proclaimed to be the lord of our Poet's love, the man to whom he is bound, and the patron for whom be has hitherto written, and for whom, as is understood betwixt them, he has yet to write.  "What I have to do is yours"—so there is work in hand—"being part as you are in all that my duty and love have devoted to your service."  What work in hand devoted to Southampton can this be, save the Sonnets which he was then composing?  Here is a promise made which was never fulfilled in any other shape.  As we have seen, he made a promise in the 26th Sonnet which he fulfilled in 1593 with the Venus and Adonis.  In his inscription to that poem, he makes a further promise, this he carries out in dedicating the Lucrece to the Earl of Southampton.  In the second public inscription, he speaks still more emphatically of work that he has to do for the Earl, not like a poet addressing a patron, but as a familiar friend alluding to something only known amongst friends.  It is a public promise respecting work that has a private history; its precise speciality has never yet been fathomed, although something marked in the meaning has been felt; it could only have had fulfilment in the Sonnets, and that in a particular way.

    The Sonnets themselves respond to the dedications.  They show that Shakspeare was in duty bound to write and was expected to write OF and FOR his  friend, who in Sonnet 83 has reproached him for not writing when he has been remiss.  The Poet says,

"This silence for my sin you did id impute."

Again, in Sonnet 100, lie apologizes for being so long silent.  He reproaches his Muse with her forgetfulness, and bids her

"Sing to the ear that doth thy Lays esteem."

    This then was what the Poet had to do, and he lets us know plainly enough that he is doing it in writing his Sonnets to and for Southampton.  Hence he calls these poems the "Barren tender of a Poet's debt."  The debt contracted with the public as  witness, in the Dedication to Lucrece, is not only acknowledged privately in the Sonnets, we see  him in the act of writing it off in that mode of fulfilling his promise and paying his debt.

    As the Venus and Adonis was printed in 1593, we might safely assume that the first Sonnets, inclusive of the 26th, were not written later than the year 1591 or 1592.  But it may have been still earlier. Tom Nash in his Anatomic of Absurdity affords us good ground for thinking that  Shakspeare had been heard of as a writer of Sonnets and Songs as early as the year 1590.  He refers to a playwright, and sneers at his "Country grammar knowledge."  He damns the audacity of this fellow who is setting up as a poet and is already being patronized, to the knowledge and disgust of Nash, as a writer of Sonnets!  This would-be Poet he treats as one of a very low kind in the following tirade:

    "What will they not feign for gain?  Hence come our babbling ballets and our newfound Songs and Sonnets which every red-nose fiddler hath at his fingers' end, and every ignorant all-knight breathes forth over the pot as soon as his brain waxeth hot. . . . . Mere it that the infamy of their ignorance did redound only upon themselves, I could be content to apply my speech otherwise than to their Apuleyan ears; but sith they obtain the name of our English poets, and thereby make men think more basely of the wits of the country, I cannot but turn them out of their counterfeit livery, and brand them on the forehead, that all men may know their falsehood.  Well may that saying of Campanus be applied to our English poets:—'They make poetry an occupation; lying is their living, and fables are their moveables.' . . . . . . . It makes the learned sort to be silent, when, as they see, unlearned sots are so insolent.  These bussards think knowledge a burthen, topping it  before they have half tunned it, venting it before they have filled it, in whom that saying of the orator is verified, Aide ad dicendum quam ad cognoscendum veniunt. They come to speak before they come to know.  They contemn Arts as unprofitable, contenting themselves with a little country grammar knowledge, God wote.  Such kind of poets  were they that Plato excluded from his Commonwealth; and amiss it were not if these, which meddle with the art they know not, were bequeathed to Bridewell, there to learn a new  occupation; so those rude rithmours, with their jarring verse, alienate all men's mindes from delighting in number's excellence, which they have so defaced, that we may well exclaime with the poet, Quantum mutatus ab illo."

    Nash wants to class this new poet with the old Minstrels, who were but wandering rogues and vagabonds in the eye of the law. We have the Shakspearian echo to this complaint in Love's  Labour's Lost, "Tush! none but minstrels like of Sonneting," at the very time when the King and his courtiers have all turned  Sonneteers.

    It is quite in keeping with our knowledge of Shakspeare that he should have been recognized thus early by Nash as the writer of Songs and Sonnets.  His exquisite lyrical faculty is shown by the song to Sylvia in the Two Gentlemen of Verona.  In Love's Labour's Lost and the Midsummer Night's Dream it is already in full flower.  The collection of his Songs and Sonnets in the Passionate Pilgrim was based upon his reputation as a lyrist.  Some of these were very early work.

    In his Epistle to Greene's Menaphon Nash sneers at the ambitious but futile efforts of "those that never were gowned in the University," and nothing could have made him feel worse than to hear that this ignoramus with no college credentials had found favour as a poet with the young Earl of Southampton, the artful man of art being preferred to the men of Arts, the unlearned to the Learned; a fellow in "counterfeit livery," who would feign anything for gain, being employed to write Sonnets and honoured with the patronage which belonged by right to the educated and authorized academical flunkey.  This would be all the more galling and unendurable as Nash and Southampton were both Cambridge men, and both of St. John's College. [22]  Nash passed B.A. in 1585, and was expelled some time in 1587 for the part he took in the play entitled Terminus et non Terminus.  The Earl of Southampton was admitted Dec. 11, 1585, and passed B.A. June 6, 1589.  This early recognition of the Upstart Player, whose education was limited to a Country Grammar School, as a writer of Sonnets, is not to be faced by the Brownites and Herbertists.  It is not to be thought of that Shakspeare should have been known as a Sonneteer when Herbert was but ten years old, consequently this recognition by Nash is unanimously ignored by them, as it is by Mr. Furnivall in his lengthy Introduction to the Leopold Shakspeare.

    This Player-poet aimed at by Nash is as certainly Shakspeare as is the "Shakscene" denounced later by Greene; and this is one of the earliest and most important of all the contemporary notices of the rising man.  Nash's denunciation applies to a playwright who is recognized as being the  author of Sonnets, and it follows that if the man of "Country Grammar knowledge" is Shakspeare, then Shakspeare had been heard of in the year 1590 as a writer of Sonnets.  Therefore the  earliest Sonnets composed for Southampton may have been begun in 1590.  There is nothing opposed to this in the dates.  Henry Wriothesley was born in the year 1573.  He came to London in June 1589, and entered  himself as member of Gray's Inn when he was sixteen years of age.  Nor is there any difficulty in the way of an early meeting between him and Shakspeare.  The young Earl's fondness for Plays is well known.  Shakspeare's great affection and love for him were proclaimed to all the world in his prose dedications.  And Southampton's step-father, Sir Thomas Heneage, was then Treasurer of the Chamber and Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household, as well as Captain of the Guard to the Queen.  Thus Southampton's immediate access to players and playwrights would be made easy on account of his stepfather's official relationship to them, and his own influence in their favour would be eagerly sought.  In 1589 Southampton was travelling abroad, but was back again in the year following.  He was then seventeen years old, and in this year Nash makes his gird at the playwright who was the author of "new-found Songs and Sonnets," therefore the newly-discovered Sonneteer who is identified by his "Country Grammar knowledge" as  Shakspeare.

    The youth whom the Poet first saw in all his semi-feminine freshness of the proverbial "sweet seventeen," and afterwards celebrated as a "sweet boy," a "lovely boy," a "beauteous and lovely youth," a pattern for rather than a copy of his Adonis, corresponds perfectly with Southampton in his seventeenth year.  If we take the year 1590 for the first group of Sonnets, we shall find the young Earl of Southampton's age precisely reckoned up in Sonnet 16,

" Now stand you on the top of happy hours,"

which shows us that the youth has sprung lightly up the ladder of his life, and now stands on the last golden round of boyhood.  The Earl of Southampton was born October 6th, 1573, consequently in 1590 he was seventeen years of age.

    The very first Sonnet addresses one who is the "world's fresh ornament,"—that is, the budding favourite at Court, the fresh grace of its circle, the latest representative there of youthful spring; "the Expectancy and rose of the fair State!"  Southampton was, in truth, the "Child of State," under the special protection of the Queen.  He was recommended to Her Majesty's notice and care by the loss of his father at so early an age, and by the quiet service of his step-father, who was an old servant of Elizabeth's, as well as favoured with the best word of his guardian, Burleigh, who at one time hoped to bring about a marriage betwixt Southampton and his own grand-daughter.  We shall see, further, that such was his place in Her Majesty's regards, that an endeavour was made by Sir Fulke Greville and others, to get the Earl of Southampton installed as royal favourite in the stead of Essex.  "There was a time," says Sir Henry Wotton, [23] sometime secretary to the Earl of Essex, "when Sir Fulke Greville (Lord Brook), a man intrinsically with him (Essex), or at the least, admitted to his melancholy hours, either belike espying some weariness in the Queen, or perhaps (with little change of the word, though more in the danger), some wariness towards him, and working upon the present matter (as he was dexterous and close), had almost superinduced into favour the Earl of Southampton, which yet being timely discovered, my Lord of Essex chose to evaporate his thoughts in a Sonnet (being his common way), to be sung before the Queen (as it was) by one Hales, in whose voice she took some pleasure; whereof the couplet, methinks, had as much of the Hermit as of the Poet."  Wotton has not gone quite to the root of the affair; the real ground on which the motion of Sir Fulke Greville was made, was a strong feeling of personal favour on the part of Her Majesty towards the young Earl of Southampton; this to some extent is implied in the fact recorded, but there was more in it than Wotton had seen from the one side.  It is difficult to define what this royal favour meant, or what was the nature of Her Majesty's affection, but it most assuredly existed, and was shown, and Essex manifested his jealousy of it, as in the cases of Southampton, Mountjoy, and others.  Perhaps it was an old maid's passion for her puppies!

    It does not in the least help to fathom the secret of this Favouriteship, through which Hatton, Leicester, and Essex passed; for which Southampton was proposed, and to which honour Herbert might have aspired if he would, but was out-distanced by "young Carey," to point to the age of the Queen and the youth of the young nobles.  Many aged persons have had extremely youthful tastes.  It was a characteristic of the Tudor tooth.  Besides, the Queen prided herself on not looking or growing old as other women did. And according to unsuspected contemporary testimony, she must have borne her years very youthfully.  Jacob Rathgeb, who wrote the story of Duke Frederick of Wirtemburgh, in England as seen by Foreigners, saw her Majesty in her fifty-ninth year, and, thinking she was sixty-seven at the time, he records that, although she had borne the heavy burthen of ruling a kingdom for thirty-four years, she need not indeed—to judge both from her person and appearance—yield much to a young girl of sixteen!

    In judging of Elizabeth's character, we must remember that some of her richest, most vital feelings had no proper sphere of action, though their motion was not necessarily improper.  She did not live the married life, and Nature sometimes plays tricks when the vestal fires are fed by the animal passions, that are thus covered up, but all aglow; these will give an added warmth to the imagination, a sparkle to the eye, and a youth to the affections in the later years of life, such as may easily be misinterpreted.

    My chief interest at present in the subject mooted, is in relation to the Earl of Southampton and Elizabeth Vernon, the Queen's cousin; and her Majesty's persistent opposition to their marriage.

    It is not my object to bedaub the portrait of Gloriana with a coating of lampblack, but I have lost a good deal of the mental glamour created by Froude and Kingsley, and am at liberty to maintain that it is not necessary to possess a monkish imagination not to be able to chime in with Fuller's emphatic cry of "Virginissima," where he calls Elizabeth when living, the first Maid on Earth, and when dead, the second in heaven.

    Let me not raise any scandal against Elizabeth, when, supported by the suggestive hint of Wotton, I conjecture that the persistent opposition of the Queen to Southampton's marriage had in it a personal feeling which, under certain circumstances, could find no other expression than in thwarting the wedded happiness of others.

    It is in this sense of the new favourite at Court, that I read—

               "The World's fresh ornament
 And only herald of the gaudy spring,"

and find in it another feature whereby we can identify the Earl of Southampton as the person addressed.
    A difficult passage in the 20th Sonnet may glance at this favouriteship.  Southampton is described as a "man in hue all Hews in his controlling," and the word Hew is printed as a proper noun and in italics.  The Earl of Essex being first favourite at the time when Southampton was set up as a rival for the Royal honour, Shakspeare lauds his young friend as the "World's fresh ornament," and as a man in hue whose hue is in some way superior to all other hues, and as the "only herald of the gaudy Spring."  Elizabeth chose her favourites for their youthful favour.  Southampton's complexion had the hue of "rose-cheeked Adonis," and Shakspeare besought him to preserve it all he could.  In Sonnet 104 his rosiness is called "your sweet hue."  It has been conjectured that a name was being punned upon in this emphasized line.  I think so too.  But it is not Hughes or Hews as Tyrwhitt fancied.  Nor is it Hughes the friend of Chapman.  It is EWES that was aimed at by the double entendre, which leads us beyond the mere name to a person of importance; for Ewe was a title of Essex!  The Earldom was that of "Essex and Ewe."

    "A man in hue, all Ewes in his controlling," was as far as Shakspeare could go in telling his friend that his comeliness and favour were far superior to those of the favourite, and that these gave him the upper hand.  The word hue had also the meaning of a match for; and here the hue of Southampton is more than a match for all other hues.  Such punning upon names was a common practice of the time, and it had been done before on this very name with a variation by Peele in his Polyhymnia.  In describing the Earl of Essex, and in speaking of his appearance,

"That from his armour borrowed such a light
 As boughs of yew ( = Ewe) receive from shady stream,"

Peele was punning in precisely the same way that Shakspeare does on the same name of the same person, only with him it is Yew = Ewe, whereas in the Sonnet it is How = Ewe.  The reader cannot fail to recognize in this an early note of the "Secret Drama" of the Sonnets and the identification of Shakspeare's "Private Friends."

    Herbert came too late for any rivalry with "Essex and Ewe"; his rivalry was with "young Carey," a far later favourite.

    Professor Dowden, in declaring and affirming against Southampton being Shakspeare's young friend of the early Sonnets, has the temerity to assert that Henry Wriothesley "was NOT beautiful"; for which gratuitous assertion he had no warrant whatever.  He merely repeats without testing what Boaden had already said without proof.  The Professor further declares that Southampton bore "no resemblance to his mother."  But if this were a fact he had no knowledge of it.  Where is the portrait of the mother to determine it?  Or where is the fact recorded?

    "Youngster," said the impecunious manager Elliston to the author of Blackeyed Susan, "have you the confidence to lend me a guinea?"  "I have all the confidence in the world," said Jerrold, "but I haven't got the guinea."  So is it with the Brownites.  They have any amount of assertion, but not the needful facts. Professor Dowden also says, "Wriothesley at an early age became the lover of Elizabeth Vernon, needing therefore no entreaty to marry."  But no age is given; no dates are compared; no time defined for either the Sonnets or the courtship—an omission not to be bridged over with a "therefore"!

    Why, the Sonnets, as already shown, must have been begun as early as 1590-1.  They precede and promise the Dedication of whatsoever Shakspeare is going to publish.  They identify the living original of Adonis With Southampton, and therefore as the young friend addressed in the first Sonnets.  Only twenty of them are devoted to the marriage theme.  And the earliest that we hear publicly of Southampton's being in love with Elizabeth Vernon is in the year 1595—i.e. two years after the public dedication of Venus and Adonis.  The Professor does not take the trouble to spin a "rope of sand," he only throws a handful of dust in the eyes of his readers.

    It does seem as if the sufferers from the Lues Browniana would say anything.  We way well ask with the Irish orator, who inquired of his audience if they could trust a single word that was said by a gentleman who were a waistcoat of that colour?

    But to return to the first Sonnets.  Next—and here we feel an endearing touch of Shakspeare's nature—the youth addressed is so evidently fatherless, that it seems strange it should have been overlooked, until pointed out by the present writer.  The plea all through the first Sonnets is to one who is the sole prop of his house, and the only bearer of the family name, the "tender heir" to his father's "memory"; hence the IMPORTANCE OF MARRYING, on which the Poet lays such stress.  The first Sonnet opens with an allusion to the early death of the Earl's father:—

"From fairest creatures we desire increase,
 That thereby Beauty's rose might never die,
 But as the riper should by time decease,
 His tender heir might bear his memory!"

    In Sonnet 10 he is charged with not inclining his ear to the advice given to him that he should marry.  Thus:—

"Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate,
 Which to repair should be thy chief desire."

We find the same use made of the verb to ruinate in Henry VI., Part III. Act V.:—

"I will not ruinate my father's house."

And in the absence of Pericles one of the lords says—

                     "This kingdom is without a head,
 Like goodly buildings left without a roof."

    Of course the roof would not need repairing if it were not going to decay.  Accordingly we find that Southampton's father—head of the house—died in 1581, when the boy was not quite eight years old, and within four years of that time his elder brother died, leaving him sole heir and representative.  Again in Sonnet 13 the Poet urges—

"Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
 Which husbandry in honour might uphold?"

    Southampton being an only son left fatherless, he was the sole prop and stay of the ancestral roof!  Whereas William Herbert did not lose his father until the year 1601, three years after the proclamation of Shakspeare's Sonnets by Meres, and two years after the appearance of some of them in the Passionate Pilgrim.  Moreover William Herbert had a brother, and never was the sole prop of his father's house!  The Poet's argument has no meaning in Herbert's case, early or late.

    Although aware that the lines may not be confined to the literal reading, I cannot help thinking that
the underlying fact was in the Poet's mind when in the same Sonnet he wrote—

                    "Dear my Love, you know
 You had a father; let your son say so."

    So the Countess in All's Well says, "This young gentleman had a father; oh that 'had,' how sad a passage 'tis!"  And the lines in Sonnet 3 double the likelihood.

"Thou art thy Mother's glass, and she, in thee,
 Calls back the lovely April of her prime."

    There is no mention of his having a father; there is an allusion to his having had one, and the mother is referred to as though she were the only living parent.  Shakspeare is forced to make use of the "mother's glass," when the father, had there been one in existence, is demanded by the hereditary nature of the argument. Also, it makes greatly in favour of my reading that some of the arguments yet to be quoted, which were taken from Sidney's prose, have been altered precisely to suit the case as now put by me.  The speaker in the Arcadia says, "Nature made you child of a mother" (Philoclea's mother "Lettice Knollys" was then living), but Shakspeare says, "you had a father" (the Earl of Southampton's father being dead).  The description is also differentiated by the "tender heir," who, "as the riper should by time decease," might "bear his memory," and by the house-roof going to decay, "which to repair" by "husbandry in honour," should be the chief desire of the person addressed.  Thus, we have the Earl of Southampton identified as the lord of Shakspeare's love, and the object of these early Sonnets, by his exact age at the time when Shakspeare speaks of appearing soon in print, by his position as the "fresh ornament" of the Court world and Court society, by his rivalry with Hews, by his being the living model for "Adonis," and by the fatherless condition which gave a weightier emphasis to the Poet's argument for marriage, a more paternal tone of anxious interest to his personal affection.  To revert for a moment to the words of Meres, it is obvious that the "private friends" of Shakspeare alluded to must have had as much to do with the critic's mention as the Poet had; it would be made on their account as much as on Shakspeare's.  Who else could prove the opinion recorded?  And certainly there was no living patron of literature at the time more likely to elicit the public reference of Meres than Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, whose early love of learning, says Camden, was as great as his later warlike renown.

    On going a little further afield we may glean yet more evidence that the Earl of Southampton is the object of these Sonnets.  "Thy poet," Shakspeare calls himself in Sonnet 79, and one of the Earl's two poets in Sonnet 83.  Whose poet could he have been but Southampton's either before or after the dedication of his two poems?  Of whom, save Southampton, should he say—

"Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem "—(Sonnet 100)

when it was that Earl who had so esteemed the Poet's lays?  To whom, except this noble fellow and personal friend, could he speak of his Sonnets as the poor returns,

"The barren tender of a poet's debt?"—(Sonnet 83)

which is the most palpable acknowledgment of the fact that he fulfilled in his Sonnets such a promise as he made in the dedication of Lucrece.  In Sonnet 108 he says his love is great, "even as when first I hallowed thy fair name."  Whose name did he ever hallow or honour save that of Southampton?  Again in Sonnet 102:—

"Our love was new and then but in the spring,
 When I was wont to greet it with my lays."

What love but that betwixt this Earl and Shakspeare did the Poet ever greet with his lays?  And Sonnet 105 tells us that up to the time at which it was written, the affection must have been undivided; and the patron of both Sonnets and poems must have been one and the same person.   For—

"All alike my songs and praises be,
 To one, of one, still such and ever so."

But the conclusive fact is to be found in Sonnet 78, where Shakspeare himself salutes, addresses, and identifies the friend to whom and for whom he wrote his Sonnets privately with his "Pupil Pen"; identifies him as the man who lent him the light of his countenance and caused him to sing in public for the first time.

"Thine eyes that taught the dumb on high to sing,
  And heavy Ignorance aloft to flee."
"Thou art all my Art and dost advance
  As high as Learning nay rude ignorance."

This is the Poet's recognition of the Patron at the time of publishing, just as we have him pointed out in Sonnet 26 before the Poet appeared in print.

    It was Southampton whose encouragement was the cause of our Dramatist coming before the public as a Lyric Poet.  It was Southampton who inspired him to break silence and make his claim in the court of literature.  It was Southampton who thus advanced the "rude ignorance" of Shakspeare to the status of Letters, and placed him on a footing of equality with the Learned, as is proved by the prose dedications to the poems, and by the motto to Venus and Adonis.  The man who "taught the dumb on high to sing" was he who made the singer first break silence in public with his poem of Venus and Adonis.  He who encouraged the Poet to mount aloft was the patron of the earliest poem published; and he who advanced the "rude ignorance" of Shakspeare to the status of Letters and Learning was the Earl of Southampton—he to whom the Poet tendered his Sonnets in acknowledgment of his debt.  Those who do not or cannot see this are unworthy of further consideration, and those who deny it because they foolishly persist in foisting a false theory on their readers must be left henceforth to carry on their clamour outside the court.

    A few of the primary facts now substantiated are—(1) That Henry Wriothesley was the fatherless young friend to whom Shakspeare addressed his first Sonnets.  (2) That it was to him the promise of a public dedication of his poems was privately made in Sonnet 26. (3) That he was the living original from whom the Poet drew his portrait of Adonis as the Master-Mistress of his passion.  (4) That he was the Poet's Favourite whose comely complexion Shakspeare celebrates as being more attractive in hue than that of the royal favourite Essex-and-Ewe.  (5) That he was the man who encouraged Shakspeare to publish his poems, and the friend to whom the Sonnets were offered privately as the "barren tender of a Poet's debt"; and (6) that a mass of the Sonnets belong to the time of the early Plays, and therefore were written too soon for William Herbert to have been the friend addressed in them.  If Evidence is to count for anything, we may now consider Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, to be sufficiently identified as the young friend and patron who was both the Object and the Subject of the early Sonnets.

    Southampton has nearly passed out of sight in the cloud of dust created by the fall of Essex, and Time has almost effaced him from the national memory—or had done so previous to the reminder offered in the earlier edition of the present work.  But for our great Poet's sake we cannot help taking an interest in his story, or in his friendship, of which the Sonnets are the fruit; and the more we draw near to read his character aright, the greater reason we shall find to love him for what he once was to Shakspeare.  There was a time in our Poet's life when the patronage of Southampton, as it was described by Barnes, shone like a splendid shield in the eyes of envious rivals, and such a dazzling defence must have tended to lessen the yelpings of the pack that was at him in full cry about the years 1590-3.  His influence would call off the dogs.  In all likelihood Southampton was one, the chief one, of those "divers of worship," who, according to Chettle, had reported most favourably of the Poet's private character, and vouched for his poetic ability and "facetious grace" in writing.  And, although not intended as an autobiographic record, the Sonnets sufficiently show that this friendship was the source of many comforting and loving thoughts, which cherished and illumed his inner life.  The 25th Sonnet tells us how Shakspeare congratulated himself on having secured such a friend, whose heart was larger than his fortunes, whose hand was liberal as his thought was generous, and whose kindly regard placed the Poet far above the "favourites of great princes."  What truth there may be in the tradition that the Earl gave Shakspeare a thousand pounds at one time we do not know; but the story descends through Oldys and Rowe by two different and apparently independent channels.  Whether the Earl gave so large a sum at one time or not, there can be no question that he did him sundry good turns, and gave help of various kinds; if required, money would be included; when the Poet most needed help, to hearten him in his life-struggle, while he was working at the basis of his character and the foundations of his fortune and his fame.  It would be a kind of breakwater influence, when the Poet was fighting with wind and wave for every bit of foothold on firm ground.

    Shakspeare would likewise be indebted to his friend at Court for many a glimpse of Court life and Court manners and customs, many an insight into personal character, through this chance of seeing the personal characteristics that would otherwise have been veiled from him.  His friend would lift the curtain for him, and let him peep behind the scenes which were draped to the commonalty.

    It was a wonderful time for such a dramatist.  Men and women played more personal parts, exerted more personal influence, and revealed more of their personal nature.  The inner man got more direct outward manifestation.  Shakspeare saw the spirits of men and women, as it were, in habitations of glass, sensitive to every light and shadow, and showing how the changes passed over them, by the glow or gloom that followed.   Now-a-days, we are shut up in houses of stone, iron-fenced by manners and customs and the growths of time, that have accumulated between man and man, until a good deal of the Elizabethan nearness of life is gone.  We have lost much of that element, which has been described as the real source of genius, the spirit of boyhood carried into manhood, which the Elizabethans had, and showed it in their friendships and their fighting, their passions and their play.  We are more shut up, and only peep at one another, we reveal the smallest possible part of ourselves.  The Elizabethans had more naked nature for Shakspeare to draw; he was as fortunate in the frank habits of his time as the Greek sculptors were in the freedom of their dress.  He would not have made nearly so much out of us, had he lived in our day, because so much would not have been revealed or tolerated in public.  He would not be able to see the most characteristic things, the best and the worst saying out their utmost, known by name, and visible at their work.  The personality which Shakspeare saw and seized, would now be lessened in the increasing crowd of life, and conflict of circumstances, and change of things.  He would now see no sight like that of Drake at bowls on Plymouth Hoe; or Raleigh smoking his pipe with his peasants, and making their eyes glitter with the mirage of a land of gold; a Lord Grey rushing at Southampton in the street, with his sword drawn; noble grey heads going to the block after a life of service for their country; Essex and her Majesty exhibiting in public the pets and passions of the nursery; or the Queen-coquette showing her leg to an ambassador and boxing the ears of a favourite; or dropping her glove on the stage, as the story goes, for Shakspeare to pick it up and present it to her in some regal character; or a player who, like Tarleton, dared to abuse the favourite Leicester, present with the Queen, and who "played the God Luz, with a flitch of bacon at his back; and the Queen bade them take away the knave for making her to laugh so excessively, as he fought against her little dog Perrico de Faldas, with his sword and longstaff, and bade the Queen take off her mastiff."  [24]  That was a time in which character was brought closer home to the dramatist.  And the Earl of Southampton's friendship was a means of introducing our Poet to characters that must otherwise have remained out of reach.  In this way he was enabled to make a close study of Southampton's friends, including persons like Essex and Mountjoy, and one of the most remarkable women of that time, one of the most unique samples of human nature, the Lady Rich, in whose person I think the Poet saw several of his creations in outline, and whose influence warmed his imagination and gave colour to the complexion of his Rosalind, Beatrice, Cleopatra, and Lady Macbeth.  Many a hint of foreign scenes would he catch from those who had travelled, and could describe; men who in our time would perhaps put their experience into books; and many a heroic trait from the silent fighting men, who had done what they could not put into words.  Looking over the shoulder of his private friends, Shakspeare could read from the living book, see some of the best and worst things that the life of his time had to show, and take his mental pictures with his instantaneous quickness of impression, for he had the chameleon-like spirit that could catch its colour from the air he breathed, and in the company of these friends he must often have breathed an air that "sweetly crept" into the study of his imagination, brightening and enriching his mind, and making its images of life come to him "apparelled in more precious habit," more "moving delicate," especially in the shape of the exquisite fragrant-natured English ladies who became his Imogens and Hermiones.

    Southampton's friendship could not fail to give a larger outlook and range to the Poet's mind when he was writing his early plays.  It was as good to him as if he had been personally a man of State Affairs, for he was one who could make more of experience at second hand than most other people can at first hand.

    It has been assumed that these Sonnets of Shakspeare do but represent a form of sonneteering adulation common to the time.  As though they were merely the poetic coin wherewith the Poet sought to repay the patron for his munificent gifts.  Nothing could be farther from the fact.  They contain no flattery.  So far as they are personal to Shakspeare they come warm from his own sincere heart, and are vital with his own affectionate feeling for the brave and bounteous peer to whom he publicly dedicated "love without end," and for whom he meant to make a wreath of immortal flower which had its mortal rootage in the Poet's own life.  Such a celebration of personal friendship as occurs in these Sonnets was not common as some writers have asserted.  In fact it has no parallel in the Elizabethan time.  Such a friendship was as uncommon as this celebration of it is rare.

    Looking backward over the three centuries, and seeing the halo of glory on the brow of the dead Past, it seems that the personal friendship of man and man was a more possible and noble thing with the Elizabethan men.  Perhaps it is partly owing to the natural touch of Time in the composition of his historic pictures; to the softened outline and mellowing tint.  But those Elizabethans have a way of coming home to us with more of the nearness of brotherhood; they are like a band of brothers with a touch of noble boyhood about their ways, and on their faces a light as of the golden age.  But such an example of personal friendship as this of Shakspeare the player and Southampton the Peer stands absolutely alone; there is nothing like it.

    We are apt to think of Shakspeare as the great master-spirit, who was fit to be the friend of the noblest by birth and the kingliest by nature.  Those who knew him, we fancy, would be more likely to think of the injunction that reminds us not to be forgetful of entertaining strangers, for they may be the angels of God in disguise, rather than to be troubled with thoughts and suggestions of his being only a poor player.  But the age in which he lived was a time when the distinctions of rank and the boundary lines of classes were so precisely observed that even the particular style and quality of dress were imposed according to the wearer's position in life.  Therefore the feeling of personal friendship must have been very strong in these two men, to have so far obliterated the social landmarks, and made their remarkable intimacy possible.

    The 25th Sonnet tells us plainly enough, that the young Earl first sought out the Poet, and conferred on him an unexpected honour; a joy unlooked-for.  This view is most in keeping with the two personal characters.  Then the frank-hearted, free-handed young noble soon found that his advances were amply repaid.  And he had the insight to see that here was a noble of nature, with something in him which towered over all social distinctions.  On his side, the Poet would warmly appreciate the open generous disposition of the Earl, who, whatever else he lacked, had the genius to make himself beloved.  Shakspeare was that natural gentleman, who could preserve exactly the distance at which the attraction is magnetically perfect, and most powerfully felt; thus the acquaintanceship soon grew into a friendship of the nearest and dearest possible between Shakspeare, the man of large and sweet affections, and the comely good-natured youth, who had the intuition to discover the Poet, and was drawn lovingly towards the man.  Of the depth of the personal affection, and the inward nature of the friendship, there is the most ample proof.  The dedicatory epistle to his poem of Lucrece breathes the most cheery assurance, and publicly alludes to a private history that has never before been understood, but which will now serve to show how close were the personalities, how secret the relationship of Southampton and Shakspeare.

    The Sonnets abound with evidence that the personal intimacy of Shakspeare and Southampton was very inward, the friendship most uncommon.  So near are they, that in Sonnet 39 the Poet says the two are but one; and, that when he praises his friend, it is as though he were praising himself.  Therefore, he proposes to take advantage of a separation, which is to divide them, and make their "dear love" lose the name and look of singleness, by throwing into perspective that half which alone deserves to be praised.  Absence and distance are necessary to show even in appearance that the two are not one!  In Sonnet 23, previously referred to, his love is so great that he cannot speak it when they meet in person: the strength of his feeling is such as to tie his tongue, and make him like an unpractised actor on the stage, overcome by his emotion, so he tries to express it in his Sonnets, pleading that they may be more eloquent with their silent love than the tongue, that might have said more.  The plea also of Sonnet 22 is most expressive of tender intimacy.  "Oh, my friend," he says, "be of yourself as wary as I will be of myself; not for myself, but on your account.  I will bear your heart as cautiously, and keep it from all ill, as protectingly as a nurse carries her babe."  His spirit hovers about his young friend. He warns him that youth is short, and beauty a fleeting gloss.  He defends him when he has been falsely accused and slandered by the gossips about the Court; is sad when the Earl is reckless and does break out in wild courses, or dwells in infectious society; tries to set him writing (in Sonnet 77), by way of diversion, for his moral behoof and mental benefit.  He will write of him and his love in his absence abroad, and when he returns to England, how lovingly (in Sonnet 100) he holds him to look into the sun-browned face, with a peering jealousy of affection, to see what change has been wrought by the wear of war and waste of time,

"Rise, restive Muse, my Love's sweet face survey;
    If Time have any wrinkle graven there,—

"be ready with the colour of eternal tint to retouch his beauty and make it live for ever in immortal youth."  Then we shall see that the Poet's love grows warmer, as the world looks colder on the Earl; it rises with the tide of calamity that threatened to overwhelm him; it exults and "looks fresh with the drops of that most balmy time," when the Poet welcomed his friend at the opened door of his prison, in 1603 (Sonnet 107), and made the free light of day once more richer with his cordial smile.

    "If the Earl of Southampton," says Boaden, "had been the person addressed by Shakspeare, we should expect the Poet to have told the Earl that but for his calamity and disgrace, mankind would never have known the resources of his mighty mind."  So might we if the Poet had been a common flatterer, who had stood afar off and talked flamboyant nonsense that was never meant to be tested for the truth, never brought to bear upon the real facts because of the personal distance at which it was spoken.  But this was not Shakspeare's position.  The Earl had not a mighty mind, and Shakspeare was not driven by stress of circumstances to laud the mental gifts which his friend did not possess.  In only a single instance has he mentioned the intellect of the Earl.  Sonnet 82 says,

"Thou art as fair in knowledge as in hue!"

In this fact we may find one more illustration of the inwardness of their personal intimacy.  They were too intimate, and knew each other too well for any "bosh" to be tolerated on either side.  When Shakspeare spoke to his friend Southampton it was from the quiet depths of genuine feeling, not from the noisy shallows of flattery; and such was the nature of their intercourse, the freedom of their friendship, that he was permitted to do so, and could afford it. What Shakspeare found in Southampton was not great gifts of mind to admire, but a fine generosity and hearty frankness of nature to love.  He was one of those who grasp a friend with both hands to hold him fast, and wear him in their heart of hearts. Shakspeare loved him too truly to speak of him falsely.  He was the only great poet in an age of adulation who never stood cap in hand, or dealt in "lozengerie."  Whilst Spenser's Sonnets are sent to his patron in the servile attitude of flunkies, Shakspeare's personal ones go with the bearing of ambassadors.  Shakspeare did not address his friend as a public man at a distance—had no need of the speaking trumpet—but was thus secret and familiar with him as a bosom friend.

    Upon any theory of interpretation the personal intimacy must have been of the closest, most familiar kind.  Those who have so basely imagined that Shakspeare and his young friend both shared one mistress must assume that the intimacy was one of great nearness.  Also those who accept the ignorant reading of the 20th Sonnet must admit that the Poet was on very familiar terms with the Earl to address him in the language which they have attributed to him by their modern rather than Elizabethan reading.  My interpretation supposes a nearness equally great, a personal intimacy equally secret, but as pure as theirs is gross, as noble as theirs is ignoble, as natural as theirs is unnatural.  An intimacy which does not strain all probability in assuming it to have been close enough for Shakspeare to write dramatic sonnets on his friend's love and courtship, as it does to suppose the Poet wrote Sonnets to proclaim their mutual disgrace, and perpetuate his own sin and shame.  In truth it is the sense of such nearness as I advocate, that, working blindly, has given some show of likelihood to the vulgar interpretation; the tender feeling passing the love of woman which, carried into the interpretation of the impersonal Sonnets by prurient minds, has made the intimacy look one of which any extravagance might be believed.

    The personal Sonnets all tend to show and illustrate this nearness of the two friends, only they prove it to have been on Shakspeare's part of the purest, loftiest, most manly kind.  There is not one of those wherein Shakspeare is the speaker for certain, that can possibly be pressed into showing that the friendship had the vile aspect into which it has been distorted by false focussing.

    Southampton being identified as the person addressed, and the object of Shakspeare's personal affection, the intimacy must have been one that was perfectly compatible with the Earl's love for a woman.  For it is certain that he was in love, and passionately wooing Elizabeth Vernon, during some years of the time over which the Sonnets extend.  And it would be witlessly weak to suppose that Shakspeare wrote Sonnets upon a disgraceful intimacy to amuse a man who was purely in love; out of all nature to imagine that he pursued Southampton in a wooing amorous way more fondly and tenderly than ever after the Earl had become passionately enamoured of Elizabeth Vernon.  He would neither thrust himself forward as the lady's rival for the Earl's love, nor appear in her presence-chamber covered with moral mire to remind them both of the fact that he and the Earl had rolled together in the dirt; and the intimacy must have been such as to recommend Shakspeare to Elizabeth Vernon as a friend of the Earl, not brand him as an enemy to herself.  Again, Boaden is of opinion that the Sonnets do not at all apply to Lord Southampton, either as to age, character, or the bustle and activity of a life distinguished by distant and hazardous service, to something of which they must have alluded had he been their object.  He argues that there was not sufficient difference in their ages for Shakspeare to have called the Earl "sweet boy."  The difference was nine years and six months.  Our Poet was born April, 1561, and his friend October, 1573.  Now if the two men had been of like mental constitution, that difference in years would have made considerable disparity in character when the one was thirty and the other but twenty years of age.  But one man is not as old as another at the same age, nor are men constituted alike. Shakspeare's mental life, and ten years' experience in such a life, were very different things from the life and experience of his young friend.

    He would be quite warranted by this difference of age in calling the Earl "sweet boy," who was a boy when matched with his own mental manhood, but his expression did not depend on age alone. When a priest says "my child," he does not first stop to consider whether the person so addressed is some twenty years younger than himself.  He is presumed to be speaking from a feeling that is not exactly governed or guided chronologically.  So with Shakspeare.  He is taking the liberty and latitude of affection.  He uses the language of a love that delights to dally with the small words and dainty diminutives of speech, which Dante calls the "wee short words one cannot say without smiling," and tries as it were to express the largeness of its feeling in the least possible shape, on purpose to get all the nearer to nature; it being the way of all fond love to express itself in miniature.  It is one of Shakspeare's ways of expressing the familiarity of his affection more than any difference in age.  He speaks by virtue of that protecting tenderness of spirit which he feels for the youth—the prerogative of very near friendship—an authority which no age could necessarily confer. And it is also his way of expressing the difference of rank and position, as the world would have it, that existed betwixt them; the distance at which he is supposed to stand is turned to account in the shape of an elder brotherhood.  It is of set purpose that Shakspeare paints himself older than he was, as most obviously he has done; it is intended as a foil and framework for his picture.  He deepens the contrast and gives to his own years a sort of golden gloom, and mellow background, with the view of setting forth in more vernal hues the fresh ruddy youth of his friend, the subject of his "passion."  He puts on an autumnal tint and exaggerates his riper years on purpose to place in relief that image of youth which he has determined to perpetuate in all its spring-tide beauty, and thus the "yellow leaf" throws out the ratheness of the green. This does not show that there were not sufficient, years betwixt them, but that the intimacy of friendship was such as to permit the Poet to obey a natural law which has served to finish his picture with a more artistic touch, and to further illustrate the familiarity of his affection.

    And hero we may fairly infer that the world is indebted to this personal relationship for those beautiful delineations of loving friendship betwixt man and man which Shakspeare has given us, excelling all other dramatists here as elsewhere.  He himself has portrayed the most human-hearted types of male friendship!  He who wrote this memorable advice, "keep thy friend under thy own life's key; be checked for silence, but never taxed for speech!"  There is a sacred sweetness in his manly friendship; fine and fragrant in its kind, as is the delicate aroma breathed by his most natural and exquisite women.  No one, like him, has so tenderly shown the souls of two men in the pleasant wedlock of a delightful friendship.  The rarest touch being reserved for the picture in which one friend is considerably older than the other.  Then the effect is gravely-gladsome indeed; the touch is one of the nearest to nature. This we connect with his own affectionate feeling for the young Earl, and see how that which was subjective in the Sonnets has become objective in the plays.  Thus, behind Bassanio and Antonio we may identify Southampton and Shakspeare.

    Also, as pointed out to me many years ago by Mrs. Cowden Clarke, in another Antonio and the Viola-faced youth, Sebastian, of Twelfth Night, we have a still more striking reflex of the Sonnet friendship.  This dear old fellow-labourer says in her letter, "I have often felt with you that Antonio and Bassanio were dramatized pictures of Shakspeare and his beloved friend of the Sonnets.  I also think that Antonio, the sea-captain, and Sebastian are repainted pictures of the same subject, even yet more closely copied from life.  The humility, the fascinated attachment, the idolatrous admiration, together with the consciousness of power to protect and guide, as shown in his restless following and offer of his sailor's purse, even, while treating the youth as a being of a superior order, are all reflexes of the Sonnet friendship.  And then the passionate regret in the after-scene—'But oh! how vile an idol proves this God!' "

    This view, however, is coloured or discoloured by the personal theory of the Sonnets; and it should be remembered that Antonio's exclamation was the result of a complete mistake on his part, and was not based on any real change in Sebastian!  He did not speak from a clearer insight into the character of his young friend, but from the blindness of his own error, and therefore this does NOT countenance the personal interpretation of certain Sonnets, which I maintain are not spoken by Shakspeare in his own character.  The false impression in the play does not make for reality as between the two male friends in the Sonnets.  Also, it is Sebastian who says, "MY stars shine darkly over me; the malignance of MY fate might perhaps distemper yours."

    Antonio says he gave Sebastian his love "without restraint, all his in Dedication."  But note the difference between the Sonnet and tile Play.  Antonio declares that he did devotion to the image of Sebastian; whereas Shakspeare says in the Sonnets,

"Let NOT my love be called Idolatry,
 Nor my beloved
AS AN IDOL show."

    We have to distinguish difference as well as discover similitude in character, and must not allow any trait of likeness to vouch for a whit more than it is worth; must not permit the least smudge of confusion, nor lose the least particular by any looseness of generalization.  We know that Shakspeare was "all his in Dedication," but we may never know how much the Poet adventured for his young friend who was bound up in the Essex bond, how far he lent himself, in spite of his better judgment, but we may be sure that his love, like that of Antonio, was strong enough to surmount all selfish considerations.  He was one like Antonio, "that for his love dares yet do more than you have heard him brag to you he will."

    Students of Shakspeare's times, his life, and works will have received an impression that our Poet must have been in some way, to some extent, mixed up with the affairs of Essex.  I am told that the late Mr. Croker, of the Quarterly Review, always entertained this opinion, although he could never lay his hand on any very tangible evidence of the fact.  There is constructive evidence enough to show, that if Shakspeare was not hand-in-glove with the Essex faction, he fought on their side pen-in-hand.  In the chorus at the end of Henry the Fifth he introduced a prophecy of the Earl's expected successes in Ireland.  This was after Bacon had parted company with Essex.

    Then, one of the counts in Essex's indictment was the play of King Richard the Second, which, according to Bacon's account of Meyrick's arraignment, was ordered to be played to satisfy his eyes with a sight of that tragedy which he thought soon after his lord should bring from the stage to the State.  That this play was Shakspeare's cannot be doubted, except by the most wilful crassness or determined blindness; nor that the "new additions of the Parliament scene, and the deposing of King Richard, as it hath been lately acted by the King's Majesty's servants at the Globe," were made to the drama, previously written by Shakspeare, at the call of his patrons, the confused recollections of Forman notwithstanding.  I shall have to add another bit of evidence, that Shakspeare did throw a little light on things political with the dark lanthorn, and introduce allusions which, to say the least, were calculated to make play for Essex; and thus far we must hold that our Poet was on the same side, and rowed, as we say, in the same boat with these "private friends"; this fact will furnish my concluding illustration of the personal intimacy of Peer and Poet, and of their friendship's binding and abiding force.

    Nevertheless, the present contention is not that the Earl of Southampton was the friend of Shakspeare and that William Herbert was NOT!  Both of these noblemen were patrons of literature; both were his personal friends; Southampton being the first by many years.  It is the fundamental fallacy of the Brownites, who are misled by Thorpe's "Only Begetter," to assume that this proved or implied that one friend only was concerned in the production of the Sonnets; and it is their irretrievable error to try and read the one friendship backwards all through the Sonnets, when there are two entirely distinct series; so distinct that the earlier Sonnets, which were consecrated to Southampton by the personal love of Shakspeare, are profaned by being mixed up with the Latter Sonnets as commonly interpreted; the matter being made still worse when these are read as the personal utterances of Shakspeare.  Then a defamation of his character is added to the de-consecration of the Sonnets which he had devoted to his first and foremost friend.  It is their especial work to confuse by mixing up all together the Sonnets of Herbert with those of Southampton; the "Sweet Argument" with the unsweet, in the same state of general promiscuity as that which they then deduce and ascribe to Shakspeare, his Boy, and the Dark Lady.  Hence they could neither distinguish nor define; they have only obfuscated the Sonnets and confused the minds of their readers.

    Those who begin with Herbert and the date of 1598, under the blind guidance of Thorpe, are bound to read the Sonnets backwards.  They are precluded from looking at anything in a straightforward manner, and must go wrong from the starting-point.

    The advocates of the hypothesis that William Herbert was the sole inspirer of Shakspeare's Sonnets are helplessly driven to deny—(1) that the young friend was fatherless;  (2) that he was the only support of his house;  (3) that the Sonnets were begun in 1590;  (4) that they were written before the early Plays as quoted;  (5) that they were written before Venus and Adonis was printed;  (6) that they were written with the poet's "Pupil Pen";  (7) that "Books" of the Sonnets were sent to Southampton privately before the Poems were dedicated to him publicly;  (8) that Southampton was the living original from whom the Poet drew his Adonis;  (9) that Marlowe was the rival Poet of the Sonnets;  (10) that these Sonnets were extant in 1598 according to the testimony of Meres.  In short, they are forced to ignore everything inside or outside of the Sonnets that can be established on behalf of Southampton; and compelled to suppress, pervert, or overlook every fact that is fatal to their one primary false assumption.  It has been very truly said that when the human will is strongly disposed to ignore the practical consequences of a fact, it "has a subtle and almost unlimited power of blinding the intellect even to the most elementary laws of evidence;" but this truth has never been more curiously exemplified than by the Brownites.

    The latest attempt to dodge the fatal dates is that made by Professor Dowden and Mr. Furnivall, who tell their readers that it really matters very little WHO the "Mr. W. H." of Thorpe's Inscription or the "Will" of the Sonnets was!  But in doing this they are sitting like the man on the end of the plank projecting from a high window, and sawing betwixt themselves and the wall.  If W. H. be not "William Herbert," they are launched backward into space with nothing whatever to break their fall.  A story told of the hunted beaver, by Herodotus, if not matter-of-fact, may be commended to their notice as a most apposite fable.

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[19.](page 39) Arber's English Reprints.    London, 1870.

[20.](page 47)
Sydney Memoirs, vol. ii, p. 43.

[21.](page 49) In the Malone and Grenville copies this reads "being part in all I have, devoted yours," which punctuation has been preserved.  But it is so obviously an error of the press as not even to demand a passing remark.  It is obstructive to the sense, and severs what Shakspeare meant to clench by his last repetition of "yours."

[22.](page 51) According to Gabriel Harvey, in his Trimming of Thomas Nash, the latter was of seven years' standing in 1587.

[23.](page 52)
Reliquiæ Wottonianæ, p, 163.

[24.](page 59)  Scrap of paper in the State Paper Office, 1588.   Calendar of State Papers, Elizabeth, 1581-1590, p. 541.